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"Fine" N Scale Standards

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Custom Built Model Railroad

The switcher pushes an idler car towards the car float on this "Fine" standard N scale layout based on the Brooklyn waterfront in WW2. Track is hand laid code 40.

When it comes to details, N scale is generally associated with what I call more of a "representational" approach. Limitations in casting technology make capturing the same level of fine and delicate detail levels that exists in HO difficult, if not impossible. Grab irons are thicker or cast on. Handrails are oversize. Commonly used rail is oversize.

So, what’s the N scaler that wants a finer look to do? Without doing any modifications a lot can be accomplished via color management. To the extent you can, painting a part or rail a darker color will make its out-of-scale features less apparent. That will get you pretty far.

For those that want to take things further, close up photography for example, there are a few more steps that can be taken. One is to use Z scale couplers. If you do so, make sure you snip off the trip pins. You can also use code 40 track, which is available from Micro Engineering. If you go the code 40 route the turnouts will need to be handmade.

Between judicious color management, careful weathering, Z scale couplers, and using code 40 rail, you can take N scale pretty far in the appearance department.

“Fine N scale” finish levels is a service I offer. It’s at the upper end of the cost per square foot spectrum but for those with liberal budgets the creative options are exciting.

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Exactly what I have been preaching all these years. The camera is not the friend of N scale. The human eye will "fill in the blanks," but the close-up image sees all. For a dedicated N scale modeler like me, taking comparable N scale shots of details in larger scales is like trying to photograph less attractive people, "pull the camera way, way back, lots of background maybe no one will notice."

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