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Wonder and Minute Detail: HO Scale Model Railroads & Trains

The care and detail in a hands-on holiday gift can speak volumes. Scale models are of especial significance, with HO scale model railroads and trains offering multiple opportunities to add to a growing collection. In addition, for families that love the showmanship of assembling tiny winter villages as part of their holiday decorations, a working train set adds that extra oomph as a conversation piece at get-togethers, and post-Thanksgiving, it might be quickly become your favorite Christmas decoration to assemble.The beauty and craftsmanship of a well-assembled model set captures the imaginations of people of all ages. For those that collect them and put them together, this can be a point of pride and even teach beginners important skills in maintenance, following directions, and more. 

If I Want to Start an HO Scale Collection, Where Do I Begin?

Seeing finished collections and their impressive layouts, it can seem like even getting started is complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Start out simple in a few easy steps, and the hobby practically teaches itself to you:

  1. Look for starter sets. Many HO model train brands have a starter set for beginners that contain everything you need to immediately enjoy your investment.
  2. Find individual pieces. To get the most out of your choices when you first start out, you want a power source to make the whole thing go, but also a locomotive, a few cars, and enough HO scale tracks to create a full loop.
  3. Add scenery to build a world for your train. Items like trees, figures, tunnels, or buildings may come as bonuses in sets, but these are also additions you can make as you go on.
  4. Set it up. You need a flat surface to set up, such as a tabletop or an open floor. Take some time to learn what you are doing, from assembling the tracks to operating the electronics and making the train go.
  5. Move as needed. As you build your collection, you will also learn to safely disassemble and move the set. 

What HO Scale Model Railroad Accessories Can I Find?

Beyond the basics, there are lots of other additions you can make to build a truly impressive landscape for your trains to adventure through. 

  • Have a permanent layout. If you have a spare room or basement, consider putting together a large table or shelf for your train and its world to sit on. This gives you a permanent home base to create and adjust as you like. 
  • Go beyond the loop. Add Y-shaped tracks, sidings, and more to divert trains to new routes. 
  • Create a living world. With people, buildings and cars, or landscape items like trees, roads, or mountain tunnels, your train has real places to go to. Add additional HO scale model locomotives for even more movement and fun. 

Do HO Scale Model Railroads Have Different Themes?

There are multiple directions you can take with your design. If you are giving pieces as a gift, you can point an aficionado toward a whole new style they never considered before.

  • What are you transporting? One of your trains might transport people, with detailed passenger cards that even show little people occupying the seats. Freight trains can have all kinds of cargo to transport, from milk to lumber. You might even go for something unique and build a circus train, moving passengers, big tops, and animals. 
  • Travel back in time. While modern trains run on diesel, perhaps you might like to build a world of yesterday and put together a steam locomotive. Look for matching station houses, cities, forests, even farms and ranches to make the entire look a complete one. 

What is an HO scale model?

An HO scale model train is about 1/87 scale to a real life train, and your scenery and accessories will fit the same scale. You can hold a locomotive or car in one hand comfortably without fully covering it (which is more likely to be N scale). Using two hands to hold one might indicate a G or O scale model. HO scale figures stand about an inch high, and the average engine is 6 to 7 inches long. The size makes it easy to handle and fit into smaller spaces. 

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