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Starting Out/ Getting Focused

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HCF
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Starting Out/ Getting Focused
Posted by HCF on Friday, April 3, 2020 3:00 PM

Hey Folks, 

I'm Holden. I'm a college student but due to the current situation I'm going to be quarantined at home for the rest of the spring and the summer. 

Something I have always wanted to work on is a garden railroad. I want to make myself go outside while also giving me something I love to do while doing so. I've gone down the research hole before but now it seems that the dream is actually going to happen. That said, I need a little bit of help sorting out how to start. 

I'm trying to decide between gauges, what I'll prototype, the scope of the project, what brand to use, how to know the real value of a product so that I'm smart when buying used, compatibility of brands, etc. I would really be incredibly greatful for some advice and guidance and it seems this forum is full of smart people from the threads I've read. 

I'm in the South West U.S. so it's dry though there is a rainy season. I am trying to decide between using my current stockpile of O gauge trains or taking the dive and investing in G gauge. 

For O gauge I'll list what I have. I'm not trying to brag or anything like that only trying to give as accurate a description of my starting point for everyone as I can. I have two running steam locomotives with tenders, 3 passenger cars, a variety of freight cars, a tin plate loco with cars, as well as some locos that don't run or that I don't have the transformer for. I have track but no switches/turnouts. 

This is a really good start for an O gauge layout but I'm worried about running my O gauge trains outside. I worry about dust and water damage and bird... you know. I realize that you store your trains inside but I still worry even about bringing them out to run. My heart is set on a garden railroad (and I don't have space for an indoor layout.) I know people have had success running O gauge outside, especially in my climate, so I guess I'm wondering what people's thoughts are on the matter. If I stick to O gauge are there things I can do to ensure more safety for my babies outside? 

On the other hand, I could invest in a starter set and some track for G gauge. Should I go this route my plan would be to get a simple starter set and to spend most of my train money on track. I love G gauge trains. I love their versatility and their seeming compatibility with ornaments and toys that equals lots of scenery and decoration potential. I have wanted a G gauge train for a very long time. 

I am leaning on making a switch to G gauge but I am hesitating. My hesitation comes from the fact that I'm worried that my reasons for making this switch would be just because G gauge is new and exciting to me and not because it's the best choice. The prices are also scary but they're not actually that far off from O gauge prices. 

If I take the plunge I'm also lost at how to start. If I buy a Piko starter set, is the track that comes with it compatible with LGB track? If I see a good deal on Aristocraft track would that be someting to seize or should I commit to sticking to one track brand? What do I do for power? Can the train be left outside or should I be storing it inside? What size curves should I be using? I have a lot more questions but I think these are the biggest worries right now. 

Apologies for the essay, didn't mean for this first post to get so long but I'm excited and eager. I'm ready to really commit to this hobby and I could see garden railways being a lifelong thing for me if I start.

Thanks so much for your time if you've read this far and I look forward to meeting you and sharing enthusiasm for trains and railroads. 

HCF
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Posted by HCF on Monday, April 6, 2020 12:33 PM

Hey Folks,

Much has changed over the weekend. I found a really good deal on a collection of G gauge trains and track. It seems now that I'm committing to G for outside which I'm super excited about. 

As for track I think I'm going to stick to LGB because I hear good things about it's durability and that's what I got in my haul. 

I think now I need to restrain myself from snatching deals and instead focus on what I have and figuring out how I best like to use it. I'm gonna start doing research on raised layouts and cleaning track and more. That way my trains can run smoothly and consistently. 

I'm so excited that this is actually happening! 

Thanks,

Holden

 

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Monday, April 6, 2020 7:17 PM

Hello Holden and welcome!

To answer a couple of your original questions:

Generally people don't leave the trains/equipment outside long term. They run 'em, and bring them in (or to a storage shed/garage) afterward. LGB track will work with PIKO America equipment and vice versa, and both are good brands that have been around for many years.

I would encourage a subscription to our magazine, of course, but I also wanted to point out that subscriber material on our website is FREE until April 11. We have TONS of stuff, from gardening to more than 500 product reviews. Read and print out items to your heart's content. And look into joining a club once you can leave the house again. We have a free database of club listings here too.

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Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 12:01 PM

G really is best for outdoor garden railways.  O gauge can be done but your track choices are limited(Atlas O) as anything that is steel/tinplate or not UV proof wont work long term.   LGB track is best, I have used it for over 15 years outdoors with no major issues.  I was originaly ground level on my railway, then age and dog issues pushed me to build my elevated set up.  I converted to onboard battery power in my LGB, Kalamazoo and Bachmann locomotives about 5 years ago.  No more worries about cleaning track or dealing with rail joiners that quit conducting power.  I also run live steam locomotives.  

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

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Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 1:02 PM

The next trick is to avoid the "shot gun" approach of buying anything that is of interest or impulse buying.  Pick a theme, Euro, USA main line, USA narrow gauge ect. I myself prefer the Euro narrow gauge.  Mostly due to what I can afford in live steam and easy access to LGB brand trains.    Mike

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 1:25 PM

HCF

Hey Folks,

Much has changed over the weekend. I found a really good deal on a collection of G gauge trains and track. It seems now that I'm committing to G for outside which I'm super excited about. 

As for track I think I'm going to stick to LGB because I hear good things about it's durability and that's what I got in my haul. 

I think now I need to restrain myself from snatching deals and instead focus on what I have and figuring out how I best like to use it. I'm gonna start doing research on raised layouts and cleaning track and more. That way my trains can run smoothly and consistently. 

I'm so excited that this is actually happening! 

Thanks,

Holden

 

 

Great news!! You're on the right track!! ( pardon the bad pun)...

Paul

HCF
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Posted by HCF on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 2:04 PM
Also thanks so much for the advice and help so far Paul and Mike! I feel affirmed in my choice to grab that G scale deal. Now it seems I gotta make sure not to grab every deal that comes along, haha.
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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 10:32 PM

Aloha Holden,

 

     Welcome to the hobby and congratulations on your purchase.  As you figure where you want to go, you'll be able to swap things out or modify what you have to fit your needs, but, as a sufferer of "analysis paralysis," I think making an initial outlay is important in going from concept to reality!  My recently returned to model railroads, and almost all of my collection came down from the 1980-s in working order, even after 20+ years in storage!  You will have years of ejoyment with what you have, and you'll find parts are available to repair or modify them as you will.

    I echo the positive thoughts and advice from Mike add two more bits of guidance that got me moving on this journey.  The first is from my first mentor, the late Tom Trigg, whom I met on this forum.  It is simple, "Get outside and get dirty!"   The second is from a gentlmenan I met at the Hawaii Historical Railroad Societ, "Get something running, get ANYTHING running, and keep it running!"  The rest is evovling history!

 

Eric

P.S.  Oh, document your progress.  There was nothing like seeing my thoughts, people's responses, and my promises of coming progress to keep me going!  You can read my account on this forum at "Progress on the Triple O."

 

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:56 AM

Holden,

 

One other thought...If you bought track with your stuff, check to make sure it is solid brass or stainless steel.  Bachmann has track that is a hollow "U-shape."  It is fine for testing ideas, running round the Christmas tree, or storage, but we found it held up neither to indoor play by the "crew" nor outdoor use on the railroad.  At the suggestion of others, I used this stuff to make and abandoned siding.  While my climate is certainly wetter and my winds saltier, you can see the effect of 6 months in the ground:

I actually like this shot.  It has a sort of haunting beauty!  

 

    To be fair, this stuff is not meant for the garden.   If this is what you have on hand, by all means use it and get started.  It'll serve you well to get you up and going, but I would plan to replace it sooner rather than later.

 

Aloha,

Eric

 

 

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Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Friday, November 20, 2020 12:46 PM

Holden,

A couple of suggestions - raised track is great for your back not having to bend down but it doesn't lend itself to layout changes over time.  As a college student you shouldn't have any issues with getting down and playing in the dirt.  Also as a college student you may not be at your current location a few years down the road.  Consider portability of your equipment to new locations as one of your variables.

Gardening is the other 50% of the hobby and can take a fair chunk of time.  I also live in the southwest in the high pine country so not much desert here although it is very dry.  Irrigation was and is a primary consideration for my layout.

I did make a lot of my own switches as I'm cheap.  All it took was a grinder and some soldering tools.  I produced a dozen switches for under $15 each.  Draw your proposed layout and add in the pieces of track and switches you are missing.  If you're not a drawing person then take some garder hose and lay it out on the gound to get a feel for what it will look like and what else you will need.

Right now you probably have a lot of time on your hands with the virus but once school goes back to full time your "play time" will be limited.  Consider battery power versus track power to relieve yourself of a lot of track polishing between weekend runs plus you don't have to run/bury wires everywhere.  You can run by just setting the train on the track, turning on the battery and go.  I run Airwire but there are a lot of great options out there.

If you can, send us a picture of what you have to work with and we'll add more ideas.

Rex

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Posted by Greg Elmassian on Friday, November 20, 2020 1:59 PM

I have a few pages on my site of (what I believe to be) helpful advice to new comers.

There's actually 10 topics on 10 separate pages. It's a compendium of what I wished I knew when I started. It is not biased between battery or track power, which will be the next great quandry.

 

https://elmassian.com/index.php/large-scale-train-main-page/beginners-faqs

 

Greg

Visit my site: http://www.elmassian.com - lots of tips on locos, rolling stock and more.

 Click here for Greg's web site

 

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Posted by emdmike on Saturday, December 5, 2020 9:15 PM

In the UK, everything is expensive, more so than in the states.  For many of my early years in G scale, I took a page from their book.  I saved up and bought a nice locomotive and a few cars after deciding what my railway was going to do/provide.  I hauled peat from a bog to an interchange point.  Just a few gondolas behind a small four coupled(0-4-0T) side tank live steam locomotive.  All of my track and the locomotive was used/second hand.  Only the Hartland mini gondolas were brand new.  I did this for several years, then with better income I started to change and expand.  Now I am working back to that simple idea having bought the engine back from the friend I sold it to.  Sometimes less is better and allows one to focus on the railway itself and the buildings ect and less on trying to afford more locos ect.   Many freight wagon(rail car) kits are wood and inexpesive if you like building kits, same goes for building kits(both laser cut wood and resin) and passenger cars.  Places like IP Engineering will ship to the states.  My station is an IP kit.  Here is an updated video link, with my old Merlin Mayflower live steamer running in the cold today.  Steam plumes were great due to the cold 36'F temp.  With onboard battery or live steam, no worries about track being clean and polished, or rail joints that fail to conduct power.  Just make sure the line is free from leaves and sticks, or dog mines if its ground level and run trains!  This is the engine I just bought back.  My railway used to be ground level but dogs and getting close to 50yrs old, getting down on my knees to tend track and plantings was no longer enjoyable.  Hence the raised line I have now.  The engine is RC control and a pleasure to run, shunt/switch out cars ect.  I have a couple engines that have onboard battery power installed if I do not want to run steam.  Usually when I just want something running while friends are over or we are eating dinner out on the deck.  All the buildings are lighted at night time, along with signals and switch lanterns.   Mikie

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, December 6, 2020 12:46 PM

That's a great video, and great advice. Sometimes less is more: better to have just a few really nice pieces than tons of mediocre stuff. I keep telling myself I have so much already, and don't need anything else....but....Whistling

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, December 20, 2020 9:38 AM

If you go the live steam route, obviously there is the expense of the locomotive, what fuel it burns and what prototype/country its from that need to be considered.  Most wait times for Roundhouse engines tend to be 12-14 months from time of order till delivery.  Most UK dealers will ship to the states and a couple will help get items from the UK or other countries from companies that refuse to sell direct to the USA/Canada due to insurance issues on thier end.  Here in a few months, I will have all three of my prototype likes covered.  Right now I have a USA style loco and a UK style.  Both older models aquired second hand at really good prices(both for less than the cost of a brand new engine).  I am working on buying and building up a Roundhouse kit and adding a coal fired boiler that will be my German/Austrian engine to pull my LGB rolling stock.  But this has taken several years.  I started out with the older little UK from Merlin Locomotive works that I just bought back from a friend I sold it to awhile ago.  I pared down my rolling stock selection a few years ago as G scale takes up lots of space on the storage shelves.  I am working on more of a focus that will revolve more around the coal burning engine once I have it added to my stable. Mikie

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, December 20, 2020 11:03 AM

Hi Mike,

what do you think about those " Mamod" engines? I always thought that might be a good first engine.

The funny thing is, I thought I have everything I want, but since I've gotten into the Euro stuff, I feel like I don't have anything.....

Paul

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, December 20, 2020 1:45 PM

For what they cost to get running well, your better off to order one of the Roundhouse Basic series engines.  Millie, Bertie or Jennie for the UK look, or Sammie for the USA look.  They run really really nice, can be RC controled on the just the throttle.  They have slip eccentric valve gear, so you have to push the engine a wheel revolution to set the valve gear in the direction you want to go.  Any of those are an Excellent start in live steam and can be detailed with extra parts from RH and others.  I do recommend the water sight glass/top up add on kit and a pressure gauge.  Still under $1k.  If you want full RC on both direction and throttle, then any of the Classic series will do.  Most are just under $2k with RC.  When you look at the price list on their website, you want the pre VAT pricing as we do not pay that here in the states.   There is a wee bit of a wait for most Classic range engines, so you have time to save up the $$ for it.   The Basic range usually are 4-6 weeks lead time once you order.  You can email Harri at Roundhouse and order direct from them and avoid any dealer mark up.  Roundhouse has the best logistical support out there, bar none.   If you fancy a kit, you can get the Billy, Katie, Fowler, Lady Anne and George in kit form. Only soft soldering of the body work is needed, along with all the painting.  The boiler and cylinders come already assembled and soldered.  Its a great way to learn your engine.  I have built one of the Billy and one of the Lady Anne kits myself.  It was very enjoyable to do.  The kits you can buy in stages as money permits.  Most have 3 or 4 kits to build them up.  Chassis, boiler, body and RC fittings if your going that route.  Do a youtube search for Roundhouse live steam and watch some videos of various engines to see what you like.  For the Euro look with LGB rolling stock, the Billy is your best bet.  I am getting ready to get another Billy kit myself and will paint it in the colors like a LGB Stainz engine.  Mike

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, December 20, 2020 1:53 PM

Here is the last Billy I built from a kit.  Wish I still had this one.  But this is what I will build again but with a coal fired boiler vs butane gas.  I hope to order the chassis and body kits soon, then the boiler in late spring 2021.  

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, December 20, 2020 2:50 PM

emdmike

Here is the last Billy I built from a kit.  Wish I still had this one.  But this is what I will build again but with a coal fired boiler vs butane gas.  I hope to order the chassis and body kits soon, then the boiler in late spring 2021.  

 

That's a beauty!  Something to consider!

Paul

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, December 20, 2020 5:05 PM
Mike, echoing Paul, that is a beauty!
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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, December 20, 2020 5:38 PM

The only changes are the LGB loop couplers and the lamps are from Regner in Germany.  The paint is from the local Lowes hardware store.  Soft soldering the body is a snap if you have a micro butane torch(can also be bought at Lowes) and a few metal aligator clips to hold the body sections together.  Add a bit of flux and sweat solder it like one does with copper plumbing.  Then a good clean in the kitchen sink, etch primer then color coats followed by baking in the oven at 180' for an hour or two.   Mike

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, December 20, 2020 7:39 PM
Mike, is it even worth looking on the used market? It is still probably out of my price range, but I was wondering if there are safety concerns as well as the usual wear and tear concerns. Would you, for instance, buy one of the Roundhouse models off e-Bay? Would you do it as a rookie? Thanks, Eric
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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, December 20, 2020 10:06 PM

Yes, always watch the used/second hand listings at trusted dealers.  I mostly work with Simon Whenmouth of Anything Narrow Gauge in the UK, great website and if you have a certian model in mind, message him as many models sell before he has time to get it on the website.  Another great guy to buy from is John Sutton books and models in the UK.  He also has a nice website.   Stateside you have The Train Department.  But he lacks as much second hand, but great source for supplies like steam oil, gas can filler adapters or even to order a new model.  If you want to do a Hawaian sugar plantation engine, the Jennie from the basic range in the right colors and with some detailing would fit the part being an 0-4-2 with a tender.  If you are running on LGB/typical G scale track, you want a 45mm gauge engine or one that is adjustable.  The Basic series is fixed gauge, so make sure a second hand one is 45mm or if you should order a new one from that range.  The Billy, Lady Anne and the bulk of the Classic range of models are gauge adjustable.   Roundhouse is great to deal with, prompt with email answering(they are on holiday till January 4th right now).  Both of my steamers came second hand and run like a watch.  I could be convinced to let go of my Merlin if someone wanted thier first engine that has RC and wants the UK look.    Mike

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, December 21, 2020 9:24 PM
Mike, Thanks for that information. The other practical consideration I have are curves. All mine are R1, the really tight things that come in starter packs. There is no way to change this. This is all a lot to consider, and, frankly, probably beyond the budget for the foreseeable future. Investing in live steam is something the crew talks about, though, so I am trying to understand all the practical considerations before even looking to the funding. Eric
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Posted by emdmike on Monday, December 21, 2020 11:25 PM

Most all Roundhouse engines handle R1 just fine.  That is all I had for many years for curves and my indoor overhead loop is still R1.  I would stick with one of the Basic series or one the Classic series like the Lady Anne 0-6-0 UK style, or the Billy 0-4-0 European style.  They make a nice USA style Davenport saddle tank 0-4-0 but its just over 2K after shipping and exchange rate.  The Sammie from the Basic series is the best for the money if you want a USA style engine.  I had one and ran it for years.  Just all depends on how much $$ you can set aside for the model.  The more you can set aside, the nicer that one engine will be.  Keep in mind the lead time for a Billy, Davenport, Lady Anne ect will probably be in early 2022, giving you a whole year or more to save up.  The Basic series are 4-6 weeks lead time and are sub $1k models, even with extra options added.  

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 4:46 PM
Thanks again, Mike, for your detailed response.

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