Getting Started

The following is intended as an introductory guide for those new to the hobby and relates to electrically powered trains. Large scale or g scale trains run on 45 mm, Gauge 1 track (45mm width between the rails) and are designed for indoor or outdoor use. Whilst there are several variations depending on manufacturer, in scale( the ratio or proportion to a full size train) 1/20.3, 1/22.5 , 1/24 , 1/29 ,1/32, all use similar track and power supplies.

The appeal of large scale trains lies in their strong visual impact, rugged construction and ability to run outdoors in a real environment, surrounded by living plants, rocks and water features. Because of the variety of sectors covered , Landscaping and gardening , assembling building and vehicle kits , painting figures, track work and electronics and also the social aspect offered through clubs and other enthusiasts, There is something to appeal to all ages and all members of the family. LGB-Lehmann, a German family company released their first G scale train in the late sixties starting the resurgence of interest in G scale. The quality of these models when produced by the family company, served as a benchmark for other manufacturers and now there are several manufacturers, Piko, USA trains, Bachmann & HLW  producing highly detailed  models of matching or superior quality.

STARTER SETS – Starter sets are the most popular way for newcomers to become involved in the hobby, partially because the set contains everything necessary to get up and running. and also because the contents of a starter set are very good value compared to purchasing the items separately. Typically a starter set will contain a locomotive, two coaches or wagons, a circle or oval of track and a transformer/controller. Depending on the price range it may contain features such as lights, a smoke unit or sound. There are also starter sets available for  DCC control. These systems are explained later.

POWER SUPPLY – Power supply to the locomotive can be Analogue, On board battery (with radio control) or Digital (DCC.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ANALOGUE is the traditional system and is what most starter sets contain. It consists of a transformer, ( changing the mains voltage to 18-24 volts alternating current) a rectifier ( changing the alternating current to direct current) and a controller ( allowing the polarity/direction to be changed and the voltage/speed varied). The controller can be a fixed dial style control or a wireless walk around with a receiver. The wireless receiver or fixed controller are connected to the track and supply power through the track to the train. Multiple trains on the track will run in the same direction, greater control can be afforded by isolating the track into sections with switches. The rectifier may be built into the transformer or controller or the transformer / rectifier / controller may be one unit. A  wireless control ( Piko or Crest)  can also be used with this system. Sound (Mylocosound, Massoth) & smoke ( PIKO) o decoder for DCC can be fitted if required later.

ON BOARD BATTERY This system requires no track power. A wireless transmitter ( Piko, Crest) sends signals to the loco receiver. Power is supplied by rechargeable batteries in the locomotive or tender. These may be Ni-MH (Preferable), gel cell or lipo batteries. The power goes to a wireless receiver and speed control, also on board and then to the motor. The motor has to be fully isolated from any track power pickups. Sound can also be fitted. (Mylocosound)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             DIGITAL CONTROL     DCC  Direct Cab Control and and MTS  are basically the same system. It consists of a transformer ( changing mains voltage to 22-24 volts ) a command station and transmitter ( sending signals to specific locos ) and receiver / decoders in each loco .This system has up to 24 volts alternating current fed to the track at all times. This means there is power to locos and rolling stock at all times allowing constant lighting and smoke. In each loco the power goes to a receiver / decoder coded to a specific number or address. This receiver / decoder reacts to a signal sent from the controller / command station via the track. This system allows multiple trains on the same track to move at different speeds or directions as well as operating sounds or lights at any time. Wireless controllers are also available on this system (Piko, Massoth) Most locos now produced either have decoders fitted or are ready for easy installation . Most digital brands have one loco address allowing an analogue locomotive to run on the system. Piko, Massoth ,Lenz, & the older LGB MTS system are all compatible.

TRACK – Track is available as ready made sectional track or as flexible rail up to 3.6 metres (12’) in length. Whilst rail is available in brass and stainless steel , brass remains the most popular being easier to cut and solder ( for electric leads etc.) and improved conductivity. In ready made track there is a large range of straight , curves , points , crossings and accessories to build any desired layout. With flexible track this can be fixed on home made timber sleepers or on commercially produced plastic sleepers that are resistant to sunlight. When laying track outside, track expansion due to temperature variations should be considered. Track with soldered joints or clamp on rail joiners will act as a single length of track where expansion is concerned. Conventional slide on rail joiners with jumper leads at each joint will allow expansion and good electrical conductivity. As a guide 1800mm (6’) should be used as the maximum rail length (constant shade) with shorter lengths where there is as greater degree of expansion ( constant sun).

LOCATION – Location and layout size are restricted only by available space and your imagination. Large scale trains can be used in a temporary location either inside or outside, the track being strong and quick to lay. With a more permanent layout, inside this could be on baseboards in a designated room, loft cellar or shed, wall mounted above door height, or on a roll out or fold out baseboard. Outside layouts may be set up purely as a running track or as is the most popular, in a landscaped area, either existing or specifically built.

ROADBED – Permanent outdoor layouts require a roadbed to support and secure the track. The roadbed may be at ground level or at waist height for convenience or vary due to the natural contours of the selected site. It is preferable to keep the lowest area of track slightly above ground level for drainage and to prevent leaf litter ect. from accumulating on the track. Whilst minimal grades are generally preferable, sometimes due to the site they are necessary, or they may be desirable purely for their visual effect. The steeper the grade, the less wagons a loco can pull. A piece of test track set up on site will soon give an indication of what is an acceptable grade. The roadbed may be constructed of treated timber, concrete, pavers / bricks , hebel (aerated blocks) or earth topped with fine gravel for ballast. The gravel normally used is called crusher dust or quarter minus . This contains gravel dust which when watered with a fine spray tends to compact and hold the track in place. For a more durable roadbed 10mm gravel can be used. River stones whilst looking attractive, roll against each other allowing track movement.

LANDSCAPE & OTHER FEATURES – With an outdoor layout you have the opportunity of running your trains in a living environment that is ever-changing. By creating or enhancing existing features we can improve the interest and visual appeal of our layout. These features can be directly associated with the track, tunnels, bridges, cuttings, crossings, trestles and viaducts. Water Features. ponds, waterfalls, water mills , creek beds (dry or running ) Botanical Features. Miniature trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers. Buildings. Stations, houses, shops, water towers, windmills, etc. General. People and animals, vehicles, crates, boxes, barrels all add interest to the layout. Lighting can add another dimension for evening running. Passenger coaches with internal lighting, street and building lighting, train signals and spotlighting on the layout all add to the appeal.

CLUBS – Possibly the best single thing a newcomer to large scale can do to gain ideas and information and in the process save themselves time and money is to join a club. The club newsletters offer information, new & used products for sale and details on past & future meetings. Listed below are two Australian clubs. Most clubs are listed in model railway magazines. L.G.B. & G Scale Club of Australia ( electric power) Contact Bryan Hufton 02 9876 4939 Rails in the Garden ( live steam) Contact Michael Bickford 02 9456 2303