Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The six best n-scale train layout videos
November 27, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

After scanning the old 'tube for a long while, I have selected the six most appealing videos that document n-scale realism. The selection is based on realistic impression, detail (landscaping and models), and camera use. N-scale model railroading has gained ground over the years. One reason is that the 1:160 scale, while small, provides superior overall realism. This first example shows a bridge scene at three angles, then an overview shot of the entire part of the layout, and a shot of the prototype scene.

Here is the Thompson River Canyon at various angles. Again, we're gradually getting more information about "how it's done".
This PRR layout video treats us on the Simpsons movie soundtrack, instead of overlaid diesel sounds...
Some spectacular sunset closeups of the Santa Fe El Capitan here.
Bob Norris's "Somewhere West" layout must be mentioned here too, as well as the ATSF Super Chief.

For a full appreciation of these clips, I probably should include one of the less realistic kind as well (Austrian accent and geeky text as a bonus).
posted by Namlit (39 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I cross the Peace, I stop and take videos of the trains crossing at Taylor.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:12 AM on November 27, 2010


For comparison, the H0 scale many of us grew up with is 1:87. N-scale is about half the size.

I'm totally out of the model train world. Is N scale taking over? I seem to see it a lot in store windows. Is it because it's cheaper, easier to manage, or just new?
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on November 27, 2010


This kind of obsessive nerdiness warms my heart.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:22 AM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is N scale taking over?
Depends on the country. In Japan, with small houses, it seems to be the hit, says Wikipedia.
N scale has improved greatly both in detail and performance, due to digital techniques in the production process and in the refinement of DCC controlled layouts with sound effects and whatnot and realistic speeds. Even for non-nerds, it is actually getting kind of fun.
posted by Namlit at 8:29 AM on November 27, 2010


At the train shows I go to, it's still less than 25% of the stuff available. The layout I'm planning will be n scale though because I have a small house.
posted by drezdn at 8:37 AM on November 27, 2010


Digital command control has changed the game. Still, with N scale you lose a lot of details and animation possible in the larger scales- which are especially good if you want to model small steam-era trains. For example, I'd like to see this in HOn3 done in N scale. You also just can't make the rail functional and yet small enough to approximate 1:160.

Of course, if you are really serious about detail, you go for proto 87.
posted by jjray at 8:40 AM on November 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


The last big layout project I worked on was using O scale (1:48) trains. Just for fun, we built a model amusement park, and used N-scale trains with O-scale people in them for the park railroad.
posted by pjern at 8:41 AM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting - my only experience with model training is buying HO-scale stuff for my train-obsessed nephew in Prague. I always try to buy a Canadian car that his club-members in Prague might not have seen before.

I didn't know that N-scale was this popular and had previously thought that since HO was bigger, it was better. I know that the stuff I've looked at in the premium-grade (very expensive) HO-scale is incredibly detailed and realistic.

I just read that one of the drawbacks of N-scale is that the old guys have a hard time doing the fine detail work - ironic in that one of the purported benefits of N-scale is that there's less detailing to do in the smaller scale.

As a derail, I recall going to a train store in Prague with my nephew when he was about 7 or so...we gave him €30 to buy what he wanted, and one of the things he agonized over was buying rocks. I asked him if he was serious - 8 rocks in a bag for €4.99. Yep.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:44 AM on November 27, 2010


I love looking at model train layouts, but I can't fathom the hours and hours of work that goes into them.
posted by Forktine at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's some great stuff. If I had time, money, and space, I could easily see myself becoming a model train nerd. Actually, given some time, money, and space, I could become all kinds of nerds.

Don't let these guys near those train setups.
posted by marxchivist at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course there is z-scale if you don't have the room for N-scale
posted by Gungho at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2010


Little more worried about this scenario.
posted by Namlit at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2010


I love looking at model train layouts, but I can't fathom the hours and hours of work that goes into them.

I know what you mean, but then I look at the intricate sweaters that my grandmother knit me when I was growing up and can barely imagine the work that went into those. For that matter, I can look at my own teenaged D&D output and have trouble grasping the countless hours that went into that. Some hobbies have less visible output; I spent many many years playing bass in bar bands and was watching the offspring in this house playing my old Hofner last night. I pulled an LP off the shelf where in the back cover photo I am playing the same bass nearly 25 years ago. I suppose that is another interest that sucked up many thousands of hours...

I wonder if there are people who don't have some sort of time sink hobby and whether or not they might be really tedious to talk to.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:39 AM on November 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love N-Scale trains, they seem small enough to get nice terrain without taking over the house.

I was pretty close to becoming a model train nerd for a short time in my youth, but fortunately I got over it and ended up spending all my money on Warhammer miniatures and computer games, just like the cool kids.
posted by ecurtz at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


G-Scale train plowing through real snow.

I WANT!
posted by notion at 10:02 AM on November 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Maybe for comparison, San Diego has a model railroad museum that includes both N and HO exhibits. The real-life gigantic trestle featured in the HO model can be seen here.
posted by LionIndex at 10:05 AM on November 27, 2010


Thanks. Just spent part of the weekend visiting train layouts with my Dad at a local museum. I grew up around model trains and love looking at the inventive, detailed layouts - it's quite an art form. Thanks for posting.
posted by Miko at 10:31 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The layout I'm planning will be n scale though because I have a small house.

I first read that as: "The layout I'm planning will be in scale though because I have a small horse."
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:39 AM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I first read that as: "I have selected the six most appalling videos that document n-scale realism."
posted by ovvl at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


LionIndex, thanks for pointing out that museum. It's free on the first Tuesday of each month, guess I'll be heading out there next week.
posted by shinyshiny at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2010


That 'model train in real snow' video makes me wonder: Are there model train versions of snowplow trains.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:10 PM on November 27, 2010


Are there model train versions of snowplow trains.

Sure thing. (snowblower, rather. Now for some snow and we're all set)
posted by Namlit at 12:36 PM on November 27, 2010


Just for fun, we built a model amusement park, and used N-scale trains with O-scale people in them for the park railroad.

Would love to see photos.
posted by ovvl at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2010


Even for non-nerds, it is actually getting kind of fun.

Not this.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:12 PM on November 27, 2010


I love looking at model train layouts, but I can't fathom the hours and hours of work that goes into them.

You need to look at live steam model railroading - where people end up working at insane tolerances so they can have appropriately scaled threading on the bolts on their hand built steam engine. After you've seen a tiny little engine that somebody carved out of little blocks of brass and steel, normal model railroading will seem so normal to you.

Here's a work in progress from somebodies pics of Cabin Fever two years ago.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:16 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an HO layout which has some of the nicest and most intricate hand-laid track I've seen.

Sadly, after going great guns at the beginning, there's been no progress on the layout for awhile. And the business site he runs for hand-laid track stuff has also not been updated for a couple of years. Wonder what happened.
posted by maxwelton at 1:29 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't read the post carefully enough and so now I am in a thread about model trains.
posted by tehloki at 2:31 PM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I see a market for two new products: a liquid nitrogen powered micro-snow generator, and a selection of windblown trash made to scale.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:33 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just read that one of the drawbacks of N-scale is that the old guys have a hard time doing the fine detail work

Yes, there lies the point of all this. The retired machinist with the amazing machine shop in his basement needs to take break and make some guitar and camera parts for one of their son's friends.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:39 PM on November 27, 2010


Little more worried about this scenario.

A few Christmases ago, my cat was lazily watching my g-scale train circle the tree.
It was apparently so excited, she decided to make friends with it by rubbing the tracks with her head.

She didn't walk quite right for a couple of hours.
posted by madajb at 3:20 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


G-Scale train plowing through real snow.

Hee, my father-in-law is a train dude. Last January, he had us over for the ceremonial watching of model trains plowing through snow in his backyard. At first, the little engine kept getting stuck on a sheet of ice but then it finally broke through--his glee was both palpable and contagious, the same kind of joy I see in my husband when the Jets score.

(I'm not so into the hours of videos of real trains coming out of tunnels, though.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:48 PM on November 27, 2010


Are the train horn noises real, or digitally superimposed onto the video? Because that's got to get real old for the neighbors every time the 7:42 comes through.
posted by gjc at 7:44 PM on November 27, 2010


I greatly admire the skill and dedication that goes into these layouts.
I also admire this fellow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMxJtMoTnx8
posted by TDavis at 7:47 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can totally understand how people into model trains are said to be lost in their own little world. I could watch these for hours; they're better than the yule log, in my opinion.

My grandfather, who died before I was born, was a model train guy, and had a train he would set up under the Christmas tree each year when my mom was young. She still has the train; my dad and I have been trying to get her to bring it up out of the basement so we can put it together under our own tree. I think it might be too hard for her. She wants the miniature world to be just so, just like it was when her father did it. But it won't be, because it will be missing the most important part.
posted by sarahnade at 9:05 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


a selection of windblown trash made to scale.

A bit of an FYI... The first youtube link has very authentic train yard graffiti on one of the train's cars.

Cool.
posted by sleslie at 9:20 PM on November 27, 2010


a selection of windblown trash made to scale.

Found some n-scale clutter, I'm sure they would love to produce some trash as well.
posted by Namlit at 3:23 AM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don's Dream World (description, photos) is a beautifully done N gauge layout of a rural 1950's-60's Japanese town. This was built in a year of nights and weekends by retired U.S. Navy expat Donald Agne.
posted by cenoxo at 10:31 AM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hah!
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2010


The hobby for me always seemed too hands on: I've had crackpot schemes that involved precision PC control for various automated tasks. An always-on train layout with complex routing? Sure. Why not record the old codgers last group routing session and play it back during demos? How about a train clock? Etc, etc.

Its not that software doesn't exist and there aren't a thousand guys hacking on this sort of thing, but given the amount of crossover geekery in the hobby you'd expect by now not only would there be thirteen homebrew PC kit solutions, one of them would attach to HAM radio.

Model Railroading always has seemed to me one of those strange "lost in time" hobbies where manufacture never gets the opportunity to scale up to awesome and everything seems hinky, halfassed and outdated. Tandy Leather is like that for me as well, same with a lot of electronics parts stores. Telltale signs: vinyl bags with a cardboard hanger bit single-stapled on, perhaps nothing beyond a manufacturer logo and no description of the bag's contents.

Its possible to get my crackpot schemes to work, but only with a massive investment in cobbled together solutions and kit-based modding to result in these crude, blocky controls. Srsly? In the RFID/qcode world, seems to me a train should be able to identify not only what stock off-the-shelf track its on, but what end. Some chips, reader head on the loco, track runs all the data back to a nice transmitter. Meanwhile software renders strange routing plans and the roads run all by machines of loving grace.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2010


« Older "The 100 Best Movie Spaceships"...  |  An action packed thriiler... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments