Beginner to Model Railways

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Dingo69, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Hi All,

    Well I'm new at the model railway, did a lot of models when I was in my teens but not since then and I am not looking for a hobby which I can build things myself.

    As I have been interested in trains in general I thought I would like to give it a go, start slow and if I enjoy it continue. Therefore from experience with computers the best places to start are the forums and get advice from people with experience not just from the shops.

    I live in Europe so was actually looking for a UK forum but yours popped up a few times so I thought I would start here. I have current a space of about 2m * 1.5m which can grow along the next wall should I enjoy things.

    As my other hobby is computers no doubt if I stick to this I would like to join the 2 which I have read a bit about and therefore think I need a Digital Set.

    So Questions:

    1.) In Europe I am looking at one of the 3 scales N, TT, HO, I have seen HOnm but not sure what that is. N seems to small for me I like to see details, HO is the most popular but seems to take a lot of space so I was thinking of the TT version, which has not a create range but have read a few times that it is growing.

    What do you all think, with the space I currently have?

    2.) If I want to go digital can I buy a normal set now and upgrade it to a digital controller later or must you have special tracks as well.

    3.) Any beginners points I should know, going to buy a couple of books to read and there are a few classes in the near which I will attend regarding landscaping and repairs.

    Thanks for any help.
  2. Zman

    Zman Member

    A hearty welcome to you, dingo!

    1. I would recommend N scale for a space as small as 2 by 1.5m. N scale is not as small as you might think - there is a great amount of detail possible in N. Also, manufacturers now make N scale products that are every bit as high-quality as anything in larger scales.

    2. Yes, you can build a DC layout now and later convert to DCC, but it will require some rewiring, and the installation of decoders in your engines. If you really want DCC, why not just start with DCC? At any rate, I don't think that a layout as small as yours would require DCC for satisfying operations, but a lot of modelers like to have it just for kicks. That's a matter of personal preference.

    3. Buy all the books you can and do a lot of reading. There are literally thousands of good resources in the hobby. Do you have any specific questions? Trackplans, scenery, technical? Be sure to ask us here on the forum. We love talking trains.
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Dingo,

    Welcome to The Gauge! We have members from all over the world, so we are in part a "UK" forum. Plus we've got some ex-pats here too!

    Your space is 2m x 1.5m - about 6 1/2 feet by about 4 3/4 feet. Is this the size "table" you imagine your layout on? If so, what is the room size or floor space required in total (to get around it etc)? It might be more effective to go around the walls of the room, rather than put a table in the middle of it.

    If you do want to get your computer involved, it will require digital control of a sort, especially when talking control of locomotives. Control of turnouts, lights etc, may not require DCC control of the locos...

    On to the "numbered questions":

    1) TT will not create much of a space savings over HO. TT is 1:100 scale, while HO is 1:87. On the other hand N is 1:160, so you can in fact do a lot more in the same space.

    I would pick either N or HO, depending on what you want to do. If you like running trains, and must have continuous running in that small space, then N is probably better. If you like building and detailing the models, HO would be easier on your eyesight!

    HOnm is HO scale (1:87) running on narrow ("n") metre gauge ("m") track. Roughly equivalent to North American HOn3 for HO scale, narrow gauge - 3 feet. This is compared to the standard gauge of 4' 8 1/2".

    2) As Zman mentioned above, you can switch from DC to DCC, but it may involve some wiring changes. However, contrary to his opinion about small layouts not needing DCC, I think that the smaller the layout, the more useful DCC is. If you want to operate more than one loco at a time with DC (conventional) control, you need to divide up the track into electrical blocks. Locos in the same block do the same thing (speed, direction). This can prevent close operations, like a switcher pulling a car out of a consist while the road engine waits. With DCC, locos can literally run into each other :)eek:), maintaining their independence no matter where they are on the layout.

    3) Many hobby shops and used bookstores in my area (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) have back issues of Model Railroader, and used books at pennies on the dollar compared to new. I find them a great source of useful info and inspiration.

    Hope that helps!

  4. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    :wave: welcome to the gauge there is a lot information here, learn to use the search it will get you into a lot of threads contaning the info you seek.
  5. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Welcome to the hobby. The size you have is a little tight for HO if you wish to have a circle of track but OK for what we call point to point. That is where the track goes from a dead end at edge of board to dead end at other with some switching and scenery between the 2 ends. If when you say you desire to build things yourselfe you mean from scratch HO would be as small as I would go unless you have fantastic eyes / vision. If you mean from kits N would be OK also. Whichever you deside on keep it fun. And keep an open mind to all aspects of the hobby. Scenery, weathering, buildings, people, vehicles, rolling stock, locomotives, operation, watching trains run and many more.

  6. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    TT is actually 1:120 scale. It is also an exceptionally rare scale, with very little in the way of rolling stock or models--HO or N are far more commonplace.

    Frankly, I have never seen TT scale items for sale at any hobby shop. I have run across a couple of rogue pieces at different antique/swap meets--but in general it's not something easy to find.

    As mentioned above, the space you have is okay for N and a bit cramped for HO.
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Welcome to the Gauge. I don't have anything to add to what has been said about model railroading, but here is another web site set up by an old friend of ours here at the Gauge. Paul is a Brit who models North American back woods logging, and set up his own message board. He might be able to give better advice about what is currently available in Britain than some of us here on the other side of the Atlantic.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Thanks for the correction on TT scale... :)

  9. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Thanks for the replys.

    Well as I mentioned I have a starting area of a bit less than 2m * 1.5m this is one small wall which I thought I would start on, the wall next to that is about 3m long with again about 1.5 (I limit myself to 1.5 not due to space but so that I can still reach the back part of the board to work on) I have a board which I will build the setup on and will have a backdrop of landscape.

    I have not been looking for 2 days at internet sites in Europe to see what is avaliable and must say in the area of TT not a lot is around. I have therefore decided to go either HO or N, and will start looking into them. On e-bay is a lot of starter kits and might start with them and see how I go, also have noticed that this is not the cheapest hobby you guys have. :eek:

    I am a bit worried about the wiring as I have had no experience in that area, I suppose one must learn sometime.

    Regarding the books I live in Switzerland and know a bit of German but not enough to read detailed stuff so will need to order the books from the UK or US.

    Was looking at ordering this book, any comments:
    Thanks for the help and all the onces to come. ;)
  10. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I am not familiar with that book. I was looking for the publisher but didn't see it anywhere. Maybe someone else will have more knowledge of that particular book. If you could find the publisher it would help. Most people will reccomend anything by Kalmbach or Carson publishing.
  11. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    I have found a good e-book at the UK forum which Russ Bellinis gave me thanks

    The more I look at HO the more I like it. So how much space would one need for a HO set, with a small town and mountain side?

    Question on the Brand, over here Merkin is the most popular, and the have a new Digital N starter set out 11120 still looking for a good start set for HO but in general Ho seems about 30% dearer than HO, something also to keep in mind.

    I quick question, how do brand names go together? If I buy a Merklin starter set and later tracks or trains from Roco is that still ok?
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    It is ok to mix different things from different manufacturers, with the exception being the components of DCC - e.g. for the most part you CANNOT use a throttle from one manufacturer with the command station from another manufacturer. However, decoders from one can be used with the system of another, thanks in part to NMRA standards.

    So if you buy the Marklin set, you will be able to run locos from Atlas or whoever on the track (as long as everything is the same scale and gauge).

    If you are going against the wall, I would suggest that 1.5m is too far for a good reach, unless you plan to have some way of moving the layout away from the wall. Maximum depth for permanently installed benchwork is about 30" (75cm) for most people.

  13. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Ding a light has just gone on.

    Instead of having a L shape design, have a triangle shape which would be almost 2m* 2m* 3m, by placing this "table" on wheels I could use maximuim usage of my corner. I had only thought of an "L" shape due to reaching the back of the board but by placing it on wheel I have no problem anymore, roll it a bit out into the walking space for working and then back in when finished.

    With such a size table HO would go well, just got to get the wife approval, :oops: as the orginal plan was a 2m*1.5m and if I enjoy it then extend it along the second wall. But it makes no sense to start small if I really want the HO size.

    Will let you know if its a go'er or not. Thanks for the idea of moving it MasonJar.


    Edited: To be accurate it will be 1.8m * 2.5m* 3.5m. How would this be for a HO layout.
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Sorry to contradict Andrew, but Marklin is different to everyone else.
    They operate with 3 rails using AC current. Everyone else uses 2 rails and DC current.
    If the couplings are the same you can run 2 rail cars on a 3-rail layout, but 3-rail cars create shorts on a 2-rail layout. Locomotives are incompatible. (This applies to Marklin HO. I think their Z is standard.) (Marklin track has an inner rail whick has been reduced to a little nailhead on each tie. It still works like 3-rail.)
    I think that Marklin has a brand that makes much of their 3-rail stock in 2-rail.

    Re: TT scale. It is effectively dead in North America. A few people a fighting to keep up an English version of it. I think current production is mainly in Eastern Europe.
  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Europeans use 2 narrow gauge designations. HOm is scale meter gauge. Not sure what it measures acually, pribablt 11.5 to 12 mm. HOe (etroit) is HO scale running on N gauge track. 783mm gauge prototype, not accurate for anything but much easier to model.
    Americans have HOn3 or HOn36 (feet or inches).
  16. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Dingo69: Which of those dimensions are the length and width? Those will have more effect on your layout's design than the height--a small layout will be fairly flat, aside from scenery, only a few centimeters' rise or fall is possible on a small layout. I assume that it is the 1.8mx2.5m space...a layout that size has possibilities in HO, depending on what you want to do--you can build an L-shaped or U-shaped "switching layout" that is point-to-point, or a small "oval" layout, although 6 feet wide means that you'll have trouble reaching the center of the table and probably want to include some sort of pop-out in the center. A lot of Americans build what is called a "4x8" layout, based on the size of a standard sheet of plywood (about 1.2mx2.5m) but it isn't really the best possible use of the space--a lot of room in the middle of those loops just goes to waste.
  17. ausien

    ausien Active Member

    A bit late dingo, but welcome to the gauge, I am even farther away from you than most, I am in sydney aus. and I model "N" scale, and I am 50 ++ , the details a great and getting even better. but the best thing about "n" scale, is you CAN fit in twice the empire you can in "HO"scale, in the same space... I also dabble in scratch building and thats not that much harder to do in "N" as "HO" ....

    that book you mentioned likes to be not to bad, but I did notice that some of the listed info was/may be wrong.. I have used water and dish soap as a wetting agent for my ballast for over 15yrs and no problems..... but then again there are proberbly 50 members here on the gauge that would argue that, and another 50 that would suport it.. but that IS what makes the gauge the best forum out there, they all would give there opinion without flaming, or insulting each other... there are many, many great modelers here in all scale`s, its just that a lot of them/us have our preferd way of doing things....

    just to push my "N" scale piont a bit more, have a look at the archive thread( robin at his best) all his scratch builts are great...

    hope I have been of some help, if only to confuse things a little...have a good one..steve
  18. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Hmmm, sat down last night to have a serious think about what and how I want the setup to end like, and could not see myself happy with a simple track and a bit of landsape, knowing myself I would get bored with that..

    This means I would like in the end to have a small town, farm land and even a mountain range, keeping in mind the space I have, I would guess I have little choice but to go for scale N.

    Currently looking at one of the following starting packs:


    T11120 Trix Systems Era IV Super Start Set with 2 trains and large oval track

    based on the following prototypes of the German Federal Railroad. 1 express train, consisting of: 1 class 003 steam locomotive, 1 express train locomotive, 1st class Am 202, 1 express train locomotive, 2nd class Bm 232, 1 express train dining car WR-4üm-64, 1 express train car, 2nd class with baggage compartment BDms 273. 1 freight train, consisting of: 1 class 221diesel locomotive, 1 dump car, 1 tank car, 1 stake car, 1 refrigerator car. Both locomotives are equipped with DCC Selectrix locomotive decoders.
    Model: Era IV, motors with flywheel, each with 4 powered axles. Car with close coupler mechanism, can be retrofitted with interior lighting in the passenger cars. With Trix Mobile Station and transformer, large oval track 150 x 50 cm / 59-1/16 x 19-11/16", passing siding with 2 curved turnouts and storage siding with 2 turnouts, uncoupler track and 2 track bumpers. Can be extended with the entire Minitrix track program. All turnouts can be retrofitted with the 14934/14935 electric mechanisms.

    Highlights: Super start in the new digital age With Trix Mobile Station in Trix Systems / DCC format Two complete trains 4 turnouts and uncoupler track


    FLE69369 - Regional Express Digital Starter Set Scale N
    sample site:

    Contains 1 digital diesel class 218 loco with headlights DCC chip, 2
    double decker coaches, 1 double decker coach with cab control, 1 Twin
    Track Control centre.

    Extended oval of track plus station loop - (23 pieces of track). Train
    length 602mm.

    Operation via: 2 rail Digital DC system (compatible with DCC or FMZ
    equipped Minitrix, Graham Farish etc)

    Track included is Fleischmann N Piccolo track - full profile rails and
    moulded ballast bed.

    Price wise the Fleischmann is a bit more expensive even though it has only 1 train, maybe some one can explain why.

    Ok Hope this works first here is a plan of the space I have and my long term idea.
  19. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    Hiya & Welcome To The-Gauge. As you can see everyone here is very helpful when you ask a question.
  20. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    A note about Marklin: "Trix" is Marklin's line of DC-powered equipment, as opposed to the AC-powered Marklin HO equipment, so the Trix stuff should work fine with any other manufacturer's N scale equipment. The main question is, are you planning on modeling European railroading (the set includes a German loco and cars) or were you planning on modeling some other part of the world--British, American, Australian? Or is it not that important?

    As far as the railroad's setting goes, you might want to give some thought to what it is you want the railroad to do--that helps drive the kind of scenery you will put on it. You can just make a train that runs in circles around the countryside of course, but most model railroaders include stations and industries on their model railroads so they can simulate the kind of work that real railroads do. Mining, logging, agricultural products, industrial materials, manufacturing, ports, passenger service, commuter service, bridge traffic (basically carrying stuff from a railroad on one end to a railroad on the other end) or a combination of several of the above, and plenty of other's something to think about, so you can have some ideas to pursue when watching the train go 'round and 'round gets old.

    And I think the name is spelled "Marklin." "Merkin" is an euphemism in American slang for, well, the same thing that the name of our President is an euphemism for...

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