Can you remember your very first toy train? Perhaps you received it as a gift…perhaps you purchased it on your own with your allowance? Looking back, do you remember the spark of joy and enthusiasm accompanying it? For many, their first toy train triggered an enthusiastic hobby for collecting model trains and creating miniature railroads spanning towns/cities. However, with all the parts, accessories, manufacturers, scales, and assembling required, this pastime can become overwhelming and expensive, in particular for a newbie. But with a little 411, access to such Railroadia Swap Meet as ours in March, and a game plan…not only can this be an incredible hobby but it can be rewarding for the entire family.
So let’s start with the basics. First thing first, when it comes to model trains you must decide on what scale train you’d like to collect.
Model Train Scales
O Scale) Such models are scaled to 1:43, 1:45, or 1:48.
N Scale) These models are much smaller than O and built to a 1:160. They’re sought after for their smaller size and subsequently not requiring much space to set-up.
Z Scale) Even smaller than N, the Z scale is built at 1:220.
G Scale) The G scale, however, is the largest electronically-powered model trains and can be used either indoor or outdoor, hence they’re referred to as the “Garden” Model Train. But…the most sought after model is the:
HO Scale) “Half O” models are scaled to a 1:87 size. With its popularity and the majority running on a two rail track, this scale includes the widest variety of rolling stock and accessories.
Model Train Basics
After you decide on a scale, you should gather the basics.
Locomotive) Try to find a locomotive first since it’s the engine that drives the train.
Carriages) Attached to the locomotive, the carriages come in a variety of types. Depending on the theme and look you’re going for, you can choose a series of freight cars, passenger cars, dining cars, theater cars, etc…
Track & Electronics) With the most important find being the controller, as it allows you to dictate the speed and direction of your locomotive, this category allows you to actually control your miniaturized railroad.
Model Train Manufacturers
In terms of manufacturers, there are so many. At a place such as our Railroadia Swap Meet you can take a look at all the different brands and their offerings.
If you are a newbie, two well-known and suggested brands are the Hornby and Bachmann as they usually have starter sets with at least one locomotive, a carriage, a simple oval track, and the required electronics.
From here, you can get quite more advanced by allowing your imagination to take over and creating essentially any style/theme you desire.
But one note…since collecting model trains can become expensive (hence we strongly suggest the Railroadia Swap Meet to find great savings) you should design out your ultimate vision first. With a design in mind, you can have a focused and strategic game plan when you’re hunting for pieces to add to your collection.
Advanced Model Railroading
Furthermore, as you begin to expand your city/town/real-life landscape you can do a few things. One, the simpler route is to collect expansion packs that already include different rails and accessories. Just make sure your kit is compatible with the scale of your existing set. For instance, if you started with HO sized tracks, then you can’t use a G-Scaled expansion kit. You must find one scaled to HO. The other option, the more complicated route, is to actually build your landscapes with plywood, paint, tools, etc. Finally, you can put it all together. You can lay it out where you want your tracks to go, make sure everything is in working order, surround it with scenery and structures, and lastly place the miniature people where you see fit. Model railroading is one hobby that not only goes back over 100 years, but it’s something that individuals of all ages can take on. It can be a rewarding pastime and bonding experience for the entire family.