N Scale Cars!

There's nothing more fun than adding the 'icing' to a layout than adding relatively inexpensive additions like...CARS! From the bare bones Model Power blister pack, to the high end LED lit vehicles, there's almost something for everyone! Plus, the real secret to having cars (and accesible roads) on your layout, is that they are great decoys for young children! Instead of being the 'grumpy old man with the train layout' whenever some kid shows up (yours or others), now you have something that is relatively painless to let them touch and push around the layout! Of course, it helps if the wheels move so the precious little child doesn't gouge valleys into your detailed roadwork....

Anyway, I'm going to showcase a few of the N Scale automobiles I have from various manufacturers:


These can be found in the states in nearly any hobby shop. The nice thing is that they are very cheap...there are like 6 or so in the blister pack. Unfortunately, they are pretty cheap, ugly, and totally uninteresting. Relegate these to the back of the layout.


Kato sells a box of cars, usually nearby their Unitrack system. Unfortunately, Kato seems to have the N Scale contract for drab, boring, government sedans. The quality is better than Model Power, but the cars are boring. I suppose that's a huge advantage if you don't want to have flashy cars distracting from your trains, right?


Now, finally, with Wiking - a German company I believe - we're getting into some interesting models that you might actually want to look at on your layout. They do a decent VW New Beetle and Porsche Boxster (so the box says) that come together in a package. I guess this is a 'his and hers' type of thing, right? Too bad they chose such poor colors for both models though, as neither of them look as good as they could with a better color choice.


Fleischmann, better known for their crappy warranty support (oh yes, they used to make N Scale trains too. See my last post for my little rant on that) also makes a few interesting cars in N Scale. The quality is on the low end, but I like the interesting Citroen car, and the Porsche is cool too. Again, what's with the colors? How depressing. No moving wheels on these.


Herpa, a company which 'owns' a small-scale model airplane market, also makes a few N Scale items. I picked up a package of two Mini Coopers that are really nice looking models! The wheels even move! This is a huge plus in my book. The wheels are not really attached that firmly to the axle, so one of my Mini's is missing its back rear tire. Ah well....should have gone with the extended warranty I guess.


Better known for their scenery materials, Busch makes a couple of vehicle sets. My favorite is the DHL/FedEx combo. These look good anywhere on the layout...and the wheels move (VRRRRROOOOOOMMMMM!).

Another Busch favorite of mine is their "Polizei" combo. Seriously, who can't pass up a Smart fortwo police car? Talk about striking fear into the hearts of criminals in a high speed pursuit! Of course, as if its not bad enough that the police are using a Smart car, the wheels don't even move!


Mini-Metals does a great job of producing nice quality, metal, N scale models of classic American gas hogs! The metal gives them some nice heft, and the wheels move nicely. Nothing more fun than having the Ford Custom rip through downtown with the Polizei Smart car paddle-shifting its way after them!

Tomytec is by far my hands down favorite 'car manufacturer'. Moving wheels, great looking cars with a lot of detail, good colors, and a HUGE selection of models and types.

I went for the 'big one' and ordered their Tomytec Car Collection Vol 6. Although the box has way more Honda Fits, Demio's, and Vitz's than I'd ever really want, the colors and quality are great additions to the layout.

They also do a great line of trucks, trailers, semi's etc... Tomytec vehicles have become almost a separate little 'hobby' now given how cool these things are. They're not particularly easy to get in traditional hobby shops, but are easy to find a wide variety online.

That's sort of small snapshot of my thoughts on the N Scale vehicles currently sharing the layout with my trains (not to fear, passenger revenues for the railways in Quinntopia will continue to be strong as our urban planners maliciously planned that all of our roads and highways go absolutely nowhere! Ha ha!) back to the trains and layout in my next post.


Fleischmann / Roco Warranty Blues

I miss my Deutsche Bundesbahn Class 64!

I discussed some of my issues with my Fleischmann BR 64 locomotive in a post last winter. The BR 64 was performing very poorly and it was obvious something was really wrong. According to my dealer, the issue is that there is a gear issue and it is causing the wheel drive to get stuck and thus the poor performance. It seems that this is a clear design flaw that cannot be repaired and the locomotive needs to be replaced (good for him!) :-) He also informs me that my locomotive is one of four he has seen with the same problem (ouch! Bad for Fleischmann/Roco!).

It seems that when Roco acquired Fleischmann last year, all the Fleischmann managers were let go and there was also some signficant reorganization (both physical and organizational) which helps to explain the delay. That doesn't mean that I think this delay is acceptable, however. This is one of those occassions where a good dealer really pays off, they've already made their margins on this deal, and they do this all to support their customers. The benefit to the dealer (in this case) is that I definitely have high confidence in purchasing from them in the future! Thanks Walter!

For Fleischmann / Roco, however, another story. Given the relative premium they charge for their products (they seem to be the highest, even compared to Minitrix) I would like to expect a bit more from them right out of the box (especially as this locomotive came as part of a 'starter set'! What kind of impression does this leave with someone new to the hobby! Arg!!!) and despite a two year warranty, one certainly does not expect that a locomotive will spend a good portion of that time somewhere in a warehouse waiting to get 'looked at' rather than quickly replaced!

I hope this is not the future direction for the new Roco company and its Fleischmann acquisition, but we have seen similar sad developments in this hobby in the past. I would be interested to know if any others are also experiencing these sort of problems with Roco / Fleischmann?


A little Europe

Here's a short movie of my layout from its "Version 1" days...back when I had just a single door layout. Some aspects are relatively unchanged, others are unrecognizable! I am currently working on "Version 2.1", which will increase the size of the downtown area, add a lot more lighting, and add a large, stub-end passenger station. These things are all waiting for the end of summer...and the start of 'train season'! :-)