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Thread: Advice to hobby newcomers

  1. #41
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    Thanks for the inspiring thread topic and ensuing discussion. I'm a new forum member and just getting back into model railroading in middle age years more seriously after many years spent dreaming about layouts and having a few false starts. I started up again a few weeks ago by buying some used books, including an older edition "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong, which I really enjoyed from both railfan and modelling perspectives.

    I've also started small. A 2X4 layout is something that I can get really get going on before the end of the year. Small, in my case, also means limiting the amount of track on the design. Less track equals more room for scenes and more opportunities to practice various model building and scenery techniques.

    I've been watching a lot of (too much) YouTube shout out to DJstrains and DIY and Digital Model Railroad for advice and inspiration. One of my favourite "expert tips" was to keep the track away from the edge of the layout. Although I was hesitant to do this on such a small layout, I think having some scenic areas between the edge of layout and the track will add a lot to the look and feel of the final product.

    The other day I took a moment to write down a list of 10 things I seek to accomplish with my layout. All of the techniques I wrote down do not require a basement empire or even a hollow core door. Smaller means I'll get a chance to work on all of these (ballasting, wiring/electronics, trees, building construction, weathering, roads, water feature, creating hills/rocks, ground cover, lighting.) without hopefully getting so bogged down that I risk losing motivation.

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  3. #42
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    This topic just came up on "Read Threads with new posts." So I clicked! Interesting discussion. I enjoyed the What's Best comments. We get that a lot on my multiple boating forums. I usually ask them "Did you ask your mother what the best girl to marry would be?" Usually silence...

    I, too, came back after a long hiatus, but resurrected a layout I'd built in 1987, away since 1990! It's a published track plan with over&under double reversing loops to which I added a large yard and another set of runaround/long sidings. Operationally, it has everything, but like its description in the Atlas NINE book, its not for everyone. But I enjoy running multiple trains, out&back, round and round, meets&passes, multiple routes. It is not double track, so I have to always pay attention.

    Each of our layouts have identities even before scenicing. Some like out&back with one reversing loop and industries to service, some like long mainlines with sidings in point-to-point, etc.

    That's why I think the advice to get books is superb. I can't begin to count the number of times I've suggested just that on my boating forums, and have even done that here, especially for John Armstrong's Track Planning.

    I bought those books when I started. I read them first and then read the Atlas published track plans. I'd had Lionels run around and around, and wanted something more. (I've since re-read them all since I got back into things in February this year.)

    Armed with the Armstrong information, I was able to select a plan that would satisfy me,and reasonably plan a modest extension that made it even better, more useful, somewhat more prototypical, and certainly more fun (because it allows me to relax just a tad more instead of depending on two single track sections each time around, only one).

    I've also begun to engage in locomotive repair with the help of some great assistance from members of this forum.

    It is a process. And a fun one. Thanks to all for this forum.
    Last edited by Stu; 22nd Sep 2021 at 09:18 PM.
    Monopoly & Octopus (modified & expanded)
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  5. #43
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    - Ignore the Walthers Catalog. It is no longer a comprehensive nor relevant guide to products in the model railroading hobby.

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
    Under the streets of Los Angeles

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  7. #44
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    GREAT thread idea, Ol' Curmudgeon!

    Hi everyone, my name is Mike and I'm a KNUCKLEHEAD. (all say, 'Hi Mike'...)

    I'll list some of my ideas for newbies, but first let me expand on the above statement. As some of you WELL know, I was a knucklehead when I first came to this forum 5 years ago. I shot my mouth off about things I knew little about, vented my frustration at things that I didn't fully understand, and was guilty of the all-too-common, aforementioned practice of asking questions to solicit reinforcement of my already-made decisions, not to actually get honest answers. I was humbled in a hurry, and got several warnings from admins, all deserved.

    But I learned. I learned a TON of things. And all of the forum members were patient and forgiving. I learned more HERE than in any book, or magazine, or video. Thank you, forum members, all of you, even the guys I butted heads with, perhaps especially the guys I butted heads with. Some of them are now my good friends on the forum.

    We all have our moments, good and bad. The good news is, you can majorly screw up here and still be accepted once you come to your senses.

    Some of my thoughts on previous posts in this thread:

    - The NMRA gauge...absolutely get one. Get three, they're small and disappear easily. I screwed a cup hook right into my workbench and have hung them there for safe keeping and ready accessibility. What is it? It's a little piece of stamped metal from the National Model Railroader Association that has numerous little gauges for checking wheel spacing, track spacing, etc. to insure or check that your trackage and fleet are up to spec. Indispensable.

    - Patience. I have become the rare model railroader who is patient. This hobby builds patience like none I've ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. My best work is that which I proceed slowly on, taking time to reflect and reconsider just about every move. Almost exclusively, it's the times that I try to move too fast that I run into trouble. When faced with a problem or things aren't going well, don't try to forcefully bull your way through it. Pause. Walk away. Think for a while. Research. Reconsider. Reconfigure. The solution will jump out at you when you least expect it.

    - The whole "What's the best _____ to get?" question dilemma: I've been guilty of asking forms of this question. I don't think that it's a completely useless question to be written off. On the other hand, anyone asking it should not expect a definitive answer. Asking 'what's the best' anything will solicit tons of different answers. But, similar to reading Amazon product reviews, you can filter them yourself and come up with a pretty good idea of what you should look for. The absolute best and, especially, the absolute worst of anything will rise out of such a discussion, the rest are shades of grey...some lighter, some darker.

    And now, I'll add my tips to the list:

    - SCARM. Google "SCARM" and download it. I think it stands for Simple Computer Aided Railroad Modeller or something like that. It's a software package that allows you to plan your layout using actual brands of track. I would do this before I cut one piece of wood towards building anything. It has a bit of a learning curve, but you'll quickly figure it out. Armed with this, you'll be able to accurately plan a layout of any size and visualize what it will look like and operate like. AND, you can generate a parts list and buy just what you need. As I'll mention next, I use Kato Unitrack, and all I had to do is select that option in the software and BAM, I was laying Kato Unitrack on my computer. Another couple of clicks and BAM, I had a shopping list with Kato part numbers. Most importantly, you can post a 'snapshot' of your plan and post it here, and forum members can help steer you away from bad mistakes and/or suggest things that will make your plan even better. SCARM is free with a limitation on layout size. As a newbie, you shouldn't be planning a layout in excess of this limitation. I'd suggest that you purchase it right out, as you'll need the pay version when you decide to build something larger than a 4x8. And, the developer of the software is a forum member here, so you're supporting one of our own.

    - Kato Unitrack. If you're new, this is the easiest track brand to work with. It costs a little more, but saves you a lot of frustration and time at a time when there's so much else to learn. I highly recommend it. Kato is pronounced "KAH-toe", not "KAY-toe." (I have to remind myself of that constantly...)

    - As a newbie, stick to diesels. N scale steam engines are a lot different than larger scale steam engines and have their own set of peculiarities and idiosyncracies. Don't move on to them until you have some familiarity with maintaining your diesel fleet, have all the bugs out of your trackage and have honed your 'working on tiny things' skills a little.

    - Toolkit. A trip to Harbor Freight should set you up. Mini screwdrivers, mini file set, Dremel-type tool and accessories including good cut-off wheels, tiny hacksaw, magnetic parts dish, small organizer cases to store parts, a mini-vise, a set of tiny pliers of various configurations. Walmart is a good place to get acrylic paint sets and brushes...get the sets with the tiniest brushes. While you're at Walmart, head for the girly-girl section and get several types of tweezers and some emery boards.

    - Kato re-railer. It's a little blue ramp-like thing that works fantastic for putting cars and locos on the track. I drilled a hole in one end of mine and hang them on cup hooks around the layout so they don't disappear and are convenient.

    - Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. There are a lot of DIY and other areas in this hobby where you can save money, but some things you just can't chinze on. Locomotives, trackage, couplers and trucks are items that you need to bite the bullet on and get quality. I know this from experience. You can benefit from Ebay auctions on some of these things, but others you just have to bite the bullet on. This perhaps was the hardest lesson for me to learn.
    Last edited by P-LineSoo; 23rd Sep 2021 at 12:29 PM.

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  9. #45
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    Hi, Mike! Good advice!

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    I'm just starting out and this thread alone has been invaluable for a beginner. Please be kind if I ask questions that have been answered before, I've been reading through the forum topics but there are decades of information and everytime I search something it leads me down a rabbit hole and before long I've forgotten what I was initially looking for.

    I've grabbed a couple of books specific to N scale and I'll try and hunt down some of the other suggestions here.

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    I'm just starting out and this thread alone has been invaluable for a beginner. Please be kind if I ask questions that have been answered before, I've been reading through the forum topics but there are decades of information and everytime I search something it leads me down a rabbit hole and before long I've forgotten what I was initially looking for.

    I've grabbed a couple of books specific to N scale and I'll try and hunt down some of the other suggestions here.

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    Start small is great advice. Recognizing we are all "knuckleheads" is even better! There ain't a one of us that hasn't pulled a "knucklehead" move while wiring, laying track, applying scenic stuff or fixing a locomotive or etc.... My first two N layouts were small. A 3x5 then a 4x6. Both yielded hours of fun and experience, (that means mistakes and correcting them,) and PRACTICE.

    To quote a famous line, "Never give up! Never surrender!"

    Enjoy your trains!!
    Northern Pacific and Black Hills RR in N, of course!!
    Aian, CEO, COO, Engineer, Gopher and everything else!

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    Quote Originally Posted by badlandnp View Post
    There ain't a one of us that hasn't pulled a "knucklehead" move while wiring, laying track, applying scenic stuff or fixing a locomotive or etc....
    GUILTY! And I still make bonehead decisions, even after 10 years. Fewer, I hope, but impatience is usually the catalyst.

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  19. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by badlandnp View Post
    "Never give up! Never surrender!"
    - Tim Allen, Galaxy Quest
    Bronman - "That's just dumb, D-U-M, dumb."

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  21. #51
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    Yup, great parody! And a great quote for many things!

    Was thinking about an "impatient" bonehead move I made. Was in a hurry to get going on the current big layout construction, so went with the design that had that long stretch of hidden and hard to access mainline...........

    Northern Pacific and Black Hills RR in N, of course!!
    Aian, CEO, COO, Engineer, Gopher and everything else!

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