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Thread: Advice to hobby newcomers

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    Default Advice to hobby newcomers

    Longtime members here know I always tell newcomers that there are no dumb questions. That's something I staunchly believe.

    There are, however, ways in which new model railroaders can easily benefit from others' experience and advice. Here are a few key ideas.

    1) Buy some books. Much of the aggregate basic knowledge of this hobby can be found in soft-cover books. They cover the entire spectrum of topics ranging from benchwork, to laying track, scenery, DCC and wiring, and locomotive maintenance.

    Three must-have books if you are new are "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong, "N Scale Railroading -- A Beginner's Guide to the Hobby" by Marty McGuirk and "Realistic Model Railroad Scenery" by Dave Frary. All three of these, and other valuable how-to books, can be found online, and especially at the Kalmbach Media bookstore.

    Heck, I still have all three and I was modeling in N scale long before any of those books' first runs came off the press.

    2) Start small. Just because you have an entire basement or bonus room at your disposal doesn't mean you have the skill sets, knowledge and experience to fill it with a smoothly operating, realistic model railroad.

    You know why many newcomers to the hobby get frustrated and leave? Because they bite off more than they can chew, even after being plied with advice over and over to start small and learn. That's the best avenue to achieve success and enjoyment!

    I recommend your first layout be something along the lines of the Carolina Central, built on a hollow-core door. Model Railroader magazine described how to build this neat little layout. An internet search will easily turn up numerous references.

    3) Listen when experienced modelers are expressing concern and cautioning you. We're not trying to be kill-joys. Rather, we know typically what works and what almost always won't work. The basics in this hobby are tried-and-true practices honed over the past 100 years.

    Example: Over on another forum, several experienced modelers are trying to advise another modeler, who's not exactly a newcomer but acts like one, that a railroad car float approach track would never be routed through the middle of a municipal pier building. They're also advising him that he is attempting to cram too much into too small a space.

    They're not saying these things to be mean or know-it-alls, but because they know from experience that ultimately it will lead to dissatisfaction, wasted time and wasted money. However, this individual keeps asking for advice and feedback, but won't accept what he's being given: "It's my railroad and I'll do what I want, but what do you think?" is in essence his tact, and it's become tiresome.

    It's your railroad and you can do what you want. Just be mindful that if you ask for advice and help, and receive it but don't apply it to whatever the issue is, people's patience can wear thin.

    4) Get an NMRA standards gauge. Best purchase, next to books, that you will ever make.

    So, that's my advice. I've been a model railroader for only 45 years, so I won't claim to know everything there is to know. But I have built successful layouts and am building another. The layout I'm building now happens to be smallest I've built in 30 years -- and also the most enjoyable!
    Last edited by Paul Schmidt; 1st Jan 2020 at 12:51 PM.
    Paul Schmidt

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    Perhaps you might replace the word "knucklehead" with "the non-receptive modeler" or some such. All three of your points are great advice!

    I especially like "start small."

    I would also add, go to train shows. Talk to other modelers. Join a forum because there is so much information available. I had no idea starting out!

    Do what pleases you. If you don't want to model realistic railroads, then don't. If you don't want scenery, then don't have scenery. It is your railroad.

    Finally, two important words: PATIENCE AND FUN. You need both.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    https://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    Finally, two important words: PATIENCE AND FUN. You need both.
    Hmm... great advice, BUT... I have never met a patient model railroader and the newer to the hobby the less patient they will be.

    I'd say be PERSISTENT and have fun. Model railroading is full of failed attempts, dead ends, and running out of money, supplies, models available and of course patience.

    It is the PERSISTENT modeler that can accomplish what he or she has set out to do.
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

    My Layout Build Thread - The Spokane & Eastern Washington
    - Featuring motive power by Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Montana Rail Link and Amtrak in Spokane and Eastern Washington in the mid-1990's.
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    @Paul Schmidt

    Agree with everything you, and everyone else who responded, stated above ESPECIALLY the "Start Small" and learn the basics (very basics) laying track, a little wiring and getting trains to run smoothly AND reliably. I would add your first layout be no larger than 8' x 4' - learn the basics and be willing to learn new skills, ie Soldering.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"
    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    4) Get an NMRA standards gauge. Best purchase, next to books, that you will ever make.
    This, get multiple!
    Modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Divison in 1954

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    The NMRA Guage is the answer to a lot of problems , and prevents a lof of problems too . You might not use it everyday , but when you need it , it is indispensable

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by CodyO View Post
    This, get multiple!
    Yes! Get two at least. They are small and flat and almost as good at hiding as Sasquatch. They turn up eventually, but best to have an extra on hand so you aren't stuck on a project waiting for "eventually".
    Bronman - "Trains and Legos... you can't have too many of them."

    My Layout Build Thread - The Spokane & Eastern Washington
    - Featuring motive power by Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Montana Rail Link and Amtrak in Spokane and Eastern Washington in the mid-1990's.
    _________________________________________________
    "That's what she said!" - Michael Scott, The Office

    "That's just dumb, D-U-M, dumb." - Me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    Perhaps you might replace the word "knucklehead" with "the non-receptive modeler" or some such. All three of your points are great advice!
    I second this, but would say it a lot more strongly than "Perhaps". The sort of attitude the word "knucklehead" betrays, when it comes through while providing advice, even if it is good advice, is insulting and more often than not will turn off potential beneficiaries of the advice. I don\'t know which other forum was referred to, but if it is the one I think it is that I frequent regularly, the attitudes that come across from some of the advanced modellers are why I only very occasionally update my build threads there whereas I do so regularly here on this much nicer forum.

    -Ed
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Northern New England Scenic Model Railroad - N Scale early fall in NH in the very early 1950s.

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    Thanks! Great thread! I am not completely new, but returning to the hobby after a 15+ year hiatus from life getting in the way, and using it to keep my mind occupied since my wife passed in 2018 after a long illness, and I am learning a lot from you guys
    Last edited by C0wb0y; 31st Dec 2019 at 10:46 AM.
    Link to my layout thread: https://www.nscale.net/forums/showth...ut-in-Nebraska

    I wish this work thing didn't get in the way of playing with my trains

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    Great thread , As for starting small that is so dead on. I would say start with a few Ttrak modules. With then you can learn a lot for not much money.
    Do a simple oval to start then add building and scenery to them as you go. Or anther route is the Pizza layouts, they can be done very reasonably.
    rich

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    What is a pizza layout?
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    https://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    @Paul Schmidt,
    Words of wisdom, I agree with every single word!



    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    Perhaps you might replace the word "knucklehead" with "the non-receptive modeler" or some such.
    Gordon,
    I'm going to disagree with you.
    If the shoe fits......

    That is part of the problem with the world today.
    "Oh gosh, we don't want to offend anyone!"
    Sometimes a club is needed instead of a slap on the wrist to get the point across.

    I watched too many times over the years (one in recent times) where a modeler is having issues building his layout. It happened just as Paul described.
    He started out wanting to fill his basement with an empire, told everyone that he had studied hard for a at least a full year before starting.
    He then started with his build, then asked a bunch of questions, basic questions that he should have known if he had actually researched for at least a year.

    So he proceeded with his empire build and then started to ask more questions, receives all kinds of help and advice and ideas to help him along.
    When he didn't get the answers he thought he should get, he then proceeded to ignore all and brush it aside and charged ahead only to stop each and every time when he was confronted with an issue and asked more questions!

    Just as Paul stated, everyone grew tired of him and his questions and him brushing everything aside to the point that he finally got irritated and left the forum only to go to another forum
    and start the who comedy show over again, asking the same questions about the same issues he was having before and then promptly ignored the advice on that forum.
    Then he moved on to a third forum and repeated it all over again.

    If something offends someone, then instead crying about it, maybe they should stop, look in the mirror and take a long hard look at whats going on and ask themselves "Why?"
    But I guess it's easier to cry and say "You offended me"


    Life is hard, it's harder if you don't learn.
    The Little Rock Line blog


    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." George Carlin

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    Allen,

    I love the last line,, life is hard,, harder if you don't learn!!

    Oh how true that is.

    It is like the saying in all military branches,, the more you bleed/sweat in training, the less you bleed/sweat in battle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    1) Buy some books. Much of the aggregate basic knowledge of this hobby can be found in soft-cover books. They cover the entire spectrum of topics ranging from benchwork, to laying track, scenery, DCC and wiring, and locomotive maintenance.

    Three must-have books if you are new are "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong, "N Scale Railroading -- A Beginner's Guide to the Hobby" by Marty McGuirk and "Realistic Model Railroad Scenery" by Dave Frary. All three of these, and other valuable how-to books, can be found online, and especially at the Kalmbach Media bookstore.
    I would add, being a computer/electronics guy you should at at least one of the following:

    1) Easy Model Railroad Wiring, 2nd Edition by Andy Sperandeo - Published in 1999 it's still the best beginner/basics book available. Amazingly enough, it's still in print! If you don't have it yet, get it!! especially if you're starting out in DC before trying (or never going to) DCC.

    https://www.amazon.com/Model-Railroa.../dp/0890243492

    2) Wiring Your Model Railroad by Larry Puckett - More modern, but not more comprehensive. Maybe better if you start with DCC, but that's debatable. I wuld still get #1 above first, then this one if you want to see more modern components and their uses.

    https://www.amazon.com/Wiring-Your-M.../dp/1627001751

    3) Basic DCC Wiring for Your Model Railroad:A Beginner's Guide to Decoders, DCC Systems and Layout Wiring by Mike Polsgrove - Get this second after one of the above if you know you will be going to DCC immediately or soon. Still #1 above should be your first choice as a good DC basis is still required for good DCC.

    https://www.amazon.com/Basic-Wiring-.../dp/0890247935

    I had been thinking about this recently after seeing several questions pop up here, and on the N Scale Model Trains FaceBook page where people asked basic wiring questions that they really should know before building a good layout.

    I have all these books (and more) and I think these are the best of what's available now. I will say that I have Linn H. Westcott's "How to Wire Your Model Railroad" and although it's printed in 1961 I wouldn't give it up for the world, but it's in the vintage book category and hard to find. And I have Paul Mallory's Electrical Handbooks Vol 1 & 2 published by RMC in the 70's which still has good information. I haven't looked to see if White River is now publishing them.

    #'s 2 & 3 are fairly cheap at Amazon ($11-$12) and even #1 is not that much at $17 and you'll gain so much knowledge that it's worth it. In my humble opinion.
    John H. Reinhardt
    PRRT&HS #8909
    C&O HS #11530
    N-Trak #7566

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    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    What is a pizza layout?
    group in Salt lake started them to get kids into the hobby . They are a 2 foot square and use in section of flex track to make a circle. Will see if I can find my photos of them from the last two NMRA shows.
    Last I heard they had over 150 kids signed up and building them and about as many on a waiting list.
    rich

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    @reinhardtjh, I'm with you 100 percent. I'd considered adding one of those titles to my list, but felt three how-to books were enough to be getting on with for newcomers. But your selections are worthy of every newcomer opening their wallet to purchase.
    Paul Schmidt

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    Quote Originally Posted by C0wb0y View Post
    Thanks! Great thread! I am not completely new, but returning to the hobby after a 15+ year hiatus from life getting in the way, and using it to keep my mind occupied since my with passed in 2018 after a long illness, and I am learning a lot from you guys
    We're glad you're here, @C0wb0y.
    Paul Schmidt

    Shasta (2008-2020) -- All good dogs should live forever

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    @Allen H, @Paul Schmidt

    My suggestion to replace "knucklehead" with something else was not motivated by fear of causing offense. I just feel that name-calling is inappropriate in the forum.

    I can appreciate the frustration of seeing good advice ignored, and the recipient complaining about the results (repeatedly), after all, I've got two stepchildren and now several grandkids! While I often mutter to myself, I have yet to call them knuckleheads. I'm sure my own parents felt the same way quite often.

    I applaud that Paul did not name the person or other forum. I simply mentioned the issue with courtesy in mind. Not a big deal, my friends.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    https://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    I will admit to being a knucklehead when I first started in N Scale. It was in the late 90s and I was excited to acquire anything N Scale I could despite the advice of others. I thought I could repair, upgrade and make everything just perfect for the layout I was building. In the end, I learned an expensive lesson that junk is just junk and cost more to try and detail and repair. I now have a collection of equipment I keep as a reminder.

    Take your time and buy good quality locomotives and rolling stock related to the period and prototype you want to model.
    Rob

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    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    I applaud that Paul did not name the person or other forum.
    If I had done either, I then would not have employed the description "knucklehead."
    Paul Schmidt

    Shasta (2008-2020) -- All good dogs should live forever

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