Lately I've been messing around with late 1800's N scale modeling. Since I have limited space for a layout and I wanted to model a section of railroad I selected my old favorite N for this exercise. The current space is about 1' by 10' but I might expand this. After some issues with Peco track, I decided to try Kato's Unitrack as an alternative and so far I've been very happy with it. It still requires a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part it is pretty bulletproof. John Sing has a really nice small railroad that he created using Unitrack and he describes the process of tweaking and ballasting here; John Sing's ATSF_Arizona Peavine Line Layout Overview.

As for rolling stock and locomotives, Atlas as a very nice 2-6-0 that would be perfect for passenger usage or if you hack up the pilot and added a coupler it would make a good switcher. Note that it comes with a Rapido style coupler and is a bit tricky to replace. The Roundhouse 2-6-0 and 2-8-0s are very good runners as well. Make sure you get models that already have working couplers fore and aft! All three of these engines will run well even on straight DC and if you can find or make a pulse power pack, they would be even better. A good plan for one is here: High-Performance Throttle by Rich Weyand, with Bill Pistello & Bill Reid
In addition there's the old Bachmann and MDC old timer freight cars, these server well as standins until you can build some of your own. With the MDC cars, there's always the question of how realistic the lettering schemes are, but I usually don't worry about it too much. The Bachmann cars were pretty primitive if I remember right. The shorty MDC passenger cars are useful if you are modeling the Virginia and Truckee or the Sierra Railway, otherwise you could use the as business cars or not bother and get the longer cars.
There's a fair amount of scratchbuilding supplies out there.

Various N Scale Paper Buildings

Miners Shack
Newton StationRollins House

Fun with Paper

I have two favorite scales, O Scale because it's a great scale for modeling cars, locos and other objects and N scale because it's great for modeling railroads. I've used paper in the past for prototyping buildings, now I'm adding color and texture.

Great for prototyping. Maybe even good enough for real! Scratch building in N scale is a bit on the challenging side no matter how you cut it and for us lovers of the Old Time West, even more of a problem!

The Buildings

Newton Station is my first attempt, the sides and roof are mine, the platform is Paper Creek's N scale wood paper sheeting, A very reasonable deal for ~$5, if you print one yourself, you probably would use 50 cents worth of ink! Plus it's waterproof.

I think the first thing I would do to improve my hasty pasteup is to reprint the sheets and cut out the windows and doors and apply them on top. I might try printing them on matte photo paper so they would have a different texture than the wood sides which are printed on 65 pound paper. I should also add would texture under the eaves and possibly print some brackets for underneath. I've uses the Paper Creek roofing for O scale where it works well for background structures, being a bit thin, in N scale the shingles would probably be perfect. Signs would be nice as well.

I wasn't happy with the results of printing to Strathmore, so this time I printed to photo paper and sprayed it with Dullcote. I also applied the windows and doors as separate items on top trying to get a more 3D effect. I punched up the shingles a bit, but I think it would be good to put the Paper Creek N scale shingles on this structure. Still needs signs, freight and people!

Of course for one station, it would be faster to scratchbuild it, but I'm planning on making a bunch of shacks with the same rough siding. One advantage of this approach is I can make the buildings in the back a smaller scale and I can make them lower contrast and lighter as well.

 Miners shacks 12x20 N scale. This time I played around a bit with a marker adding shadows, interesting technique but needs work. These babies need a shot of dullcote as well. Some weathering and chimneys would be good as well.

Rollins House is a bit larger and I used fine emery paper for the roof. I cut out the thin trim boards from a second set I printed and applied then on the corners.

3D Printed N scale

Mostly Shapeways but their search interface is horrible!

Panamint Models by Eric Cox

CG N Scale by Mark W

Grizzly Peaks Model Trains