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Ask Slashdot: Tips For Getting Into Model Railroading? 149

An anonymous reader writes: A relative of mine has been hinting that he'd like me to take over his model railroad collection in the event of his death (or even before that, to make this a bit less morbid-sounding). I'm intrigued by the idea, because I've been interested in model railroads for years, but too commitment shy and too transient to actually start a collection. That's changed enough that I'd like to start planning a train system, and am looking for advice from people who have been at it for a while. A couple of parameters: 1) I'm only interested for now in HO-scale stuff, so I am not all that interested in the relative merits of the other kinds, cool as they might be. 2) Related, I am somewhat less interested in the rolling stock than I am in the construction and control of the track and surrounding landscape. Interested in learning from experienced model railroad enthusiasts what lessons you've learned over the years that would be useful for a newbie, especially if you've made some cool automation for your system, or have built extensive support structures. This includes negative lessons, too, if you've overloaded circuits or floorboards. I'd *like* to integrate some interesting sensors and control systems, and I see some interesting open source software for this. So: What advice would you give to a late-start railroader? For reference: this set-up may end up living in an unfinished suburban basement.
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Ask Slashdot: Tips For Getting Into Model Railroading?

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  • Track stability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frnic ( 98517 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:16PM (#50374229)

    One of the areas many people don't concern themselves with, and regret later, is track/layout stability. The smaller the gauge the more critical this is, in N cause a small expansion or contraction of a area of track will result in many derailments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also layout modularity. You won't be taking it apart frequently, but if you move to a new address, it can be very painful breaking it down in a highly destructive way. You don't have to plan for this of course, but you may have to start from scratch when the relocation eventually happens.

      • by frnic ( 98517 )

        Very true, and achieving stability and modularity can be a real challenge. It can be done, but it is not as simple as most people first think. So they put something together and then have no end of problems with derails etc... eventually giving up. Better to design and research up front.

        • Re:Track stability (Score:4, Informative)

          by Psychofreak ( 17440 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @10:06PM (#50377185) Journal

          True modular design is not necessary. Simply making it come apart in small enough pieces for two people to take through a door is all that is needed. Some bracing on the underside of mating panels that can be bolted together rigidly with probably 4 or 5 more bolts than necessary.

          Some thoughts as to layout around the breaks - a lot can be done to make the breaks come apart cleanly without having to redo the entire section of landscaping
          use stiff plastic to make sure the "fault lines" are going to divide nicely.
          use flocking - redoing a small area of flocking is pretty easy... messy but easy.
          use fabric over the base material then decorate the fabric. Make sure the fabric has a seam that can peel near the mating edges
          have the town roads split. The split will be near invisible if a "naturally straight" feature is part of the edge, such as a car road, track bed, or building.

          Plan for grade plan for access with hands. Use tunnels, building and other features to make "trap doors" so there are reaching holes that allow access to the center of the board.

          Pre-plan the whole diorama. If you have access to CAD use it. Have poster printouts made to become templates that can transfer information quickly and easily

          Make sure there is wiring paths, plan these to be accessible from underneath so use conduit, loom, or other means to organize the many, many wires that inevitably happen.

          I do a small Christmas layout most years using O27 Lionel. The track all comes up, and the boards get put away in the basement. Even though this is super simple and dead flat the failures are mind boggling at times.


  • Kalmbach (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:18PM (#50374235)

    Check out Model Railroader magazine. Kalmbach also has some excellent books for noobs, which you can probably find used on Amazon.
    Also, check out your local meetups via . Good luck

    • Re:Kalmbach (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:54PM (#50374439) Homepage

      This is on the right track, if you'll pardon the pun.

      There are a large number of model railroad clubs, who would be happy to have new members joining the hobby.

    • Re:Kalmbach (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:16PM (#50374577)

      I'll third that: the "Model Railroader" family of publications has been an essential and high-quality reference for model railroading for over 60 years. Several model companies have Model Railroader 1st, 2nd, and 3rd headquarters buildings available as kits!


    • You get all my mod points for the next 3 months. I have been a Model Railroader fan since the 70's. Also, n-scale rocks.
    • Also, check out your local meetups via . Good luck

      This - no matter what the hobby, working face to face with others is always useful. Doubly so for a real world hobby where you can go check out their work or bring your stuff to a meet to ask questions.

      But the biggest thing in this respect, is to work with your relative.

  • Dynamite. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:22PM (#50374263)

    If you're not willing to blow up your own train, you are NEVER going to be cool like Gomez.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's H0, not HO /run

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:31PM (#50374309)
    ... and use the model railroading to expand upon that.

    For example, if you like hiking in the mountains, then set up the trains in a mountainous terrain, with tunnels through the mountains and bridges across the valleys.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ditto this. Model railroading is such a diverse hobby, you can enjoy it in many different ways -- carpentry, electronics, computers, model building, realistic train operation (including paperwork, something I can't understand! :), scenery, sign-making (one of my favorites, modifying such things as Magritte paintings and 1920's safety posters into ads for ridiculous things), and so on. Read a lot. There are three big print magazines, two besides Model Railroader: Railroad Model Craftsman, and Narrow Gauge

  • A Few Basics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:32PM (#50374319)

    Familiarize yourself with "scale" vs "gauge". HO scale (1:87) refers to the proportion of the model to the real-life train. HO gauge refers to the distance between the tracks. So you could enjoy HO scale models of narrow-gauge real-life trains that actually run on N gauge tracks, and you could on the other end run O scale (1:48) models of narrow gauge equipment on HO scale track. Second, learn about Digital Command Control (DCC). It's a worldwide standard for electronic control in model railroading and you can do far more than just run a train - you can control and automate lights, track switches, train paths around your layout, sound effects, moving scenery elements, etc. etc. If you're in Europe, Marklin 3-rail HO powered by AC current is popular and their control system is called MFX, but most of the rest of the world powers HO trains with DC current and uses DCC for command control. HO modeling can be surprisingly affordable compared to other scales as it's by far the most popular. Agree with the other commenter that track stability is paramount as if your trains don't run reliably, you will quickly lose interest. Lastly, don't be afraid to just lay some track down and later on rip it up and start over. Track isn't *that* expensive, and you can often reuse a lot of it when you pull it up off whatever surface you've mounted it on. Get your trains up on some sort of surface (table, piece of plywood, whatever) for starter because running trains on the floor rapidly becomes no fun, and you can't appreciate the details on the engines and cars when your viewing perspective is from an imaginary 500 feet in the air.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      There was a scale for model railroading that was very close to the scale for Battletech. I think one was 1:64 and the other 1:65. If one is in to Battletech or other similar tabletop games it might make sense to select a scale that's compatible with more than one hobby, given the physical space that the hobby takes up.
  • Don't (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Model railroading is fun but like heroin it becomes addictive and can consume every penny you have; next thing you know you are blowing people behind real boxcars to pay for model flatbeds.
    Take my advice, save money and take up private aviation.

  • by RealGene ( 1025017 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:34PM (#50374329)
    The Digital Command Control (DCC) standard [] has made operation and control of hobby trains more realistic and allows for much better computer control and sensing of layouts.
    Of course, it also adds cost to what already can be an expensive hobby, but just being able to run two trains on a single track without a collision is pretty cool.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    As we all know, we are now in the post-scarcity downloadable atom society. Simply buy (or get your neighbor to 3D print) a 3D printer, download what you want. If you don't like it, no harm, no foul, simply download something else.

    And of course, if your shirt is missing a 10 cent button, you can now spend weeks and hundreds of dollars 3D printing buttons too.

    If you don't see this, you are a Luddite.

  • by tebee ( 1280900 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:36PM (#50374337)

    My main comment is to to do anything too big or to complicated - if you start something too big, you will probably never finish it and maintenance will occupy a disheartening number of hours.

    If you like scenery, look for a copy of Model Railroading with John Allen so see what one modeler built in a suburban basement half a century ago. If your a lone wolf this is probably about as big you can sensibly make a line on your own. There is also a set of DVD's of pictures of the line," John Allen's Gorre and Daphetid Railroad", unobtainable now, but there is a torrent of them on Kat at the moment.

    • My main comment is to to do anything too big or to complicated - if you start something too big, you will probably never finish it and maintenance will occupy a disheartening number of hours.

      If you like scenery, look for a copy of Model Railroading with John Allen so see what one modeler built in a suburban basement half a century ago. If your a lone wolf this is probably about as big you can sensibly make a line on your own. There is also a set of DVD's of pictures of the line," John Allen's Gorre and Daphetid Railroad", unobtainable now, but there is a torrent of them on Kat at the moment.

      Note this well!

      If your secret plan for model railroading is to build a secret railway line crossing the Canada/US border to export marijuana you should understand that this is really too big a project for a beginner.

      Leave it to the pros like Ricky, Julian and Bubbles.

      • Don't be ridiculous.

        HO cars would never survive the weather. He'd need G. It's a totally different Ask Slashdot.

  • ok, not HO scale, but still... []

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They have a lot of videos on [] about how they have built their stuff.

  • 3D printing (Score:5, Informative)

    by samurai7 ( 4205821 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:47PM (#50374383)
    When i was growing up my friends dad was a pro; He would spend months on a single house, making if from scratch with wood and match sticks etc etc. The finish product was something out a of a magazine and of course we weren't allowed withing 50ft of any of it. Anyway, that being said, you dont have to spend months anymore; There are websites dedicated to CAD designs specifically for model railroads; So now you can just 3d print out anything you want. You want a oil rig? There's a design for that; Some of it is open source, some of it cost like $5; Normally the sites have the option to outsource the printing for a relatively cheap price; But then you have to wait, and if you mess up the paint, you might have to buy another. The only problem is that you have to get really good at painting. Since all of it comes out creamy white. You also have to sand the plastic down to get it smooth.So a good drummel and lots of mineral spirits. But still a lot less work then my friends dad.
    • Re:3D printing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:29PM (#50374629) Homepage Journal

      You CAN get "to good" at the painting. Do you really want your engine to be a plain, dull, flat black (or shiny black) or do you want some realism? I was more into ships and planes, and after awhile, I got hold of the idea of "weathering" my models. Imperfections in the paint job were good - after the painting was finished, I would go back and add rust streaks beneath the anchors and the scuppers. Fade the masts a little bit. Paint on the non-skid decks, but leave a splotch of red-lead showing through.

      I'd have to study trains a little bit to come up with good ideas, but I've never seen a train that looked "new". Well - for starters, scratch out some grafitti on some of the boxcars. That's essential - I try to read the grafitti when I'm waiting for a train! How 'bout a Banksy train? That would be pretty cool!

      • Re:3D printing (Score:5, Informative)

        by samurai7 ( 4205821 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @03:09PM (#50375179)
        oh, i totally agree, but the under coat needs to be correct first; Painting is all about layering; You start with your primary color, paint the whole thing that color; then do the next color and the next color, getting to smaller and more detailed area's as you go; if you cant get your lines streight; then its not going to look right; After all, the train doesn't come from the manufacture with crooked lined; Thats why you also have to know how to 'tape' things off right. When you see people on TV doing these crazy paint jobs, its because they spend DAYS taping off their rides; spray - tape -dry repeat. I consider 'weathering' and flare to be the final step in the process; What I have seen people do is print decals; Basically you get those clear labels from office max, print your 'grafitti' on it; then stick it on; You can then clear over it with some satin clear, or flat clear so that it doesnt have that 'waxed' look and evens out the sticker so it doesnt look like its sticking up to far.. Same goes for any logo's, wrapped cars with murals on them, etc. weathering and flare are some of the harder things; because if done wrong, it looks completely obvious. You have to think about shadowing, where dirt is likely to collect, where fading happens, etc.
      • Graffiti decals [] are widely available. Some guys take photos of real train graffiti and print their own, for maximum accuracy. (“Hey, STEEZ doesn’t tag Southern Pacific tank cars! Everyone knows he’s all about the Northeast Corridor.”)

        • That's kinda awesome - I had no idea that stuff existed. Obviously other people have an eye for details and realism!

  • Required reading (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:52PM (#50374427)

    Desmond Bagley's novel 'the Enemy' features a model railroad layout that should appeal to nerds.

  • Obligatory:
    Thank god for model trains, you know if they didn't have the model train they wouldn't get the idea for the big train! []

  • Have money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:04PM (#50374497)

    Look at the prices for things. You'll be surprised how expensive it is as a hobby.

  • Get this book (Score:4, Interesting)

    by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:04PM (#50374499)

    The best single book I know to get started in the hobby is Dave Frary's "Pennsylvania Railroad, Middle Division" which you can buy as a downloadable PDF here []

    There are good videos on YouTube. Dave Frary also has some good quality DVDs on his website, []

    There are multiple groups on Facebook, and also some discussion boards such as [] (tends to be pretty serious) and [] (a bit less serious).

    Finally, don't buy a cheap locomotive! There's nothing more frustrating than getting everything set up and then having your loco break.

    dave (in the hobby for almost 50 years...)

  • Seeing how you have already decided on scale, HO, and what you want to get out of it, Automation over prototyping and collecting rolling stock, there is still plenty for you to do. As mentioned DCC is a great way to start, converting all the existing engines requires adding circuit boards in each and rewiring the track. DCC is standard so in most cases you can pick and chose manufacture between the trains and the controllers you want to use. Then go with block detectors that will return a signal whene
  • by Molt ( 116343 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:06PM (#50374509)

    Your relative has a hobby, and they think you'd enjoy it too. Why not share it with them instead of going solo?

    Let them guide you through the novice stage, it may not be as efficient as asking for help on forums but it'll probably be more enjoyable for both of you and be a good chance to generally chat- even if it's just by phone or email if they don't live locally. It'll probably be good for them to see someone else sharing their interests, it doesn't happen too often with minority hobbies.

    If you are likely to inherit their setup it'd also make sense to talk, find out what they have, and make sure you get things which will be compatible and complement their existing track.

  • If you're not aware of it, check out the Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH) website [].

    Just keep in mind that MRH and Model Railroader (MR) magazine [] are both advertiser-driver... which is a nice way of saying that their business models are to always be trying to convince you to buy the newest and greatest, instead of being happy with what you already have!

    • I gave up my MR subscription due to MRH.  The content is similar and the editorial selection of articles and authors is quite a bit wider than the narrow stable of authors that MR uses.

  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @01:12PM (#50374541)
    You've come to the right website for advice!
    • I was half expecting to find an onslaught of 'This is not news for nerds or stuff that matters!'-comments, but apparently this classifies as the latter.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        There is nothing nerdier then a discussion of a fictional railroad you control via software.

        It includes ridiculous amounts of jargon ("all-ALCO" is one you'd hear if you brought me into it), much of which is extremely technical (for example, you'll need model locomotives, which means you'll need to know technical terms like steam traction, cab unit, road switcher, and safety cab), and (this is the key thing) almost 100% of the discussion would be about your personal taste. I would go with almost-all-ALCO, s

        • There is nothing nerdier then a discussion of a fictional railroad you control via software.

          Technically, it's not news for nerds. Don't get me wrong, I don't really mind topics such as these on Slashdot (although I do find them less interesting and very niche-y: there are thousands of 'nerdy' hobbies for which there are undoubtedly dedicated forums where these kinds of topics are much more appropriate).

          I was mostly pointing out what I perceive to be hypocrisy when it comes to referring to the Slashdot tagline as the norm for which topics belong here.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because you're more interested in the layout than the trains themselves, look for inspiration in the real railroads and their surroundings. There are books and articles about designing a layout, and those will point out details that you can consider whether you're interested in... such as types of businesses and sidings to include. You might want to have some sidings which encourage certain maneuvers.

    Get books and web sites which describe scenic railroads and top railroad locations. Try web searches which i

  • Since you're more interested in layout, get one of the open source rail simulators. If you find it not all that interesting, then you'll know that model railroads are not for you.
  • OCD might help. Virginity too.

    • No.

      I know a few model railroaders, besides friends ones in each of four generations of my family.

      Those people have one thing in common, all have or had girlfriend / boyfriend when younger, and married later.

      So I challenge anyone with named slashdot account to refute my assertion if their personal experience different, in other words who is a slashdotter who is a virgin and/or has OCD but is a model railroad buff.

      • by spitzak ( 4019 )

        I would agree. Anybody with a model railroad I have ever known is a married male in retirement, who had kids that have moved out of the house. So I kind of doubt any of them are virgins.

  • I am sure there are quite a few modelling enthusiasts among slashdotters, but there are many forums dedicated to model railroading, with subforums focusing on automation and landscaping/structures, complete with video tutorials of cool tricks (some of them really simple).

    If you have a chance to kickstart your collection, I would definitely suggest investing any saved money in DCC equipment - it makes many things simple which would be a chore otherwise.

    My advice though is similar to the one I would give to s

  • by McLae ( 606725 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @02:53PM (#50375077) Homepage
    First tip:

    In your area, look for model train shows. You can get lots of ideas, see what is available, and usually pick up old stuff at low prices.

    Second tip:

    Look up your chapter of the NMRA. They will have meetings, contacts, and activities where you can 'talk tains'. And fine new buddies.

    Third tip:

    Find a local train club. They can help you get started or show you what not to do.

    Fourth tip:

    Model railroading has something for everyone, but one person has trouble doing it all well. From automated train control and Loco management with computers (JMRI) to painting buildings to show soot and grime, there is something you can enjoy.

    On the finance side, clubs unfortunately have experiences handling estates of former members. My Club has 3 estates for sale at this time. (Lots of old farts like me!)

    Good luck and have fun.

    Thomas Stephens, Superintendent, Texas Northern Model Railroad Club.

    BTW, the local NMRA group is having an Arduino Clinic next month, showing how Arduinos can automate things on a layout, like Signals, crossing gates, etc. THAT is very /.

  • Make every electrical connection as perfect as possible, and don't go over to my parent's house when my dad is running his garden train...
  • The railroaders that stay with the hobby are usually into history in some fashion. The research is the fun part.

    Anyway... a few random hints:
    1) Get a copy of "Track planning for realistic operation" by Armstrong and read it cover to cover about 37 times.
    2) Learn about DCC track wiring and train control.
    3) is a good place for miniature tools (not necessarily at the best price, but good selection.)
    4) Practice your skills on something *small* to start with. Like a bookshelf switching layout tha

  • If you enter this world, you'll never have any sex again, ever!

    Chicks don't dig that 'hobby', it's highly addictive and it will cost you every dime you have.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2015 @03:15PM (#50375221)

    I love the idea of automating the environment. I'm not sure this is what you had in mind, but maybe it is:

    You could build an intersection sensor that detected Hot Wheels cars on the tracks. Then you could program an HO-scale realistic stopping distance into your train, and maybe some sound effects or even spark generators to give the appearance of a real panic stop. Together, these allow you to simulate the kinetics of a train vs. car auto accident: the car stops on the tracks, and the train cannot stop before the collision, even in a panic stop with sparks flying off the wheels. Don't forget to include the train's horn as the engineer sounds the collision warning.

    You could put some little cups of chicken blood in the driver's and passenger's seats to simulate the impact on the passengers.

    Finally, you could get a motorized HO-scale ambulance, fire engine, and police that can drive on the streets, and "respond" to the accident. You could even have a hidden speaker that makes radio broadcasts like an emergency dispatcher, something like "Fire Response: MVA Code Red, Main St. and Park Pl, west of, at the train tracks for train vs. auto."

    Then the ambulance could drive to the hospital. A few HO-scale hours later a hearse would arrive at the hospital from the funeral parlor and return with a body inside. You could make a little servo-raised platform in the back of the hearse so it could be empty on the way to the hospital and full on the way back. Either put two coffins in the back, or have it make two trips.

    Ok, I'm just kidding, really, I know this is pretty far from the fun of model trains, which are actually really cool. I just thought of this and had to put it out there.

  • Tips from experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2015 @03:24PM (#50375285)

    Being on the local steam railroad, I have encountered plenty of people with quite impressive model railroads. My own isn't impressive as railroad time end up being on size 1:1. Still, being interested, I looked at what other people have made to figure out what I might do myself one day and now somebody else can benefit from it. This mean the following list is a summary based on experience of several layouts over multiple decades.

    Use quality tracks and join them correctly. Poor tracks causes many derailments and takes the fun out of it.

    Make all tracks accessible. Regardless of the quality of the tracks, derailments can happen everywhere. I know somebody, who put up tracks, placed a closet in front of it and then had to remove the rear of the closet to get to a derailment. He left the rear as a door for easy access to the next derailment.

    Think of what to do with trains you aren't using. Constantly placing new trains on the tracks is time consuming and quickly becomes boring and leaving them on the tracks quickly fills up the sidings. Maybe add a layer of sidings underneath your model just for storing not currently used rolling stock.

    If you plan for trains to go uphill, test how they perform at the chosen grade. It's no fun to add the hill and then realize half the trains can't climb the grade. Also severe slowdown or wheelslip is likely unacceptable as it wears out the engines way too quickly.

    If you add a section of tracks, which can be removed, like for gaining access to a center command center or whatever, then do remember to prevent trains from driving when the track is incomplete. One working solution is to make the nearby tracks get power from a wire, which automatically switch off unless the "bridge" pushes down on a switch, hence a sensor for the track being where they should be. I have seen that working and told it was installed after the owner had to catch an engine in mid air. Something about the wife suddenly opening the door and hence push the track out of the way.

    Figure out if you want overhead wires. Depending on where and which era you aim for, they could be needed or they could ruin the atmosphere. At the same time if you don't have a specific goal, then you should still consider if you want those. Also you should consider if you want them powered or not.

    Make enough clearance for the trains to pass under everything. Some cars are taller than others. I know of one guy, who had problems with driving a camera car underneath overhead wires. The battery pack was simply too big to fit without occasional hits and the power from the rails was too unreliable for the camera while driving. The concept of having a screen showing the front view from a model train sounds cool though.

    Think of if you need a signal system. If you want to take the role of a dispatcher, then it would be nice to have tracks with automatic signals, which turns red automatically if there is a train behind it and red signals removes the power from the tracks right next to the signal. That will allow trains to queue up until you make a controllable signal green to make the trains enter a terminal. There are also some digital solutions, but personally I prefer the unpowered track as it seems to be more reliable in my point of view. There are many pages on how to set up circuit breakers for signals. I will not write about that here.

    Don't make one huge plate and glue everything together on top with plaster and whatever. Instead divide it into decent sized sections, which can be taken apart and easy moved to a new house if you need to do so in 5-10 years. Remember easy take apart of everything, including tracks and wires.

    Don't name your stations after real life stations. It might be fun at first, but a few years from now, you realize how much it limits you and you will regret it. Also by keeping it fictional, you no longer feel the pressure to update if the real station is updated or get new trains.

    Think about curves. Not all trains can drive in all the curves you can buy.

  • I grew up in Lionel so I've got nostalgia for them. They have a good size, HO and O have a "human" size to them, easy to handle and tinker with. I wrote a bit about Lionel [] If I started again I would probably go HO, O can take up a lot of space.
  • You could decide to build modules to a standard that people in your state or country use. Use google to find the most appropriate standard for your geographical location and get in contact with people who modules to that standard for guidance on how to get started and what the pitfalls are.

    There are meetups where people bring modules and assemble them into temporary model railroads. These meetups often allow visitors and the model railroaders tend to be happy to talk about their hobby with interested visito

  • It's only a hobby.... it's only a hobby....

    There is likely a model rail club or more in your area. See if they have open house and go check out the place. A good club will be warm and welcoming with folks that are comfortable to be around. Forget the layout at the club, you are looking for a place to hang out with others that know a lot and don't mind answering questions. Fastest way to kill enjoyment of the hobby is to get around folks you'd rather paste in the beezer than talk to. Model railroaders are 25

  • by CQDX ( 2720013 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @06:17PM (#50376147)

    The subscription will quickly get you up to date on the various aspects of the hobby and you'll get a better idea of what you'd like to do. The magazine publisher, Kalmbach, also has a number of very good books geared for the newcomer. Visit your local hobby shop and take a look.

    If you want to build a layout, start out small, 4x8 is very popular size so you'll find many track plans to choose from. Better to start out small and build it to completion. Many plan too big, never finish, and loose interest.

    Most of all, find a club that has a good size layout with regular meetings and operating sessions. Operating sessions are where the club members get together and run a simulated railroad with time tables, train orders, waybills. Essentially the goal is to move freight around like a real railroad along with the typical challenges of building the train, avoiding blocking the main line so passenger trains aren't delayed, handling the puzzle of setting out freight on a spur that's facing the wrong way, etc. It gives model railroading purpose and is so much more fun than running a train around in a continuous loop. Joining a club will also give you the opportunity to run your rolling stock without having to build your own layout.

    If you are into computer programming, you can put your skills into computer controlled dispatching. Traditionally operating sessions with paper, white boards, or perhaps a panel with a schematic of the layout and LEDs to indicate switches and occupied blocks. There is move to do this on a computer. And if you are into electronics, there is the whole aspect of interfacing this with the switches and signals.

  • Hey timothy, sweet question! I grew up model railroading in HO! I inherited my dad's post-war Lionel collection which is pretty sweet. I currently live in a small apartment in the city so no layout but I have experience since I could talk. I agree with what others have said: clubs, magazines. Also, train shows are great to learn and talk to people. Clubs always show up with a layout and they're great to get ideas from and ask questions. It's an awesome hobby where you go at a slow pace but after time
  • I enjoyed the hobby back when I was in my teens. Forty years later, I am picking it up again. A few pointers: design, design, design. Read, read, read. Learn, learn, learn. Make a who host of layouts using SCARM. Be prepared to build an initial layout. A second (better) layout and a third (dream) layout. Going through this process will get your skills up to speed.

    Get to know some other hobbyists and ask to attend a session. This will give you great insights into whether you want to RUN a railroad or just e

  • Model Railroading is fun and creative. Just for fun, put one in a briefcase: [] I belong to an operating group that runs the model railroad like a real using DCC.
  • This is the true "for nerds" approach. I've got into model railroading recently and one of the most interesting problems I've got into was "how do I make all this work automatically", this led me to rocrail. To fully create and automate a layout, I got into circuit design, programming, modelling, etc. Very interesting hobby that can go as far as you want it to go in terms of abilities.

    That said, getting into the hobby and specially DCC was a real pain. There are so many competing technologies to do the same

  • by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @12:38AM (#50377811)

    First, I've been a model railroader and general railfan for most of my 38 years. I took a bit of a break from modeling myself during my 20s on account of wife / career / etc, but during the whole time I was working on other layouts. I dug back in with a passion about four years ago, ripped out the abortive start of a layout from a decade prior, and started construction of a new layout. I'm an N scaler myself, but most of the other layouts I work on or operate on are HO or O.

    Model Railroader is good for beginners. Also be sure to check out Model Railroad Hobbyist, which is a free (er, advertiser-funded) online model railroad magazine. It's aimed a bit more at experienced modelers, but there's still lots of layout tours and the like in there that will be of interest and inspiration. Besides, the price is right to try it out.

    One thing you'll start to figure out fairly quickly is what interests you and what doesn't, and that will start to steer you towards certain things. Some of us are interested in exactly replicating some prototype area and railroad down to the most minute detail, whereas some are more interested in just running trains through fantastic scenery that is purely a work of imagination. There are segments of the hobby who enjoy scenery, others that are fascinated with equipment or structure modeling, some that like to create accurate operating practices, and some that really like control systems.

    My starting recommendations would be:
      - Just get something running so that you can start figuring out what you like and what you don't, with the full anticipation that it'll be temporary. If you start too big of a project on your first try, you'll lose interest before you get enough of the pieces together to make it run smoothly.
      - Go find a local show and see what others are doing
      - Talk to your relative and learn from him, particularly if he's a relative you like. (And, well, skip this if he's equivalent to my weird uncle Gary.)

    If you're interested in the controls side, there's a decent DIY electronics community within the hobby. Two Yahoo email groups I'd recommend are mrrelectronics (general MRR electronics) and Arduini (focused on Arduinos in model railroading). There's Digitrax's Loconet, CMRI, the NMRA's new LCC standard, and a couple dozen other ways to connect a layout to the computer. Then there's things like JMRI, which you've already found, which are great for linking everything together.

  • You should go and ask this relative obviously...
  • The 1st rule of Model Train Layouts: Do not talk about model train layouts.

    (2nd rule: No nesting) []

  • It's not a question of the merits of scale x vs scale y, but a physical limitation. As we age, for most of us, presbyopia kicks in, and, to some extent, there's often a loss of some sensitvity and fine motor control in the fingers. The "between HO and O" size of S scale ameliorates that to some extent. Honestly, that is my only regret for commiting to HO when I was a child. I would rather, now, have S. As pointed out earlier, there are narrow gauge trains to be modeled which allow tighter curves for a

  • Ask Slashdot: Tips For Getting Into Model Railroading?

    He's not asking about trains, he just really wants to coerce Cindy Crawford into doing... something.

  • Check out my moms pages .. and yes "its på Danish". It will explain pretty much everything you need about calculations, buildings, built from the ground up, using inexpensive materials. For a complete H0 car, the only produced patrs are the wheels... []

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