Introduction

Welcome to the fascinating hobby of N-Scale model trains. Whether you are brand new to model railroading or you are switching to N from another scale you've come to the right place because we have the information you need to start out right.  The following information is presented in question and answer format and will only take a few minutes for you to read through.  It will give you a brief history of N-Scale, answer some of the most common questions about getting started and even show you what equipment is necessary to the perfect start into the world's greatest hobby.

What is N-Scale?

Model trains come in a variety of sizes known as scales.  The scale is a ratio expressing the relationship of the model to it's actual size counterpart.  N-Scale is expressed as 1:160 proportion.  In other words, if you could take an N-Scale locomotive and enlarge it 160 times, you would have a full size locomotive.  It's helpful to understand the difference between scale trains and toy trains, such as LIONEL.  Toy trains do not have an exact scale. They do sometimes closely resemble full size trains but most are not produced to exacting proportions such as N-Scale or HO-Scale.

Where did N-Scale come from?

N-Scale was invented in Germany by the firm of ARNOLD.  Sadly, this company is no longer in business today although the tooling was sold to the HORNBY company which now produces some the former ARNOLD line in China.  While no sources seem to agree on the exact year N-Scale was conceived, they all agree that the time frame was the early 1960's. The letter "N" actually stands for the German word "Neun" (translation: Nine) meaning there are nine millimeters between the rails of N-Scale track.  In the beginning, it was referred to as N-Gauge and the models were very toy-like.  Today, most serious hobbyists refer to it as N-Scale recognizing the fact it has evolved into an actual scale.  This means that every effort is made to make sure that the models conform to exact scale prototype proportions.

What are the main advantages of N-Scale?

The are many but perhaps the largest advantage actually is the small size.  In this day and age, it can be difficult to devote a large area of living space to a model railroad.  With N-Scale, you can a have a very large railroad in a very small space.  If you live in an apartment and think you can't have a model railroad, you definitely need to give N-Scale a look.  In countries like Japan, as well as many countries in Europe where living space is at a premium, N-Scale has actually become the preferred scale surpassing even the larger HO-Scale for popularity.  For those that do have a large space, N-Scale offers another advantage since it will allow you to run prototypical length trains of 100 cars or more!  You can create layouts where the scenery dominates the railroad just like in real life.

Can such a small size train really run well?

Yes!  Back in the 60's, 70's and even up into the late 80's, N-Scale was considered to be a novelty at best.  Today, thanks to companies like KATO of Japan, N-Scale trains can run and look just as good if not better than trains in larger scales.  KATO is credited by most hobbyists as actually "saving" N-Scale.  They invented a propulsion system that allows N-Scale locomotives to operate very smoothly and quietly and yet they are still able to offer their models at reasonable prices.

OK, You've convinced me, what's the best way to get started?

This is a very important question.  Many people make the mistake of purchasing a pre-packaged train set.  While this can be fine for other scales, it doesn't necessarily work for N-Scale.  For whatever reasons, the pre-packaged train sets in N-Scale are for the most part, made up of very low quality components.  There are some exceptions to this but they are few and far between.  Many of the pre-packaged train sets in N-Scale are designed for the "Christmas market".  These are folks who want to see a train running around their Christmas Tree for a few weeks around the holiday season.  There is nothing wrong with this concept, in fact, a lot of folks get their initial interest in model railroading this way however, our firm caters to the more serious hobbyist who is working towards the goal of having permanent layout or simply enjoys just collecting trains.

I just can't wait to get going so what do I get first?

The best way to get started in N-Scale model railroading is to purchase separate components.  First you select a theme.  Do you want to model the railroads of North America?  How about Europe?  Maybe you have an interest in the high speed "bullet trains" (more properly known as Shinkansens) of Japan.  Whatever you choose, we can assist you in selecting quality components.  You will need three basic components to get started: trains, track and a power supply (transformer).  Because all N-Scale trains run on the same size track you can change your theme at any time.  We even have customers who model all three themes!  So are you ready to get started?  Great!  We've made it very easy.  Below you will find an excellent selection of KATO Unitrack starter sets.  We strongly recommend the KATO Unitrack system because the track comes with a ready ballasted roadbed profile built in.  There is no need to purchase cork strips and create the roadbed profile yourself.  This saves an enormous amount of time for the beginner and expert alike.  The KATO Unitrack system also features "play and play" wiring which simply snaps together.  There is no need to trim, extend or solder wires as with traditional track systems.  Select either the M1 or M2 Track Sets as the basic building blocks of your layout.  You can then purchase V Series add on sets as space and budget permit.

 

Basics For Getting Started

There are many brands of N-Scale track but, KATO UNITRACK is very unique and is truly in a class by itself.  There are many advantages to this product perhaps the most notable being the built in roadbed.  That's right, you no longer have to bother laying strips of cork to support your track.  KATO UNITRACK also has the advantage of plug in wiring.  With UNITRACK's plug in wiring, it is no longer necessary to solder extension cables since they can be simply purchased with connectors already in place.  Perhaps the most overlooked feature of UNITRACK is it's near perfect geometry.  The better the track geometry, the less derailments.  After all, this your hobby, you want it to be fun and hassle free don't you?  If you still are not convinced that KATO UNITRACK is for you or if you started your layout with another brand, we can special order and supply you with other brands of N-Scale track.

Availability:  Unless listed as "out" items on this page are in stock for immediate delivery.

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Item
Number
Item
Description
List
Price
Our
Price
Shopping
Cart

20-850

M1 Track Set
Includes:
Complete oval of track (12 3/8" radius)
Grade crossing/rerailing track
KATO Transformer

Note:  Shipping cost on this item can be significantly higher than the shopping
cart estimate.  We suggest you to
contact us with your zip code
before placing an order for this item

$105.00

$84.95


20-850-1

M2 Track Set
Includes:
Complete oval of track (12 3/8" radius)
Grade crossing/rerailing track
Passing Siding
KATO Transformer

Note:  Shipping cost on this item can be significantly higher than the shopping
cart estimate.  We suggest you to
contact us with your zip code
before placing an order for this item

$195.00

$156.95


20-860-1

V1 Passing Siding Add On Set
Includes:
Passing Siding (2 #6 turnouts, switch controllers, and connecting track)

Note: This is an Add On Set and
not a complete layout by itself.

$90.00 $72.95

20-861-1 V2 Viaduct Add On Set
Includes:
Elevated pier set
Viaduct loop
Bridge (silver)

Note: This is an Add On Set and
not a complete layout by itself.

$110.00 $89.95

20-862-1 V3 Rail Yard Add On Set
Includes:
Rail yard (3 #6 turnouts, switch controllers, and connecting track)
3 Concrete Bumper track pieces

Note: This is an Add On Set and
not a complete layout by itself.

$135.00 108.95

20-863-1 V4 Switching Siding Add On Set
Includes:
Switching Siding (2 #4 Turnouts, switch controllers, and straight track)
Two drop tracks provide an ideal companion to the V3 rail yard set

Note: This is an Add On Set and
not a complete layout by itself.

$105.00 $84.95

20-864-1 V5 Inside Loop Set
Includes:
Complete loop of track designed to fit inside the M1, M2, and Starter track set (11" radius)
Grade crossing/rerailing track

Note: Not recommended as a standalone layout by itself.  Only short locomotives and cars will be able to handle an 11" radius.  For customers who already have a transformer and just want the track purchase a V6 below.

$42.00 $33.95

20-865-1 V6 Outside Loop Set
Includes:
Complete loop of track designed to fit outside the M1, M2, and Starter track set (13 3/4" radius)
Grade crossing/rerailing track

Note: This set makes a basic oval and includes a feeder track.  It's ideal for those who already have a transformer and just want a basic oval of track.

$44.00 $35.95

20-866-1 V7 Double Crossover Add On Set
Includes:
Double Crossover track piece and matching straight track
Turnout control switch

Note: This is an Add On Set and not a complete layout by itself.

$87.00 $69.95

See our KATO Track page for the complete selection of sets and individual track parts.

 

Now that you have your track and transformer the real fun can begin.

Please continue by shopping our MAIN CATALOG for trains.