Showing posts with label Railroad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Railroad. Show all posts

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Model Train Layouts - Choosing a Theme For Your Model Railroad

Model Train Layouts - Choosing a Theme For Your Model Railroad

In the model train hobby, a lot of what you'll do will flow from the theme that you've chosen for your model railroad. From scenery to rolling stock, from track to power supplis, everything will depend on your theme.

When it comes right down to it, theme is all about what you want to do.

Choosing a theme is all about:

an era
a setting
an operating style

Model Train Eras:

There are three main eras for model trains: steam, modern, and transition.

1. The Steam Era covers everything from the Wild West (1870s) up to World War II (1940s), but for most people the steam era pretty much covers the 1930s to 1940s. The visual appeal and nostalgic elements of intricate models of steam engines pulling a train of rail cars are tough to beat.

2. The Modern Era generally means today's trains, although it could conceivably cover anything from the 1960s to today. The modern era can cover everything from ultramodern diesels pulling intermodal trains to commuter trains and everything in between, but for most people a modern era train layout will show locomotives, rolling stock, buildings, and scenery that you would expect to see on the rails today.

3. The Transition Era is that peroid between the 1940s and 1950s when both steam and diesel locomotives travelled the rails as steam was being phased out and diesel was being phased in. The transition era is best for modelers who want to run both steam and diesel engines on the same tracks true to prototype--in short, modelers who want the best of both worlds.

While you're considering your choice of era, you may want to factor in the availability of material for the different eras at the hobby and online retailers. There tends to be much more modern-day rolling stock and model kits available to the consumer than steam-era, and often at much lower prices as well. Even train sets, which can be a great source of lower-cost locomotives and rolling stock are usually modern-era. Even the second-hand market, such as ebay and flea markets, tends to have a lot more modern-era items available.

You will also want to consider how much of a model-railroad purist you want to be. Although many model railroaders start out being happy to mix elements of many different eras, such as blending steam-era locomotives with the diesels of today, many people in the hobby tend to become more purist as they grow in skills and enthusiasm. Call it "prototype fever"--modelers who catch it end up becoming more and more interested in modeling a particular era to the exclusion of others. They find that their 1930s-era logging railroad just doesn't look right with a 21st-century diesel locomotive running on its tracks. So, if you end up with a layout that isn't set in the era that you want, then you'll have to pull out and replace the items that don't fit, which will cost you both time and money.

Model Train Setting:
After you've chosen an era, you can start looking at the setting for your layout. With the Steam era, you can choose from a wide range of setting including, for example, the Rockies with lots of mountains and trees. Or you could choose the Prairies with lots of wide-open spaces broken up only by tiny farm towns. Or, there's the Midwest with its bigger cities and heavy industry. Or you can choose the Coast with small fishing towns and big ports. The settings are pretty limitless--and universal. Although the regions I've listed are more suited to North American railroads, the same types of regions exist pretty much anywhere in the world that rails have been laid.

Now, while you may want to try something pretty unique for a layout, keep cost and availability in mind. Narrow gauge layouts, for example, while stunning to look at and operate, demand a lot of time, effort, and money to set up. More mainstream settings are cheaper and easier to model for beginners. When you're starting out and learning the hobby, avoid spending too much money if you don't have to.

Operating Style:

The most important factor in choosing your layout theme is your operating style.

By operating style, I mean the aspects of the hobby that you really enjoy the most. If you really enjoy scenery construction, then your model railroad should give you lots of opportunities to show off your scenery. On the other hand, if you really enjoy coupling together trains and switching, then you should really look at a yard module, with lots of track, rolling stock, and switches. And if you enjoy operating your model railroad the same way that a real railroad would operate, and playing with items like schedules and "fast clocks," then you should look at putting in lots of model industries, sidings, and destinations for your trains.

Now, I have talked about cost in choosing an era and a setting for your layout, but I'm going to suggest that you give cost less priority when it comes to operating style. Your operating style is the reason why you're in the hobby. Plaster's cheaper than track, but scenery heavy modeling may not have the same appeal to someone who is really interested in setting up and operating a railroad yard. And if you're not going to enjoy a particular operating style--then why do it?

Hobbies are supposed to be fun. Yes, watch your budget when you're starting out but at the same time make sure that the reason that you got into model trains in the first place is also your guide for choosing the theme of your model train layout.

Now, once you've considered the era, setting, and operating style you want, you have pretty much narrowed down the theme and you can move on to more detailed planning. Keep working on your theme and refining it until you have a good vision of what you want your model railroad to be.

RJ Andron is a filmmaker and web designer, and has been involved in the model train hobby for over thirty years.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Model Railroad Layouts - There Are at Least 3 Basic Layout Styles

Model Railroad Layouts - There Are at Least 3 Basic Layout Styles

Most people don't have a clue about how much room a really good model railroad layout takes. So don't go out and buy a whole bunch of stuff only to find out that it won't fit in the space you have.  Start by researching the line that you wish to model,  Then sit down and draw up a basic sale drawing of your layout.  I know this can be tedious, but if you skimp here it will bite you in the end. It really pays to know just how much room you have, and buy trains sized appropriately.  With that word of caution, the next thing you need to decide is what type of layout you plan to build. There are basically three types of model railroad layouts: the modular layout, the permanent layouts and the multi-level layouts.

The Modular Layout

Many people today build modular layouts that become a part of an much bigger layout. Usually at a large railroad club site. The modules are constructed to strict standards to ensure that they fit together properly.  They are usually built to be 2 feet wide but of varying lengths. There are standards to ensure that the many modules built by different people or groups can be connected together. At the 2008 N Scale National Convention a layout of over 500 modules was set up. If you are interested in this type of layout, here are sites that contain some of the module standards sites:, and 

The Permanent Layouts

As I mentioned earlier in this article space planning is critical and never more so than in a permanent layout.  If you don't choose the appropriate scale to start with, it will make a big difference in your long term satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your project.  Many permanent model railroad layouts were built on plywood tables measuring 4x8 feet or larger. The problem with this layout size is that it is extremely difficult to reach the center of the layout and correct and malfunctions that will occur.  You should always consider how you will reach the most remote point of your layout.

The Around the Walls Layout

More modelers today are building narrower model railroad layouts that lie against the walls of a room. These usually consist of two foot wide layouts that follow along the walls of the room with an occasional layout including an island that project into the room.  Again make sure you can reach all elements of your layout.  A common variation on the around-the-walls layouts includes a two-foot shelf above a larger layout table. This allows the trains to move between levels using either a helix or a vertical spiral track.

If you're just beginning the plan for the construction of a permanent layout complete with trees, hills, cities, and roads, there are many things to consider.  One of these is the construction of a good solid base for your layout. This is as important as the foundation of your home.  You can find additional information about this important topic by going to

Robert P. Steele has been researching the model railroad industry to locate sources of valuable information to help both the beginner and intermediate model railroad enthusiast. Find out more information by visiting his website at

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lend Your Model Railroad Layouts Some Authenticity

Lend Your Model Railroad Layouts Some Authenticity
Getting the best out of your railroad models is the goal for even the amateur ones. There are a few simple tricks with which you can make your model railroad layouts look fabulous. One simple way is to use flat black on all of the interior surfaces. This includes the inner walls, the floor and ceiling. This gives them a sense of depth as well as mysteriousness. For any mountains in your landscape, use dark colors of black or brown for a better effect.

If your railway track is black then you will need to de-emphasize the O-gauge that is often the third middle trail. Use the darkest possible ballast for this. Try and make your grade crossings look as real as possible. Some simple ways to do this would be to use thin black foam or even plastic strips. One trick is to take a tongue depressor and paint it the desired color and use that. This gives your railroad layout a more real look.

Use signals that work at crossing. Crossing flashers and those with a drop arm combination work really well. Using as real as possible devices is the best. It works really well when it comes to impressing kids who come to take a look. Invest in a few tunnel portals. Placing these before the entrance of the tunnel can work wonders. Giving it a white washed or weathered look adds to authenticity.

Use real looking vehicles around your railway road. Blackwash the grills and hubcaps of all the cars and trucks. This makes them look much more dynamic and real. If you have the patience, take the car apart and put in some dolls to work as people.

One thing you never see on railroad layout models is people. Use as many people as you can as this adds to the bustle of the scene and creates an air of authenticity. Making the buildings around looks as natural as possible with lights in them as well is what will add to the overall ambiance and this increase its authenticity.

Custom Train Layout creating Model Train Layouts and MTH layouts on 4x8 platforms. CustomTrainLayouts, a professional model railroad builder, brings to you a complete Model Railway Layouts platform, with some features you can select.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Model Railroad Layouts and Landscaping

Model Railroad Layouts and Landscaping

Any model railroad layout that you choose to use for your model railroad will be incomplete without landscapes and miniature land areas where the rails of the trains are located and constructed. Typically the landscape of your model railroad should represent the area of the rail line you intend to model. For example, you would not want to use flat terrain if you are modeling a railroad that operates primarily in mountainous areas. The avid model train enthusiast is very particular about the landscapes exhibited in their model train layout since the landscapes or the background commonly solicit as much or more attention than the actual rolling stock.

The landscapes of model railroad layouts are usually representative of small communities or industrial areas that are served by rail. They typically include small homes, buildings and other landmarks representative of the area that the rail serves. In addition, areas that the train passes through on the way to and from it's destination such as, country landscapes, green pastures and mountains are also depicted. This creates a realistic effect for your model train. Don't forget to include people. You would be surprised at how much more realistic your layout will be by including appropriately scale figures of people and animals. One more piece of advise, thoroughly research the particular rail road that you want to model, not only to find out which engines and rolling stock they typically use, but also to find out about the areas that they operate in.

It's not that hard to make landscapes for your model train. You have the freedom to choose what land forms, scenery's and landmarks you will include to make your model train much more fascinating and more attractive. The satisfaction you get from hearing the comments from bystanders and people, who love watching your model train operate and run around the tracks, is unsurpassed.

While model railroad layouts can sometimes be very large and expensive to build, careful selection of the expanse of your model layout, and using the appropriate scale of operating equipment, can greatly reduce your overall expenditure on landscaping or creating scenery for your model railroad layout. One great source that I found for advise is "Model Railroading For Beginners". Go to for more information.

Robert P. Steele has been researching the model railroad industry to locate sources of valuable information to help both the beginner and intermediate model railroad enthusiast. Find out more information by visiting his website at

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