Model Train Forum banner

1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My name is Richard, My grandson is fascinated with trains and asked if I would build him a ho train layout. My hobby is woodworking and I have a background in electronics but know nothing about building a model train layout. My grandson lives with us and is disabled so I need to make it functional for him.
So, where should I start, books, magazines, and what should I look for?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
106 Posts
Hey Richard,
First of all, welcome to the forum. I am new to model railroading as well. This website is one of many excellent resources and there are many experts here on the forum daily that have always helped me out when I asked.

As some have mentioned, books are an excellent resource as well, I have copied some pics that auto populated on my screen when I opened your post.
549019


549020

I also love going to model railroader’s website and they have some great videos their as well. They have tips from a beginner layout to videos on some much more detailed layouts. I am sure that more will chip in as they log on today, but I wanted to say hello as well.

Gary
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,290 Posts
Welcome

Many choices, HO O S
Go here and let your grandson/self and start reading.

You could start easy, hollow core door, some short legs, put it on the floor.
An oval of track and a engine and a few cars.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,690 Posts
Richard

A very big warm welcome to the Forum. You'll find here a membership of long experienced modellers who also
enjoy helping others join our merry band.

Starting from scratch with no experience can be daunting, but we'll be glad to help
where we can.

The first factor to be considered...the space you have available for a layout. Generally speaking,
you would need to have room for a 5 X 10 or so benchwork. I say 5 wide to make possible
a curve radius that most HO locomotives can run on.

Next, is the question of the capabilities of the grandson. If he is limited you would want to
consider a continuous running basic oval of track. But a layout with some switching may
be more appealing to one who can deftly handle the cars.

Look at the various threads in our Layout Design Forum. You'll see both large and
small designs. But actually, as a starter, I would suggest that you just lay out an oval of track. Perhaps add a
couple of turnouts. Then see how your little buddy operates it. That experience
can tell you how much you would want to expand to a more elaborate design.

You should know about types of HO track. Many of us experienced modellers prefer
'flex' track. It comes in 3 foot sections that you can cut and bend to your track design.
That would be the choice if you were to build a fair size layout. Several companies
sell track on roadbed...But they are not compatible with tracks of other brands.
They are, however, easy to set up and use. Then there is just plain old
'sectional' track. This comes as straight sections and various radius
curved sections. They are generally compatible with flex track and
various make turnouts and crossings.

You also should know about DCC, Digital Command Control. It is the easiest
and most simple way to build and wire trains. The controller which in some
cases is similar to a TV remote, can run 3, 4 or more trains at the same time
using push buttons and a speed controller. You have individual control of
each loco on the layout.

However, many HO train sets come as DC powered only. Your power pack
can run and control only one train at a time and any large complicated
track plan would require complex wiring and many toggle switches.

So give us some more information and all of the questions you might
have so we can be of useful help.

Don
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Guys thanks for you warm welcome. Grandson already has three books on model railroading. He is a very smard young man, but crippled from the waist down. So I'm thinking access is going to be my first concern, making it low enough and designed to he can reach anywhere on the track.
He is ready working on track designs with my AutoCAD software, and naturally wants to go big, but I agree, as Don said, start of with the basics.
If I go five foot by eight foot as a starter and give him access around the entire you all think that will work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,619 Posts
Welcome to the site.

Woodworking and electronics are valuable skills in model railroading. That is half the battle right there.

The rest is laying track correctly including curves and grades, and then scenery construction if that's where the hobby takes you. Imagination too, goes a long way in realizing what you may not think you are capable of because you've never done it before.

Model railroading is a jack-of-all-trades hobby and you will develop skills you didn't realize you had.

Two rules exist in model railroading.

1. Your railroad, your rules.
2. Have fun.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,943 Posts
If you're going to start with a rectangle sheet of plywood, you might consider rounding the corners off so your grandson can reach the track at the curves too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
877 Posts
Guys thanks for you warm welcome. Grandson already has three books on model railroading. He is a very smard young man, but crippled from the waist down. So I'm thinking access is going to be my first concern, making it low enough and designed to he can reach anywhere on the track.
He is ready working on track designs with my AutoCAD software, and naturally wants to go big, but I agree, as Don said, start of with the basics.
If I go five foot by eight foot as a starter and give him access around the entire you all think that will work.
Richard, before you all set the width of the layout, try to determine what a comfortable working reach would be for your grandson. If he's working out of a wheelchair, it will be less. if the table is too high for him, it will be less. If there will be structures, trees, telephone poles, etc., etc., near the perimeter of the layout, it will make it more difficult to lean over into the center to work, as you already stated.
I personally would never want to reach in more than 30 inches. If he can manage that then your 60" design would be fine. Without a better idea of his capabilities and limitations, I tend to think it will give him trouble.
Consider going around the walls, or something to that effect with interior access. You would not need a 4 or 5 foot table to have wide curves. He could have great success with a narrow table. I realize it could involve a lift-up section, but he sounds like a designer already. That's my 0.12 rmb.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
877 Posts
I don't know how big your train room is!😁 5' by 10' will fill a 12 x 15 foot spare bedroom completely, when you allow for aisles all around. and only give you 50 sq. feet.
A 2' table around that same room provides 82 sq. feet. Just as an example. He says "go big". I agree 🤣🤣🤣
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
877 Posts
Haha, suggestion, Richard. Don't use AutoCad. UNLESS you have some track section template libraries.
There are several dedicated planner software packages available which provide you templates for all the different mfg track components.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,209 Posts
My name is Richard, My grandson is fascinated with trains and asked if I would build him a ho train layout. My hobby is woodworking and I have a background in electronics but know nothing about building a model train layout. My grandson lives with us and is disabled so I need to make it functional for him.
So, where should I start, books, magazines, and what should I look for?
Richard;

I too have a grandson who is crazy about trains. I started building him a little layout recently, with his help. He's only five, but has a surprising amount of mechanical ability for one so young. You say your grandson is disabled. Do you think that whatever disability he has will seriously limit his ability to operate the controls of a model railroad? (toggle switches, pushbuttons or perhaps a DCC controller with buttons on it) If you don't feel that will be an issue, then full speed ahead to make him a happy model railroader. You are right about starting by getting some information. I see several other members have recommended some basic books on the subject. I'll add my own recommendation, "Getting Started in Model Railroading" by Jeff Wilson. It's a very good "first book" In that the chapters start you out from square one, and then go on to cover many model railroading topics in logical order, simple text, and many photos. The book is available on Amazon. The files below might also help you start your learning process. I wrote them for people like yourself, who are brand new, and trying to plan their first layout. Browse through them if you like.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,209 Posts
Guys thanks for you warm welcome. Grandson already has three books on model railroading. He is a very smard young man, but crippled from the waist down. So I'm thinking access is going to be my first concern, making it low enough and designed to he can reach anywhere on the track.
He is ready working on track designs with my AutoCAD software, and naturally wants to go big, but I agree, as Don said, start of with the basics.
If I go five foot by eight foot as a starter and give him access around the entire you all think that will work.
Richard;

A slab table 5' x 9' is one approach that will work, if you have enough space around it for your grandson to maneuver his wheelchair easily to all sides. However, there is going to be an area in the middle that he may not be able to reach easily while seated in a chair. The 2"-6" reach from one of the long sides might be manageable, or not, depending on his arm reach. However, the 4'-6" reach from either of the other two sides is practically impossible for a standing person, let alone someone who can't stand.
I don't know the layout and size of your proposed train room, but I'm going to make a suggestion which may help with the reach problem, and also let your grandson "go big" while still starting out small and simple.The key to doing all that would be to build a shelf layout that goes all the way, or at least most of the way, around the room. If you can do that, and if the layout is built in relatively small 2' x 4' sections, then the wide radius curves will fit in the corners of the room, without a wide solid table to reach across. The layout will be big enough that he can include more of his "go big" ideas. Since one manageable sized section can be built at a time, he will be able to do some of the work himself with the section sitting on a table that he can roll up to. In another response to your message, I attached some pdf files that I've written for new modelers. Among them, there is a 6 part series called "How to build a better first layout." Sections 3 & 4 of that series have some sketches of what sort of model railroad can fit in a small room. Sketch four shows what the "around the room" layout might look like. Earlier on is a diagram of how the sections that can be used to make such a railroad are built, and mounted. With your woodworking experience, those simple sketches should give you the idea, and you will be able to take it from there.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Wow, you guys are great. We have a 25 x 35 foot work area so work space isn't a problem. I figured we would want at minimum a 3 1/2 foot clear area all around the layout. I'm going to bring power in from the ceiling so there won't be any cords to hamper his movement around the track.
He is nine years old, builds model cars and planes and does a beautiful job, but he has always been fascinated with trains. Before he was injured we took him on the skunk train, and then later on Amtrack from LA to Sacramento, we all loved that ride.
I'll start by evaluating his reach and start with that. I didn't even consider future buildings and scenery, so we will really need to do some good planning with that.
I appreciate that advice on the track design software. AutoCAD is tremendously powerful, but doesn't have a model railroad add on that I know of.
He has already drawn out a massive design, I told him we are going to start considerably smaller.
Here is another question, I have no idea what to buy as for engines, cars. Also, what about buying used, from what I have seen the prices are all over the place.
I did read up on the DCC controllers and I think that is the way to go. One of the boards that was pictured had about nine dollars of components on it and they wanted over eighty dollars for it, think I'll be building some of my own.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,619 Posts
A lot of model railroad design programs pretty much are Autocad, but for model railroads. Almost all have track brand selection choices, include turnouts of various configurations, curve radius selection, etc, etc.

I still used the old fashioned pencil and paper for mine, but the programs are very popular for those that can't or don't want to draw a layout the old fashioned way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,490 Posts
How about this ... Start simply. Get one or two plastic folding tables. The kind they sell at home depot. Some have telescoping legs, some do not. Place these as desired and cover with a green table cloth. Or for example at hobby lobby and also at the train hobby store near me they sell pre made sheets with a little fake grass on one side. Anyway the point is a bit of green on top. Then get one or two starter sets. Bachmann sells quite a few of these. Kato I believe as well. There may be other options. And so put these out in your tables. Add a few pre made houses... You can buy these or glue them together, or use legos etc...

Then see how it goes... From there depending on what you learn, you can move forward in a lot of directions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
106 Posts
That is what I am doing right now, putting track down in conjunction with my track plan to see how it looks. I have confirmed what many of you have said to be true. Four feet across is a lot of scenery / track placement debate.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,209 Posts
Wow, you guys are great. We have a 25 x 35 foot work area so work space isn't a problem. I figured we would want at minimum a 3 1/2 foot clear area all around the layout. I'm going to bring power in from the ceiling so there won't be any cords to hamper his movement around the track.
He is nine years old, builds model cars and planes and does a beautiful job, but he has always been fascinated with trains. Before he was injured we took him on the skunk train, and then later on Amtrack from LA to Sacramento, we all loved that ride.
I'll start by evaluating his reach and start with that. I didn't even consider future buildings and scenery, so we will really need to do some good planning with that.
I appreciate that advice on the track design software. AutoCAD is tremendously powerful, but doesn't have a model railroad add on that I know of.
He has already drawn out a massive design, I told him we are going to start considerably smaller.
Here is another question, I have no idea what to buy as for engines, cars. Also, what about buying used, from what I have seen the prices are all over the place.
I did read up on the DCC controllers and I think that is the way to go. One of the boards that was pictured had about nine dollars of components on it and they wanted over eighty dollars for it, think I'll be building some of my own.
RBP;

For now, I would stay away from used locomotives and cars, especially those sold on Ebay. There will be some good buys there, but there are plenty of bad ones too. If you have a train store in your area, I would suggest starting there. You can look for a decent running locomotive of a type that your grandson likes. Many young people like modern diesel locomotives because that's what they see in the real world. But, he may prefer steam locomotives, many train enthusiasts, including some young ones, do. Athearn has been making good running and reasonably priced locomotives for decades. Most of the difference in price between current production model locomotives is because of the different levels of detail involved, rather than performance. Actually most brands currently offer smooth running locomotives. That has not always been the case , which is another reason I would steer clear of the used market until you know more about what to look for. Older Bachmann, AHM, Tyco, & Life Like locomotives were mostly dogs that never worked well. The newer Bachmann is said to be much better.

The main manufacturers of DCC systems are Digitrax, NCE, and MRC prodigy. Any of those should work well for you. If your grandson will be moving around the layout much, you might look at wireless models of DCC systems from the same manufacturers.
Bachmann also makes a DCC system, but it is somewhat limited in capability and Bachmann DCC sound decoders have been reported on this forum many times for buzzing noises. I would stick with one of the first three brands.

Another thing you may want to skip are pre-packaged "train sets." With a few exceptions*, these tend to be filled with quite low quality locomotives, cars, and a DC power pack. The idea is to keep the price down by using cheap components. Another item featured in many train sets is "roadbed track." This type of track has a rigid plastic piece under each section of track. This "roadbed" piece is supposed to resemble the crushed rock "ballast" under real railroad track. It also has hooks on the ends that snap firmly together. The two main brands are Kato "Unitrack" and Bachmann "EZ-Track." The two are not directly compatible with each other, or with the non-roadbed flex track, or sectional track, without modification. Roadbed track is also more expensive than either sectional track, or flex track.
The "turnouts" (track switches) made to connect to these two brands of roadbed track vary enormously in quality. The Kato Unitrack turnouts are well made and reliable. The Bachmann EZ-Track turnouts are lousy! They are the worst turnouts on the market. If you decide that you like roadbed track, I strongly recommend going with Kato not Bachmann, for this reason. The files I sent you explain this, and many other model railroad topics,

*including some unusually good quality train sets.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Some random thoughts...

One consideration is how your grandson operates his trains. Does he like lots of continuous running? Or is he into switching?

Continuous running implies loops and big curves. Switching allows for narrow shelf layouts. Maybe you add a lift out or drop down bridge to complete a full loop on a shelf layout. . Or maybe you run end to end.

But what do you do when you get to an end? Run the train backyards? Or if you have steam locos, do you put a turntable at each end? On the other hand, diesels often run in both directions, so all you need is a passing siding to runaround the diesel at each end
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top