Orangeville, ON (James Doan) Traditionally most model railroaders get their start in the hobby by purchasing a complete train set. This is not the only solution and often it is not necessarily the best.
If you are still at the beginning of your journey into the world of model railroading, and you have not yet bought a train set, you should look into the possibility of creating your own set. If you choose to build your layout in either HO or N scale you will be able to benefit from the great selection of products available.
Take the time to browse through several well-stocked hobby shops to get some ideas. The opportunity to view not only the trains from different eras and livery but also structures and detail items will help you to decide on which specific railroad, era and location you will focus. Be sure to discuss your interests with knowledgeable store staff as well as other hobbyists to gather more ideas and guidance.
Your first consideration should be the locomotive. By all means, you should purchase the best one you can afford. If necessary, you can reduce the number of cars and hold off on buying too many structures initially.
For a starting track layout, purchase enough sectional or flex track to allow you to build an oval of track with a couple of turnouts. Choose nickel silver track in preference to brass. While both will oxidize and cause connectivity problems, the nickel silver will have better conductivity when corroded and will allow your train to run better.
You can experiment with additional track sections to find a pleasing and functional layout. If you lay your track with combination track-roadbed products you can try various arrangements without having to nail the track in place.
A finishing touch will be a reliable power pack and you will be ready to roll.
If you instead decide to stick with a pre-packaged train set, it is essential to buy the best quality. Steer clear of the low-priced train sets prevalent in toy stores and the discount chains. These sets tend to have poor-quality locomotives, the power packs are not reliable, and most sets come with brass track. Some sets try to impress you with lots of accessories – buildings, trees, telephone poles, and so on – but all these are available separately.