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7 Costly Model Train Mistakes

model train mistakes to avoidI am about to reveal the top 7 model train mistakes almost all beginners make.

I surveyed more than 5,000 readers and was astounded to hear how some of these mistakes had cost the beginners hundreds of dollars and hours of wasted time.

Here they are…

Mistake # 1 – Too much eagerness and too little patience

Mistake # 2 – Trying to grow a model train starter set into your dream model train layout

Mistake # 3 – Confusing scale and gauge

Mistake # 4 – Choosing the wrong scale

Mistake # 5 – Steep gradients and tight curves

Mistake # 6 – Going too big too quickly

Mistake # 7 – Electrically underrating your layout

I had no idea so many people made these mistakes and how much wasted money and time was involved.

So, to avoid this happening to you I have written a downloadable report which goes into great detail.

Model Train Newsletter Issue #101Click here to get your free copy of my special report “7 model train mistakes that almost every beginner makes and how to avoid them!”

Model railroading has been branded as an expensive hobby and now I see why.

These mistakes are the main reason and by me providing this free report to you, my hope is that you can avoid them.

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About Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan is on a mission to encourage more people to give model railroading a go... There is just no better hobby in the world!

53 Responses to “7 Costly Model Train Mistakes”

  1. Richie Fletcher Reply Fri at 9:46 am

    I’m a beginner. The 7 Mistakes book sounds like a must and I am willing to pay the $27.00 but when I went to check out I was informed that I would be charged and additional #27.00 per month. I don’t want to be paying $27.00 a month. So what do I do?

  2. Hi Dan –
    I just got some time to start reading your posts and noticed something I wanted to pass on. First, all the post have time and day of week but NO calendar date – how old are these posts? Are they recent enough to expect a reply? Second, many of the posts are written expecting a reply (e.g. What is DCC vs DC?) and NO reply is given. That must be frustrating for the poster. Hank

    • Dan Morgan Reply Sat at 1:45 am

      Hi Hank,
      There was a span of several years when our website languished. There’s been new blood step in to help out in the last year that has really helped out. Comments (at least the new ones) now get answered promptly, there are new weekly blog posts on the main site (modeltrainsforbeginners.com), and new monthly special reports in the members area. Thanks for your concern.

  3. What a mine of information, I’m going on 80 years of age and thinking of getting back into railroading again after a break of nearly sixty years. These hints have definitely pointed me in the right direction before I spend my money. I want to gather as much information as I can before committing myself. Consensus of opinion seems to point to HO and an 8×4 board. Ho was my original size and I was happy with it. I look forward to future news letters. Ken

  4. I wish I had seen this article 20 to 30 years ago. For more than 50 years, as I shifted around from job site to job site and apartment to apartment, I had planned on an HO layout, and I built a number of bldgs in HO scale. Then I “retired” and my house had no room for the layout I had in mind, so I shifted to N scale, but find the bldg kits a bit difficult to build. So I’m thinking of shifting back to HO, and thank God I haven’t thrown out all the HO models I have built!

  5. thomas martin Reply Fri at 1:07 pm

    my mistakes are loving ho model trains of all eras from 1890 up to today this costs lots of money for things you cannot run or see at the same time STAY WITHEN A SET PERIOD.

  6. I have been an ‘armchair’ model railroader for many years but usually have a loop around the Christmas tree. I am starting a flat coffee table N gauge layout to replace a portable layout I took to work for many years for my engineering work buddies to ‘play’ with. I am looking forward to absorbing this list of 7 mistakes in hopes of correcting some of my ideas before they become ‘concrete’.

  7. Oboy made most of these mistakes wish I had known about this first exellent advice

  8. Wow I’m guilty of several. Thanks for the info. already planning on correcting them. Even old timers can learn something new. Thanks again.

    • Ive been model railroading over 46 years now,still learning new stuff.As well as making some mistakes.

  9. Robertirvine Reply Thu at 1:07 am


  10. The tips ypo have given & as a beginer planning to expand, I will keep them in mind.

  11. 1kellyfamil Reply Sat at 5:34 am

    Thanks for the advise on  the 7 mistakes, I am just getting started, I will need all the help I can get.I am on a very limited budget , so its gonna take some time. I needed something to do. I found it , and I am excited.

  12. I found this very interesting & true.
    One problem I have come across living in Australia is that in my efforts to purchase US authentic rolling stock via ebay has been made much more difficult & time consuming because there are no filters to limit possible options for purchase to only those items where sellers will ship outside of USA & i have had to continually wade through page after page only to find an item I would like to bid for or purchase and then find out that seller only sells within USA.
    I am looking forward to reading upcoming newsletters to help me set-up my own layout.

  13. Rottiecss Reply Wed at 1:07 pm

    Just downloaded and skimmed through, 7 mistakes to aviod. Really liked what I read and can’t wait to get the time to read to whole artice. Thanks for suppling this infomation. Looking forward to the next newsletter and all that follow. Thanks again. Enjoy life on the rails.

  14. Austinleej Reply Mon at 7:04 pm

    That real nice but onr thing; I’m Disable very low income. Time I pay my Bills money gone.
    But I will try to some money. I’m 62yr. and want to do something.

  15. Wwheeler3 Reply Wed at 9:33 am

    These articals are full of great info ,I will keep it close to my layout.bill

  16. Thanks for the advise on  the 7 mistakes, I am just getting started, I will need all the help I can get.I am on a very limited budget , so its gonna take some time. I am disabled and need something to do. I found it , and I am excited.

  17. I’ve been a model railroader since 1972 and I agree with the others that your 7 tips are right on. I also agree with Steve’s comment below that your HO and OO should be revised. Regarding scale structures, you write “A tip is to use an existing plastic model and go up or down in size by 2 times or 2 ½ times. This will give you a guide on size and proportions.” I don’t understand what you mean by “go up or down in size.”

  18. J Hackworth Reply Tue at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the good info just what a beginer like me needs

  19. Rmacdona2011 Reply Wed at 10:11 pm

    I want to save the download but it doesn’t ask or show where I want to save it to.
    Please let me know what I need to do.
    Thank you
    R Macdonald (better known as Mac)

  20. Rdocray@yahoo.com Reply Fri at 1:40 pm

     Hi Dan;
       My wife & I are just starting out, we wanted a a train to go round the X-mas tree & it love at first sight when we opened the FedX Box . Number 2 on your list was about to bit us on our 60+ year old butt’s ( ^ ;
       Thanks so much. Doc

  21. I used to subscribe to mr news but found it really wasn’t for me. Anyway, your 7 mistakes most new modelers make are right on the money, Unfortunately, I can’t take advantage of your offer due to financial problems, but it’s a fantastic deal. Again sorry…….Harvey

  22. Chaarles bridgwater Reply Fri at 3:46 am

    7 Costly Model Train Mistakes.Very helpful  Thank you very much. Chuck

  23. Give it with you fans of the TT scale (in eastern Germany is very common)

  24. Give it with you fans of the TT scale (in eastern Germany is very common)

  25. I am a little new to model railroading, and I find this site very useful! There is a lot of information on the web! I also found a great new website that gets updated daily! 
    Go To http://www.modelrrxing.blogspot.com


  26. cool

  27. Gabriel Penner Reply Sun at 11:21 pm

    Hi! My name is Gabriel and I’m 10 years old.  I have not faced any of those problems probably because I have bascically have not expanded at all.  I’m a train freak and when I visited the strasburg RR the guy who ran the shop tour said HE learned from ME! LOL!

  28. Excellent… a must have book.  Just starting up and so many a questions I have…..
    Thanks for this great book.  Model trains for beginners.

  29. Sneedphoto Reply Wed at 1:42 am

    What I find sad about the greatest hobbie  HO,s is that I cant find brushes for older locomotives.
    I have engines that are sitting on sidings because motors just need new brushes to run again  every place I go Im told my trains are to old When I started at 6 years old  Rivarossi, Tyco and Roundhouse were king
    and they are still running to this day except the engines that need brushes the few hobbie shop that are still around sell HO,s but dont repair them or have parts   and to me that is sad
     Michael Sneed  55 years into HO,s 

  30. Norbertas Vilkaitis Reply Tue at 9:53 am

    Excellent. I think most of us know but forget in the heat of moment when building, I know i do!!

  31. Your layout and the steps you took to build it were extremely good. I love the layout and envy the knowledge to wire up something like that. Your movie making however, needs a lot of work. You just can’t move the camera so fast over the subject. It needs to go very slowly to observe, study and enjoy the efforts that went into this layout.

  32. Good advice for beginners like me. Helps me understand some of the jargon on scales, gauges and terms like DCC and DCS. Haven’t purchased any equipment as yet but this article will help me to choose the layout and models. This is just the beginning of my research. Thanks

  33. James1bennett Reply Sat at 11:25 am

    Great advice for beginners.. Have made a couple of the mistakes myself

  34. Jeff Milot (Papasmrf) Reply Fri at 9:17 pm

    I have been building model railroads since I was 5 years old with my dad. I am now 63 years old and I found that your book on 7 Model Train Mistakes to Avoid, bring to light some thing that I have put in the back of my mind. This book is not just for beginners. Thanks.

  35. Hi. A useful resource for beginners. I did notice an incorrect comment in Mistake 4, however. the text reads:

    “HO scale has become the most popular scale which is known as OO gauge in the UK.”

    HO and OO share the same gauge but HO scale is 3.5mm per foot, while OO scale is 4mm per foot. The odd mix of measures is an historic artifact – can’t recall the reason, it’s kind of obscure. Also, the minimum radius values for the two scales seem a bit off. Hornby and Peco settrack both default to 18 inch radii. The HO/OO similarity leads Brit manufacturers (at least) to label their structure kits, people and animals, visual props etc as being HO/OO scale, clearly not possible. A 6 foot tall man in HO is 21mm tall, in OO he stands 24mm tall. The disparity becomes much greater when dealing with buildings and viaducts etc.

  36. Ed Taylor Reply Sun at 6:49 pm

    Hello Dan,

    I found your article very enlightning and right on the mark. With regards to the section on DCC (page 17) I had an interesting experience with a DCC equiped locomotive that you may want to consider adding to this article at its next update.

    I am presently in the “Start of Build” phase of a HO layout following some 4 months of design using the graphics package “CorelDraw”. This layout is somewhat unique in that it consists of two main lines going around the Dining Room of our home (9 1/2 inches from the ceiling), on a shelf with hidden supports, then through two tunnels into the Living Room and back into the Dining Room. It has been a bit tricky getting the curves (32 .in minimum) to alighn but it has all fallen place (at least on paper).

    Now for the fun part:

    I am running the MTH (Mikes Train House) DCS system in “Command Mode” with MTH Locomotives. These locomotives are strictly DC. The MTH Track Interface Unit (TIU) applies a constant 18 VDC to the tracks with Digital Signals superimposed. A DCS Locomotive will just sit until a signal is provided and its DC motor will then operate based on the specific command given. I did not get the real meaning of this until I tried a little 0-6-0 Bachman Switcher on a test track that I had set up. Upon applying power, the little switcher just took off at full speed, same direction, regardless of the orientation of the locomotive on the track (my wife and I got a kick out of this). Needless to say I returned that little locomotive to the dealer.

    Readers should be reminded that when upgrading to DCS they should be aware of the difference between DCS and DCC track voltages when looking to run multiple types of locomotives on the same configuration.

    I will be glad to go into specifics with anyone.

    Ed Taylor (etaylor84@nc.rr.com)

    • I am a beginner and don’t know the diff. between dcs and dcc. Could you enlighten me. When I was a kid I had Lionel starter type train. Nothing like what is out there now. I am retired and trying to get back into model RR’ing. Thanks.

  37. I was a coal miner when i was young. And we had steam. Still love the steam trains with the rusty rails. Don Crown. http://www.budgieman.co.uk

  38. Michael_haisler Reply Tue at 1:52 am

    Hi, This is some very good advice, I’ve made some of those mistakes, and you’re right, I’ll never make them again. This was very well wriiten and thought out. Very good job.

  39. Lotuseroupa74 Reply Sat at 4:30 pm

    i’ve done H/O and know with the kids all gone i’m going to start N gauge!

  40. I’ve got a HO scale set with a controller that wont work, An N scale Sir Nigel Gresley engine and i wont to know what it is valued at.

    • Jim an Em C Reply Thu at 1:58 am

      The HO set, Is it DCC or just DC? The Sir Nigel Gresley engine what make is it? Cheers Jim

  41. Okay, so don’t make the mistake of have a too steep gradient. What gradient is too steep to go from one shelf to the other.

  42. Plumberbub Reply Tue at 3:14 am

    i was pretty nieve on my first layout……didn’t rush things but didn’t understand some things……next layout was better

  43. GandBschreiber Reply Sun at 3:01 pm

    I have been ask to speak at our library about model railroading. Would you have any hand outs for the group. About 24 people? Gary Schreiber

  44. Mayerhardeware Reply Sat at 9:30 am

    where can info on celing hung layouts be found?

  45. Jim Deveney Reply Fri at 7:36 pm

    Very good advice to all beginners, I have been in railroading for 3 years and I still find minor mistakes.

  46. This is a must-read for any beginner. I have made every one of these mistakes 🙂

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