Just Getting Started... again... sort of....

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Cogent, Jun 1, 2004.

  1. Cogent

    Cogent New Member

    Hello Model Railroaders!

    I am just getting back into model railroading after a 15 year hiatus. I'm not that old so it really hasn't been that long. But before I go on, let me tell you of my history in model railroading.

    When I was a boy, my two brothers and I were bitten by the model railroad bug. I think it started when we saved up for a set and bought a N-Scale, Life-like, Railroad Empire set. Here is one that was recently auctioned on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3188775412

    It didn't take us long to get bored with the simple layout of the Railroad Empire set and we started searching for a layout we liked. If I have time I will scan in the layout we chose since I found a photocopy of it. I think it came from an issue of Model Railroader. Anyway, it provided us with a lot of experience, which I have since forgotten, but a lot of memories still come flooding back. Since I am still learning the vocabulary I can't really explain how it looked in words, but it was a rather simple figure eight with some spurs and sections of parallel track. The sad thing is that somewhere between then and now it found its way into a landfill. :(

    The good things is that my brother just dug out our box of remaining locomotives and rolling stock (just picked up that term from reading the forums). Amazingly, the locomotives were kept in a small plastic container where they seem to have aged well. The other parts and peices were exposed to a lot of dirt and moisture so I will need to take a closer look. I will also post some pictures so you can see what I have to start with.

    Basically, I have limited monetary resources at present and would like to start with something rather simple. I have a real variety of rolling stock and locomotives so it defintely won't be anything great right now, I just want to re-learn the technical stuff and have some fun too.

    So, I thought I would start this thread to ask some questions. Some right now, and some after I post some pics of what I have.

    First question, Is it better to use flex-track or individual peices?

    Second, do you have any recommendations for a inexpensive power-pack?

    Lastly, any tips for a beginner?

    Thanks so much and I look forward to getting to know everyone here!

    -Steve Johnson
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hello Steve!

    Welcome! The Gauge is the best place on the web for model railroading. You will get lots of information here from lots of great people. There are no silly questions, so ask away!

    My first recommendation would be - check out the whole of The Gauge, and especially the N scale forum.

    As for track - flex track is more, well, flexible. You can use it to create a less limited track plan than you would get with sectional track.

    Power packs - you can often find used MRC Tech 2's for a good deal to get you going.

    Other tips - see above! ;)

  3. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Starting Again.....


    Welcome to the GAUGE.... it is the best forum out there ! I am also starting back in HO model railroading after a 41 year "break", so I may have covered some of the ground you're getting ready to head out on. MasonJar is correct about flex-track, but I decided to go with sectional, as my small layout is only open to one side and a lot of areas are hard to reach. Do yourself a big favor, and only go with nickle-silver track, and later when you can afford the investment... go DCC.

    The GAUGE has been an invaluable source of information, but a model RR friend recommended that I spend $29.00 for a book by Robert Schleicher, entitled "101 Projects for your Model Railroad"... and it has been a lifesaver. It covers track, benchwork, wiring, scenery, etc with great photos and "how-to" text. It will bring you "up to speed" in record time, and if you are at all like me, you'll find yourself referring back to this manual over and over again.

    If your loco's have been "bagged" for a long time, you might want to check their lube status, and get yourself a NMRA standards gauge. Other than that, the main thing is to JUST HAVE FUN.... and if you hit a problem area, post your problem on this forum and these great folks (that I have learned to "lean on", so much) will always be there with your answer. Good Railroading, my friend.

    Bob / Iron Goat
  4. Cogent

    Cogent New Member


    Ok, I uploaded all my pictures to my website.


    The Chessie System loco is missing the rear coupler.
    The BN loco has a small plastic decoration that fell off one of the wheel assemlblies (wrong terminology and no picture of it).
    The steam engine is a Bachman USRA 0-6-0 with slope tender. I have the paper manual document thingy. :)
    I also have a lot more track than I had originally thought. All Atlas sectional. It seems to be in good shape.

    Iron Goat - I will take your advice on lubing the locos before putting them back into use. Any suggestions on what lube is best?

    Otherwise, everything is dirty and needs to be cleaned. It does kind of add a weathered look to everything.

    Thanks for the help so far!

  5. Cogent

    Cogent New Member

    Here is a pic of the old layout.

  6. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member


    Try Labelle 101 synthetic multi-purpose oil (good for motor bearings, etc.) and Labelle 106
    grease (with PTFE).

  7. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    I would recommend flextrack.

    If I were you, I would save up some funds for some good locomotives and cars. On couplers Micro Trains/Kadee is the way to go. Atlas & MDC Roundhouse with some modifications for MT's are most affordable quality rolling stock. Red Caboose and LBF are middle of the road on price but offer great quality, and most of their cars come with MT's. The most expensive are Micro Trains and Intermountain. MT cars do have unique features such as doors and hatches that open. On Intermountain you have to change the trucks. As for motive power get either Atlas or Kato if you like current day trains, Bachmann or possibly Kato for steam, and Intermountain if you like transistion era.

    As for power I would save up for a DCC system. If you go this route your wiring will be easier and you will be able to do more with your trains. However you would need to spend an extra $20-$40 on a good decoder for the locomotives.

    What time and place do you want to model?
    How much space do you have for a layout?

    Don't be intimidated by SD90's layout. Most of us don't have the room to do that. And remember, if you go Union Pacific, expect to pay a little more because of it being a licensed product. ;) Hope this helps.
  8. Cogent

    Cogent New Member

    I realized that without the internet and a forum like this one I would be so lost. In fact, I would have stuck with the hobby when I was younger had this kind of resource been available.

    rcwatkins- Thank you! Something that I do recall from years ago is that a good locomotive is a must. The old layout had some inclines that would cause the cheap engines to crawl.
    I have always wanted to use different couplers but never knew what was available. Thanks for the recommendation. I can tell that I have a lot to learn.

    And speaking of a lot to learn, DCC is something I don't know anything about. But from what I have seen so far I get the idea that with decoders installed in the locos you can specifically address it using a DCC power pack?

    The time and place I want to model is different than what I will actually be able to do. That goes the same for space. I will be doing a small, maybe 2'x4' layout to start, and will keep it somewhere in my home. I basically want something that I can simply sit and work on for an hour-or-two a couple of times a week. It will need to be small at first because I will be doing the work at home in a spare bedroom. Maybe in the future I can do some sort of club thing or if I get a bigger house someday it will move out to the garage (or basement). Who knows.

    My ultimate goal is to make a model of Oregon City, OR, around the turn of the century. The area has a large waterfall surrounded by mills with a rock bluff up against the rails. There was even a city owned elevator for pedestrians to get up the bluff. There is also the option for a very cool old bridge. Someday....

  9. dcfxq

    dcfxq Member

    Dumb question, just how flexible IS flex track? Thus far I have only tried regular Atlas code 80 snap-track and find connecting sections is just "lovely".
  10. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    With a 2' by 4' layout life will be easier if you stick with 4 axle diesels and smaller steam locomotives. This means that cars should be 40'(scale) and under so they will be able to negoatiate the tight radius on your curves. ;)
    Oh yes, your DCC questions can be answered in the DCC Forum that we have here. Good luck on your layout.
  11. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Welcome to the-gauge!!!

    It makes all the difference in the world. I think many of us would loose inteest and go away if not for our on-line friends and the information we share.
  12. Cogent

    Cogent New Member

    Well, I got most of my locomotives running. I setup a small break-in loop on my counter, lubed the engines, and started working.

    This one (below) won't run. It lights up but the motor can't turn the wheels. It tries real hard though. Any help fixing it would be appreciated.


    I was able to re-attach the rear coupling to the Chessie system locomotive. It seems to be my strongest locomotive.


    I also figured out why the 0-6-0 wasn't working. The contacts between the sloap tender and the engine were bent so the current skipped a beat once in a while. Now it runs like a champ!


    The last locomotive took a little coaxing to run forward. Not sure why but now it is running strong too.


    Lastly, if any of you know off hand the model types of the locomotives I would like to know (other than the 0-6-0). I am still too green to even begin to identify them.

    Thanks again for all your help! :D:D:D
  13. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Well Cogent, it sounds like you are making real in-roads in getting your loco's up and running (3 out of 4 is a good start...). The green BN diesel has me stumped.If I had to guess, I would say it is of European manufacture (but that is purely a guess...). I am sure that the "pro's" that make the GAUGE tick will be able to tell you what your "critter" is. By the photo's it looks like that is brass track... if so get yourself a BrightBoy and some alcohol and clean the rails really good for the best conductivity you can get on brass rail.... but when you can, try to go to nickel-silver track.

    Good RR'ing.... IG
  14. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    And if I didn't have the net avilable to me, I wouldn't be in the hobby.
  15. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Chessie and Santa Fe are commonly called F units, and are probably F7's, I'm guessing because that's the more common. I believe hte Silver/red paint on the SF was used for passenger service. There were also E units that were initially geared and equipped for passenger service, but some would be regeared and resold to small freight outfits. Here is a good place to look for details that might help you ID these babies:

  16. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

  17. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Another little trick, some times you'll get lucky, if you go to http://www.google.com and type in the road name and number. For the mystery machine at the top, I entered a search for "BN 6836" and the first return was this:


    Hey, now youhave a nice picture of the real thang!

    Then the second hit revealed:


    This page says it's an SD-40-2 born in Dec 73 builder number 73601-13, and it's always been a BN, always numbered 6836.

    :D :D :D
  18. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    Your BN engine appears to me to be the SD40-2 locomotive produced by Bachmann. I suspect that your other diesel engines are also Bachmann locomotives that came in train sets originally. The quality of these engines does not compare well to the quality of the newer locomotive releases by such manufacturers as Atlas and Kato. You may want to upgrade you locomotives and rolling stock if you get a chance. You may want to try to get acquainted with some of the modelers from your area. I'm sure that a lot of them would be happy to advise you on things to improve you model railroading enjoyment. There are some very active groups in the Oregon City area. Watch for swap meets in the Portland area. One very good one is the Meet-N-March event that is put on locally every year. Unfortunately, it is past for this year, but there may be others. The smaller locally produced events are probably better than the big-name productions.

    If you haven't already visited the Hobbysmith in the Hollywood district in Portland, you may want to do so. They have an in-store layout with operating sessions quite often.
    The Hobbysmith caters primarily to N-scale, so you will probably be able to meet a lot of fellow N-scalers there.

    Good luck.
  19. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    With a 2x4 limitation, I would suggest a small switching layout. Perhaps a yard, or an industrial section that could be incorporated into a larger layout in the future. You could use your 0-6-0 to operate with, until you decide what you want to model. If your track is brass, gradually replace it with nickel silver. Flex track comes in 3' sections, so you can replace quite a few sections of track with one piece of flex track. Judy had a good suggestion limiting yourself to small steam or 4 axle diesels like gp's or sw's. Most importantly-have fun! Welcome to the Gauge.
  20. a small 2x4

    If you want a decent 2x4, I'd look into 'Mikes Small track Plans' at http://www.naisp.net/users/mfischer/m_train2.htm which has about 20 2x4 and 2x3 trackplans for N, some point-to-point and some continuous running (loop style)

    if you can spring for a little extra money, the Life Like SW1200 loco is a FANTASTIC runner with decent pulling ability and amazing low-level speed (I have one that hauls up to 17 cars up a 2% grade with some rather iffy bumpiness in the track) Life-like makes a F40 that can pull the pasenger cars, but quality on that model is a bit iffy. A better choice would be the KATO P42 Genesis car, which is thoroughly ultramodern (a new loco for Amtrak introduced in the late 1990s) though it can be very expensive

    Your Amtrak passenger cars should run on the traditional 9-3/4" curves, but won't look good. 11" curves will look better.

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