Model Railroad Layouts: How to Build a Masterpiece

Building a model railroad is a classic hobby that continues to grow in popularity year after year. High-end model trains actually end up becoming heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next. What sets a model train owner from a master collector is the model railroad layout.

Once you have determined the scale and make of model train you intend to collect you will then need to focus on designing a layout for your collection. It is important to do your due diligence when it comes to selecting the model railroad and scenery you wish to use within your layout. Getting these elements right may make a profound determination in how you layout your railroad. If you are a novice in building a model railroad system it is highly recommended that you purchase a kit for your first layout. Creating a layout from scratch should be left to the veteran collector since it is a very tricky job and one that should not be ventured into lightly. A model train kit will come equipped with the model train scale of your choice, railroad tracks as well as some minor landscaping, equipment and accessories. Kits are easily available in specialty model train shops all around the world and it is the best way to start off from scratch.


For you seasoned collector there is plenty of room for experimentation. An experienced model train collector should stay away from the simple and yes boring circular tracks. Begin to push the envelope with your layout and go for a railroad that offers a more exciting and dramatic route. Ask yourself what do you find interesting about trains in general and build on that thought. The masterpiece comes from your imagination. Put your civil engineer hat on and begin to see the layout as a passage through time. See the terrain with rivers, gorges, mountains, deserts, bridges, highways, etc. The layout should be a growing organism. It can start very small, however the layout should be set up to be expandable beyond the space you have available. Over time you may wish to move the entire layout to a new location and the layout should be able to grow into the new location.

For a true masterpiece you will want to incorporate various track designs. You may want to use a continuous loop with an out and back setup. A continuous loop on its own is monotonous and boring but when you add a variation to the setup it becomes part of a masterpiece. The out and back will allow you to incorporate tunnels and bridges, turning circles and even train stations.

Another option that you can explore is that of point-to-point model railroad layout. Although this is of a simple design where the model train has to go from one end of the track on the way to the other, they tend to be far more exciting yet simple to work with. Most of the times you find these tracks accompanied with a train station.

In conclusion the kind of custom model railroad that you choose to build should reflect your character and passion. This is what will make it unique and allow it to become a masterpiece. You should also consider the availability of space and the level of experience that you have in setting up a model railroad. However, do not limit yourself to a short-term situation when you may have more available space in the future. Be sure and visit model railroad shows and comb through model railroad magazines for ideas. The sky is the limit!

Michael Weston is a Model Train Expert. For great information on model railroad, visit

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