Step into the World's Greatest Hobby
Okay, you're all set to become a model railroader. You're convinced that this is the world's greatest hobby, one that's just right for you. What do you do now?
Diving into a new hobby means you're bound to have lots of questions. You also face many choices. We can't answer all your concerns in this booklet, which is why you'll find a listing of helpful resources on the next two pages to get you started. But first we'd like to offer you a few tips.
ONE: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. It's the quickest way to get up to speed and help you determine where you'd like to focus.
If you're interested in real (prototype) railroads, there are thousands of books, many of which cover one railroad in great detail. For toy train collectors and operators, there are books outlining the various types and styles of toy trains produced over the years. And we've never met a garden railroader who didn't have at least a few gardening books and magazines along with all those railroad publications.
TWO: Make it a family activity. Turn off the television and spend the time working on the railroad with the rest of the family. Be sure to keep the activity age-appropriate for children.
THREE: Visit a hobby shop. There are over 2000 hobby shops around the country that sell model railroad products. Check your Yellow Pages for shops in your area. These are great places to shop and learn. Many hobby shops offer workshops for beginners. Go to greatesthobby.com and click on Assistance Directory to find a shop in your area.
FOUR: Attend a show. There's nothing like a day at a model train show to get those creative juices flowing. You'll get a chance to see layouts in every possible scale and gauge. The people manning the booths or operating the layouts at these shows are usually hobbyists themselves. They'll be more than willing to answer your questions. Check your local paper, the listings in Model Railroader magazine, or visit www.greatesthobby.com to find a show near you.
FIVE: Get it off the floor! Carpet fuzz can damage locomotive mechanisms. And it's easy to kick a train that's on the floor.
Dirt and dust aren't as much of a problem as they used to be since most track included with today's train sets features pre-molded roadbed that holds the sections securely together and prevents dirt from reaching moving parts.
Still, the best solution is a dedicated place for your model railroad. Your trains will be safer and operate better if they're elevated off the floor on a table. The trains will be easier to see, and building and running the railroad will be a whole lot easier on your back and knees!
SIX: Spruce up the surroundings. Consider installing additional lighting, finish the walls and ceiling (to cut down on dust and dirt, any model railroad's biggest enemies) and install nice shelves for those treasures that aren't on the layout. You'll enjoy spending more time with your hobby if you have a pleasant, well-lit space.
SEVEN: Start small. Don't be intimidated by huge layouts that appear in the magazines. Be inspired by them as you enjoy dreaming about your "someday" empire, but start off with something less ambitious.
The reason is simple - a small layout or module can be completed fairly soon, so you can explore every aspect of the hobby while your enthusiasm is still fully charged.
EIGHT: Start with a published track plan. You'll be much better off if you follow a track plan from a book or magazine. You can assemble the track confident that the layout will actually fit.
As you run trains on your first layout, you'll discover more and more about your interests. Maybe you like a lot of switching, or perhaps you prefer to watch the train rolling through the scenery. Some modelers like the challenge of running lots of trains at once. Eventually you can tailor that original layout to meet your needs.
Get a basic tool kit. You need only a few tools to be a model railroader. A hobby knife, screwdrivers, needle files, needlenose pliers, tweezers, and a scale rule will get you off to a good start.TEN:
Have fun. Lots of fun. The only true measure of success of any hobby is how much you enjoy participating in it. Model railroaders all over the world are having a blast doing what they love. Here's your chance to do the same.