Everybody needs a hobby to escape everyday life and have some fun. As many people find satisfaction in collecting different RC cars for different courses, so do others with building model railroads. Building a model railway is fun and can be a great family-oriented hobby. It’s also educational because you get to learn history with it (they reflect the times they operated in), as well as develop some basic carpentry and electrical skills, logical thought and planning, dexterity, etc.
But before spending your money, you have to know things like how to plan your space and layout, how to find quality model train sets, what are the quality train model brands, etc. That being said, let’s check out in more detail the things you should consider before buying your first train model.
Scale refers to the size of the model trains compared to real trains. For instance, a HO scale locomotive is about 1/87th the size of an actual locomotive. There’s a wide range of model trains online retailers and stores offer these days. So, if you’re considering to buy model trains for the first time, know that once you choose a scale for your beginning setup, then you will need to expand your set using only products in that scale. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t mix and match products from different manufacturers as long as they’re in the same scale.
Wondering what is the best scale for model trains? Well, it depends on your needs and preferences. For instance, if your space is at a minimum, then Z-scale trains maybe the right choice for you since they’re the smallest and the set-up takes up little space. The other factor that may influence your choice is your eyesight. Hence, for those with eyesight difficulties, the tiny size of Z-scale trains may be too small and cause eye strain when building. However, let’s check the most popular scale choices so you can decide for yourself.
If there’s a scale of train model making in the world that’s regarded as the most popular, then that’s the HO scale. HO scale is 1:87 of a full-size train. These model trains run on a gauge of 16.5 mm (0.625 inches). They are so popular because they’re small enough to be applicable to the hobbyists who are looking to build their own layout. At the same time, they are big enough to keep a lot of detail so they look like big trains. Since this is the most popular size for model railroad train, there are more accessories in HO scale and you’ll be able to build nearly any themed layout that you can think of.
These trains are almost twice as big as HO scale trains. They are 1:48 of a real train and run on a gauge of 31.8mm (1.25 inches). As such, they may be a little too big for a model train enthusiast to build a half-decent layout in a small apartment or house.
N scale trains are very small. They are 1:160 of an actual train and use a rail gauge of 9mm (0.375 inches). Since they’re so small, you can normally build a huge train layout on something as big as a coffee table, or something even smaller. N scale model trains are about the size of your finger or a little bigger. Because of their small size, they might lack the detail you’d find in an HO scale train.
These are the smallest manufactured train scales. They are a 1:220 train scale and use a rail gauge of about 6mm (0.25 inches). The fact that they are so small and you can take them anywhere with you, makes them a good option for model trains.
G scale trains use a scale of 1:22.5 and as such, they’re much bigger than any other scale. They run on a gauge of 45mm (1.75 inches). As they are so large, people usually place them outside in their gardens. Because of that, they’re also referred to as Garden Scale trains.
There are some model train manufacturers that make quality battery-powered starter sets in order to encourage younger children to get into the hobby. On the other hand, lately, most of the sets on the market are electric train sets and use a transformer that plugs into the wall. Power supplies included with most starter sets generally won’t power much more than the set itself. These packs usually offer forward and reverse operation and speed control. As your railroad expands with time, it is easy to upgrade to a more substantial power supply, or even a command control system.
If you are serious about model railroading, it is good to start with a Digital Command Control (DCC). DCC, as a new industry standard for powering and controlling model railroad trains by using computer technology, is broadly available in HO and N scale.
Best Model Train Brands
Hornby train sets are a good way to start your model railway collection or develop your existing layouts. Their models are designed to fit any OO-gauge layout – from analogue through DCC sets running under full digital control. Hornby also offers DDC-ready locomotives for those wishing to upgrade to digital in the future. Their model trains come with fine details and authentic liveries.
This brand makes scale models in N, HO, and O scale, and also offers a collection of other accessories. Atlas is best known for its exceptional flexitrack and rail lines in codes 55, 80, and 100. Hence, if you’re looking for some additional piece to expand your lines, Atlas is a good place to start from. Their products come in 3 variations – Master, Classic and Trainmaster, and each variant varies in quality and price.
Walthers is one of the largest manufacturers of HO scale locomotive in the world. In fact, they manufacture everything – from G scale trains through to N scale locomotives, cars, buildings, accessories, modelling tools, and many other things.