Knowledge > Scale Types > How Do I Start?

How do I start?

How do I decide what to buy?

  • Your own likes and dislikes;
  • The amount of money you want to spend; and
  • How exact you want the models to be.

What do I buy to get started?

All you need to get started is the train (locomotive and rolling stock) track and a power pack.

How much money do I need to begin?

This depends entirely on you. If you choose detailed models the cost will be greater. The amount of money you spend will also depend on how many extras such as scenery, track, additional rolling stock, and so on, you want.

However, if you purchase, as many do, a train set including a locomotive, two or three pieces of rolling stock, an oval of track, and a power pack to provide the electricity needed to operate your train, you will need to spend around $150.00 for a realistic but not super-detailed train. Battery powered train sets are usually cheaper. They are more suitable for young children but not too satisfying for adults.

What do I choose?

Something which you like that is a suitable size for yourself and your home and will allow you to add extra pieces if you wish.

Hint - If you have young children you might wish to consider the Hornby range of train sets in HO
/OO based on the universally popular Thomas the Tank Engine books by Reverend Christopher Audry. These sets consist of quality locomotives and rolling stock in the colours and styles of the book railways. There is a complete range of trains, accessories and scenery items all of which operate on the usual HO/OO scale track. They will also connect with all the other items in the Hornby range. This could be an ideal way to introduce the whole family to a really rewarding hobby.

What brand do I choose?

There is no right or wrong answer. Common brands such as Hornby (British), Lima (Italian), or Tyco and Athern (American) offer reasonable quality, some good detail, fair prices and plenty of accessories. They are probably amongst the best to start with. But, be careful to notice the couplings.

What are couplings?

These are the connectors between the rolling stock. There are many different ones and some do not connect together. When starting a train set choose items that couple together (train sets contain items that do connect) and a coupler that will allow you to buy a wide range of items. In HO/OO scale Hornby and Lima couplers are very common, in N scale Arnold (German) couplers are very common.

Should I buy a train set or separate pieces?

It doesn't matter. Usually a packaged set is cheapest but by buying the separate items you can choose exactly what you like. (Watch out for couplings that connect though.)

Should I choose a special type of train?

The most common trains are goods trains, but it isn't important in the beginning stages of modelling to choose one particular type of train on even settle on a particular railway company. If you intend to take modelling seriously it may be well to spend time deciding on a particular time period, country and even railway you wish to model before buying.

Does this mean I can buy anything?

Basically yes. If you decide to model a special type of railway, a particular railway or company or a particular time period, these decisions will help limit your choices.

What type of engine is it best to buy?

The kind you like. There may be other reasons but modelling railways is all about having fun and so your choice is entirely up to you. Many modellers love steam engines and there a wide range of these in many scales. To begin with, a six-wheeled shunting tank is an affordable steamer. Generally, sets with diesel are slightly cheaper and many children tend to prefer these.

What does a train include?

A train is usually a locomotive (the powered machine), several items of rolling stock (carriages or trucks) and a suitable ending item, such as a guards van, caboose or whatever.

What makes the train work?

Electricity from batteries or through a transformer connected to a household power point. Battery powered trains do not need a transformer.

What is a transformer?

This is an electrical arrangement that changes (or transforms) high voltage power (240 volts in Australia, 110 volts in the USA) to a lower, safer voltage (usually 12 volts) which works the motor of your engine. Many transformers have built-in control to adjust the power to the train from 0 volts up to 12 volts and in this way give the speed control needed to run the train from start to full speed.

What is a good transformer?

One which meets your government safety regulations and which has enough outputs to suit your need.

How many outputs are needed?

One controlled 12 volt DC output is essential - this powers and controls your train.

An extra 12 volt DC output will allow you to connect a second train when you get it. If this second output is not controlled a separate controller will be needed for the second train.

A 12-15 volt AC output will allow you to connect most powered accessories such as lights, working windmills, railway crossings etc...