How to build a train set

By George Garza
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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model train locomotive
Model railroading is a hobby for all ages
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Train sets have been fun for adults and kids for generations. To build a train set, you will need a locomotive, cars, tracks and scenery. Here are some useful train building tips.

The locomotive The locomotive is the heart of your train set. The key features to look for in a model locomotive are:

  • Diesel locomotives that have all-wheel electrical pickup and at least eight-wheel drive.
  • Steam locomotives that pick up electricity from the drivers and the tender wheels.
  • A diesel locomotive that has a flywheel as part of the drive mechanism. A flywheel is a rotating disk used as a storage device for kinetic energy. Flywheels help the locomotive operate more smoothly and negotiate dirty track better.

    Selecting the cars Be prepared to spend some money if you want your train set-up to look like it came out of the pages of Model Railroader magazine. For example, consider replacing the stock "horn-hook" car couplers for the better-operating and more realistic knuckle couplers.

    The Track Gauge is the term used for the width between the two rails on pieces of track. Several different scales of trains can run on the same gauge of track. Manufacturers include track pieces for HO or N scale sets. For the HO scale train car, 3.5 millimeters equals 1 foot of actual size while the 2 millimeter N scale train car equals 1 foot of actual size. Train track usually comes with a cast-plastic roadbed for easy assembly. Using a track with a plastic roadbed will keep the track sections together and eliminates the need to lay cork under the track. Clean the tracks frequently to keep trains operating smoothly.

  • Power Pack The power pack or transformer powers the train set. It converts 120 volts of household electrical current to 12-15 volts for the train set's track and up to 18 volts for the accessories. Power packs have limited power so if you plan on a having a lot of accessories, get a larger power pack that can deliver at least 18 volts. Then use the train set power pack to run the accessories.

    No matter what type of train set you choose, there are basic steps needed to set it up. These steps include:
    • Train set Location: Select the area of the home, garage or basement where the train set will be located. You may want to measure the area to ensure there will be sufficient room for the train set and tracks you select.

    • Track Layout: Determine how the tracks will be laid out. A sketch or drawing may be helpful.

    • Track Design Layout Test: Test the track design by laying out the tracks end to end before attaching them.

    • Track Layout Test: Lay the tracks out on the floor next to the area being built. This will help ensure the tracks are installed in the proper order.

    • Track attachment: Decide whether the tracks will be glued or pinned into place. Glue will be more stable, but pins will provide a more authentic look and feel.

    • Track Attachment Test: Clip the sections of the track together. Keep in mind that some tracks are designed to be laid end to end, while others are designed to slide onto one another using a tab and groove design.

    • Track Attachment Operation: Press each section of track into the glue or pin the section down securely. Even when glue is used, a few pins will add additional security and stability. When using glue, be sure to wipe away any excess with a damp paper towel.

    • Repeat until complete: Continue to attach the sections of the track until the entire route has been laid out. After the track is in place, it should be allowed to sit overnight until the glue has set.

    Find hands-on instruction on how to build a train set and have a little virtual fun, at the website of your favorite toy train dealer.

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