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Model Railways – Top tips for beginners

Model trains are a fantastic hobby and past time for enthusiasts of every age. They offer something for everyone, with various levels of difficulty and intricacy that can be explored. Whether you want to start building model railways with your son or daughter or want to pick your hobby back up and dedicate more time and expertise to it, you have come to the right place. We have compiled a list of top tips for beginner model railway enthusiasts to get you started or back on the right foot. 

1. Start small 

If you are just starting out, we know it can be tempting to dive right in and design a massive railway set, but we recommend you start small and take your time with it. Modelling is a hobby that builds upon itself and on your confidence, and is one you can easily get lost in. There’s always more to buy, more to do, more to try out. We suggest you start small with your first set, take your time building it and really think about what aspects you enjoyed and what aspects you enjoyed less. Some people prefer scenery modelling, others enjoy track planning, and some like operating. Take your time with your first model, pick the aspect you most enjoy and build up on that! 

2. Buy the right materials, and do your research 

Model Railway Books for research

There are many great places that sell all sorts of wonderful materials and items you will need to build your very first model railway layout. Before you go ahead and take the plunge, be aware that it is very easy to spend a lot of money on all sorts of things you won’t need straight away.

Consider your skill level.

  • Do you think you can construct a more complicated railway layout without a beginner’s kit?
  • How much do you know about basing glue and static grass?
  • Do you know how to lay tracks down?

If you don’t, or are unsure, why not buy a beginner’s model railway layout kit that you don’t need to plan out and has everything you need prefabricated and ready to go. That way you don’t need to plan anything out yourself and buy individual items you may not need in the end. 

3. Allocate a space for your model railway 

Allocate plenty of room for your model railway

Even if you’re not planning on creating a sprawling, gigantic model railway, chances are you will need more space than you originally thought. Maybe you’ll want to play around with creating elegant landscapes or static grass meadows surrounding your railway track or expanding your original track because you’ve found that you’re enjoying your design so much. You don’t want to find yourself regretting where you have chosen to set your model railway up, so make sure to plan for more space and pick a room where you can expand even if you don’t plan on doing so at first.

4. Plan before you build

Plan the layout of your model railway

“By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail” 

We know it’s very tempting to dive right in when you have collected all your materials and start laying down tracks and working on building up your design. We would strongly advise that you have a think before you tackle your model railway design and plan your layout before you begin to build anything. Make sure you know exactly how much track you’re going to need before you even buy your track. Consider making a track plan and buying your track based on that. This will not only save you time, as when you go to start building with your plan you have a clear idea of what you want to do, but it will also save you money and stops you from buying excess materials. 

5. Join a club!

Jon a model railway club

The great thing about the model railway community is that there are various clubs and societies you can get involved with. You probably have a model railway club local to you that you just don’t know about. These clubs allow you to meet and work with like-minded people who share your passion and enthusiasm for model railways. You can ask people at your club for help and advice whenever you get stuck and share your finished model railways when you’re done! 

We are so excited that you are embarking on your modelling journey. There is so much to love about this hobby, and so many fun things to learn!

Don’t be disheartened if you’re finding everything overwhelming at first – we know there is a lot to learn, and we are more than happy to help! If you have any questions or queries about creating your first model railway layout, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or join our Facebook group full of friendly modellers who are always happy to help. 

Recommended Resources

For additional information, we recommend you check out these links:

Peco Advice & Resource Centre

Crowood Model Railway Guides

Kathy Millatt – Building Realistic Model Railroad Scenery

Modelling with Martyn YouTube Channel

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