This page will provide an overiew of how to plan your layout by taking into consideration, Scale, Space, Power requirements, DCC and DC options
Three major concepts to think about as you plan your railroad...
Space How much space can I allocate?
Scale availability of train sets and accessories in the Indian market
Theme or a Layout- this is secondary and only if you plan to build one
other consideration would if the display of the layout -will be Permanent or temporary ? I am not covering these in order but each of these will be touched upon in one or other sections below or in near future
Space and Scale
You need to decide on what scale to use. (Scale refers to the ratio between the measurement of a model compared to that of the prototype.) In other words what size trains do you want to run?
There are several different popular train scales available. Which one you choose depends on
a) how much space you have,
b) how much money you can comfortably devote to the hobby,
c) whether you like a lot of scenery vs. more emphasis on the trains,
d) whether you would prefer long running trains or shorter trains, and
e) whether you have the patience, the visual acuity, and finger dexterity to deal with very tiny engines on tiny tracks.
Incidentally, the words scale and gauge are often confused.
Scale refers to the ratio between the measurement of a model compared to that of the prototype.
Gauge is the term used to describe the distance between the 2 rails of track - usually 4 ft 8-1/2in ("standard gauge") in the prototype. "Narrow gauge" is a term used for rails that are closer together than standard gauge - usually around 3 to 3 1/2 ft.
Youtube video: click here to under stand different gauges
How do you get started?
The first thing to do is buy a train set. What scale to use will be your personal preference, but HO (1:87) or OO (1:76) is the most popular for indoor trains and would be a good one to start with if you dont really have a particular preference right now. N Scale is the next popular scale and is ideal for Indian homes (I mean Mumbai). But if you have a 2000 Sq. Ft. house with a personal room or a toy room, then it is definitely HO scale what you should go for. The availability of HO scale items is much more than N Scale.
A starter set (Train Set) is what you would require to buy first. Buy a basic starter set or if you have an eye for details then within the basic range you will be able to buy starter sets with quality locos and wagons (also called the rolling stock). ROCO, KATO, Bachmann (US) Branchline (UK), Hornby, Atlas, PIKO are a few popular names in India and can be purchased in Mumbai. A decent set can range anywhere from Rs.14,000, on the higher site up a lac of rupees. Note that the availability of the sets is difficult to predict in Indian market, but this will soon change.
Setting up the set
You do not need any technical skills to set-up a train set. Assembling the tracks, connecting the power supply leads will get the job done.
The track layout can be spread on the floor or table. I would suggest that you avoid carpet ;especially in winter to avoid static.
Once you have connected the tracks. You need to place the Loco and the rolling stock or passenger wagons one after another and also interlocking them at the same time. This may be a challange the first time, but you will learn overtime. The reason this could be difficult is because of the size of the wheels and the free moment on single axis that makes it difficult. Its most difficult forN scale locos and Wagons. Note these are scale model, quite accurate to the real thing and unlike the cheap plastic sets that are available from some companies.
Note: Just place the Loco first and see if it runs, if the movement is smooth in both directions, then go and set the wagons and you are ready with you first baisc layout.
Question that come up next and immediately are: What if I add a passing track next to the main track? Wish I could switch my train on a additional track. Yes, this is very much possible. Why only limit to additional tracks, you can add houses, trees, signals and many other scenic items to make your layout attractive. So there you are; starting to think about expanding the layout!
Once you are serious about expanding your layout, first thing that you need to go after is a permanent location to set-up a layout. This is where the scale suddenly becomes important and as mentioned earlier depending upon the available space the scale should be selected. (My first layout was of N scale Loco and on a 27" round coffee table (watch video on youtube.com to get an idea.This layout has everything that you would like to see on a layout houses, trees, Bridge , Tunnel, water. After seeing this, you can imagine what can be accomplished with N scale in smaller homes and 27 inches, but in N Scale. A similar layout in HO will take more than twice the space. I had fun building it and it was greately appreciated as no one had seen such a thing in India. Another much smaller layout in T Scale, watch youtube video here. This layout is size just more than a A4 paper
When it comes to themes, the most popular are the country side scenes, you can do a lot in country side theme. Other than these Towns, Yards, Industrial layouts are popular. City theme requires more investment and bench work. The other limitation is the models (train set) that you purchase should gel with the cityscape. I would recommend a country side layout for start. But there are train sets that are available for cityscapes.
Then sit down with a piece of paper and start drawing tracks. Start with a mainline -the primary route that your trains will travel. If space is a constraint then you will have no option than the main track. So you need to enhance the remaining layout. Houses ,Bridges, Tunnel attract attention of admirers. Lights in houses and signals can be added. The material for setting up a scene are available with us.
Get all the basic items to build a layout. Continue to build your layout as you are learn. If you make a mistake, so be it; this is how you learn. There are thousands of videos on youtube which you can watch. Just go back and do it over..I am a person who likes to try and make/ create stuff from scratch and buy off the shelf items. I am referring to making models of Houses, Trees, Bridges and even full landscaping. Purchasing stuff from store is not much a fun for me, but you are free to differ. In both the cases you can achieve your goal, only the cost would differ. The idea here is to have fun and learn new things. The hobby is so versatile; almost anyone can find something about that he/she would be interested in. Each project that is completed will give you a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
Youtube will provide you many videos of popular layouts, enjoy them and learn from them. Search for HO or N scale layouts .
Keep on expanding the layout, add more engines and wagons, stations, trees and houses.
Now sit back and enjoy. Start collecting Engines and display them in your showcase. You may have times when other priorities get in the way, but you will always want to come back to it. Why? Because its fun, exciting, educational and allows an expression of creativity that makes us feel good about ourselves.I know people in this hobby who are doctors, lawyers, now what more should I say.