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Recording Data and Inventory of Trains and Accessories

model train inventoryRobin asked:

“I did a few excel spreadsheets when I was employed and thought I should start a record of my growing collection of locos, cars, coupler types etc. I then started to think of all the other things I could record like where I purchased the item, price and date, manufacturer, model number, prototype length in feet, maintenance history, wheels configuration… there’s probably no limit if I wanted to go crazy. My question is this – should I use a spread sheet which I could backup on a cloud or portable hard drive, or should I purchase software that will do the job, if so what software? Also, what data should I record and how should I organize it into groups? A lot to ask I know, but I value feedback from anyone who has already made these decisions on where to start and where to finish. Thanks in advance.”

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12 Responses to Recording Data and Inventory of Trains and Accessories

  • Leesays:

    Well, if you are proficient with Excel then stay with it and save money for “software” to buy trains! What to capture in your spreadsheets? Here’s what I do and why:

    Items Purchased- Date- Price-shipping Cost/Tax=Total -Location
    Kato-B&M Doodlebug- 7-22-19 $88.99 +4.99 = $93.98 eBay

    You could add additional columns, but depends on what you want to capture.
    Why? For starters it’s good to know your investment, and also for insurance; plus if you want to sell you’ll know what you paid. You could go crazy and enter columns for Road Name, Reporting Number, condition, coupler type, etc. But what’s more fun? Filling out spreadsheets or running trains? Have fun, bests-Lee

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    Hmm! Years ago, I started a spreadsheet. Added columns as needed till I have a huge number of cells. I now have found a nice inventory system online. But. To redo all that is way more than I want to do. So, The original spreadsheet is still in use and I doubt if I could do better. As I said, I added info as needed until I was satisfied. The only problem I have today is that this info is slightly scattered. But the advantage of the spreadsheet is that I can search for anything and find it. Want to know how many cars have arch bar trucks, type it in and viola there they are. I’m not sure the online inventory is going to allow that. As for safety, I keep a copy on a flash drive/used to use floppies, CD’s, etc. but the flash drive is so easy. A 1K is sufficient because the file just don’t get too large. Now if you want to include pictures, that would make the file huge. If I were to do this today, I would look at what’s available online for what data they suggest and make sure my spreadsheet includes what “i want”. (example: if you record DCC for a loco. Do you really want to include the decoder type, date installed, etc.? I don’t, all I record is the type decoder, such as “DH123”. I know that its a Digitrax. What else do I need? So you see, this to me is subjective and you can tailor make it to your “hearts desire”. I hope this helps.

  • Sheldon Clarksays:

    I use Model Train Catalogue, which can be customised to a small extent, and you can attach photos to it. It will also produce various reports you can print off. It can be backed up (and should be, frequently) and can be transferred from one device to another (though, in effect, you can use it on only 1 device at a time). I also copy all of my orders onto Word documents. Furthermore, I have a couple of spreadsheets into which I enter details of equipment that’s available, desirable, ordered and purchased. Be warned – this is all very time consuming and can seriously eat into your modelling time!

  • Phjilip Graysays:

    I agree with Lee. You could do no better with Purchased Software.
    If you know Excel, use it. You can sort by columns if you want to group like items.
    You could move up to Access if you really wanted to make reports and such, Excel data could transfer to Access but I see no need to do so.
    I have my data in Excel..

  • David Stokessays:

    Save your money and stick with the spreadsheet. If your Microsoft Office came with Access then you cold use it to set up forms to make searching, adding more equipment and so on. You can also do this in Excel, but it isn’t as pretty.

  • Ron H Hebbsays:

    I have used Excel for years to catalog my train collection and find it suits my needs just fine. I don’t include purchase price of items, but now realize I probably should have, due to the ever-increasing cost of new models. I list my locomotives by type, railroad, road number, and model manufacturer, with a comment about each, such as operating characteristics and their location in my train room. They are further divided by those with DCC installed and programmed, those awaiting DCC conversion and those which won’t be converted and the reason why. I currently own 532 locomotives, so such a record is a must. I have a similar catalog of my rolling stock, with each car grouped by type, railroad, etc., but I don’t keep a running commentary as with the locomotives. I think one of the biggest benefits of such a file is being able to check if I have a certain model, so I don’t duplicate numbers, especially with freight cars. For security I copy the file to a flash drive after each update, and I back up my computer frequently, so I can always recover an almost-current version of the file.


    I am quite proficient in Access. It is simple to cut and past all your excel cells into an Access table, and the vast majority of past data input is done. You can also add fields to the basic input form and catagorize your items such as LOCOS , Steam, Diesel, etc. Rolling stock such as refers, gondolas, flatcars, boxcars, budd cars, etc

    Then specifics about these catagories into sub catagories, like tank cars – color- road- product carried – etc.

    Just consider your top level of your train, then type, then specifics about that type.

    You can sort and group catagories and have nice printouts of all your locos, freight cars, passenger cars, however you wish to break it down.

    If done correctly you can bind this all up and find anythinig you own very very quickly if catorgized correctly.

    The big jump start is to past your excel cells into an access table.

    An excel sheet is FLAT and not a database.

    Also consider your grouped items and build a table for each. All boxcars, all tankcars, all prime movers, and make drop down lists to put into your input form. This controls spellling and avoids errors that would show up when searching. Look on youtube to see if there are examples. You are welcone to drop me an email with your rough listing and I will attempt to structure it out for you

    Again start by breaking all your stuff to be catalogued into groups before coding anythiing.

    • David Stokessays:

      Great explanation Robert, many thanks

  • Budsays:

    When the PALM multi-use device (N&A, Calendar,Notes, etc) first came on the market I purchased one. I then purchased a database software called HanDBase. Using this software I created my model train inventory database. It allows you to create multiple files as large or small as you like. Icreated a separate database file for each type of car there is. It includes POP Up tables for entry into some fields (ie: steel or plastic wheels, steam or diesel engines), etc. It is very easy to modify existing fields and/or to add new ones. It is available for Android and IPhone OS and has a version for the PC and MAC. It takes a little bit of work but you can create entry logging screens as well as create reports. See their website for sample databases and view some of my database information.

  • Geoff Thomsonsays:

    You can download free inventory software for example this is what I use and it is brilliant. https://www.musicmixradio.com/yardoffice/ It is free or you can pay $27 and get more features.
    It has unlimited database so you can load as much as you want.

  • Ssays:

    In excel and most other spreadsheet programs it’s possible to create filters on the first row where your column headers are. Then you can sort, filter etc the data. You could select first engine type, e.g diesel, then wheel configuration, decoder type etc. Also purchase date, latest service date etc to find if your engine needs some care… Actual database would do this sort of neater and spreadsheet needs some thought so that you do not get rows in some column messed up – but as we are all careful hobbyists that does not ever happen…

  • Reid Simonsensays:

    You could use Google drive spreadsheets for free and store in the cloud. All you need a Gmail account from Google. I keep all my inventory spreadsheet in Google Cloud. No charge.

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