|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!
Real Trains Rail - selling for 8.00 per 8 ft 10 inch piece. This length can be shipped UPS.
The price is right but the shipping top the East Coast iis costly, adding as much as 50% to the
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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
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,
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!
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!