Getting started in railway modelling

Discussion in 'Modelling, Simulations & Games' started by Josie, 24 Feb 2019.

  1. Josie

    Josie Member

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    My son and I are taking our first steps into modelling. He's only 5, so it's nothing too serious, and there certainly won't be any particular focus on portraying a particular time period or real-life location or anything like that - but after going to some exhibitions, he's very particular that he wants to move up from toy train sets and into models. No scratchbuilding or painting (until he's older, at least).

    So I'm after some advice on how to start. We've got a Hornby OO starter kit, a second hand Flying Scotsman, and a couple of IKEA cabinets to use as supports for a baseboard. We'll probably want to plan for slow expansion but keep running a working layout in the meantime. What sort of things should we be looking to do as we lay our first pieces of track? What pitfalls might we not have thought of? What do you wish someone had told you when you started building your first layout?

    Any advice and tips will be gratefully accepted!
     
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  3. big all

    big all Member

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    5 is a bit young 5=toy trains
    somewhere between 8 and 12= models
     
  4. Josie

    Josie Member

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    That's what I thought at first, but he doesn't want to play with toy trains much any more - every model railway show we've been to, he's been looking for ideas and thinking about what we could build at home. I'm happy to indulge him and see where it goes, it might prove too involved for him but then it'll just be something for him to come back to when he's older (and maybe for me to occupy myself with in the meantime!)
     
  5. big all

    big all Member

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    the trouble is his motor skills are still developing so finesse may be lacking
    also its the odd smash and the odd accident that will damage models that will get him exited
    you may also find his attention span is too short
    so my suggestion is to watch and play for a few months work out his interest and what excites him
    don't be annoyed if he breaks things even if it seems careles or stupid as he is only a child learning

    if you don't make it fun he will loose interest
     
  6. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    Hi Josie.
    I think some of the more detailed models are a bit fragile for younger hands. Although some of the Hornby Railroad range might be a bit more robust.
    I let our kids and their friends play with my model railway (in the loft of my old house) when they were 5 and above. I realised fairly quickly that certain items were just too delicate and had to be put away if I was going to be able to go downstairs and leave them to it.
    What I did in the end is get a few old Lima models for them to use which seemed to withstand anything (some were given to us too - by friends that had the odd thing in a box somewhere).
    It might be worth trying a local model swapmeet one weekend and picking up a few cheap old models to get started with.
    Make sure you see them running (if they're powered) and get a couple of coaches, a few trucks and maybe a diesel and a steam tank engine for him to have a go with.

    I found that when I made a railway for my son to go under his bed it wasn't just the trains going around, it was also having some roads to drive along, a couple of bits of hill, a tunnel, some sidings, a station etc.

    Are you planning to do a loop (oval)?
    The 1st radius curves are quite sharp, if you have room for second radius it'll run better.
    Peco do a good starter set with track, points etc, all 2nd radius I think).
    Above all make sure you test all the track well before you do anything else.
    He'll soon get bored if nothing works. :lol:
     
  7. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    I couldn't help but let them have a go on it once they'd seen me building it.
    One day (when he was about 6 or at the most 7) I saw my son put a Bachmann Peak onto the track (all 16 wheels of it), about 20 mineral wagons and a guards van, and then drive it all off really smoothly.
    Of course he can't manage to bring three cups and two plates downstairs to the kitchen nowadays though. ;)
     
  8. Josie

    Josie Member

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    Thanks @Cowley, this is exactly the sort of thing I was after :) We've got a Hornby kit to get us started before we think about designing our own layout, I think they have 2nd radius curves? We've got everything second hand so far, so no huge outlay until we know he's going to look after them and stick with it. If he doesn't then it's no great loss; if he does then birthdays/Christmas/Eid etc. suddenly all get a lot easier...
     
  9. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    I'll say! Those years that he always wanted stuff for his railway were the easiest ever for me at Christmas time. :smile:
    Sounds like you've got it worked out pretty well anyway.
    If you need any advice in the future then just use this thread, and anyone on here thinks of anything else to add then this could be quite a useful thread for people that are thinking of starting out anyway.

    Just to add something that I found useful: It's worth being prepared that once you've had a layout for a bit you might realise what he likes and what he's not so bothered about.
    When we built my sons one I deliberately didn't fix the points to the board, I fixed the track either side of the points down - which meant that the points didn't move around anyway.
    I did that because the points were the most expensive bits of the actual track to buy. So if you then end up doing a bit of a redesign after a couple of years you can reuse them.
     
  10. AnthonyRail

    AnthonyRail Member

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    I’ve got the track and locos but working out how to start on the baseboard is the issue for me, was never any good at woodwork at school.
     
  11. big all

    big all Member

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    basic things to keep in mind

    you need to reach the furthest away track to rerail couple and uncouple so make it within arms reach or a minimum hand /knee lean area without structures to get in the way and an area able to support the weight
    temorary pin tracks with drawing pins for up to two years as things will need tinkering to get working properly and to allow adaption and alterations that will definatley happen on a weekly basis

    try and plan trains no more than 1/2 to 1/3 a real length [4 or 5 coaches]to save chasing your tail
     
  12. J-Rod

    J-Rod Member

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    With the one I'm building... my lad will be taught how to do things properly. Or woe betide him.

    I jest - though kids can be funny creatures. When I had my first 'proper' set (Christmas 1991 - I was 7) I always considered it the start of something more permanent and looked after it. 27 years on and it is, even with the original 90 still running! Though currently, am feeling a spot guilty for not having the enthusiasm to crawl up into the loft of an evening to crack on with the build...

    If my son shows an interest over and above 'dad's sort of interesting thing in the loft', I'll probably get him a small set and go from there. If he then wants to contribute upstairs and bring his stuff up to run, then that's up to him. @Josie - I think you're doing the right thing and it's lovely to hear of a little kid who wants to get into it early!
     
  13. Josie

    Josie Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement @J-Rod! I've always been fascinated by watching model railways, as I think most of us have at one time or another - but never had the impetus to actually build my own, I always thought it would be too fiddly and intricate for me to enjoy doing. But an eager child who's keen to share a train-related hobby is the perfect reason to start, I think. As much as I say it's for him, it's a tiny bit for me as well ;)

    This morning we're measuring up the space and going to buy a baseboard, so hopefully the first train movements aren't too far off now.
     
  14. J-Rod

    J-Rod Member

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    Awesome! Post some pics when you can?!

    Nothing wrong with it being for you too - in these iPad days, the more physical things we do with our kids - the better. Also, kids can be a brilliant excuse for doing things you never get round to doing for yourself. Railways aside for a second, my dad used me as an excuse to go buy nice guitars and such - something which I still very much appreciate now! Do it right and this stuff gets passed on from generation to generation.
     
  15. d9009alycidon

    d9009alycidon Member

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    Could I suggest that joining a specific model railway forum (I would recommend https://www.newrailwaymodellers.co.uk/Forums/index.php ) would be a good ides, lots of like minded folk on there that are just starting out on model railways. As a member I find it a very friendly forum.

    Jim
     
  16. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    Just to add to what others have said. The nice thing about now is (especially in 00) what's available just 'off the shelf', so much of it is well detailed and good quality these days.
    A couple of decades ago you quite often had to make things from scratch or build not very good quality kits to get what you wanted, plus there wasn't the luxury of going online to find out how to do things...
    You'll probably also find that you enjoy doing certain things more than others - making buildings/scenery/small cameos etc.
    It can be a very relaxing thing to do. Just doing something creative for no other reason than pure enjoyment.
     
  17. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    I'm personally looking to get back into modelling after a long time away. I had a layout from the ages of about five to fifteen, and after that, computers and girls got in the way! I have none of my original stuff left, sadly.

    After quite a long break, Hornby have published a track plans book again, and it's well worth getting as there's some interesting potential layouts in there. In particular, there's one with a terminus linked into a double-track loop, and I'm really interested in building that one in my garage. I can make the loop a bit wider and the terminus a bit longer in the space I've got, and I reckon that'll be a sweet little setup for now.
     
  18. LOL The Irony

    LOL The Irony Established Member

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    The Thomas The Tank Engine range are built like tanks apparently.
     
  19. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    When you buy your baseboard, its surface needs to be something reasonably soft that you can easily pin the track to. Hardboard or chipboard are OK for just laying toy train track on, but are almost impossible to pin the track to. "Sundealer" board is what is recommended, but is fairly expensive, and not all timber merchants sell it. Insulation board is a good compromise, but needs to be well supported.
     
  20. whhistle

    whhistle Established Member

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    I wouldn't pin all of the track down!
    I use about 10 pins for the whole layout.

    This is what you'll find everywhere in modelling though.

    Some people use pins, I don't.
    Some people ballast with PVA, others with CopyDex.
    Some people use cork for under the track, others cork the whole baseboard.
    Others yet use vinyl tiles.

    Some people use Plyboard as a baseboard.
    Others just buy tables.
    Some use chipboard.

    Some people seal their boards with PVA or paint prior to doing anything.
    Others don't.

    Some use bus wires under the baseboard.
    Some use copper tape.

    Some people solder wires to every piece of track.
    Some don't.
    Some people solder wires to the track joiners.
    Some people solder on the inside, some people solder on the outside.

    Some people use full DCC.
    Some use DC.
    Others still (like me!) use a bit of both (signals/points are DC, track and trains DCC).

    Some will say the only system to get is an NCE Powercab.
    Others will choose the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2.
    There are another group who will stick to Bachmann or Hornby's offering.
    And even another group who will use Roco or the Lenz systems.
    You get others who use computers to control their layouts.

    Some layouts are completely automated.
    Others are quite manual.
    You get some that have an automated branchline, but manual everything else.


    So much choice.
    The only advice is research, read and research some more.
     
  21. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    After awhile you will want to secure the track near points, as every time you change the points the track will tend to move. If you don't keep the track correctly aligned, then the train will derail. As a previous poster said, pin the track next to the point, rather than the point itself, so you don't damage the point.

    For a beginner, I certainly wouldn't recommend gluing your track down, especially points. You will want to experiment with different track configurations. Gluing should only be done once you are absolutely certain of your track configuration. Attempting to move track that has been glued down will almost inevitably ruin it.

    With pins, it is relatively easy to remove the pins if you want to change the layout. You should use a packet of special track pins (these are thinner than normal household pins). Wait until you are reasonably happy with the track configuration, and don't go overboard with the pins, in case you want to move things around again.

    In order to pin the track down, you will need a baseboard that is easy to pin things into. Plywood and chipboard are almost impossible to pin into, unless you drill holes for the pins. For a beginner, I recommend insulation board, which is similar to what pinboards are made of, and is also quite cheap. However, it is not very strong, so needs to be laid on something flat. For a beginner, I recommend just laying it on a table top, old door, sheet of chipboard, or similar.

    Some modellers lay their track on cork. This is not like a Cork board, to take the track pins. The track pins are about 1cm long - it would be very expensive to lay cork this thick under the tracks. If you lay your track direct on a hard surface, like ply or chip board, you will find that the board acts like a sounding board, amplifying the sound of the train's motor. This not only sounds unrealistic, but the buzzing sound can be quite annoying, particularly to others. A thin layer of cork, or other sound-deadening material (polystyrene, PVC floor tile, or the expensive moulded track underlay that some manufacturers sell) overcomes this. However, this isn't necessary if you use insulation board for your baseboard, as insulation board is inherently sound-deadening (that is what it is made for!).

    Yes, there is a lot of choice. Different people have different ways of doing things. But don't worry too much about research - get in there and learn from your mistakes! My first baseboard was built of ply, a mistake that I learnt from!
     
  22. Josie

    Josie Member

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    We've put an MDF board over two IKEA KALLAX units I already had, laid out a Hornby TrakMat on top and put the track loose on the top - the board is fixed to the units but everything above that is loose and wobbly for now, until we've got some permanent ideas.

    @Cowley the wide availability of stuff off the shelf is what's persuaded me to start dipping my toe, to be honest. Off to our local model shop this afternoon for some more supplies now that the child has seen it in action!

    IMG-20190307-WA0006.jpg
    [Image description: a curve of track as described above with a couple of props next to it including a gradient board and a milepost; an out-of-focus child is carefully positioning something in the background]

    IMG-20190307-WA0004.jpg
    [Image description: the same curve, with a green GWR loco whizzing past in a blur]
     
  23. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    Ah. That looks like great fun.
    Love it. ;)
     
  24. J-Rod

    J-Rod Member

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    Or upside-down carpet tiles (if the place you bought them from sent you about 200 too many by mistake..) glued to the baseboard also work.
     
  25. Peter Kelford

    Peter Kelford Member

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    I vaguely remember being 7 and buying a Hornby train set. All I ever did was run it round and round. It took many more years before I could actually get into proper modelling, although I certainly read a lot and did a lot of googling in the intervening years.
     
  26. Josie

    Josie Member

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    That's definitely the level we're at right now - interested in making our own interesting layout in future, just driving in circles in the meantime. As an entry point it seems to have worked very well. He's started paying attention to shunting ("how can we use the small engine to get the carriages out of the siding for Flying Scotsman without using our hands?"), so plenty of operations will be in order in due course even if nothing else! We're going to try choosing and positioning some (premade) scenery next and see what we make of that.
     
  27. J-Rod

    J-Rod Member

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    Also, if you hang about long enough building the thing - the denizens of the layout start building it themselves...


    IMG_1953.jpg IMG_1955.jpg IMG_1954.jpg

    (they get bored of waiting)
     
  28. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    :lol: You’re going to have to supply them with a portaloo, it looks like a long job...
     
  29. J-Rod

    J-Rod Member

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    I'll see how they behave first. If they get the rest of the fence up before Monday we can think about it..
     
  30. Peter Kelford

    Peter Kelford Member

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    I know an O gauge layout that has an automatic wheel cleaner in the loco shed. All the operator needs to do is drive the loco to the shed and press the 'wheel clean' button. Equally, the layout has a damp cloth based carriage washer and a remote-controlled magnetic recovery crane.
     
  31. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    What a great idea.
    I wonder if I could build one in N..?
     

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