Getting Started in Model Trains

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Chris Stevenson, Sep 1, 2003.

  1. Chris Stevenson

    Chris Stevenson New Member

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    Hello,
    I recently attended an attraction at the local fair/carnival. It was a man who had a large model train layout, in N scale I believe. I am extremely interested in this hobby. I am focusing my reasearch in the N and HO scales, and I believe that N scale is the way to go because I think I will enjoy creating large, expansive scenery.
    I like painting, molding, soldering, and generally making my ideas become tangable. I have come here to get some help on what is the way to go in model railroading. I know there are many paths to take and I would like your opinion on what to do.
    In my reasearch on the internet, information in hard to come upon, that tells what is the ideal way to start, cheap! I realize this is a fairly expensive hobby, but at least I don't think it will be as much as R/C airplanes! I am thinking I may have to start very small and generally start to build on my layout. Seeing as how I am only 14, I am very budget concious, though I believe this is a very rewarding, worthwhile hobby that I would like to be a part of.
    Suggestions, opinions, and links to "getting started" sites appreciated, and needed!

    B.T.W. I have a hobby store called the "Hobby Stop" that I anticipate visiting soon about 20 miles from here, but until then . . .

    Chris
  2. screwysquirrel

    screwysquirrel Member

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    Welcome!

    Welcome to the Gauge, Chris.

    You'll find some of the friendliest people in the world here, and oftimes better advice than you can get in the magazines.

    As for what you can do to start, pick up a loop of track a couple turnouts, and make a simple loop with sidings to start.
  3. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

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    Welcome to the Gauge Chris.
    As for information and advice, look no further, you can get all your questions answered here. Take the time to read as many of the threads as you can. there is a wealth of information here. (and a lot of fun). Ask any questions you have.
    Model railroading doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Look at some of the scrath- built structures being built here with cereal boxes. Check out yard sales and flea markets.
    The most important thing is to have fun.
  4. pjb

    pjb Member

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    I would suggest that you find the locations of the nearest model railroad clubs at a hobby shop that sells model trains. If they are an 'N' scale club(s) with either modular or fixed layout , that is to the good . However, it doesn't matter what scale the club operates in , because : A) some issues, such as the characteristics of two rail DC powered model trains and how to wire your trackage to run trains on it are universal; and B) there will be many members that have home layouts in gauges and scales different than the club they belong to.
    Keep in mind that you want to build a simple loop and have a few switches to fool around with. Learning how to do this and then 'fooling around' with coupler operation , switching ,and the routine matters associated with playing with trains is your goal.

    Unfortunately, some folks are from a high stress world that seems to require their "hobby" be the same. They will have an agenda, and whether you seek them out in a club or run into them on the web or train meets , etc.- they are a pain since they require people to justify there "hobby" parameters , in order to have their existence justified. Currently, in this hobby these types seem to have become fixated upon how trains are controlled on layouts. Remember , this is not central to your being, or running your loop of track. You don't give a crap about DBC, DCC, IR or RC at the moment.

    You will buy a low end cheap MRC power pack , and the necessary trackwork and switches and wire to make your simple layout work after a short course.
    This begins with the current N SCALE MAG and the generalist RAILWAY MODEL CRAFTSMAN or MODEL RAILROADER , that are also worth buying, and then reading a couple of times . The second time through , write down any questions you have about what you have read that are relative to train running. Freight car paint jobs and there whys and where fors may become very interesting to you, but in the beginning concentrate on the train running. This site can be of help with the questions, but the flesh and blood model railroaders at the clubs you go to, will be more helpful and better able to illustrate the "REASON A". So can hobby shop personnel in stores that sell model trains. Remember these stores may charge more due to their smaller volumes of sales, and higher overhead than internet stores, but they are also providing you with informational resources that none of the latter will bother with. there are some justly famous websites, one of which is the YAHOO "'Small_Layout_Design" group where you will find many talented and helpful experts. There are also many 'N' scale specific groups, but for the time being meet some live model railroaders after looking through the magazines for the articles (ads really are beside the point even if they are the 'Big Boys Toys' that get us into and keep us here to some extent) and formulating your questions.

    After doing this go back to the hobby shop that sells model trains and buy one of those beginning "How-To-Do-It" books, that seems the most helpful for your purposes. Carstens Pub., and Kalmbach Pub., have many , and most are helpful.

    They are infinitely more useful after you know a little about the hobby , rather than as a true beginner. This is because the writers are writing for their editors , and the whole gang of them know everything about the subject so they are writng for what an expert thinks should be there. This common phenomenon results in less than comprehensible instruction manuals for most machines and appliances ,and a whole failed field area known as mathematics textbooks . The latter has created another series called college outlines that become the textbooks in Mathematics. In model railroading it isn't a failed field , it just means that reading the general mags, and having discussions with model railroaders will then make the " How To Do It", manuals ... successful at filling in the blanks.
    Good-Luck, PJB
  5. trainmasta

    trainmasta New Member

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    hi

    HI,Chris my name is Chris and im 14, you dotn need to tell me about tight buget :p i started small now i have a 12'x8' shelf layout that i started and i have a 6.5'x2.5' layout that i am working on plus my parents are split up so it makes it hard to buy stuff for both layouts track mainly. but least i get double the layout space :D first thing i woudl do is buy a small starter set make shure this hobby is for you and to just get u goin with a working power pack loco and track that you could add on to personaly these peopel dotn understand they want you to get Model railroader mag and a MRC tech II no need fo rthe power pack like that i been usin a cheap power pack for sum time now just to keep gettin other nessesitys liek track ect.... if u haev any other questions feel free to ask me us Chris will get along great :D
  6. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

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    Welcome Chris. In over thirty years in the hobby, I've learned the following;

    -start small
    -make mistakes
    -there's nothing a well placed sabre saw can't fix
    -ask questions
    -don't be too quick to pull out your wallet
    -take your time
    -focus on the things in the hobby that interest you
    -follow the threads
    -airbrushes are cool but not necessary
    -remember that DCC is not the cure for the world's ills
    -brass locomotives are cool but not necessary
    -be careful when you buy on Ebay
    -Dremels are cool but not necessary
    -try something you don't believe you can do and...

    don't forget it's a hobby.
  7. belg

    belg Member

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    Chris let me welcome you to our little gang of almost 1200 now there will be much information to absorb in the beginning but sift thru it and use what "you" need,remember its a hobby for fun. I want to just again state that EBAY is buyer be wary as you can see in my engine repair thread in scratchin' and bashing. Good luck and enjoy your new hobby.
  8. jawatkins

    jawatkins Member

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    Welcome to The Gauge. I'm relatively new in this hobby too. There are many people on this forum with a lot of good advice and many years of experience. As others have said, read the threads and don't be afraid to ask questions.

    And, yes, do remember, it's a hobby - have fun doing it.
  9. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

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    Welcome to the Gauge and to model railroading. There is a link at the top of this page to "The Academy" where you will find many wonderful how-to articles.

    I would suggest starting with one of those cheapie sets you get from Bachman or Life like and a subscription to Model railroader. Play with your trains for a few months, read a few magazines and then jump in head first with both feet.:D

    Good luck.
  10. billk

    billk Active Member

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    Good to start with, but keep in mind the locomotive and power supplies provided in almost anybody's train sets are notorious for their low quality, so don't get too frustrated if they don't perform very well.

    Maybe you should add somewhere near the top of your 'wish list' a higher quality loco, in the road name/period you're interested in, and a good but still relatively inexpensive bottom-of-the-line MRC power supply.

    billk

    PS - You're off to a good start just by being here! :D
  11. trainmasta13601

    trainmasta13601 Member

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    wierd for sum reason i i didn put the 13601 and it logged me in as just trainmasta wierd!!!! alwell but this si my real SN chris and this si what i said befor HI,Chris my name is Chris and im 14, you dotn need to tell me about tight buget i started small now i have a 12'x8' shelf layout that i started and i have a 6.5'x2.5' layout that i am working on plus my parents are split up so it makes it hard to buy stuff for both layouts track mainly. but least i get double the layout space first thing i woudl do is buy a small starter set make shure this hobby is for you and to just get u goin with a working power pack loco and track that you could add on to personaly these peopel dotn understand they want you to get Model railroader mag and a MRC tech II no need fo rthe power pack like that i been usin a cheap power pack for sum time now just to keep gettin other nessesitys liek track ect.... if u haev any other questions feel free to ask me us Chris will get along great
  12. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

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    Chris,
    Welcome to the gauge. PJB mentioned modular, if there is a modular group you can join, it has a lot of benefits. There will be some experienced modelers to learn from. A module is a relatively small investment in material, and space. You can try your hand at almost every aspect of model railroading (track laying,scenery,structures,and rolling stock), and best of all, operate trains on a "large layout", when the group gets together, or has a permanent location for the modular layout.
    If modular isn't an option, try to keep it small. You're in the learning stage, and a large project can become very discouraging.
    If your hobby shop has a "used and abused" counter, where you can get less-than-perfect rolling stock at reasonable prices, you can use these pieces to develop model building skills. Detailing, painting, lettering, and weathering. It doesn't have to be as expensive as it can be, and you'll be learning.
    Above all else, it is a hobby. You'll get out of it what you put into it. I hope you find the time you spend, enjoyable, and rewarding.
    Oh, as has already been mentioned, there are answers to be had here, so ask the questions.
    Pete
  13. Chris Stevenson

    Chris Stevenson New Member

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    Thanks for all the response,

    Ray Marinaccio: “Look at some of the scrath- built structures being built here with cereal boxes.”

    Oh, I know some of those are so cool, and with a lot of patience I believe I could make on that looked decent. Let me get my magnifying glass . . . L.o.l.

    Pjb: “I would suggest that you find the locations of the nearest model railroad clubs at a hobby shop”

    I have learned that my local High School has a model railroad club in ‘N’ scale. Too bad I’m not in 10th grade until next year.

    “YAHOO "'Small_Layout_Design" group where you will find many talented and helpful experts.”

    I’ll have to look into that.

    shaygetz: “be careful when you buy on Ebay”

    L.o.l. I can’t buy on E-Bay anyways, seeing as my parents won’t let me. But, they have very good reason.

    “airbrushes are cool but not necessary”

    I already have access to an airbrush, so no worries.

    “Dremels are cool but not necessary”

    I know, but I want one so bad!

    YakkoWarner: “Welcome to the Gauge and to model railroading. There is a link at the top of this page to "The Academy" where you will find many wonderful how-to articles.

    I would suggest starting with one of those cheapie sets you get from Bachman or Life like and a subscription to Model railroader. Play with your trains for a few months, read a few magazines and then jump in head first with both feet.”

    Good advice. I went to ‘the acadamy’ and saw some cardboard models. It makes me want to go out right now, get a scale ruler, and start making one. I may have to do this. I may get a How-to-book, a magazine for ‘N’ scale, and a scale ruler to start out, and get more advice on what to look for in a set to start with. I may only get the magazine, or the book, for cost reasons.

    billk: ‘supplies provided in almost anybody's train sets are notorious for their low quality’
    I have read a lot about this. Many people say they will power the train, and if you are lucky a couple of lighted cars, nothing else.

    Sumpter250: ‘Oh, as has already been mentioned, there are answers to be had here, so ask the questions.’

    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Thanks you everyone for the response, and please, keep it coming. I hope this may help others in the future.

    Chris















    Chris Chris Chris
  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    I model in ho and have never done anything with n scale, so I don't know if this hold true or not. In ho if you buy cheap trainsets from Lifelike, Model Power, Bachmann, etc, they will often come with locomotives that have wheel sets out of gauge, track made out of steel instead of nickel silver, and track that is also frequently out of gauge. Many people get a cheap starter set, and get so frustrated with the thing falling off the tracks that they give up on the hobby. I would buy a n scale nmra gauge, and take the time to learn how to use it to check wheelsets, track gauge, turnouts, etc. Also in ho Bachmann builds a line called Bachmann Plus as well as Spectrum. Lifelike has Proto2000, abreviated P2K, and Proto 1000 or P1K which runs the same running gear as P2K, but does not have as much detail so is much less expensive. If you go to a hobby shop that has an extensive train dept., they should have people working behind the counter who can help you to get something reliable to get started right in the hobby. I've also seen that model railroaders like to help and encourage others who are just starting out in the hobby.
  15. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

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    I'll just say the same as everyone else, Welcome to the Gauge!
  16. stary

    stary Member

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    first off, welcome to the hobby! I've been doing it for almoost 25 years, now (first in HO, and the last couple of years in N). One thing I've learned is:start small. Start off by reading some of the EXELLENT model railroading books from Kalmbach. They're available online, through a number of dealers, at your L.H.S. (Local Hobby Shop), or at WWW.KALMBACH.COM/BOOKS Also, if you have a model railroad club in your area, stop in for a visit, and don't be afraid to ask questions, also ask on this forum and the others. Atlas has a great one at WWW.ATLASRR.COM Also, the N.M.R.A. (National Model Railroad Assosiation) has a site at WWW.NMRA.ORG that has a special section for begginers.
  17. Chris Stevenson

    Chris Stevenson New Member

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    DCC

    The man who owns the hobby store in which I visited said that I would be better off getting HO scale even though he specializes (spelling?) in N scale. He said that later I would want DCC to control all my trains seperately.

    He has a ton of really cool locomotives that are only $20ish they are all new. The one I would like to get to start is a Bachman Santa Fe. It has a more squared off nose than the "Super Chief"

    Anyways, he said it would be nearly impossible to fit a decoder in these. Then he showed me an HO scale train with speakers and such built into the train. He said, once again, that this would be impossible in N scale and that I should model in HO.

    I think DCC would be awesome except that the decoders, and the special trasformer is way out of my budget.

    Oh, and he has some starter sets starting at $40. He has one that looks to be of fairly good quality that is $60.

    Another thing. Upon my internet reasearch, I have read that transformers that come in starter kits have fair Amperage (can power the train to a reasonable speed) but not enough wattage (can't power more than one train). He said that I was all wrong and that they were just as good as some of the more expensive ones in his shop, but this one just wasn't as sensitive at low speeds.

    I thought that I wanted N scale because of the size I could fit my layout in and the price ($20 for a fairly nice loco!?!).

    If this is true (you can't fit decoders in small N scale deisels) then how do people like RAY METIVIER run their layouts. (incredible, inspirational layout B.T.W.) Do the more expensive deisels have more room for the decoders or something, like the Santa Fe he has made by ATLAS (75.00)?

    Answers please.

    P.S. I know not much of this applys to me right now (DCC and such) because I just want to get a working layout. But in a few years or so I might be desirous to do so, and I don't want to be "stuck in the mud" because of decisions I made earlier in life.
  18. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

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    Stick with N if that is your desire, and that is coming from an HOer. DCC decoders fit into alot of the newer N locos and the ones that don't can be run off of the "OO" channel of a Digitrax system (the only drawback being that you can only one decoder-less loco at a time). I'm sure the other systems out there have a variation of that same setup. As far as price goes, HO and N run about the same, N being just slightly higher.
  19. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

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    If you don't have room for a decoder in a n scale loco, you could get a dummy, or even buy a cheap used toy train loco, and take out the motor and drive. Then install your decoder in the dummy and wire it to the powered loco and always run them together.
  20. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

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    I would go with N scale, you can do so much more in the same amount of space. If you get newer locomotives, it takes about 2 minutes to install a decoder, so don't worry about that. Look at some of the pictures of HO layouts and N scale layouts, you will need so much more room for HO, or you won't be able to have as much layout in the same amount of space. Remember, HO scale takes up 4 times more room than N, length X width.(8X if you figure it out cubed, like where you are modeling a mountain!)
    But in the end you have to go with what ever you feel, it is your hobby, and it should be fun!