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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Getting started in toy trains

The hobby of model railroading has been around since the early 20th century and has drawn millions of people into it.  Model railroading is even recognized as "the World's greatest Hobby", which says a lot about how people react to a miniature train acting exactly like the prototype.  But how does one get started in this hobby?

  • There are several ways to get started and the most common for people is they go and buy a train set.  A train set includes a locomotive, track (usually a circle or oval), transformer(to run power to the track), rail cars (usually freight with a caboose), and a few accessories.  But when buying a train set, it is advisable to stay away from the cheap sets.  these sets have plastic wheels (which keeps the rails dirty), brass or steel track, and single motor unit engines.  The best train sets are those that are made by big names in the hobby that are known for their quality. a few that I am aware of are: atlas (the best manufacturer in my opinion), Athern, Bachmann (another of my favorites), Walther's, and Kato.  some brands that buyers should be aware are: Life-like, some old Bachmann sets.  though they are workable on a dedicated train layout, the cheap sets are usually running unreliably, molded plastic in unrealistic pain schemes, and feels like a toy. A good train set should look, run, and feel realistic.

  • Another way to start is to buy all of the items separately, getting a locomotive, several cars, buildings and all the track you want has some advantages.  One thing that this method has over manufactured sets is that you get the road name you want for everything that rolls.  Also you get switches if you want, another thing that a set lacks.  Plus you could even get hooked up with DCC which is a lot better than average DC.

  • The third method of getting started in the hobby is to build what is known as a micro layout.  They can be interesting and are as fun as a full layout.  I saw someone at a train show operating one of these micro layouts and he was as busy as a real railroad operator.  The best thing about micro layouts is that they are usually cheap, because they are small. To find out more you should click here.  It is free to see and it has all the information you could find on the subject.

  • The fourth method to getting started into this hobby is to just build a train layout.  Subscribing to a magazine such as Model Railroader would  be of great help to a beginner.  A magazine such as this every year builds a project train layout and showcases it over several issues.  The staff at this particular magazine also explains what they did to complete their project in detail.  Building a train layout right of the bat is not advisable by most modelers, but personally, that is exactly what I did and by my third layout, I had built it perfectly!  that's not to say that the prior two didn't operate, they just had quirks that I finally got rid of.  but don't let the idea of three train layouts scare you, everything takes practice and to avoid making costly mistakes, avoid la large layout to start.  2X4' for N, 4X6 for HO, 4X8 for O scale, and 5X10 for G scale are what I would use for dimensions of a starter layout.
So jump on in to the hobby!  You'll never know what you like until you try.  And if you don't like being a model railroader, then atleast you won't have made costly mistakes by following advise from this blog, and others that represent this great hobby!

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