Newbie needs help for EVERYTHING

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by locke, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. locke

    locke New Member

    Ok, I have been reading these threads and they have just made me more confused. So I will start with this. I used to have an old lionel train set when I was a kid. That is long gone now, but I want to get back into the hobby, unfortunatly I don't know where to start, and I don't want to spend a lot of money. Of course I know that that will be impossible so...

    Having said that, first is the scale. It looks like everything seems to be HO and O. My wife likes the Polar Express O train set, but that is selling close to $500 on ebay and all stores seem to be sold out. So what are the main differences between the scales (other than size)? Is one size bigger or smaller or cheaper or easier to find?

    Next is the controller. DCC DCS TMCC... same questions as above, which is better and why.

    I don't like to mess around with electronics too much, I would like a set that I can open the box and have it run. I would like it to have sounds and a main goal of mine is to have this thing running all around the house. Is this possible? Is there a limit to the amount of track that I can use? Is there a way to boost the power? Well, if anyone has this kind of thing running in their house please let me know how you did it and about how much you think it would cost.

    I should get e-mailed when this thread is updated but if not -

    If you know of a thread that addresses this issue please let me know. thank you!
  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    You can start where you want, but the most major decision is what scale or gauge you want to model in. Most model in HO scale which is 1:87. i.e. 1 foot in "model" length = 87 feet "in real life" length. It has the most widely available and most comprehensive range of items.

    Perhaps start with a "packaged" set, where you get a small amount of track, a loco, a few carraiges, and a controller. Then expand, or upgrade from there.

    And you WILL make mistakes. I knew I would, so I set out to make a small 4' * 8' layout as a learning experience, with the intention of throwing it away when the time came for the "Grand Plan". :)

    If you consider $500 is too much to spend initally, then I would rule out DCC at this stage. Just start off with a $100 "packaged" set of your choice, then you can spoil youself will little add-on presents, like an extra carraige, or a new loco, :eek: or an extra bit of track, some turnouts etc, when you feel like it. :)

    Start small, and be prepared to learn, because you WILL change your mind about what YOU prefer for YOUR railiway as you go along. :)

    Happy TOOTing. :)
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi locke,


    I visited a layout this past weekend that runs "all around the house", or at least the basement, and I'd have to say you are looking at a substantial layout of time and money to do that... I mean, that's thousands of dollars just for track...!

    But as Woodie says, you can start small and go from there. But rather than a "throw-away" 4x8, why not go modular. Start with a 2x4 "shelf" and add on. See for some ideas - that's the modular club I belong to. We (collectively) have solved a lot of the questions you ask about power and limits to track. Our set ups can include up to about 300' of mainline, plus a small branch with 7 or 8 trains operating at any one time.

    I would highly recommend DCC if you have any aspirations of either 1) a big layout, or 2) running multiple trains at once. The starter systems are less than US$200 now, and decent diesels are well under US$100, or even US$50 so your initial outlay will not be too great.

    There is a lot of info here, and it is sometimes difficult to find what you are looking for, so just ask the questions as they occur to you - there's lots of helpful and friendly folks here...! ;)

  4. sunfish3409

    sunfish3409 New Member

    I would suggest looking on ebay just to see whats out there. Once you decide what kind of setup (early steam, late steam/transition, or diesel)you want then you can start shopping around. Besides locomotives the most expensive thing your looking at is models ( a train without models gets old quick), but fortunately you can build a lot of them yourself. I've used empty cigarette packs to build saloons and stores. The point is that with a little imagination you can build a dynamic layout with very little money. My other suggestion is that you research what you want thoroughly before you begin to build anything. Other than that have fun. Its a hobby, not a way of life.
  5. locke

    locke New Member

    Thanks for the replys... I don't mind spending a good chunk of change on the train, I just want a reliable track that is cheap and not too big. I like the little HO trains, so I think I will go with that, unless track is cheaper with a slightly larger train. I have to research DCC a little more, I'm trying to figure out the pros and cons between all the systems.
  6. jtbterri

    jtbterri Member

    With these thoughts in your wish list I'd put more emphasis on researching some of the newer DCC entries by the various manufacturers. Sound and DCC are packaged together in many systems these days. Bachmann is currently advertising heavily its new DCC system with a limited selection of ready to run locos with DCC installed, including the sound.
    A trip to a local hobby shop would be an excellent investment at this time as well. Most are very happy to discuss the alternatives with newcomers.
    Good luck with your quest and welcome to this wonderful hobby!!

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