H0 Model Trains

H0 model trains are the most popular size/gauge in the world. The scale and gauge used in H0 trains are have the most real scale gauge ratio possible.

H0 model train specifications

  • mm = 16.5
  • scale = 1: 87
  • Scale foot = 3.5ft
  • Preferred radius = 6ft

H0 scale models have the exact size gauge as the UK only OO gauge. This means it is possible to use stock from each gauge on the same track.

The main advantage of H0 model trains is that ready made track and rolling stock is readily available. For beginners H0 model kits are the easiest way to get started with model railway trains.

I would recommend that beginners choose H0 scale model trains and then just ignore the rest. When looking for new trains or track, just look for ‘H0 scale’ as the plethora of scales and gauges can be easily confusing for any beginner.

H0 scale model trains are the most likely gauge that will be stocked by your local shop. Before deciding on a gauge, it’s worth visiting your local model railway shop to find what gauge is the most common.

Having a choice of equipment locally is certainly helpful in the opening phase.

As discussed H0 is model train gauge that is favored in the United States so if you live elsewhere it might be worth checking out OO or N gauge.

If you wish to learn more, its worth checking out our model railway guide:

N Scale Model Trains

it was during the early 1930s that the first sub HO gauges were tested out. N scale models trains were not operational or available commercially until around the early 1970s.

n guage model train size

  • mm = 9
  • scale = 1:160
  • preferred radius = 3ft

The main advantage of using n-scale model train is when you have very limited space. At first most model train enthusiasts would see n-scale model trains as a plan b.

The past decade has seen a revival of n-scale trains with the production of many ready-to-run models.

Now n-scale model trains are used to create layouts that are complex with several stations that allow for different routes.

If your are interested in hand building trains and coaches then this is not the scale for you. N-scale model trains and far too small for the average modeler to create. the benefit for many modelers of n-scale is the ability to create large architectural effects. N-scale model guage is perfect for a rail enthusiasts who enjoys the scenic modeling aspect of model railways.

if you have limited space or want to create a complex layout the n-scale model trains is the option for you.

For more information about n-scale model railway layout creation check out our guide.

Ultimate Guide to Model Railway Scenery – Part 1

A model railway without scenery is like a dog without fur. You need to learn how use scenery before you can ever hope to master the art of creating awesome train layouts.

This model railway scenery ultimate guide will show you how scenery can be used effectively for any model train layout.

Railway scenery can be split into two main categories.

1. Handmade

2. Bought

1. Handmade or built scenery is the cheapest option and for some types of model scenery it is also the only option (hills, rivers, rocks’¦etc) Handmade scenery can be very tricky to create properly and many railway beginners can end up with a lot of mess. We recommend getting solid advice before embarking on a large scenery project.

2. Bought or shop purchased model scenery is an option for people who higher budgets. A good quality finish is sometimes easy to achieve with bought scenery but it can start to get expensive.

Track Ballast scenery

Track ballast is the most important aspect of nearly every model railway train layout that your are likely to build. The ballast is the rocks/stones that are used under the tracks to add drainage and flexibility to the rail track.

A badly constructed ballast scenery can make even the most interesting train layout look amateur.

We have three possible options when it comes to creating ballast for our model railway:

1. Ballast Scatter

  • Paint the board a similar colour to your ballast
  • Next you literally scatter a mix of glue all over the board
  • Now Scatter the board liberally with your bag of model ballast and give it time to dry

2. Ballast Scatter Mat

  • You just buy a ballast mat from your local model train shop or ebay and then cut it to size and cover your board

Ballast scatter mats do not look as realist as homemade scatter as it looks too neat and tidy. Do you notice perfect ballast on your local train line?

3. Ballast Sponge Overlay

  • This stuff is a sponge material that already has ballast particles and is laid under your track. Not as realist as the other options but is very quick to install.

Model Hill Scenery

The next most important element of model scenery is the hills. Even intricate train layouts look flat and lifeless without the inclusion of gradient.

We have two main options when it comes to using hill scenery within your model railway layout.

1. Paper Mache

  • Very cheap to buy, you only need newspaper, water and glue.
  • Can be really fun and you can get the kids to join in with you

2. Modelling Rock

  • Relatively expensive and requires far more adult supervision
  • Tricky to get started on
  • Requires the use of a chicken wire frame and then you add the plaster impregnated fabric on top of this.

3. Polystyrene/Styrofoam

  • Very easy to create large hills with
  • A lot less messier than the other two options
  • Still very cheap and only just requires a little Polly fill to smooth the surfaces.

Update in the next few days to include: trees, rock faces, tarmac, buildings and bridges!

Choosing Your Model Train Scale

When designing your model railway layout, one of the first things to consider is determining which model train scale you’ll want to use.

Scale is the term used to identify the actual measurement of the model compared to its prototype. Your scale will determine the overall layout of your model railway, among other things.

Scale affects model railway layouts because it ultimately determines how big the train set will be, how much money can be devoted to your hobby, and whether you have the patience or the dexterity to detail with very small trains.

Luckily, there are quite a few options when it comes to selecting your model train scale.

Some of the more popular model train scales include:

  • O Scale ‘“ O Scale is usually used for general toy trains. This classic scale has been used by the Lionel Train Company since its inception. If you have younger children who enjoy the thrill of an impressive locomotive, or if your children are helping you construct your model railway, then an O scale may best suit your needs.

Most O scale trains run on AC current and feature standard, three-rail tracks. Because of their larger size, the scenery of O scale model railways layouts tend to be much smaller than the train, but this is usually not a problem for novice model railway train enthusiasts.

You can also find a nice variety of accessories when using O scale, which may make the process of building a model railway a bit more fun.

S Scale

  • S scale model trains are reminiscent of days past, so many baby boomers of today enjoy using S scale because it reminds them of the trains from their youth.

Although not as popular as the O scale model railways, you can certainly still find a nice selection of S scale accessories for different types of model railway layouts.

HO Scale

  • HO Scale – If you are new to mode railroading, then you will have likely already seen HO scale train sets.

HO scale offers model train builders the best of both worlds when working with model railway layouts. This is because it’s large enough to work with easily, and small enough to fit on a reasonably sized platform.

If you are looking for a scale that offers a huge variety of accessories and supplies, then look no further than the HO scale.

Z Scale

  • Z Scale ‘“ If you have a passion for model railways, but standard model railway layouts take up too much space, then consider the intricate Z scale.

Your ability to manipulate and maneuver the accessories and equipment of a Z scale may prove challenging, but it sure does make a fantastic accessory in your den or office.

The super-small Z scale is surely the most complex in terms of model railway layouts, but it can provide you with the opportunity to become a model railway builder, even if your space is at a minimum.

Choosing your model train scale first when deciding upon your model railway’s layout is the easiest way to get your train up and running. With a bit of forethought regarding your needs and desires, you can be showing off your model train sooner than you think!

Model Railway Locomotives

I have been modeling for almost 20 years now. This is what I think of the current state of locomotives:

Bachmann Spectrum Steam

– I bought two 2-8-0 Consolidations. These are decent runners, granted I am not to crazy about the cogged rubber band gear drive, but I have not had any problems with them.

Bachmann Spectrum Diesels

– The old adage “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. I have been fooled twice so shame on me. About 15 years ago I bought two Bachmann Spectrum GP35s. They both screamed right out of the box. I took them back to my local hobby shop and exchanged them for two Proto 2000 GP18s, which still run today on my layout. A couple of years later I bought a Bachman Plus B23-7. I got it home it would not run, I took it back to LHS and exchanged it for one that did. After a few hours it started to scream. I don’t care if Tony Koester, Alan McClelland, or any other famous modeler came back and told me the new Bachmann Diesels are great, I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER BACHMANN SPECTRUM DIESEL!!!


Three categories, the old Atlas with the Roco drives are crap. The Atlas with the Kato Drives are excellent. The Atlas locomotives with the Chinese drive built with the Kato Designed motor are just as good. I have no problem laying down hard earned money for an Atlas.


I love Kato. I have four. I have two SD45’s and two SD80macs. The Kato drives are consistent. Right out of the box I put my 80macs, and SD45 together in a consist. There speed is matched perfectly, not one locomotive pushed or pulled faster than the other. My only beef with Kato is with my eyes and not so nimble fingers. I think I counted close to 80 separately applied pieces to the 80mac. This included the antennas, grab irons, handrails, windshield wipers, brake cylinders and lines, couplers and separately applied individual air hoses. I believe I spent about 3-4 hours on each locomotive applying all those parts. Fortunately Kato supplied extra parts. Some manufacturers will supply any extra spares in case a grab iron goes flying through the air.

Proto 2000:

Great runners, if you are running straight DC you can have them running on your layout in the amount of time it takes to put on the couplers. If you are running DCC, you may spend an amount of time trying to figure out how to get the shell off, only to find there is one almost inaccessible screw that has to be undone to finally get the shell off. This screw is sometimes hidden by a truck.

Athearn RTR and Old Blue Box:

I ran the crap out of my old blue box Athearns. I have since updated some with Helix Humper motors, when I converted to DCC and they continue to soldier on. I knew this one hobby shop owner who had an Athearn running the display train everyday he was opened. He told me it was on its 5th or 6th year and probably had over 10,000 hours on it. He just lightly lubes periodically. I have since bought 3 Athearn RTR units. Two SD45’s and an SD40. I have no complaints so far.

Athearn Genesis, Steam and Diesel.

I bought an Genesis 2-8-2. It is sitting on my to-do shelf where it needs more weight in the front to keep it from derailing everytime it goes over a switch.

I have an Athearn Genesis SD60i. It is nice looking and runs nice. However, I will not take it out to run on my modular group’s layout or to a club. The detail is just too fine and delicate to put up with packing and
unpacking it. I will say this about the sound units. I do not like the MRC sound decoders, I have known too many people who have had some issues with them. For my SD60i I put in a Lok-Sound decoder and it is really nice. I also am planning to put a Lok-Sound into one of my SD45 rtr models.

Broadway Limited.

I have two SD40-2 Diesels that run like charms, these are equipped with QSI factory installed decoders. They are my favorite locomotives to run and I take them to shows and my old clubs open house. Broadway Limited Steam. I have three steamers. The only one I had problem with was the N&W A class steamer. I had to send it back to Broadway on two separate occasions.

One was warranty covered, the other time was out of warranty and it might have partly been my
fault. Both times within a week after they received it Broadway, fixed and had it back to me. One time I shipped it out on a Friday and had it back on my layout running on the very next Thursday night, six days! Their service guy even sent even called me to discuss what was going on. I also have a Precision Craft Models (associated with Broadway Limited), steamer. No problems with that unit. My only complaint with Broadway is that they announce a product and you have to wait forever until it shows up. For example, they announced the SD40-2 high hood back in the fall of 2006 and then kept pushing back the date. Their website now says it will be March 2009.

Model Railway Layouts

Before you start to build any model railway you need to decide on what model railway layout you are going to use.

I am going to offer a number of resources that will help you to design and build the perfect model railway layout.

First things first you need to beg, steal or buy a copy of “Model Railroad Bridges & Trestles: A Guide to Designing and Building Bridges for Your Layout (Model Railroad Handbook, No 33)” as this book will teach you how to plan your layout from start to finish with clear diagrams and descriptions.

If your budget stretches, I would also look at getting a copy of “Railway Modelling: The complete guide”, which is a hardback book that will offer help and advice for all aspects of model railway building.

Starting out there are three main railway layouts to choose from:

1. Oval model railway layout:

This is your basic layout that most people start with when they buy a model train starter kit.


  • Cheap and easy to set up
  • Trains can run continuously without a change of direction


  • Not very realistic (how many oval railway layouts do you see in real life?)
  • Train can look like its chasing its own tail

2. Covered Oval Model Railway Layout

This is the most popular railway layout used and is very similar to the oval layout but this time a part of the track is covered.


  • Looks more realistic than oval


  • Can cost a lot more as more scenery is required

3. Straight model railway Layout

This railway layout is used to set a scene and is just a straight length of track that ends at both sides of the baseboard.


  • Very realistic
  • Does not use much space


  • Requires skills to change train direction
  • More difficult to manage

You need to choose a model railway layout that fits your needs. If this is your first layout – keep it small, you can alway add extra track later!

Image thanks goes to: www.newrailwaymodellers.co.uk

The Beginners Guide to Model Railway Trains

Here’s a simple guide for anyone wishing to get involved with Model Railways.


Before you jump into purchasing the track, trains and accessories it’s worth doing a little bit of research first.

Free Resources

The following websites should be bookmarked:
http://espee.railfan.net/clubs.html (Find your local model railroad club)
http://home.centurytel.net/pitch/home/link_page/howto.htm (Great layout information)
http://www.naisp.net/mfischer/m_train2.htm (Some great N scale layout ideas)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N_scale (Get some background info on N scale)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OO_gauge (Get some background info on OO scale)

Other Resources

Whilst the Internet does contain a lot of free resources ‘“ it will save you a lot of time if you purchase, or check out from the library, the following books:

The Professional Approach to Model Railways

and subscribe to the following magazine:
model railroader
Subscribe with Amazon here

Decide on a Layout

Use the books, websites and magazines to find a layout you like.

A good tip is to use graph paper to first sketch out the layout. It is far less expensive to make errors on graph paper rather than when you’re using plywood and track! I often make hundred off errors whilst in the layout stage which have required only an eraser to fix rather than spending hours removing track.

What board material should I use?

Once your layout is perfect on your graph paper you now need to decide what board to use. The main options are plywood, MDF and softboard such as Sundelia.

MDF and Plywood
Benefits: Very Strong
Drawbacks: Both need powered tools to cut them

Benefits: Can cut with a sharp knife.
Drawbacks: No strength which makes fitting Point Motors difficult

I would personally go for using MDF but if using power tools would be a problem then please go for the soft board option.

Remember the Frame

Remember that all boards will require a softwood timber frame (2×1 inch).

How do I add hills?

To add realism to your base board you will want to have rolling hills – in order to add these contours you will need to add layers of green pulpboard (the stuff used under laminate flooring). A craft knife can be used to carve round curves between the layers.

Trains and Track

A cheap way to purchase trains and track is to purchase a ‘starter’ kit:

N scale starter kitshttp://www.bachmanntrains.com (A good selection)

OO Scale starter kitshttp://www.hornby.com/sets-123/category.html (Range from £40+)

What controller should you use?

Digital controllers are now very cheap and are far easier to use than analogue systems, as only two wires are used to feed the track. Remember not to loop the track back on itself or you will cause a short circuit. Digital controllers also allow a number of trains to run on the same track.

My last piece of advice to budding model railway enthusiasts would be to keep your first layout simple and – above all – have fun!

Model Railway Trains

Those of you who are interested in collecting model railways will understand the importance of getting all the right information about your Model Railway Trains before purchase.

Model Railway trains can vary from the steam railway trains of the 19th Century to the electric modern trains seen on the tracks today.


The First Model Railway trains made available where called “Carpet Trains” but were crude representations when compared with model trains today. Today even the cheapest model railway trains are highly accurate models of the trains they signify.

If you create a highly accurate model layout, the amount of money that one spends on Model Railways Trains and track can get very costly.

Without up to date pricing and market knowledge, it can become a daunting task when it comes to buying new railway trains and track. One guide that I think every serious collector must have, is the 2008 Model Railroader Magazine. As it is excellent in giving you a guide on what’s also out there, and also what other enthusiasts are saying their Model Railway Trains are worth.

If you are looking to purchase model railroad trains, this is a good resource. The content concentrates on performance reviews of model railway trains and accessories. If you want to know about the latest model trains and how well they work (or don’t), this is the magazine for you

I think this is an absolute must have for someone who really is serious about purchasing theirModel Railway Trains and/or Model Railway Collection.