Tag Archives: Track

10 Reasons to Visit your Local Hobby Shop

Walthers Cornerstone® Hobby Shop Kit

Whether you’re just getting started with a new train set, or you’re a longtime modeler, visiting your local hobby shop (if you have one) can be a fun and inspirational learning experience.

 

  1. Inspiration

If you’re thinking of expanding or adding to your new train set, you may not know where to start or what’s available on the market. A good way to get inspired is to visit your local hobby shop to see what types of products they carry and how they’re displayed. Often times, the store will have a variety of layouts and themes on display.

Take your time and notice the details and different components of the display. Seeing all the elements together as a cohesive system can put things into perspective. It can be hard to see the big picture while looking at products online. Acquaint yourself with the different brands, trains, accessories, tools, and controls, as well as any reference books. Even if you don’t make a purchase your first time into the shop, you’ll leave with a better understanding of the hobby than when you came in.

For longtime modelers, you may be experiencing a plateau with your layout and need a catalyst for change. When was the last time you went to a hobby shop that isn’t your regular, go-to store? Take a look at our store locator (link), and dedicate an afternoon to visiting a new shop. A new shop means new layouts, new staff, and possibly different products. Seeing these things in a different light may inspire you to try something new, or give you new ideas.

 

  1. Begin with the basics

After visiting a hobby shop for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of products and accessories it took to create the in-store train layouts. Understand these types of layouts take a very long time to build. Talk with the staff on what they recommend for someone just starting out. They’ll be able to show you the basic building blocks of any model layout (track, freight and passenger cars, buildings) and walk you through the pros and cons of various aspects of model railroading. By starting with the basics, and building step by step, you’re more likely to finish all of your necessary components, rather than starting and abandoning ambitious projects.

 

  1. See products before you buy

If you’re just starting out as a model railroader, you may have a lot of questions or lack direction for your layout. Sure, you know that N and HO scale are different sizes, but what does that size difference look like? Do you want DC or DCC? Should you buy Code83 or Code100 track? The benefit of going into your local hobby shop is seeing the products firsthand. Sometimes the actual packaging conveys more information than you might see in ads or on the internet, and you’ll be able to view the product in different angles versus one picture online, or no pictures at all. In certain circumstances, your hobby shop may be willing to let you demo a product that you’re interested in! Being able to physically touch, see, and hear the different components allows you to make a well-informed purchase, and can save you from buyer’s remorse down the road.

 

  1. Compare similar products

Multiple manufacturers may offer similar trains, vehicles, figures, and scenery materials. Small details can be the deciding factor in the products that you purchase, especially amongst similar items. Often times, pictures on the internet cannot accurately depict the exact color, emphasize minuscule details, or give you that sense of assurance that seeing something in person provides. If you’re deciding between two similar products, make a visit to your local hobby shop. Chances are, you’ll be able to quickly tell which model is best for you.

 

  1. See store displays

Manufacturers like to promote their products in stores via displays, models, and interactive tools. These allow you to compare products side-by-side, or see a range of compatible products. Your hobby shop may have scenery, hardware, vehicles, paints, adhesives and more displayed on special racks. In many cases, the racks have informative signs and graphics showing the basics of how the products work together. This can remove a lot of the guesswork for a new modeler, and make for an expedited shopping experience for more experienced modelers.

 

  1. Ask the experts

Most hobby shops employ modelers on their staff. Even if they don’t model trains, they may build military models, aircrafts, or vehicles. In such instances, they can usually answer questions about construction, painting, weathering, and scenery. By talking with an expert, you’ll be able to talk about what you are doing, and let them know any general products you’re interested in receiving a recommendation about. Your hobby shop should be willing to provide feedback and make recommendations — after all, they’re counting on you to return and become a lifelong customer.

 

  1. Books and DVDs

Are you a picture person? Imagine ordering a scenery how-to book online, only to find out that it’s completely text, or worse, receiving a DVD in a different language! Hobby shops aren’t libraries, but they should carry a number of model train books and DVD’s for you to browse. If you’re just starting in modeling, take time to flip through and choose some how-to books that fit your needs.

If you’re a seasoned modeler, or building a layout, books and DVDs about real railroads are great modeling reference. Not only can you see the train action on your favorite railroad, era or region, you can also look at features in the background for scenery and detailing ideas.

 

  1. A learning experience

Many great hobby shops foster the personal growth of their customers. It’s becoming more common for stores to host lectures and offer how-to classes on model railroading topics. Subjects can range from scenery, to DCC, to weathering and detailing. In addition, many shops sponsor or advertise local model railroad clubs and railroad events. Check out the bulletin board – you might find something you want to visit!

 

  1. Model railroading ideas sometimes come from other hobbies

 Don’t limit yourself by exclusively purchasing products made for model railroading. Yes, in general, those items are your safest bets, however, you could be missing out on nuggets of information for your layout. Full-line hobby shops often carry military, aircraft, vehicle, and other modeling supplies that can also be used for model train layouts. Craft supplies are also common in hobby stores.

Additionally, are there dioramas on display? Check them out, and if you see a scene or painting technique you can apply to your model railroad, ask how it was done. By expanding your product base, you’re tapping into numerous new, unique looks and techniques for your model train layouts.

 

  1. Meet other modelers

Model railroading can sometimes be a solitary and isolating hobby. Staying active in your community by visiting your local hobby shop can connect you with other model railroaders and hobbyists. Some hobby shops encourage camaraderie between its customers by running contests, hosting events, and even sponsoring a local model railroad club.

Often times, there will be a wide range of experience amongst your fellow shoppers, from novice to experts. Engaging with those on the same skill level as you serves as a way to gauge your progress and share similar experiences. Seasoned hobbyists can act as mentors, and are typically eager to give advice and guidance.

Even if you’ve been in the hobby for decades, sometimes a chat with someone new to the hobby can provide an insight you haven’t considered, and interacting with other modelers can revitalize your interest and reignite your passion for the hobby.

 

One thing is for sure, when you are visiting a local shop, look for Walthers products. Shops that carry the Walthers brand are good shops, and if they don’t they are missing an iconic brand that has led the industry for 85 years.

Choosing the Right Model Railroad Track

Model Railroad Track – Choices are plentiful, which is right for you?

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned modeler, every model railroad needs good track. It’s important to choose the track type that best suits your needs.

One Piece at a Time: Sectional Track

If you like to simply run model trains, want to get up and running quickly, or you don’t wish to mimic real-life track arrangements, sectional track might work best.

Sectional track is great for beginners. It consists of fixed-radius curves, multiple lengths of straight track and turnouts (also called switches) that match, or are compatible with, the basic track sections. Rail is often slightly oversized for sturdiness. If you are beginning, or started with a basic starter train set you are likely familiar with sectional track.

Roadbed vs Conventional Track

Generally speaking there are two common types of sectional track, roadbed and conventional. Here are some explanations.

Roadbed Track
roadbed model railroad track

Roadbed track combines rails, ties and ballast roadbed (on real railroads ballast is crushed rock that holds track in place and aids rainwater drainage) into a single track piece. Some roadbed track has hidden electrical contacts for added reliability. In recent years roadbed-style track has become standard in many train sets from Z to O Scales.

Roadbed-style track is a great way to get started because it provides consistent electrical reliability – track pieces lock together in alignment making it great for beginners. It can be set up anywhere (even on carpet) and its profile negates the need for roadbed, so you can simply affix it to plain sub-roadbed like a wood or foam tabletop.

Its appearance looks like heavy-duty mainline track with perfectly aligned ties and manicured ballast – a far cry from the look of real track or track on secondary lines and branches. There are methods of weathering, painting and ballasting that will improve realism, but it’s another step you have to consider if realistic appearance is important to you.

The disadvantage to roadbed track is once you choose a system, you’re locked into its geometry including curve radii, turnouts and straight lengths. Some manufacturers make only a limited selection of track pieces, so you may have to compromise as you design your track plan. Very few systems have conversion track sections to join with other makers’ systems, but most do offer a transition piece for connecting to conventional track. That said, there are many large layouts built using roadbed track because of its reliability.

Conventional Track

conventional model track

If you can see through the spaces between the ties on your track then you have conventional track. Nickel silver rail molded onto injection-molded ties is a quick definition for this kind of track in most scales. At one time conventional track dominated the model railroad industry – it was standard in train sets and was available anywhere trains were sold. While still popular with layout builders and very widely available, it has been largely replaced by quick-setup roadbed track in train sets.

Conventional track offers far more choices for track planning. Many advanced model railroads are built using conventional track. It’s available with a variety of rail sizes in most scales, so fine scale modelers can choose scale-height rail, also referenced as rail “Code,” and ties that look like wood or concrete.

track options

Sectional conventional track, like roadbed track, is fast and fun to set up – but you must set it up on a suitable base or roadbed. Because this type of track is open, using it on uneven surfaces, carpet or dirt is not advisable. Many modelers choose strips of cork or foam roadbed between the track and benchwork/layout table to suggest a subgrade and reduce noise and vibration.

Unlike with sectional roadbed track, most conventional track is interchangeable with that of other makers provided the rail size, or “Code,” is the same. Some manufacturers also offer transition track or rail joiners so you can mix rail sizes. A variety of turnouts that match or complement sectional track geometry are available. As with roadbed track, the geometry of conventional sectional track “systems” limits your track planning if you stick solely to sectional track.

Looking for more flexibility, why not flex track?

Flex Track

Flex (flexible) track is available in most model railroad scales and each system has a unique appearance. Here is a sampling of HO and N scale flex track sections. As you can see in the second image the track is easily bent to custom curvatures.

In addition to fixed-geometry sectional model railroad track, flexible conventional track is also available, and that’s where conventional track shines!

Flex track allows nearly unlimited possibilities for adding various curves because it has no fixed geometry. It can be bent to very gentle or sharp curves. Use care to not make the curves too tight – 18″ to 22″ radius is usually the sharpest for most equipment to run smoothly. Additionally, turnouts that mimic real track geometry are also offered, mostly for use with flex track, however, they still work with conventional sectional track. With flex track an added advantage is that there are fewer joints in the track over long distances, so electrical continuity is much improved.

Flex track, however, requires more skill if you’re planning a layout beyond what sectional track offers.

If flex track appeals to you but you’re just starting out, it’s a great learning opportunity. Using flex track requires special, but easy-to-learn skills. Practice track cutting using flush cutters, rail saws or a rotary tool with a cutoff disc. For smooth curves, learn how to use a radius tool to plot out a centerline on your sub-roadbed. Some modelers use a mix of sectional and flex track out of convenience or if they’re expanding a sectional track railroad.

Finally, you’ll have to affix your model railroad track to your roadbed and layout base so it stays put. Don’t attach it directly to plywood or boards – it’s noisy and real track is usually elevated for drainage, so it just won’t look realistic enough.

When you consider purchasing track from Walthers.com we’ve put together some search links for you to browse model railroad track more effectively.

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/flexible-track/show/120 – Flex Track

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/roadbed-track Roadbed Track

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/sectional-track Sectional Track

Model Railroader has great track articles here: http://mrr.trains.com/mrvp/how-to/track