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Discussion Starter #1
My son would like to start making model trains (HO scale) but I'm not really able to help him. I'm somewhat handy, but I have no experience in model trains, so I can't just teach him.

I'd like to get a book that is age-appropriate for him to get started in model railroading. We have some old magazines, but they are geared more towards teenagers and adults - very wordy, not a lot of pictures, etc.

A few internet searches turned up either more of the same or children's books about trains (we're well past that now!).

Can anyone on this forum point me to a good getting-started book that is age appropriate for a 1st-grader? Lots of pictures, step-by-step guides, and an emphasis on relatively simple and rewarding projects rather than advanced techniques would be great.

Thanks!
-Young Railroader's Dad
 

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I don't think there is anything specifically aimed at that age group but I may be wrong. Maybe someone on here can suggest something. If you're running plain DC it's very straightforward. Its only when you get onto DCC it's starts getting complicated(and more interesting too). As his parent you should be able to support him. I'd suggest getting a starter set with everything you need for a complete but simple layout( even DCC) 6x4 is a popular size, unless you don't have room.

Its not specifically for kids bit you could get some ideas for simple layouts here: http://www.carendt.com/category/small-layout-scrapbook/

Even DCC is not rocket science so you should be able to understand it and guide him. If you want some more help please post again.

The Peco ho/oo plan book is very useful and takes you through all the basics https://www.amazon.co.uk/PECO-STP-OO-Setrack-Planbook-Fourth/dp/B00CRBMN0A
There is a rather lame video which gives you an idea
 

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About the most likely model railroad
printed materials for your son may be the
promotional brochures produced by the
various makers. I can recall my own
experience near his age when I poured over
the Mail order Christmas catalogs with page
after page of 'electric trains'

Youtube has perhaps hundreds of model railroad
videos, some simply showing off the running
layouts and others are designed to help with
some aspect of our hobby.

It may be that Dad is going to be a big part of
son's model train learning. And what better way
to have a dad/son communication.

There are some factors that will require your
judgement, and in the outset, some of your help.

For example, The Scale to be chosen. That often
is determined by the amount of space available
for a layout. O gauge, familiar to most as Lionel,
requires twice the space for a layout as the HO
(half of O) for the same track design.

Cost is another factor; in general, O is more
expensive than HO.

Your 7 y/o is going to need your help to build
the benchwork, (layout table). That doesn't
take much carpentry skills, but you will need
to measure, saw, and fit together.

Many like to buy a 'starter train set'. These come
complete with the
train, the track and the power source in one
box. You only
put the track together, plug in the power pack,
put the train on the track and run it. The downside
of these sets is the track. It is not usually
compatible with turnouts and track
accessories made by others. Starter sets are
sold at hobby stores, department stores and
on line at Amazon, Ebay and dozens of on line
hobby stores.

You will find all of the information that you and
your son will need right here on the Forum. Begin
a thread in the Forum for the scale you choose.
Ask any questions and you'll have responses from
our members who, in some cases, have decades
of model experience.

Don
 

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Honestly, I think you're hunting a unicorn.

My son has been into model railroading since the age of 4-1/2... but not by himself. He's always had my help and guidance. While YouTube videos may be more suited to the way kids learn these days, some are much better than others, and I would certainly think long and hard before I turned a 1st grader loose on YouTube unsupervised.

Moreover, model railroading is a hobby that requires more concentration, spacial orientation, and fine motor skills than a seven year old possesses. You're not going to be able to hand a seven year old a book and some materials and say "there you go, buddy, have fun." YOU will have to learn first, THEN help him along. Depending on how he develops, those materials you think are geared towards teens and adults (and you're dead on in your assessment, BTW) will be age appropriate in 5 years or so. Not coincidentally, right about the time he is old enough to be successful in the hobby unassisted. For the time being, anything he's going to be able to handle on his own, unassisted, doesn't require detailed instructions.

Also, the hobby in general is very free form, with dozens of ways to accomplish the many things you might want to do. It doesn't lend itself to prescriptive, "just follow these simple instructions" types of guides. The best resources give you a half a dozen recommendations so that you can choose the one that is best for you.

If you're really against helping him yourself, and you think he's too old for the wooden train sets with battery powered locos (my son was, at that age), then my advice would be to get him a train set consisting of a simple oval of snap together track and a short train. He can probably put that together with some adult supervision and run it more or less unassisted.

If you REALLY want to introduce him into the hobby, then I would strongly recommend that you do it together. No time spent doing something together with your child is ever wasted. For resources that you can share -- still wordy, but with lots of pictures and drawings -- are the series of books published by Kalmbach publishing, the publishers of Model Railroader and Trains magazines. You will find both basic and advanced topics, and a fairly good broad overview, although not aimed at the grade-school audience.

I would recommend that you start with their "Introduction to Model Railroading", then get other titles that interest you or that you think will be useful. Their books are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com, or you directly order them here: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/catalog/books?filters=fad1ce900f1b40479549a4c670bb57de
 

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Oh yeah, one other thing. If you can find a train show in your area, take him. Nothing increases the WOW factor like actually seeing one in operation.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks to everyone for the advice. It's definitely helpful, especially the specific links that have been provided.

I do feel that I need to clarify, (since nearly every response seemed to imply that I wanted to just give him a book and have him run off with it) that I fully intend to be involved and do this with him! It IS great father-son time, and I value it so much. The concern, however, is that if I spend all of my reading the magazines and learning all about it, he gets frustrated because he wants to do it himself, or at least do it in parallel with me. I was hoping to get a book that we can BOTH learn from, together.

We tried that with the materials that we have, but like I mentioned, it's very advanced for his age and even advanced for me (not cognitively, but rather simply because I'm not familiar with a lot of the terms and such). Also, a lot of the trouble right now is selecting a track design - we have a nice book on it, but it's mostly line drawings, few pictures, so it's a little hard for him to visualize.

Given what I've read here, it seems that the best bet is for me to study things on my own and then do it with him later on. Also, the model train shows would probably help a lot.
 

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you could also jump in to LEGO trains, too! Way more kid friendly.

Thats how I got started lol. If you drop when of these on the floor, you just... put it back together!

Then if he retains the interest, hop into real modeling later?

 

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Glad to see you can see a little light at the end of the tunnel as it were.

The important thing is to get something running before he loses interest, you can build from there. I'd suggest something like one of the Bachmann starter sets like this:
http://shop.bachmanntrains.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=258_269_271&products_id=1814

Bachmann are a budget brand but make good quality products and are well detailed and good runners. I'd suggest going DCC and possibly sound if you can run to that. My seven and eight year olds love love that feature. Bachmann also have a system where you can control your trains(with sound) from a mobile phone or tablet by Bluetooth. The problem being once you start with it you are wedded to it but none the less worth considering.

The other thing to mention is adding some operational interest as just watching trains go round and round can get a bit boring, so you need a few spurs for industry which you can switch so giving your model railroad a purpose, like the full size. I only have a end to end layout also known as a shelf layout but the children like operating it carefully so the train doesn't come off at the end. You don't get continuous running but you can have a layout that can just be stored under a bed or in a wardrobe and can be taken out when required.

Have fun and good luck.
 

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Ho is a great scale but from experience I would go with o scale. They do more to keep they do more to keep the young ones interested. Also they are easier to put back on track after a derail.
 

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Ho is a great scale but from experience I would go with o scale. They do more to keep they do more to keep the young ones interested. Also they are easier to put back on track after a derail.
My youngest son has been handling HO since 4-1/2. It's really not a factor.

Not sure what you mean by "doing more to keep the young ones interested". though. The availability of animated accessories which might entertain a youngster needs to be weighed against cost and space requirements. Also, I would say that if it's the animated gadgets rather than the trains themselves that interest the youngster, then you should probably question whether a model railroad is what you really want.
 

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Thanks to everyone for the advice. It's definitely helpful, especially the specific links that have been provided.

I do feel that I need to clarify, (since nearly every response seemed to imply that I wanted to just give him a book and have him run off with it) that I fully intend to be involved and do this with him! It IS great father-son time, and I value it so much. The concern, however, is that if I spend all of my reading the magazines and learning all about it, he gets frustrated because he wants to do it himself, or at least do it in parallel with me. I was hoping to get a book that we can BOTH learn from, together.

We tried that with the materials that we have, but like I mentioned, it's very advanced for his age and even advanced for me (not cognitively, but rather simply because I'm not familiar with a lot of the terms and such). Also, a lot of the trouble right now is selecting a track design - we have a nice book on it, but it's mostly line drawings, few pictures, so it's a little hard for him to visualize.

Given what I've read here, it seems that the best bet is for me to study things on my own and then do it with him later on. Also, the model train shows would probably help a lot.
Well, you have to admit that it did sound like you wanted something he could do without your help. Cognitively, anything that is sufficiently detailed to provide the necessary guidance, and adequate direction for a teen or adult is going to be over the head of a 7 year old.

My 3 sons (sounds like a TV show.... :D) have always wanted to help me, although only the youngest has stuck with it so far. What we would do was to go look at the layout (or the empty space at first), and I would ask "What do you think we should do next?" They would tell me what they wanted. We would agree on something to do -- build a mountain, make a lake, install track or an automated switch motor. Whatever it was that they wanted to do. And if you ask the kids about scenery and settings, be prepared for some very whimsical outcomes. We eventually went to TWO layouts: mine, which had to stick with the desired theme and setting, and theirs, which was pretty much anything goes.

Anyway, once we had decided on the project, if I didn't know how to proceed, I'd say, "OK, that's our job for tomorrow." Then I would go read up on how to do it after they were off to other things. Sometimes they would sit with me and ask questions, sometimes not. But it gave them something to look forward to, and allowed for some joint learning, but enabled me to take the deeper dive into the details that would have bored them to tears.

Not saying you have to do it that way, but it certainly works. You'll quickly get a sense for what he can handle unassisted and what needs a "big hands over little hands" approach.
 

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My youngest son has been handling HO since 4-1/2. It's really not a factor.

Not sure what you mean by "doing more to keep the young ones interested". though. The availability of animated accessories which might entertain a youngster needs to be weighed against cost and space requirements. Also, I would say that if it's the animated gadgets rather than the trains themselves that interest the youngster, then you should probably question whether a model railroad is what you really want.
Oh, I question a lot of things. Quite frankly it seems like certain things are plain and up front. Thanks for putting down my entire family. FYI, I collect both HO and O.
 

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Oh, I question a lot of things. Quite frankly it seems like certain things are plain and up front. Thanks for putting down my entire family. FYI, I collect both HO and O.
Not sure how you think that I'm putting down your family. It sure wasn't intended to do so. Use of the word "your" flows much better than awkward constructions like "one's" or "a child". Don't take it personally.

The size of the pieces is really a very individual thing for each child, so I reject the notion that bigger is better. It depends on the child.

Similarly with the accessories -- if a child wants to watch motorized or animated accessories, I could suggest several things that would probably be be better and more attractive than a model railroad.
 

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Begineer's book

My son would like to start making model trains (HO scale) but I'm not really able to help him. I'm somewhat handy, but I have no experience in model trains, so I can't just teach him.

I'd like to get a book that is age-appropriate for him to get started in model railroading. We have some old magazines, but they are geared more towards teenagers and adults - very wordy, not a lot of pictures, etc.

A few internet searches turned up either more of the same or children's books about trains (we're well past that now!).

Can anyone on this forum point me to a good getting-started book that is age appropriate for a 1st-grader? Lots of pictures, step-by-step guides, and an emphasis on relatively simple and rewarding projects rather than advanced techniques would be great.

Thanks!
-Young Railroader's Dad
You might want to look at "Introduction to Model Railroading" by Jeff Wilson. It's available at https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/products/books This one book covers all the various aspects of the hobby in relatively simple text, and has plenty of pictures. I don't think it could be considered a "children's book" but the two of you should be able to figure it out without problems.
The only thing simpler I can think of is one of the Atlas company's track plan books. These are designed as a selling tool for Atlas products, but most of us started out with one. The books use a menu format. "Buy X number of these (Atlas) track pieces and Y number of these other (Atlas) pieces and this (Atlas) controller Etc. Then the pieces can be assembled according to a diagram that shows exactly which piece goes where.

Good luck, and welcome!

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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It was because of my Grandson's that I am back into this after 40 years away and I can tell you first hand that trains and kids go hand in hand.

Two of my Grandson's (twins, 7 years old) both received Bachmann starter sets for Christmas two years ago from Santa and both are enjoying their small layouts.
First they were just playing with them on the floor but then they asked me to build them a small/simple layout like their cousin (who is also 7)
I put the track and scenery on plywood for them and they do the rest.
They decide what vehicles, houses, buildings, structures, people are used, where they go and what rolling stock they want to use.
They
If they have problems or questions they ask me and we take care of it.

We go to two local shows each year and they love getting new/used stuff and adding to their layout.

As others have said, get a starter set and add and expand as you go along and learn.
Enjoy the trains and the thrill of the hunt looking and gathering new stuff to make the layout your own and especially the time spent with your Son.

Here are pics of the two layouts after I was done with them, made with Bachmann Starter Sets, a few added cars and some simple scenery on a 4' x 4' piece of plywood.
They have added to them since then.



 
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