friendly advice for a beginner

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by MDShepherd, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. MDShepherd

    MDShepherd New Member

    I need some friendly advice. I have wanted to get into model trains for many years. I got the itch the first time when my wife and I went to the toy train museum in Lancaster PA, some 20 years ago. Now my kids are mostly on their own (if that every really happens) and I have some space and a little extra money. I know that O gauge is the size I would like to work with, and that it takes more room. Here is my dilemma, I don’t like to waste money, so I was looking to get a starter kit to set up a layout play around a little bit. As I read on this list and others, and as I look at other peoples layouts, I really like the look of the more standard track (not the fast track). Most kits I see use the fast track type of track. Is a kit worth buying? If I do go with a starter kit how much of it will I continue to use after I get to the place of building a real lay out? (I plan to put my first layout on a ping pong table) Is flex track a big improvement & how much does it really flex? I have a lot more questions but they will come after I have learned some things from this first adventure into the world of model trains. You have already learned the answers to these questions so I wish to learn from you.


  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge, Jim:wave:

    Most of what you're asking is a matter of preference and that can really only come from experience. By starter kits, I'm assuming you mean the type that basically have a layout in a box, right? If so, with a bit of ingenuity one of those can easily be integrated into a larger empire. O scale is mighty big and requires some long green though, like anything else, if one is patient and resourceful and not too choosy, one can score some serious bargains. I model in HO specifically because of what can be had for a limited budget and space.

    My advice would be to build a kit or two, especially a building and a freight car or two, so that you can get a feel for size and space requirements. A ping-pong table limits you to about a 28" radius curve, really tight for all but the smallest of switch engines and shorter cars in O scale. If you're happy with what you see, go from there, if not, you've still gained experience and a cool mantle piece knick-knack or two.

    Check out the websites of other Gaugers and members here>>> to get a feel for the kind of modeling you like and, most of all, never forget it's just a hobby.
  3. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    The kits are worth buying to start out with and get a feel for the hobby. You can buy all sorts of expansion packs for various layouts and of course add rolling stock, switches and a few acessories here and there. It's the quickest, easiest way to get instant gratification from model trains. However, as you get into building your layout, you will grow out of a lot of its components. The engine and the rolling stock may be all you keep from it and if you go DCC, you will either need a new engine or upgrade the old one.

    When you get ready for the BIG layout, you won't want to go with Fastrack unless you've got money to burn. That stuff is expensive, even buying it in expansion sets. Look on eBay, online dealers, and hobby shops for the old style of track. It's still the cheapest and easiest to use.

    Flex track is good as well but you've got to remember the minium radius your O scale trains will take. (31" radius I believe. 27" for O27 gauge.) Just because the flex track will bend further doesn't mean your train is gonna make the turn.

    Also with a bigger layout and more acessories, you will probably want to upgrade your transformer at some point. Most Lionel kits come with the CW-80 now which will put out enough juice for one or two trains and a small handfull of acessories. You might even consider DCC (Digital Command Control) to independantly run each train with it's own program.
  4. MDShepherd

    MDShepherd New Member

    Yes that is right. Yoiu get the track fro a 40" x 60" oval, an engine, and three or four cars.
    A ping pong table is 60" x 105" so you are right about the limited space. It is something to mess with tack and wiring, and is mobile at first.

  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    A 40" oval in O scale would mean a 20" radius curve, the HO equivalent of about an 11" radius...that's pretty tight. You'd want to go with flex track then to get the most out of your limited size. Keeping in mind the table edge should be generous enough to catch a derailment without sending a train to the floor, you're going to want a minimum radius of about 26" at the most.
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Jim: Sounds like you are planning to go with the toy train style? A Lionel set will provide you with Fasttrack, MTH or Atlas will supply their own version. Most of them can be joined to the old style toy track (called "tubular"). And there are a bunch of other track manufacturers -- Gargraves is probably the oldest. A copy of Classic Toy Trains or O Gauge Railroading will give lots of ideas and info.
    Look at the catalogs. They usually specify a minimum curve that the model can be used on. That's critical --if it says 72" curve, you won't run it on your ping-pong table.
    Certainly what you start with can still be used when you expand later, unless you decide to change to O scale with 2-rail track.
  7. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Jim, don't worry about buying a set with Fastrack. If you want a different type of track, you'll have no trouble selling the Fastrack later on.

    The starter set locos have no problems running on the tight curves that come with the set, so a starter set will be fine on a ping-pong table. (I've even run the Polar Express set on O27, which is 13.5" radius--it doesn't look as good as it could, but it handles them.) Just don't run out and buy a Big Boy or Challenger and try to run it on a 5x9 layout and you'll be OK. O42 and O54 curves do help things a lot though, so when you replace the Fastrack, you might want to go for O42 minimum.
  8. MDShepherd

    MDShepherd New Member


    Thanks to all I think I am going to try to find someone in my area that has an HO layout to see if I like that as well. Before I try thr O gauge.

  9. Geno

    Geno Member

    If you prefer the look of real track (2 rails) you can still do it in O gauge- Atlas makes a starter line of engines and cars called Trainman. 2-rail is still generally more expensive than 3-rail, but the big plus here is that the trainman line is scale and realistic.

    If the traditional Lionel 3-rail is okay, you can definitely save money and buy 027 track and switches and a starter set. Either save the fastrak for use somewhere else or sell it off, and just use the 027. There is still alot of that on the secondary market and it's cheap to buy. But the Lionel starter sets are the most economical way to go- you get it all and nice box to put it all in too. And if you decide to sell it, a starter set sells much easier than a pile of trains and track in a regular box.

    The only flextrack available is either Atlas or Gargraves. In Atlas, the 3-rail variety is harder to bend than the 2-rail (both are solid). Gargraves is tubular and easier to bend, and has real wooden ties.

  10. C&O Steve

    C&O Steve New Member

    Fast track looks more real than tubular. Other options are like Gargraves flex that you ballast yourself but has the wooden ties at prot typical spaces.
  11. Brian R.

    Brian R. Member

    Train tracks

    Personally, I like the tubular track because it gives it more of an "old school" look. Granted I am only 21 years old, but I like the older look. Plus, Fastrack and Realtrax tend to be a noisier style track because of their hollow bottoms. The easiest thing to do is to pick up a set on ebay and by a set of track seperately. Fastrack is more expensive then to buy piece by piece.
  12. Geno

    Geno Member

    O and 027 tubular track seem to still have a popular following, despite the introduction of Fastrack. The only downside to this is that Lionel raised its prices for both lines of track when they introduced fastrack. But there's plently of both types of tubular available for more reasonable prices in the secondary market.

  13. gfmucci

    gfmucci Member


    My wife, Mrs. Claus, bought me a "starter set" Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer for Christmas:) . It came with FastTrack, an engine/tender, and 4 cars.

    I am looking to expand the system over the next several years using a track other than the "integrated" track/roadbed like FastTrack, to either Atlas, Gargraves, or MTH ScaleTrax, where you add your own road bed/ballast. While this route results in greater realism, it also takes more initial work and is best suited for a permanant layout whereas FastTrack is much more portable. I think price-wise, its about a wash.

    You can always use the FastTrack for display purposes, for around the Christmas Tree, or you can sell it, as mentioned before. FastTrack has a very good reputation, although its primary benefit is for temporay versus permanant layouts, on carpet, floor, etc.

    If you're thinking about serious expansion of your layout over the years, you are doing well researching the track type early on. I don't think you need to worry about "wasting money" with the track portion of a starter set, though. It's not that much of the total set cost, and you can always use it for something.

    I noticed in my new MTH catalog, for example on page 99, that they sell a train set without track for $499 (GP-40 Chessie "Show Train" Set). The Lionel set I got sells for $200 or a bit less. The difference in price between the two sets is in the added features of the MTH: Proto-Sound, remote couplers, more illumination and detail on the engine, digital command system, etc. You can get similar features on Lionel, also for more money.

    Have fun on your journey.

Share This Page