Beginners: Learn from my mistakes!

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by w8jy, May 16, 2007.

  1. w8jy

    w8jy Member

    As a beginner (did some HO stuff years ago), I probably am not qualified to give advice. But, if a person learns from their mistakes, I have gotten quite well educated!

    Before you buy ANY equipment - get a couple of books: Basic wiring, Basic DCC, etc. Yeah, I know, no one reads anymore and the internet has everything you need. However, I have found that many of the internet sites overly complicate things, and unless you are smarter than I, you can get very confused. One exception to this: I read almost every post on this forum and discovered answers to many of my questions. There a lot of very knowledgeable people here with years of experience that are willing to help.

    I did everything wrong that can be done (or it least it seems that way). Not knowing much, I thought that buying a couple of train sets would be an economical way to get started. Unfortunately, I bought some Bachmann sets that came with EZ-track. I know some folks on this forum use it, but I discovered some severe limitations, but only after I had bought enough track to complete a layout. I found that the curved sections only come in two sizes - too large and too tight! The switches only worked after much reworking, and not always even then. I discovered that DC operation limited my operation unless I was willing to throw several switches. I looked into DCC and was so intimidated by some of the DCC wiring websites that I almost threw in the towel.

    So, I got some good basic books and started reading - which I should have done before I started.

    The layout got torn down, and is now being done using PECO code 55 track.
    What flexibility! I can make all the curves long enough so that I can run any equipment (and I am a steam nut)! The switches work well - no comparison to my earlier experience. Flextrack is marvelous stuff!

    I discovered that if wiring works for DC, it should work for DCC. It is not as complicated as it sounds.

    So, when I get the track laid, I will have a decent operating layout, reducing derailments and other problems. I have a DCC controller that will hook up as easily as DC.

    But, I have tons of track I can't use and several locomotives that cannot be converted to DCC (at least without major rebuilding) I guess that means a lot of items will be sold through e-bay so that I can at least recover a little of my mis-spent money.

    My wife has been very understanding about all this, and she is continuing to work on painting vehicles, building buildings, etc., that will eventually end up on the layout. (She also makes trees, thank goodness - I don't do that well).

    So, the moral is: Learn before you buy - you can save a lot of expense and frustration!
  2. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    w8jy: Your post should be framed in red and put at the head of the website in a permenent location. Its surprising how many new folks come to The Gauge and ask questions that you just answered, but, after they have bought a trainset or a bunch of stuff on ebay.
    As for reading books and even magazines, there seems to be a lot of resistance to doing that, as you mentioned. Folks, you gotta read to get information and a book is much easier to sit back with in a comfortable chair than a computer monitor is. Yeah, I know about laptops, so don't send me a reply about them.
    Sorry to sound grumpy but your thread is so true it got me all fired up.
    Jim Krause
  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Great post. A person really really needs to read read read before spending a bunch of money on stuff.
  4. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    You hit the nail on the head..!! Read, read, and when you're tired...Read SOME MORE..!! I found this out while doing R/C planes a loonnnggg time back. The guys at the club thought I was the cat's whiskers...My planes flew quite well, the motors didn't flame out, and generally I managed to go home with my planes in one piece. They figured I must have been born with a gift to make planes fly....NOT..!! I read everything I could lay my hands on to make them fly. My buddies looked through the same mags, but they didn't actually read them... So while advice is good, learning things first hand makes for better results....
  5. woodone

    woodone Member

    Sounds like a lot of wisdom here- I have books and books, and keep getting more. Keep going back and re reading them all the time. The more you know about something the better. Sometime you will read two differant ideas about something. You might even have a better idea, but it is nice to compare notes and go from there.
  6. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I agree, there is plenty of wisdom in the starting post from w8jy.
    I'm from the old school when every piece of electronic equipment purchased included an user manual and a technical manual ( yes, real manuals on real paper , not just a CDROM )
    I try to purchase one model railroad book every 2 months.
    So I think I'm at the opposite side of the spectrum: I read too much and don't model enough:)
    Every N scale modeler should ( imho ) purchase a copy of at least 1 book , it's from Marty McGuirk: N Scale Model Railroading: Getting Started in the Hobby

  7. waredbear

    waredbear Member

    Over Analyze

    My wife says over and over again that I "Over Analyze" everything. I buy books and books about my "idea or plan" for the moment and drop everything else. Which is true! We were planning on taking a cruise to Alaska so I bought books (An Idiots Guide to Alaska) and books about the ports in Alaska and how to cruise. I joined a few Forums to read about others trips and ideas. I signed-up to travel sites to receive their information. I feel now like I could make some some very edumacated guesses on what to see and do if and when we get the money to take that cruise.

    The same goes for my new hobby of Model Trains. I've bought books and magazines, signed-on to forums (like this wonderful site :-D) and am visiting the two local RXR clubs. But I did jump the gun...I HAD to have some trains so I jumped on Evil-Bay and bought a few ($300) trains in a weekend. Some are good (DCC ready) and some are not what I want (changed my mind on the layout type). But I continue to learn. So I know that I will be ready :confused: when the day comes that I finally start laying down my track...that is with the help of you wonderful people and the club guys. :neutral:

  8. CAS

    CAS Member

    I strongly agree with everyone here.

    I am still very new to MRRing. I like to read and reread all my books i have. There were several times i skipped sections thinking i won't be doing that on my layout. But guess what, the came when i was doing it on my layout. So back to reading that article, paragragh that i skipped in the first place.

    ANd reading the post here. They are written by very experienced, helpful, and great people. I go back to the beginnings of each section to read all the post. I enjoy the work, and photo's that everyone has done :) :) .

  9. berraf

    berraf Member

    Jess, thanks for your post. It's really good and worth taking care of in many ways. It should be under "Sticky" :)
  10. Pat Hansen

    Pat Hansen New Member

    Thank you all so much for the generosity of advice. I've already scanned through a lot of threads and hopefully with that and a book or two I can't mess it up too bad.

    I have attached the photos of the Living Desert outdoor setup. It literally has 15-20 different trains all running and takes up close to half a football field. Enjoy, I know we did!

    Attached Files:

  11. woodone

    woodone Member

    From the looks of the pictures, we have a new Model Railroader in the very near future.:thumb:
    Always good to see kids having a good time!
  12. coachC

    coachC Member

    I've been reading for two years now and haven't even started a layout, just a few weathering attempts on freight cars. I think I may like reading about model railroading more than I would like actually doing it. I am not very patient. I am worried about building structures, laying track and wiring. Everything else such as scenery, I think I can handle. I'm a little scared to get started. I probably have enough room for a 4x8 but I keep making excuses not to start. However, I agree reading all you can is well worth it, and I enjoy it.
  13. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    You are correct on the "fright" factor. That is the major thing that has held me back in the past. I was afraid to do something for fear of doing it wrong. But, I have discovered, 4 out 5 times, it comes out okay or better, and if it doesn't come out okay, just use it as a learning experience, then rip it out and start over. In model railroading, there isn't much that can't be redone until it is satisfactory. Oh, it may cost a little money to tear things out, but the lessons learned are well worth it.
  14. shelbys_dad

    shelbys_dad Member

    We all learn from our mistakes, thats where we gain experience. When someone shares their errors with others, really helps the "new guys" as long as they paid attention. My father always said "If your going to get into this hobby, plain for everything you can think of then take your lifetime plaining on everything you can't think of".
  15. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    coach I agree with gary about the fear factor( I know I have had it). But as I was reminded a day or two ago I am missing out of all the fun of running the trains. Take the plung the waters great.
  16. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    That boy is surely going to be one of us...!!! Great picture..!! Thanks Pat.

    CoachC...We all get things wrong at some time (some of us, most of the time) It's the nature of the beast. But, like it's been said...ripping stuff out is half the fun..!!
    Just do it..!!
  17. DahlELama

    DahlELama New Member

    Ya know.... this kind of hobby is a real killer on impulsive folks (like me). I'm the kind of person who, when I get interested in something I pull the trigger full on and then it is all or nothing. Between dirtbikes, nitro RC cars and now trains... I have finally come to realize that "leaping before I look" often will take the fun out of something like this (especially when boss-lady has to step in and apply the brakes manually). OK... that sounds like I am on step 11 of some 12 step self help plan ;)

    This is a great thread...these forums are a wealth of information. Take some time... do some planning (not too much) and then dig in piece by piece and enjoy the evolution.

  18. w8jy

    w8jy Member

    There have been a couple of references to "the fear factor", and I can totally understand that. However, keep in mind that a layout is a continually evolving project.
    I have done some things (trackwork, scenery, buildings, etc.) that I have decided immediately were not adequate and had to go or be redone. Some other things I have looked at and decided that they were good enough for the time being, but I would get back to them later. And occasionally (and not often enough), I would finish something and decided I really liked it and it had turned out the way I had originally envisioned it. I am discovering that as I gain experience, I am more likely to be satisfied with the way I have done things.
    So, don't be afraid to dive in and give it a try - things can always be re-done later. Get some trains running early on - it provides the incentive to continue.

    Even some of the real pros on this forum continually re-build their layouts. I have seen some sections they have torn out that are better than I could ever hope to do. Everyone has their own level of skill, and I find that I can totally enjoy this hobby even if I never attain the level of a Doctor Wayne and his peers.

    If you have problems, ask questions. The folks on this forum are always happy to help.

    Remember this is YOUR hobby - you can do things the way YOU want - as long as you are enjoying yourself, that is the important thing.
  19. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    I haven't done this in years, so I've been taking head and reading quite a bit. Went out and picked up a couple of issues of Model Railroader tonight and after reading this I ordered that N Scale Model Railroading: Getting Started in the Hobby book from Indigo/Chapters.

    I guess before I start buying tons of crap I'll have to sit down and look at things a bit closer. I'm going to go buy some track tomorrow. I'm not starting a full blow layout anytime soon, but I'm buying some flex track, straights, and curves so I can play around and figure out what I want to do.

    That being said, ebay has some great prices, but what should one look out for?
  20. Tomytuna

    Tomytuna New Member 2cents worth..I originall built my layout on old playwood (1/4inch? it was old) and scrap 2x's laying around the cellar...All the track warrped and trains ran lousy...moral of story...benckwork makes good running trains..all new layout section now 3/4 ply built like a rock...still have section to take down and rebuild..all the best...Tom

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