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Buying Experience on E-Bay Model Railroad Products

I’m now retired and have been researching everything needed to build an HO layout in a 12 x 9 space. I’m new to this E-Bay thingy.

1] What to look for when shopping for diesel Locos on E-Bay?

2] Any reputable E-Bay store recommendations that anyone can share w/me & others.

I live in Philly, and am not sure whether I have necessary skills to build a complete layout from start to finish, so need recommendations for reputable layout designer/builders on the east coast.

I have many more questions and appreciate any advice given.

15 Responses to Buying Experience on E-Bay Model Railroad Products

  • Gregg Mundkowskysays:

    I have been buying and selling on eBay for about 12 years. Before buying know what you want, and the price that should be going for. Set a cap for yourself. Example, I wanted some SD7s for my Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. I model in N Scale but theory is the same I need 8 models I searched and found what I wanted. Some we’re over my price cap but some weren’t. I ended up with the 8 locomotives I needed for just over $450.00. I had I not set a cap I probably would have been over$600 by buying the first ones that showed up.
    As for building a layout, you can do what I did. 2 1/2 years ago I had zero experience building a layout. I joined a model railroad club and volunteered to help on the layout. No I have built Craftsman level rolling stock, learned how to do scenery, lay and ballast track.
    I am getting ready to build my first layout 4×8 and I am going to try handlaying the track.

  • David Stokessays:

    My experience with buying on E-Bay have not been happy ones, although I’ve not tried buying model railway gear. Beware. I prefer to support my local hobby shops – there are 4 within 60kms of home and all of them bend over backwards to help. If I failed to support them, they’d disappear.

  • J E Wilsonsays:

    I have also been buying on eBay for quite a few years and I look at shipping charges along with price. Definitely set a price limit on bidding – do not get caught up in ‘the I must have it’ syndrome. Check their feedback record. I model in HO and HOn3 and have a large layout that I am working on. Remember – this is your world you will be building – learn as you go. There is ample help on the web from model railroad clubs. All with a wealth of helpful info. For me – at this time – the fun is in my imagination and my hands building my world – with stories galore setting the stage for the next building stage. Everything cam be learned. Enjoy the Hobby.

  • Ken Bsays:

    I have seen a lot of friends buy eBay, it’s a bit like a lucky dip, sometime the purchase is OK, sometimes it requires lots of work to repair it and make it right, sometimes that’s why their getting shot of it, it’s got issues that may not be immediately obvious.
    If you have a friend that’s into woodwork ask them to give you a hand to start and get a copy of “How to Build Model Railway Benchwork” its not rocket science and with a few tools you could be away and enjoying yourself. Most of all have fun!!!!!!

  • John Psays:

    If you live in Philly and haven’t been there, go visit Nicholas Smith’s Trains 2343 West Chester Pike – Broomall, Pa 19008. Helpful folks with a big selection. I used to stop there if I had time on business trips.

  • Raul Osays:

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and when I decided to do my layout I attended the yearly train shows, there you’ll find answers to all your questions on starting a layout. I personally would not buy locos on ebay, if I can’t feel them or see them I won’t buy them. Ebay is a good source for all other parts and materials you’ll be needing to add to your layout. And just as Gregg says “know what you want to buy” because even at a train show you will be overwhelmed buy all the goodies.
    Good luck and have fun.

  • Mark Psays:

    Actually skip E-Bay if possible and go to train shows and swap meets, even on-line hobby shops have deals.The bidders on E-Bay don’t know what they are bidding on or selling since the sellers are mostly estate buyers, unless it is brass and the prices are sky high, once you include the shipping and handling charges. One word of advice I and some of my hobbyshop ownersagree on… don’t invest huge sums of money on cars and locomotivesSooner or later they will derail or hit the floor and you won’t cry as mush if a $50 swap meet locomotive breaks vs a $300 one.

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      Invest in a transparent polycarbonate safety rail along the edge of your railway.

  • Keith Msays:

    Get to train shows. Ebay is a good guage of prices but when you factor in shipping, the items can get over-priced. At the shows you get to feel, inspect and dicker. I attend a spring show near Vancouver Canada and the sellers want to sell. They may even have a live track to test used locomotives. End of show offerings will be seriously considered. Remember, they do not want to take the stuff back home.

  • Bill Andersonsays:

    I very much enjoy Ebay, buying and selling. The site is set up to facilitate window shopping, prices and shipping costs. And, Ebay does a fairly good job of policing the transactions. I deem the overall experience well into the plus side of the equation. Just use your judgement for what you want/need and what you are willing to pay for it.

    Then, go out and have fun with it.

  • Greg Wiblesays:

    I recommend Model Train Stuff. I think they’re in Maryland, so they;re close to you. Their stock is amazing. They’ll have just about anything you want at a discount, PLUS their shipping charges are very reasonable.

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    I have had good and bad experiences buying from flea Bay. One Mehano steam loco was advertised as mint in the box, but when it arrived the loco looked like it had been dropped. The front marker lights were broken off and a piece of the tender lens was broken, not to mention the water supply from the tender to loco was broken. I ended up taking photos of all that was wrong with the “mint” in the box and sent them to the vendor through flea Bay. It ended up costing me several dollars to fix all that was wrong with it and the vendor refunded me my hard earned dollars. Now for the good–I purchased a Mantua steam Pacific loco since I already had one in my possession and I had taken it apart to repaint it for a different road name. The one from flea Bay arrived undamaged and I was happy with that purchase. I did take it apart and found one screw stuck to the motor magnet along with a spring, but I knew where they went. I ended up repainting that engine as well. Mantua makes some very good die cast steam engines as I now have 3 of them, 2 Pacific’s and a Mikado and they run very well. It helps to know how to work on different manufacturers products. I also have several Mehano (IHC) engines and know how to work on them as well. I just recently (yesterday) took apart a Railway Express Agency (passenger type) coach and formed my own wheel pickups out of some thin scrap copper I got from tearing down an old DVR. I wired up some LED strips, capacitor (2000uF), and a full wave bridge rectifier (for multi-directional lighting) and it works as good as a pre-purchased lighted coach. Now I’ve got 3 more to light up with LED strips (cheap from China). One suggestion is to stay away from all older Bachmann engines because they will only last about 1 year. The newer Bachmann may be okay but I’ve had to scrap all my older Bachmann engines and I will NEVER buy another Bachmann. If you want quality older engines from flea Bay, I would suggest that you go with either Athearn or Atlas, as well as IHC and Mehano engines. I have several AHM engines but they required some updating. Also when buying rolling stock, look for body mounted Kadee couplers and metal wheel sets. I’m in the process of converting all my old rolling stock to body mounted Kadee couplers and Walthers Proto 33″ (scale) metal wheel sets. I have about 50 pieces of rolling stock and have already spent over $100.00 converting them and I still have 25 to go. Another $100.00. The ones I am converting are Life Like, Bachmann, Roco, Revell, and Tyco. If I ever purchase any more rolling stock, believe me, they will be either Athearn, Atlas or AccuRail. The truck mounted couplers are called Talgo trucks–something to stay away from. Happy modeling and happy railroading.

  • Bobsays:

    I began buying and selling on eBay at least 12 years ago. I have dealt with sellers all over the world, but limit my selling to the USA to avoid international shipping problems. Ebay policies do a much better job of protecting both buyers and sellers now than when it first started. I like using Paypal for purchases because it gives me a layer of separation between the seller and my credit card. Sellers who screw over buyers don’t last long; the eBay review process and satisfaction guarantee ensure this.

    Buying on eBay is no different than buying anywhere else: if you don’t know what you’re looking at then stay away from it or do your homework. There are significant differences in “quality” among manufacturers and in different lines from the same maker. Read the description and look at the pictures; be sure you are seeing what is there, not what you want it to be.

    I find the best prices, generally, on auction items. Buy-it-now items with really good prices sell fast. I look at buy-it-now items “recently listed” and auction items “ending soon”. I also check prices for the same item on “completed” auctions, MSRP and sale prices at Walthers, and prices at several on-line shops. As others have said, shipping is part of the cost of ownership. Very few items on eBay are one-of-a-kind. Use “search” to see the depth of the offerings, and “saved searches” with email notification for hard to find items. You may have to wait to get a price you’re comfortable with.

    I find buying from China is good but shipping may take a while. Same for Australia. DHL shipping from Germany has been poor for me: long delivery times and lost packages, not always but enough to make we wary. There are some countries that it might be best to avoid: Spain, Greece, Italy, and any in latin America. It may be that they don’t have the systems necessary for tracking.

  • Billsays:

    I have been buying on eBay for the last 15 years. I have had good to excellent experience there. Make the sure the vendor has an excellent rating. I tend to buy out of production items. If they are currently being produced then I prefer to support a hobby retailer. That being said I have picked up some fantastic items from estate sales being sold on eBay. Here I have purchased loco’s, rolling stock and some fantastic craftsmen kits. Just be sure what you are willing to pay and limit yourself. Some will get away but usually a similar item will be back in the not to distant future.
    When buying loco’s make sure they are functional and intact. You can always add DCC and Sound later so don’t limit yourself when searching eBay.
    If you are buying an older Life Like Proto 2000 loco you can pretty well count on the axle gears being cracked but for less than $10.00 and 5 minutes of your time these are replaced by you and you have a very nice smooth runner. The point here is that some manufacturers have known weak points in their manufacturing. You can usually repair them fairly easily but you might be able to get a good deal from a seller who is unwilling to carry out the repair.
    If you want to build a pike then you have the most important skill required “desire”. All the rest can be learned, join a club, visit a hobby store or query the internet. There are a vast amount of You Tube videos covering all aspects of the hobby.
    Start by planning what you want to build then go from there to find out what you need to learn, build and buy.
    Have fun.

  • Rick Guerciosays:

    I have sold and purchased on E-bay extensively for many years. Most sellers try to do a good job. There are 3 things that are critical:
    1. Read item descriptions CAREFULLY and look closely at all photos
    2. Be careful of shipping expenses which can make a good deal not-so-great
    3. Stay away from Marty’s Trains, who is all over E-bay and hard to avoid.

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