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Premium Member
5,510 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This question ("What is a good 'Starter Set'?") is asked all the time and the answers always seem to go along these lines:

Get the set from Alphabet Soup company #1...

They make a great Starter Set, but the track is only good for a couple of seasons trips around the Christmas tree and is no good outside, you'll want to go with brass/aluminum/stainless steel/nickel silver/cobalt titanium/U-plutonium 238/unobtainium track from Alphabet Soup #2... it is great (as long as you get the newer ties with the UV protection in the plastic formula). Oh yeah, they don't make switches so you can get adapters from Alphabet Soup #3 to mate to switches from Alphabet Soup #4.

They make a great Starter Set, but the locomotive power block is a piece of junk, you'll want to replace it with one from Alphabet Soup #5... their's are made right and will last a long time.

They make a great Starter Set, but you'll want to replace the plastic wheels with metal ones from Alphabet Soup #6... they won't ruin the track.

They make a great Starter Set, but while you are replacing the wheels you may as well replace the trucks with the more prototypical ones from Alphabet Soup #7... this lowers the cars to a more prototypical height and allow them to go around much tighter curves. You will probably want to paint these new ones as the fluorescent hunter's safety orange they come as is not prototypical.

They make a great Starter Set, but the couplers are lousy, better replace those with the ones from Alphabet Soup #8... they'll couple with anything (but if you replace all your couplers with those, who cares what they will mate with?).

They make a great Starter Set, but the details break off too easily, you'll need to take an oxyacetylene torch to cut them off and replace them with something from Alphabet Soup #9... their stuff is so much more realistic.

They make a great Starter Set, but you'll have to replace the power supply with one from Alphabet Soup #10, because it will handle more than one train and you'll probably want to run two engines sometime, or add lights to a car or two.

They make a great Starter Set, but I'd take out the lousy sound system and install one from Alphabet Soup #11, It'll fit if you use a 5-pound hand maul to force it.

They make a great Starter Set, but the you'll want remote control, so buy the Alphabet Soup #12 R/C system, it is so much better than the one from Alphabet Soup #13 and is glitch free.

They make a great Starter Set, but the colors are garish and all wrong for the RR it represents, you'll want to repaint and weather them all after you get new decals from Alphabet Soup #14, he's a great guy to work with.

They make a great Starter Set, but if you want a smoke unit that actually smokes and won't burn out if you run out of fluid, replace it with the one from Alphabet Soup #15, just never run it indoors as it will set off all your poison gas detectors.

So now, some of you are saying, "Yeah, so what's yer problem?"

Well, I'll split the question into two related ones:

Does anyone make as "Starter Set" that does NOT come with: track, a locomotive power block, wheels, trucks, couplers, details, power supply, sound, remote control, is unpainted/unlettered, and has no smoke unit built-in?

Likewise, does anyone make a "kit" of: track, locomotive power block, metal wheels, prototypical trucks, workable couplers, correct details, a power supply that will handle more than just barely one engine, a sound system, paint, decals (and instructions on how to use them), and a good smoke unit?

I, personally, didn't start with a "Starter Set" because all I wanted was Live Steam of a particular form and then I needed track to run it on and a consist to add resistance the locomotive could work against. But if I were to want to enter the hobby just to "run trains" I think I would be quite put off the whole subject given the state of the "Starter Sets".

My point is that I am a "frugal" Yankee (or stingy, some would say) and I utterly HATE to spend my money on things that will end up in the dust bin.

I also realize that I will get some answers of;
"Just save all those things to use as fodder for a kit-bash!"

To which I reply:
"Why would you want to use something that was not good enough for a 'Starter Set'?"

I guess my question could be:

"Does anybody make a Starter Set that can be ADDED TO without first having to be REPLACED in a piece-meal fashion?"

Or, since I already know the answer to that is, "There are none." then is it possible that some manufacturer might someday recognize that there might be a market for such?

Premium Member
5,334 Posts
Welll I am Polish by decent.

AT one time Poland was concidered a backward country.

So Naturally I do things backward.

I got a set of cars and engine, Then I started.

I remember a while back the fisrt year THE BIG TRAIN SHOW was in the Onterio convention center someone from ST AUBINS was saying they were going to put together starter sets of quality.

I wonder if that ever came to pass.

Super Modulator
22,253 Posts
Two questions, same answer for both: no.

Starter sets, sort of by definition are to get someone started, so they have everything to make a train go around a loop.

Unfortunately, not only are many people frugal, but when starting, they do not realize that a 1 amp transformer will be quickly outgrown.

Since most newbies don't know this, and competition is fierce, the manufacturers make the starter sets with "shortcuts" or stuff you will change once you get "educated".

There's really only 3 companies with "starter sets", Aristo, Bachmann, and USAT.

I would not buy any of the starter sets. If I had to buy one, I'd buy the USAT, because you can get a reasonable loco right off the bat. I do not consider an 0-4-0 the best "Starter" loco since they will not take abuse and do not have good power pickup.

I think you really need to buy the parts. Pick your loco, buy a box of track (you have a circle), buy some straights (you now have an oval). Buy the MRC 10 amp power supply. You are now running.

Go out and buy a few cars you like.

It's really not that difficult, and you will get what you want.

Regards, Greg

2,500 Posts
I think the WHOLE POINT of "starter sets" is to give you what you absolutely NEED (not want) as inexpensively as possible -- to tempt people on the fence to jump in. As for "having to replace everything piecemeal", I'll bet a great many, if not most, starter sets get used as-is the entire time the original purchaser has them... many 2-3 weeks each year under the Christmas tree,

Most retailers would be happy to put you together a premium "package deal", with stuff that will meet your EXACT specifications....as long as you don't choke when it comes time to open your wallet.

Senior Dish Washer
3,203 Posts
I think you're looking at this from an adults usage eyes.

Let's face it, if today you (an adult) decided to build a garden railway in your back hard, no starter set is worth considering. But, if you're looking to purchase that first train set for a child, all you want is the basics. Why purchase a $200.00 transformer, RC control, Stainless Steel Track, an ABBA set of PA1s with 6 streamline passenger cars. As much as we all on this forum want our grandchildren to enjoy trains and grow up wanting to have an interest in trains, the kid might run the train around the circle of track a couple of times and then turn his back on it and go play his game boy.

A simple starter set with a circle of track, small transformer, a 4 wheel diesel or steam loco with a couple of 2 axle cars will give the little one enough to display any long term interest. If it's there, some straight track and a switch or two will allow the child to grow with the train set and have something to look forward to. If the game boy wins out, you've spent a minimal dollar amount and life goes on.

Starter sets are for kids not for Adult hobbyist

semper vaporo,

that made me really smile. you put the finger deep in the open wound...

but, Mr. "frugal" Yankee, the answer is simple:
buy a LGB starter set.
the only drawback they have, one has to unpack them before running...

Premium Member
4,716 Posts
I started with a loco I got broken on EBay for $40. Only took a few minutes to repair. Then I got a car for it to pull and some track and a $12 power pack from ebay...
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