newb with questions

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by xyzon, Dec 6, 2004.

  1. xyzon

    xyzon New Member

    The title says it all. I am new to model trains. I can remember having a set as a child that my dad would setup in the basement around Christmas. It was a very simple setup, one huge oval.

    I am now a lot older and want to get into model trains. I do have a few questions. Please forgive me if any of these are a rehash.

    For starters I have decided to go with the HO scale. They aren't too big or too small and seem to be very popular.

    I don't really know what size area I am wanting to build on, is that important to figure out before buying anything or can that be worked with later?

    I don't know exactly where to start or what to buy. I would like to get a good "starter" set, but I don't want it to be "fisher-price-y". I would like to be able to add on to it rather then having to buy another set to replace the beginner set.

    I read that Lionel trains will only work with Lionel tracks, is that right? I don't know if I would go with them, I just don't want to be stuck with a certain type of setup that cannot be intergrated with another type.

    One more question. I haven't been able to figure out what the numbers for the locomotives stand for. For example 0-4-0 ... can anyone clue me in please?

    I am in no rush to buy anything just yet. I have been thinking about doing this for the past two years but didn't know where to start. Thanks in advanced for all info and help.
  2. Alan B

    Alan B Member

    What little Lionel HO there is will work on the standard HO track.

    I prefer Atlas track and Peco switches. Get the nickel silver track and switches. MRC makes good DC powerpacks. DCC is for another day. But, if you are looking for a good low cost DCC system, the Atlas Master is very good. There are some bargains on the Roco LokMaus 2 system, and it's very good as well.

    As far as a layout, decide on the available space. Put in the largest radius curves you can. If you have room for a 4'x8' tabletop layout, you have room for an around the walls layout that you will like much better.

    Locomotives from Lifelike's Proto 2000 line seem to be very good, but it's hard to beat the old Athearn Blue Box locomotives. There are bargains to be had on Proto 2000 from M.B. Klein. (He owns Lifelike.) For that matter, M.B. Klein has lots of bargains.

    Rolling stock is a buyers choice right now. Athearn is still producing blue box kits. They are easy to build and work well with the addition of weight and Kadee couplers. MDC puts out some nice kits. But, I've noticed that their molds are getting a little old and the kits don't go together as well as they once did. I really like the LBF kits too. There are higher priced ready to run models too. (Sometimes these are just factory assembled kits.)
  3. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Hi xyzon,

    To answer your loco question, the set of numbers you refer to is the wheel arangement of a steam loco: the leading wheels, the larger or driving wheels and the trailing wheels. A loco 0-4-0, usually a switch or yard engine, has only 4 driving wheels, with no leading or trailing wheels. A 4-8-2 has 4 leading, 8 driving and 2 trailing wheels. A 4-8-8-4 ( a giant of locos) has two sets of 8 driving wheels with 4 leading and 4 trailing.


    Start small, using some high quality switches and a good locomotive or two. I haven't bought HO items in over 15 years (I model in N scale) so can't recommend specific products. One good loco is worth ten crappy ones as far as keeping your interest and enthusiasm moving.

    Most in this hobby that have become serious about it have built more than one layout over the years. You learn new skills over the years, you become bored with the old layout, your interests in aspects of railroading change or you become more focused on certain other areas. (Usually it's because you move.) This is the normal course of things. If you approach your first layout with the idea that this is a fun, learning project that you can complete within a reasonable time frame, run a train or two while you explore other aspects and then move on, you won't become frustrated or bored with it.

    Bigger layouts require skill and experience which the first small layout will provide. You can recycle the components from the first into a larger, newer layout to keep costs down, you can give the beginning layout to a youngster or, if you're attached to it, you can expand on it. (That siding to the feed mill off that simple loop of track could turn into the branch line of a future rail empire.)

    The important thing is set a reasonable goal for the first layout and complete it. Welcome to the hobby!

  4. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    You probably were hearing about Lionel O trains - they run on three rail track, so they can't run on 'scale' two rail O track. They have made a few HO products that are interchangeable with other HO systems.

    First thing I would do is read as much as you can - Kalmbach publishing (who publishes Model Railroader magazine) makes several books on starting in model railroading, building small layouts etc. They should all be available at a local hobby shop. They have a special book/issue out now called "Model Trains Step by Step" that comes with a DVD of the "Building the World's Greatest Hobby layout" included.

    It's tempting to dive in headfirst and start buying stuff left and right, but I would start with a small layout - 4'x8' or so - and try it out first. It may take a while to decide just what you really want to model - what railroad, what time period etc. so don't expect this first layout to be your only one, just think of it as kind of a learning experience. The equipment, buildings, etc. you get for this small railroad can always be re-used as part of a larger layout.
  5. rdlshadow

    rdlshadow New Member

    One of the places I would start would be structure kits. Start buying those and build them from there you will get an idea of how much space you might need and what sort of theme you like and want to creat. I used alot of graph paper and drew several design. to see what would fit in area I had set aside in my basement. Now I have moved into Modular units. 4 foot by 2 foot sections that can be joined together. There is probually a club in your area. Look for modular train club in your area and go atend a meeting or two and get some ideas. What we can do with these modules is go to show and set them up be joining them together to make one larger layout. Since the modular units are built to a standard frame design. Can be bolted to any others built to those specs. Good luck and Enjoy
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Visit a good hobby shop. There are ads in the back of Model Railroader and most of them are reliable and enthusiastic.
    There are a couple in the Tampa area -- Cheter Holley has a good reputation, and there is one in Pinellas Park that I liked.
    Florida gaugers: any other locations?
  7. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member

    HO is a good choice. As you say, HO is small enough to do a lot, but still big enough to work on. There is another advantage — more stuff is available in HO than any other scale.

    Later, Grasshopper.

    Well, a starter set will set you back $100. A good locomotive will set you back anywhere from $100 to $200. You don't want a bad locomotive. You don't want junky rolling stock. They will only cause you problems, and you will end up throwing them (and your $100)out.

    Step One — decide what era your want to model, steam, transition, first generation diesel, modern.

    Step Two — decide what roadname or what area you want to model. Look around. There's scads of information on the Web. Look at rosters, compare with available models of locomotives, and narrow your focus. When you know what you want to do, you can start shopping.

    Get a quality locomotive. Personally, I like Atlas, Kato, Stewart and Proto 1000/2000, not necessarily in that order. You can find good deals on eBay.

    Get a few freight/passenger cars. Atlas, InterMountain are just a few of the better manufacturers. There are others. Get metal wheelsets for your freightcars — they make a huge difference, improving rolling characteristics and reducing crud on your rails.

    Find a trackplan you like and get some Atlas nickel-siilver flextrack. Don't bother with buying curved sections or short straight pieces — using flextrack is easy and will save you money. Turnouts are a matter of personal preference — Atlas, Peco, Shinohara, all make good quality products. Check out the NMRA website for information on waht you can and can't get away with.

    For your track and turnouts, figure what you need and spread it around. Invite local hobby shops (= LHS) and mail-order suppliers to give you a quote. Play them off against each other, and you will save money.

    Read lots. Start buying magazines. Browse the Web. Get a copy of John Armstrong's book "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" (Kalmbach). Get a 4x8 sheet of plywood up and nail some track on it. Enjoy it for the next year or two, while you visualize your next layout. When you're ready, tear it down and start again.

    Forget Lionel. They do O scale, and are very good at it. Their forays into HO are lame, and best avoided.

    To summarize — avoid trainsets. They are entry-level, bottom-of-the-line junk. Get a good locomotive. Get some rolling stock. Refit your rolling stock with metal wheelsets and KaDee couplers. Buy track and turnouts in bulk from the supplier that gives you the best price. Get a basic layout up and running and have fun with it. Do lots of reading and decide what you want to create as your next "model empire". Get the Armstrong book. A year or two hence, you will have learned about benchwork, DCC, layout planning, operations, minimum standards, and a whole host of other stuff that's involved in model railroading. It's not a steep learning curve, but it's a long one. And it's a blast!

    Scott Fraser
    Calgary, Alberta
  8. Roger Hensley

    Roger Hensley Member

    You have received some very good responses here. One other thing that I would suggest is to visit the NMRA Introduction to Model Railroading pages at for some basic information and suggestions.

    Welcome to the Hobby!!

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