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.