Some Things You Should Know About Model Railways

Have you seen model railways? A lot of children are really amazed by these model railways. It is basically a hobby wherein the railway systems are reduced and modeled at a certain ratio or scale. Scale models usually include canyons, hills, streams, lights, model figures, vehicles, buildings, roads, signaling, tracks, streetcars, rolling stock, and locomotives.

The very first model railways were created way back in the 1840’s and was called ‘carpet railways’. The model trains were not very detailed but today’s model trains are quite realistic. Modelers these days can create railroad layouts or model railways based on certain history periods and even real locations.

Hobbyists can spend many hours and even large sums of money on the model railways. Their possessions are not limited to train sets only since it includes the scenery or landscape. Some models are even big enough for a person to ride. The older models are pricier but hobbyists don’t hesitate to spend their money.

The layouts are also very attractive. It’s typical to see oval and circle tracks. Since a scale is followed, the model railways are very realistic. Two of the most popular models are the Miniature Wunderland and Train Mountain.

The trains have engines and sizes that can vary. The largest and ridable trains are around 28″ tall and the smallest is the 1:220 (Z-scale). Last 2007, a new scale was introduced – 1:450 in a 3 millimeter gauge track. Among the popular scales are Gauge 1, G Scale, S Scale, O Scale, N Scale, TT Scale, and the HO Scale. A lot of hobbyists prefer the T Gauge and the Z Scale but the HO Scale remains on top. You can also find narrow-gauge scales like HOn3, Sn3, and Nn3 Scale.

Most modelers give much attention to the layout or landscaping. It’s like creating a dream world based in historical and actual locations. In model railways, the landscape is called scenicking or scenery building. The scenery is often prepared using cardboard strips, screen wire, Styrofoam sheets, casting plaster, paper pulp, lightweight foam, plaster of Paris, colored sawdust, scatter materials, natural lichen, balsa wood, caspia, candytuft, sagebrush, and many others.

The model engines are powered by DC electricity but only low voltage is required. Some models use AC power like the Lionel Corporation and Marklin. You can also find gasoline-electric engine models which are based on the diesel-electric locomotives. Pricier engines are the large scale ones like the petrol-hydraulic and petrol-mechanical models

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.

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!