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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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.

HO Scale Decals

With the huge selection of HO scale decals available today, a model railroader cannot only create road names and numbers that aren’t being produced or create something totally unique. Years ago, you got what you got from the dealer no matter how prototypical. But now with a few add on parts, a different stripe and new decals you can more accurately model your road of choice. Add to that the advent of 3D printing and the sky is the limit.

SP&S By K4 Supply

While you can print your own HO scale decals, you can save yourself a lot of time and experimenting buying commercially available decals. The internet and outlets like ebay make it easy for a small manufacture to offer up his product with very little cost. While you may be familiar with companies like Champion, Micro Scale, and Herald King but there really is a bunch of guys doing it! I came across a cool company called that has a bunch of HO Scale decals, K-4 Supply while looking for z scale decals. I couldn’t believe all the pages of decals! Not just Z but N, HO, O, S & TT scale decals! I have to admit, I started paging through but it was a little daunting! Another one I came across is Great Decals for Model Railroads who sells on ebay. They actually have a site Greatdecals.com that lists a bunch of HO scale decal makers.

DM&IR Reefer By K4 Supply

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HO Brass Trains-Locomotives

HO Scale Brass Trains. Steam locomotives, ABBA diesle sets, early and modern diesel, logging locomotives including the Shay, Climax, Heisler and traction locomotives. What do you think of first when you think of HO scale brass trains? HO Scale brass locomotives is probably what you think of first. I always think back to my father’s Model Railroader magazine adds for brass locomotives. He modeled N scale, most where HO Scale at that time with some O scale as well. N scale became more popular. But it didn’t matter at that time, they were well out of my reach! One of the few luxuries of aging is becoming a little more financially stable. As such, consider some of the HO scale brass trains that really are more like works of art than anything. I always rationalize that they are an investment. I can’t say my wife buys into that theory. Let’s take a quick look at what is available in the after market.

Steam Locomotives

The nature of steam locomotives lends itself very well to being a piece of brass art. While most more modern locomotives are streamlined with less visible working parts, the steam locomotive is all our there for you to see. That’s what makes a HO scale brass steam locomotive that much more impressive to me. If you are a fan of the big articulated locomotives, you have plenty to choose from. Whether you are looking for a Big Boy, Challenger, Yellowstone, Duplex or an Allegheny, you will find it in brass. The standard workhorses are there as well including Pacifics, Mikados, Northerns, Texans, Bershires, you get the point. And we would expect the more popular locomotives to be represented. But HO scale brass also offers some awesome, somewhat obscure very task specific steam locomotives like the Climax, and Shay or one of my favorites the Heisler.

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Diesel Locomotives

Diesel locomotives are also very well represented in HO scale. The early locomotives like the F-3, F-7, E-8 and others are readily available as are many of the road switchers. Many are available in ABBA consists. Brass diesel locomotives tend to be a little less pricey than the steam locomotives for obvious reasons, less detail and moving parts! As for switchers, you will find more road switchers than the smaller yard ones, but they are out there. Brass diesel is a good way to start you brass collection.

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Traction Locomotives

I have to admit, I have never been a huge fan of traction locomotives, but there is a big following. When I think of traction locomotives, I think of the Milwaukee Road Little Joe and the Great Northern EF70. That not only shows you where I am from but that I don’t have a huge knowledge of traction locomotives. But, if you are looking for them, they are here!

Gas Turbine

One of the more obscure models that was only used by the UP was the Veranda Gas Turbine. But sure enough, they are available in HO scale brass. Such an odd concept, but something that really caught the fancy of model railroaders! Learn more about these units here. Very interesting.

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To Paint Or Not To Paint

Here is a question. To paint or not to paint. Well, this is my blog, so I get to offer my opinion. I certainly respect yours. The answer to paint or not to paint is………yes. I really have to say this is a hard one for me. To me an unpainted Heisler is a thing of beauty, but I can’t resist a DMIR gray boiler 2-10-4.

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Walthers Cornerstone Kits HO Scale

Railroads were built with a purpose. Some to move lumber, some to move coal, others iron ore. Industry drove the railroads and still does today. So when you are designing or building your layout, what purpose does it serve? Sometimes all you need is a central industry or several to get you off and rolling. That’s where the Walthers Cornerstone kits come in. Check out some of there kits that will give your railroad a purpose.

For instance, consider the New River Mining Company Kit from the Walthers Cornerstone series. This kit could be the focus of your layout if mining is your thing. It’s a good size, the main complex measures out at 12-1/2 x 9 x 9-3/8″ (31.2 x 22.5 x 23.2cm). This is a facility that would have been typical around the 1950’s so the steam to diesel era would fit in very nicely. You will see rave reviews of the kit, typical of the Walthers kits. It is well designed and includes extras like conveyors and a truck loading facility.

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The Walthers Cornerstone kits also have lots to offer for more of a rural setting. For instance, they offer a concrete grain elevator, grain storage bins, a nice little barn, and more of a rural feed elevator as well. A few of these buildings will make a fine little layout running nice long consists of covered hoppers.

City and small town scenes always add realism to your layout. Industry brings people, people need to shop, eat drive etc. Well the Cornerstone series of kits has you covered with drive ins, donut shops, department stores, small homes, apartments, office buildings and more.

As mentioned earlier, industry brings railroads, and railroads need service to operate! So, how about a roundhouse and turntable, or coaling and diesel service facilities? Walthers Cornerstone kits offer a nice three stall roundhouse that you can easily expand. You can model your whole layout around a fully equipped main yard. Detailing and operating opportunities are endless.

When designing or building your layout, spend a little time browsing the Walthers Cornerstone kits for inspiration. They can be a nice little detail or the focus of any great layout.

Bowser Locomotive Kits

Looking for a Bowser locomotive kit? Keep reading for a little history and some kits currently available. There was a time when everything came in kit form. Why you could even order a house kit from Sears Roebuck! So it was with HO scale as well, there were many kits around. I remember the Bowser locomotive kits as being one of my favorites. While they have been out of production for some time, you will still find them in the aftermarket. I am seeing more and more complete kits coming available.

While as you may have guessed, the most desirable for most are the Bowser Challenger and Big Boy. And of course they are harder to find. Bowser made locomotive kits that included the 4-6-2 Pacific, one of my favorites, the 4-4-4-4 Duplex, 2-8-0 Consolidation, 2-8-2 Mikado, 4-8-4 Northern, 4-6-0 Casey Jones, 4-8-2 Mountain and even a 2-10-2! You will also be able to find some small switchers. That’s just the Bowser steam locomotives, they also had some diesel and traction locomotives as well.

If you have a Bowser locomotive that is missing parts or if you are looking for one of the super detail kits, don’t despair, they seem to be coming out of the wood work as well. Tender kits both standard and Vanderbilt are there as well. You will also find many built and partial bit kits out there too.

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To be sure, building one of these locomotive kits can be a real challenge, but so rewarding. You can find some building tips including painting tips from Bowser here. The ones my brother and father built usually ended up be the standard dark gray or black, which really made a pretty nice representation of a functioning steam locomotive. Craftsmen are becoming a rarity these days as are these Bowser Locomotives. Find one, complete it and you will have a piece that you will truly be proud of.