I need some advice on the basics

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Michael_1265, Jan 1, 2003.

  1. Michael_1265

    Michael_1265 New Member

    Hello, all!
    I am new to this forum, and also new to the hobby. I have two sons, aged 4 and 5, and I built them an HO layout in our cellar. I know HO is tougher for the young ones, but I didn't have the room for O. I built a nice u-shaped layout with an upper level. It performs pretty well, but because of the ages of my sons, I'm trying to make it really dependable. Aside from the laying of the track, I am open to any suggestions. Here are a couple of things I've learned (and a couple of questions):

    1. I should have bought better locomotives: I bought a couple of $25 Life-Like units. It seems like they run at no speed or full speed, with nothing in between. A train enthousiast friend of mine gave me a box of his discards, one of which was an 8-wheel drive unit with dual flywheels (and a cracked plastic body). That beat-up old thing puts the new ones I bought to shame. Now that I have seen the light, I'm afraid the wallet is going to have to be opened again............can anybody recommend some reasonably priced, strong-running diesel locomotives?

    2. I should have bought better freight cars: The cheapies I bought are going to need more weight. Does anybody have a rule of thumb for how much weight? Also, I've noticed how cheap the wheelsets are on these units. Are there any good sources for reasonably-priced wheelsets? I know it compromises the realism, but I was also wondering if you could buy them with a slighly deeper, more forgiving flange?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
  2. McFortner

    McFortner Member

    Well, I have used 4 to 6 U.S. pennies as weights in my inexpensive cars and it seems to work fine. Maybe more for the larger cars.

    Hope this helps! :)

  3. kettlestack

    kettlestack Member

    Welcome to The Gauge Michael, this is where there is a wealth of information pooled by the members.

    re you questions....
    1) Considering the age of your sons I don't think you can go wrong by buying Athearn diesel locos. They are simple to maintain, rugged , very reliable, pull pretty well and above all, are inexpensive.

    2) I think that 2 1/2 oz is a recommended weight for HO rolling stock. If I'm wrong someone will tell me :) . If you think that "more forgiving" flanges on wheels will help, I suggest you are wrong. The apparently "fine" flanges on most quality rolling stock are to a national modelling standard. It would be to your advantage to go over every inch of your track and ensure there are no large gaps or kinks where the sections of track join to each other as these are the main cause of derailments.

    I wish you success as you progress.

  4. DanRaitz

    DanRaitz Member


    I agree you can't go wrong with the stardard Athearn diesel.

    As for weighting your cars, the NMRA reccomendation for HO cars is 1 1/2 oz plus 1/2 oz for each inch of length. So a 40' box car should wiegh about 3.5 oz's. Me, I do it an easy way, if it is a 40' car it wieghs 4oz if it is a 50' car it wieghs 5oz. But then thats me and I like my cars a little on the heavy side.

  5. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi Micheal and Welcome Aboard, I second the motion on the Athearn locos...they are just a few dollars more than the ones you got....sounds like the one your friend gave you is an Athearn.

    Instead of deeper flanges what you want are better flanges. That's the drawback on the inexpensive cars. The standard is called RP25 conture. Might reccomend that you go with some Athearn or MDC cars too...they're already properly weighted and have decent trucks and wheelsets too. They take about 10 minutes to assemble and then they are ready to roll.

    You can also buy some Athearn trucks with the wheelsets to replace the ones on your "problem cars" and get them running right too. Hope this helped.
  6. RaiderCTE

    RaiderCTE Member


    just to back up what these guys say, and to maybe put some explanation behind it check out www.nmra.org. Check the links on the left. I'm not exact but I have run and run and run mine, athearns and one atlas. One thing is getting the nmra gauges, that can help a lot.
  7. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Michael, you are getting the usual good advice here, but slow down just a touch on buying complete Athearn trucks for those cars, as you may be in for a bit more work than you think. If the cars have trucks that snap into holes in the underside of the bolsters, they probably also have couplers that are attached to the trucks rather than the car bodies.
    Such trucks are known as "Talgo" trucks, and if you replace them with standard trucks, like Athearn, you will have to body mount new coupler boxes of your choice, which may be more work than you want. You also may have to plug and redrill the holes for the truck screws that will replace the plastic plugs.
    There is an easier way, for now. Such cars can have the actual wheelsets replaced with good quality wheelsets much cheaper than all-new trucks [ Kadee #520 are a good choice, there are others].
    As long as you don't do a whole lot of reversing through multiple turnouts, and you add some weight as recommended above, these 'partly modified' cars should be ok for now.
    Good luck & best regards / Mike:)
  8. Michael_1265

    Michael_1265 New Member


    Wow! This place is great for information! Thank you for all of the prompt replies. Now I have a starting point............

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