Where do I start? /sarc
This question naturally follows the notion of "How To Get Started?" because 2 rail O Scale like any gauge has so much to offer and many avenues one can choose to participate in. Thus, another simpler question might be to ask yourself as to where you stand on the modeler spectrum; new to the hobby, beginner, beginner but different gauge, moderate modeling skills, advanced craftsman. Maybe you are a "Ready To Run" (RTR) guy or gal, so depending on how you might classify your own standing and not necessarily in comparison or contrast to other modelers, as a RTR guy or gal you may have a propensity to ease into the scale with a purchase of a piece of RTR rolling stock or even a structure. Regardless, unless you are just going to put the model on the shelf and admire it, you will become a modeler in 2 rail O Scale as soon as you add the structure to the layout. Or, you lay a section of track.
In any event, it is safe to say that easing into the scale will result in the highest likelihood of your success and long term satisfaction and accomplishments. Know also the side benefits of meeting other modelers that can contribute to your enjoyment.
Building a layout, a module or even a test track is a skill unto itself. For may of us the meat and potatoes is building kits, scenery or even scratch building unique pieces of history. Again, ease into it, if you need to elevate your skill level start by building simple kits, work your way up to more difficult kits. Try doing a restoration on an older model that needs help or kit bashing that used RTR model you just purchased. Then at some point pick something to scratch build and see if you like working at that skill level.
What will keep you in the scale once you get started? I think the resolution of the detail one can achieve over the smaller scales in one thing that is a big attraction. As the resolution increase so does the realism. If you like solving small problems, those related to building a model, you will make the synapses in your brain very happy. And of course show and tell with a little bragging goes a long ways for feeding your ego. One does not need to expend a large amount of money to get started because you will not be able to tell which direction your work in the scale will take you until you do get your feet wet. Making the decision to get started may help by attending a few train shows, viewing what is available on the market, looking at the module setups and talking to other model railroaders. Know also it is not just about modeling trains, other aspects come into play such as modeling, boats, aircraft or cars of a specific period.
You do not need to envision an empire to get started. One can get a whole lot of O Scale into a small space if you go about it right. Depending on the period you model, and I like the early 1900s, rolling stock was much shorter 34' & 36', switch engines significantly smaller as well as equipment used in industries around that time period. If you are bent toward operating a big railroad on your layout, then you are in the scale for the long haul. If you are planning a modern day layout with the modern freight cars that vary in length to 89' scale feet, then you are in for a big layout.
Finally, to be successful once you do get started, don't go at it night and day. It is a hobby and doing the work of a modeler takes time. Change up your game by working on different projects that you can actually accomplish and then go visit other guys layouts. That's how to get started!
WLubert: Anywhere is better than no where. If you have no trains at all. I started as a child when my mother gave me a Marx train set for Christmas. It was O gauge like Lionel but wasn't expensive. From playing with it I learned how to connect track and wires. Began learning about electricity. In the 1960's I was given HO trains. With this I continued learning about the hobby. Under the Christmas tree wasn't just houses plced randomly, now the winter scene began looking like town. Later these knowledge lead to designing Christmas scenes using American Flyer S gauge trains. In short it doesn't matter where you start at just as long you learn from it.
My migration from HO to O began at the Den of Trains Crafts and Hobbies in Toronto in the early 1980s. I was in buying HO stuff and saw an O Scale Weaver UP Boxcar. It impressed me greatly so I bought it to put on my bookshelf just so I could look at it. I moved in 1988 and shortly thereafter decided to go to O Scale. My first subscribed issue of Model Railroader was the January 1971 issue that introduced John Armstrong's Canadaigua Southern and being able to model in the same scale as John was something that motivated me to make the move. I have scratchbuilt a lot of buildings in my model railroading years, but now I am working on converting and repowering All Nations NW2s into TR2/TR3 units - something I never thought I would be doing. Will probably need help with the repowering as I am thinking of converting to can motors.
Have you tried asking modelers of other scales? How about asking people who have Lionel? You'll be suprise what they know. Do you get the O Scale Resource magazine? If you do, look at the ads. Some of ads feature plces that sale used models. I have good luck with Allegheny Scale Models. The people there are friendly. Bill Lubert