How to Build a Model Railway

Written by kevin clarkston
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How to Build a Model Railway
Model Train Set (model railroad image by pearlguy from

Designing railroad models is one of the most popular hobbies, allowing individuals of any age to express creativity and imagination. Railroad modelling can also be a continual process of building and rebuilding to fit the designer's desired goal.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Train set
  • Plywood
  • Lumber
  • Saw
  • Carpenter's glue
  • 3/8-inch reversible drill with bit
  • Dry wall screws
  • Track
  • Landscaping and scenery materials
  • Model houses and buildings
  • Miniature cars and people

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  1. 1

    Decide on a theme. Think about the time period and location you want your model railroad set in, as well as what kind of model trains and equipment to use.

  2. 2

    Choose the size of the trains you want to use. Scale is the ratio between the measurement of a model compared to the original, according to The most popular scale for indoor trains is HO, which is equal to 1/87 of the size of the original object. Pick the place where the model will be displayed.

  3. 3

    Sketch the design layout for the model railway using paper and pencil. Draw the mainline (the main route that the trains will travel) first, then add a freight yard and a passenger station. Research the desired location to know what industries will be included in the design, and decide whether the railroad company will be an original design or a copy of an existing company.

  4. 4

    Construct the bench work for the display. To create a 4 by 8 bench work, cut the lumber into a 1/4-inch frame and place it around the bottom of the plywood. Cut 8-foot-long pieces, two each, for the sides and 4 by 1 1/2 inch pieces, two each, for the ends. Apply glue to the end pieces using carpenter's glue. Use the drill to put holes into each end of each side piece. Clamp the two pieces together and place the screws in the holes. Push the screws through the side piece to the end of the end piece. Push the screws through the top of the plywood down to the 1/4-inch frame. Do not place glue on the top of the frame.

    Split five pieces of 1 by 4 lumber lengthwise to create 1 by 2 pieces called joists. Cut the 1 by 2 pieces to same length as the end pieces. Turn the frame over and screw the joists to the side pieces.

  5. 5

    Design and install the landscaping and scenery. The scenery should reflect the chosen design location. For example, if the design layout is a country area, scenery should include fields of grass, lakes and walking trails.

  6. 6

    Lay track on the bench work according to the drawn design before attaching them. Glue the tracks together once the tracks have been laid out. Dilute the glue with water so it will flow more easily. Clean off the top of the rails before the glue dries to avoid electrical problems when the train runs.

  7. 7

    Add accessories such as houses, cars, stations, people and buildings. The accessories, like the scenery, should fit the theme and location of the model.

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