Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Getting Stated in Model Railroading

Steve is starting off in the hobby and would like some words of wisdom from those with plenty of experience in the hobby:

“I am new to model railways having last used one when I was much younger (now 64) …  an RC model aircraft flyer/builder of a number of years who wants to come in out of the cold.

I have an available layout space of 1.7mx0.53m plus a side section of another 2.4mx0.3m. From what I have already read and been advised it would seem that unless I want a basic A-B layout I should really be considering N gauge and not OO ?

I have been reading as much information as I can …. I think I would like to go with DCC system but have no idea which one. A relative has the E-Z one from Graham Farish and he seems quite happy with that. but there seems to be  lot out there. There are a large range of track and  locomotive manufactures out there .. any comments on which to avoid … or go for.

Basically my initial thoughts would be to buy a ‘set’ which has the controller with it (and hopefully instructions) to start me off – I am hoping to only use trains etc that would have been around in my youth i.e. 1955-65 say.

So this is really a call for help and advice on which suppliers of track and trains to go for (and avoid) plus any other pointers you think are important BEFORE I start. Many thanks for reading.”

Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Share This Post

6 Responses to Getting Stated in Model Railroading

  • Dale says:

    I’m just a few years older than you and have started an N scale layout. I, too, chose N scale simply because I don’t have room for anything larger. I decided on the NCE ProCAB starter set which contains everything you need for a small layout. Keep in mind that just about any decoder will work with just about any DCC system since most of them follow the established NMRA standards. Look for locomotives labelled “DCC on board” or “DCC ready”. On board means they have the DCC decoder already; DCC ready means the controller board is set up to accept a decoder.

    One piece of advice; unless your eyes are better than mine get yourself an illuminated, magnifying visor. N scale is pretty small.

    Have fun.

  • james penglase says:

    From your description of the area you have to work with, N scale is the way to go. Today there are a lots of N scale locomotives, cars, structures and track available. So there you are very much in luck. I do not know which country you are in, but if in the US or Canada. The following sites and companies have a large quantity of N scale trains, track, accessories and scenery,
    walthers.com toytrainheaven.com trainworld.com factorydirecttrains.com hobbylink.com
    Always look for specials and items on sale. It can save you a lot. Good luck.

  • Randall Styx says:

    Steve,

    Choosing a scale will depend mainly on two things: 1) How much you want your model railroad to do, and 2) How much space you have available.

    If you envision a model railroad with one or more continuous loops, even N Gauge track (used commonly for scales from 1:148 to 1:160, but most commonly for 1:160) is going to be a challenge on the space parameters you have given. Z Gauge track with 1:220 scale and the relatively new T Gauge track (most associated with a scale of 1:450) would give you better layout design options. The problem with T Gauge and 1:450 is that there’s not much available and it’s really really small for aging eyes, and even Z Gauge is far less available than N Gauge. These smaller scales/gauges are also generally more expensive.

    On the other hand, a “point-to-point” layout or a commercial switching layout with N Gauge, HO/OO, or even S and O Gauge track (commonly used in scales of 1:87/1:76, 1:64, and 1:48) can give you a very nice model railroad in the space you have. You wouldn’t be able to let your train(s) run continuously ad infinitum but you could have very realistic operating sessions.

    Another factor is how detailed you want your models to be. Super fine detailing is going to be easier in larger scales. Do you have an architect in you that would love to spend more time on modeling structures, or a geographer that would love to model scenery, or an aspiring engineer or yard master that would like to spend the most time on train operation? Even if you’re not as interested in super fine detailing, a larger scale will enable you to build up your layout more quickly because the buildings cover more real estate.

    If you lean toward “scratch building” you could easily go with almost any scale and track gauge, but if you’re more limited to what’s available on the commercial market, then you would be wise to choose a scale and gauge that corresponds to what is most available to you in your part of the world. In the USA, HO Gauge track and 1:87 scale models (rolling stock and structures) are the most common. N Gauge track and 1:160 scale models run a fairly close second. Both are so available that either is a very good option for one just starting out. If in your country OO Gauge track with 1:76 scale models is more available than HO, then that would be a viable option. (My understanding is that “OO Gauge” track and “HO Gauge” track are now manufactured at exactly the same gauge – distance between the rails – but it still works for 1:76 scale models even though it’s slightly under sized.)

    No one else can make the decision for you. But evaluate what you would like your model railroad to be. Go to the library and check out back issues of model railroad magazines or subscribe yourself. Examine especially layouts that take up little space and see what strikes your fancy. Go to a few model railroad shows. Check to see if there are any model railroad clubs in your area. You might want to adjust your dimensions a bit and build a portable module that can be joined to others at joint events with other modelers. There’s really no right or wrong way to design a layout, Build what you anticipate you will most enjoy.

  • Michael Flanagan says:

    G’day Steve
    It seems like you’re in the same boat as me, so to speak. Being 75, I’m coming back to model railroads after some 50 years.WOW WOW what a change. Before it was Hornby 00 and DC control. Now it’s DCC control and what an improvement. I have gone with N gauge, basically for space reasons and am struggling thru the various options.
    You have some fantastic advice above. GO WITH IT. DO buy a starter set, complete with controller and plsay with that. Get the hang of it and then slowly branch out.
    I, for some reason which escapes me, went with KATO. They have progressively more complex rail sets, initially with controller. I bought an engine and a few wagons off the ebay.
    I am still in the playing about mode and have only just purchased my next step into the WOW world.
    So I am glad I am not the only “oldie” who is coming back to model railroads
    Good luck mate
    Michael

    • SKIP says:

      I have digitrax I like but its hard to work with, it was given to me for almost nothing, I would go NCE its a lot more user friendly but it doesn’t come with a set of trains. you could go with BAUCHANN IT WILL STILL COST ABOUT $ 400.00. I HAVE N SCALE I LOVE IT BEING 64 I NEED A HEAD SET WITH LT. I HAVE 4 ENGINES DCC AND 5 ENGINS DC.
      GOOD LUCK

  • Graeme says:

    Hi Steve , I would recommend N.C.E powercab for your DCC Controller it’s user friendly and kicks butt over the Bachman rubbish. As regarding locomotives Unless your modelling English Railway where the majority of locomotives are made by Graham Farrish or Dapol at the affordable end, I would recommend Kato as the way to go. I model both N scale and OO scale with the preference going to N scale as you can design a good diorama in a much smaller space. I wouldn’t buy a train set to start with as most are cheap and nasty. Buy quality over quantity or take the chance to become disheartened very quickly with the hobby. Go to your local hobby shop and find out where the local clubs are. Then go and see what’s available and pick their brains, most hobbiests will help you out with advice.So you can avoid most of the pitfalls of the hobby and believe me there are a few.So to sum it up before you shell out any cash decide what you want to model I.e English countryside,American themes or the Swiss alps you just need lmagination but it has to be fun or don’t do it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Add a photo or image related to your comment (JPEG only)

Clever Tips & Techniques

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION

Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

Submit your model train questions here.

Free Catalog

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help hobbyists “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.



Micro control technology can be used for:

Rolling stock and scenic lighting effects, street lamp lighting, lighting up of structures, emergency vehicle flashing lights, replicating a campfire or arc welding, tall structure tower lighting, block occupancy detection, turnout operation, motors/servos, solenoid, infrared, right-of-way signal lighting, current sense, crossing gate & signal operation, semaphores, flashers, turntable control, gate arms, draw/lift bridge control, fast time clock, DCC testing, scenery sound control, wireless controls, and lighting fixture day to night control. Read more...

The good thing is; a micro controller can be programmed to perform one, or just a few, simple tasks over and over again.

N Scale Track Plans

Watch Video

Scenery Techniques

Watch the video now.

Why DCC is so popular

A simple DC (Direct Current) transformer will give you a nice chugging locomotive going one way on your model train track, however, with a DCC unit you can have the flexibility of having an entire train-switching yard happening right in front of your eyes! That is the adaptability that is available with this coming-of-age technology in the hobby!



By using the Digital Command Control, you are opening up a whole new range of possibilities. A continuous electrical current is sent to all of the many things you have installed on your train layout, however, now you have a digital receiver installed in each various items. You can therefore control each and every one of them with the selectable controller and enhance the operation and, more importantly, the look and feel of your system.

The technical side of the DCC is, actually, not as complicated as you might think. In reality, a DCC system is usually easier to wire than a straight DC system.

More dcc ideas...

Deciding the Era and Location

The choice of scenery you decide on all depends on what era and location you are depicting with your layout. You will need to do some good research on the railroad and its surroundings to make sure you get the scenery perfect (if that’s what you want).



If you are depicting a historical train setting or a certain era, you will want to use old photographs to determine how the scenery should be built and laid out. Remember to think through all aspects of the scenery. This is one of the best areas to really showcase your talents, so take your time.

More scenery ideas...

It’s YOUR Railroad!

Your rolling stock and locomotives might actually be the center of attention on your layout, but the scenic features that surround and envelop your layout is what's likely to make your train setup stand proud of the rest. Your selection of scenery and structures will add an element of customization that will make your railroad truly unique.



Scenery, structures, and fine detailing is a fundamental aspect of any good model railroad, particularly if it is intended to replicate a true-to-life railroading scene. How realistic or authentic you make your railroad is entirely up to you... and you alone.

Some enthusiasts like to replicate every tiny detail so as to accurately depict, in every aspect, a miniaturized version of a real life scene.

Others in this hobby adopt a more "free-style" approach and choose to mix and match accessories and features they personally prefer. Even though the purist will possibly be unimpressed with unrealistic or out of context elements, it is YOUR railroad layout so you can make it anything you personally want!

Watch These Club Videos

Club members access helpful new resources each month: diagrams, video tutorials, articles, track plans and more. Watch the tour videos here.

Model Train Help Ebook

Scenery & Layout Ideas

Submit Your Article

Would you like to write an article and have it published?

Preference will be given to articles that help others progress in the hobby, maybe suggesting an idea for their layout, a quick tip or two... or perhaps a little bit of good advice based on your model railroading experiences.

We are all in this hobby together, so the more we can do to share ideas and help each other, the better.

Submit Your Article Here

Share With Friends

 

Model Railroading Blog Archive

Reader Poll

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.