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N Scale Success (First Time)

How to get the best out of N Scale

N scale has a lot to offer and will run as reliably as any other scale including HO/OO.

What is even more interesting is that most of these individuals are in their sixties, seventies, and even eighties.

However not all manufacturers produce the same quality items, and just because a specific manufacturer makes bulletproof products in HO/OO, doesn’t mean their N scale products are of the same quality level.

As I have a decent collection of locomotives and rolling stock (with representative models from the prominent manufacturers, dating back to the 1990’s), I do make the following observations based on my own experience.

Keeping in mind that I have my own personal favorites, and tend to favor the European manufacturers for build quality and reliability- however the issue at hand is” what would I recommend for the “new comer”?

In short, I recommend that newcomers to the hobby consider the following:

Track:                Peco code 80, SL-300 Flextrack
Locomotives:   Kato or Atlas
Rolling Stock    Micro Trains

Let’shave a look at each..


Without question the most reliable N scale track product on the market is Peco.

If you go with code 80, the larger wheel to rail contact area gives improved electrical pick up.  In addition to their overall quality, the Peco turnouts have spring loaded points that allow you to simply flip them with your fingers.

The only downside of the Peco track, may be the somewhat out of scale appearance.  This is surprisingly easy to hide simply by painting the rail a darker color.  Getting specific with part numbers:

  • Flex track: SL 300
  • The range of “Electrofrogs” from Peco is a good option if your layout is not going to be very complex, otherwise you can go for the Insulfrog turnouts
  • Gap filling ties at rail joiners: SL 308F
  • Rail joiners: SL 310
  • Paint for downplaying the oversize rail: Model Master “Burnt Umber” or Rustoleum Earth Brown camo. paint in a spray can.

If more detailed track is important to you, I suggest Micro Engineering.  Mechanically it is as reliable as the Peco line.  On rare occasions, electrical arcing will cause dirt to build up on the back of the points causing a loss of electrical contact and stalling.  A band-aid remedy is to simply scrape the crud off with a blade but this gets old.  A permanent (and very easy) solution is to wire a Tam Valley “Frog Juicer” to the frogs of the problem turnouts.  Micro Engineering code 55 N scale rail joiners are so tight that it is almost impossible to slip them on the rail.  A move to code 70 joiners is suggested.



When you are just getting started, it’s important to maintain interest and enthusiasm.  It’s hard to do this if your locomotives are sub-par.

Out of the box, I suggest starting with Atlas and Kato, alternatively Bachmann

Rolling stock

Micro Trains offers a good selection as do Bachmann, Hornby and others.

The issue is mostly about what coupler is used, with Micro train couplers being sought after.

Although not crucial, you’ll also get slightly better tracking if you go with body mounted couplers instead of truck mounted.  If you’re new to the hobby I’d put the transition to body mounted couplers down the list of future projects

Layout Height

Arm pit height is generally most comfortable for those in HO.  Consider going slightly higher in N scale to account for the smaller size of the models.  The best way to dial in the ideal height for yourself is by setting up mock ups at various heights.

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