New To The Hobby - Your Opinions Wanted

Hi there~
As a kid, I always said to myself that some day I was going to have a grand model railroad set when I "grew up". Well, I haven't really grown up, but I
am older now and I want to jump into the great hobby of model railroading. I'm not really sure where to start, other then a few books I picked up at my local hobby shop. So, I thought I would post a few vague, open-ended questions to this group, and see what kind of response I can get.
What words of advise would you give to someone new to model railroading? What web sites do you recomend for help and how-to advice? (especially for a new guy) What are the pros and cons of the different scales? Any mistakes you made when you where first starting out, that you think I should be warned of? And please, feel free to tell me anything about anything that you would like to pass along. I'm open to all advice, opinions and words of wisdom!
Like I said, this is pretty open ended, I dont really have any specific quesitions yet. Just let me know what you think.
Thanks for all your help. ~LB
snipped-for-privacy@Gmail.com
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wrote:

Join the local club.
Seriously.
That way you can see the different trains, the different scales, the different operation styles etc in action.
Talk to the other members. They'll be only too happy to answer your questions.

The smaller the scale, the less room you need - or the longer the trains you can have in the same space.
But again, go to the local club where you can see the differences.
There is more equipment available in HO than the other scales, so you are more likely to find models of your favourite prototype, and they are cheaper than the other scales.
Followed by N-scale.
And then O-scale.
I model O-scale 2-rail. British which is more of a craft hobby than in America where there are some nice ready to run models produced by Atlas and others. But the ready-to-run stuff is more expensive than HO and N.
Although at the end of the day you need much less track and stock.

We learn them as we go along.
Again, joining the local club helps - you can buy trains and run them there before you have your own layout.
Most of us buy trains we like without thinking about it. But for instance an F3A-F3B-F3B set plus the 16 cars of the California Zephyr won't fit at all on any but the largest layouts.
And modern 80 foot cars IMO look ridiculous on tight train set curves.
Scale your trains to your space. A GP9 and a short train of 40 or 50 foot cars and a caboose looks a lot better than a modern engine and half the number of 80 foot cars. Or if you prefer steam, a smaller older locomotive and the same short train - a Big Boy or a Challenger looks silly on a short train.

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The big problem I had with joining a local club was the schedule.
ou need to be prepared to make yourself available when the rest of the group meets. Now, adhereing to a club schedule isn't a bad thing if a modeler can do it --- and certainly the clubs I visted and considered joining were certainly well-organized -- but I recommend that a new modeler give extra serious consideration to not only how the schedule will affect you, but also those around you, and also any commitments to other hobbies and endeavors before joining.
You're not helping you or the club if your involvement tapers off after a year or so because of conflicts.
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Christopher, When I work on my models or my layout a big part of the joy is the piece an solitude. Quite often I tack up a horse and just go wandering for hours on end down the old lonesome. I don't think a club would be an environment I'd be comfortable in. I think there is a good chance it would aggravate me in short order. That would certainly be no good for the club or myself. I only have patience with horses, dogs and model trains. What I like about RMR is that I can turn you guys off with a click of the mouse when I've had enough and not offend anyone, and I've gotten more ideas and direction from you all than by any other means over the past five or six years. Clubs may be fantastic places to learn about model railroading and to make friends if you need some extra ones but they are not going to be for everyone. On the other hand if I didn't work with people all day long and did not have kids running all over a club might be just the ticket. My daughter is having her friends over tonight. Teenagers will soon be descending upon me casa so I will shortly retreat to the train shed and turn on classical music while I work. Classical music is to teenagers as a crucifix is to a vampire. Bruce

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My recommendation for any hobby is to first start it on a whim one day because you saw a TV show or a thought crossed your mind. Then do some web surfing and buy a few magazines. Then spend a bunch of money buying this and that. Then mess around with it a little bit. Then get tired of it and put it away. Then 7 years later decide you're tired of all the stuff taking up space and sell it on ebay for less than you paid. Works great for me.
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Just don't go out and jump into a bunch of EXPENSIVE BRASS locos, until you have looked around and discovered WHAT you like. Sure a big steamer looks beautiful pulling a long cut of cars like a fast freight of perishable goods, but it takes lots of room too. Like was previously mentioned DO ALOT OF LOOKING AND TALKING. Welcome aboard, or should I "Alllll aboard"!
John

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LB, Consider the type of railroad you want. Big railroad, shoreline, backwoods logging, industrial, narrow gauge or what have you. Then consider your space. A larger scale may work fine in a smaller space if you model narrow gauge, small shorelines or industrial roads. A smaller scale may be better for the Class A type railroads and longer trains. If your layout is in a large area scale is still a big factor because you can get still get in a lot more railroad with N or HO than O scale. The bigger the scale the more deatiled it can be and more easy to work with. I prefer S and O scale but am building in HO because its the largest scale that will allow the operational aspects I want and feel are necessary for the layout to still be fun and interesting once its completely built. Study the real railroads to decide what you want to model. You may want to consider a road that is or was close to your home where you can readily find info on it or even go see it if its still there. If modeling something far away you may want to consider a railroad that is well documented in books or on the web. There is a huge amount of information on real railroads past and present just a goggle search away. Once you have a prototype to follow or to use a guideline to freelance a railroad you will also have a basic operating concept to start working up a track plan. There are many fine books on track planning and you may just want to use one of the published plans if it seems to fit what your after. The main thing is that if you have a good idea of what you want to model, what you can model in the available space and the time period many questions in regards to scale, gauge, what locomotives, what rolling stock, what structures and even what paint colors get answered automatically, and tracking planning becomes a much more clear process. Also if your modeling is focused you will not spend as much money and time on things that will not be of much use on the layout. Bruce

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Highgate wrote:

In addition to other good advice given, I would say: pick up a few issues of magazines with layout articles. Mag preferences are a wee bit controversial ;-), and the only ones I really know well are Model Railroader and the two N-Scale mags -- or the most recent Great Model Railroads annual, if you can still find a copy. That will let you look at the variety of ways other folks are pursuing the hobby -- different scales and gauges; different themes by geography and period; mainline vs. shortline vs. small switching district; passenger vs. freight; prototype vs. freelance -- and give you an idea of what you might like your Personal Universe to contain.
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~LB wrote: As a kid, I always said to myself that some day I was going to have a grand model railroad set when I "grew up". Well, I haven't really grown up, but I am older now and I want to jump into the great hobby of model railroading. I'm not really sure where to start, other then a few books I picked up at my local hobby shop. So, I thought I would post a few vague, open-ended questions to this group, and see what kind of response I can get. What words of advise would you give to someone new to model railroading? What web sites do you recomend for help and how-to advice? (especially for a new guy) *** Like I said, this is pretty open ended, I dont really have any specific quesitions yet. Just let me know what you think. Thanks for all your help. ----------------------------------------------
Here are some good websites:
Thor's All Gauge Page:
http://www.thortrains.com /
NMRA:
http://www.nmra.org/beginner /
http://www.nmra.org /
World's Greatest Hobby:
http://www.greatesthobby.com /
Welcome to the hobby and good luck with your railroad! I hope you derive as much pleasure from model railroading as I have had over the years.
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad: http://www.billsrailroad.net Brief History of N Scale: http://www.billsrailroad.net/history/n-scale Model Railroad Bookstore: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bookstore Resources--Links to 1,000 sites: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bills-favorite-links
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Bill wrote:

Buy some trains! Buy some better quality trains as well! Don't buy steel railed track, ask for nickel-silver. Buy some 'set track' and play. Don't expect your first effort to be the finished product. The type of layout you like six months into the hobby won't be what you like in a year or 5 years. If anything specific bothers you, ask. If you don't like the answers, it's either you or us - ask the question a different way. :-)
Regards, Greg.P.
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Highgate wrote:

Think about getting enough track up to run something. Much of the fun is seeing the trains move under their own power. The "ultimate" layout can take a long time to build. Think about something smaller, easier to get running, that can serve as a stepping stone to your ultimate layout. A good deal of enjoyment can be had just putting snap track together on the rug. Doing some benchwork allows you to leave the trains up permanently as opposed to picking every thing up before the vacuum cleaner eats them. Clever planning will let you put up just a bit of the benchwork, then lay some track, and run some trains. Most of us have trouble maintaining interest in the hobby if years of construction go by before we can run anything. Look for "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong. Armstrong is the master of squeezing the biggest layout into the smallest space and making it work. Read Model Railroader and Rail Model Craftsman. If you have the space, go for broad curves. The big and fancy equipment (80' passenger cars, Mallets, big steam) look poorly and derail on minimum radius. If you opt for minumum radius to make things fit, resign your self to Moguls, 40 foot boxcars and GP9's.

Smaller scales allow more railroad in the same space. Larger scales offer more opportunity for scratch building and kit bashing of rolling stock. If building models is your thing think large scale. If running trains is your thing think small scale. HO is a good compromise, hence its popularity.

Keep your grades down to 3% and be sure to allow gentle vertical transition curves.
David Starr
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David Starr replied: *** Look for "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong. Armstrong is the master of squeezing the biggest layout into the smallest space and making it work. *** --------------------------------------------------- I agree. "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" was one of the first books I bought when I was planning my first model railroad back in the 1960s and I have almost worn it out over the years. It's one book I consider a necessity for model railroaders.
"Track Planning for Realistic Operation":
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
Another popular book by John Armstrong is "The Classic Layout Designs of John Armstrong":
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
These books are 30%-32% off list price and include free shipping on orders over $25.
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad: http://www.billsrailroad.net Brief History of N Scale: http://www.billsrailroad.net/history/n-scale Model Railroad Bookstore: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bookstore Resources--Links to 1,000 sites: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bills-favorite-links
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A minor problem with N scale is that it is a bit fiddley for the older person, easier to knock over, more difficult to put on track, but certainly, if you've got a model railway shop nearby, go and have a look theret, just to get an idea of the respective sizes of the various scales. Regards, Bill.
David Starr replied: *** Look for "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong. Armstrong is the master of squeezing the biggest layout into the smallest space and making it work. *** --------------------------------------------------- I agree. "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" was one of the first books I bought when I was planning my first model railroad back in the 1960s and I have almost worn it out over the years. It's one book I consider a necessity for model railroaders.
"Track Planning for Realistic Operation":
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
Another popular book by John Armstrong is "The Classic Layout Designs of John Armstrong":
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
These books are 30%-32% off list price and include free shipping on orders over $25.
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad: http://www.billsrailroad.net Brief History of N Scale: http://www.billsrailroad.net/history/n-scale Model Railroad Bookstore: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bookstore Resources--Links to 1,000 sites: http://www.billsrailroad.net/bills-favorite-links
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Welcome back!

You will be surprised at the variety and fidelity of models offered now.
Give serious consideration to Digital Command Control (DCC) instead of conventional direct current to power your layout. If you are starting out at the ground level you will be better served by adopting DCC control for your layout.

http://modelrailroader.com
- Layout size (N, Z scale) - Availability of models/detail parts (HO scale) - Ability to truly detail a model (O scale) - Chance to truly be independent (S, TT scale) - Outdoor operation (G scale)

I overestimated how much free time I would have! I started a family and then decided to return to the hobby -- wow, time is a scare commodity!

What surprised me most about my involvment with this hobby since I returned if how much my interests slid from being a free-lancer trying to capture the generic feel of "railroads in general" to someone who enjoys the historical research part of the hobby as much as anything... not that one or the other is better... I guess the advice is be open to changes -- this hobby has many facets.

I think you've got the right attitude.
--
Mark Mathu
The Green Bay Route: http://www.greenbayroute.com /
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READ, READ & READ some more. Model Railroader magazine, etc.
Go to several area train shows (see listings on some web sites as well as in Model RR magazines.
Set realistic goals. Better to have something running on a 4x8 than nothing running for months or years on something very large.
If you have a family, see if you can generate some supporting interest in your spouse and kids.
Scale : Really depends on many variables. Research them all and set up a comparison table to see the pro-cons of each against your own situation: e.g. - How much room do you have? - How much $$$ can you spend? - What type of train operations do you like? - How old are you? - Does the particular scale peak your interest?
Happy research and planning.
Cheers, Bill S.

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