Model railroading – what does it take to build your own model railroad?

Modelling/Recreational activities
Chandler Lee
Model railroading – what does it take to build your own model railroad?
It takes approx. 3 minutes to read this article

Reconstructing your favorite train routes is a pastime that gained a lot of popularity in the 19th century, when the first models of newly built trains hit the rails. However, this hobby still has its enthusiasts today. Take advantage of the knowledge of specialists and start your adventure with this unusual activity!

Scale of the model

The first issue you should think about is the size of the model. The standard scale for railroad layouts is H0. This is the size in which most layouts are built, as well as the tools needed to build one yourself from scratch. Equally popular are TT, Z, and N scales, although these are now more historical in nature. Each of these was popularized by a different brand, so they are now difficult to purchase commercially.

In model railroading, you can also find larger sizes of mock-ups. Examples include scale 1 or 0. The latter is still produced today. Of the more substantial sizes, however, the most popular is the 2 scale model railroad, which is otherwise known as a garden railroad. The plastic used for its production is resistant to changing weather conditions, including rain or sunlight, so it is perfect as a piece of garden equipment.


After choosing the size of the model is the question of the surface which is to be its base. Ready-made substrates are available in model stores, but making them on your own should not cause the modeler any major problems. One of the most popular materials that works well as a high and stable base is styrofoam. The shape of the track can be easily cut out of special blocks. The cut out pieces need to be glued, stormed and leveled, so that the train can move freely on them. On the prepared blocks you can lay out the tracks and start preparing further parts of the surface. Fragments cut out of polystyrene should be spread over the entire length of the model, making it an even surface. The part that is to form the terrain surrounding the railroad can be filled with materials for shaping the surface, sprinkles imitating grass or ready-made grass mats, filling resembling water, stones or gravel.

Space-filling accessories

On such a prepared and protected model one can start laying decorative elements. In this section the modeler has the opportunity to demonstrate his creativity or historical knowledge. Ready-made landscape elements can be purchased at any model store. The most popular are vegetation: hedges, trees or bushes, roads, streets, highways near the train route or crossing tracks, bridges, viaducts, footbridges, tunnels, portals, dams, walls, as well as surrounding buildings – for example, houses, farms, factories or railroad stations. On a railroad layout you shouldn’t also miss markers, traffic lights, road signs and figures that will fill the space at the station or around the house you’ve built.

Necessary tools

Preparation of such an extensive and advanced model requires the appropriate tools and materials. On the list of the most necessary purchases, in addition to Styrofoam, you should also find: modeling glue, universal track base, tiles, profiles, fillers for the model (such as rock building material or putty), nano thread, masking tape, fixative spray or base paste. To expand your modeling venture, you can invest in a backdrop or seasonal elements that imitate winter (such as self-adhesive snow).

The toolkit necessary for a model railroad layout should include a modeling knife, spatula, level, tape measure, tweezers, magnifying glass handles, dispenser, file, brush set, and painting necessities and paints.

Featured photo: Pixabay

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