Model Railroading For The Beginner

A small team track area on layout. Phot credit: James, Model Railway

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Last Updated on 2 months ago by James from Model Railway Techniques



  1. I really enjoy reading about model trains and all the details that go into it.  I also appreciate how you explain the model sizing.  This can be very confusing to new users.  While I was never able to keep a steady hand, my grandfather let me help him with his train town.  He called it Pip Squeak Railways after us grandkids.  Thank you for sharing this information, my son is now looking to join a model train club.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Tammy. It really is great to hear stories like yours of Model Railroading being enjoyed across generations. Congrats on your son joining a club, I hope you both come back to see the many articles that will be coming out soon.


  2. This article provides a great introduction to model railroading for beginners. I appreciate how it covers the basics, including the various scales and sizes available, as well as the different types of tracks and locomotives. The tips on planning and designing a layout are also very helpful for someone just starting out in this hobby. Overall, this article is a great resource for anyone interested in exploring the fascinating world of model railroading.

    1. Thank you Aly! We will be expanding on those ideas soon with more in depth articles. Check back or spread the word, we would appreciate it.


  3. What a great article.  Your information on how to get started brought back so many memories of my childhood.  So I’m in my fifties and when I was a kid I had an HO set.  I even had the bi-centennial series of the locomotive, 2 cars, and the caboose.  My father got me a big piece of OSB and we put down the grass paper and build an entire city.  It was a good time.  I still have my trains in a box in the attic but haven’t set them up and run them in over 40 years!

    Looks like I’ve got something to do in 2023!

    1. That’s great to hear Brian, I’m glad I inspired you to get your Model Trains out of the attic! I remember the Tyco Bicenntnnial Set from when I was a child too (I’m 55) I really hope you decide to put something together and get back into the hobby. If you need any help along the way I’m always happy to assist you.


  4. I grew up in a family with only girls, so we never had a model railway, but we used to go to a friend’s house and play with her brother’s Hornby railway set. I knew there were different sizes of tracks and trains, but did not realise that N scale and HO are the most popular, and therefore has a bigger selection than the other sizes. 

    Are any of the scales interchangeable? Do you know which scale is Hornby? Or are there different scales within Hornby? Or is it a case of each brand will only make one scale? 

    1. Hello Line, thanks for taking the time to visit Model Railway and leaving a comment. I think it’s wonderful you have childhood memories of trains and Model Railroading! to answer your questions, strictly speaking, no the scales are not interchangeable. They are based on different ratio factors (hence the name scale) and as such have different sizes to them. For example, HO Scale is 1:87, which means the model is 1/87th the size of the real thing. N Scale is 1:160, making it 1/160th the size of the real prototype train. Hope that makes sense. This is not to say however that one could not mix scales on a single layout. Some Model Railroaders do this intentionally, placing large scale models up front closer to the viewer, and smaller scale models in the background. This results in a ‘forced perspective’ and also allows them to enjoy both scales at once. Regarding your question on Hornby, that manufacturer is mostly prevalent in the UK and Europe, being a British train manufacturer. They offer 2 sizes or scales, HO and OO. The latter being more obscure outside of the aforementioned areas of the globe. They are very similar in scale ratio with HO being 1:87 as mentioned, and OO being 1:76. And finally, yes, some manufacturers only focus and produce one scale of trains, usually as a subsidiary of a larger parent company. The only large company that I know of that specializes in one scale is LGB, originated in Germany. They produce very large 1:22 scale trains typically referred to as garden railways since due to their size, outdoors is the only practical place to put them. Hope I answered your questions and be sure to check back again.
      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  5. Well done, James! Your enthusiasm for model railroading is evident. I like how you address some of the typical beginner problems, such as where to start, what size of model trains to buy, and where to get model railroad equipment. Your assurance that no special expertise or abilities are required to begin this activity is reassuring, and it will undoubtedly inspire many newcomers to take the plunge.
    I really appreciate your focus on patience and taking the time to learn and grow over time, as well as the necessity of having fun and enjoying the process.
    I’m curious to know what are some common mistakes to avoid when it comes to tracking planning and layout design.
    I am looking forward to learning more from your future posts!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Miki, thank you for visiting Model Railway, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. To answer your question, the biggest mistake I find new Model Railroaders making is trying to add too many elements within a given space. Often times after looking at other Model Railroaders’ layouts the excitement and enthusiasm sets in, and they rush into building a Model Railroad layout. Model Railroaders and train enthusiast alike often have certain elements in their mind that remind them of real railroads. From sprawling locomotive servicing facilities with a roundhouse, to epic mountain scenery, to intricate and interesting railroad bridges,they want to include them all. What they fail to realize though is that each of these elements or objects serve a real purpose and function in the real world. Then, inevitably, they struggle to make these elements look more realistic and believable. This leads to costly mistakes in time and money redoing their layout, and sadly this can lead to eventual abandonment of the hobby. I will be writing a much more in-depth article aimed specifically at helping beginners and seasoned Model Railroaders alike to help avoid these mistakes, so be sure to check back soon. Thank you for the comment, it is much appreciated.
      James, model Railway Techniques.

  6. I actually had a train that looked like the one in the images that you have shown here. And I have actually also some interest when it comes to model railroading. I have also some experience, and I can say that what you are saying are true, this post was very informative, and I like it a lot. Keep up the hard work!

    1. Awesome to hear Jonathan, model railroading truly is a hobby that you never really give up in my opinion, even if you don’t have the time or space to build a layout…or do you? i plan on sharing some ideas in the future so that people can enjoy model railroading even in a small space or budget I’m glad you enjoyed the content, and If you feel like you want to pick up the hobby again sometime in the future, I hope you come back and visit us. I have some pretty good posts in mind for upcoming topics, and the more users like yourself who engage in commenting, the more others will feel comfortable doing likewise. Thanks for visiting Model Railway Techniques.


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