RIDABLE TRAINS ON A BUDGET
1.5-inch-scale trains can get very expensive.  But I wanted to get into the hobby without
spending a lot of money.  So here are some tips on how to get a lot of railroad fun without
spending a fortune.
TRACK CONSTRUCTION - WELL UNDER 3 DOLLARS PER RUNNING FOOT!
RAIL

Real Trains Rail
- selling for 8.00 per 8 ft 10 inch piece.  This length can be shipped UPS.  
www.realtrains.com
   The price is right but the shipping top the East Coast iis costly, adding as much as 50% to the
cost.
   Their rail is 7/8 inch high and has a very realistic profile.
   Joint bars can be purchased as a pair with bolts and locking nuts for 99 cents a set.
Culp Rail - sold by Peter Nuskey in Southampton PA 215-355-3391- selling for 86 cents a
foot in ten foot sections.  I live close enough to pick it up myself, so the end cost is a lot lower
than rail shipped from California.
    Rail is slightly shorter than 7/8 inch and simulates 115 pound rail in 1.5 inch scale, and has a
very realistic profile.
    Splice bars are 15 cents apiece.  #4 frogs are $21, #6 are $23, #8 are $27.
  
TRACK SCREWS

I am using 1-inch hex/washer head #10 sheet metal screws, zinc coated.
Best price I can find is at Real Trains - 2 cents apiece in bags of 1000 (plus shipping).
(I tried various internet sources - generally 4 cents and higher, and at Home Depot it's 6 cents
and up.)

TIES

I am using treated 2x6's ripcut lengthwise, 13.75 inch length.  I can get 14 ties per 8 foot piece.
Home Depot price is $4.97 per 8-foot piece, which is 35.5 cents apiece.
I always look in the "Cull Bin" for discounted short or damaged pieces of 2x6 or 2x4.  I can get
the price per tie down to 17 cents or so.
Another idea is to find a contractor who replaces decks.  He may be willing to give you
discarded treated lumber at no charge.
With ties at 17 cents apiece, you can make good looking track for $2.50 per running foot!

BALLAST

If you can pick it up yourself, using a pickup truck or dump trailer, you can get ballast material
for a good price.
I am not too far from a mulch-and-landscape center that sells most sizes of crushed stone for
$22 a yard (about 1.5 tons).
If you have a quarry nearby, you may be able to pick up the stone yourself.  In my area they
stopped doing this.  Adding delivery costs can bring it up to $28 a ton (42 per yard), which is
almost twice the price of getting it yourself.
I prefer 3/4 inch crushed stone for ballast, but larger sizes are better for building up a base for
your track.
Another idea I heard of is to use road millings, the leftover stone/asphalt mix that results when a
crew mills a road before repaving it.
Updated 4/5/11
[home]
LOCOMOTIVES - YOU CAN BUILD ONE FOR UNDER 800 DOLLARS!
BATTERY POWERED LOCOMOTIVES

In 1.5 inch scale, battery power offers smooth, quiet running at a fraction of the cost of
gas-powered and gas/hydraulic drive.  Batteries seem to last a good 4 hours plus.  I get worn
out before the batteries run down.

I happened upon the website of
Ride Trains, and they offer a power chassis (frame, wheels,
350W motor, chain drive, etc) for $499.
You would also need to order a motor controller ($73) and a handheld control ($41).
Locally you would need to buy batteries, a battery disconnect switch, wire, fuse holder, and
couplers (or homemade drawbars).
You would also need to buy materials for a body.  I found a good sheet of 3/4 plywood for
$24.
RIDING CARS - JUST OVER 100 DOLLARS!
The highest cost of building a riding car is the trucks and couplers.  So build one with 4
wheels instead of 8, and drawbars instead of couplers.

I found a good deal on wheelsets from
Plum Cove Studios.  When I bought them they were
$39 per axle.  They are now $49 with free shipping, still a great price for good-looking,
sturdy wheelsets.
Bearings - I used thrust bearings from Tractor Supply at 3.59 apiece.
Bearings are mounted on 3/4 plywood using 1 1/8 inch holes.  Each wheelset is mounted in a
sturdy box-like frame, which is then mounted to the base of the car.
The body is built from that same 3/4 plywood as the locomotive.  To reduce waste I cut the
largest pieces first.  And remember that golden rule, "Measure Twice, Cut Once."  I've saved
a lot of good lumber that way!
CONCLUSION

     You can have a lot of fun with this hobby without spending a lot of
money.         I sure do!

     I'll try to pass along more hints as I find them!