A few questions

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by YmeBP, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    I'm new to model railroading, i have some power loc tracks and i have a c(^pload of questions :), i think most will be answered in time but here are a few of the really basic ones. My apologies if i'm retreading, i've done quite a bit of reading in the forums already but some answerrs are eluding me. :oops:

    1) What does "siding" mean in this context and why is it important?

    2) maybe should have been number 1:) where can i find a good "glossary" of terms common to the hobby so i can understand better what i read on the forum. I've purchased 2 dcc and layout books from amazon but they won't be here until after xmas.

    3) is there a way to repair powerloc track? My 2 year old thought pretending he was godzilla was a good idea when i was setting up my track. Now i have a few straights that the end of them have come up off the road bed. I'm good w/ a fine point soldering iron and i have extra plastic i can melt, a 3 hands system and a vice.

    4) i've been using scotch brite (had flashbacks to my trc racing set days hehehe) to clean the rails, some stubborn ones w/ a dremel. Is there a best practice cleaning powerloc , and can you point me to somewhere w/ some tips on how to keep my track clean?

    5) i bought some of my stuff at yard sales and ebay, i have 2 engines that the little rubber "tires" have dry-rotted, theya re life like loco's, is there a wikipedia on these or a faq on the parts that i can maybe create new ones, or buy new trucks?

    If this is the incorrect forum, my apologies in advance
  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    A siding is a track branching off the mainline. If you want to be picky, a siding is a track used to allow trains to pass.
  3. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member


    You might want to determine what kind of track you have... There are three types of track out there right now: Brass, Steel, and Nickel Silver. Brass and Steel track tarnish very easily and lose their electrical conductivity, necessitating very frequent cleaning. Nickel Silver on the other hand still conducts electricity even when tarnished, so it needs cleaning a lot less often. If the track you have is brass or steel, you might want to consider replacing it with nickel silver track.

    As far as the LifeLike engines go, the ones with the traction tires (the rubber tires that dry rotted on your locos) are the cheap, low-quality toy trains with pancake motors that are very unreliable. I would suggest throwing that stuff out and get some better-quality engines instead. LifeLike actually has two different product lines-- Their toy line (which are the unreliable cheap stuff) and their Proto line. Their Proto stuff is top-notch and very well-regarded. If you want to buy LifeLike engines, make sure you are getting either a Proto 1000 or Proto 2000 piece. Other good locomotive makers: Athearn, Atlas, Kato, etc.

    Hope this helps.
  4. 91rioja

    91rioja Member


    The January 07 issue of Model Railroader has a story with a glossary of common used terms.
  5. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Thanks for the heads up on the loco's. Currently i'm building up my skills and knowledge on some of the stuff i can afford to break :), then i plan ot get into some of the better built engines and trian cars, and have my 2 sons work on the toy stuff until they get more experience. The proto/regular was one of my other questions thanks for reading my mind, i saw a couple ads on ebay for proto stuff didn't know why it was 4x the cost of regular. I'll hunt around on ebay for some more of the lower quality locos to have as parts machines for when something breaks.

    The other question you answered was why the nickelsilver was 2x the cost of the regular black roadbedded power loc. i have a ton of the steel track and can't really afford to throw it away right now .. i actually bought more on ebay recently, im thinking i may turn one of my extra engines into a track cleaning car. That would be a fun project.
  6. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Thanks i'll pick up a copy on the way home today!!
  7. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    so if i have a loop attached to a switch like this:

    | \ <-- siding.
    | \

    the leg is a siding? Brings up questions of power. I'll have to dig into that power supply wiring sticky i saw in this forum. Thanks !! :thumb:
  8. Thoroughbreed

    Thoroughbreed Member

    Instead of throwing those engines out, Gut them and use them for dummies. Do a lil detail work on them to look more prototypical, and set them on diesel service area. Open up the doors, it will take a lil work and have to buy some doors, and put it in the "shop" with a mechanic working on it.
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The Proto 2000 has a lot of small details on the locomotive. That is why it costs 4x the price of standard Lifelike locomotives. That is also why it is not a good choice if you have a 2 year old who can get his hands and mouth on it. The Proto 1000 series uses the Proto 2000 running gear, but there isn't the detail on it that the Proto 2000 has. The price is probably only 2x the price of standard toy Lifelike locomotives. I think I would still keep it out of the reach of a 2 year old. Even toy train sets sold at Toys-R-Us come with a warning that they are not for children under 3 years old. I would not be in a big hurry to get down a lot of track or build a layout. It sounds like you may have already learned about steel track the "hard way." If you want to build a train set to run around the Christmas tree, that is ok, but before you buy a bunch of stuff to build a layout with, you need to study and learn more about model railroading to keep from making mistakes. If there is a hobby shop near you with a dedicated train dept. and people who are knowledgeable about model trains, that is a better resource for you than toy or dept. stores. Knowledgeable people at the hobby shop can direct you away from the substandard toy stuff to the better running model railroad models. It may seem at first that they are directing you into something more expensive, but in the long run the enjoyment of equipment that runs reliably will be much better than a lot of cheap stuff that does't work. If you are going to make any sort of permanent layout, I think you will want to get away from Power Lock, Easy Track, or any of the other track with the plastic roadbed built in to flex track mounted on rubber or cork road bed. The flex track is less expensive, and when installed correctly, it works much better than the individual track sections.
  10. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Sage advice :). The setup i have now is really for learning the in's and outs. I plan to build a room in the attic and put up a table and all that fun stuff this summer and by then i'd like to have my legs under me at least and i think this cheap stuff is great for that. Not only does it help me but i can give it to my oldest and he can learn on it w/o fear (he's 7) and my youngest (2) likes godzilla sign1.

    I went to hobby hut today and saw some of the upper end loco's. They are absolutely stunning, reminded me of some of the engines i've seen at the trianshows. Marklin was one brand and they had some other brand i don't remember. I've heard about the marklin stuff, little out of my price range but .. i'm working on it hahahahha.
  11. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Just to add to Russ's information...

    Detailing is not the only reason why the Protos cost so much more than Life Like's regular toy line. The mechanism is also a big reason.

    The regular toy line uses a flat pancake motor mounted in the truck tower, with its armature geared directly to the axles in the truck. This mechanism is weak, jerky, and unreliable in picking up power from the rails because two of the wheels have those traction tires on them and cannot pick up power. The pancake-drive locos usually only have one powered truck (not all the wheels are driven).

    On the other hand, the Protos havel center-frame-mounted motors, with flywheels to help the loco coast past dirty spots in the track, and driveshafts and gears that moves all the wheels. None of the wheels have traction tires, which means they all can be used for electrical pickup. That's why we recommend getting the Protos-- Not only because they look nicer, but they work much more reliably too.

    Your 7-year-old son is probably old enough to handle the trains with enough care. I would definitely keep the nice stuff away from your 2-year-old son though for a few more years.

    Hope this helps!
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There are 2 types of siding: the spur, which is a dead end off the main line,and the passing siding where a pair of switches divide a single track in two for a distance, like, over a train length.
    There are 3 types of electrical wiring in switches (aka turnouts). The basic "snap switch" has all the rails powered all the time. This was made for trainset use. The second is "insulfrog"* (frog is where the two rails cross; look up a good horse book to see why). In this one of the rails the switch isn't set for is dead. The final is "electrofrog"* where all the rails are connected. In this one the two rails the switch isn't set for are connected and at the same polarity. If you feed from the frog end, you get a short unless you do a bit of extra wiring. The Lifelike switches will be one of the first 2 types. If they're type 2, you can put a loco on a siding and hold it there.
    I don't know if you can repair track after Godzilla has been at them. You might be able to cut off one end and use the rest at the end of a siding.
    Likelike's track won't mate with the other types out there.
    Don't worry about the steel track vs nickel silver yet. Things will work pretty well for a few years, or until Godzilla has mangled it all.
    * insulfrog and electrofrog are terms used by Peco, who make really good track. We use them because nobody else has words that work as well.
  13. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Amen to Russ's comments. I see so many messages on The Gauge about " I got this great deal on Ebay" only to have them start describing all of the things wrong with the equipment that they got a good deal on.
  14. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Sweeeeet ;). Are you kidding this helps tremendously!! I was goign to skip a lot of nickel silver track but managed to get it cheeeeep :). I talked w/ my son today he is ready to get started building our room ... in the winter hahaha. He's dying for a more permanent layout.

    I have been pricing dcc starter sets, i plan to go full dcc after xmas. Is it worth the trouble to buy decoders for the toy ones and then reuse them when i get nice engines?
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I would not bother putting decoders in the toy trains. At the modular club, since we went to dcc having clean track and clean wheels has become of utmost importance. It may be because we are using a wireless throttle system, but I'm not sure you can get good enough pick up out of the toy locomotives to make them work properly in dcc.
  16. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    I'm learning there is probably a reason why it's a "good deal" hahahaha :oops:. All in all i can't be too upset though, now even my wife is interested and that is priceless. I found her down in the basement today w/ the 2 boys running the trains. She even agreed to let me cut a hole in the ceiling to add a stair case to the attic for our trian room!!

    I've been poking around on ebay, using what i've gotten from this thread so far. I've found a set of very inexpensive all wheel drive bachmann engines. I've done some googling on them and they seem to carry the characteristics of a decent engine save the super fine detail on the shell. The model line is called ez dcc, or dcc onboard. They are selling for the 30$ range which is right up my alley price wise. I've also taken a liking to some Athearn engines but i'm getting confused w/ the coupler types. I've read a couple of threads on couplers, and i think i'm going to do a little more research before switching from the tyco/toy hook style coupler.
  17. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Yme, I think you're right to stick with the horn-hooks for the kids. They probably are
    not really concerned with the appearance. The horn-hooks are cheap (usually free:D )
    and rugged. You can start messing with couplers when you start modeling for yourself!:thumb:
  18. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member


    You don't have to look at only Ebay for good deals. Today I received a whole bunch of stuff I ordered from Toy Train Heaven, and they got a great selection of brand new Athearn Blue Box engines (all-wheel-drive, all-wheel-electrical-pickup, flywheel-motored) for cheap.

    I bought three AMD103s from them (so I can do a P32AC-DM kitbash) for just $23 apiece. They also got the Super Weight blue-box F-units (the superweights make them very powerful pullers) for under $30, plus hood units like Geeps and SDs for under $40.

    These Athearn blue box locos are built very solidly and are very good value for the beginner, and these Athearn BBs are also easily converted to DCC by putting in a Digitrax DH123AT or DH163AT Decoder.

    For your kids I would get a few of those SuperWeight F-units. They don't have much delicate detail and they are built like tanks. :thumb:

    Check it out! http://www.toytrainheaven.com/.sc/ms/cat/HO Locos Athearn--Blue Box Locos
  19. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Thansk again!! This is great!! You are right about the prices. It looks like in some cases w/ these trains ebay is actually a little more money than retailers. I found Loy's Toy's for dcc and they have been consistently cheaper than ebay. I wonder if we could start a forum for favorite shops?

    I took a look at that site and i instantly got butterflies, those amtrak trains are beautiful, i want to build the philadelphia 30th street station train yard. O.k. so i have a bunch of nickel silver atlas track, and i bought 1 athearn loco, i'm probably goingto pick through this site and buy 1 or 2 more for this season and then concentrate on getting the room together to put the final layout.

    Sort of a side question: Budgeting. I am on a limited budget, i have a bunch of running trians now that i can play with. In your experience where is money best spent when one is starting out in this hobby. I am an avid r/c car nut and have been for the last 20 years so i have lots of hobby tools already.


    The advice, information and willingness to help from the folks on this board is invaluable, thank you!! :thumb:
  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Where is money best spent?
    On some decent quality, sturdy basics.
    A control system that can deliver power and also provide low speed control. (Problem if you plan to convert to DCC in the near future.)
    A couple of nice solid locomotives. Some that don't have lots of fragile detail, but have mechanisms that will keep going.
    A set of books: you might fiind a single book that covers most of the topics, something like "Building the Santa Fe in 4'x8' in HO Scale", but you probably should buy a book on benchwork, wiring, track planning, and scenery.
    Assume that your first few layouts will be learning -- one of the joys for a youngster is taking the track apart and re-arranging it. You canchange the layout on a flat table quite easily, but building bechwork with cut-out roadbed locks you into your plan a bit more.

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