Newer than newbie question

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Soonerfan, Sep 28, 2001.

  1. Soonerfan

    Soonerfan New Member

    Looking to purchase set for kids ages 5-12, primarily for 5 year old but others will use it. Have a basement area but would like to keep it portable, 4x8 minimum, possibly more. Like O gauge because of childhood memories, but is HO more reasonable. What brands of ready to run are good quality? WOuld like to stay in $200-$300 range. Not good with hands but the desire is there, in other words, needs to be pretty much ready to run out of box but can learn as we go. Thanks!
  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Just for the kids????

    Hi Soonerfan! Welcome. You'll get lots of little helper bits and pieces here! A layout just for the kids hey???? hmmmmmmm. :D

    Few questions. Are you looking to lay the track yourself? or buy "ready to run" scenery and all? New? 2nd hand? How many trains do you want to be able to run at once? 1? 2? 3? 4' * 8' seems a good size to start with if you want to keep it portable/movable. That size would be too small for O Guage and I would reccommend HO. It's also a bit cheaper. N Guage could be a bit small for kids. Do you just want a simple oval of track or be able to select different trains and put them in the yards etc. What style do you want and what era do you want your trains to look like? Old? Steam? Diesel? a combination? Passenger? Freight? Do the kids have a fav trains they always like to wathc? Maybe Thomas???? Your price range seems good, and you should be able to get a reasonable amount of quality equipment for that.

    Hope these questions help you on your way to a layout that not only the kids can play with!! :cool:
  3. Soonerfan

    Soonerfan New Member

    Thanks for the reply. I am looking for ready to run in the area of power supply (do they still call them transformers?), wiring, etc. and start with a basic layout. Will let the kids (and I) add on the scenery, build layout, etc. as we go from there. At first, start with one train, kids will like tunnels, inclines, stuff like that, probably not interested in yards at this time but later. Will run one train with ability to add more later. Probably need to stick with new since I don't know enough yet to buy used. Kids and I like steam although my youngest is a Thomas freak (wife wants to buy him Wooden Thomas instead of electric). Freight is more fun for them too. Back to gauge, I am having hard time letting go of "O", naively thought would fit on 4x8, like the smoke action, childhood memories...oh well. I have to agree on HO, better selection at stores, smaller space, wife would kill me if I took up whole garage, maybe later;) . What brands do you recommend? I bought a starter set some years ago, kids loved it, but broke quickly (plastic axles, etc.--fell for the bargain brand trick). Want a keeper--what do you think?
    By the way, great site! G'day!
  4. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hello Soonerfan

    Welcome to the gauge, glad to see you are going to think about HO, thats the scale I model in now after 50 years of changing from one scale to another I am back to stay with HO. The best loco's you could buy to start you off would be Athern, they are very good runners and cheap- ish. the best loco's would of course be Kato/Atlas. If you need help in any aspect of your modeling, just ask.

  5. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Hi Soonerfan !

    I agree with Shamus - regular Athearn locos (vs Genesis) are nice and rugged (for a plastic model!). However, you might want to buy the loco individually instead of as a "set" of loco and cars - I got a Athearn "set" a while back, and the loco is a poor performer. The cars ("rolling stock") also seems to be of lesser quality.

    On the other hand, my "non-set" RI SD40-2 keeps right on rolling, and I'm happy with the other Athearn rolling stock kits I've bought.

    As Alan and others pointed out to me on a recent thread, you might want to keep (or put on) horn hook couplers. More sturdy for kids to use. you want some ?????

    As the kids get bigger (or just for YOU), you might get some "top of the line" locos and rolling stock -

    I again agree with Shamus about the Atlas and Kato - but also think LifeLike's Proto 2000 line, or "P2K" is great (do NOT buy the "regular" LifeLike stuff - very childlike stuff! And don't even think about Model Power!). The Stewart locos are also tops. Maybe also the Athearn "Genesis" line - will let you know, as I have one on order!

    In top-of-the-line rolling stock (and adult couplers), try Kadee.

    Hope this has helped - have fun shopping and building and running!

    By the way - Rock Island locos and cars look best on a layout!

  6. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    building your layout


    Looks like you are getting some ideas well on the way. I don't think you would be able to get a pre-built layout with just some track on it. (unless your local hobby shop or model railway club will do it for you for a "small donation"!) Anyway, it's not that difficult to purchcase some track and lay it down on a board, hook up a controller and you're away! As for brands, I'm not fully up to it with all the brands etc that are available in the US, so that will have to be up to your "better judgment". With a 4 * 8 layout it would be better to keep it flat (without inclines) as 4 * 8 is not really big enough to have an incline that, say, rises, crosses another track (bridge) and then back down again. The incline would be too steep for a single loco to haul a decent load of cars up the hill, or it would slow down noticeably, or get wheelspin then race down the other side. Inclines should at an absolute max be no more than a 4% grade. ie a rise of 4" would need 100" of track going up and 100" of track going down. That's 200" That's nearly 17 feet of track (plus bridge length) just to go up, across a bridge then back down again. I run a 6% inline on Garahbara and I should not have done it. (I got greedy, and wanted a bridge/incline too, on a small layout). So think seriously about the incline idea.

    I would also plan for the future too, if you intend to add some track later on. Think about the final layout, and put some turnouts in to allow you to extend later. It is not a good idea to rip up track once it is laid, especially if you have added scenery and track ballast.

    Also consider your curve radius at each end of the layout. If you are using "fixed" track (ie curve pieces) or flextrack, make sure you select the appropriate radius to allow you to add a 2nd or subsequent parrellel track (inside or outside) the curve around your layout.

    I hope these are some pointers to get you on your way and avoid the "what did I do that for!" syndrome some time in the future.

    Good luck!
  7. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Another thought...

    If you want portability, you might consider one of the sectional tracks to start with, such as the BACHMANN E-Z track. I WILL cost more, but might be easier for the kids - especially the "re-railer" sections for putting the locos and rolling stock on the track. And can even be put down on a rug at first!

    I got some E-Z track with my first "set" - it forms one larger section of my planned layout - will use flextrack for the other part. And it DOES get you "rolling" faster - can run on the E-Z while working on the other parts of the layout.

    This track CAN be ballasted, etc. simular to "normal" types of track - a good book that shows what can be done with it is "The HO Model Railroading Handbook, 3rd ed., by Schleicher (Krause Pubs, 1998). I first found it in our library - or can be bought thru Has a lot of good info about other aspects of the hobby as well!

    I would be interested in hearing what the rest of the Gauge group thinks about using E-Z and the other forms of sectional plug-together types of track!

    So chime in folks!

    - George
  8. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Preformed layouts

    On the issue of layouts (and making them portable), I remembered something this morning that I had looked at (and seriously considered): preformed layouts. These are essentially heavy plastic forms. You can paint them (or buy them pre-painted), and glue down the track. They're not real cheap, but they are a quick way to get a fairly nice layout started. They also come in modules so you can add onto the layout later if you want. Check out these websites:

  9. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Trains for BIG kids and Small Kids

    Welcome to The Gauge Soonerfan! Everyone here has the right idea. I have been modelling for the last 2 years. I have always been a train fan, had both Lionel And H.O. I will give you 2 cases with me and trains.

    Number 1:
    When I was 5, my parents gave me a H.O. trainset. It was great, but one problem. The tracks came apart on the carpet! My Dad didn't want a board in the familyroom.

    Number 2:
    A couple of years later, my parents gave me a Lionel train set. I loved it. The tracks stayed together and it could take a beating. Trust me, it sure did!:eek: I used it haul my legos and Star wars figures around.

    Here is my website:

    There I have many links to model railroading websites. Plus pictures of my layout.

    See you down the tracks,
  10. Soonerfan

    Soonerfan New Member

    Thanks y'all for replying. I am now in shopping mode, deciding on going to my local hobby shop for Athearn loco and power stuff. Still confused about couplers, DCC, etc. but hoping that local folks can fill me in. Next question, when I come back here with more questions, do I start a new thread, or continue on here, or what? This is a cool setup and I really appreciate all the help so far. Don't give up on me--will be back. Thanks again.
  11. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    New Threads?


    Glad you've found it of some help. Yep. It is better to start a new thread if your question is something specific. Also feel free to let us all know of your progress etc. It doesn't have to be a question, just a thread or whatever on what you have done, how you have done it. Everyone is always looking for ideas and a "snoop" on what everyone is doing with their layout.:cool:

    Keep us all informed!
  12. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    Welcome to the gauge
    If there are more than one hobby/train shops in your area, I suggest checking them all out before you buy anything. I've found a vast difference in what's available, customer service, staff knowledge, price etc. There are now only two 'train shops' in my area (No. Calif-Sonoma County) only one devoted to trains. I hace seen sets with all you need, but have bought everything I run, HO and N, piece by piece. Unless you can find a really good deal on a used Lionel (my ex wife found a nifty for our Grandson, age 3 1/2, his "noisy train" at a yard sale last spring)...I'd go for HO...there are smoke makin' HOs out there, so I 've been told, but I can't give you more info.
    Sounds like your going to have a ball...I wish my Grandson lived closer...we'd be 'railroading' 4 or 5 time a week...he seems to be a bit of a protogy; when they visited back in June,he learned to operate my N gauge 'layout under construction' very quickly...I've seen 8 year olds less addept or comprehending of how and whats supposed to go, how fast, how far,where and when!
    Have fun and good luck.
  13. Soonerfan

    Soonerfan New Member

    Thanks for all the replies. Went with a basic Bachmann set just to get started and a basic Woodland scenic set to get them started. Unfortunately, got steel track and think I maybe should replace with nickel silver before I started permanently laying track. Also got a better loco to go with it. These will be for my older boys (and me). Got my five year old a compromise--Thomas Tank Lionel large scale. Now before y'all started groaning, my wife wanted a wooden Thomas Tank engine set, I wanted O scale, HO is better size fit, and the one I got is a compromise (only 51 inch circle).
    Can't wait to get going on this and be able to ask y'all more intelligent questions. By the way, how 'bout them Sooners!
  14. billk

    billk Active Member


    Yep - X and 1 after Oct 27th.

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