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Rolling Stock Selection

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wabash box car

Getting started in model railroading can be quite exciting and even overwhelming. There is a wide variety of models available today.

This page outlines the two basic types of model cars you can purchase;

 Ready to Run Models
Buildable Model Kits

Ready to Run Models
Ready to run models are available at your local hobby shop. These models are ready to place on your layout straight out of the box. The models are usually weighted and tuned so you can put it on your layout and enjoy it immediately. Today, the quality of ready to run models is excellent and span a price range to fit many modeler's budgets.

The models feature excellent detail, metal wheels, crisp paint and lettering. Higher quality models offer full underbody details, individual grab irons and ladders. Generally the more detail packed into a car the higher the price. Athearn offers great cars ready to run in the lower price range. Kadee offers superbly detailed cars at a higher price range.

The list below is very short because I am trying to give you a benchmark to look at when you are at the hobby shop. Nearly every model maker is trying to get into the ready to run market so the choices abound! Don't be afraid to look around excellent new models are offered every day.

Pre-Built Recommendations
Athearn - Good models at a lower price
Proto 2000 - Good mid-range models
Kadee - Excellent highly detailed models

Model Kits
A model kit contains the basic parts of a car for you the modeler to assemble. Entry level kits offer a good model that is fairly simple to assemble. The kits usually have separate pieces for the body, floor, wheels and a few details like brake wheel. The first time you assemble a kit it will take you a while to get used to the parts. However once you assemble one or two you will find that an entry level kit can be built in one evening.

Model kits for entry level modelers are becoming rare. More modelers are preferring to spend more money for ready to run models. The advantage of building your own models is that it is something you can enjoy doing and you can get a sense of accomplishment in one evening. Secondly, building your own models allows you to tune your models for better running. Once you become proficient in tuning your cars you can improve the reliability and maintain your fleet to maximize the enjoyment of your hobby.

First Kit Recommendations
Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC) Roundhouse

Advanced kits contain the same basic parts as your standard first kit listed above. The difference is that the kit may be more detailed and some of the parts can be delicate. For example, the Bowser coal hopper kit comes with interior braces that you install individually. To install the parts you need to have a steady hand and a good pair of tweezers.

After building a few Athearn or MRC kits or other plastic models you may be ready for a Bowser or Accurail kit. It generally takes me an hour to build a Bowser hopper while watching TV in contrast I can build an Athearn in half the time. Then why would I Build a Bowser? Basically because the model looks nicer and I feel the time invested is worth it. You can make that judgment and go with the kits you like the best and enjoy building the most. It's a hobby, enjoy it.

Advanced Modeling Kit Recommendations

Super detailed kits can be very involved to build and usually contain many small parts. This type of kit requires patience to affix all the little details like the grab bars on the side of the car and door lever. You may have materials made of plastic and metal which will require the use of super glue to affix metal to plastic.

I would not dive into this type of kit unless you are familiar with building detailed models. The detail is superb but it takes a considerable amount of time to build the model. The model when assembled is quite delicate and you have to be mindful of the details when handling the car. I really like the resulting model however it takes me about two hours to assemble the kit which I usually split into two nights. So far I have only built two Chessie boxcars so my assembly time may go down.

The second issue I have deals with storage. After spending a lot of time building the model I don't want it to get damaged. The little details can break off easily so care must be taken when storing and transporting the models. I am still unsure if I really like the overall modeling experience of these kits. I have quite a few to build but when done right the resulting car looks great.

Super Detailed Kit Recommendations


© All manufacturers retain full copyright and trademark rights to referenced products on this page. Athearn, Kadee, Accumate, McHenry, A-Line, Walthers Goo, are trademarks to their respective companies all rights reserved.


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