New to model railroading

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)
#1
I am new to this hobby. I have decided on HO scale.
Where do I start? What do I need to buy to start with a good running train (or two) with good features like sound, light etc.
 

MHinLA

Active Member
#2
Hi Ramananramy. Here are several things you should do or consider:
1) Keep away from what are called 'starter sets'/ a large box with an engine, 3-4 cars, and a loop of track..It usually is inferior in quality. IE. loco running quality/cheapy cars, and probably poor couplers, and a very cheap control unit.
2) Instead buy one good quality locomotive and separate cars. Steam or diesel, Bachmann Spectrum engines are very good and at decent prices. A Bachmann RS3 diesel loco is a safe bet, as is their HO Mogul. (A Mogul steamer is a 2-6-0 = 2 small front wheels, 6 drivers and 0 small rear wheels. Buy them on line if you can..From BMann itself you're paying list price. Athearn and other brand engine and cars are very good as well.
3) Go right into DCC (digital command control). Keep away from old/silent analog DC..I and lots and lots of us use NCE PowerCab..Another is Digitrax. Both are very good quality. Bachmann has their's, too. NCE seems to me to be the leader.
4) With your digital controller you of course want digital (DCC) engines. Spend a tad more and buy them "DCC/Sound on board" so you don't have to open up engines and solder in a decoder and or add a speaker. That takes allot of experience..
5) Track. A reliable way is to go for Atlas nickle silver code 83 (the height of the rail on top of the ties). Code 100 is out of scale and too tall...Atlas custom- Line switch tracks ('turnouts' to some) are fine if laid in correctly. Their code 83 sectional track 83 is OK. But you might want to get to know their 3' flex track or combo of both..
6) Make sure the cars and engines you buy are equipped with realistic 'knuckle' couplers..Old 'horn hooks' (look like "the Alien" from a top view) are OUT !!
7) Bench-work talk is complex.. I'll simply say to purchase a book/mag named something like "Model Railroad Benchwork". But Do Not go the old 4'x8' plywood top.. It's out, too; causes many heartaches. Look into shelf, open grid or L girder benchwork/framework. Their are of course tons of 'how tos' right here in the forum as well.
Enough for now..As you go along you will make mistakes as we all have at one time or another; big ones...Nothing is not amendable.. Go slow. A little bit of good, logical planning is the ticket to ride...Welcome aboard ! M,Los Angeles

disclaimer: The ideas above are mine only and do not necessarily express the ideas of the entire MRRing community
 
Last edited:
#3
Thanks M,
That is very helpful.
The atlas 83 track—is that something easy enough for me to assemble? Or will that require advanced knowledge and skill. (Please bear with me; I dont yet understand many of the terms most of you use)
Grateful for all the help
Ram
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
#5
Thanks M,
That is very helpful.
The atlas 83 track—is that something easy enough for me to assemble? Or will that require advanced knowledge and skill. (Please bear with me; I dont yet understand many of the terms most of you use)
Grateful for all the help
Ram
There are two types of Atlas track in both Code 83 and Code 100. The Code refers to the height of the rail in thousandths of an inch, e.g, Code 100 is .100 inches high (NOT including the plastic ties); Code 83 is .083 inches high. For many years Code 100 was the most popular because some manufacturers of the wheels on locomotives and cars used flanges that were quite large. The only "problem" with Code 100 is that it scales to much heavier rails than the real railroads used (except possibly the Pennsylvania R.R.). Other than that, there is nothing wrong with using Code 100. Code 83, being shorter, still corresponds to heavy rail on the prototypes, but it is becoming more popular.
Atlas track is made in either the sectional variety or flexible variety. Sectional track is good if you are limited in the size of your layout, as it permits the use of tight radius curves. The sectional tracks are available in 18 and 22-inch radius curves, so that a complete circle is 36 or 44 inches across. I believe there is also 15-inch radius sections in Code 83 (there is in Code 100). Unless you are really tight for space the larger the radius the better your trains will run, the better. If you have a lot of room, you can bend the flex track into just about any radius you want. Sectional track and flex track are both jointed to other sections by small metal (or plastic, if you need to electrically isolate a section of track) joiners.
My suggestion is to buy some books and both Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman, on how to create a layout, including how to build your benchwork, ideas for layouts, and also wiring and powerpack requirements. I definitely agree that starting with DCC with sound factory installed is the easiest way to go, and the NCE Power Cab is the best. By all means, visit your local hobby shop (LHS), and ask for help. I also agree that Bachman locomotives are the best if you are starting out. Athearn and Atlas are also excellent. Do not be afraid to ask for help on this forum
Best of luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!
 
#6
Thanks, once again, to Dennis and trailrider.
At this stage I am not thinking any benchwork. I simply want to create a (perhaps circular) track and let a train or two run.
Can I not lay the tracks on the floor and let trains run, and when done pack the tracks up and put them away? (Are the tracks conducive to such treatment?)
Given this is the objective for now, how much money do I really need? And, how much space do I need?
Thanks
 

MikeInHubCity

Well-Known Member
#7
Thanks, once again, to Dennis and trailrider.
At this stage I am not thinking any benchwork. I simply want to create a (perhaps circular) track and let a train or two run.
Can I not lay the tracks on the floor and let trains run, and when done pack the tracks up and put them away? (Are the tracks conducive to such treatment?)
Given this is the objective for now, how much money do I really need? And, how much space do I need?
Thanks
If you’re going to run them on the floor, you will want to use a unitized track w/ built-in roadbed(like Atlas True-Track or Bachmann EZ-Track. Using regular track on the floor(especially if you’re putting on carpet) likely will cause issues with dirt/carpet fibers getting caught by the motive/rolling stock.
 

MHinLA

Active Member
#8
If you are only going to run it on the floor, I'd then suggest you do put in on a flat piece of plywood. You can tack the track down using very small nails. There are holes in sectional-track ties for this..IF you do, tap the nails lightly until they just touch the cross tie surface. Don't kill them to where they start bending the plastic downward. With no ply (sub roadbed) and track is on a rug, strands of rug or hair can get into the drive-train (motor/shaft/axles/other) and jamb it up..If it is attached on a ply slab, you can stand it up against a wall..Try to have a straight section of track where you could instead install a switch track and a spur from it to a, say, small lumber yard (Which can be imaginary at this early phase of the hobby). It will then have to be a rectangle with curved track ends. If you don't care about sound or lighting you can buy a non-DCC, analog, DC controller (very cheap these days!) An MRC Tech II or IV will do it..Then you must, of course, run analog DC locos with it, also very inexpensive...
One final thing: The rail joiners on the rail ends. Be sure they are slid into each rail correctly. It's easy to wrongly slide a joiner under a rail instead of encasing the rail.... M
 
Last edited:

Patrick

Well-Known Member
#9
Good recommendations from the guys on this. I acquired some unitized track and it was easy for the grandson (he was 8 at the time) to use. While I may move someday to DCC (Digital controls) I still use the old fashioned DC (Direct Current) to run my trains.

Like I said in the other welcome post, you can spend as little or as much as you like and still enjoy the hobby.
 
#11
If you’re going to run them on the floor, you will want to use a unitized track w/ built-in roadbed(like Atlas True-Track or Bachmann EZ-Track. Using regular track on the floor(especially if you’re putting on carpet) likely will cause issues with dirt/carpet fibers getting caught by the motive/rolling stock.
The tracks are more expensive aren't they? Do I still need them if I plan to have the tracks on hardwood floor and not carpet?
 
#12
You can look at the Bachmann Train Sets, for example. They are complete beginner sets which include all you need to get started. I was 10-12 years old when I got my first train set. Outgrew it and built bigger over the years like most folks, but still have the original cars. You will spend around $150 minimum.
https://www.amazon.com/Bachmann-Trains-Durango-Silverton-Electric/dp/B004NHEQWY?ref_=ast_sto_dp
I have been warned to stay away from these. Aren't these expensive for what I will be getting?
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#14
The tracks are more expensive aren't they? Do I still need them if I plan to have the tracks on hardwood floor and not carpet?
Yes they are. I was astounded at the cost. I have a simple test loop of Bachmann EZ track that I put out on the floor in this manner. By the way, although I have never used it personally, the Kato brand of the roadbed type track seems to be the best.

Secondly, NEED is a relative word. In the 1960s I ran the plain track on a hardwood floor for a long time (until my mother discovered I was using thumbtacks to hold it there). Did the locos and cars pick up dust and cat hair? Yes they did, but it wasn't all that hard to clean. I personally recommend using the sectional track on a hard surface for a while. Just be aware of the dirt and hair issues, keeping the area clean and checking equipment often. A hard flat surface that is NOT a floor would be much better. In this manner you can try out different arrangements and get a feeling of what you actually like. To this day (30 or so layouts later) I keep a box of sectional track to throw out and try things with. Sometimes something that looks good on paper isn't so good in real life. Likewise some of the really cool arrangements I have come up with were from rearranging real track on a blank surface.
 
Last edited:

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#15
I am new to this hobby. I have decided on HO scale.
Where do I start? What do I need to buy to start with a good running train (or two) with good features like sound, light etc.
Late to the party here. But do you have some sort of a preference on type of trains? I mean, do you want models of trains you see running on the rails today, or maybe trains that you saw as a kid, or something else?

My first advice is to not be so worried about doing things "right" that you don't enjoy it. Never in the history of model railroading has something been put together that hasn't been changed, and then changed again, etc. Model railroads don't happen they evolved with the owners interests and experience.

As for cost, it can be as expensive or cheap as one wants to go. I just blew $600 for a single steam locomotive, while if one watches the sales one can find them for $100. Like this one - https://www.trainworld.com/manufact...omotive-dcc-sound-on-board-boston-maine-1360/ With the Bachmann brand one has to be a bit careful. They make some pretty good stuff (like this 2-6-0 as MHinLA said above), but they also make a lot of toy train low quality stuff.

There is lots of good information already in this thread. There is also never only one way to do something.
 
Last edited:
#17
Late to the party here. But do you have some sort of a preference on type of trains? I mean, do you want models of trains you see running on the rails today, or maybe trains that you saw as a kid, or something else?

My first advice is to not be so worried about doing things "right" that you don't enjoy it. Never in the history of model railroading has something been put together that hasn't been changed, and then changed again, etc. Model railroads don't happen they evolved with the owners interests and experience.

As for cost, it can be as expensive or cheap as one wants to go. I just blew $600 for a single steam locomotive, while if one watches the sales one can find them for $100. Like this one - https://www.trainworld.com/manufact...omotive-dcc-sound-on-board-boston-maine-1360/ With the Bachmann brand one has to be a bit careful. They make some pretty good stuff (like this 2-6-0 as MHinLA said above), but they also make a lot of toy train low quality stuff.

There is lots of good information already in this thread. There is also never only one way to do something.
Thanks Iron Horseman. I'd prefer to be on the less expensive side of things.
At this stage, I certainly don't have a slightest clue about things (except that these trains look like fun). With locomotives and box cars I think I understand the wonderful advice I have received so far. With tracks, I am still trying to understand the systems and how to keep the costs down. The cost of tracks seem overwhelming to me at this point.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#19
Where do I look for these items? Where can I find these items at better prices?
lots of places on-line. Did you click the blue link in the post? That was to Trainworld where I buy lots of stuff.

Train World
HOgTrainz
MB Kline (Model Train Stuff)
The Original Whistle Stop
Yankee Dabbler
Dallas Model Works
etc.

And of course after you start figuring out what is what - eBay.

And when you find things, you can always ask our opinions before you buy them.
 

flyboy2610

Loveably weird
#20
Bachmann makes two different versions of EZ-Track. One is black roadbed and has steel rails, the other is gray roadbed and has nickel silver rails. Stay away from the black roadbed track. The steels rails require a lot more maintenance, and will probably rust eventually. The gray roadbed track with nickel silver rails is much better. Less maintenance, and rust will not be an issue.
 



ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.



Top