Category Archives: Modeling

N Scale U36B Solutions

I have two parts available on Shapeways for turning Atlas U23B models into reasonable facsimiles of a U36B or U33B. The first solution requires cutting off part of the U23B radiator and fitting a whole new flared radiator over the cut section.

The second solution simply requires gluing flared radiator wings onto the sides of the U23B radiator.

I use method two for my own models just because it is very easy and can easily be applied to a factory painted model. I paint the flared radiator wings the proper color. And I attach the flared radiator wings with Elmer’s white glue so I can wet them and remove them if I ever desire to do so.

If you aren’t satisfied with the second solution due to the existing U23B radiator, which is too narrow and doesn’t extend to the flared section, I provide a choice of two vector images (white background and gray) that can be printed as a decal or on paper to represent the radiator screen and to cover the existing U23B radiator. To use the radiator graphics, scrape the grab iron on the top of the existing radiator off with a razor blade. Print the screens (ideally using a laser printer), glue the screens down with Elmer’s glue if using paper. You could print the graphic with the white background on colored paper. Or you could use the dirty gray screen graphic.

Get the parts at Shapeways here and here. As always, with parts in the Frosted Detail materials, don’t skip the step of using a soak in Bestine (or Doc Edington’s brand) to properly clean the parts of support wax.

N Scale Flex Track Comparison Guide

track1Here is a breakdown of the main N scale flex track options available as well as some other options. I personally most often use Micro-Engineering code 55, not because it is perfect but because it has the most features I want relative to what is available. Recently, I’ve started using Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties with Micro-Engineering code 55 rail when appropriate. CVMW ties are pretty much the best bet available currently for nice looking N scale track. I’d probably use Peco code 55 if the tie spacing was prototypical for the United States. Atlas code 55 is nice but the spikes cause issues with some of my older locomotives. The ideal track for me would be code 40 Peco style track (where the rail is actually code 80 but half of it is embedded in the ties and thus very sturdy) with prototypical US tie spacing, prototypical tie width, and small spikes. Kato Unitrack is also nice track just not very prototypical. I like to use Kato Unitrack for hidden track when appropriate and practical. If Kato made code 55 Unitrack with prototypical US tie spacing and spikes plus also left the ballast off the roadbed allowing users to paint the track and apply their own ballast I’d likely use a lot more Unitrack than I do. At the very least, I’d use more Unitrack if Kato made some little Unitrack code 80 to code 55 flextrack transition tracks. Those would be easier and more reliable than fabricating transition tracks out of Peco code 55 track (see below).



Micro-Engineering code 55


  • Long 36”
  • Small spikes
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width (close enough anyway)


  • Somewhat hard to bend into smooth curves
  • Plastic flashing is somewhat common
  • Somewhat fragile


Atlas code 55


  • Easy to bend into smooth curves
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width


  • Short 30”
  • Spikes are too big and interfere with wheel flanges on older equipment. But not really an issue if you just have newer equipment made in the last decade or so.


Atlas code 80


  • Cheapest
  • Easiest to find
  • Easy to bend into smooth curves


  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • Short 30”


Peco code 55


  • Long 36”
  • Uses code 80 rail embedded in the ties…making it sturdy


  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes

Peco code 55 track can be used to make transition tracks from code 55 to code 80. All that is required is a file.

Peco flex track code 55 80 transition N scale flex track 55 80


Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties.


  • Unlimited length
  • Ties can be painted and ballasted before the rails are applied making variation in tie color easier to achieve (especially if a masking template is constructed) and the rail can easily be painted a slightly different color than the ties
  • Long stretches of Micro Engineering code 55 rail can be soldered together before being applied to the ties
  • No glue required to attach the rail


  • The ties vary a bit in length which is true to a lot of prototype track (especially older track) but not necessarily true in all cases
  • You still have to buy Micro Engineering code 55 rail









Kato Unitrack


  • Reliable
  • Reconfigurable


  • The rail is code 80
  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • The ballast is part of the track which can be a pro or a con, but it is a con if prototype accuracy is the objective.

Kato N Unitrack vs. Micro-engineering code 55 Flex




3D Printed Track?

Finally, I just wanted to mention that I played around with 3D printing some code 40 track. I did this because there is some track I wanted to put on my layout to make it true to the prototype, but I didn’t need it to be functional. So, at about 10 cents a foot, this 3D N scale code 40 track does the trick just fine, especially since it allows me to make custom track such as very long turnouts in code 40 rail that aren’t commercially available. As technology gets better, dead rail battery powered locomotives on cheap 3D printed track may be a viable solution for some applications.

Code 40 N Dummy Track 3D Printed in PLA










Originally posted 1/10/16. Updated 3/19/18.

Postcards from Bone Valley: Great Model Railroads 2017

Note that you can see the acrylic glass reflecting the camera in this picture, giving a sense of what the layout is like live in person

Note that you can see the acrylic glass reflecting the camera in this picture, giving a sense of what the layout is like live in person.

I got to see a copy of Great Model Railroads 2017…since my small N scale Bone Valley layout is featured on page 52. Unfortunately, my layout only got four pages in the issue. That resulted in a trimmed up article and a measly three layout photos included in the article (two of which are redundant). So, I’m posting some stuff that wasn’t shown in the article here. There were also a few errors to the article added by the editor. One thing is that it said Atlas is releasing the U36B in N scale; I have not heard anything about that, only HO. As you can see from this layout plan that I made when I wrote the article back in the beginning of 2015 (which at the time I didn’t intend to be in Great Model Railroads), there were a whole lot more pictures (A thru L) that could have been included than just three. Anyway, as the maker and owner of my layout, the photo-scarce article doesn’t quite do it justice. But this is just step one in what is to be a bigger layout, so there will be more in the future.

n-layout 4x7 Bone Valley

Atlas N B36-7 Out Now

Atlas N B36-7 Seaboard SystemI just got my Atlas Master Line N B36-7 Locomotives. And I wanted to mention something some potential buyers might have wondered about. In the product photos that I’ve seen on various websites, the Seaboard System models have gray fuel tanks. I couldn’t understand that since I never saw any photos of real Seaboard System B36-7 locos with gray fuel tanks. Fortunately, the actual models have black fuel tanks, as they should, unlike the promo pictures. So I just wanted to make that clear. Overall the new models look great. Atlas N B36-7 Locos are starting to appear on Ebay.

Agricola Spur Photos 1990

Ken Goslett shared some more Bone Valley photos. The first three are of the smash board protected diamond where the Agrico and South Pierce Railroad used to cross the Agricola Spur between Bradley and Agricola. In the first diamond photo, the trainman has already turned and locked the north smash board to block the opposing route.  In the second photo, he is turning the other smash board and preparing to lock it.  In the third photos, with both boards protecting his movement, the train is crossing the diamond and he is climbing on board. Then the final two photos are of the Estech phosphate plant at Agricola, which was in its final days in 1990.

Agricola Spur Diamond Agricola Spur Diamond Agricola Spur Diamond Chessie Estech Agricola 1990 Goslett Estech Agricola 1990 Goslett

Bone Valley Photos in 1990

I got in contact with photographer Ken Goslett who took a number of great Bone Valley photos in 1990. He was kind enough to agree to scan some to share on this website. These are the first pictures he sent. The picture of the tower at Agrock is a piece of information I’ve long wanted for potential modeling purposes, since I’d never seen anything showing what it looked like in 1990. The other picture is right across the road from Agrock at Payne Creek.

Agrock 1990 Tower Office

Agrock FL  1990

E-Z App Bluetooth Wireless Control

Check out this Bachmann E-Z App video…if you haven’t heard about it. Once this is available with plug-n-play decoders in N scale, I’ll finally leave the old DC train control world behind. For years now, DCC has seemed behind the times to me. So much so that I’ve held off on investing in DCC for my N scale stuff. My set-up isn’t complex enough to justify it. DC has been good enough. But the ease of just using a cell phone to wirelessly control a train will be something I’ll have to have. Plus it has the potential to make operations richer. Like usual, HO is getting it first. I don’t know how long N scale will take. Blue Rail Trains