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Where should my kid (and investment) go from here?

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  • Member since
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Where should my kid (and investment) go from here?
Posted by MomSonTrains on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 9:24 AM

Hi, 

I am looking for strong guidance in how to get my 10-year-old started. Here is what we know already. 

* HO scale

* Room sizing - we are starting with a 4x8 table but have a double car garage space when he is ready (After reading about space, I am assuming he needs more than a table long term). 

* We already purchased the Walthers Flyer Express starter set and a few additional trains that he knows run in our local area. This has not been unboxed as we just purchased yesterday. We also got something to clean the tracks with. 

*He wants scenery but doesn’t really care about it. As in its a complete after thought and just wants to have a great track and run trains. 

* He wants to be able to control the trains with a remote that can do sounds too. (Is this where DC and DCC come in?) 

* Long term vision, he wants a "log" dumping station and a "coal" dump. These are things he has thought about and wants because they happen on the real railroad. I call this long term because I think the investment and skill he will need to produce this will take him awhile. Not that it is unrealistic (or is it?).

My concern is that he is used to building with wooden tracks, he builds and rearranges and builds again. Uses bridges and tunnels, everything he can, and the track is large. The elaborate design is what he likes best. The starter pack purchased is an oval. I don’t see that lasting long and want to be ready to invest in the long term layout when he wants more than an oval. 

Is it realistic for him to use Atlas tracks at a young age, successfully on his own? Side note: I know nothing about Atlas, that was just the brand our local train club recommended, so I am running with that. 

He can watch many YouTube videos to help him get things set up but reading books/magazine/instructions isn’t something he can do alone.

Thank you for the guidance. 

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Posted by garya on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 5:27 PM

It's hard to answer, but some kids have good coordination and are just fine using Atlas track on their own. The Walthers Flyer Express set comes with Power-Loc track.  They do make expander sets, but it can get expensive.  Other manufactureres make something similar, track with roadbed built in.  It may be tricky to get that track with Atlas track, but I'm sure it can be done.  EDIT:  Walthers has an adaptor.

That said, Power-Loc type track lends itself to temporary setups more than Atlas track does.  

A remote with sound may be a bit advanced, but DCC does make that possible.  I believe Bachmann makes a Bluetooth controller, but I've only seen it once and I have no idea how reliable it is.

YouTube has many very good videos on all sorts of Model Railroading topics.

 

Gary

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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 5:54 PM

Welcome to the forums, MomSonTrains!

Your first posts are moderated, which means your posts won't always appear right away.  That will go away with a few more posts.

A lot of your questions depend on how much your son can do and wants to do.  While I can't answer much, I know there are others here who can give good advice.

Again, welcome, and check back again and let us know how it's going.  If you have will allow him, he is welcome to also pose questions on this forum.

I'm happy to hear that you are supporting him and encouraging him in the hobby!

York1 John       

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 7:17 PM

Hi, and welcome aboard!  Welcome

I thought this would be about how far model railroading can take him.  The answer is, quite far.  The complete model railroader is a jack of all trades, and a master of many of those.  One learns carpentry, wiring, painting, electrical, electronics, computers and other skills in a practical, hands-on way by using these skills every day.

After spending my formative years with supportive parents like you, I went to MIT, explored the cosmos, and then came back to civilization a bit and worked for decades defending our nation.  I'm retired now, but those trains I bought as a teenager are still with me.

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

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 8:22 PM

Also be aware that there are different sizes (height) of HO rail.  Usually you'll see "Code 100" or Code 83".  Code 100 is a little bigger (higher) than 83.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 8:52 PM

WelcomeWelcome To both Mom and Son.

 

Try to keep his layout somewhat simple at first.  If it gets too complicated he could loose interest.  The members of the forum are always egger to help a newbie.

I started out in HO scale when I became a teen many many years ago, my dad gave me my first train for my 8th Christmas and it stuck.  I’m older than dirt (84) and very egger to help a youngster become a model railroader.

After looking up the specs of your purchase I think you made a good choice.

Good Luck!!!!


Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
Turned 84 in July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 12:20 AM

Hi MomSonTrains!

Welcome to the forums!!            Welcome

First, congratulations on getting your son interested in trains, and for giving him the wooden train set that has allowed him to be so creative!

I will try to address some of your questions:

MomSonTrains
* He wants to be able to control the trains with a remote that can do sounds too. (Is this where DC and DCC come in?) 

The most common way to get sound is to use a DCC control system. The sound systems are built right into the locomotives and they are capable of doing way more than just tooting the horn. The train set you bought is not DCC and therefore not capable of making sounds without converting it to DCC which is expensive.

In my opinion, the best starter set with DCC and sound is the Bachmann Industries Thunder Chief Train Set, Walthers part #160-826. It is currently on sale for $327.98, regular $459.00 at Walthers or through any Walthers dealer which most hobby shops are. (All prices are $USD). The Thunder Chief is very similar to the Flyer Express in that it gives you a locomotive, two freight cars and a caboose with an oval of track. The difference is that it also gives you a basic DCC controller with multiple functions, and the locomotive has sound built in. It is a very economical way to get into DCC.

Now comes the caveat! Unfortunately, expanding the Bachmann train set is going to cost a lot of money! For example, their nickel-silver rail turnouts (switches) range from $63.00 for a remote wire controlled motor, to $95.00 for DCC controlled units (no separate wire).

An alternative to buying a complete train set is to start with a Kato Unitrack track kit and buy your own controller, locomotive(s) and cars. Kato sells Unitrack which is similar to the Bachmann E-Z Track in that it comes with built in roadbed and locks together. The Kato track is about 2/3rds the price of the Bachmann, and newer stock has nickel-silver rails. (The Bachmann set has steel rails which may rust). They also sell track kits which tend to be better priced than buying the pieces separately. For example, a 4'x8' oval with turnouts and sidings is $260.00. A passing track with two turnouts and enough straight track to make a five ft. siding is $90.00.

https://www.katousa.com/HO/Unitrack/boxedsets.html

In addition to the track, you will need a controller. NCE sells a basic system called a Power Cab for $250.00. It has more features than the Bachmann system and it is fully expandable. I have one and I love it. It is easy to understand and you can be running trains in only a few minutes.

https://www.ncedcc.com/online-store/Power-Cab-Starter-Set-with-24-watt-110-240V-US-Power-Supply-p38322079

Of course you will need some trains. DCC sound equipped locomotives start at around $200.00 at places like Walthers or Trainworld.

https://www.trainworld.com/shop-scale/ho-scale.html?electronics=757&trains=18313

Note that you want a 'DCC sound equipped locomotive', not 'DCC ready' and not 'DCC no sound'.

Freight cars and passenger cars are available on eBay but I would do some research before buying anything there. Some prices are very attractive but you might end up with junk. I would stick to name brands like Atlas or Accurail, or newer Athearn. There are several other quality rolling stock makers. Avoid stuff like Life Like and Tyco.

Now for the sobering part! The Kato/NCE/DCC sound equipped locomotive combination is going to set you back by more than $700.00 plus tax and shipping. That's double what the Bachmann Thunder Chief would cost, but you would be getting so much more. In fact, I would suggest that the Bachmann set will cost you close to $700.00 by the time you have acquired the equilvalent accessories and you will have an inferior, non expandable DCC control system.

One last point. Your son obviously has enjoyed being able to create his own track designs with the wooden set. If you only get him an oval of track he may lose interest fairly quickly.

I'll quit there. My answers are always too long!

Cheers!!

Dave

 

 

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by NorthsideChi on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 12:48 AM

I had a layout around that age that had bridges, a tunnel, and an industrial spur connected to a lumber mill.   I think you could get everything you want.  Google "atlas up and over."   I can't believe they still sell the piers. It was the late 80's early 90's. My dad and I then stretched the layout to fit 4' X 7' or 4 X 8.  I can't remember but the layout seemed massive to me.  We had a small commercial street, multiple houses, the ADM grain elevator (still sold today) and that lumber and logging area.  The tunnel was on the far end of the layout in a sort of montain area and the trains emerged from the tunnel onto a bridge.  Pretty dramatic for a small layout.  The bridge piers for the elevated portions aren't exactly realistic since there would be actual earth beneath the ramped track, but who cares.  It looked cool as a kid and I could put roads wherever beneath elevated portions.  And I did re-arrange the town quite a bit. That track plan was designed to be flexible and affordable.  

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Posted by "JaBear" on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 3:55 AM

MomSonTrains
My concern is that he is used to building with wooden tracks, he builds and rearranges and builds again. Uses bridges and tunnels, everything he can, and the track is large. The elaborate design is what he likes best.

Welcome Gidday Mom, excuse me for reminiscing but that takes me back 26 years when my young bloke was four, and he and his mate would set up massive elaborate wooden railways on the floor at the local kindergarten. Happy days!Smile
 
I haven’t used the Walther’s Power Loc track, which is of nickel silver rail, but, as Mel has mentioned there is an adaptor kit which allows other types to be used.
I think that you are going to have to buy an expander kit (s), but learning how to budget at the age of ten is no bad thing, besides while your son may not need it, it’s also an incentive for him to get his chores done!Laugh
 
Provided you have the room, the advantage of the ‘sectional track is that he can set it up on the floor any way he likes though if you’re going to set up a table, that at least sets limits. I would suggest that an 8 x 4 is ideal for a young fellows’ reach.
 
At this stage, to my mind, DCC control systems is an unnecessary complication, that’s for much later.
 
You mention the local Train Club, while they’re more than likely not a “baby sitting service”, do they have junior members?  Though I realise that this may be an imposition on your own time.
 
Hope you both have Fun,
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by Water Level Route on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 6:36 AM

WelcomeGreat choice in a hobby for your son!  

MomSonTrains
Room sizing - we are starting with a 4x8 table but have a double car garage space when he is ready (After reading about space, I am assuming he needs more than a table long term). 

A 4x8 is perfect for starting out.  I built my first layouts on 4x8 sheets for about 10 years.  Would I have liked more?  Sure, but it wasn't necessary at that young age (I started at about 8 years old).

MomSonTrains
We already purchased the Walthers Flyer Express starter set and a few additional trains that he knows run in our local area. This has not been unboxed as we just purchased yesterday. We also got something to clean the tracks with. 

Great!  A little variety is always fun.

MomSonTrains
He wants scenery but doesn’t really care about it. As in its a complete after thought and just wants to have a great track and run trains. 

One thought here that will make some traditionalists cringe.  Bachmann (and probably others) make what is called "Grass Mat" in a 100"x50" size.  Perfect to cover that 4x8 with.  It provides a quick and easy green base that looks better than paint.  Tracks can be laid directly over it.  He can jump into more advanced scenery building when he is ready.

MomSonTrains
He wants to be able to control the trains with a remote that can do sounds too. (Is this where DC and DCC come in?) 

Long term, DCC is the way to go for this.  Short term, I would look into a locomotive that comes with DCC & Sound from the factory.  Assuming you don't buy an old or used one, it will run on his current set-up and have automatic sounds.  Then, if/when the day comes he is ready for DCC, he will have a locomotive ready to go on that system too.

MomSonTrains
Long term vision, he wants a "log" dumping station and a "coal" dump. These are things he has thought about and wants because they happen on the real railroad. I call this long term because I think the investment and skill he will need to produce this will take him awhile. Not that it is unrealistic (or is it?).

Depends on just what he is thinking of.  Dumping coal is a common unloading method.  Logs, not so much.  It almost sounds like he is thinking of the old Tyco operating accessories.  Great fun for a kid.  Note that this will not work with the track that came in the box with his set.  It will need traditional track, like the Atlas track.  https://www.ebay.com/itm/193890441148?_trkparms=ispr%3D1&hash=item2d24c557bc:g:4psAAOSwHVVfpNW6&amdata=enc%3AAQAGAAACoPYe5NmHp%252B2JMhMi7yxGiTJkPrKr5t53CooMSQt2orsSd3M8ngECaRA0SmyU4KT%252FnqxioM6xAjBllKOUzDelc62OZyQemgr5%252F1SE4ZPpJq9FMuz0FFOElsAdvfymFfTSqs%252BHn4aPPEXL0xxFTWF1pT9Es3bK2obMbfcLEhRMDYqp54LRQ%252BQsouQIumRSKKsY69pfdqc9sXRxxMomlBpkwrbnMQy5crigl5qCq7kePbQfa2kTQ79VQnzX4LqzWQMfLxTi45djHWNAomm832hP4jBWw4TUDia2nunuhvDuvbHRmI7SjLDGoQU%252BMnMGOgbedNiSFfNcdb33GCM4IX2dGXMziihDex2aaLgLRtO%252BX7HD8c7%252BhvbP94VwJ%252BbevM37DsDafaOxs2lHSFYL9xK8fAAYgy2MgRl3p48KDroDv7aj%252BExNL1zGup6XyvCIcXamJpSsHlUhPpzvfB%252FP8L2TiA9Ov%252BC4phn1jbkqQvR6%252B3ONcggXT%252BufqryJ0ZjRsHFItH5Uz2SCjNr5FXAr88KmH%252FltSR6AmLr5tc4L6t9suro9kLlln8kqDIrRq9II%252FTn3xsxqNo20%252BJFtMPg5TWxaUcJbNiT9HjL8nV8HxuSlCK%252FnTvksoL4eiZMrmqUhr6Lm5jlUnkTVUY%252B8aBEqziaZR37nMIinYkSEpqGeXCo%252FuPplMTOMCGEi87tkMfub8KrzJH1rfGIUCZEBg2Z4bUhj79eT1YyW67bj2HgHtsjqdHC%252BzmYp%252FcZ5e8OPDmk%252FSgYlVhpxIBke5CZRR%252BsK%252BE3%252BXbS2JfPKvvgt6cAihlrmZkPG9llRNCQxTdEmnv9UOD3%252FDeQ9eAg45G8D%252BrBXqUrTeTePS%252BCtmlOokkuOkm368Hqv541P%252BhXPFFZw1LVZEBEM6A%253D%253D%7Cclp%3A2334524%7Ctkp%3ABFBM_PqS6eRf

MomSonTrains
Is it realistic for him to use Atlas tracks at a young age, successfully on his own? Side note: I know nothing about Atlas, that was just the brand our local train club recommended, so I am running with that. 

He should be able to work with the Atlas track just fine at his age.  Atlas is good quality track and readily available.  It's a good choice.

Mike

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Posted by NorthBrit on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 8:41 AM

Welcome  MomSonTrains  to a hobby that lasts a lifetime one way and another.

Really good advice has been given already.  Just a few thoughts from  a modeler 'over the pond'.

 

Most of us have started with a board (whatever the size).   8x4  needs space around it  for access.   For some unexplained reason trains derail in the most difficult of places.   Therefore the room for the board is about 12x8.   Boards around the room give more running track.

Anyway,  8x4  we start with.  Have your son make a list of what must be on the board.   Not a wish list.  Once a track plan is made,  lay the track on the board.   Test everything is working satisfactorily.  Then pin the track down testing as he goes.

Once the track is laid have fun running trains.

Add scenery as he goes along.   If anything breaks or does not go as planned do not get despondent.   It is a learning curve.  (I am  74  and still learning. Yeah)

Son.  Keep learning.  What is learned goes well for 'the big layout'.

Have fun.  Keep it fun  and it will reward you with the learning of many skills you thought you never had.

 

A little advice for Mom.   If ever your son 'moves on'  to other things do not get upset or angry.   (Been there and all that.)  It is not worth it.   Like i said it is a hobby of a lifetime.   He will come back later.  Meantime you get the garage back.

 

Keep us informed on progress.

 

David

 

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by BigDaddy on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 10:11 AM

I'd forego expensive track with roadbed.  At age 10 I was more interested in seeing the train go round and round than prototypical correctness. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by Bayway Terminal on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 11:11 AM

My suggestion is to take it slow unless model railroading becomes more your hobby than his over the long term. My son was exposed to model trians before he could talk or walk, one of his first words he used while learning to speak was "couple" instead of saying "connect". While pre-school age there were X Mas trains running under the tree every year, and by age 5 and beyond i had built an O27 Layout in our basement that he could operate under supervision and could also handle those size cars without much problem. We attended the train shows together and visted train & hobby stores of the time, most all are closed now. As a teenager my son became more interested in sports, electronic games, and girls, and as such his interest in model railroading deminished significantly.Today at age 31 he shows little interset in my HO layout, but i'm hoping that if he one day has a son or daughter he may get back into model trains. Bayway Terminal NJ 

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Posted by Bayway Terminal on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 11:13 AM

My suggestion is to take it slow unless model railroading becomes more your hobby than his over the long term. My son was exposed to model trians before he could talk or walk, one of his first words he used while learning to speak was "couple" instead of saying "connect". While pre-school age there were X Mas trains running under the tree every year, and by age 5 and beyond i had built an O27 Layout in our basement that he could operate under supervision and could also handle those size cars without much problem. We attended the train shows together and visted train & hobby stores of the time, most all are closed now. As a teenager my son became more interested in sports, electronic games, and girls, and as such his interest in model railroading deminished significantly.Today at age 31 he shows little interest in my HO layout, but i'm hoping that if he one day has a son or daughter he may get back into model trains. Bayway Terminal NJ 

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Posted by selector on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 12:14 PM

Your son will get the most fun, and learning, from doing things as ideas come to his mind.  Since both of you are 'green', your role is straightforward...safety, common sense, and pragmatic decisions. I'm sure you have that well in hand.  His role is to learn.  So, as others have suggested, go slow, go lean at first, expand when it seems right.  This will add up quickly in your pocket book, and you'd hate to have spent good money on a mistake.  His mistakes, not yours. 

One very important consideration, and then I'll leave it to other members: a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?  Your son is not a man, and his reach is not going to extend far enough into a large layout surface, even on your standard 4X8. A layout has problems that must be rectified by hand, and one's reach into the track system is critical for that purpose.  Anything larger is an 'eyes bigger'n belly' problem.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 2:40 PM

At this point, I think the Walthers Trainline track that came with the Walthers Flyer Express set you bought should be fine. It's fairly limited in what's available, but it's nickel-silver so shouldn't be hard to keep clean and working.

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/manufacturer_name-waltherstrainline

Otherwise, I would use some version of similar "click track" made by Atlas, Bachmann or Kato. Much easier to keep electrical contact and keep trains running.

Stix
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Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 3:26 PM

Welcome to the forum. All the foregoing is great counsel. For the general shape, I would start with your Walthers oval and add a siding and two spurs, one spur to the coal dump and one to the log dump. All that would require four or five turnouts (that's what we call switches to distinguish them from electrical switches), which will enable plenty of "operations" fun and interest but might not be so complex or difficult to build that your son loses interest.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 5:48 PM

Hello All,

Welcome

Before you commit track to base I recommend getting the Complete Atlas Wiring Book.

At first glance, this book might seem a bit too technical from cover to cover. However, it is a great beginning to your family's model railroading library.

Use it as a reference guide to research your questions.

Atlas also has Layout Packages listed on their website.

These include all the components necessary to complete the pictured track plan.

For some these complete packages are out of the budget but for the frugal- -you can use them as a template for your dreams.

Take for example take the HO-1 The Way-Freight Special track plan. There might be some "sticker shock" at $170.00.

As you scroll down the page there is a link "Click Here for DCC Wiring Instructions" which leads to a PDF download. 

Under the MSRP window click on the "-Kit Details-"

This is a complete list that you can use to assemble your own version with whatever track you decide. Use it as a free guide.

Along the way, you will probably need to purchase modeling-specific tools. A great source for these is Micro-Mark.

Keep using these fine people as a resource, and as always...

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

DrW
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Posted by DrW on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 7:45 PM

From my point of view, the most important point is to allow your son to have an input. He will not care much about the type of track you use or whether you use DC or DCC. However, I might give him some choices regarding the selection of a locomotive or cars. When we started, I had a West Texas desert-themed Santa Fe layout in mind. Now the layout looks like West Texas and we have mostly Santa Fe rolling stock, but occasionally a German ICE train can be spotted - my son's "investment" of some Christmas gifts.  

We started when my son was five, with an 8x4 with a single loop, a siding, and a spur. Atlas True Track, DCC. He was able to run the train and switch cars on his own without any supervision. In our case, we soon discovered that this was not enough, especially as he often asked me to play with him, and a year later I expanded it to two independent, but connected loops with an additional long siding. Thus, we could run three trains at the same time.

My son had the most fun when the layout was half-finished, when the tracks and the basic landscape (i.e. mountains, tunnels) were in place, but beyond that he had an open playground to move houses and vehicles around or to load and unload freight cars. At that point, also my daughter, two years younger than my son, got involved. She did not care much about trains, but was fascinated by the "little people", (mostly) Preiser figures. There were hours when both kids played on the layout without any trains moving.

In my son's case, the interest in our layout lasted for about 10 years (now it is mine!!!). He still remembers this time fondly (he is now 22). Last Christmas, he even ran a train for half an hour.

JW 

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 8:09 PM

A bit on my own background might give you some stuff to ponder.

My first proper model train set was a gift from my parents one Christmas, a Bachmann DCC starter kit along with a SP Daylight also from Bachmann. The first pitfall encountered was I didn't have a piece of EZ-Track able to fit the big 4-8-4, so I had to go out and buy additional pieces to run the engine on a curve that could fit it.

Once that was sorted, I went on to buying a 4'x8' board to plop a layout on, and had it set up as a loop to start with, but I discovered an issue, that even though I was in my later teens (and am 6' 3" tall") I was struggling to reach into the center of the board, and get to everything on it, even without any scenery, and it also ate up a lot of the floor space in my spare room. I later read Byron Henderson's post on the pitfalls of a 4' x 8' and decided it was not for me (https://www.layoutvision.com/why-waste-the-space-on-a-4x8). My first layout then ended up in a dumpster, as basically a board since I never laid any permanent track on it. 

My second layout then was a modern shelf layout, meant for switching. I laid the track, and discovered my struggles with soldering (that continue to this day), and it became the home for my burgeoning HO collection. I powered it with a DCC system from NCE, since it was more adequate than my Bachmann starter one; and it ran decently well even though it was sloppy and a bit of a mess. This layout is still intact, but it remains unfinished since due to its large size I was turned off from it; yes it offers plenty of room for switching and running cars and takes up minimal floor space since it runs along the wall as a shelf... but its still in a semi-permanent "to be completed... someday" state as I keep pushing back finishing it due to lack of motivation.

My third layout was just a Free-Mo style module, with a piece of straight track. This is other than some electronic work and a bit of scenery that still needs to be finished, mostly done... due in part to its simplicity. I have yet to finish it, in part because the other guys who I was going to attatch my modules to lost interest in making their respective modules; but it was a sign to me that smaller is sometimes a good path to take.

So finally, over a decade since my first layout I am now on my fourth project; and what I think is going to be my most succesful (I.E. this one has a chance to actually reach completion...) my OO9 layout. OO9 is a British narrow gauge scale, that can fit a loop of track on a Free-Mo sized board, so I got the benefits of that original 4' x 8' table, at half the size! My current phase is trackwork, and I have finally been able to run a train around the whole circuit (albeit having to push it through a small dead piece of track that I already have ordered replacement parts for), and I feel that due to its smaller and compact size its finally in a scope that I think is reasonable to complete. I have even done more complicated wiring on it, such as a fully functional reverse loop that runs of an automatic polarity reverser I bought from Tam Valley. 

My point with giving my full layout story is to highlight the following.

  • I started as a teenager, and it took me a decade of trial and error into my later teen and then adult years to settle on a project that felt feasible. Its easy to have a "eyes bigger than your stomach" type issue in model railroading, and its important to understand that a smaller scope, even smaller than the 4' x 8' is sometimes a good place to start.
  • Different scales have different advantages. HO is great, but you are going to have to commit to more space for a full run around loop. But maybe your okay going smaller to N-scale for a compact system? Or even go up in size to O-Scale or S-Scale for a high detail single scene layout (ala a single station fed by a hidden staging track). Or even look overseas to what is being done in OO or OO9 or any other scale that you can find abroad. 
  • DCC is great, but beware of the limitation of starter sets, since a Bachmann controller might gather dust once its replaced with a NCE or Digitrax set up. Maybe consider going old school DC if you just want low costs, even if its at the sake of the sound functions; although the modern DCC set up is a pretty great lesson in wiring for those willing to put in the time to practice the art. Either way, get ready to learn how to use stuff like a soldering iron or other tools to make the layout. 
  • Make sure you have the passion to finish what you started, unless you want to see projects going into the dumpster or gathering dust... another reason again to consider the scope of what you want at the beginning and then consider the scope of what can realistically be completed. Also consider what kind of quality finish you want, a grass mat under some snap track might not be the most fancy layout; but it will be the fastest path to running trains with some basic scenery to get started. 
  • Member since
    January 2007
  • 175 posts
Posted by hjQi on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 10:20 PM

To start, I would suggest that he use tracks with roadbed. He can play with these tracks by assembling and disassembling them. Atlas, Bachmann, Lionel make these tracks. For a 4' by 8' table, they would not be too expensive. 

Jerry

 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: North Dakota
  • 9,592 posts
Posted by BroadwayLion on Thursday, February 24, 2022 9:31 PM

WHALE... I'll tell you.

I was about eight or ten when I told my parents that I wanted a train for christmas. I had in mind a wooden train with a string that you could pull along the floor.

What I gor was an American Flyer train set with a steam locomotive a few freight cars and a caboose. Interesting, but a little dissapointing! All it would dio is follow the tracks. And there were no passenger cars. (I am a LION, and passengers are tasty)

Back in those days the LIRR still had steam engines, but non on our line which was fully electric. Electric passenger cars with no engines needed!

Well anyway, 60 years later, here I am living in a monastery in North Dakota, and no passenger trains call here.

Oh well, I built a fantastic layout filling up an entire classroom on three levels of track. I have 14 scale miles of tracks, and it takes 20 minutes for a tyrain to navigate the layout. Fortunately, I run subway trains, and ten trains can run all at once.

NOW they WILL go wherever my imagination wants them to go!

You can see my layout at broadwaylion.com, the link is below.

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

  • Member since
    February 2022
  • 8 posts
Posted by MomSonTrains on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 2:51 PM

Thank you for your advice, we are stock to youtube a lot right now. Learning as much as we can for now. 

He is ready to purchase more but I am wanting him to design a layot first. Youtube yet again coming in handy. 

  • Member since
    February 2022
  • 8 posts
Posted by MomSonTrains on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 3:04 PM

Wow, Thnak you all for the responses. I have many more questions from all of these posts. 

I am spending some time researching these links and suggestions but will be back with more questions soon! 

For now here is an update:

* We opened the track and put it together. I thought my fingers would break trying to put together the EZ track..it was not easy and my son can not manage clicking it together on his own at all. 

* It has been 1 week and he is already bored. He plays with it daily so I know he still has interest in it but the basic oval shape is just to simple for him. It's already time to grow. 

I will be back with more questions after a few late nights of reading and researching. My son does make all the final decisions as this is his track and he is putting 50/50 investment into them. But I need to research and narrow things down within the ideas he gives as well as the idvice I find here :-)

Thank you!!!

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 15,581 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 11:24 PM

MomSonTrains
He is ready to purchase more but I am wanting him to design a layot first.

Hi MomSonTrains,

Are you aware that there is a track plan data base on this website? To find it, look under 'How To' when you first got to the website (before you go to 'Community' to see the forums).

The Track Plan data base allows you to select various layout sizes. Click on the 'Small Layout' option and look for 4' x 8' track plans. This is one example that might give you some ideas. It actually has two levels which will make things more interesting:

https://www.trains.com/mrr/how-to/track-plan-database/ho-scale-central-vermont-rr/

Note that, unless you are a subscriber, you can only look at six plans so I would suggest that you look through all the small layouts before selecting which ones you want to focus on.

Also note that these plans are often concepts and they may never actually been built or tested. For that reason I would suggest that you study the specifications, like minimum radii for example, before deciding that you want to use a plan as a starting point. Some of the small plans suggest 15" radii curves. Curves that tight will restrict the type of locomotives that can actually negotiate them. You would likely be limited to four axle switchers and 40' freight cars. Passenger cars might not work at all.

As I suggested in a previous post, you will have to make a decision about what track to use. If the E-Z track isn't working for you, you might want to cut your losses and opt for something like Atlas or Peco track which is easier to join together, and cheaper than the turnouts for the E-Z track. One advantage to the slightly more expensive Peco track is that the turnouts have locking springs in them so when you flip the turnout to the other route, the point rails will stay in place. You don't need anything other than your finger to operate the turnouts. Atlas turnouts do not lock themselves in place so you need an additional piece of equipment to hold the points closed.

I hope I'm not bursting your bubble by suggesting changing the type of track, but ultimately your son will get what he wants, and probably for less money.

Dave

 

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 289 posts
Posted by bagal on Thursday, March 3, 2022 12:33 AM

Great to see another youngster with an interest in trains. Many of the above suggestions while valid are trying to turn him into a model railroader too quickly rather than just letting him explore and grow into the hobby. 

I think you are on the right track though. Find a simple plan and go for it. Stay with the Power-Loc track. It is robust, reliable and can be reused for a different plan. When he is ready he can move to big boy modelling.

bagal

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 118 posts
Posted by Texas Zephyr on Thursday, March 3, 2022 9:11 AM

MomSonTrains
For now here is an update:

* We opened the track and put it together. I thought my fingers would break trying to put together the EZ track..it was not easy and my son can not manage clicking it together on his own at all. 

* It has been 1 week and he is already bored. He plays with it daily so I know he still has interest in it but the basic oval shape is just to simple for him. It's already time to grow.

I agree with bagal.  All of the posts have good information and advice but many are rushing the child toward being a real model railroader.

My advice is to abandon the Life-Like PowerLoc track that came with the set.  There is not enough variety in the pieces to easily create lots of track designs.  And especially if he is having a hard time connecting it.  I would stick with the flat 4x8 and get a bunch of sectional track without the road bed, that he can assemble and re-assemble into various track arrangements.  From your description it seems like he enjoys that with the wooden trains almost as much as running them.

To this day I keep a huge box of Atlas tracks and a blank 4x8 to experiment with.

Possiby buy him a book with some suggested plans in it that he can enjoy attempting to build.  .Something like this, "Atlas Custom Line Layouts" There are at least 5 variations of this book.  Not all the layouts will fit into the space but even those have arrangements that can be used as part of the smaller space.

My mother taught me how to "arrange the cars into a train WITHOUT picking them up".  She made me leave the cars on the track like a real train and figure out how to shuffle them on the track to do specific things like "get the box car right in front of the caboose", or "park the coal car onto that short track".

That can be done with a layout as simple as this 3'x4' one, I made for my children.  One has to run the loco around the entire loop to get to the "other" side of the train, but it works.

Hope this helps without being overwhelming.

 

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 8,676 posts
Posted by maxman on Thursday, March 3, 2022 5:03 PM

My only comment concerns the use of the word "investment".  I'm pretty sure that you don't mean investment in the traditional sense.  But just in case, please realize that the items you are thinking about purchasing are really toys and are no more an "investment" than a baseball, a bicycle, or a video game player.

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