If you are new to model railroading, here are a few important facts to help you get off to a great start. Your local train toy dealers can be a great help to you. Most dealers are eager to help new hobbyists learn the ropes and start building their collection. However, buyers must beware because there are also some unethical dealers who take advantage of beginners. The unfortunate result is spending too much money on foundational components or buying components that you really do not need at this point.
In an article written by Richard Dilley, he identifies two types of railroad equipment: those produced for the serious model railroader and those produced for what he refers to as the train toy market. Naturally, the latter market is big for parents and grandparents searching for a child's first model train and who know interest can be lost quickly as the child grows. What follows are tips aimed as the serious railroaders.
When buying locomotives, you should know there are many ways to improve operation of the electric motor. As you might suspect, the quality of the motor plays a large role in how effective the locomotive is on the track. And too, higher quality motors operate more efficiently so they don't require as much electricity to operate properly. Another factor to keep in mind is the weight. Heavier locomotives get better contact with the track, which improves the "pick up" factor. Also, consider adding flywheels to the ends of the motor. Incorporating these prevents the initial lurch that's common when a model train is powered up.
Dilley also encourages enthusiasts to remove the locomotive from the box for a closer examination. He warns store personnel may discourage it, but it's important to ensure the locomotive meets your standards. He goes on to warn that if you damage or break it, you'll have to purchase it.
After you've selected your locomotive, you'll then move on to choose the rolling stock that will follow the locomotive. Using the same thought process as you did with your selection of the locomotive, you'll want to closely inspect the wheels to be sure they're stable and there's no wobble. The presence of wobbling is indicative of bent axles. The wheels will most likely be made of plastic or metal, both of which are acceptable; however, you should try to select rolling stock with metal axles. Metal axles are less likely to bend.
Finally, engage the sales person in conversation. You want to know the store's return policy, his thoughts and opinions on any particular locomotive or rolling stock and if any other customers have offered feedback on what you're now considering. Most of us consider a model train toy as much an investment as a hobby and as with all investments, a few up front precautions can protect us in the future.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about model train toys. Click here to download a free train toy guidebook filled with hobby tips, ideas and information.
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