Getting Started in Model Trains

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

  1. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mar 25, 2002
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    In your post, I think you meant Voltage when you said Amperage.
    Voltage regulates the speed; the loco then consumes Amperage, which is so many billion electrons passing a given point.
    Multiply volts by amps and you get Watts. (May also be called VoltAmps)
    If your loco consumes 1/2 amp at full load, to run at full speed (12V) takes 6 watts. 2 locos take 12 watts.
    If you check the power packs, they should have a rating in either watts or amps. Train set powerpacks sometimes deliver only 1/2 amp -- there's no room for expansion.
    Although I don't do it, I think DCC is the way for anyone starting. But there are problems. Fitting the chips in can be hard in HO; in N there is even less room and they fill more of the loco with motor and weight. Check your dealer (or some other dealer) to see if there are chips designed for the loco you want to buy.
    And you can wire your layout for DC in a way that you can change to DCC with no major work.
  2. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    Jul 5, 2003
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    For a transformer, get a low end MRC. This should cost you no
    more than $40.
    For track, Atlas c80 or 55 since I'm sure you have the skills needed. You could also get Kato Unitrack. Start with an oval with a couple of turnouts for industrial sidings or for a passing track for a station.
    For Locos-Atlas or Kato. But since you're on a budget get a newer Life-Like.
    Cars-LBF, Red Caboose, Atlas, Intermountain, deluxe innovations,& Micro-Trains are all good. Avoid Model Power, Life-Like, Bachmann, & Industrial Rail. Welcome to a great hobby.
  3. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member

    Jul 24, 2002
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    Getting Started...

    As mentioned, here is your biggest advantage to N scale, in my opinion. With N scale, the scenery and buildings can completely dwarf the trains.

    Sounds to me as though your hobbyshop owner, while possibly well-intended, is trying to mold you to his HO agenda. These days, N scale stuff is as smooth-running as anything else. DCC, while trickier, is certainly not impossible in N scale. Prices are similar for quality N and HO equipment. N is as readily available as HO. Take some time to figure out just what you want from your layout, and hopefully, that should help your scale choice.

    If I may also add...Make sure you get a QUALITY locomotive. There's nothing worse than starting with a herky-jerky cheap engine. Altas and Kato make beautiful, smooth running locomotives. Sure, they're more money than the $20.00 special, but they're well worth it.

    Happy railroading, Chris! :)
  4. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    Mar 11, 2001
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    The quality of a power pack will show at low speeds. A starter set power pack will not be able to "Creep" your engine. The acceleration will not be as smooth. This will be bothersome when you are trying to connect your locomotives and freight or passenger cars using only the trains themselves. ("Look ma, no hands!) By the same token, the quality of a locomotive will show at low speeds as well. The top line locos utilize flywheels to even out acceleration and deceleration as well as compensate for small voltage fluxuations. Directional running lights, scale handrails, accurate detailing, realisticly molded couplers and many other features come with heafty price tag. It is possible for you to pay more than $3,000.00 for a locomotive, But it may not be worth it. I generally pay between $75 and $100 for Atlas or Kato brand locomotives. I don't have many but I do like the ones I have.

    Any power pack will run any locomotive at 100 scale MPH, if you want to run at 1 scale MPH, you'll need to upgrade.

    I also keep the locos I got with my starter set, so I can crash stuff every once in a while.:D
  5. Arlaghan

    Arlaghan Member

    Sep 9, 2003
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    A good place to start is here:

    NMRA is the National Model Railroad Association, and they set a lot of standards that manufacturers usually adhere to. I've found coming here saved me a lot of hunting for information, as it's all in one spot.

    It covers all the basics, from wiring to scenery to purchasing stuff!

    Another tidbit of information I can offer is this:

    If you are looking for quality, but cheap locotomives, you can't go wrong with a LifeLike GP20 or LifeLike SW9. Either of these engines runs as good as the more expensive brands, but if you look around, you can get them fairly cheaply. But, beware of the other LifeLike engines... They have been making leaps and bounds in improvements, but not all of their stuff is as good as these. Just my 2 cents worth

    When it comes to finding cheaper alternatives, I'm with you 100%!!! I've done all sorts of stuff that I found to cut down costs. I cut my own foam inclines, and I will use plaster-soaked paper towels rather than plaster cloth. For trees, a bag of Scenic Express SuperTrees goes a LONG way in N scale (Pennies per tree!)

    From one new member to another: Welcome aboard! :) :)
  6. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    Aug 4, 2003
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    Chris, Are you still with us?
    I hope that the hobby shop owner's push to make sales of the high dollar items in his store didn't give you the impression that model railroading is out of your price range. Remember ,his main interest in the hobby might be making a buck. Not all shop owners are like that.
    I am posting this because I noticed a thread on another forum about how we drive away young people. (unintentionally)
    I would like to hear it straight from the horses mouth, from young people trying to get into the hobby. What are the turn-offs?
    In the other forum there was a lot of speculating and finger pointing going on, no offence but I think the point was missed. How can WE as experienced model railroaders fix this problem?
  7. pjb

    pjb Member

    Dec 22, 2000
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    You seem to be getting sucked into the train control B.S. Do not go there and you are way ahead of the game. You will only have a single engine, and presumably even if you have several you will be doing one thing at a time. Perhaps not, but that does not make sense to me.
    Here is a guy with a small 'N' scale layout (less than a 8x4 sheet of plywood ) that has invested in a DBC system because he wants "bullet proof operation" of three trains at a time.
    < >
    Not using DCC saves on decoders , but... the main reason to use DBC is that in addition to its ability to sort trains like no other form of control is its marvelous interfacing with working signals. There are no signals observable on this layout.

    DBC also lends itself to large layout ops , because that is where you would expect to find multiple trains , and the savings by eliminating decoders is multiplied. In other words , if you check the link he has to SIGNAL RESEARCH , who makes the system he is using , this system recognizes and has the ability to sort out nearly a hundred locomotives. That adds up to big bucks. Not only that, to get the signal interface DBC systems provide with a DCC system requires turning the layout over to a PCC to do the integration. I think he has a great system, and I also think he was sold a bill of goods by one of the partisans in the train control wars, because it is not needed to run this layout, and have fun.
    However, you will not find individuals who will concede any of these realities.For instance, DCC nuts even when 'Z' scale layouts are brought up , where sticking decoders in locos is impossible, or outside- where the combination of keepin the track clean and ease of control dictates RC controls and electronic track cleaning to take care of the dirty track, will persevere in pushing there own choice at people. The electronic track cleaners can be used indoors and is fairly widely used in garage and basement layouts in Europe and elsewhere. It fries decoders so it isn't used with DCC (or not for long), but it works in dirty environments like nothing else . So all the sophisticated track circuit controls are beside the point , if the isssue is running trains or not because of dirt.

    In your world , none of this is relevant, IR and RC have lots going for them too, but all you want and need to start with is conventional DC track power ,and possibly two blocks . Believe me , this will tell you if this hobby is for you, and if 'N' scale model railroading is the way you want to go.
  8. mav_uk

    mav_uk Member

    Sep 26, 2001
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    What do you define as young?

    I was 25ish I think when I started and have always found it rather helpful - even if time and other interests mean that my railway is taking a little longer than I would have prefered to build...