How to Get Started in Model Railroading

My original HO scale model railroad I received for Christmas was a circle, thirty-six inches across. I put all the cars on the track behind the Tyco blue and yellow Santa Fe F7 engine. Even though the F7 did not run well, I finally got it moving around my tiny model railroad empire.

After a few days of watching my train roll around the circle, I went to the local hobby shop and purchased a box of Atlas twelve-inch brass straight track. I was on my way to learning how to get started in model railroading.

Train sets are easy to find, and they come in many variations. If you’re thinking of more than a “train set” to play with once in a while, you might decide to buy pieces rather than a complete set in a box. That is, however, a great way to introduce yourself or a child to model railroading if you’re not really sure you want to make it a serious hobby. Find a hobby shop that sells trains and go look at all the choices available.

At Rider’s Hobby Shop, in Flint, Michigan, for example, there are three model railroad layouts that are terrific examples of what can be done in this great hobby. They have an N scale layout with incredible detail in a very small space. My favorite is the HO scale railroad. Someone with amazing modeling talent put these two layouts together. You can learn a great deal just by looking at what others have done. There is also an O gauge train, with a G scale track around it. The folks at the hobby shop are happy to demonstrate the layouts for you.

Another great way to learn about model railroading is to attend swap meets and train shows. If you look online, you will find many train shows and clubs available. At train swap meets you can often find some great deals on everything you would ever need for a model railroad. The folks at the train shows are always happy to tell you about the hobby.

Although thrift shops wouldn’t be my first choice to search, I once found a treasure trove of HO scale items at a shop we often visit. There was a large plastic bin on the floor with a train engine taped to the top, and a sign that read, “$75.00.” I lifted the lid and said, “Sold!”

When we arrived at home, I pulled everything from the bin and found five locomotives, and all of them worked, three transformers, lots of track, many buildings, electrical switches, wiring, signals, freight and passenger cars. I couldn’t believe it! Many of the items are now a part of my Maple Valley Short Line Model Railroad.

At another thrift store I found a pallet of boxes containing an unbelievable collection of model railroad items in several scales. It looked as if it had been stored in a barn. The price was $150, and probably worth every dime. If I had been interested in cleaning everything and selling much of it at a swap meet, I would have taken it.

Learning how to get started in model railroading is not as difficult as it may seem. There are a multitude of great teachers available to help you along the way. Reading train magazines and watching videos online is a great way to learn techniques in model railroading.

The best advice I can give you is to be patient. Model railroading is a great hobby for the entire family offering opportunities to work together to create an empire everyone will be proud of.

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