People who consider themselves model railroaders, or someday hope to be, had to start somewhere. Not very many start with a bunch of locomotives, tons of rolling stock, loads of scenery and a ready-made layout just waiting for an engineer. Usually, they start with a “train set” and a dream. Even a small oval on a tabletop allows a railroading dreamer to get down to eye level and watch the train roll by. The clicking of metal wheels on rail joints is a wonderful sound.
You will know you’ve crossed a threshold from having a train set to being a model railroader when someone asks you, “How fast will it go?” and you are offended. When you talk of operating your layout (no matter how small it is) instead of playing trains, you’ll know you have arrived.
Model railroaders find a way to move from a circle to an oval to their first turnout and spur as quickly as possible. My first turnout was an Atlas kit I bought at the little hobby shop in our town. I didn’t have enough money to buy a ready-to-use model, so I tried the the kit. I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to put it together on a small piece of plywood. The result was a mess and it never worked. The old hobby shop owner saved me. You will find that used equipment can be your best friend.
For several years a ping-pong table I set up in my basement bedroom was the home of my layout. Nothing permanent, it was 12 inch brass track pieces and turnouts, most of it used. The wires weren’t hidden, I taped them down. What few trees I had were stuck down with clay. I loved it. When I first started I set everything up on my bedroom floor, so the table was quite an improvement.
Whatever you have is a great place to start. Attend model railroading swap-meets to find hidden treasurers. Online market places will sometimes have items for sale. Keep your eyes open and your railroading empire will begin to grow.