Model Trains for novices – A Couple of Quick Tips


So, you are getting into model trains and you’re a beginner, what should you know before you start collecting and assembling a model train layout? Well the truth is you really don’t need to know too much to get started. Experience and knowledge will save considerable money in the long run if you become a model train junkie but you can dive in with an almost pre-assembled layout from a number of manufactures. I say almost pre-assembled because there is always something that needs to be “put together”.

Pick a Scale

Model trains come in a wide variety of scales (measurements) ranging from the very tiny (T scale) to quite large (G scale). Where you intend to put your layout and what you want it to do will determine what scale you should choose.

Also note that the individual scales of trains are not compatible with each other, so pick one and stick to it (unless you desire multiple setups featuring different scales).

The most popular scale in the world is HO scale (1:87). Due to its global prevalence you will find that this scale has the largest selection of model train stuff available. In terms of model trains for beginners, this is the ideal scale because it can take some minor “rough handling” (children) and most trains and accessories are already detailed – so you don’t need to paint them or anything. This is the best choice for those more interested in running their trains than in detailing them.

Electrical Current

Electricity is what makes model trains run. There are only two forms of power and they are DC (direct current) and DCC (digital command control). Most modern model trains use DCC, which allows for multiple trains all running at different speeds – very dynamic. DC on the other hand is more limited and less dynamic; turn on the power and anything on a track starts to move.

Where you will most likely encounter DC only trains is in the small and/or tiny scales like T scale and Z scale. These trains are so small that they have difficulty staying on the track and pulling any weight at all (even dust on the track can stop them). Many of the older T scale and Z scale trains running on DC can now be converted to DCC and some of the newer ones already have this feature. So, be aware of this when purchasing trains, especially if you are looking at a lot of garage sales for bargains.

And lastly, be aware that international measurements differ greatly, so if you buy something in Europe it may not be entirely compatible with a train set made in the USA.

About Hobby Stores

Oh how I love them. People who work in hobby type stores generally make minimum wage and have difficulty just surviving. Why do they do it? Love. That’s right, they are there because they have a great passion for the hobby and not for the money. They love to talk and share their knowledge and because of this are tremendous resources.

However, prices in a hobby store are generally much higher than similar products you can find in art stores. In particular paints and support products so shop around.

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