Saving Money On Model Trains – Summary

It doesn‟t have to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to start building your model railroad. By making your own scenery, shopping around and choosing the right type of train for your space you can save a lot of money. The great thing about model railroading is that you can always add to it. No matter if you purchase a full kit or the individual pieces, do your homework before you buy. If you buy online, check out the dealer before you purchase from them to ensure you are getting a good deal from a good dealer. If you purchase from a store make sure that you know their return policy should you get it home and realize it wasn‟t what you thought it was or it‟s broken. Taking the extra time can save you a lot of hassle in the end. Even if your budget to start is small you can still have a great railroad if you just spend the time to make it your own.

Discount Train Links

Saving Money On Model Trains – Used Items

If you are interested in second hand items you want to be sure to check for a few things. As with all online purchases, purchases on EBay are subject to a picture and description. You can‟t hold the item in your hand and inspect it to ensure it‟s as good of quality as you‟d like it to be.

A good rule of thumb is purchasing only items that have a good description and several pictures. Close-up type pictures are best, but honestly some dealers just don‟t think of it, it doesn‟t automatically mean they are trying to hide something. You do want to deal with a dealer that will take multiple pictures from multiple angles. This will give you a full picture of your possible purchase.

Be sure to study these photos with extreme care. If you need better photos don‟t hesitate to contact the seller to see if more photos can be provided. There are some things you need to look at prior to making the purchase and additional photos might be the only way to tell. It‟s very important that you look the photos over for rust. Also check the collector roller and assembly. You need to see how warn it is in order to tell how much it‟s been used. If the seller is claiming the engine is 50 or more years old and has a shiny new collector roller that just means it‟s been replaced. You should look to see if there are any obvious repairs and if they look to be in good condition.

Check the wiring and electronics if possible. What you don‟t want to see on the engine is cracked wires, sloppy connections such as poor soldering, and disconnected wires. This means that the engine wasn‟t cared for properly. Make sure that the headlight socket is also well connected. If you can get a look at them, check the brush motors to ensure they are in good shape. Yes eventually all wiring goes bad, what you don‟t want to pay for is an engine that supposedly works but hasn‟t been taken care of. You might find repairs to the wiring during your inspection but that‟s okay as long as the repairs are good repairs.

You will also want to check the wheels. If you are looking for an engine that hasn‟t been run the wheels are where to check. Wear on these are an indication of usage. Even if you don‟t care if the engine has been run a lot you still need to check for rust, chips, and cracks. You can make a determination on how the engine has been cared for if you see chips and cracks. Check the axels to ensure they are not bent as well.

A few other things to check for before purchasing a used train are: is the engine dirty or just discolored? Dirty engines doesn‟t necessary mean that it hasn‟t been taken care of but sometimes it‟s hard to tell dirt from discoloration in a photo. If you‟re in doubt contact the seller to verify. You also need to know if the engine is a working engine or not. This is not a bad thing either. Many people buy non-working trains and fix them up themselves, it‟s part of the charm. That being said you don‟t want to do business with a seller that claims to have a working engine that actually doesn‟t work.

Also look for any burred or missing screws. Burred screws shows lack of care. Burred or missing screws generally mean someone that didn‟t really know what they were doing took the train apart. This is not a good thing.

Saving Money On Model Trains – Ebay Guide To Bidding And Winning

Probably the easiest way to get the trains you want of the internet is on EBay. This popular auction site has tremendous amounts of trains in just about every scale imaginable. You will be able to obtain many of these trains without paying an arm and a leg as well. If you don’t want to mess with the auctioning process, several of them come with a Buy Now price that will allow you to pay a set price for the item, stopping all auction process.

Not just trains

You won’t find just trains here either; you can find everything you need to build your own railway. Scenery, track, power supplies you can get it all here. Often these items are new or only gently used so you know that you are getting a good quality product from the sellers.

When you shop on EBay it’s important to do your homework. Check out the sellers that you are considering purchasing your items from. You want to make sure they have good feedback so that you can be sure that you are getting the best for your money. This will also help to ensure that if you purchase one of their products you are only doing business with people who are guaranteed to send you your item in a timely manner.

Also it’s best to keep business dealings on EBay. While it might seem more convenient to talk through an instant messenger or e-mail, should you have a problem EBay can’t take those records into account while settling the dispute. Be sure that you pay the person in a secure manner such as PayPal. Also if you don’t really want the item or are unsure don’t bid, you could be keeping someone who really wants it from winning at a fair price or worse with merchandise you really don’t want.


When it comes to bidding on EBay it can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re new at it. Doing your homework before placing your first bid can make the difference in not just winning the bid, but not paying too much for the item you’re bidding on. If you’ve never bid on an auction before you don’t want to just rush in there and bid on the first item you like. It might be a good idea to find something you are sort of interested in but not so interested that you’d be upset if someone else won it. Don’t bid on it, save the bid to your favorites so that you can see how the bidding goes. You can watch the back and forth without risking any money on it. This should help you get a feel for how an auction will run.

Another good way to research the bidding process is to find one that is recently closed. Here you can review the back and forth bidding and see how the auction went without having to constantly come back to it.

Before you can make your first bid on EBay, there is a term you need to understand. This term is called the reserve price. This is probably one of the most important terms you need to know prior to making a bid. The reserve price is a price that sellers can use to void the bid if their ideal price isn’t met. This is an optional price the seller does not have to set it, and those that do not have a reserve price will usually have a NR on their item description somewhere. It’s an abbreviation for no reserve, and not all of them let you know there is no reserve.

The rub is a reserve price is secret, it’s not revealed at the beginning of the auction. An opening bid does not mean there is a reserve price and the opening bid requirement is not the reserve price. If you have been following some auctions you might have noticed after a few bids the phrases “Reserve not met” or “Reserve met” have appeared at the top of the item listing. This is an indication that there is a reserve on the auction, but the amount is never shown.

There are also a wide variety of abbreviations used to describe items on EBay. The list is extensive and can be found at the following link:

It probably would benefit you to make yourself at least somewhat familiar with the commonly used acronyms before you make your first bid.

After you’ve watched a few auctions, or at least enough to be comfortable with the process, it’s time to try your hand at one yourself. You have poked around EBay and you’ve found the train you’d like to bid on. Now for the difficult part, you have to make a bid. You will notice on most bids there is an opening bid, or a minimum amount most sellers will accept. Since you’ve got your eye on that train, you’ve probably done your homework to determine how much the train is actually worth; the whole point is to get it at a bargain right? You’ve read the description and have determined that the train is in good condition. You’ve looked up the seller and read all the feedback and have found that the person is a reputable seller. You also know how much you can or are willing to spend on this item. It’s important to have a budget in mind before you start bidding.

For the sake of example let’s say the opening bid is $10. You know the going rate for the train is $100. It’s best to start on the lower end, close to the opening bid. If there is a reserve and your maximum bid does not meet it you will see the “Reserve not met” notice once the bid is placed. You might want to place another bid with a higher maximum or you can choose to wait and see what the next person does before trying to at least meet the reserve price. If your maximum bid is out bid you can bid again. If your bid is the winner you will receive an e-mail from stating you won and instructions on payment and receipt of your new train.


Now that the basics of bidding on EBay have been explained there are some techniques people have suggested to ensure that you win the bid. It’s called sniping. It is not recommended for the beginner but after you’ve gotten used to the bidding process it might help you ensure the big win.

Sniping is when you put in a winning bid in the last few seconds of the auction. You usually have been following the auction for several days and have an idea of where the bidding is going. You need to log on a few minutes before the end of the bid to monitor the activity. You’ll have to refresh often to ensure that you see the most recent highest bid. With a minute or less left on the bid is when you need to make your move. Place a bid just higher than the highest bid. Doing this with only a few seconds left in the auction will get you your train.

There are lots of softwares out there that can help you time your sniping just right if you are interested in going this route. Or you can simply open two browsers to the site and place them side by side on your screen. Keep updating one so you can have the most accurate and use the other to place your bid at the right moment.

Discount Train Links (Ebay)

Lionel Trains

American Flyer Trains

Bachmann Trains

L.G.B. Trains

HO Scale Buildings

Brass Trains

Marklin Trains

Athearn Trains

Saving Money On Model Trains – Electronics

The electronics can be a little trickier. You will need some electronic components to run you railway. For those that are handy with tools you might consider rigging the electrical circuits of your railway yourself. There are lots of books on the subject. You will still have to purchase things like a power pack and wiring but wiring it up yourself can save you money. Instead of purchasing entire kits you can do the work for less than it would normally cost. That being said, if you are not comfortable working with electric components, it’s best not to do it yourself.

For those who are uncomfortable working with the electric components or simply don’t have the time. Hobby stores are the place to head. You can speak to someone there that is very knowledgeable on the subject. They can steer you to the cheapest, most effective model of power pack they have and ensure you get the type you need for your engine. If you are doing more than just powering your engine, like say lighting your entire town, then they can help you find the pack or packs that are best for that as well.

If you know what you are looking for, even if you don’t want to wire it from scratch yourself, then you might be able to find the pieces cheaper at the electronics store. An electronics store is sure to have a wide array of power packs and switches for you to use. Some of the packs will come ready to hook up, just like you would find at the hobby shop, so all you have to do is attach it using the simple instructions and you’re off and running.

You can find discount power packs and electrical components on the internet as well. If you are unsure of what to purchase, you need to do the research before you purchase. A quick Google search will give you everything you need to know about the voltage you need. All you have to do is put in the type of train you‟re running (as in HO, O, Z etc.) and you should be able to find an answer to your question. It is suggested though; if you are running your train and a lot of accessories off of the same power pack get at least an 18V pack.

Saving Money On Model Trains – Backgrounds and Scenery

Saving Money On Background and SceneryWhen it comes to saving money on your railroad, the background and scenery might be the place to accomplish this. Spend a little of your budget on how to books. These insightful books can tell you how to make your own realistic scenery. It’ll cost you a fraction of the price to make your own from scratch than it would to purchase ready-made pieces.

If you don’t have time to stop at the book store, check online. There are dozens of places to find tips on making your own scenery. As for background pictures, anything you can take with a camera and blow up, or at least print out can serve as a great backdrop for your railroad. Making your own scenes for your railway will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. It guarantees you get exactly what you want. You don’t even have to be a masterful artist, many of these books and instructions will give you the step-by-step procedure designed for those with less than expert experience.

If you are all thumbs or just simply don’t have time to render every tree in your town and countryside, then looking for pieces that are ready to stick on your bench will be your answer. You can still find good deals if you know where to look. Like with the train and track pieces you can find scenery on sale at your local hobby store. As with any other piece you can find sales and discontinued items that will allow you to save money.

The benefit of going this route is you know that it will look good, a professional has made it. You also know that it will be the right size, shape and color for what you are trying to accomplish with your railway. You will end up paying more for the completed product than you would if you made it yourself, that’s a fact everyone will admit to.

Heading to the internet can net you with some great discounted pieces for your scenery. Many of these companies are the same people that sell the tracks and trains, if you purchase all your pieces from them you can be assured that you have the correct scale of scenery to go with your train. Often times you will get an additional discount if you spend a certain amount and that discount might cover shipping costs bringing the price down even lower.

As with the trains, you have to rely on the pictures and descriptions to ensure you are getting what you want but often you will find better deals than in the stores. The internet is also full of beautiful pictures that you can download to blow-up and print as your background. Often you won’t have to pay for the picture you download if you are planning on using it for your own private uses.

The internet is also full of tips. Here you can find how to use everyday items as parts of your scenery with little to no work. A little paint, a little glue and you might have everything you need to make a grassy area, or pebbles to stick along the track. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to making your scenery for little cost.


Saving Money On Model Trains – Trains

Saving Money On Model TrainsNow that you have a budget and you know how you want things to look its time to actually find the train pieces you need. There are lots of places to find trains at a discount. A nice starting place is a train show or expo. Lots of towns, especially larger ones, will have these gatherings at least once a year.

Here you can find a large variety of trains, track, and other railroad paraphernalia. Lots of times you can find great deals on items here as many dealers are selling direct without a middle man. Often they run discounts and specials on their goods here because of the traffic that they receive just by being set up at the train show.

You might have done your research and decided on a different scale than the one of your dreams because you found it too expensive during your research. While youre at the train show you could actually find the pieces you originally wanted for a lower price and can have the railroad of your dreams. These shows are worth a look if there is one in your area.

Even if you can’t make it to a train show you can still find good deals on model trains. Head over to your nearest hobby store. Quiet often, especially around holidays, stores hold sales. You can find items at a nice discount during these sales. You might also find some cars or engines in your scale that are being discontinued. This would give you a unique car or engine in your collection that might end up being your crown jewel. Many times these discontinued pieces are sold at deep discounts to make way for the new style generation, their loss is your gain.

If you’ve looked at the stores and have decided they are too expensive you might need to just turn to the internet. By doing a quick search on the net you can find dozens of retailers that offer their stock at a discount compared to that in which you find in stores. Why? Mostly it has to do with the lower overhead.

A lot of these online companies will sell directly to customers by mail order only. This is a great way to get engines, cars and track at a good price. Just be sure you know what scale size you want before you purchase from online vendors. The biggest downfall of shopping online is you can’t actually hold the pieces in your hand prior to purchase.

If you are new to the model railroading hobby you might verify the sizes in store first before buying online. If you are experienced enough you might want to check out second hand and antique stores. Often, when a hobbyist passes away the family doesn’t know what to do with his/her massive creation. Unless one of them is into trains often they disassemble it and sell the pieces off. Many end up in second hand or antique stores and this can be a good thing.

Some of the pieces that you find in these types of stores will need a little work to make the beautiful and running again but you can get them at an extremely deep discount. Occasionally you will find pieces at second hand stores that are in wonderful condition and you’ll still pay a fraction of the price as you would purchasing them new. Finding these pieces this way might not be recommended for first time buyers because the sellers often wouldn’t know what scale the train is. For those looking to add to their collection it’s a great way to save money on train cars and engines.

Saving Money On Model Trains – Budget

Before you can start looking for the pieces you need (or want) for your railway system you need to have a firm budget in mind. This is when you need to sit down and figure out what pieces you need, what your railroad will look like upon completion, and how realistic or detailed you want to make your system to begin with. All of this information will help you to come up with that all important budgets. Obviously, you also need to know how much money you have available to start your hobby. Once you have a firm budget in mind it‟s time to start researching the nit-picky stuff.

To determine how your budget is going to be spent you need to decide what kind of scale you have in mind. There are so many different scales to choose from and the prices vary between them. Determining the scale will affect many aspects of your railway as all things will have to meet the scale you‟ve chosen in order for it to look good. If you are trying to stay within a tight budget you may have to choose a scale that doesn‟t have all the popular features some other ones do. Budget shouldn‟t be the only thing that determines the scale of your train, you should also be aware of how much space will be available to accommodate your railroad. The amount of space should be your ultimate deciding factor.

Another consideration that you should make when you are trying to determine the budget expenses is the electronics. Of course, you want the train to move and you want it to move under its own power but the types of switches can make a difference in the price of your railroad. The simpler the switch the less you‟ll spend on it, the more complicated and the more it will cost. Another reason to consider the electronics is a simpler switch might not only be cheaper it might also be easier to fix or replace should a problem arise. But the electronics don‟t just make your train go, it will also control the signal lights, any lights that are in or on the train itself, and other features that you may include in your layout, like house lights or signal arms. How detailed you want to be on those extra types of electronics will also play into your expenses.

A great way to determine if your starting budget is a reasonable one is to simply talk to the experts. Head out to your local hobby shop and speak with one of the staff members. Be aware though, in a lot of those stores their goal is to sell you something. Most of them will be honest with you but there are some that are only interested in how much commission they can make. If you want to ensure that you are getting an unbiased opinion (or at least not biased by money) then check the internet. There are many chat rooms and clubs that can help you figure out exactly what you need to start your model railroad project. You‟ll find that there are many enthusiasts out there that are willing to be your “guide” to getting started.


Saving Money On Model Trains – Introduction

Building model trains is fun and exciting, but paying a lot for the pieces you need or want is not in anyone‟s best interest. No matter if you are just starting out in the railroading hobby or if you are a long time hobbyist, finding ways to save money on your pieces is a key ingredient in to staying a hobbyist. There are many places that you can get everything you need without paying top dollar and your railway will still look great.

Tips From Our Readers

To start with model trains as a hobby is usually very expensive. Often space and many other reasons can also prevent you from tackling the model train hobby. The outright cost can also dampen your enthusiasm. If this is the case, don’t drool your life long! start out as a collector.

Watch out for special offerings or sales, and you will find it to be not so expensive at all. In the meantime you can enjoy your collection, till you are ready for landscaping or whatever it is you want to do!

Johan Lourens

In my (humble) experience lighting is very important on a railroad, about as important as it is in photography. I’m not talking about “sunlight” from a canopee, but about “in door” lighting, inside your structures / buildings as well as your streetlights. By adding cleverly placed lights you may get away with very much reduced overall detailing. “Force” the audience to look at the places you want then too look at and let the shadows fill in the “blanks”.

Lucas Zbro

The greatest help I received was when asking for advice on derailments. By using the dearer Peco code55 track you will not have the problems regarding derailments. Other types of track you will come cross derailing mainly in the frogs of points. Because of the fine track of code 55 the loco and everything else will flow freely.

Gone are the days of having to stop a run and find where and why the derailment occurred. Now I only use the Peco code55, as it comes in all sorts of points and flexi track only. There  are no straights just flexi track, a faster way of laying the track as well.

Colin Mansell

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Plaster Tip

18 months ago I started constructing an N gauge model railway it is u shaped ten feet X nine feet X ten feet. I wanted a layout with lots of hills and tunnels. I knew it would be a big project but I became overwhelmed at the amount of plaster casting ( the type used for modelling and to set broken limbs) I would need, it is very expensive and I would need a tone of it for my layout design.

I came up with the Idea of useing some kind of cloth that would absorb water and plaster at the same time. My wife suggested that I use calico ( a type of cotton fabric ) .

We purchased a full roll of this fabric (about 40 meters long and one and a half meters wide) at spotlight for $30 I cut the fabric into 6 inch squares soaked them in water until they were fully wet, then added PLASTER to the mix and then needed it (like with dough) until the fabric was good and wet and saturated with the wet Plaster.

Then I covered my bird wire frame I found that it works as well if not better than casting plaster and MUCH cheaper. Also I must add that I used wall plaster at first, then I found that PLASTER of PARIS, which is a modelling and craft plaster, work much better and is less than half price of the wall plaster.

Hope this is of some help to others.

Tibor Siposs

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