Whether we realize it or not, our brains are constantly longing for something new and different. If you ever find yourself stuck at home, chances are that video games, movies, TV shows, board games, crafts, and cooking will only get your preoccupation so far. You need something new: something that can open a whole new world of possibilities.
Have you ever considered collecting model train sets? Many grow up loving trains with their timelessness and sense of adventure. Think, the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter, the childish nature of Thomas the Train, or even the family-favorite Polar Express. People love trains, so why not bring some of that joy into your home?
That’s where TrainLife comes in with this model train guide.
We’ll be going over everything you could possibly need to know about how to start a model train collection, from terminology to logistics.
HO, or H0, is a train modeling scale using a 1:87 (3.5 mm to 1 foot) scale. It’s the most popular train model scale type due to the size being suitable for regular to smaller home layouts, as well as the fact that it’s typically cheaper to manufacture. Model train companies such as Athearn, Atlas, and Bachmann Trains are leading examples of this case.
The rails are spaced about 16.5 mm (0.650 in) apart for modeling 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 ½ in) standard gauge tracks and trains, making them definitively HO as far as scale identification is concerned.
N scale is also a standard model train scale, though not the most popular. N scale trains and accessories range varies based on the manufacturer or country of manufacturing but typically falls between 1:148 and 1:160. Regardless, the distance between the rails (also known as the gauge) is 9mm or .354 inches.
That said, we express different rail heights with a “code,” such as Code 80, which would have a height of 0.080 inches or 2.0 mm. The advantage of N scale models is that they allow train enthusiasts and hobbyists alike to build and collect model train layouts that are more space-conscious in contrast to HO scales. These N scale train layouts may be higher, longer, or different than what you can build with an HO scale model.
After figuring out what model train scale you want, it’s time to pick what era you want your model train to reflect. The beauty of model trains is the room for customization, so you can do whatever you’d like. Some modelers prefer replicating more modern layouts with accompanying ‘80s, ‘90s, or even ‘00s scenery since several older trains still run today.
But, if you try to inverse that and put a modern train (think, an Amtrack freight) in an early-era British 1920s setting, it might look a little off aesthetically. It’s best to select something that can go either way you want: old-fashioned or more modern. Getting a variety of trains and pieces can promote a more neutral look.
This selection process goes hand-in-hand with the period you choose. That decision will impact what landscaping materials and structure kits you might need to complete your model.
For instance, are you in the rustic plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas? Is the train barreling through suburban New Jersey or downtown Chicago? Is it a mountainous train traveling through Canada, Utah, or Colorado?
The environment you choose will greatly affect what availability for landscaping you have. Is it the dead of winter, where a blanket of snow will cover everything? Early spring with blooming blossoms and trees? The crux of summer when everything is bright, green, and hazy? Or is it autumn with jewel-toned flora?
It's best to make these decisions before investing in the pieces of your model train set to avoid collecting model train pieces that you won't use based on the season, location, and period you choose.
Planning your layout will take time and will probably change from your first idea to your last. Trial & error is your friend when it comes to this process because you have to consider the actual dimensions of the space you’ll be building in and on, as well as the dimensions of the pieces you purchase.
Most decent-quality ping-pong tables (5 x 9-foot in size) are usually substantial enough for temporary layouts, and crafty folks create systems of cables and pulleys to raise and lower them for storage purposes.
For more permanent layouts, you’ll want a space like a basement, spare room, or garage that won’t see much destructive traffic to build your set. Generally, collecting a model train set is a more long-term hobby that requires a bit of planning but with impressive outcomes.
This is the most exciting part!
If you’ve decided to get into collecting model trains and related accessories, you’re in for a fun ride. A well-done train set is a unique feat to show off to friends and family. You’ll also experience the elation and satisfaction of crafting and completing it.
TrainLife is the go-to online model train store for collectors, veteran hobbyists, and newcomers. We’ve got everything from HO to N scale models, a variety of different trains, cars, and accessories, as well as an array of different landscaping pieces and kits.
The perfect at-home hobby is just a click away! Visit TrainLife today and get started on building and collecting your model train set.
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