Last year, I realized I was quickly becoming bored with my existing N scale model railroad. It was based on the Woodland Scenics “Scenic Ridge” kit, a basic 3′ x 6′ layout with a fairly simple track plan. It didn’t offer much in the way of operations (picking up and delivering freight cars) and was basically just set up to watch trains run.
Scenic Ridge had served me well. It was a great layout to learn many of the skills needed to build a model railroad, but it was time to move on.
When I built Scenic Ridge, I had it easy. The kit from Woodland Scenics came with 3 sections of styrofoam with the track plan already printed on it, which made it easy to lay the track. This time around, I would need to figure out how to transfer the plan I’d designed in xtrackcad (a free track planning software package) full-size to the layout benchwork. After some investigation, I discovered that xtrackcad could print the plan full-size, breaking it into 8.5″ x 11″ sheets. It would also print the outline of the roadbed on the plan. I dumped it to a PDF file, then sent it to OfficeMax to be printed (doing so was much more cost-effective than using up a ton of ink in my own inkjet printer).
Model railroad track is installed on top of a “roadbed” made of either cork or foam. This recreates the raised grade that the track of real railroads is built on. On “Scenic Ridge”, I used the foam roadbed included in the kit. To be honest, I was never that impressed with it. This time, I decided to go with the tried and true cork roadbed. It’s fairly cost-effective and as I discovered, easier to work with than the foam. I chose to purchase roadbed made by Midwest Products.
It’s not a model railroad until you have track to run trains on. Track can be expensive, so to start out I purchased only enough to build the mainline.
On my previous layout, I used Atlas code 80 track. In model railroading, the “code” of rail designates how tall the rail is. Back then, I didn’t know any better, but realized later that code 80 track is quite a bit out-of-scale. In fact, if scaled up, a piece of code 80 rail would be about knee-high on a person. So this time around, I decided to go with code 55 rail. It’s much closer to scale, and the tie spacing looks much more realistic.