Planning for Your First Model Railroad Layout

Orangeville, ON (James Doan) Once you have decided on a scale for your model railroad layout, and purchased a quality locomotive, power pack and a few pieces of rolling stock, it is time to begin work on the track and switches. Until recently, track proved to be the major cause of concern for modellers working in either N or HO scale. The sectional track that was most readily available would easily come apart. If you set your preliminary layout up on the floor, dirt and carpet fuzz would get into both the locomotive mechanism and the joints between track sections. This would lead to electrical conductivity problems.

Fortunately for today’s modellers, the newer sectional track conveniently provides a plastic or vinyl roadbed attached to the track sections which allows these sections to be solidly locked together, thus ensuring reliable mechanical and electrical contact. You should consider this track for initial layouts as you can easily change the layout without having to tear up track. This will allow you to experiment until you are ready for a permanent layout.

For best results you should use a track with nickel silver rails. Although both brass and nickel silver corrode and oxidize, you will find that the oxidation on nickel silver still maintains better conductivity than brass rail, allowing the trains to operate more reliably.

Besides the track required for a basic oval, purchase several turnouts and extra straight and curved sections. This will allow you to create a layout which will vary the train’s route. Active switching and reversing of the operation of the train will provide a more interesting train session than if the engine merely chases the caboose.

As a beginner, purchase sectional turnouts rather than attempting the advanced practice of laying your own switches. One important feature to consider for enjoyable operation of your train is to ensure the switch rod is correctly installed and the points throw freely.

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