Train newbie

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Arsenal, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. Arsenal

    Arsenal New Member

    I put off getting a model train for the last several Christmas times but now finally have my first set. My search began around a month ago. I had two questions I needed to answer first, which scale, and what manufacturer to go with. After visiting a website that claimed that O scale matched up well with the Christmas village houses that I have, my answer of scale was found.

    The LHS near me had some Lionel sets that caught my eye. The Pennsylvania Flyer, Polar Express, and New York Central all looked like nice starter sets. I was leaning towards the Penn flyer since Pennsylvania is right next to me being from Maryland. The clerk told me about MTH trains, which I had never heard of before. I decided to avoid them cause the MTH sets were about 100 dollars over the Lionel sets I was looking at. I came back several days later and picked up the Pennsylvania Flyer set.

    After setting it up at home, and watching it go around the oval track with smoke puffing, and the whistle blowing, I sat back and felt satisfied with my purchase. Initially I just wanted the set and felt I would be done but lately I've felt drawn in by the hobby and want some more stuff, like a Diesel engine, some more track, and some passenger cars. I looked into prices on some online hobby stores and was suprised with the prices of train gear. Many of the engines being more than my set.

    Please let me know about other manufacturers that will work with my set. Also, do you know of any alternatives to the fastrack? I find the fastrack to be too noisy for my liking.
  2. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Arsenal, yes, it is very easy to spend $500 or even $1,500 on an O gauge engine alone. There's more available in the low end of the price scale now than there was a year ago, but it's very easy for O gauge to be a trial lawyer's hobby.

    O gauge is O gauge, so Lionel, Williams, K-Line, MTH, RMT, Weaver, 3rd Rail, and Atlas O engines all work together, PROVIDED you buy 3-rail engines. A few of the companies offer 2-rail engines, and those won't work. Fortunately for 3-railers, the 2-rail stuff isn't as common and is prominently marked. Lionel is still the big name, but the others offer good selection too, and they're interoperable as a matter of survival.

    Also, there are some diesel starter sets. If you want to get into a diesel economically, that can be a good way to go. You can find diesel starter sets priced comparably to the Pennsy Flyer.

    As far as track, yes, Fastrack is noisy. Even traditional tubular track is quieter. There are lots of options to choose from there as well. Traditional tubular, K-Line Supersnap, Atlas, Gargraves... I suggest you look into the price of the switches (turnouts) and consider that when choosing track. You'll want turnouts, and some are much more expensive than others.
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Arsenal, you might want to try a bit of cork under the fasttrack. I've just been looking at it, and it seems to be missing some trcak items, like uncouplers.
    The problem with the rest of the types of track is that the ends of the track are all different and can't be joined up easily. (to a different type, I mean!) Tradition Lionel O is probably the standard, and a bunch of companies make more scale looking track to match.
    Most of the "toy" O gauge equipment should mate with your set. The possible problem is that the larger locmotives (and maybe cars) may require wider curves than you have. Also, some are made a bit more compactly than others, and may look small.
  4. Arsenal

    Arsenal New Member

    Trial Lawyer's hobby is right, these engine prices caught me off guard. After getting my first set costing around 170, I figured an engine by itself may be around 100, but I haven't found much available less than 200. I'll have to keep a lookout for good deals, I even got on ebay but from what I could tell, the engines hold their value and a lot of stuff was around the same prices as the brand new stuff. I also noticed that some engines look much bigger than mine but work on the same track, I figure that the bigger size adds a lot to the price.

    Right now my Penn flyer is set up around my Christmas tree directly on my hardwood floor. Over the weekend I put the track on an area rug that I have and it deadened the sound slightly but not that much. Will cork have the same effect as the area rug or will it deaden the sound more? Also, does the traditional tubular track have to be nailed down or can it work directly on hardwood floor, if it is quiter, I may have to consider it for the future.

    Last thing, what is "toy" o gauge.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    "Toy" O gauge is anything that runs on 3-rail track. I'll admit that some of it is very close to scale.
    I saw two locomotives next to each other at the hobby shop yesterday, a NYC Niagara and a UP articulated (Challenger, maybe.) They were both the same length, but the Challenger looked a bit slimmer in the boiler. I was thinking that it might have been shrunk a bit.
    I don't know how cork will work with the fasttrack. If you get some squares of it from the stationery or hardware store, you could try it and make a bulletin board if it doesn't work.
    The tubular track eventually (and maybe sooner) loosens up at the joints. There are clips available, somewhere, for it. If you take it apart a lot, it will loosen up faster. Lionel used to specify a screw size for it, probably a #2.
    I tell people that 50 years ago we paid as much for my Lionel set as my father paid for a month's rent.
  6. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Yes Arsenal, it's the larger-sized trains with more detail that cost more. Some of them are actually 1:48 scale, which is what O gauge was always supposed to be, but that extra size, and, especially, the extra detail, adds cost. Traditional-sized O gauge can drop as low as 1:64 but rarely topped 1:50. That's quite a bit of variance but since Lionel kept the width pretty constant most of their stuff looked just fine together.

    Prices have ticked upwards as scale modeling invaded O gauge. Those of us who don't need the ultimate in detail have largely resigned ourselves to items from Lionel's postwar period, from 1945 to approximately 1969. While there are plenty of expensive rarities to be had in the '50s stuff, there are also plenty of bargains. I can get as many $20 cars as I want; common boxcars can be had for $10-$15, and common gondolas and flats can go for $5-$7. For locomotives, the Lionel 2037 is a good all-around performer and it usually sells for around $125. A low-end Lionel locomotive from the early '50s, such as the 1110, will sell for well under $50, but the 1110 was a throwaway locomotive so you're better off buying a 2037 or one of its close cousins (there were many).

    The stuff from the so-called MPC era, when Lionel was a division of General Mills, is usually cheaper still but the quality is sometimes lacking. Still, it can be a cheap way to accumulate some cars.

    There are some bargains in the modern stuff too, like the K-Line Keystone Classics boxcars, which retail for about $12 apiece, and the K-Line Train 19 line, which retail for more like $20. Sadly, these seem to be the exception, but K-Line's recent success in the bargain basement may encourage them, along with Lionel and others, to do more in this space.

    As far as modern locomotives, Lionel did one $99 steamer this year and it quickly sold out. K-Line did a $50 diesel. The scale modelers absolutely crucified it, but it was a good engine for the money and seems to have sold well.

    As far as tubular track on a hardwood floor, I don't recommend it. I've done it, but usually it ends up scratching the floor, which isn't good. I built a small platform out of 2x4s and plywood and screwed my track down onto it. Even directly mounted to the board, which acts as an echo chamber, it's quieter than Fastrack. Some cork would deaden the sound considerably. Fastrack is about as good as you'll get for a floor layout, and it's much better than tubular for temporary layouts that will be taken apart and such. But I like my platform with tubular track an awful lot. It looks traditional, and if you compare the price of tubular with Fastrack, it costs about 25% as much.

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