Model Railroads: Tips For Beginners

Are you thinking about building your very own model railroad, but you’re a little lost? Do not worry because newcomers in this hobby naturally have several questions about it. So for you not to waste your hard-earned money, we are here to give you some tips that you should know when making model railroads. From planning the space and layout to finding the best-quality model train sets, we got you covered.

  • Pick a scale or size – When building a model railroad, the first thing that you should think about is the scale or size of the trains that you want to put. Some of the most popular scales are the HO Scale which is 1:87.1 in gage, the O Scale with a 1:48 gage, and the N Scale, which has a 1:160 gage. Large scale trains are also popular with model railroaders, and they usually come in different scales from 1:22.5 to 1:32. However, they all share a standard 45mm track gauge. Several factors will affect your scale selections, such as the way it looks, your budget, your allotted space, and your access to club layouts. 
  • Check the quality – Just like with most things, one of the important things that you should know when picking a model railroad is its quality. It is best if you look for model railroads that have a good value. You can also take your time and take a look at the range of products available to you. Keep in mind that in model railroading, you get what you pay for. This means that if someone is selling you a model railroad kit for half the price, always be mindful and check its condition. Good quality model railroad kits are often expensive, but they will undoubtedly give superior performance and last for several years. 
  • Keep reading or watching about model railroading – Reading reviews and watching programs related to model railroading can help you. You would not have to take a trip to the library to do so; everything you need to know about model railroading is available on the internet, from track plans, track laying, benchwork construction to wiring, laying, and scenery. The internet will tell you all about it. Just like with other hobbies, it is best to educate yourself first before you dive into the hobby. 
  • Carefully choose the place where you’ll lay your track – A model railroad takes a lot of space, which is why if you’re planning to build a temporary layout, it is best if you choose a 5×9 foot ping-pong table and make sure it’s not flimsy. But if you only want a temporary design, we suggest that you start with a train set instead and buy additional accessories and tracks when you feel like it.
  • Choose the right place for a permanent layout – If you really want a full-blown model railroad, then you must think carefully about the space it requires. A permanent design calls for meticulous space planning because it takes a lot of space. Some people who live in an apartment tend to make extraordinary things on small tables using tiny Z scale trains. 
  • Exercise your carpentry skills – If you plan to build a landscape layout that is complete with roads, cities, and halls, you must have dedicated benchwork where you can craft your work. You can take a look at some instructions on how to build a benchwork on the internet.
  • Plan your model railroad layout carefully – Once you know what scale you prefer and found an available location for your model railroad, it’s time to start planning your design. The first thing you need to decide on is the brand of railroad track you’ll be using. There are several track planning applications available on the internet today. It will be beneficial if you look at the layout plans on the manufacturer’s website so you can have a guide.
  • Plan where your railroad will be located –  Once you know the layout and size of your railroad, you need to decide your model’s location. Will it be going around the plains of Texas? The Canadian Rockies? Or going through downtown Chicago? You should also consider the time of the year you want, will it be spring with colorful flowers or green grass? Or do you want it to be set during fall where trees turn their leaves into gold, red, or brown? It is also essential to choose the era when your railroad was made. Is it in 1897, 1950, or 2002?
  • Purchasing your model railroad – When you pick the kind of railroad, era, and location of your model railroad, it is now time to shop for your trains. You can choose a train set that comes with a railroad and a track you like, or you can buy separate railroad car sets, locomotives, and individual railroad cars. If you want to buy cars and locomotives from different manufacturers, make sure that their couplers are compatible. These are the hooks that connect the cars and locomotives. Model railroad manufacturers tend to develop their coupler style, so it may not be compatible with other model railroads. Model railroad dealers can change the couplers on cars and locomotives, but keep in mind that they will also charge you a couple of dollars for their service.
  • Have fun – Making your very first model railroad is an enjoyable experience. That is why it is important for you to have fun and appreciate the process of making a model railroad. There would be mistakes along the way, but it’s okay. The important thing is to keep going and be inspired in making your own model railroad.