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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All!

Now that I'm old enough to think about making a decent railway - it's all bloomin' gone and changed!

Some background:

My 4 yr old got the Hornby Thomas 00 guage set with some extra track+points etc for Xmas. This has provided a fair slice of entertainment on the lounge floor over the past few weeks. The only problem being the 4 yr old's dad has become more addicted to driving the 'Sodor Thunderbolt' than the 4 yr old!

Which leads me to:
Having discovered a couple of hundred quid that I'd forgotten about (and which, really, should be set aside for next year's tax bill...) I'm keen to build a railway myself. I'm currently thinking of N guage however as I'll be able to get more railway for the size of board I can realistically expect to end up with.

And so, I'd like to pick your, more knowledgeable, brains if I may...
1. N guage and DCC
DCC seems the way to go. I want a simple, easy, trouble-free and (obviously) as cheap as possible system. I can envisage a handful of locos running, but not much beyond that. What systems should I be looking at?

2. Locos etc
Being ham-fisted and generally a bit rubbish at all things electrical and small - are there DCC-ready locos available (UK models preferred to American locos) already or in the very near future? What are the best online shops to be browsing?

I have already considered, and rejected, the 'Why not switch to DCC and expand the Thomas set with your son?' question simply on the grounds that I doubt Thomas and his friends will ever migrate from floor to board as space simply doesn't allow and I rather suspect my boy would become more interested in 'Dad's railway' than his own (which would be great).

Anyway, If anyone can offer some sage words of advice, I'd appreciate it...
 

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QUOTE Being ham-fisted and generally a bit rubbish at all things electrical and small

If this is true then don't go for N-Scale, it will only get worse as you age. As far as DCC ready you should consider locomotives that have decoders installed. As far as what brand I'll leave that for others but Digitrax is the most complete system made by an Englishing speaking company by far. They have everything you need and it has all been in use for many years while Hornby and Bachmann are just starting out.
 

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N Gauge and DCC...

1) Bachmann EZ-Command will control 10 locos and offers plenty of functions per loco. It won't control accessories. Its cheap at about £30-£40, readily available with simple push buttons ideal for the kids. If you want anything more advanced then you will be spending more.

2) Not sure about the N gauge loco market so pass. "DCC ready" means you have to install a decoder. "DCC Onboard" or "DCC Fitted" means there is already one in the loco so its open the box and its ready to run on your DCC layout. Bachmann decoders are about £10 but may be a very tight fit in an N gauge DCC loco.

Happy modelling
Gary
 

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N gauge and DCC do mix. I am in the process of building a DCC powered N gauge layout myself at the moment and it is no more difficult or fiddly than my previous 00 DCC layout to work with. The 00 layout by the way replaced a previous N gauge one but I found that I much preferred the smaller gauge and decided to revert back after just a couple of years and I deeply regret now ever changing in the first place.

N gauge is currently rapidly gaining support from the mainstream manufacturers and the locos and rolling stock being produced now are easily equal to if not better than 00. Have a look at some of the new Dapol rolling stock. Unfortunately smaller does not mean cheaper and you will pay about the same or slightly more for N gauge as opposed to 00. If you do not fancy fitting decoders yourself all of the firms that do fitting as an after service cater for N gauge as well.

The big advantage of course is that a much more comprehensive N gauge layout can be fitted into a given space than can a 00 layout. To get a better idea of what is possible have a look at the Ngauge society web site.
 

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QUOTE it is no more difficult or fiddly than my previous 00 DCC layoutNot sure I fully agree with all that ahammond says.
"N" gauge is still a problem to fit decoders in the locos. Lack of room being the main issue here.


QUOTE Being ham-fisted and generally a bit rubbish at all things electrical and small
Then mahoonn you really need to consider "00" or larger! If you think "00" is fiddly dont even try "N"
 

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Welcome to the forum Mahoon,

I don't know about sage words but am happy to put in my ten pennorth.....

If, as you say, you are ham fisted and a bit rubbish at electrical and small, I would recommend that you avoid N Gauge, as advocated by Dennis earlier. Whether you go for OO or HO is purely a matter of choice and I would just say that both scales have their pros and cons.

I also think that before you make a choice of which DCC system to go for you think very hard about what you want it to do and need it to operate. (and no I am not "having a go" at the starter end of the market)

However, whichever way you choose to go - keep us posted!!

Good luck.

John
 

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Don't dismiss N gauge yet - Bachmann (Graham Farish) and Dapol are now releasing locos that are now DCC ready, and with Lenz mini decoders you can fit decoders in nearly everything.

Give it a year or so and I think there will be many more DCC ready N gauge locos on the market.

'OO' would be much easier now as there is already a relatively wide choice of easy to fit DCC ready locos. If you really do not want to be stripping down loco chassis and doing soldering etc to fit small fiddley N gauge models with decoders then you would be best to stick with 'OO'
 

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Just to clarrify that I am assuming the £200 budget if for the whole layout including any control systems?

Or is the £200 budget just for the control system?

If its N then £200 will just about get you a Bachmann EZ-Command controller and 2 decoders, a starter Graham Farish set, another small loco, some rolling stock, some additional track, a few kit buildings and items to help create scenery.

Happy modelling
Gary
 

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I think 200 quid is a tight budget for a complete layout. Of course you could start with an 8 x 4 board like most folks do and expand from there. You don't have to buy everything at once, but my experience is it good physiology to get something running as quick as possible. Regarding N it's much easier to fit decoders in D&E traction but you do have to tinker quite a bit. In view of the fact you going to share your hobby with tiny ones 00 does sound like it's suited to your application. Pick up a second hand controller a bit of track a few turnouts
and a bit of board, some second hand stock and you've probably got something to run at around your 200 quid. For this try you next local swop meet, if you need dates buy the Railway Modeller. From this you have a starting point and in the mean time you have something to share with the family.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all your input folks. Whoever said 'playing' was easy eh?


Lots to ponder here - obviously the ideal situation would be an off-the-shelf 'DCC starter pack' or some such, but they seem to be a bit thin on the ground in N scale (better in 00 it seems).

Yes the £200 was for the whole kit and kaboodle (to start with anyway - I'm not fooling myself that a) that would be the end of the spending and
I'm not going to get the set up of my dreams for that kind of cash...

As someone else mentioned, the DCC explosion (which may have started a decade or so ago!) is only just hitting the mainstream, so perhaps sitting on my hands for a while might be a good idea - for example, what's the Bachmann Dynamis system all about?
 

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My prejudices may be showing , but I don't think we've reached the stage where N gauge and DCC go easily together yet.

The volume of an N gauge model is 1/8th that of a OO model (cube rule) which means vastly less space for decoders . That means mini decoders only , which are 25% - 33% more expensive than normal decoders

Only a few models have been released DCC Ready (ie with socket) - most installations would be hardwired, and I believe some involve milling bits out of the cast blocks of Farish chassis

Aaaargggghhh!

I think it will be another product generation before DCC is a mainstream option for N.

Then again - and here my 4mm prejudices probably show - commercial support for N gauge is much more restricted than for OO. There are fewer locos and items of stock available. The standard of N gauge models- at least British N - is substantially lower than for OO . I know Dapol and Bachmann have done some very nice stuff recently, but even this is only reaching standards of OO 5-10 years ago. That Dapol can take a mediocre OO model , clone it in N and get the result acclaimed as taking N to new heights speaks volumes. Meanwhile much of the old Farish range (now made by Bachmann) is a bit basic

And N is too small for most of us to do much kit or scratchbuilding

Ther have been and are some good N gauge layouts (Hedges Hill Cutting is a favourite of mine) but given :

- You want to go DCC
- You don't get on with small, fiddly or electrical
- The budget's tight

I'd look at OO

If you want DCC:

- Bachmann EZ DCC is cheap and very limited
- You could chance your arm with the Hornby Select , despite the comments floating round here, the fact it's a very new product from a very new manufacturer, and its (more generous) restrictions in functionality . Hattons are advertising the Select unboxed for £39

Or you could go for a DCC system you aren't guaranteed to outgrow inside a year

A "full price" top end system will cost you £200-300 for the starter package - which more or less wipes out your budget

That would mean a "mid price" system - with nearly all/all the functionality, but a restricted number of "cabs"/controllers and a limited amount of amps (hence limited number of locos you can run)

Contenders are :
- Roco/Lenz Multimaus : only readily available as part of an HO trainset, or by purchase on eBay from a German seller. Trouble is, Continental HO is generally very expensive (locos can sometimes be more than £200 each!)

- NCE PowerCab. Available from UK sources (Bromsgrove Models or Digitrains) £95 for a complete starter package

- If the budget is rather more elastic , the Digitrax Zephyr might be an option at around £125-150

Both Bachmann and Hornby are promising forthcoming systems that look as if they might fit in the same bracket. Hornby's Elite is due in a couple of months , Bachmann's Dynamis is due in Bachmann standard time and not much is known about it. Again though , you are dealing with novel and untried systems

In OO Bachmann's 20 and both Hornby and Bachmann's 08 are very nice modern models available for around £40 each, DCC ready and very smooth running. This could be an excellent basis for a small shunting layout.

If you need to count the pennies , also remember that the bottom has dropped out of the secondhand Lima market now that so many of their locos have been superceeded by new generation models from others. Second hand Lima is now selling for anywhere from £15-35 a loco.
These are older models with poorer finish , no lights, and an old fashioned pancake motor, requiring hardwired DCC installation. Wheels were rather chunky and Lima's accuracy was often a bit hit and miss. But they could be the basis of some serious detailing and upgrading in the old style, and they can be had cheap

For steam, I'm not really up to speed - not my scene

In OO , I'd ignore the usaul advice to beginners , recited unthinkingly over 2 generations , and suggest you go for Peco code 75 from the start . In N , go for the finer Peco code 55
 

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QUOTE - Roco/Lenz Multimaus : only readily available as part of an HO trainset, or by purchase on eBay from a German seller. Trouble is, Continental HO is generally very expensive (locos can sometimes be more than £200 each!) It's readily available from any German dealer as a separate or ask MacKay models if you specifically want to buy from the UK. Roco have just announced several HO starter sets which include the MultiMaus which are very good value. These are on the Roco website or there is discussion on the Roco 2007 items thread.

N is very developed in terms of continental outline and there are DCC fitted and DCC sound locos available but I'm guessing you probably want UK outline so your options have already been listed above.
 

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Arnold have been around for ages and they only do N scale - and DCC too. They are continental though. Not much British interest there though even though Hornby have now bought the company. We'll have to wait a year or two before we see any new British N scale locos from them. The Hornby Lyddle End range of scenery is great - something to look out for if you do decide on N scale.

Play with some in a shop first to see if you and your little one are nimble enough at getting them onto the tracks.

We added DCC decoders to our Thomas, Percy and James locos (link). Kids have a ball playing with them. You could build a bench layout and give the kids some shunting challenges to keep them occupied.
 

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>Play with some in a shop
If you are within reasonable distance of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, consider a visit to Osbournes. They have an extensive stock of N gauge (not sure how much British outline since I am an OO man) and have been a Lenz stockist for some time.

David
 
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