Home Tips – Model Railroading as a family hobby


Constructing a model train is a hobby that brings families together as everyone can participate and get involved.

You can start model railroading as a hobby and a way to get your children away from video games and the television. Model trains are educational as children learn about railroading history, artistic skills, electrical skills, designing, planning, and engineering.

Usually, many beginners start by buying a starter set and then grow it into their dream railroad. Often, this does not work. However, with careful initial planning, you can avoid this problem. Getting started with model railroading does not require a big budget or technical skills. You need to know that model trains take you on a journey and not a destination. You’ll have more fun building the layout and regularly improving it.

Let us look at the basic requirements to get started with model railroading

Understanding and Choosing Gauge and Scale

Before you settle on a gauge and scale for your model railroad, you should understand the difference between gauge and scale. Gauge is the distance separating the rails, and scale is the model’s size in relation to the actual size.

Scale sizes are expressed as fractions or ratios, with the top number or numerator always being 1. The bottom number or denominator is how big the train is in reality.

The following are model train scales from the largest to the smallest

  • O scale (1:48)
  • HO narrow gauge or HOn3 scale (1:87)
  • HO scale (1:87)
  • N scale (1:160)
  • Z scale (1:220)

Size O was the most popular scale within the United States before 1960. After World War II, size O lost popularity when smaller scales were introduced. You can still find several used locomotives with this scale, and children find it easier to play with, and it does not break easily.

HO scale is currently the most popular, and it has many accessories and supplies. This is an excellent scale for beginners as it enables you to build an oval track. Also, it has a variety of accessory sets, which include structures, scenery, and locomotives.

N scale is also quite popular. Most model railroads in japan are on an N scale. Its main advantage is that it permits model railroaders to create layouts with more detail and less space.

Scale N and HO are the preference of most model railroaders because their price is lower, meaning that you can afford accessories for them. Your choice depends on personal preference.

Pick a Model Railroad Location

After choosing a suitable scale, you should select where to build the railroad. A model railroad should have a permanent location that never gets moved or taken down. If you are serious about model railroading as a hobby, you should find a permanent place to build your railroad. Constantly moving your trains around or running them on the floor will expose them to wear and damage over time.

Concerning areas, basements are a favorite location for model railroads. Before building your basement, consider accessibility, utilities, water problems, and humidity.

The attic is another excellent location but remember that hot air rises. If you live in warmer climates, temperature variations can damage your layout, especially the paint on your model train. You can also use a spare bedroom in the garage and consider humidity.

When choosing a spot for the railroad, also consider comfort and accessibility. It would be best to reach any section of the layout without getting uncomfortable or stretching. The design should also be at a position and height that is appropriate for you and your children. It should also be high enough to keep pets out to avoid ruining it.

Choose a Control System

Your model railroad can be powered by Digital Command Control (DCC) or DC Analog control. DC Analog has been in use for a long time, meaning that you’ll find that many older models are using it. On the other hand, DCC permits unlimited flexibility when running the train, and you can control several trains at once.

The DCC is the best choice for beginners with model railroading as it is versatile. For example, most models equipped with DCC are available with in-built sound effects, which you can control using a DCC remote.


Now that you know the scale and gauge to use have chosen a location and a control system, you can start building your railroad. When buying cars and locomotives from different manufacturers, ensure that the couplers match. Couplers connect your cars and locomotives. Couplers vary according to the manufacturer, hence may not be compatible. Furthermore, within every scale, there are various coupler styles. We hope that you enjoy your new hobby.

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