Choosing An HO Train Set

An HO train set is a great way to into or start someone in the great hobby of model railroading. HO scale is still one of the most popular scales. The huge variety of locomotives and rolling stock and accessories as well as being a bigger than n scale but not as big as O scale makes it great starting point. Below are a few things to consider as you shop for a HO train set.

HO Train Sets On Amazon

HO Train Set Options.

Let’s start with the time period you would like to model. Again, there are plenty of options. While starter sets in HO are somewhat limited, you should be able to find something from the steam era all the way up to the modern era. Keep in mind, this is your starting point and you can certainly branch out from there, and you will. Right now the two main players in HO scale sets are Bachmann and Lionel with Bachmann being more prevalent. A very basic set in HO from Bachmann can be had from under $150. It is just a locomotive, a couple of cars, a caboose, an oval of track and a controller. If you want more cars and track in your set, well the price goes up.

Growing Your HO Train Set

Some set up their trains once a year during the holidays, others get just a little more involved, taking over the entire basement or garage. Growing your layout is a simple as adding track and stock. How detailed or complicated is up to you. You may choose to stick with the brand of track you start with or you may get into more of a flex track or even hand lay your track. Some even hand build their own turnouts. My father did, but he was way more patient than me. It’s all up to you to add as much detail and interesting scenes as you can imagine.

Build Your Own HO Train Set

You can also put together your won HO train set, picking and choosing your track locomotives, rolling stock and controller. If you have some experience in model railroading, this may be a better option as your tastes are even more specific and you know what you are shopping for. Shopping on ebay will also open up opportunities for some great buys if you know what you are looking for. If you are just looking to get started quickly in model railroading, buying a complete package may be the best option for your HO train set.

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Broadway Limited N Scale T1 Locomotive

Broadway Limited Imports BLI N Scale PRR T1 4-4-4-4 Steam Locomotive
Broadway Limited N Scale PRR T1 Locomotive

As steam locomotives were reaching their peak, along came the PRR T1 4-4-4-4 steam locomotive. Broadway Limited Imports (BLI) has captured this beauty in n scale with some awesome features. First introduced in 1942, the BLI n scale model is typical of the production model produced in the 1950’s. The prototype had a few knocks against it including being expensive to maintain and operate as well a being prone to wheel slip. You won’t have that problem with the BLI version. It has a cast boiler as well as a precision designed drive train for excellent slow speed and pulling power. Available in 5 road names for PRR as well as an undecorated model. PRR ordered 50 more units after a couple of demo models. You can find more prototypical information here at Wikipedia.

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Operating Perimeters Of The BLI N Scale T1

The BLI T1 Duplex is designed to run on code 55, 70 or 80 rail. Minimum recommended radius for the locomotive is 9.75 inches. It is set up to run with both DC or DCC. The sound will operate in DCC but if you want sound in DC, you will need to use the BLI-1011 DC Master Analog Control Module. The Paragon 3 sound system offers a boat load of sound and choices. As a matter of fact when I looked at the available sound options available, my head started spinning a little bit. I am one of those guys that would likely open the box and runt the T1 with factory settings. For those of you more detail orientated, you can dial it in to an exact setting.

Reviews Of The BLI T1

You will find a few reviews of the Broadway Limited T1 in n scale. They all point the same way. Excellent detail, smooth running, great sound and better than hoped for! This really is an iconic locomotive that has been done very well. List price is around $420 but you will find them online routinely under $300. If you are a PRR fan, you will be very pleased with your Broadway Limited N Scale T1 locomotive. For you HO fans, BLT offers one of you too!

N Scale Fire Trucks

Adding small details to your n scale layout can make a huge difference. Fire trucks are just one aspect you can add to your n scale layout that can really flesh out the scene. You can create a live action scene or just the local fire station. And now you have some nice choices in n scale fire trucks to make that happen.

What’s Available?

When I first started searching for n scale fire trucks, I didn’t think I would find many. But I was surprised to find fire trucks in n scale from the 1920’s to the modern era. One of my favorites I came across is a hook and ladder kit from GHQ. It’s cast pewter so you do need to put it together and paint it but you really can finish it to match your own local fire department if you are good with decals. I was even more surprised to realize that GHQ is based about 20 miles from my home! They have some really neat stuff in addition to their fire trucks in n scale. You can also find fire trucks in n scale from Wiking, Athearn and others as well as some 3D printed models.

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A Place To Park Your Fire Engines

Of course, you will need a place to park your fire trucks. Some of the offerings in n scale leave something to be desired but if you dig you should find something that will fit in to your layout. If not scratch building or kit bashing may be in order.

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So if you are looking to add a little more realism to your small town on your n scale layout, consider adding a fire truck either in action or in front of a station. It’s a simple addition that can really add depth with little effort.

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Tyco Mantua Steam Locomotive Kits

Growing up my dad help me build a few different steam locomotive kits. For the most part they were fun simple projects especially some of the old timers like the ten wheeler and the 2-8-0. They had fairly simple running gear. Some of the more modern steam locomotive kits that Tyco offered had more complex valve gear that took a little more finesse assembling. One of my favorite parts on the kits was painting them. I still have my first couple of kits. I have a D&RGW 4-8-0 that I repainted as an olive green with silver smoke box. I also purchased one that is still in it’s original colors. I found a very cool source for info on the old Tyco kits you may want to check out. They have some cool images and a bunch of data on the different models Tyco offered in steam.

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What Steam Locomotives Did Tyco Offer?

I am not sure if all of the steam locomotives Tyco offered where available as kits or not. But from what I have seen, they offered a total of 15 different steamers. The smallest was the 0-4-0 booster, the largest a 2-10-4 Texan. You won’t find a Texan, as according to the source listed above, they were advertised but never produced. You can still find plenty of Tyco Steam locomotive kits unboxed and some even sealed up on ebay. You can even find some parts here and there online. I have grabbed a few parts here and there for a rebuild of one of my first kits.

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In addition to the kits, you will find many assembled Tyco locomotives in varying conditions. Some are pristine and still sealed Others are well played with and my be good for your parts collection. One of the steam locomotive kits that Tyco produced a ton of is the Spirit of America 4-6-0 Bicentennial version. This is basically the Tyco 1890 4-6-0 in red white and blue paint. That being said it makes either a good parts locomotive or a great subject for a repaint!

A Few Last Thoughts On Tyco Steam Locomotive Kits

The steam locomotive kits Tyco and Mantua offered were never super detailed or complicated. What they accomplished is to build imagination and skills that started many in the hobby of model railroading. Whether you want to build, run or just collect, these great kits will suit you just fine.

Micro-Town Z Scale Layout For Rokuhan Shorty

This Gets My Z Scale Juices Flowing!

I just thought this layout was so cool! This is a shorty layout built by RG Layouts. It just shows you how cool z scale is. Not sure of the actual dimensions but the soda can gives you an idea. This layout is running the Shorty Series trains from Rokuhan that will negotiate a very small radius. They tend to go in and out of stock as is common with Z Scale. If your favorite dealer doesn’t stock them, check out both Amazon and ebay. You can actually buy this layouts and others prebuilt for RG Layouts. Check out their site and youtube channel. They have some really cool little layouts!

Little layouts like this really get my modeling juices flowing. Building a huge layout can be so intimidating. These little z scale layouts can be done and finished (when have you ever “finished” a layout) in a short period of time and be displayed just about anywhere. This is a great way to try your hand at building and detailing a layout without spending a boat load of time and money. Trying scenery techniques on a small layout will build your confidence. You can always build bigger in the future!

What You Need

If you decide to build your own little layout for the Rokuhan Shorty series, you will need just a few basics. A little bit of track, your choice of the Shorty locomotive and stock, a controller and a a base to build it on. As for the base, get creative! The base itself can be a work of art. As you shop for the Rokuhan Shorty locomotives, you may have to buy a powered chassis. Make sure you read the item description! You can find some Shorty sets with everything you need including the locomotive, track and controllers. Both Amazon and ebay offer a nice selection of Rokuhan Shorty products.

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N Scale Train Starter Sets

If you are looking to get into n scale model railroading, a starter set is a great way to do if for a couple of reasons. First, off, many times a starter set offers a little better price to get you going. While you may be a more limited with road name and car choice, this is your starting point. Secondly, you can get a train running in minutes after opening up the box! That’s a big thing as you want to see your railroad up and running. From there, the sky is the limit.

N Scale Train Starter Set Choices.

At this time, you have a couple of manufactures focusing on n scale sets, Bachmann and Kato. Both are offer a quality product. In my opinion, Kato is a little higher grade but both make some great running and great looking products. Both have there own version of track with built in roadbed that you can snap together. They are not interchangeable but likely as your railroad grows, you may find yourself buying longer pieces of track like flex track. As you are shopping for a starter set, not that some starter sets include track and a controller and some do not.

What Will You Run?

So what kind of service do you want to offer on your railroad? Mainly freight? Just passenger service? Well that’s up to you but you but model railroading is addictive so you will most likely have both on your layout. It may be more important to pick an era that you want to model. You may want to model the steam era, or a current era. Many chose what’s called the era where steam was switching over to diesel. This on of my favorite eras. I love steam and the early diesel locomotives. You can find n scale train starter sets with either steam or diesel. If ;you want to model the modern era but still love steam, here is an idea for you. Model an excursion train on you railroad! It’s a great way to fit in your favorite steamer in a modern era.

View N Scale Steam Starter Sets On Amazon

DCC VS. Standard

One last think you should consider with an n scale set. DCC vs. standard DC. DCC opens a whole new world in model railroading including sound, switch control and more. It can be fairly simple, it can become very complicated. More and more sets are going to DCC. Just keep in mind, if you have any older locomotives, they may be easily converted to DCC, or they may not. If you want to keep it simple stick with DC. If you really want to get advanced, go DCC. As your layout grows, DCC make for easier wiring. NOTE: You will find locomotives that are said to be DCC ready. That doesn’t mean they are DCC. It means they are set up so you can convert them to DCC.

Model Railroading Is A Great Hobby

Model railroading really is a great hobby. Whether you enjoy building, adding scenery or just running your trains, it is so therapeutic! N scale is a great size for model railroading not only for the amount of running you can get in a small area but the scale offers a huge selection of locomotives, cars, building sand accessories. An n scale train starter set is a great way to get started!

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AZL Z Scale Friday Specials 2022

Just a quick reminder that on 11/25/22, AZL will start it’s Z Scale Friday Specials for 2022. Each Friday for the next 6 weeks, AZL will feature some great buys on z scale locomotives, cars and more. Truthfully, nobody really knows what the specials will be except the guys at AZL. If you check some of the past deals, there usually are some great buys including buy one get one deals including locomotives! What a great way to build your collection! The deals go live Friday AM and are available exclusively at AZL Direct. One thing they have done in the past is let the deals run through the 6 weeks until they sell out. I am sure they will do the same thing this year

Archistories Barn Kits Coming Soon

If you haven’t seen the video below, take a look. Coming fall 2022 these little barn kits will be a must have for many of you. If you have never built a Archistories kit, you really need to give them a try. It is so easy to build them and get great results that even I can do it! Here is a link to a build I did on their Turn of The Century House Kits. Enjoy the video!

Ebay Finds

We are still scouring ebay looking for deals, I am sure you are as well. I used to send a list of items that I felt was worth taking a look at when I was a dealer but it’s getting harder to find the time. Check out the Z scale category at our Trainlots Blog. Most of the posts draw live feeds from ebay that may spark you interest. I still toy with the idea of jumping back in as a dealer. Maybe when I retire?

Vintage Atlas N Scale Trains

No doubt about it, when you think about vintage n scale, you think about Atlas. I have so many fond memories of model railroading with my brother and my dad and Atlas was a huge part of it. In the early 70’s, they offered a variety of starter sets with a locomotive, a few cars a transformer and a oval of track. I have the image of the box cover burned into my brain. I actually bought a vintage Atlas power pack to keep in my collection because the cover matched the box of the starter sets.

The more common vintage Atlas starter sets came your basic diesel locomotives, mostly Santa Fe or PRR. I remember we had more than one Santa Fe set but I think we had a Pennsylvania RR set as well. My brother and I always wanted a steam engine like on the cover of the Atlas box. Then one day it happened. My dad pulled an Atlas steamer out of his pocket, I think it was a Pacific 4-6-2 but not sure. I do remember my brother yelling “a steamer!” and my dad trying to quite him down. I guess my mom wasn’t aware of this expenditure.

Some of the classic steam locomotives from Atlas that I remember include the 2-8-2 Mikado and the 4-6-2 Pacific. My dad’s railroad had multiples of both of these. I also remember the Atlas 0-4-0 switchers that still are selling for more than they were new on ebay. If you were into n scale as a kid, spend some time at ebay and check out some of the vintage N Scale Atlas trains. It’s kind of like going back in time! You will find some of the basic sets along with locomotives and some to of those old classic vintage Atlas cars like the Blatz Reefer, Peabody Hopper, Reading Gondolas, Jumbo 4 truck tankers as well as my personal favorite, the Warren Tank Car. That is the first n scale train car my dad bought me. The original one is somewhere in a box under my brothers care. I have another one on display in my office. The cost at the time was $2.50. Today, to me anyway, it is priceless.

The old vintage Atlas N scale trains started many in model railroading. Each week I snoop around ebay just looking but sometimes I grab a piece up and and it to my collection.

AZL SD70M Locomotives

Just a short 360 view of the AZL SD70M Locomotives. AZL released SD70 series of locomotives in SD70, SD70M, SD75i & SD75M. Nice locomotives with detail correct to the prototype. Still available at many online stores. You may also want to search ebay for some great deals on hard to find AZL locomotives.

Z Scale Steam Locomotives