N Scale Model Railroading for Beginners

A lot of new modelers are confused between ‘scale’ and ‘gauge’. Oftentimes, they use these terms interchangeably but you see, these words mean two different things. The scale is defined as the proportion of the model (e.g. locomotive) in relation to a real train. On the other hand, gauge is defined as the distance between rails. The N scale is really quite popular today and the locomotives for this scale are 1:160 as well as the roads, trees, figures, automobiles, and buildings. Most of the N scale models make use of the standard gauge tracks wherein the rails are 4’ 81/2”.

If you want to create the best model railway layout for the N scale, you need to enjoy the hobby. There is no sense in doing something that you don’t love or when you’re not having fun. It is possible to create a functional and realistic layout with the N scale. Even if you’re not that experienced yet, you can develop new skills as time passes by. As a beginner, it would be a good move to do a lot of things for the layout. You should explore the many ways, techniques, and materials that you can use for your layout. If you see any mistakes, you need to correct them at once. Starting out with a small model railway layout is ideal and you must keep it simple. N scale layouts are not that hard to create.

Why don’t you make use of the existing resources that you find online? There are already copies and instructions on how to build a simple N scale layout which includes the detailing and scenery. You can stick with a certain technique first but as you gain experience you can now try new ones.

If you see mistakes in your layout, correct is at once. For instance, if you are not satisfied with the mountain’s appearance, you can change or improve it. There are many brands that you can choose from and you just need to stick to only one brand. That way, you can have a realistic model railway layout in the N scale. There is no right and no wrong when designing the layout. The requirements and needs of modeler vary and you’re free to choose your own designs or concepts.

Since the N scale is a bit small, this might be a challenging scale to work on especially for beginners. Still, if you don’t want to use the bigger scales, the N scale can be a great choice. Hobby shops are not always present in local areas, so if you can’t find one you can start shopping online. There are many online stores that offer a reasonable price for N scale model trains and accessories. Set aside a budget for the model layout and start shopping online. You can experiment on DIY sceneries. Start with simple ones like trees, grasslands, lakes, etc. The raw materials can save you lots of money and will bring out your creative side.

Hurry and have fun creating your N scale model railroads.


Steps on How to Build a Model Train Table

A model railway layout will not be possible if you don’t have a model train table. This will serve as the base that will hold the weight of the entire layout. Because of this, you need to ensure that the table is strong and durable. The standard tables found in your house are usually not a good option. The drawbacks are too obvious and it can ruin a beautiful layout. If you’re really serious with model railway layouts, you need to get a quality table.

Ordinary tables are not that good. Using your dinner table is not a good idea because your family will soon complain about it. These standard tables have no holes to feed the wiring or power cables. It would a great idea to build your own model train table but the question is – how?

You need to be choosy when building the table for the layout. The ideal table should be sturdy and will include the basic structures like a top, bracing mechanisms, and 4 legs. The common height for the table is 28 inches but you can choose the desired height that will suit your project. The parts of the table can be purchased in local stores or from online stores that sell wood or steel products. Get a top that is strong and don’t forget to put some cross braces, just to be sure.

Decide on the shape of the table. You can make a square, round, or rectangular table but you can also create other shapes. Next, decide on the style of the table’s legs. You can not limited to square legs because you can also get the cabriole, farm, flared, taper, trestle, and turned. The underside of the table should also have a ‘finish’ to make the table more attractive. The raw materials for the table can be purchased from a local store and you will just need to cut and nail or screw them together. To ensure a stronger table, you can use wood glue as well. To create a leveled table, you can use clamps and squares.

If you think that this DIY is too much, then you can just buy a used table from a consignment or garage sale. For the holes, you can just drill them. You can make the table look new once more by sanding it and later on applying a new paint color. Even if the focus of the audience is on the model layout, it still pays to create a good base. Everything should look perfect and if you can make a good quality table, your layout will surely look its best.

The table’s raw materials are not that expensive and you can save a lot of money if you build your own layout base. However, you must be prepared to invest time and effort to create the perfect table. What are you waiting for? Follow these steps and in no time at all, you will have a good looking table to work on. Next step… the model railway layout!

Quick Guide To Model Railway Layouts

Who wouldn’t be familiar with the model railway layouts? Even children are already interested in building their own layouts. Some modelers even started with their model railway Matchbox pieces and Lego toys. Soon, the model railways became more realistic and with complex designs. Creating the entire layout can take time but this will depend on the size of the layout. You can even modify if you wish to add more details.

Depending on the space that is available in your home or office, you can already determine the appropriate size of your locomotives and tracks. For instance, if you have large available space, you can opt for the O scale but if you have a much smaller space, you might want to use N scale or the Ho scale. So far, the latter is the most popularly used by most professional modelers.

Today, modelers are using OO, N, HO, and O. The OO is widely used in the United Kingdom. The accessories for these popular scales are also available worldwide. It’s up to you whether you will create an ordinary model railway or the ones with complex designs, landscape features, and perfectly-scaled architecture.

You can find modelers who don’t give much importance to the scenery because they are simply after the model trains and tracks. The surrounding designs are merely additions. Children can start learning to make the model railways especially if they have great interest in locomotives.

Sharing the model railway layout with others is probably one of the best ways to enjoy your project. If you want others to see your beautiful masterpiece, you can place the layout in the living room or any other place where others can see it. Just make sure that the table is strong enough to handle the usual bumps coming from viewers.

If you’re that serious with model railway layouts, you can try making a replica of a real railway. All you have to do is to get a picture of the railway and copy it as is. This can be time consuming and expensive since you will need to get all accessories that looks the same as the model railway. Even the tiniest detail should be given much attention. Creative modelers also try to create their own model railway that is uniquely theirs and can’t be found anywhere in the world.

Finding retailers that sell model railway accessories is also very easy these days with the help of the internet. The accessories include automobiles, people, buildings, and trees. Over time, modelers have learned to create their own people and other accessories. All they need are some raw materials and they can create the accessories from scratch. This will take a lot of creativity and time but it’s worth the effort. You will need things like board pieces, paint, glue, Styrofoam, glue, grater, and many others raw materials. Ponds, mountains, hills, and cliffs are usually made the modelers themselves. You too can create these structures by simply following some great tips online.

So, have you decided to build your own model railway? Getting started is not as hard as you think. Why don’t you get the starter kits? Beginners are not that good yet and the starter kits may be an excellent choice. As you gain experience, you can now create better and more realistic model railways.

A tabletop is necessary to get started. You can choose a Z or N scale for the tabletop since the larger scales will require more space. Make sure that the location of the model railway is clean, dry, and has adequate source of electricity. To make things easier, you can work on the sceneries first before you lay down the tracks and the locomotives. Building mountains and other features can get really messy and so you can avoid a messy track if you lay them down last.

O scales are also quite popular these days despite their larger size. Detailing is much easier with these larger scales and it’s also suitable for those who are just starting out. Working out on the features and sceneries is easier because of the much bigger size but it can also get expensive.

Learn everything you can about model railway layouts and you will find it easier to invest on this kind of project.

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.


How to build 2mm Model Railway Layouts (Q and A)

First what does a beginner do to start getting into 2mm model railway layouts?

– The 2mm Scale Association website (www.2mm.org.uk)

– A booklet called “The Beginner’s Guide to 2mm Modelling” from the 2mm Scale Association.

And you’ll pretty much have to join the 2mm Scale Association to get the bits you need to make the model.

If you are quick off the mark, you could sign up for a day-long tutorial on getting started in Oxford in December

Can I use Steam or use a diesel shunter?

Its slightly harder for both DCC and 2mm in that there are not many easy to convert small N steam locos around. Would a Farish 04 diesel be acceptable; its a bit easier to convert ?

If happy with a bigger locomotive, a new Farish class 37 runs excellently, converts to 2mm very easily, and has a DCC decoder socket inside it.

If you are willing to build your own locos (or assemble 2mm kits) then steam is practical.

I want to do the inglenook layout like the one above, and I think I want to go straight to DCC because of the better slow operation it allows (is this correct?)

Yes in my experience. Clive Road runs extremely well under DCC, I was using it a few weeks ago with its current owner.

But DCC won’t hide basic mistakes; track needs to be level and clean. Locomotives need to pickup from all their wheels, etc.

But I don’t yet know enough about 2mm – what exactly is different in scale – everything? Do I need to get 2mm specific everything? Or just the gauge?

Depends how pedantic you get about scale. Officially 2mm is 1:152, whereas British N gauge is 1:148. If you are a total purist you will therefore build all your stock to 1:152. However, most modellers I know use a mixture, at least when starting out.

At a minimum you will be:

1) Building your own model railway layouts, or commissioning someone to make it for you (not expensive, around £15/turnout from the track builder I know).
2) Rewheeling N rolling stock, a simple matter of removing old wheels and dropping in
new ones.
3) Converting N locomotives. In some cases the wheel tread can be turned to a 2mm profile and the back-to-back adjusted. This tends to work better for diesels, though is possible for some steam locomotives.

Optionally, you will be:
4) Building finescale kit rolling stock; either for items not available commercially, or because you think the finescale item looks better than the commercial one (eg. contrast Stephen Harris kit mineral wagons with any plastic ones, and appearance wise, the Harris ones win. But they cost more and take time to assemble).
5) Building finescale locomotives. There are a handful of complete 2mm scale locomotive kits, the majority being North Eastern prototypes.
6) Changing the couplings on N stock to something smaller and capable of remote operation. The Clive Road pictures will show DG couplers which are opened by an electromagnet below the baseboard, once open the wagon can be propelled into a siding and left behind. There are numerous coupling options with various pros and cons.

For the DCC side, you just need a decent chip in your locomotives. Suggest you buy either Zimo 620 or CT Elektronik DCX74 or DCX75. They run really well with small motors at low speeds. If picking a DCC (or analogue) controller for such a simple layout, then don’t go overboard on keys; you’ll only have one or two locomotives so won’t need to select from a thousand ! Feeling good in your hand is the critical issue; there are quite a few decent and not overly expensive options.

> Finally, what books/resources can I go off and read and then get going I don’t yet even though what sort of stuff I should be putting on an inglenook, as I do want it to be realistic, so don’t want to just go off and fo my own thing, if it is unrealistic and not what such siding would be used for.

In some respects you are starting from the wrong position; the Inglenook concept was a “trainset” shunting puzzle. If looking for a prototype, you need to dig around to find a small siding or industrial yard of about that arrangement and work up from it. In steam days before Beeching, there were many on minor branch lines (I can think of half a dozen within 8 miles of my home in rural Suffolk).

Alternatively, look at more modern items such as loco stabling and refueling points.

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.

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 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