Beginners Frequently Asked Questions | Home | starter sets |

Here we provide answers for those questions many new to the hobby of model trains ask.

If you have tips or questions please send E-mail to us.

| Control | Curves | Grades | Homasote | PC Trains | Power | Roadbed | Scale | Wiring |

Age At what age should model trains be introduced?

    We are often confronted by Grandparents wanting  to by a train for very young children.

    A current trend is for three year olds to be responsible for expensive toys. HO model trains in particular are not suitable for three year olds. They are made of many fine and delicate parts. These models do not deserve to be on the floor with Barney. Please consider wooden sets by Brio etc. A $100+ push toy is a sad sight to see!

Wait until the child is 7 or 8 years old and then ensure that the collection of model trains is embarked on with proper supervision and planning. You will need to set the trains up on a permanent board or table which will ensure efficient electrical connection and continued enjoyment. 


Broughdale How do you pronounce the name of the store?

    This is probably the most frequent of FAQ's!  A short course. Rough. Roughdale. Broughdale. 

    Not brewdale, browdale, brodale. borrowdale.

    Try- 'Dale the ploughman, who had brought his lunch, sat on the bough of the tree with his girlfriend, "That field be rough Dale." Trad.

Track Curves and Modern Equipment I'm in the process of designing a HO layout for my basement.  I want to run modern equipment (TOFC, autoracks, diesels, etc.).  I would like to know if this equipment would run and look appropriate on a 26" radius.

    As you know model railways are a compromise of folding a generally straight point to point transport system into a smaller space.

    Getting large rolling stock around 26" curves is preferable to smaller radii. Often 22" is quoted as the smallest practical radius for large model rolling stock. Individual cars will have to be checked as they are purchased. Corners can be disguised with scenery, vegetation and topography. Best approach is to get the largest curves you can into the space. If you have viewable sections and hidden curves the radii can be different with the minimum allowable curve in the hidden section. 

    You can test the cars as you buy them by setting out a section of 22" radius track and checking clearances.

    Your best bet is to examine track plans in books and magazines we have in the store, and incorporate the ideas presented.

Homasote I have heard that Homasote is required for building model train baseboards. What is it and where can I get it?

Homasote is a half inch fibre board that is laid over plywood. It is easy to pin track to and absorbs much of the vibration and sound associated with running model trains. 

In the London area it is available from Copp's Buildall Downtown. 519-679-9000.  It may be necessary to special order it from them and costs around $35.(?) for a sheet 4' x 8'.  

Try also, Moffat And Powell in Hyde Park.

Track Grade or Hills How steep can you make hills on an HO model train? I want to build a Mountain for my train to climb.

On small layouts such as 4' X 8' plywood sheets it is best to keep the track at one level. The reason for this is that there is little room left to have track turnouts to yards and sidings. The maximum grade recommended is 4%, or a rise of 4" in 100".  2% is a better grade to use. An 8' board is approximately 100" long by the time you consider track curves. To climb 4" from one end, over another train at the far end, and down to the starting level leaves little chance to include a turnout for other operational possibilities. 

Try including your mountain scenery on one section where the train can enter a tunnel, cross a bridge over a plunging mountain stream in a deep gorge, re-enter a tunnel, emerge into a pastoral scene and then enter the next station. This can be done in less than two feet of track and on the level. The secret is to cut the stream and gorge into the baseboard with some scenery dropping below the baseboard and the mountain soaring above on either side. You achieve mountain scenery, but have greater operational potential in a small space.

If your space is larger, use 2% grades and allow one track to rise and the track you want to cross to fall. The load on the engine is reduced. Where space is short 4% up and down halves the distance needed to pass over another track.

Roadbed Track Systems What do you think of Lifelike Power- Loc track? It sure is  different and apparently you don't have to lay a roadbed with it. Is it as good as they claim? Bachman also have EZ track. Is one better than the other? Can you cut it if you need to install a shorter section?

Roadbed track systems have been available since the start of HO. Marklin and Hornby Dublo are examples. They are nice but it really is better to build track with more adaptable components. they were designed for temporary set up on the kitchen table.  Bachmann and Life-Like have their "road bed" systems. They do not offer enough geometrical components to make the layout you might require. Cutting track is not an option due to the "Power Loc" component. A competent craftsman can adapt anything but the price is not justified. The road bed is not prototypical should you want your layout to look more like the real thing.

We prefer Atlas and Peco "Universal" track. "Universal" component track is more adaptable between brands.  Take a look at the yard at your local station, it is flat, not on separate ballast  embankments for each line. Flex track offers the adaptability of any radius curve you need, looks realistic and is not available in "road bed" systems. Roadbed for Atlas is cork or foam and can be laid easily. If your aim is to have a Christmas train layout that is easily packed away then "roadbed" systems are ideal. Scale model railroads use "Universal" track, usually code 100 rail. Code 83 is available but not as common yet and the difference is only 0.017" in the height of the rail! 

EZ track and Power Loc can all be connected to '"Universal". Just the road bed and rail joiners need adaptation .

Beware that some of the "road bed" systems are not always available for expansion. January 2007 again proved the unavailability of Bachman E-Z track!

Power Supply I have a new train set that when all is connected the engine sits and hums but will not move.

Power supplies usually have four connection screws on the back. These are labeled "AC Accessories" and "Track or Variable DC". To enable your train to move use the "Variable DC" connections. When new most small controllers have a warning label over the AC screws. There are exceptions to using DC for trains. If you have Lionel or Marklin, they operate on controlled AC power with 3 rail track.

If you still have no success, check that the power is plugged in, the connection to the track is correct and that the two rails do not touch each other, as in a reverse loop, (the outside rail meets the inside rail in a diagonal track connection across an oval circuit)

Wiring Problems I have followed a track plan from a book for wiring my layout, but I find parts of the track do not work. What is wrong? How do I go about fixing it?

Many things may be wrong with the wiring.
    Was the layout working before the last wire was connected?
    Single conductor wires may break and are difficult to find.
    Stranded wire may be shorting at screw terminals if not properly managed.
    Perhaps one wire is connected to the incorrect rail.
    Check for obvious loose wires and connections under the layout.
    Have you ignored a reverse loop?
    Are you using a new type of turnout?

The simple answer maybe that you will have to disconnect all the feed wires at the control panel and methodically work through every connection, testing its operation as you go.  This way an incorrect wiring connection will be apparent as soon as you test it.  Check the location and polarity of all insulating rail joiners and the associated supply wires. Some books have errors too, so develop a system of checking the logic of all your connections.

Control I just built a layout with 3 ovals and switches going from outside track to med track. Inside track to med track. One transformer runs all three tracks. Is there anyway I can leave the tracks connected to each other and use three transformers to run three trains at different speeds and directions. Or do I have to remove the switches all together and just have three tracks that don't connect, but just run side by side.

You can certainly have three trains running at different speeds and directions on your layout. The simplest solution is to use rail insulators at the points the different circles of track join. It is not essential to insulate both rails as long as you insulate the same rail at all (both) points.  Hook each transformer to one circuit of track ensuring that you put the equivalent wire from each to the equivalent rail. (ie +ve to Inside and -ve to Outside rail).  Better yet get a book on wiring layouts. The possibilities are numerous. 

HO scale Are HO scale trains just a size of the parts or is it a compatability or both? What I really want to know is can you run any HO scale train on any HO scale track?

In theory any model train that says it is HO will be. You really would be best to talk to a hobby store such as ourselves when looking for 'model' trains. Our experience is that many toy 'Train Sets' are sold by large retailers with no interest or knowledge of what they are selling. 

HO trains are all built to the same standards. Quality and finish can vary. 
HO trains are built to 1:87 scale. (3.5mm to 1 foot) 16.5mm gauge between the rails. 

Some production standards have changed over the last fifty years. However all HO trains should run without difficulty on modern HO track, and with each other.
The National Model Railroad Association sets the standards for model train scales and engineering. Model Railroad Industry Association. Most manufacturers are members and build HO trains to NMRA standards.  
Compatibility between makes is assured, ( at present there is a move to introduce magnetic couplers, so do check or ask.) Previously NMRA couplers were universal. Most models will now come with a choice of two types of couplers

President's Choice
train sets
What was the first year President's Choice put out their limited edition train sets...I thought it was 1993, but have conflicting info that it was 1994, called the PC Express.

Presidents Choice answered:-

We offered our first limited edition President's Choice Train in 1992 and almost every year since (except for 1996, 2000, 3, and 4).  In review we have had:

1992 The All Aboard PC Express
1993 The Insider's Express Mogul Steam Engine
1994 The Mikado 2-8-2 Steam Engine Insider's Express
1995 The Super Drive Insider's Express
1997 The 4-8-2 Mountain Express
1998 The 2-6-2 Camel Back Express - Steam Engine
1999 The 4-6-2 Streamline Pacific Express - Steam Engine
2001 The 6060 Bullet Nosed Express Mountain Class Train
2002 The 0-8-0 Yard Bull 
2005 Mini Chefs Express CNR  4-6-4 Hudson

2006 2-10-2 CNR ore train (?)

For more ideas pick up the monthly magazines or books in the store.
Broughdale Hobby
1444 Glenora Drive, London, Ontario, Canada, N5X 1V2
1-519-434-0600, Fax 1-519-434-0714
Page and Contents Copyright Broughdale Hobby, 2005

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