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Thread: N-scale Kato Unitrack + Unitram layout: Small-build layout progress thread.

  1. Default N-scale Kato Unitrack + Unitram layout: Small-build layout progress thread [revised].

    I finally decided to go N-scale! After wracking my brain as to where to construct a layout, I just went into the garage and measured my Home Depot-built workbench cabinets. It runs most of the width of the garage, but the total area of the countertops measures only 20" x 12'. Though, I figure I can just build overhangs at each end to accommodate the 180-turnarounds, or even build out a larger 'L' return at one end. This makes things a bit easier to get started since I don't have to build complete benchwork from scratch.

    As the thread title indicates, I plan to integrate a fair amount of Kato Unitram street components into my layout. I ordered a few pre-built Tomix and Kato N-scale buildings to begin to populate my small urban-center, and I also ordered a couple of Walther's N-scale oil derricks (which are also present in and around parts of L.A.). I bought a pile of my favorite diesels, mostly Kato and Atlas engines, all in the Southern Pacific roadname. The location and era of my mostly-freelanced layout is Los Angeles in the mid-1990s to present-day. My most ambitious endeavor will be to produce a backlit photographic background for my entire layout using a Duratrans translucent display.

    Since I'm not exactly sure of how the Kato Unitrack and Unitram components fit together, I thought I'd just start with some small starter kits. Here's my first Unitrack order:

    • Kato V11 double-track set:




    I plan on running four independent lines with my newly acquired inventory of N-scale locos:

    Kato SD45s x2 Southern Pacific "speed" logo (MU'd).
    • Kato F40PH x2 Metrolink commuter (MU'd) + Metrolink bombardier coaches (on pre-order).
    • Atlas GP35s x5 Southern Pacific "Roman" logo (MU'd).
    • Tomix Odakyu Series-4000 electric light-rail.

    I think Unitrack dual-track is a neat way to add interest for those with limited layout space, and in this layout I'll have two, dual-track loops (one, completely elevated). Each dual-track loop will run a freight line and a passenger line, providing visibly contrasting operating scale-speeds. My layout is all-analog, and will eventually employ four separate controllers, plus two Kato Soundboxes (connected to a passive mixer into an external surround-sound stereo) to accompany freight-line operations.

    The two basic Kato track kits I'll be starting with are the V11 dual-track kit, and the V13 dual-track, elevated-loop viaduct set. Although both kits have the same radius (15"/16-3/8"), each kit will be offset by a few inches, allowing me to incorporate a number of elevated crossings. At some point, I may add the Kato V1 mainline passing siding kit, and/or a small switching yard using the Kato V3 expansion kit. Regarding Kato's viaduct track, I found a very informative Kato-centric site located at sumidacrossing.org, which I found very helpful.

    To aid in planning my modified V13 elevated-viaduct loop, I just downloaded RailModellerPro for OS X from the AppStore for $39.99 (a free, more limited Express Edition is also available). Thankfully, it follows common graphics-apps UI conventions which makes it intuitive and easy-to-use. The Pro Edition supports up to 99 layers, and an unlimited number of track elements (the Express edition supports just a single layer and tops-out at 50 elements). A full-resolution RailModellerPro image of my current track-plan can be seen here.
    Last edited by Chevron_GATX; 06-18-2016 at 01:04 AM.

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    I initially bought the Unitram V53 kit as a $99 experiment. But after laying it out, I decided instead to get 8' of V52 roadway (three V52 kits). This allows a long track-and-roadway scene along the entire rear of the layout (which is what I originally envisioned). The V53 kit will probably be parted-out to complement the V52 roadway somehow. The problem with Unitram is that you can't easily "complete" roadways, since no accessory roadway components are sold separately (e.g., no available 90 turns to "exit" the layout).

    • Kato V52 Unitram double-wide straight track expansion set (V54 shown):


    I debated whether to model my own roadway (which would've looked more realistic), but going this route allows me to add an elevated viaduct-loop directly on top of the parking lot areas of the Unitram track-and-roadway scenic pieces. Though expensive, I can prototype (in the testing sense) an entire layout concept using moveable, modular components before committing to permanent scenery construction.
    Last edited by Chevron_GATX; 06-07-2016 at 02:46 AM.

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    Do your drivers drive on the right hand or left hand side of the road? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-...t-hand_traffic

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    "Before."
    Last edited by Chevron_GATX; 05-15-2016 at 03:44 PM.

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    The aluminum shelf concept has been deleted! Though it made for a super-cool freestanding left-turnaround, it was going to be too much trouble to raise everything to the same height as the 0.25" aluminum support plate. Plus, the shelves would've acted as large transducers--it would've been loud!

    Instead, I went to buy two sheets of 49" x 97" 3/4" melamine stock at Home Depot tonight (I had to do this tonight, since my track is coming tomorrow!). I had it cut into three sections: Left-turnaround: 42" (depth) x 49" (width), center section: 28" (depth) x 53" (width), right-turnaround: 49" (depth) x 42" (width). Since melamine isn't as rigid as the 0.25" aluminum plate, I'll need to support the overhang with something else: Ikea sells an adjustable leg that I can use to support the left turnaround without obstructing the cabinet doors below. The right turnaround is still supported by the tig-welded Rakks bracket.

    I arrived at the final layout dimensions based on the "which radii?" thread, while also making physical mock-ups to help better determine what "fit" better in the space, both literally and visually. Ingress/egress are also considerations since this borders an exit door. We'll see how this works out when I put the Kato V11 kit in there tomorrow.
    Last edited by Chevron_GATX; 06-11-2016 at 11:02 PM.

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    Underlayment (sound-insulation):

    Between the cabinet-tops and the 3/4" melamine boards, I put down a layer of ultraSeal floorMuffler "premium floor underlayment." I found it in the flooring section of Home Depot. According to the manufacturer, it's a, "highly engineered, cross-linked polypropylene foam," designed for "laminate, engineered and solid hardwood flooring." It's pretty dense, and fairly thin, perhaps about 3mm. Also, it's pink! I didn't use any adhesives, and I plan to just sandwich it in-place (I'm screwing the melamine board into the MDF countertops with counter-sunk machine screws and nuts).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chevron_GATX View Post
    Plus, the shelves would've acted as large transducers--it would've been loud!
    That was my first thought when I saw you starting to use aluminum. You figured that out before I was able to post my concern.

    I arrived at the final layout dimensions based on the "which radii?" thread, while also making physical mock-ups to help better determine what "fit" better in the space, both literally and visually. Ingress/egress are also considerations since this borders an exit door. We'll see how this works out when I put the Kato V11 kit in there tomorrow.
    It is hard to beat the "lay down the actual track in the actual space" method. I always keep a pile of sectional track and an open space to put it on just for this reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Horseman View Post
    That was my first thought when I saw you starting to use aluminum. You figured that out before I was able to post my concern.
    Yeah, it's too bad, since it would've been a slick install. I thought for a moment of filling the shelves with expanding foam, but in the end this approach was going to require far too much work. Plus, drilling through aluminum to wire switches and lighting would've been one more thing to deal with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Horseman View Post
    It is hard to beat the "lay down the actual track in the actual space" method. I always keep a pile of sectional track and an open space to put it on just for this reason.
    Agreed! It would be nice if I had some track! (My track order is due to deliver tomorrow, not today!). As I mentioned before, starting with the basic Kato V11 kit, I'll be adding track piece-meal as I mock-up layouts, ad infinitum, far beyond the scope of the basic kit (this is one of the main reasons I went with Unitrack).

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