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Discussion Starter #1
I am new to all of this. I am looking into a set/layout for my son that is going to be 1 soon. I know this is early but i'm looking for a hobby for the family and I think this is the one. What I know so far is I want HO scale and a 4'x6' or 4'x8' layout. My questions are
1. Should I start with a set or piece everything together?
2. I want all the lights, smoke and noises but is steam locos harder to work with? Steam or diesel?
3.What brand is easy to start with and is good? I don't mind spending more for better but have no clue on anything.
4. What is with the locos that have 0-2-0 nu,bers and what do they mean?
Anything you think I need to know whould be most helpful. Thanks in advance.
 

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Welcome!

A set is good because you will get the transformer and some track... Of course if you are planning to create a large layout in the near future you would probably need a more powerful transformer... Just remember that different track from different manufacturers usually does not work together...

The numbers like that refer to the axles on a steam locomotive... It is referred to as Whyte notation... The first number refers to the leading truck, the middle numbers refer to the sets of drive wheels, and the last number refers to the trailing truck... Like the picture below would be a 2-4-2 locomotive...

 

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Trains grow with the family

IMHO. keeping in mind there are as many ways to do a lay out as there are people in this hobby. There are hobby trains and there are toy trains. I have both. For a Young family it is good to start with the toys, then as the family grows move in to the hobby trains.

1. Should I start with a set or piece everything together?
I agree with Boston and Maine. Starter sets are toys and great for kids.

2. I want all the lights, smoke and noises but is steam locos harder to work with? Steam or diesel?
Yes, Diesels for the kids, Steam for Dad. I have toy trains for the kids to use. When the crash happens, and it will. I don't mind. The "good" trains are mine the grand Kidd's can look but not touch. I will bite them like a rabid dog.

3.What brand is easy to start with and is good? I don't mind spending more for better but have no clue on anything.
I will leave this to others.

4. What is with the locos that have 0-2-0 nu,bers and what do they mean?
B&M is ahead of me. Wikipedia "2-8-8-2" this is one of my Steamer, mine is the Y6B

Anything you think I need to know would be most helpful. Thanks in advance.
Read some of the old post. Use the search feature of this forum.

Welcome to the greatest hobby in the world
 

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HEY , KEEP IT FUN, IF YOUR CHILD IS 1 THERE WILL BE ALOT OF TRAINS COME AND GO, AND THE LAYOUT WILL GET BIGGER AND BETTER. DOESN'T MATTER STEAM, DIESEL OLDER OR NEWER THE TIMES CREATED WITH THEM WILL BE FUN FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. aS WE OLD GUYS---REMEMBER THE TRAINS WE HAD WHEN WE WERE KIDS (1940'S) NOW i HAVE A HOUSE WITH 3 TRAIN ROOMS AND STILL WANTING MORE. i'M SURE YOU WILL HAVE GREAT TIMES AND REMEMBER ACCIDENT HAPPEN. SMILE AND GO ON.
 

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Go get a cup of coffee. This is going to be a long post.

Before we get too far hijacked, I wish to ditto the answers to your questions. I will venture to answer the question everyone missed, #3.

A few things to consider. One was mentioned. Do you want a "toy" or do you want a "hobby grade" layout. Although similar they are completely different in quality and detail. I too have both as Southern. I do not bring the "toys" out to the layout with an regularity. They were basically purchased for the grandson when he was younger. They have served their purpose and are now put away for his son, whenever that will happen, as he is only 14 now.

Let me start at what should be your beginning. You have decided on HO. My choice too. One can lay plenty of track in that scale to make things interesting.

As far as a layout, I would suggest an L-shape in the beginning. Make each leg 30" deep. This allows for 24" radius for the corners. A must for some engines and cars. I would also allow for a small yard to store unused stock right on the table. You may also use the scrap pieces of plywood , homasote, foam board or whatever you use as a table for some interesting diversions, such as your yard.

Also pick a road, a railroad that is. Model it. I am fortunate in having a plethera of different roads running through the area when growing up. Monon, Nickel Plate, C&O, Pennsylvania, New York Central, Wabash so I have some of each on my layout. NS is the big name now and when we change to the more modern layout , by exchanging modules, we run the more modern engines.

Also when you pick your road, pick your era. Our layout is basically the "Golden Era of Steam" up through the "Transition Era" which includes the early diesels. I love watching the connecting rods moving as steam engines are my favorite. More moving parts means more maintenance,. Something to remember. Maintenance should be a regular part of "playing with the trains".

Good starter sets are many. There are some that are of higher quality, and priced accordingly, than others. Some of the "nicer" kits would include Atlas Gold or Silver Series, Bachman's Spectrum, Life Like's Proto 1000 and 2000. Next step down would be Bachman (the grandson's beginner set compliments of my Dad) Atlas and Athearn. Toy quality would include Life Like, Tyco, and Model Power, as well as some others. There are sets for almost every pocketbook and taste.

If you are looking for all of the sounds, lights whistles and bells, you are looking at probably starting out with DCC, digital command control. Not a bad idea at all. Don't be alarmed it's not that intimidating. Many larger layouts, mine included, use it. Using DCC allows one to run multiple trains, MU consists(double, triple or even adding a fourth to a line of cars) without having a degree in electrical engineering. It's as simple as programming the decoder. Just follow the directions.

In the "old days" we would block our layouts, wire them in sections that could be turned on, off, or reversed. DCC made all of that archaic and mundane. Unfortunately for me, my layout is blocked as I made the jump to DCC in the middle of construction after it became somewhat more affordable. Still it is not cheap. DCC engines, while rather expensive, some costing well over $500, are becoming more affordable and numerous. Converting older engines is not hard and these can be used versus the more expensive ones.

As far as buying good equipment....Ebay is my main source for used equipment. Walthers owns me when it comes to buying new for the most part. I do buy new on Ebay, but I would advise adding in the shipping fees into the total before you bid. What may seem like a good deal can be destroyed by shipping costs. One can also find deals on Craigslist or Kijiji. Attend train shows. Many a deal there. But remember Caveat Emptor, buyer beware.

I would also recommend subscribing to a good hobby magazine. Model Railroader is one that I would suggest. Many how-tos and articles for the beginner, novice and expert.

Any more questions will be answered if possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the info it will help me narrow some things down. Any other things to look for is greatly appreciated.
 
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