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Starting a model railroad is a very popular hobby for men, women and children. Due to the cost associated with model trains it is important to educate oneself on selecting the proper scale/gauge and other areas of the hobby before making a substantial investment in both time and money.
First, you'll want to learn about the scale system associated with the various sizes of model trains. Basically the term scale is used to denote the size of the model train and often referred to as a ratio of the model train to the actual real-life train.
The smallest of these scales is 1:220 known as the Z scale. The G scale is the largest and its ratio is 1:8. When starting a model railroad you'll find a plethora of scales to choose from with the most popular being the HO scale. The G, N and Z are also among the most popular scales also.
Beginners sometimes think the larger scales are the best choice believing that you can put more detail into the locomotive, cars and bench work layout. I tend to disagree! I believe that all the scales have their rightful place and that the detail depends more on the manufacturer than on the size of the scale. I like the HO scale because it allows you to build detailed layouts within a limited amount of space.
Those with extremely limited space may want to consider the Z scale since it is the smallest. Some people consider the Z to be a poor value for collecting because they feel the details are to small to appreciate. I believe the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and that the scale that best fits your taste as well as space should be a factor in determining which type you will choose.
I will say that the G looks great at all the model train shows. Because of it's size it seems to look so realistic. Unfortunately it is also like trying to park a bus in your garage. For most of us it just overwhelms the space we have available and it really limits the multi-track, multi-train concept. Some people will set them up in their garden due to the large size.
Many beginners get caught up in terminology, especially the difference between scale and gauge. So, lets keep it simple. Scale deals with the size of the model train to the actual size of a working train. Gauge deals with the size of the track. The size of the scale will help you determine the gauge. Check with your local store to get more information.
Starting a model railroad with all of the available options for locomotives, cars, cars, track, scenery, etc is fun. But the real fun is getting the perfect layout for your bench work and setting up realistic looking track and topography. Getting the perfect train station, cities, countryside, mountains and tunnels is what will make your collection of model trains really sing. The model railroad you build will truly be a piece of functioning art.
Your layout will help you determine what types of locomotive and cars to collect. The topography of your layout will look even better with a collection that is accentuated with the effects of weather that coincides with your bench work.
Check out a local model train show to determine the best scale and gauge for you and your budget. Do a little research and get started right away because this hobby is a lifetime of enjoyment and something of pride that you can leave for generations to come. Welcome to the club of collecting model trains and starting a model railroad.