Model train sets are a rich man’s hobby, and it sure sometimes feels that way with the prices rising after each new release. Usually, with model trains, you receive what you pay for when it comes to details and performance, but you can still have fun and satisfaction at any price. So if you’re feeling left out in the commotion for the newest and the best, here are some tips for making the most of your money for your model train set.
Focus on Priorities
Model railroading is a lot of things to many people. To manage expenses, look for the part of your hobby you like best and concentrate on that. For instance, crafting tiny and detailed dioramas might be just as fulfilling as constructing a more extensive layout if you fancy model-building.
It will also help to choose a theme or prototype and stick to it. There are plenty of excellent models available to entice you, but it’s easier to manage your budget if you focus on one particular period.
Do It Yourself
Model railroading allows you to purchase almost anything you require, ready to go directly out of the box. But this comes at a price, although in two directions. One, it raises the financial value of your hobby, and two, it kills a lot of fun and a sense of fulfillment that arises from building a railroad.
You can still find Do-It-Yourself kits for freight cars, locomotives, and buildings. Similar to the ready-made models, high-end gear can still bear a costly price tag. But these kits provide you with hours of enjoyment. When your hobby emphasizes as much on building as on having, you can definitely stretch your money.
Customize Inexpensive Models
While it’s true that a $25 train car won’t have as many details as its $75 counterpart, inexpensive models are there for those less concerned with having every rivet precisely correct. However, what if you want a museum-quality model without the expensive price tag?
There are several ways to customize your models to enhance their look and performance. For example, you can add your paint, better wheels, couplers, decals, and details. With light work, your model can stand alongside the best made by high-end manufacturers.
Quality or Quantity?
To manage your hobby expenses, consider whether you find the quality or quantity more important. Then, focus more on what’s most important; how many of these train cars do you actually need?
If your passion is more on long trains, consider the less costly kits. After all, as they’re pushing by in a moving train, you’ll be harried to locate every brake line applied to each car underside. But if you’re leaning toward appreciating each model, then save your money and get the best versions of a couple of cars.
Join a Club
Membership dues to your local club may be the best cash you blow on this hobby. Aside from meeting fellow modelers and learning from one another, the club can also offer a way to accomplish layouts that are difficult to do at home. The combined means of a good-sized club can accomplish far more than by working separately.
Buy and Sell
Do you hoard trains and never get rid of them? Then, as your skills improve or interests change, there is nothing wrong with funding your next purchase by selling some of your old ones.
Be informed, though, that model trains are not great investments if you’re looking to earn money. So don’t expect to receive back what you spent for a model, even if it’s still almost “new in the box” or just lightly used. In plenty of cases, though, the financial depreciation should be more than canceled out by your enjoyment. And you can put the money you gain toward new pieces that match your current interests.
All those models sold by others have to go someplace. But, like purchasing a used car, purchasing used model trains can help you save a lot of money. And similar to buying a car, you have to do your research, probe carefully and be prepared to accept that your purchased train may need some work.
When procuring used transformers, powered locomotives, and the like, it’s best to buy from a store with a place that allows you to test the model or that one with a good return policy. An excellent return policy is essential with online retailers. Many sellers are honest, but sometimes thumbnail pictures can hide plenty of flaws!
Repurpose Old Materials
There are many opportunities to repurpose older materials when constructing a model train layout instead of buying new ones. Opportunities for savings are everywhere, whether it’s a repurposed seat-cushion foam for the scenery, old fencing lumber for building a benchwork, or just sawdust shavings working as the woodchip load in a hopper car if you keep your eyes open and get creative.
You can’t build your train set in just a day. The total price of your dream set may be currently out of reach, but begin where you can and improve as you can afford it. You’ll eventually get there, and you’ll appreciate every step of it.