In todays fast world of p.c. games,e-pods, internet, etc it seems Model Railways or Model Trains can be considered out of date. But it still remains a strong, crowd pulling drawcard at Model Exhibitions and one of the best hobbies in which you can involve children of all ages. After a positive response to my guide "Buying Model Trains on E-bay overseas" I was motivated to put down some general thoughts on the two main gauges of Model Trains, ie HO gauge and N scale. I'm no expert by any means, and these thoughts are designed to start you thinking, talking , and to gently push you in the right direction ( I hope.) A lot of people start by building a layout for children/grandchildren, sometimes they stay in the hobby but most drift away if the child loses interest. So lets look at some ideas that may help the average "Joe and his/her offspring" stay within the hobby a little longer.
(1) Space available. Depending on what space is available will help you decide what gauge Models you invest in. Yes, invest is the key word, if you chose wisely from your first train set, carriage or locomotive, if you do leave the hobby there is a good chance to recoupe some of your outlay if you have quality goods to resell through E-bay or the members of a local model railway club(which is a excellent place to start in seeking help or information on the hobby) then the jolt to the hip pocket can be eased. When involving children I recommend HO gauge above N scale. HO has a ratio of 1-87, ie 87 times smaller than the real thing. N scale is 1-160, ie 160 times smaller etc. Saying that, I didn't follow that rule as I use N scale and our grandkids, are 3 boys aged, 4, 7, and 9 but you just have to teach them they are MODELS not TOYS and most kids are fine.
I feel that HO models are easier for kids to handle, more robust and they relate better to the size at first. The downside to HO is you need a fair size space to run a good length train. A way around that is to build a point to point layout around two or more sides of a shed or layout board. A point to point layout can be from one marshling yard to another or a simple dog-bone type layout so continous running is possible and you can put in passing sidings and/or switch sidings or industrial sidings between the dog-bone turns to have variation in train movement.
One good source of material for layout boards or trestles/legs is building sites in housing estates. My layout board is 15 feet by 7 feet,(BUGGER METRICS) on wheels with a space for Margarets' car to fit under one end and all it cost me was 5 sheets of thin plywood for the top at $14 a sheet and six sets of wheels. In time I will get more ply sheets to cover the sides and most of the front, it hides the wiring and shelves and I'll mount some laminated railway photos on the ply for extra visual impact. Being such an expensive hobby, money saved by one thing can help get that special loco or set of hoppers you like. N scale is great fun, we run 15 or 20 car freights with 3/4 diesels up front or 9/10 car passenger trains with one big steam loco or 2 diesels and it's great fun. My layout has a long way to go yet but getting there is half the fun.
(2) Model Trains or Model Railroads.The difference is that some want to simply run Model trains on simple layouts and the attraction for them are the models themselves, they don't worry too much about correct running procedures, running the correct train for that particular era etc, The other side of the coin is to faithfully reproduce a certain railway at a certain point of time and to make it as close to the real thing as possible. I feel myself that some point in between the two levels is a healthy compromise, after all it's your creation to do what gives you the most fun but I do feel that sometime considering this point will long term, give you value for money when you start buying your models.
(3) Everything reachable. Spend a bit extra time in planing the layout. Model Railroader is an excellent American based magazine and the best $10 a month you'll spend. Kalmbach also brings out the magazine Model Railroad Planning on a yearly basis, the 2006 edtion is very good, both magazines are full of tips. I feel the easiest mistake to make is not being able to reach every part of the layout, if you can't reach it you can't clean it and good track maintence with a soft cloth moistened with alcohol to remove oils or an abrasive block(like a rubber) for heavier dirt can work wonders.
(4) Plan for extensions. Even if you don't end up staying in the hobby, if you include in your track plan one extra siding or passing loop that can be modified or connected to another layout or board then selling the layout will be easier. If you stay with the hobby there is more scope to extend.
(5) Join or visit your local Model Railway Club. There are some terrific people in our hobby, I've made a lot of good friends from all walks of life, they are a wealth of knowledge and always willing to help. Here in Townsville there is one informal club that runs HO with excellent members but there are a couple of us that intend to start an N scale club in the same informal manner so if you haven't got one in your area, start one it's not that hard and benifits are many.
In closing, if I can help in any way or you want to chat about getting started I don't know it all but I know some. It is very easy in these hectic times to not become involved with others but I believe in the old saying you get out of life what you put in, Within the spirit of the E-Bay community, let's support and help those sellers who consisantly do the right thing, and do feel free to contact me through e-bay if I can help. Happy Days to all. Denis8579