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New to model railroading; What to do first?

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Posted by khier on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 10:40 AM

railXplorer

What should be my first steps into this hobby?

 

1- Estimate your financial limit (A silly joke, I know Big Smile).

1.a- Get Wife's permission

2- Estimate the available space for the hobby.

2.a- Get Wife's permission

3- Define your area of interest (time period/era, location, favourite rail company,etc...etc...).

4-Based on the above, choose the scale (I see you have already done), theme, etc...

5-Plan your layout: modest, feasible plans are 100 times better than a never ending project. Bear in mind huge club layout are the work of a group for years. You as a single individual can hardly beat them. You cannot imagine how many details can go in a small layout.

6-Go to 5

7-When you are finished with 6, Go to 5

8-Hobby is fun. Therefore, by all means, try to avoid sliding in the collector and/or revet counter categories. You will never have the chance to enjoy your models because you will die young and your lovely collection will be given away on Ebay and flea markets for peanuts. 

9-Bear in mind your MRR empire will be neither realistic enough nor perfect enough. Accept to live with compromises.

10-We are in the 21st century, not in the 198X. Hence, start with DCC, at least in mind.

11- Although less critical in N-scale, modern trains with long passenger cars are somewhat a problem in MRR. They look awful in small alyouts and more awful in tight curves. As a role of thumb the exposed track should be at lease three times as the longest train.  Try to choose a theme that involves short trains with short cars if you can. 

12-Go ahead and buy your first model and have fun with it.

 

Regards

 

Walid

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Posted by dstarr on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 1:26 PM

The big kick in model railroading comes from actually seeing your trains  running.  You can always improve things, make the layout bigger,  add fancy electronics, scenery, structures, a whole bunch of stuff as time goes on.  Nothing is set in concrete, you can always change things.

   Unless you are young enough and flexible enough to enjoy carpet running, you need benchwork to get the track off the floor.  Which means you need space somewhere, basement, garage, spare bedroom, attic, somewhere.  If you are married, you need to negotiate space with your wife. 

  The simplist benchwork is a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood with a 4 by 8 sheet of Homasote laid on top.  Set on saw horses or those two drawer file cabinets, or anything about table top height.  The Homasote takes the tracknails well and deadens the sound.  If your carpentry skills are reasonable, an around the walls layout will get you more railroad into the same space.  But plenty of us have built 4 by 8's.  You do need to get John Armstrong's book, Track Planning for Realistic Operation.  

   With some bench work up, lay some track.  Sectional track is good to start with, because it's easy to change the track plan, just pull up the track nails, re arrange the track and go for it.  Flex track is good but it's a more permanent kind of installation. 

   You can buy a train set, which has locomotive, power pack, cars, and track all in one box.  Or you can buy everything separately.  The buy separately option will get you nicer stuff than most train sets come with, but it's not mandatory, the train set stuff is good enough to get started with. 

   Take a subscription to Model Railroader.  Check out your town library for railroad books.  Go to a train show nearby. 

  Traditional DC locomotives and DC power packs work just fine.  The Digital Command Control (DCC) allows multiple operators independent control of their trains running on the same track. It's great if you plan to have multiple operators, but if you are building a home layout of which you are the only operator, DCC is overkill.  DCC requires a $35 decoder installed inside every locomotive.  In N scale, fitting the decoders into the locomotives is harder than in HO scale.  

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 1:37 PM

I am just glad that I am not a beginner seeking advice anymore! All that well meant advice we have dumped onto the poor OP has probably scared him off for good by now.

Cheers,

Ulrich (aka Herbert The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

  • Member since
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 2:59 PM

I'm going to go against the grain here a little. 

First of all, rather than spending a bunch of money buying books use the Internet. As previously mentioned, NMRA has a good getting started section, and you will find others as well. But as soon as you get a notion of what is involved, turn to YouTube. There you will get tons of videos that will show how to do each of the things you have learned about. Morever, you will see people struggling with the process.

Take track-laying, perhaps the most critical skill you can learn right of the bat. There is nothing more off-putting and discouraging than having to rerail a train everytime it makes a loop. Now there are a lot of ways of laying track and getting it right. On YouTube you may see 5-10 different methods of laying track. If you watch them, you might think "I can do that" or "that looks difficult." A book will only tell you one way. If you see a lot of different ways, you can choose the way that feels comfortable--which may be a hybrid of several methods.

That said, there are quite a few model railroad start to finish videos. Watch a couple. They may be a series that last 10 or more hours. But it will show you step, by step what you are getting into. Now I wouldn't take anything you see as gospel. There's as many ways of skinning a cat as there are cats. 

There is a place for books, like the previously mentioned, must read, Track Planning for Realistic Operation, by John Armstrong. But without a couple years experience, it will probably seem like gobbledy-gook. This is a good I'm-about-to-start-my-second-layout book. 

If you are healed like Bill Gates this won't matter, but at this point you don't know enough to spend a lot of money on locomotives and equipment. Reading won't solve this part, it takes experience. As you operate on your layout, you will discover things you like and things you don't like. Your preferences will grow and change as you go along. It is very likely that the equipment you purchased for your beginner layout will not be appropriate for your "real" layout. 

For this reason, I suggest joining a local train club. There you will be exposed to a lot of different modelers whose preferences range from watching trains running through pristine scenery, to those who enjoy the mental challenges of prototypical operation. More importantly, you can experience this diversity on you own as run on the club layout.  

 

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

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  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 3:03 PM

Tinplate Toddler
I am just glad that I am not a beginner seeking advice anymore! All that well meant advice we have dumped onto the poor OP has probably scared him off for good by now.

<--guilty as charged

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 3:06 PM

railXplorer
Hi everyone. I am new to model railroading. I want to use the "N" scale. I bought a few structures but didn't start yet. What should be my first steps into this hobby?

.

Maybe my "Just Build Something" post could have been better.

.

I see that the pick and choose train set seems to be the most popular advice... here is what I can say:

.

1) Since you are interested in N scale, go with Kato Unitrack. I use it in HO, and it is wonderful. The Kato powerpack hooks up easily, and it is very well made and reliable.

2) Grab a nice looking 4 axle diesel preferably also made by Kato.

3) Get an assortment of Micro-Trains brand freight cars.

.

That is all you need to start having fun, and it is all easy to find good looking stuff.

.

Then build something and have fun!

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by OldEngineman on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 12:17 PM
My thoughts, worth what you paid for them: You didn't tell us your age and budget. I'd spend some time watching YouTube videos -- be aware that there are good ones and bad ones, there's a lot of them! If you're an older guy like me, consider that as you age, N scale might not be the best choice -- hard to see and hard to handle with "older hands". After you've decided on scale, instead of buying a "starter set", I'd "break apart" the following into categories and research before buying: Track -- modular style (i.e., "snap together") might be best early on, because you'll probably want to change things around and make modifications, and modular track makes this easy. An old guy "recently returned" myself, I picked Kato track because it was easy to handle and still looks quite good for "snap together" track. It's pricey, but buying from the right sources can ameliorate the expense. Kato does make a few "track sets" with which you can get going, and easily add to later on. Power -- DCC is probably worth the extra expense up front, because if you get DC-only in the beginning, you may find yourself wanting DCC later on for the additional features. So, spend the $$$ now and be done with it. After looking at "the obvious choices", I picked "a road less taken" (at least here in the USA) -- the Roco z21 system. Can run wired or wireless -- wireless is far FAR better, you can use a smartphone or tablet to control the railroad (or even a laptop via wifi). I bought the "white box, little-z" z21 (small "z") from Germany (less expensive with nearly all the features of the black Z21), found a laptop power supply with adjustable voltages and US plug to power it. I use the TP Link router that you can buy pre-configured to work with it. Get the initial setup done (easy), and it is superior to any of the "wired" brands that most folks use. Getting locomotives entered and programmed is VERY easy for a novice (like me) to DCC. Best interface for controlling locomotive functions I've seen. Equipment -- Probably best to pick a few engines first, add cars as you find them. This way you can buy just what you want instead of taking what comes "in a set". You'll want to give some thought as to what "period" you like -- latest equipment, or perhaps from the 70's, or early diesel days, or steam...
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Posted by khier on Thursday, May 17, 2018 4:00 AM

OldEngineman
So, spend the $$$ now and be done with it. After looking at "the obvious choices"

 

You do not need to spend $$$ for DCC equipment. Tons of DCC second-hand command station bargains can be found on Ebay. Second, (I do not know if this is common in the US) you can pick up a DCC starter kit. It usually contains the DCC equipment and a train set of regular quality, not the starter kit toys, and a track set of course. The Roco/Fleischmann z21 is also a clever way to go. Using a smart phone/tablet as a throttle reduces the cost of the hardware. Third, if you are an electronic freak you may build your own DCC command station around an Arduino for maybe less than 20$. Check Youtube, Instructables, Arduino community and other internet forums and you will find a flood of information on how to do it, from the very basic steps to just download a code and run. Speaking of Arduino, you can add wonders and cut the costs in the layout by learning and using Arduino (or any other Microcontroller) to control servos, lights, turnouts, train detection,...etc...etc. Subscribe to Rudy's blog:

https://rudysmodelrailway.wordpress.com/

He has always fantastic ideas how to make things in MRR effective and low cost.

Regards

 

Walid 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Friday, May 18, 2018 3:14 PM

Not even a thank you from the OP.  Have we been had?

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, May 18, 2018 7:41 PM

BigDaddy
Have we been had?

.

We might have overwhelmed him with long answers to a simple question, or maybe his response just has not been approved by the moderators yet.

.

I hope he will chime in again.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

  • Member since
    November, 2017
  • 74 posts
Posted by Bubbytrains on Friday, May 18, 2018 10:36 PM

BigDaddy

Not even a thank you from the OP.  Have we been had?

 
 

I bet he's just trying to process all the answers. Plus he may not spend as much time on model railroading as some on this forum do. He might just pop in to visit every so often. Plus, he did say thank you in advance in his first post. 

Alan

Bubbytrains

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Posted by railXplorer on Saturday, May 19, 2018 1:34 PM
Wow. Thanks everyone for your tips. I appreciate all of your comments :) I will start slow.
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, May 20, 2018 7:42 PM

Model Railroader used to say, "Dream, Plan, Build."  The slogan has faded, but it's still a good one.

I used to dream of subways, real, nighttime dreams, recollections from my youth in New York.  I really wanted a subway layout, or at least subways on or under my layout.  When I was ready, so was the hobby.  I found subway trains availalable, and bought them.

Then I started to plan.  I found a couple of computer programs to help me create track plans.  I spent so much time at this that I developed "analysis paralysis," the inability to get started.  Finally, I went to Home Depot and bought lumber and pink foam.

Next is build.  I found it helpful to lay things out on the floor, using pieces of paper for building footprints and roads.  See what works and what really doesn't fit.  I still have buildings in the basement workshop that didn't fit, 14 years later.  Oh, well.  Don't buy too much or too soon.  But, don't worry much if you do.  We've all been there, done that.

The rest you'll fill in as you go.

And welcome aboard.  Welcome

 

By the way, I don't have subway dreams anymore.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by traindaddy1 on Monday, May 21, 2018 8:30 PM

Hello: 

I'm sure, by now, you have read the replies. As mentioned, it could be overwhelming with so much well intended and very sound advice from experienced "train people".

Here's my My 2 Cents:

Like all hobbies, as great as it is, one can easily spend a lot of $. (I would suggest that you just keep that in mind)

That being said, think about what you would like to accomplish.

    Do you want to be a serious "modeler" or do you want to take a more casual     approach ie. a layout that allows you to run a train and just enjoy watching it      travel over the track in and out of scenic props? 

Also, think about the space available and location for the layout.

Reading publications and viewing videos were excellent suggestions. Try not to get too involved with the deeper technical information (at least not for now).

Some mentioned that it would be a good idea to talk to your local hobby shop people (not too many around like there used to be) or attend train shows. I agree. 

N scale lets you do a lot in a smaller space. HO worked great for me for over fifty years but I'm now "into" O (easier on this older body).

This is a great hobby.

Don't get discouraged if things don't go right at first. They will.

Ask questions. These guys and gals are fantastic and love to share their experience and knowledge.

Mostly, start slowly and enjoy the hobby. Wish you the very best.

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