When I first started in this hobby I figured my kids would join in, my neighbors would be interested, the layout would be a great focal point in my back yard where all would gather to run trains.
I figured wrong.
My neighbors could care less. “Quaint” I think one of them said. I couldn’t pay my kids to take an interest and I know that because I tried. When clearing the small part of the yard to run trains I offered to pay them to help but got nowhere. So where do you go to get help and advice when you start building a layout?
Not knowing where to turn, I went it alone like many others starting out in the hobby. But there are a lot of questions you have when starting out and you need feedback on what you’re doing. Finally, I turned to the Internet.
There are a number of online forum sites for model railroad hobbyists but none that I’ve found are as great a resource as MyLargeSale.com (MLS). Of course what makes a site like MLS so wonderful is first the people that frequent the site, and second the level of activity.
The site has over 30 forums and just under 10,000 members.
You can visit and read the forums just by going to the site. To post a message in any of the forums you have to create an account and become a member. To join the site you need to provide basic name information, a valid email address (not available to anyone but the site’s owner) and a password.
You’ll notice on the site many members go by “handles”, (User Name) like “wackytrainguy” or “Choo-choo Charlie” while some go by their actual names. Just depends on what you are most comfortable with.
Membership is free and allows you to post your own email “threads” or topics, or to reply to existing topics. There is also a paid first-class membership option that is worth considering.
According to the MLS home page “1st Class membership includes access to 1st Class Members Only content, no annoying sidebar ads, a name badge to print off and wear to shows and other events, unlimited classified ad posting in our classifieds section, 100 MB of disk space on the MyLargeScale.com server for posting images in the forum, and an email address at ‘myLargescale.com’.”
Lets consider the pros listed of becoming a 1st Class member. The ads never really bothered me. The name badge took nearly a year to arrived after I joined and so far I’ve never had an occasion to wear it. But it’s nice and I have it here clipped to the lamp on my desk. I’ve never posted a classified. But the 100 MB of disk space has proven handy. Hmm, no email addresses since the last major site software upgrade. But even so, I renew my 1st Class membership every year because of the downright usefulness of the site. I want the site to continue so I try to support it financially. 1st Class membership costs $24 a year.
If you’re new to MLS I suggest you become a non-paying member first and read and enjoy the forums and decide for yourself if you want to support the site by becoming a 1st Class member. Note that topics that end in OT or NT are “off topic” or “not trains” and are topics that may not be train related. Usually these are found in the General forum.
There are several ways to access the conversations in the various forums. I used to only enter the forums that I was interested in, such as the Beginner’s forum and the Track, Trestles, Bridges and Roadbed forum. Then I’d look through the various topics and read those that seemed of interest. But over time I discovered you miss a lot of great information, pictures, and helpful conversations that way. Many things that you’d think should be in this forum are posted to that forum. Many users only post to the Beginner’s forum no matter the actual subject.
Selecting this option will give you a list of all topics with new postings. New since the last time you logged into the MLS site. The posts are not grouped by forum, however, which would be nice. But this method is the best way to be sure you have not missed any post of interest.
You can post questions about nearly anything large scale related and expect to get a answer or comment from someone. I’ve found the people to frequent this site to be knowledgeable and very willing to offer help and suggestions. Read the posts and get a feel for the site and those that are the regulars. This is perhaps the best model train resource site on the Web.
Let me know what you think. –TJ
[Originally posted 6/3/2011, revised 9/3/2012]