Newbie with Questions

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Acipiter, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. Acipiter

    Acipiter New Member

    I am reposting this as a separate thread at someone's suggestion.

    I am just getting started in model railroading. Kind of like a mid-life crisis maybe. (It is much cheaper than a new sports car- I hope). Anyway, I am trying to identify a starting point for reading up on the basics. (Suggestions are welcome as a book for beginners). I had HO trains as a boy, but I know nothing about all the changes in the hobby except for what I have picked up surfing the internet for a few days. That is how I found this forum.

    I have been talking about model trains for a while but had not taken the plunge. For Christmas, my wife bought me what appears to be a nice train set- the Frontiersman by Spectrum/Bachmann. The engine is DCC equipped (I don't yet fully understand what all that means. The package says that that additional equipment has to be purchased). It comes with a standard powerpack.

    In one thread one person wrote:

    "I recommend getting some Atlas engines. They run a lot nicer than the standard Bachmanns and some DCC-equipped Atlas locos can be had for a good price."

    Am I starting off on the wrong foot with the Bachmann? This set came from a local hobby shop and cost about $200. I have not opened it so I think I could return it. I do like the older vintage engine as a starting point.

    Am I better off going with a standard DC eqipped and adding DCC once I know what I am doing?

    What Companies offer a steam loco? I did not see one on the Atlas site.

    I welcome any suggestions. Thanks.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Starting with the train set - the locomotives in Bachmann train sets can be (but not necessarily) problemmatic. They can be quite jerky to run with poor low speed performance. Couplers and wheels on the cars may not be accurately set up, and causing the train to come off the tracks. Since your set is DCC equipped, it is probably a cut above the cheaper train sets in quality, and may not suffer from any of these issues.

    Very seldom is any locomotive properly lubricated out of the box. I highly recommend finding a diagram showing how to remove the locomotive shell. Clean out the old lube and any foreign matter from the gears and motor bearings. Use the tiniest drop at the end of a toothpick of sewing machine oil (or almost any very light oil) at the motor bearings, gearbox bearings, and wheel bearings. Too much oil is worse than none at all! Apply a small drop or two of car transmission oil or fishing reel gear grease (model train Labelle lubricants do a good job too) to the gear faces. Put the shell back on and you are done.

    Almost any train set track is good for exactly that. The track used in train sets does not permit the flexibility needed for expanding into an operational layout. I recommend you not spend much money on expanding the track that came with the train set.

    Please, run and enjoy your train set. It will give you pleasure while you think, dream, read, and decide where you want to go next in the hobby. At the hobby shop, there should be some beginners booklets to HO model railroading, or building a project model railroad. Pick up one of those to get some ideas. Also, beginning with the December 2006 issue, Model Railroader magazine is running a series on building a 4x8 project model railroad.

    One of the things that newbies to model railroading struggle with is that there is no one "right way" to build a model railroad. There are many valid techniques, methods, and materials. In project model railroad construction, by necessity one set of methods and materials are chosen. Unfortunately, the articles usually skip reasons for choosing that way to build the model railroad. Sometimes the reasons can be that those were the methods and materials the author was familiar with. In other cases, there are specific benefits to the choices the author made for that particular situation.

    Ask questions at your LHS, and here on the Gauge and other forums. But the advice you want to listen to is the advice that is supported with actual experience and references or reasons - advice that is more than just unsupported opinions repeated from somebody else.

    In the lower priced steam locomotives, Model Power Mantua classics, Bachmann Spectrum, and IHC Premiere line all have good reputations for steam engines that run well. The standard line from each of those 3 manufacturers is not regarded as highly. Stay with smaller steam engines until you have a layout with bigger radius curves than come with a train set. Going up in price gets you into the world of sound and DCC-equipped steamers from BLI, Trix, Athearn Genesis, and others. To date, Atlas does not make steam engines in HO (they make very nice diesels) - but I expect that to change in the next couple of years.

    Until you are ready to run more than one locomotive at a time (and ideally have someone else to operate with you), the main benefit is enabling sound for equipped locomotives. Once you are ready to operate 2 or more locomotives at once, DCC makes the operation much easier. In DC, you keep the control of the locomotives separate by assigning electrically separate blocks of track to a given locmotive. In DCC, the decoder inside the locomotive only follows commands addressed to that locomotive. So, as some have put it, with DC you control the track (and the train indirectly), with DCC you control the train directly. DCC will cost more until you get to the point of 3 operators and 3 independent trains in DC. As you suggested, you can stick with DC for now, and when you start building a layout, convert to DCC then.

    my thoughts, your choices
  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    My suggestion is to read, read, and read some more. There will be things you don't understand at first, but all along the way, the little light bulbs will come on and you will start to understand things. Read every book and magazine you can get your hands on, yes, they are somewhat expensive, but worth it in my estimation.

    There are also a lot of resources on the web, just google on whatever aspect of model railroading you are checking out.
  4. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I understand that the engine in the Bachman set is a spectrum? Is it steam or diesel? Anyway I wouldn't worry too much about the engine, spectrum is Bachman's better line and should serve you well (why else would they put DCC epuipment in one?)
    I agree with Gary, reading and research are your new best friends. The latest (january) issue of Model railroader has the beginning chapter of a project layout you can follow up on. An included is a small booklet on scenery tips and how tos.
    Anyway welcome back to the hobby.
  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Welcome to the Gauge, Acipiter.:wave: Others have already made some good suggestions to get you started on the right foot. I'm not sure which Bachmann loco is in your set, but their Spectrum locos are good quality and run well. Their guarantee is also very good, should you need it.
    I recently saw a new version of the loco pictured below, at the LHS, for $200.00 (Canadian). It's DCC equipped, but will also run on DC, and comes with a very good sound system. (It impressed me enough to consider buying one, and I'm not really that "into" sound and I don't run DCC.) I've shortened the tender on mine, but if the loco in your set is similar, you should have nothing to worry about.

  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Did we clarify DCC for you?
    DCC is Digital Command Control. There is a little chip in the locomotive that reads signals in the track and acts on them. To send the signals, you need to buy an extra control unit.
    A DCC equipped locomotive usually runs on regular DC. Some people feel they run better than the same loco without a chip.
    A DC loco will run on DCC but tends to buzz and do other odd things; some people think it damages the motor.

    I don't think you have anything that you can't keep using for years.

    As for cheaper than a sports car? Well, safer probably.
  7. Acipiter

    Acipiter New Member

    Thank you all for the extemely helpful and detailed responses. Upon closer review, my loco is a 2-8-0 steam model with operating headlight and tender; DCC equiped for speed, direction and lighting (but no sound). It comes with an analog controller. Otherwise, the loco looks very similar to the picture posted by DoctorWayne, except mine has green coloration with a "Southern " label on the tender.

    I will follow the suggestions of pgandw and use this set to play with and dream.

    Also, thanks for the comments on DCC. I have alot to learn, but the challenge must be part of the alure and appeal of this hobby.

    I am very impressed with the rapid response to my post and friendly encouragement of this forum's members. Thanks for making me feel welcome. :thumb:
  8. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I can only add, that despite what some people think, model railroading is not an instant gratification hobby. It's a learning process that can be years long. Enjoy the learning and the results of the process.
  9. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Start at a library and as others suggested read a lot. Sites like mine with tons of links are helpful as well. Lots of the sites I link too have a ton of info that I think is very helpful.
    There are some links to sites with lots of photos that are sure to inspire.

    But mostly it comes down to just reading a lot.
    I hope it helps :)
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think your Bachmann set came with the Spectrum 2-8-0 modeled after a Baldwin prototype. The Bachmann Spectrum line of locomotives are among the best steam engines available. As far as advice for a beginner, I would suggest subscriptions to Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman. Both magazines have a lot of good information for the beginner. I subscribed to them both for about 10 years. I dropped my subscriptions only because I model the Santa Fe and after 10 years, I found most issues didn't have anything I could use. I still look at them at the local hobby shop and pick up any copy that has anything that I can apply to the railroad I model. I would also suggest a basic model railroad book like "ABC's Of Model Railroading" published by Kalmbach. The book has a lot of good information to help a beginner get started in the hobby. One problem you are probably seeing right now is that you just aren't sure what question to ask. If you start reading some basic books, some stuff you'll understand, and there may be some things that you don't understand, or don't know "why" it needs to be done that way. Those are the questions to bring to this board. This board is the friendliest place on the internet, and we don't mind answering questions. Dumb questions are better than dumb mistakes, but if you are like me, you will probably have plenty of both before you get too far into the hobby.

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