With a little imagination, hobby train sets let you create your own story on rails. Whether you want to journey to the North Pole or travel through the desert with bandits in pursuit, your narrative will come to life with an all-inclusive train set. However, to begin your journey, you will need to learn some basic terminology. Here are three terms you need to know.

1. Model Scale: Model trains are broken down into size categories called scales: G Scale, O Scale, HO Scale and N Scale. G Scale trains are the largest, and N Scale trains are the smallest. To give you a better idea of the relative size of each model train scale, we have provided approximate car sizes in inches. The measurements are as follows:

  •  G Scale: 17 inches long, 4.5 inches wide and 6.5 inches tall
  •  O Scale: 10.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 3 inches tall
  •  HO Scale: 5.75 inches long, 1.5 inches long and 2 inches tall
  •  N Scales: 3.25 inches long, 0.75 inches wide and 1 inch tall

When making a purchase to expand your railroad, buy cars and accessories within the same scale. Cars are not interchangeable between scale sizes because the tracks will vary in gauge (or width). The most popular scale is the HO Scale, and you ll find a large selection of accessories and freight cars available in this size. Keep in mind, the larger scales are more appropriate for children as there are no small parts to present a choking hazard.

2. Roadbed: The roadbed is the foundation upon which the railroad tracks are placed. Imagine laying model train tracks on a surface that is not is not flat. It won t work. With most train sets you will find the tracks are already attached to a foundation base. The tracks and roadbed are connected and come in sections that you snap together.

3. Transformer: Model trains can t function on a regular household electrical current of 120 volts AC. Transformers are the mechanism that reduce the voltage down to a unit that is useable for model train sets. Electric trains generally run on between 10 and 20 volts. One of the benefits of having a train set rather than building one from scratch is that you don t have to worry about running a lot of wires to your transformer.

These terms should get you started, but you will learn more of the lingo as you advance in your hobby. Part of the fun is learning the difference between a boxcar, a gondola and a hopper. Most manufactures have websites packed with videos and instructional guides. You can also join forums or make a visit to your local hobby shop. Hobby train aficionados tend to be passionate about their model trains and have a lot of knowledge to share. You will enjoy participating in a hobby that s fun for all ages.

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