Buy pre-owned mod­els

How to bag a bar­gain and dodge a dis­as­ter when buy­ing sec­ond-hand.

Model Rail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

“Rail­way mod­el­ling is such an ex­pen­sive hobby!” “Prices just keep go­ing up!” All too of­ten you hear the prophets of doom and gloom ex­tolling the virtues of rail­way mod­el­ling while putting off new­com­ers by telling them they’ll need to spend a for­tune in the pur­suit of this hobby. In truth, all hob­bies can be as ex­pen­sive as you make them, but rail­way mod­el­ling can also be af­ford­able and en­joy­able on a bud­get. So, let’s start by mak­ing the pur­suit of bar­gains and in­ex­pen­sive mod­els part of the en­joy­ment of the hobby. Let’s ig­nore the boasts of “I just bought this. It’s top of the range, and it cost me a king’s ran­som,” and make our own boast: “I just bought this, it’s re­ally good. It does ev­ery­thing I need and it only cost a few quid.”


Let’s be­gin by look­ing at the things we’ll need to make a start in rail­way mod­el­ling. I will as­sume that you are go­ing to want to build a lay­out. It may be per­ma­nent or por­ta­ble and in a spare room, shed, garage or loft. For any sort of lay­out, you’re go­ing to need a base­board and there’s re­ally lit­tle chance of es­cap­ing the costs in­volved in buy­ing suit­able ma­te­ri­als. A durable base­board, whether per­ma­nent or por­ta­ble, re­ally needs to be made of tim­ber and ply­wood or MDF. Your lo­cal DIY su­per­store will be the eas­i­est place to find these, although they may or may not be the cheap­est source. Re­gard­less of what you’re pay­ing, make sure that the tim­ber is straight and that the board ma­te­ri­als are not warped. A small ‘OO’ gauge lay­out or a larger setup in ‘N’ gauge can be built on a stan­dard flush in­ter­nal door. B&Q sells them for £24 which, if you value your time, may be cheaper than buy­ing the ma­te­ri­als and build­ing your own base­board. ‘OO’ gauge has the big­gest choice in model rail­ways. It’s in that gauge where you’ll find most of the bar­gains and sec­ond-hand items

and, for that rea­son, that’s the gauge I rec­om­mend. If you need to work in ‘N’ gauge due to space con­straints, you’ll have a lot less choice in pre-owned mod­els, while sec­ond-hand ‘O’ gauge items are au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumed to be worth a for­tune. Sec­ond-hand ‘O’ gauge is a mine­field of over­pric­ing, largely due to the short­age (un­til re­cently) of keenly priced ready-to-run mod­els, and the be­lief that any­thing that has been kit-built or scratch­built must be price­less. So, if your pri­mary re­quire­ment is a good choice of used mod­els at af­ford­able prices, you need to be look­ing at ‘OO’. Hav­ing cho­sen your gauge, you will need track. Like your base­board, your track is cru­cial to the run­ning of your trains and your en­joy­ment of the hobby. For this rea­son I would rec­om­mend that you avoid sec­ond-hand flex­i­ble track. Flex­i­ble track may well have been cut to length or to suit curves, and the soft na­ture of its sleeper base means that it is eas­ily dam­aged when lifted from its orig­i­nal in­stal­la­tion. Track pins will have caused sleep­ers to break and rails may well have been pulled from their tiny fas­ten­ings on the sleep­ers. In ad­di­tion, de­pend­ing on where it has been used, ex­po­sure to ex­tremes of tem­per­a­ture may have made the sleeper base brit­tle. Sec­ond-hand sec­tional track is a bet­ter bet. This comes in rigid pieces so check that you have enough for your needs, that the avail­able curved pieces are all the same ra­dius, that it is un­dam­aged and that the fish­plates (rail join­ers) are present on op­po­site rails, one at each end. When buy­ing sec­ond-hand points (turnouts) check that the fish­plates are present, that the blades move eas­ily and that both are at­tached to the op­er­at­ing bar. In all cases, look for track that is clean. The rails need to be shiny. Avoid track that has residues of glue and track bal­last. As far as con­trollers are con­cerned, whether or not you buy sec­ond-hand re­ally de­pends on how com­fort­able you feel about buy­ing sec­ond-hand mains elec­tri­cal prod­ucts in gen­eral. I would not do so, but a browse through ebay showed half a dozen mod­ern ana­logue DC con­trollers that I might con­sider. I would not rec­om­mend older equip­ment such as the grey-cased H&M range be­cause these are un­suit­able for use with many of the mod­ern lo­co­mo­tive mo­tors. Old Hornby-dublo (Mec­cano) con­trollers will now be some 60 years old. Would you even con­sider us­ing any other elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ance that old?


So, where should we shop for sec­ond-hand equip­ment? It is worth brows­ing ebay in or­der to see what’s on of­fer and the prices peo­ple are ask­ing. Use it for ini­tial re­search, rather than for buy­ing. You need to know ex­actly what you are look­ing for and have a rough idea of what you should ex­pect to pay for it. Re­mem­ber that some ebay sell­ers may be get­ting rid of a late rel­a­tive’s mod­els and have no idea what they are deal­ing with. Equally, ig­nore head­ings that in­clude words like ‘rare’ and ‘highly col­lectable’. Un­scrupu­lous deal­ers will use these as ex­cuses to place ab­surd

“Know what you are look­ing for and have a rough idea of what you should ex­pect to pay ”

Here’s the first place to look – a well pre­sented dis­play of the best sec­ond-hand stock that the shop has to of­fer, in­clud­ing boxed lo­co­mo­tives and coaches. There’s some ‘N’ gauge stuff, too.

With a lit­tle care­ful se­lec­tion you could make up a pretty good pas­sen­ger train out of these boxed mod­els, though for the best com­pat­i­bil­ity I would avoid mix­ing Main­line/air­fix and Hornby in the same train.

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