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Model Railways

Building A New Model Railway Layout

So you are thinking about setting up a model railway? It is surprising how many do at one time or another.

The purpose of this article is to give an insight how a model railway can be built, and to explain what you need to think about. 


I would suggest that before you actually start with your layout, you consider the space that you have available and also the gauge and scale.

00 or 4mm - Scale 1:76 Track Gauge 16.5 mm (0.65 in) is the most popular railway modelling scale in Britain used by Hornby and Bachmann amongst others.

H0 or 3.5mm - Scale 1:87 Track Gauge 16.5 mm (0.65 in). This is the most popular scale worldwide.

If you are not worried about the slight differences in scale you can use OO and HO together, they both use Track Gauge 16.5 mm (0.65 in)

HOe - Scale 1:87 Track Gauge 9 mm (0.354 in) In Britain the term HO9 is sometimes used. These terms refer to models of narrow gauge railways built to the world's most popular model railway scale of HO (1:87) but using a track gauge of 9 mm (0.354 in)

OO9 (009) - Scale 1:76 Track Gauge 9mm (0.354in) narrow gauge mainly used for modelling UK-based prototypes, but to the OO scale of 4mm to 1ft (1:76.2).

If you are not worried about the slight differences in scale you can use HOe and OO9 together they both use Track Gauge Track 9 mm (0.354 in). The same as gauge as N

British N Scale 1:148 track is 9 mm (0.354 in) is an adaptation of N-scale for modelling British prototypes with a smaller loading gauge.

For some more basic information on gauges and scales please click HERE 

 If you have checked my model layouts you will have noticed that I have locos and rolling stock in OO, HO, HOe, OO9, Z and of course my garden railway in G scale. I also have 'N' but I don't have a layout now having used the track in my 'Pleasure Park' for a narrow gauge system.



You can of course buy the track, locos, rolling stock, controller, etc. individually, however buying a set will give you a good start and more economical having all these included and some sets will have various other accessories included. If you decide to buy the track and locos separately check that the loco will run on the radius of the curves selected. Radius 1 is too small for some larger locos and rolling stock.

When buying additional track make sure that is compatible with what you already have. It may be the same gauge but there can be differences depending on the manufacturer.

If you have any doubts it is always an advantage to call into a model railway shop and ask. Alternatively check to see if there is a local model railway society to visit, or you can ask us for advice  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Independent advice can always be sought here at the: MODEL RAILWAYS FORUM by joining the forum or HERE without the need to register.


Having decided the approximate size of you layout you will need a baseboard to put it on. Depending on the space that you have available this can always be added to at a later date if you want to expand your layout.  Do not lay your track permanently until you have decide on the layout you want, if you buy a set this will be restricted by the track in the set but will be an excellent start, that can be added to as required.

When you start to assemble the track the plain ends of the track must be pushed accurately into the rail joiners, this is to ensure continuity of the electric current. If you set is on a table and has to be continually set up and packed away this will eventually cause wear and tear on the rail joiners, these can be replaced but it is better to have a permanent base for the track.

Don't forget you can always extend it later. Track pins of a suitable size for the track are usually used to fasten the track down, try not to put them so far in that you can’t remove them just in case you need to lift the track for any reason, but you must also make sure that they don't stick up too much and catch the base of the your locos and rolling stock.

Do you want to lay your track on a bed there are various types available including foam and cork, or you could make your own. The advantage of using a track bed is that it cushions the sound when running. I have laid my track directly onto the base board and added loose ballast to set it off, this can be kept in place with diluted PVA glue, but make sure that you don't get the glue on the rails if you do don’t forget to clean the track.

Once you have your basic layout you can then start to add scenery and buildings, but take your time to plan what you want to do and how to do it. You can buy buildings, trees etc. that are factory made, or kits to build yourself or you can make your own. There are plenty of options available to enhance your layout.

Railway modelling is one of the most varied hobbies, and these ideas are only meant as a basic guide.   Some modellers are very precise with every minute detail of their layouts and others don't worry too about the finer details. I am the latter and follow this rule: It's my railway I will do what I want, when I want and how I want. (I do appreciate though that many purists will cringe at this)

As far as I am concerned it's each to his own after all we should all be railway modellers in our own way and respect those that may not agree with us. Smile

Once you have got the model railway bug it likely that your layout will never be finished, you will always find something that you want to add or change.

Now go and enjoy playing trains but please feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any queries, comments or suggestions.


Here are some photographs, during setting up and changes made to my layouts

This is baseboard used for my Z layout:

Here you can see that I have lifted the board above the Dado rail, added backboards and also the base for a mountain with a tunnel running under it.  See my Z gauge articles for more information HERE

I have mentioned that I used the track out of my N gauge starter set for the Pleasure Park on my OO layout.  This is a rebuild of the park but there is more track here than came with the set.  

This is a photograph of a very early layout before moving into the train room, a bedroom that has been totally taken over by my OO layout. This was never developed for various reasons, however on hindsight I have discovered that you can have too much track.

These photographs of my main layout were taken during major alterations.

The layout stripped to allow for an extension at the back and also a canal.

The base for a tunnel under the planned Pleasure Park.

Here you can see the base for the Pleasure Gardens and also the preparation of the canal.

The layout has gone through significant changes since these photographs were taken you can view them HERE