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Starter sets worth it?

6163 Views 18 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  BNGP10
I was looking for layout ideas in my other thread, when an idea occured to me. I'm wondering if a good, reasonably inexpensive way to get started would be to put a pair of starter sets in my "L" shaped area. I could fit one around the tree and one in the base of the "L". I'm assuming that there wouldn't be enough power in the starter sets to get much bigger, but I could probably add a few straight sections to each to make them a little bigger.

I'm thinking that this might be a good place to start, with some expansion options later. Besides, that would give each of the twin boys their own train. But my question is whether it is worth it. Are the starter sets reliable enough to last a year or two, while allowing for slow replacement of cars and parts, or will they just give out after a month or two of use? It would certainly be cheaper than building the whole thing from scratch, at least to start.


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Used to be that LGB was the last word on starter sets. LGB is now gone, but is returning under new names. However, I would suggest you look for the LGB Toy Train starter sets. These are rugged little trains that are designed for abuse, come with a full circle of track and a decent power supply. The other LGB starter sets get a little more pricey, but you will get a larger steam locomotive.

The other option for starter sets where you can use most of the equipment outside would be the Aristo starter sets. The nice thing about the Aristo versions is they use a real model for the locomotive (Its a PRR A-5 switch engine, slope tender is available separately). They also have a 'basic' train engineer which is a remotely controlled throttle. Fast-slow-direction and stop. Also, the aristo track comes ready to be screwed together. The LGB track joiners are a simple slip-type. Some folks have had to add clamps to get the track power to work.

There are some other starter sets, but I have found that the more rugged LGB and Aristo sets are better for small hands. I made the mistake of getting my nephew a Bachmann Tweetsie set. The engine and cars are more than he can handle, so it is a difficult toy for him to enjoy. My other nephews got LGB sets, which see use at Christmas only, but I haven't heard of any difficulties with those sets.

Also, in looking for pictures, the prices of the regular LGB sets are within 85 bucks of the sound equipped versions. If you do go the LGB route, the extra cash is worth it for those sound units. Nicely timed chuff-chuff, nice little bell and whistle is great!! I had a Southern version when they came out way back when.

In looking at more high end starter sets, the USA starter sets are nice, too, but USA trains tend to be a bit more fragile in the detail department. However, their locomotives are great, too.

So, to answer your question, yes, the starter sets are worth it.

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The track gauge is the same, so the Bachmann trains will run on Aristo or LGB track.

The Bachmann track will not wear, it will disintegrate. They use this sheet metal formed in a U to make their track. This will rust through in no time flat. The ties are not UV resistant and will fall apart almost as fast as the track itself.

OK, if you are going the Bachmann route, I'd suggest looking at George Schreyer's GIRR web page for tips on that locomotive. Very helpful.
Specific to the big hauler:

His main page:

I have been using the Aristo Stainless steel track outside for almost 5 years now. Before that I was using a mix of LGB and Aristo brass. Brass works fine, but it oxidizes quickly. That means more work just to get trains running and keeping them running. Since you are doing this to entertain your twins, who are 2?? , getting trains running and keeping them running will be paramount. Spend the few extra bucks on the stainless. You won't regret it.

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