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.

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!