I am sure there are quite a few modelling enthusiasts among slashdotters, but there are many forums dedicated to model railroading, with subforums focusing on automation and landscaping/structures, complete with video tutorials of cool tricks (some of them really simple).
If you have a chance to kickstart your collection, I would definitely suggest investing any saved money in DCC equipment - it makes many things simple which would be a chore otherwise.
My advice though is similar to the one I would give to someone getting into programming, electronics or any other hobby: don't overengineer, start simple, but with options to expand, be ready to discard everything you created initially and to start again from scratch. Maybe start with some flat but elaborate layout to practice control of points and trains? Or quite the opposite, start with a simple loop, maybe with a siding or a passing loop, but surround it with interesting terrain? Trying to get your first layout to have both complicated track layout and elaborate landscape features may result in a disappointment. You obviously have some fundamental questions to answer too (shunting or mainline? A standalone diorama or a module? etc.)