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!

6 thoughts on “The Beginners Guide to Model Railway Trains”

  1. My father is teaching me how he builds layouts I had no idea how involved they can get. I wanted to surprise him with a new locomotive but I’m holding off for now. He designs layouts specifically around a certain date so I want to see which locomotives ran and where they ran before I decide. I know it doesn’t matter for a lot of people but he likes to be accurate. I never even thought of any of this before.

    Like you he’s a Kato fan too. He just got a Penn. RR GG1. He’s going to make a Harrisburg station, so he can run the E8A too. He’s always wanted a Pennsylvania RR layout but got the idea from an article in Model Railroader.

  2. Model Railway Trains – they are defenitely for big boys. Men always buy something like that for their sons but all the fun is in the end on the grown ups site;)

  3. Hello.I am a scratch builder junky.I build from junk you throw away.Been at this a bunch of years so have many builds if anyone is interested in learning to build your own and save huge amounts of cash.Plus the benefit is you will injoy what you built way better than over payed plastic junk.I do a lot of miniature scenic,bikes from left over led posts,satilight dishes to much more.I also take non working signals and such and make work.I also do my own street lights and railway crossings.interested drop me a line.or if this site incourages hand made stuff do the same drop me a line.

  4. I have got read some excellent stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
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