The principle is exactly the same in either gauge and you can use the same technique that you are already familiar with, though you may well choose to use a slightly finer ballast material.
My own preference is to use a dry system, mixing real stone dust with Cascamite powder glue and shaping everything to my satisfaction in the dry state. Real stone is nice and heavy and doesn't blow around at all. Then I spray the track with a fine mist of clean water and leave it to set. Thorough vacuuming afterwards, possibly a bit of touching up and the job is done. I find this much cleaner and easier than wet mix systems, but everyone has their own preference.
I would strongly recommend that you look at the new Gaugemaster track bed in N gauge. I am going to use it for an OO gauge project although sadly my local stockist had sold out. He has reordered. It is prooving very popular. I think Ontracks sell it and they have a link on this site somewhere. Its foam based but it looks terrific. 5M of OO bed is about £12. Really its down to your finances but if you can afford it, it is worth giving it a try.
Here is a link to Ontracks. They support Model Rail Forum so a link should not be too much of an issue in these circumstances and only a few outlets sell it anyway. I have noted the N gauge equivalent seems about the same price as the OO gauge so not such a good deal on the face of it. Strange that but there you are:-
I'm pleased this was mentioned, as this pre-ballasted underlay caught my attention some time ago.
I'd be very interested to see comments from anyone who has actually used the N Gauge version of this underlay.
It has an obvious appeal but, as pointed out, it is expensive.
It is nearly triple the price of plain Peco foam underlay and actually costs more than the Peco track itself, depending where you buy your track - so a substantial budget item for larger layouts.
In this case, the pre-made sections for points are to fit Mini-Trix items only.
Mini-Trix track and points are not very common in UK and, for the underlay sections, On Tracks states "We can now obtain", which suggests these particular sections are not a stock item. Unfortunately their link to the full list isn't working so we can't see them or check the prices either.
What this amounts to is that unless you happen to use Mini-Trix points, you must make the points section underlays yourself. This might not bother you, but it might, and one needs to be clearly aware of it before committing to the system.
I have used similar underlays and, in practice, some problems do arise.
While it isn't difficult to mate the track with the underlay, the fact that the base is foam makes it difficult to ensure even, accurate track levels and, apart from appearance, this is critical for smooth running in N Gauge. Not impossible to achieve, but one should be aware that it isn't plain sailing either.
The other most obvious problem arises as soon as you have more than a single track. What to do with the gap between tracks? You buy their UNballasted foam sheets plus loose scatter ballast. You must cut the infill accurately yourself, lay it neatly in the gaps and then hand ballast it. Again, not impossible, but not easy to do neatly and is now starting to move away from the quick convenience factor - and adding more expense.
This is one of those choices that is very much a balancing act between time, effort, skill, effectiveness and expense - a very individual decision to make. Again, I'd be VERY interested in N gauge users' practical experiences with this particular product, because it does have some obvious attractions in spite of the not so obvious snags and substantial extra expense.
One extra quesion for anyone who has actually used it - how well does the foam base maintain its grip on the the pre-glued ballast particles? Does it tend to flake off under handling?
My local stockist has an OO test layout in his shop which has this product under the track and I picked at the gravel and it does seem very firmly fixed. I am definitely going to pick up some of the OO track bed when its back in stock and I will do a mini review. Does it not have a 10 year gaurantee?
The good think is that when you lift the track for a new project you can reuse both the ballast and the track unlike more permanent arrangements and it leaves the track in reasonable if not perfect order. Long term this may actually be money saving if you plan to make and dismantle several layouts over time.
The foam of course will also make things quieter and it should help to level the track out on any uneven spots in a baseboard and you can run wiring under it. Another bonus. Just don't nail the wiring if you pin the track!
All I can suggest is that those who are thinking of the N gauge equivalent purchase a box and try it out. It will more than likely get used whatever and if you think it is worth it relative to time saved which can be spent on more fun aspects of the hobby then purchased more as required. No doubt it can be cut for points and other awkward areas and there are accessories available.
And if you do try some then please consider writing a mini review for Model Rail Forum. We will all be interested to hear your opinions.
I do totally sympathise with N gauge modellers on this as for the product to be an identical price as its HO/OO gauge equivalent does seem a tad unfair. If it was an 8m roll rather then 5m fair enough. It does make the decision somewhat more problematic however for OO gauge modellers who are building small to medium layouts it does seem on the face of it something of a no brainer.
A good point raised on re-usability
It would be interesting to know whether recent member, Porter - welcome to the forum, by the way! - uses rigid sectional track or flexible.
A further tip on ballasting your own flexitrack by 'SEMI-traditional' means.
I have experimented with making a form of sectional track - in my case, yard long straight lengths of parallel dual track.
I lay the double track accurately on thin card, the whole lot lightly pinned to a bench. I guess one might substitute plasticard, balsa wood etc but you have to pay more for that! I then carry out my authentic stone ballasting as previously described. Once it has dried out and set hard, the pins can be removed, resulting in a yard long length of ready ballasted, straight, dual track that can be placed anywhere required. No longer flexible of course, but all the easier to lay perfect straights because of that! It works well and of course you could make longer, shorter or even curved sections and dual, triple or even quad tracks in this way. It is now much more easily re-usable, able to be pinned down and removed again at will. I haven't tried sawing it to shorter lengths but I am sure that can be done too.
To help this topic on its way to being a good reference for N gauge track, I think it's useful to mention Fleischmann's most truly excellent Piccolo in connection with re-usability.
For those who may not be familiar, this track is supplied completely ready ballasted, all in first grade almost solid as a rock plastic. Though not actually recommended you CAN most definitely walk on it, as long as you don't stamp around in hob-nailed boots or similar! With regard to re-use, my personal opinion is that there is absolutely nothing better. It is nearly as tough as the proverbial old boots and can be used pretty well ad infinitum without the slightest concern for longevity.
But all in the garden still isn't rosy - you still have the irritation of infilling between adjacent parallel routes (maybe not necessary but certainly looks better) and this high quality stuff IS expensive! But to put the expense into proportion, it costs around as much more than Peco combined with ballasted underlay as the ballasted underlay alone costs more than the bare Peco track. In VERY rough figures I would simplify that to about £2 a yard for Peco flexy. Add about £2 a yard for the ballasted underlay. Add another £2 a yard to substitute both of those with Piccolo sectional - less if you use Piccolo Flexy.
This a good thread - I bet you didn't know what you were in for, Porter!
But we hope it's not only helpful to you, but to all N Gauge visitors here.
If you like pre-ballasted N scale track have a look at Kato Unitrack. It does seem reasonably priced although points expensive but powered. This is the Nr 1 pre-ballasted track system in the UK and the the top selling system in Japan! If you could make up a Fleischmann-Kato adaptor you would be well away! The kids are definitely drawn to the Japanese Bullet trains racing around these Kato N gauge layouts at exhibitions.
Although to be fair the ballast does look plasticky so the earlier suggestion to weather a little to tone things down is good.
At the end of the day the most authentic looking is the one you do yourself with Peco track, tapered edged cork strip and pva glue (50/50 glue and water) and packs of fine grey chippings for N scale. And then a bit of weathering with a fine brush and a very weak wash of pva glue and brown paint on the sides of the rails to take the shine off. It takes time but it does look good. You simply vacuum all the loose bits up when its dry. This is all pretty permanent.
I was just browsing a French model railway forum and I had to laugh!
It seems that our French cousins have exactly the same topics and discussion (in French) that we have here (in English). This exact topic was started at about the same time in France! Talk about this hobby being a global hobby.
And well done Peco for it is their track forming the basis for discussion in France.
Now whilst links to other forums are not strictly permitted at MRF we can probably make an exception for this one:-
Kato Uni-track is certainly convenient but my personal opion of its appearance are low, although this may be due to the very poor picure quality usually seen.
I'd also be very wary of accepting exaggerated claims by a certain distributor! It probably is the most popular of its type in Japan, though of course it might also be the ONLY one there is in Japan. As to its "Nr 1" status in UK - I believe this is exaggerated and can't be substantiated - how do they know? I treat that kind of web eulogising with a very large pinch of salt.
There are many ways of arriving at "the most authentic looking" track.
PVA glue is commonly used, but from my personal experience using several methods, the dry glue system is definitely superior, as already described. Cork strip is definitely not a necessity, I've never used PVA mixed with rail paint and Peco track isn't a prerequisite either. Although Peco is obviously in common use, some of the American track is stunningly good. There is rarely a single best method for producing a great model, but several, from which we choose those that suit us, for whatever personal reasons.
The English forum?
Not sure we are 'The' or 'English' . . . I think of us as 'an international forum'.
'The' might come in time, but I hope we remain genuinely international always.
The Fleischmann pre-ballasted track is very good (I am amazed at how flexible their flexible track is considering...) and looks even better when gently weathered.
The Noch and Gaugemaster pre-ballasted foam underlay is very convincing and can be "cut and shut" for pointwork. Gaugemaster is only available in grey at the moment, Noch in grey and brown. Ontracks are so pleased with it they'll post you a sample free of charge!
I tried out the N gauge Gaugemaster underlay a few months back for my trial baseboard, and have bought some more for the main lines on my new layout. While I don't feel I've done enough to write a full review, and I have no recent experience of alternative ballasting techniques, the following hints and tips may be useful.
I got mine from OnTracks, they either have it in stock or can get hold of it pretty quickly as it arrived within a week. It's quite a bit cheaper than the Gaugemaster price too (I believe it is actually made by Noch as sometimes it comes in their packaging).
The ballast looks pretty good for a modern main line where each track sits on a definite 'shoulder'. I personally couldn't achieve anything half as good by any other method without a lot of trial, error and extra effort. I laid it on grey-painted plywood and intend to use PVA to glue matching loose ballast in the space between and on either side. Actually it wouldn't have to match too well as the shoulders are often topped up with new ballast during maintenance. I don't plan to use the underlay on low-speed track or sidings, where the ballast is invariably pretty level, and for the same reason it may be less suitable for steam-age layouts.
The sleeper spacing on the underlay is significantly (10-20%) greater than that on Peco track. The underlay can be compressed with no effect on its appearance, but you will need more than you expected! It was quite easy to glue the track to the underlay (PVA works fine) and let it set (right way up under a fairly heavy object) before fixing the whole lot down (PVA again). I was using Code 55 Streamline which holds its shape pretty well on gentle curves, but sharp curves and other track types might need temporary pinning while the glue dries (haven't tried this but don't see any major problems).
I bought some of the separate sheet advertised for use under points, but personally wouldn't bother with this. I cut out the underlay between the rails, plus the area fouling the plate that fits round the tiebar, but left the edges attached to the adjacent piece of underlay. The remaining edges can then be glued along the sides of the point, stretching or squashing to fit the sleeper spacing, with odd bits from the middle part glued wherever the lack of ballast is obvious. Again once this has set the whole lot can be glued to the baseboard. It can tolerate small irregularities such as the heads of the bolts I use to fix the Seep point motors, but these need to be done before the track is glued down! As does the hole for the shaft to operate the point.
Lessons learned: fit the points before the plain line, and check that the points lie flat before starting.
Just harking back to the Kato Unitrack System and the claim that it is the "top selling system in Japan", I have just discovered an Australian site which states categorically that this is not so - very interesting! Japanese Model Supplies
QUOTE Disclaimer - Please note that other than documenting the history of Unitrack, the world's most popular track system with incorporated roadbed, this page also factually highlights the alternatives to using it, and attempts to show why it is not the best option. Because Kato have aggressively marketed Unitrack in the USA, and other parts of the world, it is usually seen as the 'only' available option, however Tomix's track systems are more popular than Kato in Japan, and it is unfortunate that they do not promote their products outside of Japan. So please do not take the intent of this page to be Kato-bashing - the intent is to present the situation as accurately and unbiased as possible.
As this company sells nothing but Japanese model products and sells both Kato and Tomix, it would seem they have no particular bias either way and I see no reason to doubt their word. Unfortunately, I haven't found any pictures - so far.
Although N gauge is not my thing, I did look at some Kato track in my local model shop last Wednesday. this was not out of any wish to purchase, but rather as part of a discussion on railway modelling generally. I must confess to being quite impressed. With the addition of some weathering, I think a good result could be achieved. It's also available as a double track unit as well! Add the cost of Peco + underlay + points + ballasting, and it doesn't seem so badly priced either. Well worth cosidering?
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