beginners questions

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by billflis, Nov 27, 2004.

  1. billflis

    billflis New Member

    Hello..... I am interested in starting this hoby and have some initial questions i was hoping someone could help me with. I would like to build from the ground up and am looking for some basic information as to suggested scale, model lines/brands, etc.,. I would like to consider price as well as ease to work with when selecting the scale, brand, or model.

    I envision a layout approx the size of a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood, unless that is simply to small to do much with. I also am interested in building as much of the scenery from scratch as i can, i.e.,. wilderness/buildings/etc.,. -what scale would lend itself to this the most?

    I am not looking to do this overnight...i would like to begin with a track layout and then build around it, so i am in no great hurry. could you also estimate for me what i would need to budget just for the track/train equipment itself?

    any information on this or anything else i should know before starting would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Welcome to the Gauge Bill. For price and availabilty I would suggest HO gauge. For a 4X8 layout with a lot of scenery, I would suggest N gauge. A budget would depend on many factors such as where you live and what hobby stores are in you area. Where I live a basic setup would probably come in at around $300 depending on how much track and turnouts etc
  3. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hiya, Bill! :wave:

    Go down to the Local Hobby Shop and look around at the different
    equipment available. Grab a couple of those Atlas books on model
    railroading, wiring, and layouts. Pick up a copy of Model Railroader
    magazine. There are so many different ways to go, it helps a lot
    to do some reading and try to focus in on the parts you really like!!

    Are you interested in older steam locomotives :cool: or more modern
    diesels? :p

    You can 4x8 in any scale up to O (1/48). Personally, I would plan
    something a little bit larger unless you're going N-scale. :D :D

    There is a lot of modelling to do even without a layout!! Small
    dioramas, kit building, loco weathering, etc. if it's the modelling
    aspect you like. It's all up to you ... have a ball!! :thumb: :thumb:

    Where you at??
  4. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Thanks for asking those questions Bill. I am a bit undecided yet. I am doing HO since its availability and size. I cant help but smaile when I see N scale trains, theyre so cute and small. Kinda intricate I think. I dunno about size either. I cant go much bigger than 6X8 or so. I've made up a variety of plans, none that I really like. I'm going for something involving passenger operation maybe tying some coal into it for a power plant, or something for a sugar refinery. My passenger ops involves old style steam locomotives. My main city alone is 5X5. Please help! Any advice is needed.
  5. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hey Clark,
    Maybe you need to go around the wall !!

    Anyway, keep in mind that a 4x8 layout with 2'
    of clearance around it takes up an 8' x 12' space. :thumb:

    An 8x12 'C' shape has almost twice the real estate in
    the same area and much longer straights! Not to say
    it's the best way, but something to consider. :confused:

    An 8x12 with a duckunder has even more area and better
    access. If you can stand the duckunder ... :D :D

    If your table is 6 feet wide, you can't reach the middle
    of the layout without access holes inside anyway. :eek:
  6. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Cid- I certainly dont mind a duck under, i had a C shape going. I think a duckunder is a great idea. Thanks a lot!!!!
  7. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    I think the first reply said it best; get some books and magazines, and start trying to decide what you like. Visit a good hobby shop that has a lot of stuff in stock (if you can find one near you) to get a good 'feel' for what the different scales look like. Also, this is the prime time of the year to visit club layouts and some searching on the internet to find clubs near you who may have open houses.
    That said, I offer a couple of comments since I just got back into it a year or so ago.
    HO is by far the scale with the widest variety of products available. If your desire is to build from scratch and not kits, however, then this won't matter as much. You just can't beat HO for the selection, but it does take up a fair amount of space to make any kind of layout.
    N scale has come a long way and is a worthy competitor. You can make a much larger layout in the same space for about the same money. Selection is substantially smaller, however. The current thrust in locos and rolling stock really favors 'modern' railroading, and structure kits are far more limited than in HO. Again, if you are scratchbuilding, this isn't as big of a deal.
    Aside from scenery items, I bought almost all of my N equipment via Ebay to get started. Here's a rundown of approximate prices paid for my layout which is mounted on a hollow core house door:
    Track: several auctions worth, probably have 50-75 pieces of sectional track (Atlas). With the exception of turnouts (most bought new at the store) I probably have no more than $50 invested.
    Turnouts: bought new at the LHS, probably about $100 worth
    Power pack: used but in original box MRC Tech II, $30
    Locos: four, 3 brand new, 1 used, total about $60 (3 LL and 1 Atlas)
    Rolling stock: lots of used Atlas, new/used Trix, couple other brands. I usually pay about $6 each (incl shipping) on average. M-T brand I pay more as they are nicer and worth it. I will have to change a lot of couplers though, to make everything compatible. If I were to do it over, I'd probably just stick to M-T brand stuff.
    Scenery: two rolls of plaster cloth $20, foam board at Lowe's $15, no trees yet, ground foam assortment $30, mis-tint paint at Lowe's $3, Harbor Freight table legs for the door $25.
    This results in a runnable layout with mountains and covered with ground paint and foam.
    One other comment before I stop, I'd reconsider the 4x8 'sheet' and look at other designs. It's too easy to wind up with a 'racetrack on a prairie' with a flat sheet of plywood in a big rectangle. Shelf layouts that run around a room perimeter, open grid benchwork, L shaped (as suggested above), all are things you ought to look at to keep from building something you wind up getting bored with pretty quickly.
  8. billflis

    billflis New Member


    Wow. thanks for the response everyone....i'm overwhelmed a bit. i didn't realize this was quite so complicated. i guess more research is needed. i will need to start with the hobby store here and see first hand.....even the terms are confusing ('c' shapes, duckunders, turnarounds....) but i'm at least pointed in the right direction. major point i should have made is that i am not interested in newer model locos....looking for something much more traditional ...does one brand or scale lend itself more to this? so from what i gather, i should begin by looking closely at HO or N, right? ....and am i limited to layout design by the track alone, or is this fairly easy to free form? i don't want a giant circle on a board....something with a little character would be nice.

    thanks for the info ....keep it coming.

    Beginning in Green Bay

    Go Pack.

  9. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    The main limitation in layout design is space for curves. If you can live without a traditional "loop", as well as the traditional 4x8 chunk of plywood, you can do a lot more per square foot of layout space.

    Research is good, but don't overdo it. If you already have a general sense of what era and geographic region you want to model, go ahead and start out by buying an engine and some rolling stock. It sounds like you like steam--get yourself a small steam engine and some 40' wood boxcars, maybe a caboose.

    In terms of scale, HO scale is generally the most flexible and least expensive. It's big enough to be easy to work with, small enough to fit quite a bit in a relatively small space, and it's the most common scale so there are lots of manufacturers.

    You can "practice" building a larger layot by starting out with a mini layout--as small as 1'x4' in HO scale (or even less space in N) can be enough to build a simple switching layout that will teach you, with minimal investment, how to lay track, do basic wiring, and do a little bit of operation. You'll even have a little room to try your hand at scenery and structure building, without breaking the bank. Later on, you can tear this mini layout up or use it as a part of a bigger layout.
  10. rcline

    rcline Member

    Hello Bill - When others were talking about "C" shapes, I think that they meant that the table was shaped in the letter "C". When they were talking about duckunders, they meant that you will have to duck under part of the table to get to parts in the middle. Some people have built what they call a "bone" pattern layout, that looks like a big dog bone with 180 degree curves at both ends so you can make a complete loop as well as having several more lines,(tracks) comming off it.
    My layout looks like the letter "E", with my village on one leg, my town or city on the middel leg and my round house and railyard is the other leg. My table is 40" high so I don't have to bend over.
    Some people have built what they call a liftgate, thats where you have a gate (small section of table that lifts up) with track running across it so that you just lift part of the table instead of ducking under it. Another thing that you should keep in mind is that when you are building your set, design your layout so that you don't have to reach across any distance. You don't want to have to reach any farther than the length of your arm. Although the middle leg of my layout is 4' wide, I can walk all around it and not have to reach any farther than about 2'. The way I did my layout was that I planned on how to lay my track out, then figured out where I wanted to put mountains and hills, then I started figuring where I wanted to place buildings, (now bare in mind that every few minutes you "Will Be" changing your mind AGAIN!)
    Now do a search for a freeware program called "RightTrack Freeware version 5.0", that is a really neat program to help you lay out track and you can tell just how big it will be in real life. You can set it for about any size gauge and it has all the different curves, (15",18" 22" and so on) as well as all the different size and shape of switches, straight track, short peices of track, crisscrossings and all the other styles of track.
    By the way, Happy railing and welcome to the "House of Clickity Clack".
    Dang nabit!- My wife is trying to put the county dist. barn and trucks in the middle of the farmers barn yard! I already spotted two dead chickens out there and the cows got out where she broke the fence down.
  11. ausien

    ausien Active Member

    The best advice I could give you would be, JUST ENJOY. what ever gauge/ scale you choose, but as has been said before, go to the hobby shop and have a good look around.
    I model N, myself, but as i get older my lights are dimmin and the bits get fiddley, I have been thinking of going to (ho) but the investment is a bit to moch for me, so I will stay with N,...... have a good one..steve...
  12. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    See how easy it is to get good advice? Cheap too! The guys on this forum are amazing.
    I'm also new to modeling. I echo Cid's comments about overextending your reach. I have a 8' x 11' "L" shaped layout with each leg being 4' wide. Makes for an awfully long stretch. I did put the whole thing on wheels so I can get to the back and far side when I need to without losing the addditional 2' of real estate on these two sides. I'm thinking of cutting an access hole under a removable mountain. If I did it over, I wouldn't build a reach over 30".
  13. billflis

    billflis New Member

    thanks again.

    i am impressed by the responses. i'm also encouraged by those who suggested not to make this too hard, but rather just start slow and have fun. i'm now toying with the layout in terms of the board itself....i already learned to build it higher (more comfort) than i would have and avoid reaches...i'm gonna try and come up with some type of 'hinged' layout where i could possibly fold half of it down or up for storage ...does that sound possible?? if i build a 'seam' into the whole thing, i thought i might get it to work...two pieces of removeable track with a seam in the carpet should be workable...or am i way off base? how hard would it be to have two pcs of track i can pop in and out to allow for this? is that possible? everything on the 'movable' section i would anchor down permanetly to allow for folding. but then again, i like the sound of the 'c' table. maybe i could accomplish the same thing with less effort??

    thnks again for the responses. i look forward to checking for feedback.
  14. ausien

    ausien Active Member

    anything is posible, I have a modual layout that I can put in the back of the family car,and take it here and there, it conects to other moduals by a 6in peice of flex track and a couple of fish plates,,,, so I cant see any problems with your hinge idea, but I think it goes with out saying, keep the seem level, if yo intend to run track over the join/seem,,,, you dont want to lanch the locoes into space....have a good one...steve
  15. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Hi Bill

    First - welcome to the Gauge and to an awesome hobby!!!

    Based on what you mentioned as your preferences, I'd suggest HO scale. O is too big to do much with a 4x8 layout and N is too small for a beginning tracklayer and scratch builder (which I am as well). Also, if you like steam, there's a lot more available in HO and it's generally cheaper too.

    Definitely go to your local hobby shop (we call that the LHS around here) and have a look at the models. See what you like and how it "feels" size-wise. It might not be a bad idea to start with an inexpensive train set first, which will get you running right away. You can improve on the track and the equipment as you go along.

    Have fun!!!
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Bill: Model railroading is an art, like photography. There are compromises, unless you are Donald Trump. In photography, you can fix either the F-stop or the shutter speed, but the selection of one determines the other (for a given film speed & lighting conditions.)
    When you have a fixed space, you have to adjust the railroad.
    See if you can find John Armstrong's book "Creative Layout Design". That'll put the layout building off by three months!
  17. docsnavely

    docsnavely Member


    When I was a kid, my dad built me a layout table in the garage that was hinged to the wall. It was the size of a full piece of plywood so the reach to the back was quite long. We also had to spend alot of time making sure EVERYTHING was in place at the end of the day so as to not crush anything or have anything fall off when we folded it back up to the wall. All in all though, it was a fun experience, and it saved so much space by being in the garage and still having the space to park the car. No matter what, like everyone else has already said, just HAVE FUN!!!!!:thumb:

  18. billflis

    billflis New Member

    docs, i have been thinking of that a fold up model like the one you had. that would save the most space...but i'm actually considering designing a fold or hinge right in the middle of the layout; so the back 2 feet or so would 'fold up' and i could move the entire thing closer to the wall to take up less space. but it's been so long since i have worked with a set that i can't even recall how the track works....would it be difficult to have a few removeable sections of track to allow for a fold in the middle of the layout?

    also, do you think the following materials is worth 100 bucks? my nephew has 'outgrown' the hobby and was looking to sell his stuff...thats what made me consider getting into this....he assures me it's a great deal (HO Scale):

    > Train:
    > 20 straight tracks
    > 20 curve tracks
    > 2 switch tracks
    > 1 railroad crossing w/lightup house
    > 2 engines (older santa fe, Faster newer Amtrak)
    > 3 cargos
    > 1 tanker
    > 1 cabose
    > 1 cargo w/ 2 missing wheels(fixable)
    > 1 power box
    > +$50.00
    > Extras:
    > Ranch Farm-
    > 1 Ranch House(roof is removable)
    > 2 sheds(pecies permit sizes example[1 huge shed]
    > 1 livestock shed
    > 1 silo
    > Grab bag of tractors, farmequipment, fences, signs, animals etc.(lots of
    > stuff)
    > +$25.00
    > City-
    > 1 ferris wheel
    > 1 merry-go-round
    > 1 livestock show shed
    > 4 small carnavel booths
    > 9 trees
    > 3 unpainted wooden houses(may be painted by me if you would like)
    > Grab bag of people, signs, fences, animals etc.(lots of stuff)
    > +$25.00
    > Total
    > $100.00

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