So you’ve decided you’d like to get started with trains… Great! It’s a hobby with many different facets, and you might be surprised where it leads you to! Over time you’re sure to pick up many new skills along the way. From basic model building, to painting and finishing, to woodworking, to electrical wiring, to history and photography. What’s more, there’s no requirement that says you have to finish one thing before moving on to another. As you gain new skills, you’ll find even more opportunities open up to you. Model railroading is a lifetime of discovery! But first, you’ll want to find some trains… Here are three steps to follow:
1. Find a local hobby shop. We can talk about trains all day, but nothing beats a visit to your local hobby shop. They will have everything you need, from trains, to tracks, to structures and buildings, as well as the tools, glues and paints needed to put everything together. Because the world of railroading is so diverse, and there is so much to choose from, your first visit may be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry! Not only will you be able to see the products you’ll want to buy, but you can speak with knowledgeable folks who can help you make the right choices. They will also have books and magazines about model railroading that will help you get up to speed.
2. Choose a scale. Like all plastic models, trains come in different scales. You may hear the term “scale” and confuse it with “gauge.” Scale is the proportion between a model and the real thing (the “prototype”). Gauge is the distance between the rails of the track. The three most popular scales are O (1:48), HO (1:87), and N (1:160). There is no “best” scale to choose from, yet the deciding factor for most hobbyists is space. Think about where you will build and operate your trains, and how much room you might need to properly enjoy your hobby. You may have friends who already have trains, so getting models in the same scale may be best.
3. Visit a model railroad club. Search the Internet to find a model railroad club near you. You may be surprised to find one close by! Contact a club and arrange to make a visit. Seeing a large operating model railroad in action is sure to inspire you. What’s more, you may discover friendly folks down at the club who can help you as you get started in the hobby. You may even decide to join the club as a way to learn and improve your skills before building your own models. They may also suggest places for you to see real trains in action, which is a great way to learn how and why they operate.