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N gauge advice sought


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Hi all - first post on the forum, so please be gentle! I am returning to railway modelling after 15 years, having been seduced away by wargaming, but that's another story.

 

I am planning to build a small n gauge end to end layout as my first venture, inspired by Mistley quay in Suffolk . It will have a 3 ft 6 inch visible area, and be worked by small Farish diesel loco's - 03, 04 and 08, with the occasional visit by a class 24 or 31. The track and pointwork will be Peco code 55 (including a 3 way point). I don't plan to use DCC, as I will only have 1 engine operations. I have bought a few wagons to date, but before I embark on siginificant expenditure I would be grateful for some advice in the following areas.

 

- Controllers. This will be a shunting layout, so good reliable slow speed running is a must. Can this be achieved by these small Farish loco's, and which controller should I buy that gets the best performance?

 

- Couplings. The standard of locos and wagons has improved immensley during my sabbatical - but the old chunky Rapido coupling still seems to be the standard. Ideally I would like remote, more unobtrusive coupling. Do the new Dapol ones fit the bill, and are they easily retrofitable to Farish wagons and locomotives?

 

thanks in advance for any replies.

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Welcome back!

 

- Controllers. This will be a shunting layout, so good reliable slow speed running is a must. Can this be achieved by these small Farish loco's, and which controller should I buy that gets the best performance?

For modern N guage locos NON-feedback controllers are a must. As a starting point I'd suggest either Gaugemaster or the range sold by All Components as a good mid-range option.

 

- Couplings. The standard of locos and wagons has improved immensley during my sabbatical - but the old chunky Rapido coupling still seems to be the standard. Ideally I would like remote, more unobtrusive coupling. Do the new Dapol ones fit the bill, and are they easily retrofitable to Farish wagons and locomotives?

The Dapol Easi-mate couplings as currently available only fit stock with a 'NEM socket' without modification. Of currently available stock, around 50% of loco and coach types have these sockets, but only around 10% of goods stock. Of the locos you list, the 03, 04 and 08 all do, the 24 and 31 don't but a new retooled 31 has been anounced for production in the next 12-18 months which should come with NEM sockets.

 

Dapol have anounced a conversion kit for older stock but no-one has seen the final product yet so it is unknown how much work is involved or whether the conversion is reversable...

 

Paul

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Dapol have anounced a conversion kit for older stock but no-one has seen the final product yet so it is unknown how much work is involved or whether the conversion is reversable...

 

From what's been said it's a NEM pocket that you graft into the space vacated by the old Rapido mount, so would not be reversible. But then, you'd hardly need to reverse it as you'd have a NEM mount which you could plug a Rapido coupler into.

 

I suspect converting 4 wheeled wagons et al will be easier than bogie stock or locos.

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Gaugemaster controllers are generally a good buy, but can be glitchy. I've had several faults with my Q controller and had to return it twice but it was always repaired free of charge as I bought it through a reputable dealer. I've heard Morley are the best, and they do a dedicated N gauge version, the Vesta N which might be worth the extra outlay if you only need one.

 

Look forward to the layout building thread in due course!

 

David

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Thanks chaps. I have taken a look at the Morley controller, and I like that it's a dedicated n gauge unit - it suggests a degree of tuning. It's just a shame they do not have a single track version as one of the outputs will be unused.

 

Has anyone got practical experience of the Easi-mate couplings?

 

Edited to add - I have just found a thread on the subject - so it looks like these will be on the shopping list !

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Hi there

 

Just to correct an earlier post, the new Farish 24 DOES have NEM sockets, so the Dapol couplers are a snap-in solution.

 

We use Dapol couplers on our club exhibition layout Horseley Fields (see link below) and they couple and uncouple with almost 100% reliability. The "spotting" feature - where you can uncouple a vehicle, then push it along a siding to another location without recoupling - is less reliable but I am inclined to blame our operations more than the couplers.

 

They're around 50p each so why not buy some and experiment? At very least it'll get you used to playing trains again!

 

cheers

 

Ben A.

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They're around 50p each so why not buy some and experiment?

 

cheers

 

Ben A.

Where do you get them for 50p each Ben??

 

List price is £5 for a pair (£2.50 each) or £20 for pack of 10 (£2 each)!

 

Paul

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The "spotting" feature - where you can uncouple a vehicle, then push it along a siding to another location without recoupling - is less reliable but I am inclined to blame our operations more than the couplers.

I found this at first too but I have improved it. The trick is to adjust the position of the trip pins. These are just held in place by friction so take a pair of needle-nosed pliers and gently turn them inwards so that they are closer to the centre of the track. When moved over the uncoupling magnets it causes the arm to deflect further and makes the delayed recoupling much more reliable.

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Right - a pack of couplers are on order.

 

Re slow running characteristics - I have come across acouple of U-tube vids showing the small Farish diesels creeping along very slowly rate with DCC control. Will I be able to get them to run as slowly with analogue control with a Morley controller, or is DCC inherently better for this?

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Re slow running characteristics - I have come across acouple of U-tube vids showing the small Farish diesels creeping along very slowly rate with DCC control. Will I be able to get them to run as slowly with analogue control with a Morley controller, or is DCC inherently better for this?

Most important things for good slow running are well laid track and clean track & wheels. Neither analogue nor DCC is inherently better if current can't consistently pass from controller to motor...

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Really looking forward to seeing this! I've always thought Mistley would make a great model location. You're including the dockside sidings? There are some great photo sets on Flickr with shots of the granary complex in the 1980s for inspiration.

 

Regarding controllers, I'd generally agree with what's been said. However, I must say I've managed to get much better slow running from a Farish 03 with a CTelectronik DCC chip than I could ever manage with either Gaugemaster or Bachmann analogue controllers.

 

The sidings with inset paving should mean you have no trouble burying magnets for the Dapol couplings.

 

Justin

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Thanks Justin - but it is "inspired by" rather than a model of Mistley quay. I will start a thread in the Layout section when I begin to make some progress.

 

Your comments on the better slow speed running using DCC are interesting. I had hoped to avoid DCC, but good slow running is a must, so I might have to think again.

 

Re the Dapol couplings - I have bought a couple of sets, but I see that they cannot slot straight into the Farish coupling "boxes" on 4 wheel stock. Did any manufacturer ever come out with a NEM pocket replacement for these?

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The large advantage with DCC - in any scale - is the constant 'full output' track power with an alternating waveform.

 

If you have a loco with lights on it, and the lights are on, that loco will move at its slowest speed when given the command. Every time. The lights provide a very good indication of pick up reliability. The slightest flicker indicates a problem developing before it becomes enough to interrupt smooth running, very good detection system. You still have the work to do determining where exactly the momentary loss of pick up occurred. Although 'stay-alive' is readily available for DCC, I would avoid it: better to get the advance warning rather than mask a developing problem.

 

Consider going OO or larger for this return to model railway. N gauge is a hell of a lot more demanding in track laying and fiddly work installing decoders. Cut your teeth with DCC in OO where it is frankly relatively simple to get running that was the stuff of dreams when last you sampled RTR. Try Bachmann's OO class 24 and their 36-554 decoder (circa £12) to operate it. Plonk that on the track and it will smoothly do its stuff from an almost imperceptible crawl. You cannot do that in N for anything like the same money.

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Re the Dapol couplings - I have bought a couple of sets, but I see that they cannot slot straight into the Farish coupling "boxes" on 4 wheel stock. Did any manufacturer ever come out with a NEM pocket replacement for these?

 

Dapol have said that they have a conversion kit and that it is very imminent, but as yet it has yet to hit the shops. From what I understand of this it will involve chopping off the existing box and sticking on a replacement pocket. Whilst this is a route the means you can't put the original coupling back on you will be able to use NEM rapido couplers should you so want to in the future.

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Re slow running characteristics - I have come across acouple of U-tube vids showing the small Farish diesels creeping along very slowly rate with DCC control. Will I be able to get them to run as slowly with analogue control with a Morley controller, or is DCC inherently better for this?

 

 

I don't find it a problem to run stock very slowly on DC control using KPC handheld controlers.

 

G.

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Consider going OO or larger for this return to model railway. N gauge is a hell of a lot more demanding in track laying and fiddly work installing decoders.

I disagree with these statements. Track needs to be laid well no matter what scale. From experience it's no more difficult to do this in N than it is in OO. In terms of the decoders most N gauge locos are now very easy to chip, remove the body and pop in the correct chip.

 

Cut your teeth with DCC in OO where it is frankly relatively simple to get running that was the stuff of dreams when last you sampled RTR. Try Bachmann's OO class 24 and their 36-554 decoder (circa £12) to operate it. Plonk that on the track and it will smoothly do its stuff from an almost imperceptible crawl. You cannot do that in N for anything like the same money.

 

The the vast majority of the price difference comes down to the price of the loco in this case. The Bachmann N gauge decoder is only about a fiver more than the equivalent OO one.

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Consider going OO or larger for this return to model railway. N gauge is a hell of a lot more demanding in track laying and fiddly work installing decoders. Cut your teeth with DCC in OO where it is frankly relatively simple to get running that was the stuff of dreams when last you sampled RTR. Try Bachmann's OO class 24 and their 36-554 decoder (circa £12) to operate it. Plonk that on the track and it will smoothly do its stuff from an almost imperceptible crawl. You cannot do that in N for anything like the same money.

 

I disagree with this very fundamentally.

 

As Kris says, track laying is equally important in any scale - just because you might be able to get away with poor joints in OO doesn't mean its a good idea to be slapdash - imagine the frustration if and when you tried DCC sound.

 

The 03 would probably be the only N gauge loco relevant to this project that could be described as remotely challenging to DCC chip. Even then, the whole project took me less than an hour using the CT Electronik wired decoder and soldering to well documented tabs and solder points. Virtually all modern N gauge diesel era locomotives are now DCC plug and play with 6-pin decoders, or in the case of the generation of Farish models like the cl.57 and cl.60, soldering to well defined and arranged solder pads on the PCB - hardly more difficult. The only other challenging conversions would be the Dapol 73, Farish 31, 87, 90 etc., and older generation steam locomotives. The 31 is now due for imminent replacement, which will have the 6-pin decoder.

 

If you go with DCC, start off with a Farish cl.20, 37 or 47 (I imagine in BR blue given the subject) all available for about £75 from Liverpool, or less if you're eagle eyed on eBay, and a Bachmann 6-pin decoder for £14. Barely more expensive, and you'll get equally flawless running, barely perceptible crawling and shunting, working lights, and best of all, you'll be able to create a layout with a real sense of place and worthwhile scenery in a realistic space, not just some track squeezed onto a plank :-)

 

That said, there is no reason not to start with DC control and see how you get on. I never tried my Farish 03 with top end controllers like the KPC or Morley, so you might well get very good results. But the difference between the Bachmann trainset controller and the DCC with Ct Electronik was night and day, the Gaugemaster "E" was somewhat better, but still not as good. I imagine part of the advantage is that a good DCC decoder implements a form of feedback to even out the performance of the motor, as well as ensuring the track voltage is always high.

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Consider going OO or larger for this return to model railway. N gauge is a hell of a lot more demanding in track laying and fiddly work installing decoders. Cut your teeth with DCC in OO where it is frankly relatively simple to get running that was the stuff of dreams when last you sampled RTR. Try Bachmann's OO class 24 and their 36-554 decoder (circa £12) to operate it. Plonk that on the track and it will smoothly do its stuff from an almost imperceptible crawl. You cannot do that in N for anything like the same money.

 

N Gauge is no more demanding than OO gauge. If you want good running you'll need to lay the track with care regardless of scale. Fine Scale code 75 track in OO, is actually smaller than the total rail height of Code 55 in N (which is actually code 80 with 25 thou burried in the sleeper base). As a result it's stiffer and you're less likely to end up with dog-legs when track laying.

 

A Bachmann OO Gauge class 24 and decoder may be £20 less than the equivalent in N Gauge, but add the price of the rest of the train will soon make up the difference (Mk1 BG in blue/grey at Hattons, £24 for the OO, £16 for the N Gauge). By the time you've added three coaches the prices are about the same. Any longer then N Gauge becomes the less expensive option. If you've got spare for a 10 or 12 coach train then the difference is enough enough to pay for another N Gauge loco!

 

Installing decoders is no more fiddly - a 6 pin decoder is no harder to fit than a 8 or 21 pin one likely to be found on 4mm scale models. If anything it's easier - most N Gauge models are a clip-on fit, where as I think many O Gauge models need screws un-doing. Hard-wiring decoders to some of the smaller N Gauge locos is no harder than doing the same for the smaller OO Gauge models. I've done three class 03/04s now and the hardest part of the job is getting to the screws that hold the body in place. Even sound isn't a problem - there are videos on YouTube of a sound fitted class 08 and if you really want to go to town how about an A4 with sound, lights and smoke?

 

Please stop claiming things about N Gauge that are untrue.

 

Happy modelling.

 

Steven B.

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Some very useful advice here. I am not worried about the track laying aspect. I built a model St. Combs in n gauge in the very early days of code 55 track in the late 80's - indeed one of the reasons to build it was to see how the then new finescale track looked and performed. This light railway terminus consisted of a run round loop and a single siding so it was not too complex to build, and eventually dead boring to operate! It worked pretty well using a Minitrix Ivatt Class 2MT tender loco (fitted with cowcatchers) and a Gaugemaster controller. All long since sold - sadly.

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Ive been using code 55 and am using DC control, as long as the track is well conected, clean and the locos wheels are clean there is no issue running. DCC has some draw for me, sound and multiple trains running, but DC is fine for me. My 08 creeps through points at speeds that you can almost not tell its moving and larger classes crawl along too.

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As an owner of the 04 which crawls at superb speed on DCC (and has couplings controlled by the chip as well), I'd like to comment.

 

First the Bachmann "N gauge" DCC chip. It's a cheap chip, so don't expect superb slow speed control from it. Superb control costs a bit more; CT being the usual "best" for N locos if seeking speed control, or Zimo near enough equal with better manufacturer/importer backup and documentation. Some other chip makers whose products work well in larger OO motors doesn't necessarily score so well with smaller motors. The DCC advantage isn't really the circa 14v on the track, its the quality of the motor-decoder feedback control loop; this is where the better chips really shine.

 

 

Second good analogue running. Yes, its possible. But, often one has to steer away from the "usual" controllers. First drop the voltage a bit, so use a lower voltage power supply, that usually improve things at the loss of some 140mph top-speed capability. Second, choice of controller. With this, I'm a little out of date on the best control from analogue for N (my analogue controller is a Pentroller, but those are now only ever found for silly money on Ebay, and Grahame's KPC is also no longer available); if you bump into Mark Fielder at a show, ask him, he's got some super control from analogue with small motors.

 

 

And, if it is my 04 which was seen, it has a few other changes, such as new wheels with steel tyres (rather than the "interesting" zinc alloy originals). I suspect that alters the pickup quality quite a bit. And its running on 2mm track, which might be laid better than the average "trainset N", though anyone who does things properly can lay N to a high standard.

 

 

With a "out of the shop" N gauge 03, 04 or 08, check the pickups on every wheel very carefully. I've lost count of the number I've had to adjust for other people. Worst one I met had only one wheel on each side picking up from the factory. They are not difficult to adjust if happy with dismantling locos, but with a new loco it should not be necessary to adjust it to make it work !

 

 

 

The common "DIY" alternative couplings are DG and BB; both fairly unobtrusive, uncouple from buried (electro)magnets, and can shunt a vehicle after uncoupling to leave it in a siding. But they are not "click into a socket" as offered by Dapol's magnetic knuckle coupler.

 

 

- Nigel

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Was going to post a slow moving 08 but it is being tempermental, camera shy? Any way here is a youtube video of my slowe moving class 60. This is done on DC and has just enough power to get it going. So it is possible to get slow shunting on DC true it might be better with DCC but is possible on analogue. Have a class 04 video that might i upload later.

 

Sorry about the focus but its my virgin attempt at videoing the layout.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOV92Vta0cM

 

Stephn

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