Do the Locomotion

I said in an earlier post that my next purchases would be a DCC loco and a Sprog controller, these being the remaining things I needed to actually get a train moving.

Well, yesterday I took delivery via insured post of not one but two brand new DCC locos – a Minitrix SBB RE460 passenger loco in red and a Fleischmann SBB Ae6/6 heavy freight loco in green. Both are suitable for the era I am modelling (approx 1990 – 2005), and I’m really pleased with the level of detail on both of them. I am so scared of breaking those pantographs however, and was reassured by the presence of spare parts ordering info sheets in the loco boxes.


In the Fleischmann box there was a tiny (8mm x 5mm) circuit board, not attached to the loco in any way, which concerned me a little. However, the supplier (DM Toys) enclosed certificates for both locos saying “this loco was tested using DCC power and is running fine” (rough translation from German). So I assume that the circuit board is redundant while the loco is operating in DCC mode. Not that I’m going to discard it of course.

A few days ago a rake of second hand Lima SBB coaches arrived from Ebay, and I also acquired 3 wagons suitable for the layout – one Arnold Swiss tanker and 2 box wagons (from Atlas and Ibertren) that are actually FS (Italian Railways) but branded for Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, Migros.



So I am now probably the most frustrated a railway modeller can be – I have track, I have locos, I have rolling stock, but I have no controller!

Hopefully the Sprog IIv3 I ordered a few days ago will arrive soon, and I can start testing things properly.

Share Button

A social hobby

It’s always good to be able to interact with other railway modellers, to compare notes, ask questions, get or give advice, buy, sell or swap, or simply to show off your layout and get constructive criticism.

If you live where I do, the only real way to find like-minded souls is to go online. Once I had decided to get back into railway modelling, one of my first online destinations was Facebook, to see if there were any groups that might be worth joining. Daft question, really – of course there are. Here are some social links that I find useful.

Facebook Groups

N Gauge

Great group, lots of posts.

N Gauge Forum

Great group, lots of posts. Official group of the N Gauge Forum.

N Gauge Model Railway Buy Sell Swap

Lots of stuff for sale or swap. Mainly British but with some European or American gems every so often.

N’porium – N Gauge Classifieds

Again, lots of stuff for sale or swap. Mainly British but with some European or American gems every so often.

1:160 Spur N, N scale, N gauge, scala N

A truly international group. Be prepared to see posts in many different languages.

n gauge & oo gauge dcc tips & help

I only joined this recently, but hopefully it will be useful when I start DCC-ing non-DCC locos.

Modelleisenbahnshop Baumann

Facebook group for Christian Baumann’s online web shop. Good prices on second hand stock and new Fleischmann track. As always when buying second hand, ask about the condition of the stock before buying, because photos can’t show you everything.

Bernis Modellbahnshop Spur N / Z

Another ‘shop’ group but I don’t think there’s an online website to go with it. Buy via direct message to the group owner, Bernd Hagel.

Facebook Pages

N Gauge Society

Official page of the N Gague society.

Malta Model Railways

Not sure if any of Malta’s model railways enthusiasts are modelling N gauge – I should try to find out really.

Fleischmann’s official page.

Digitrains (DCC Specialists)

A British firm specialising in all things DCC.

And of course don’t forget the Facebook Page for this site! Please like it if you’re enjoying this blog.

Share Button

First layout thoughts

OK, so this is the big one. The start of the layout design process (which I suspect will take many posts). I’m going into this process with two main requirements: firstly, the layout must be small enough that it will fit in a medium car in no more than three sections, and secondly it must allow enough variety of train movements to hold my interest.

I’ve been sketching all kinds of layout ideas, experimenting with out-and-back layouts, dog-bone layouts, figure of eights, continuous loop with branch line, etc etc, but I’m not settled yet.

I’ve done a lot of browsing on the web as well, googling for “n gauge layouts”, “n gauge shelf layouts”, “n gauge small layouts”, you name it, and I’ve found a number of layout designs that have fired up my imagination.

I’m going to share two of them here – one is a city terminus (or is it?), and the other is a branch line shelf layout. Though they are very different from each other, both have potential for lots of interesting train movements, and both are reasonably compact. Both of them made me think “yes, I could adapt this a bit and have a lot of fun”.

The City Station Layout

Created by a german guy whose name I couldn’t find on his website called Dieter Buehler, this is a continuous running layout, it’s an “out and back” layout, it’s a dog-bone layout, it’s a city terminus layout, it’s a through-station layout, all in one. I think its only weakness is the lack of a fiddle yard but that could be remedied.

You can see photos and plans at On the plans, pay close attention to the hidden tracks exiting the back of the station. Yes, that’s right, one of them curves right round on itself from one platform to another, and also branches to come out of the neighbouring tunnel. I think this is a really clever design and it increases the variety of possible stock movements by a long way. It’s a very creative way to use a 2 x 1 metre area.

The Quiet Branch Layout

This layout was apparently created as a commission by a British guy called Steve Hornsey, and I think the buyer intended to run American outline on it.

But I can see its potential as an industrial town scene, with a small passenger station on the left and then low-profile industrial buildings along the two backscenes. It looks like it’s about 6 feet by 1 foot, and if it were expanded to 8 feet by 18 inches (2400 x 450 mm) there would be room for slightly longer trains, a better bridge and road and more shunting possibilities with maybe one or two extra sidings or another passing loop.

Either one of these layouts could be adapted to a Swiss setting. I know, a Swiss layout without any mountains – what is the world coming to? But I actually like the idea of modelling a city or town location rather than the usual load of mountains, cliffs and chalets that you always see on a Swiss layout.

So right now I’m still undecided. I could adapt the city terminus layout (I think I would mirror-image it as well as modifying some of the track runs), or I could model a small branch line terminus with some industries, or I could delve through a huge stack of papers on my desk that are filled with other layout sketches.

One part of me likes the idea of adapting an existing layout, because it’s been proven to work, whereas another part of me wants to have something totally unique, not consciously based on anyone else’s design.

This needs more thought.

If any of the photos in this post are yours, please let me know and I’ll add a credit or remove them if you prefer.

Share Button

Have track, will model

My cheap job lots of Fleischmann Piccolo track have arrived from Ebay. The box of straights and the crossover are brand new, and most of the second hand stuff is in reasonable condition. A few joiners need replacing here and there, and the manual uncoupling track may not be uncoupling anything any time soon, but overall it’s all OK and a definite bargain – just needs a thorough clean – and I’ve been busy assembling ovals with passing loops and sidings on the kitchen worktop and running stock over the points to make sure nothing snags.


Now all I need is a loco and a controller, and I can start playing properly and get some experience of using DCC.

Then, once I’ve decided on my layout design, I’ll be able to export a parts list from my RailModeller Pro software and order whatever track I still need.

I think my next purchases will be a Sprog controller and a DCC loco (aside from the Ebay auction of a rake of SBB coaches that finishes in a couple of days). I’ve decided that my first loco will be a new one with factory-fitted DCC. While I’m still inexperienced, I’d rather have a loco I know I can trust, so that if I encounter problems getting things running, I can focus on the wiring and the track, and not worry if it’s the loco that has a problem. I’ve got my eye on a Fleischmann digital SBB Re6/6, but we’ll see what’s available when I’m ready to order.

It’s a good job Xmas is soon. Hopefully Santa decides I’ve been a good boy. And by Santa of course I mean my amazingly tolerant better half.

Share Button

Early stock purchases

Once I made my decisions as to what gauge and country to model, I decided that I would buy one thing for the layout each month, whether that was a coach, or a set of wagons, or a bunch of track, or a controller, or whatever. This is a long-term project after all, and I’m in no particular rush.

I started out with the best of intentions, but somehow within two months I’ve made no fewer than five purchases. The addictive nature of eBay auctions has a lot to answer for, as does the feeling of finding a particular used item on a model railway shop website and thinking “they don’t make that any more, I’d better snap it up”.

Back in my first post I said I would post news of stock purchases on the blog, so it’s time to bring things up to date. Everything here so far is second hand and it’s a bit of a mixed bag – just stuff that caught my eye. I’ve also bought some job lots of Fleischmann Piccolo ballasted track which are on their way to me from Germany as I write.


Arnold BLS 2nd class coach, Epoch IV

I spotted this on the website, which seems like a good place for second hand European stock and has good prices on new Fleischmann track as well. As the BLS is probably my favourite railway company, I couldn’t resist. Arnold detailing isn’t as good as Fleischmann but it’s OK for the price.

Tip: surgical spirit on a tissue is great for removing discolouration and grime from coach roofs…

Arnold SBB Coal Wagon

It was in the “you might also be interested in” box when I bought the BLS coach, and at €6 why not?

Arnold MAN Crane

I’ve always thought that every good layout should be able to wheel out a crane from time to time, and since I’ve never seen an SBB one in N gauge, this one seemed suitably generic and it was offered very cheaply on one of the N gauge Facebook groups I’ve joined. If I’m feeling brave at some point I’ll repaint it in SBB or BLS colours and try to find some suitable decals.

Rake of 6 Arnold SBB Bogie Hopper Wagons

Also from, these will look great pulled behind an Re6/6. Two of them have one buffer missing, but I’ve found some suppliers who stock generic N gauge buffers so I should be able to fix that.

I also got myself a couple of those Del Prado non-powered display locos – a red SBB Re4/4 and a green SBB Re6/6 (not in photo). These will sit on display in the DCC programming siding when it’s not being used for programming (when using DCC, you need a length of track to put a loco on and program it to respond to the controller correctly). It’s a nice cheap way to make the layout feel more populated in the early days, until I can afford more real locos.

More stock news soon (though I definitely need to get a handle on what “one per month” means).

Share Button