A Quick Question

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by OnTrack, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. OnTrack

    OnTrack Member

    Hey everyone, im completely new to this hobby, but willing to learn all about it, and i have a quick question. Im assuming it may not be too complicated, but i plan on doing HO scale, and i was wondering what are the top brands to purchase? Are their any specific brands that "own the market"? any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. To me, its all about personal preferance. I buy only Athearn and Kato engines normally, although I have 1 or 2 Walthers and Bachmann Spectrum. As far as rolling stock goes, Athearn, Atlas and Walthers are what I normally run. I'm happy with them all
  3. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Hi Ontrack and welcome. You really opened up a fertile area for discussion with your question. I don't know if there are any "bad" brands of MR equipment anymore. Most of them have gone bye bye due to competition. Athern, Atlas, Bachman Walthers and most of the brands that you see advertised in the major publications. There are also a lot of small one person companies who do excellent niche products. As with most things, price makes a difference. Within the past few years there have been alot of improvements in models and there are still some older versions of current models around being sold by various dealers. Riverossi products comes to mind in this respect. There are still two versions of their Heisler locomotives available. The original and the "improved' version. Both run well but the newer version has better detailing and a can motor. Not to single out Riverossi, just using them as an example. You will find the same thing with most manufacturers products.
  4. OnTrack

    OnTrack Member

    Ok guys, you got me off to a good start. I appreciate how friendly you were to the new guy :D . lol Thanks!
  5. AHHH, TOTALLY forgot about one of my FAVORITE rolling stock producers... InterMountian!!! A little more spendy, but diffently worth it.
  6. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    And you can't forget Accurail cars. A minimal amount of money and work gives you an excellent looking car. Kadee is the gold standard for couplers and their cars are beautiful. (Everyone else jumped on their coupler patent when it expired) but they are still the best as far as I'm concerned.
  7. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    I think we all forgot to say... HI!! :wave: Enjoy what the gauge has to offer, OnTrack, I know I certianly do!

    I suggest you buy the new $9.99 walther's catalogue soon, before thay're al sold out, and look through there, you won't find a better resource!

    Anyways, I catagorize them like this:

    TOP ($20-$50 a car, $70-$100++ for locomotives)
    LL Proto 2000
    Bachmann Spectrum
    Broadway Limited Imports
    Walther's Platinuim Line
    Branchline trains (their passenger cars)

    Mid range ($10-$25 a car, $50-$120 a locomotive)

    IHC premier (steam only)
    Athearn R-T-R
    LL Proto 1000
    Walther's Trainline
    Branchline trains (good freight cars!)
    Walther's Gold-silver stuff
    Bachmann Silver series
    Model power Metal Train

    Low quality (either stay away from, or be willing to do major kitbashing to)

    Regular IHC
    Regular Bachmann
    Regular LL
    Model Power
    Some walther's Trainline stuff, mostly the non-trainset stuff

    There you go, hope this helps, and feel free to add! :D
  8. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member

    Not a quick question at all.

    I'd like to make some suggestions.

    Firstly, search the archives of this forum. This question, and similar questions, have been asked before by newcomers to the hobby. Many members, myself included, have gone to some lengths to respond to such questions, to relate our experiences and to offer our advice. Spend an hour or two reading past posts, and you will come away much more savvy about what to do, and what not to do.

    Secondly, don't spend a dollar until you have spent an hour reading up on the hobby. Don't spend ten dollars until you have spent ten hours. And so on . . . give yourself a couple of weeks or months deciding what you want to do, where you want to go, and what you want to buy. Thay way you will avoid many of the most common newbie mistakes, most of which stem from impatience. Diving in head-first is an invitation to disaster. Research and planning will result in an enjoyable, operator-friendly model empire.

    Model railroading is more than "just a hobby". It incorporates many different aspects of science and math as well as art — architecture, electrical and electronic engineering, model building, machining, painting backdrops, plastering hills, building bridges, and so on. It is almost infinite.

    Before you rush out and buy a trainset, ask yourself some fundamental questions that will help you define your interests:

    1.) What era do you want to model? Steam? Transition era (1950s and 1960s)? Second generation diesels (1970s and 1980s)? Modern (1990s to date)?

    2.) What railroad/railroads do you want to feature?

    3.) Do you want to run passenger trains or freight? Or mixed consists?

    4.) Are you interested in continuous running, point-to-point switching, or operations? you may not be familiar with these terms, but they are all particular aspects of running a model railroad that appeal to different people. Check them out. Most people settle on a little bit of operations with some continuous running away from the action.

    5.) What kind of geography do you want to model? What kind of terrain, what industries, urban or rural, mountain logging railroad or a subway?

    Then once you have some ideas, start to focus your reading. Find out what locomotives and rolling stock are available, and from whom, that fit within your area of interest.

    That's the first hurdle — defining what you want to do. the next challenge is determining what you can do.

    The are three main questions to be addressed here:

    1.) The first is rather obvious — what is the missus' attitude? You may have to help her realize that model railroading is more than "playing with his toys". You have to win her over to supporting your hobby, lest you come dancing through the door one day, happy as a clam with a super-duper brass Hudson retailing for $2000 that you were able to scoop for a paltry $750 — and catch a frying pan on the forehead.

    2.) That brings us to the next question — your budget. Model railroading is expensive. A good (plastic) locomotive is $200, a good freight car ranges from $20 for a kit to $50 for RTR (ready-to-run = some 14-year-old in China built it for you). A turnout, with motor and switch, will run $35, and you may end up with dozens on your layout. It's worth mentioning, so as not to scare you off, that such a layout is built over a period of several years, but it can amount to a significant piece of change.

    3.) How much space do you have for your layout? It is common for beginners to set up on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, but that is really not enough space for an HO scale layout. HO scale seems small, but trains are not. I have watched unit trains of 120 grain hoppers roll by at a crossing. 120 hoppers, with locomotive and boosters, are going to be 1200" front to back — 100' if you will. that's a pretty long train to put on a sheet of plywood! I am maybe stretching the point — we all compromise with "scale compression", and 20 or 30 hoppers give the same impression visually, but them's the facts. In HO scale, you don't want a train table. You want a train room. And FWIW, N-scale is no less expensive, has half the detail, and carries with it half the compromises in terms of space limitations.

    Those are questions to help you determine what is possible, given your situation.

    If you can answer those two fundamental questions — what you want to do and what you can do — and can resolve one with the other, you are well on your way to starting the adventure of a lifetime.

    And if you've gotten this far, forget El Cheapo trainsets. Buy quality locomotives and quality rolling stock, just a few to get going. You get what you pay for, as long as you're dealing with reputable dealers, and you will quickly be able to see the difference in quality. There is no "best" manufacturer — there are some to avoid, but the rest are pretty well even. Each kit or model must be assessed on it's own. All have weak points and strong points that differ, and it behooves oyu to determine which one you like best, based of detail, ease of assembly, paintwork, reliability, and price.

    Also, lay down a simple loop with a couple of sidings to get going, to run some trains while you develop the rest of the layout and keep your interest up.

    Next item of business is a track plan. There are "cookie-cutter" track plans available from a variety of sources. Avoid them if you can and let your own plan evolve. Kalmbach has a book by the late John Armstrong, "Track Plans for Realistic Operation", that will guide you through getting the most from your available space. It is the best book you will ever find on the subject, and an indispensible resource while you develop your layout — the best $20 you wil ever spend, I promise.

    I got into trains four years ago, after decades of modelling aircraft and tanks. I made all the newbie mistakes with my sheet of plywood, and my first layout became the backstop for my dartboard. I speak from experience, and I hope my comments have helped you get a handle on how much is involved in starting out.

    Scott Fraser
    Calgary, Alberta
  9. bigun

    bigun New Member

    from another beginner...

    I'm a beginer too, I have perhaps at most a 2 month head start on you. So whilst it's fresh in my mind I'll share my limited insight.

    a) great start - you are using this forum for advice. I was luckier still and hooked up via email with a fellow modeller who is acting as my 'mentor' - without somebody or several people to keep you honest with your ambitions, you'll very likely take on too much and end up with no railroad. Don't buy anything except books at this point and beware of magazines making huge projects look too easy. (actually, I bought one piece of Peco code 83 flextrack to admire while I do my planning !)

    b) pick two real-life railroads that capture your interest and research them. You'll end up with a favourite. This will be what you base your model on in terms of scenery, rolling stock and operations. Operations is the bit about what you do with the trains when you have them up and running.

    c) don't go for a room sized layout - dream about one, but don't make one. They take a lot of time and money and for a first layout it's risky to assume you can make the right decisions on your first layout. There must be few lucky or talented modellers out there who built a good room sized layout first time around and kept it intact for years afterwards.

    d) consider building a smaller layout, perhaps as a couple of modules which you can later build onto and extend to a larger layout later. Maybe you can add simple staging yard to the modules (places to store trains that are waiting to run through your modules). By the time you have done this you will have learned a huge amount and will make much better choices. Other people can not make these choices for you, even talented modellers, because only you will know what aspects of the hobby give you pleasure and what compromises you are happy to accept.

    have fun ! :)

  10. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Just an idea, but you will find that your first layout will b more of a primer and skills builder for later layouts. Like it has been suggested already, go for a small layout.
    Mine is 4 by 6 feet and on casters so I can move it around easily. I have a bad back and that helps a lot.
    Also I happen to like smaller layouts because I can finish them. When done i just start another one :D
    I do this about every 5 to 10 years and enjoy it a lot.
    ALso go to the library and online and rea d a LOT.
    Websites like mine [and others of course] have tons of info for beginners and also check out my links section where I have links to lots of info from many fine modelers.
    Also try to make a model of your model. It is something many of the top modelers do [like John Allen :D] and so I do it too.

    I hope that helps :)
    And mostly just have fun. :)
  11. alexander

    alexander Member

    OK. cheap, but reliable, you cant go past Athearn. my problem is that they arent being imported to Australia at the moment, or so i'm told. not sure wether its just the buyout

    Atlas also is good, but, well lets just say that your wallet will be empty that night

    as for prototype, pick somthing common, its cheaper that way (and, steam models tend to be cha cinng, expensive)

    Bachmann standard line are ok, if you get the new 8 wheel drive ones.

    Lifelike standard, well, lets hope they go by the way of the Dodo.

    do not buy a sexond hand Tyco either, there junk

    As for track planning, yes, somthing small, but, if you can fit a 10x5, or a layout with somewhat differing dimentions than a 4x8, but, still that smallish size, go for it. My layou is 2 doors togehter with hinges. cost $0.0000 AUD.

    another thing, make a track going off the edge of the layout. so you can expand later on.

    maybe you should freelance a locale, so you can model lots of scenes, like Cornfields, Desert, Moutains, etc

    just my thoughts

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