Noob seriously thinking about about jumping in...

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by oldpaddy, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. oldpaddy

    oldpaddy New Member

    :wave: Hi all, great site you guys have here!
    I haven't had a train set since I was a little kid, but I'm seriously thinking about getting into the hobby again. I would appreciate any advice and tips you guys have to share.
    I'm thinking about setting up a 4'x8' (+/-) layout (O gauge) in a spare bedroom. I want to try and keep the initial cost toward the set/tracks around $500-$800. So far I've been reading a lot and surfing the net trying to get some info before I take the dive. I think I'm gonna start with a Atlas Layout Package
    After that I'm not sure if I should get a Lionel starter set (Diesel), or if I should put all the pieces together myself.
    What do you guys think?
    Thanks for any help.
  2. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Glad you're interested! Looking at that Atlas package, it's a pretty simple layout. I don't know what they'd charge for the package but it might be a whole lot cheaper to get a different type of track and put together a similar layout yourself, especially if you bought a starter set and were able to use the track it comes with as a starting point.

    Looks like you're looking at about 22 curved track sections, maybe 12 straights, a crossover and a pair of switches. If the Atlas package costs $200, that's probably fair. If it's much more than that, I'll bet you could beat the price by going with something like K-Line Supersnap track or Gargraves.

    As far as getting a starter set versus buying the individual parts, the upside to buying a starter set is that the set costs a lot less than the individual components purchased separately. The downside is the engine may not have the features you want, you don't get to pick the cars you get, and it's less of a bargain if you end up not using some of it. Some people recoup their losses by selling what they don't use on Ebay. Unused track from starter sets tends to sell pretty well. There isn't much market for transformers, but if the transformer is underpowered you can still use it to power lights and such.

    The upside to buying the parts separately are kind of like the upside of building a high-end mountain bike or computer yourself. You get exactly what you want and there's no waste. But will you save money this way? Doubtful. But if you have a total budget of $800 (and trust me, you'll end up a lot closer to $800 than $500) you can probably get some reasonably nice stuff. Remember to save some of your budget to build the table and to get some scenic details. An $800 layout running on bare plywood is overrated.
  3. oldpaddy

    oldpaddy New Member

    I think I've decided on getting a starter set, mainly because It's cheap ($140+) and it comes with all the hardware I need to get started; transformer ect. Plus it comes with a GP-38 Locomotive, which is the same type my local railroad uses (actually they say they use two GP-7's, but after comparing the pics and diagrams it sure looks like a pair of GP-38's).


    Maybe someday I could repaint the toy train to look like the one pictured above, and add a few passenger cars. Someday I'd like to have a passenger and freight train running at the same time. A passenger set that mimics what my railroad uses, and a freight set so I can add some UPS cars (that's where I work).

    I'm pretty sure I'm gonna start with a 4'x8' table. In the future I can build another 4'x8' table and add it to the existing one. Most likely making a L shape with the two.

    I'd like to get the Atlas track ($213) because I like the look of it better than the Fastrack. Can I combine them? Are the two track types compatible with each other?

    Once again, thanks for the help.
  4. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Unfortunately, the Atlas and the Fastrack aren't compatible. You can get an adapter to allow Fastrack to work with old-fashioned Lionel tubular track, but I don't think the Atlas is compatible with anything else. I'm not a huge fan of Fastrack, other than using it to put a train around a Christmas tree. It's fabulous for that because it sets up and breaks down really easily, and because it keeps carpet out of the trains (which saves you headaches) and keeps oil from the trains off the carpet (which keeps the wife happy, which also saves you headaches). But I don't like it for permanent layouts because it hogs so much of the space on a 4x8 table, and the stuff acts like an amplifier for the trains. The table does too, so put the two together and you've got a whale of a racket.

    I think it's wise to get the starter set even if you don't use the track, or if you only use the track periodically, if you're happy with the rest of the stuff that comes in the set. Retail value on that transformer is $99 alone (though you can get them on Ebay for $40). The locomotive, if it were available for separate sale, would probably go for around $100 as well. Comparable freight cars retail for $15-$20. Not bad at all.

    Getting a passenger train going along with the freight will be good. When I finish wiring my layout (2 4x8s), that's pretty much what I'll be running most of the time.
  5. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Welcome to O gauge oldpaddy. As to the prototype engines they are GP-7's. The nose has been cut down for better visibility. The roof is angular on the GP-38 and rounded on the GP-7. No reason to not repaint the GP-38 into that attractive paint scheme though. As for the Fastrack I'd leave it for a quick floor layout and build your permanent layout with the Atlas track. Good luck and most of all, HAVE FUN!

    Greg Elems
  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi O-P:
    Have you seen the All Gauge Railroad Website? It has a lot of small layouts that can be started simply and then be added onto to create layouts with more complex operational possibilities. This might be good if you want to run multiple trains. Site's at:

    Have Fun:
  7. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    Tbe starter set you posted has a single motor engine and 40 watt power pack. Both are a bit under powered should you decide to expand. You would be better off spending another $100 on a set with a twin motor engine and 80 watt power pack.

    The track system you choose depends on how involved you want to get. Fastrack clicks together quickly and does not need to be ballasted because it has a ballasted base. With a grassmat on plywood you can throw together a layout in one eavning. Fastrack is on the noisy side but can be quieted by stuffing it with carpet foam.

    Atlas track on the other hand looks more realistic but requires more work such as laying roadbed and ballast. The variety of curves, switches, etc by Atlas far exceed the variety of Fastrack.

    If it were me and I had $800 to spend, it's likely I would start with a loop of Atlas and a pair of switches. I would choose a good engine like a Lionel S-4 switcher along with a quality power pack and some freight cars by Lionel and Atlas O.
  8. tcripe

    tcripe New Member

    GP-38 starter set

    I purchased the starter set you are contemplating and it does have two motors, not one, as a previous poster said. It is a good puller and a good deal at $140+. Go for it!
  9. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    You are right, I jumped the gun. When I saw $140 I assumed it was a single motor set off the bat without really looking. At $140, you got a bargain.

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