Good N Scale "Starter Sets?"

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Cannonball, Aug 4, 2008.

  1. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I have a friend of mine who is interested in getting into N scale as something to do with his 12 year old son. He wants to find a good starter set to mess with first to see if it's something the boy will actually be interested in besides Grand Theft Auto on the playstation. He figures they can do a small, quick layout of some type with the starter set and if that works they can move on to grander things with thier empty basement.

    So what are some good suggestions to start with?
    Are steam or diesel sets better?
    He mentioned the Little Joe by LifeLike or the Bachmann Yard Boss but I've heard those aren't really to great?
  2. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Yeah, Thats the story every father says...At first!
    I'd start with a diesel set. lots less can go wrong.
    Any way, I can't say much for the Life Like sets, but the Bachmann sets are great for starters. Though, keep in mind, no matter what set he buys, they all come with the cheap locos and rolling stock. Very little detail and such.
    I think everyone here has started with some train set at one time. Then the graduated to the more expensive and detailed stuff. The Train set usually, NOT ALWAYS, gets relagated to a shelf, or put on the table for a tag sale item.
    Or in my case. the Christmas layout. In which case it only gets run once a year.
  3. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    If they go with a set that has EZ or Power-Lok track, they'll probably have more success. Also, you get what you pay for. The cheaper the set, the cheaper the engine and power supply.

    Spectrum makes a few nice sets, with EZ track, a good loco and power pack. Pretty bullet-proof.
  4. Catt

    Catt Guest

    If they can find a LifeLike set with the GP20 in it they will have a good starter set that will last a long time.
  5. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Both Bachmann and Athearn make good starter sets. Personally, I disagree about buying the more expensive starter sets until you know which way his interests will go, and if he happens to break something, which even the I've-been-doing-this-for-a-hundred-years experts do, it won't be an expensive learning experience.
  6. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    This is getting to be a toss up. He really wants to do steam but he doesn't want to buy something he can't use later on on a big layout either. Still he doesn't want to invest $120.00 for a Spectrum either.... And I can understand that too... At least until he knows for sure that he and the kid are going to dig it.

    I'm still trying to talk him into some early Diesel to Like an F7 or E8
    LifeLike has some good, fiarly inexpensive locos in that category.
    If he could grab one of those and a loop of track with a transformer, he'd have a good start.... Of course, then there's cars.
  7. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    The Little Joe set is really 'entry level'-- the wheelbase on the steam loco is small enough that dirt on the track will affect performance. And that will probably affect interest.

    I'm not a big fan of the Bachmann regular line sets. Although their non-Spectrum steam locos have been improved, you have to make absolutely sure that it's one of those that you're getting and not "new old stock".

    It's going to be tough to come up with something meaningful under $100. Your friend might consider watching the Walthers site for sales that come up (advanced search and then "show me items on sale today". Sets with the L/L switcher and C-Liner have come up for less than $100 in the "off-season".

    Another option: make your own set.
  8. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    That's kind of what I'm trying to do for him but It's tough to keep it in a price range he'll deal with to start out. He's says $100 or less for train and track until he knows for sure. That's gonna be tough. I can get him a decent LifeLike Diesel, some track and a transformer in that area but adding extra cars and whatnot is going to get costly.

    Locos are funny.
    I've had $60.00 ones that barely ran and I had a little Bev-Bel that I paid $11.00 for and it ran better than most anything on my line.
  9. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    That Bev-Bel might have been a Life-Like repaint, or if quite old, an Atlas repaint.

    Yeah, $100 is about the minimum these days unless you can catch a really good sale someplace. Walthers has been closing out the older Life-Like/Proto locos at a cheap price but they're almost gone now.
  10. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    What about the Bachmann Brill Trolleys?
    Maybe I could get him interested in trolleys... :cool:
  11. CraigN

    CraigN New Member

    You can Pre-Order the new Atlas Trainman sets for $104.95 from

    They will be coming with the new Atlas GP-15-1

    Each Atlas N Trainman® Train Set includes:
    • Locomotive
    • Power Pack
    • 24” x 30” Oval True-Track® Assortment: 16 pcs. 11” radius curve, 1 pc. 6” straight, 1 pc. 6” rerailer
    • Freight Car Assortment: ACF® 50’-6” Box Car - Railbox (Early) 33655, ACF® 3560 Covered Hopper - FMC Chemical 64128, Beer Can Tank Car - GATX 23820, 90-Ton Coal Hopper - Santa Fe 81104

    Trainman® GP15-1 Locomotive & FREIGHT CAR Features:
    • Five-pole skewed armature motor with dual flywheels
    • Directional lighting
    • Blackened metal wheels
    • All wheel electrical pick-up/drive
    • AccuMate® couplers
    • True scale dimensions with accurate details
    • Crisp painting and printing

    I'm not sure how good the track and power pack are but for the price and what you get I think it will be a great deal.

  12. brakie

    brakie Active Member

  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Your buddy needs to do a reality check. He can either go cheap, and guarantee he and his kid will be turned off the hobby, or he can kick in a few more bucks, get something decent, and have a better than even chance of getting started in a hobby both he and his kid can enjoy.

    The short version is that the Little Joe set, while fine for running 'round and 'round, is not going to get a PS-addict away from the game console.

    If he wants to have any hope of making this go, he's either going to have to get a diesel set he can live with (and some turnouts and extra track), get you to help him put together a set of used equipment and track (from the groups and/or EBay) or look into Pokemon cards or something.
  14. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

  15. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    That would be a very good set. The EZ track is pretty durable, and easy to expand, and the Athearn equipment is very good as well. But it's well over his budget, unless you can convince him to pony up the extra dough.

    That said, if it is a bust for him and his kid, that set will have some resale value, unlike the Little Joe set.
  16. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Cool.... I'll see if I can coax the $40 extra out of him.
    If he doesn't want it, I might get one. :D
  17. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    The Amazon listing notes that the set is offered by eHobbies... wow, they're still around. Didn't realize that; I thought their bubble burst some time ago.

    I think Atlas will sell a lot of Trainman sets and that would have been my first suggestion were they actually available now.
  18. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I went direct to their site.
    They have a Santa Fe version as well.
    I think he'll go for that.

    Yeah, those look like really nice sets but I think he wants to do something one way or the other by this weekend when he gets paid. We'll have to order it online since our last hobby shop here in town closed. (And carried mostly HO anyway.) Hobby Lobby has a few sets but they are all Bachmann with the little "Prairie Flyer" engine in them.
  19. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    It's a pretty good set - it's one of the sets that my wife bought for me to get me started in N scale.
  20. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Well, we ordered the Santa Fe Athearn set from eHobbies.

    I'm going to help him and the boy do a simple small layout with the track and maybe a few additional pieces. It's going to take a little time to get everything together though. He spent more than he wanted to on the train so they are going to have to piece the rest little by little.

    I'd like to do a nice simple over under figure 8 to start with if I can get the foam risers, track and a bridge cheap enough. Maybe a couple of portals for a tunnel. He's left me to plan it out for them and give them instruction since he thinks, "I know what I'm doing." :cry: :D

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