Buying and Building a Model Railway

So you want to build a Model Railway. But how do you go about it? In this section we will look at some things you will need to decide before you go ahead. How to plan a model railway, where to buy from and how to build your chosen layout.

Two things you will need to decide at the very start is what space you have for building your model railway and secondly your budget. First looking at space. It is relatively few homes that have a room lying spare that could be used, however there are several favorite places which are often used for a model railway. The first is the loft it often contains lots of useful space. Next is the garage or shed and finally the garden.

Your budget too will also have an effect on what you can build. Model Railways can be very expensive. However in our buying section we give help on ways to buy as inexpensive as possible. However before you start you should set a budget as this will influence what you can buy.

Choosing Your Scale

This is something that may have already been decided for you by the space you have available. If space is tight then a small scale such as N Gauge may be ideal. Where a Garden railway are best in a larger scale O gauge or larger. However most opt for the most popular scale OO in Britain or HO in the rest of the world.

Modeling Historic Periods

This is a matter of personal preferance. Some modellers just like to run thier Locos in some kind of scenery whatever the period of Loco they have. Where other like to model a particular historic period. A favorite of many is the time of their childhood. Others go what I would say is the whole hog and use models made in that particular period, such as a 1950's layout model using componants made by Hornby Dublo.

There are advantages and disadvantages to modelling a period. Pre World War 1 has a lot of variety in that there where lots of different companies but there is not many ready made model available. The between the war period is a good choice modeling the 4 compainer GWR, SR, LMS and LNWR. Or the post war period on British Railways which would allow for both Steam and Diesel Locos, coming up to date with the franchised companies allowing for variety. In the end the choce comes down to personal preferance.

Planning Your Layout

There are numerous planning books and magazines giving many plans for model railways, so I am just going to go into the basics here. Again a lot of this may well have been decided for you by your budget and the space you have. But it consists of 2 basic ideas, continues running or end to end.

Basic Oval or Circle

Straight from a train set. Provides Continues Running, can be doubled or added to, but tight curves tend to look unrealistic

Terminus to Fiddle Yard

Traditionally this is the alternative to the oval, it tends to look more realistic, but trains cannot be run continuously. If a removable fiddle yard is made then trains can easily be turned around. .

Combining End to End and Continues Running

This enables you to send a train from one terminus to the other, however it still has a continues run that can also be used .

Its up to you!

I have kept this section short because ultimatally its up to you how you plan your layout. It can also be an evolving project and can be changed over time.

Buying your Model Railway

A few decades ago apart from a train set which you could buy at a toy shop, model railways where bought from your local Model Shop. The only other place was from stalls at a model railway exibition. Today you can buy an entire model railway without leaving your home. However before going into the options I would like to deal with a question New or Used? Myself I would go with anything electronic as new, so Locos, Track control equipment. However things like rolling stock, buildings and a like could be used.

Model Shop and Model Railway Exibition

Traditionally the places to buy, unfortunatally the number of Model Shops have dropped over the decades. However those that are left usually provide a comprehensive range. Model Railway exhibitions can also provide a hugh range of items. If there is a down side it is both tend to be on the more expensive side.

Toy Fairs

These can be a good source of both new and used equipment, often at bargain prices as stallholders compete with one another. Check used items for completeness and condition.


There are a number of specialist auctions that have a very good supply of equipment, go early and check over the lots before bidding and know how much you want to go up to. Model Railways come up from time to time at General Auctions which can bring up some bargains .

Online Auctions

These have a hugh amount available, and can bring some bargains, however there can be some rubbish as well, so check to description and photos. .