Model Train Information

Model trains have captured hobbyists for so long. It is a magnificent way to spend time and to express your artistic talent. There are many several aspect of model trains other then just collecting the locomotives. The model train hobby also includes building scenery as well as learning all the knowledge that goes along with model trains like scales and gauges.

The scale of a model train refers to the size of a model train to the large real prototype. The four most popular scales of model trains are G, O, HO, and N. G scale which has a ratio of 1:22 and the O scale which has a ratio of 1:48 are grouped together into the larger-scale trains category. They run on a No. 1 track. HO scale has a ratio of 1:87 and ot is half the size smaller then the O scale. HO literally stands for half an O. The N scale has a ratio of 1:160 and is a half a size smaller then the HO scale. They all have their purposes and good points. Other less popular scales are the S scale, the TT scale and the Z scale. The S scale has a ratio of 1:64. TT scale has a ratio of 1:120 which is slightly larger the N scale. And the Z scale has a ratio of 1:220 which is even smaller the n the N scale.

When model train enthusiasts talk about gauge, they are referring to the size of the track between the two rails of track. With so many different manufacturers making trains and tracks, they all had to agree upon certain sizes that would make so that trains and tracks were interchangeable. A standard gauge is usually four feet and eight and a half inches. A narrow gauge is a term used for rails that are closer together than the standard gauge. It is usually around three feet to three and a half feet.

Another large aspect of model trains is the sceneries. Train hobbyist place and run their trains through landscape layouts. These layouts can be designed and created to fit the vision of the hobbyist. They are free to include mountains, trees, rock formations, valleys hills or fields and meadows. A dramatic effect can include bodies of water like ponds, lakes, rivers, streams or even waterfalls. Figuring out where to pay your track with in your landscape is fun as well as creative. Your track can be laid in a way that enables your train to be continuously running in a loop. It can be laid in a basic oval shape, a figure eight, twice around which is two loops or in a dogbone shape. It is a good idea to lay your track in a wide curve so that the train does not derail.

Building model trains is such a large part of the world of hobbies. People young and old have gotten caught up in its thrill and excitement. One of the most exciting parts of building model trains is being able to share the experience with your kids or your grand kids.

5 of the World’s Greatest Model Railways

Discover some of the longest model railways in the world.

1. Wunderland ‘“ Hamburg ‘“ Germany


This model railway took 500,000 working hours and is stretched over 4km² with plans to increase this to 6km² in 2014. The model rail track runs for 9km at a cost of 7.3 million Euros.

2. Loxx Model railway



Named Loxx after the German word Loks meaning locomotives. This model railway took over 200,000 labour hours to create and has 4.15km of track.

Check out the Loxx railway in action with this video:

3. Gainsborough Model Railway



This is described as one of the largest model railways in ‘O’ gauge and it depicts the East Coast Main Line from London King Cross (UK) to Leeds Central. The rail track runs for 0.8km (1/2 mile) and requires at least 10 operators for it to run successfully.

4. Toggenburg Model Railway

This is Europe’s largest type ‘O’ model railway and is situated in the town of Lichtensteig in Switzerland.
Toggenburg model railway boasts 1.2km of track on an area of 500m squared.

5. Northlandz Model Railway

Northlandz is the world’s largest miniature railway and took 25 years of dedication which is clear from looking at the photos. It has 8 miles of track and what is even more impressive is that it has over 4,000 buildings and 1/2 million trees!

6. Sierra Pacific lines by Pasadena Model Railroad Club

The Sierra Pacific lines has 30,000ft of hand laid steel track and is the largest ‘HO’ model railway in the world. This model railway was started in 1940 and from end to end it takes a train one hour to complete the route.

Model Railway Layout

There are as many model railway layouts as there are model railway enthusiasts, and then some! There are model railway builders who create replicas of real world track layouts that are perfect down to the tiniest detail. And there are others who make a model railway layout that only exists on the train table. Both ways are fine: there’s enough room for every design when it comes to model railroads.

There are a number of retailers selling accessories for every scale train layout. You can buy trees, buildings, automobiles, even people that are made for a certain scale model railway layout. You can even order custom made accessories built to your exact specifications.

But you can also build your own landscaping for your model railway layout, and there are some model railway hobbyists who wouldn’t have it any other way. You can, for instance, build your own berm on either side of the tracks using Styrofoam, a grater, glue, paint, and pieces of board to put it on. Did you know that you can create a realistic pond by cutting out wax paper and painting it? The smooth surface gives it a realistic look.

A pebble makes a fine mountainside boulder, and you can imitate cultivated fields with dry coffee grounds (smells nice, too!). You can even make your own trees using steel wool for the canopies and bits of wire for the trunk and branches. Realistic snow is not always easy to make. Some people use talc, and some people make snow that looks realistic, but actually forms a solid layer on the scenery. This, of course, produces less of a mess. To do this, you mist the scenery you want snow on with water, then sift small amounts of white gypsum cement over it. If you keep doing this in thin layers: mist/sprinkle/let dry several times, you can get a realistic looking snow scene.

The most important thing when building your model railway layout is not to be afraid to try something new. You may not be great at making papier mache mountains yet, but with practice you could become an expert.

How to Get Started Building Model Train Layouts

The ride home from obtaining your first model train layout and accessories is an amazingly slow journey if you’re itching to get home and start running model trains. Fortunately, there are enough train enthusiasts that obtaining the things you need to build a model train layout is not difficult. But the steps of how to get started building model train layouts actually begin before you start setting up.

You need anything from a clear tabletop to an entire room for creating your model train layout. For little N-scale or Z-scale models, a generous tabletop is enough for a fairly elaborate layout. For larger models, like O-scale and G-scale, more room will be necessary. The place you choose for your model train layout needs to be dry, fairly clean, and have adequate electricity. And you need to choose a location where people won’t trip over electrical cords.

If you want to be practical about it, you should set up your scenery first and then add the tracks and trains. This way you’re less likely knock trains and tracks askew when adding mountains, buildings, or other features. Realistically, however, most model rail enthusiasts are more interested in getting those tracks put down and actually running the trains on them.

If you are not sure what kind of layout to create, there are dozens of websites with suggestions and instructions on exactly how to replicate a certain layout. If you plan to create a model railway layout as a replica of an actual rail line, you might start with photos from Google Earth. Joining a train enthusiast web forum will hook you up with other model railway builders, most of whom will be happy to share their expertise and tips with you. One of the greatest rewards for all your hard work building model train layouts will be sharing it with others who are just as excited about it as you are.

Model Train Layout Plans

The near-universal use of the Internet has been a great means for model train enthusiasts to ‘meet’ others and share descriptions and pictures of model train layouts and model train layout plans. Whether you run trains for the fun of making them go through all the twists and turns of track successfully, or whether you have created a replica of a real train line or town, there are plenty of people all over the world who share your vision.

click for bigger version
click for bigger version

Model train layout plans can easily be shared over the Internet. Whether hand-drawn and photographed, or created with the aid of design software, there is an entire world of model train hobbyists sharing their layout plans online, and who are glad to discuss them in chat forums. Making layout plans has come a long way in recent years due to great improvements in computer graphics capabilities.

A simple search on Google using the words model train layout software produces over 2 million matches! You can find professional-level design software, open source software, and free downloads for model train layout design software. (Always remember to be careful who you download software from. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software at all times.)

But you don’t have to have software to design model train layouts. After all, people were designing model train routes decades before computers became common enough and powerful enough to help out. And sometimes an idea comes to you when you’re not near a computer and the best you can do is sketch out a rough design on a paper napkin or in a memo book.

Every model train lover has had ideas for layouts that were inspired by unusual things. Creating model train layout plans is an art in itself, whether it is done by hand on paper, or with the assistance of a computer.

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:

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!

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.

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: (Find your local model railroad club) (Great layout information) (Some great N scale layout ideas) (Get some background info on N scale) (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 kits (A good selection)

OO Scale starter kits (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.