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Big Bluff, part 2: Overhead wiring

Overhead wiring was the last chapter in finishing this N scale layout, and it took some time. But it was not the work, which took that time. Getting a good idea before was the point!
But finally I´m done. Here´s the result:

Layouts in N scale

Model railroad scenery with catenary: Even in N scale not necessarily a filigree work!

Running electrical locomotives with their pantographs retracted (in other words: without an overhead contact line) looks poor - on every on model railroad layout! Although I don´t have high demands for faithfulness to details or functionality in the model, I was missing an inspirational answer to the question: How to build an overhead wire system without fiddling around for weeks with soldering and electronics? It had to be simple and cheap, but still respectable. The answer took a few months to arrive: A mockup of an overhead contact line with latex thread (=rubber) and spring steel wire.

Catenary for N scale layouts

Catenary masts for N scale layouts are available from Arnold, both as high towers for transversely spanning wide areas, and as lattice masts alongside the route. A latex thread, also from Arnold, serves as the electrical line. I like the overhead catenary accessories from Arnold; it´s good-looking and detailed. However, the contact line is just a mockup that doesn´t conduct any current. For all that, it´s easy to handle, the locomotives and rails are still easily accessible, and complicated electrical wiring is unnecessary. Tip: Used catenary stuff! With some poking around, it can be obtained cheaply from a well-known internet auction company, THE "treasure trove" for N scale supply! As long as you aren´t bothered by a few remnants of glue on the bases of the masts, this solution will serve you well. There is no functional capability involved, so there´s no risk in buying used. The latex thread could also be used for a H0 scale overhead contact lines.

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Preparing for electric trains

The overhead wiring is quickly strung up along the route: The picture on the right shows a "tension brace" in the form of a simple wooden strip where the latex has been twirled in. Otherwise the wire runs loose through the lattice masts. The gantry signal box at the halfway point of the route serves as an additional point to which the latex thread is affixed.

Bracing for the thread is kept hidden in the tunnel

Catenary masts

Placing tower masts

On the right side of the gantry-style signal tower the track plan featurers the station area. Here I placed only tower masts, in total 13 towers. To span the wide distances transversely between the towers, a transverse supporting ropes system was necessary by DIY. Bracing for the threads in this area is kept hidden, too: In the tunnel on the right side of the layout, and inside of the station halls.

Tower masts are placed in the station area

Catenary mast

Transverse supporting ropes

0.3 mm spring steel wire serves as the horizontally striped overhead system. The vertical wires are glued in place with superglue. It holds well, and soldering could hardly be more stable. Glue and spring steel wire can be found as model building accessories. So that the bare wire wouldn´t look so new, the final step was to spray paint them black. This weathering also lends additional stability.

Looks filigree - but easy to build!

Overhead wire N scale

DIY: The transverse system

The "Making of" the transverse system: For each unit 2 wires are laid parallel, adjusted to the relevant length (the distance between the tower positions), and then glued to the uprights. In total I made 7 transverse supporting ropes, all tailor made.

Tools: Tweezers and superglue

Overhead wiring N scale

Pantographs up: Look-alike and easy to maintain

This method is incidentally maintenance-friendly: the transverse systems are simply pushed into the towers; the line (the latex thread) is only loosely threaded through them. Nitpicking model railroaders will notice the missing 3rd cross-span (and not only that), but hey, this is just a "look-alike"! It is is a method for achieving an overhead contact line for tiny N scale layouts without having a nervous breakdown. Optically it´s good enough, so electric trains, here you are!

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