Model Trains – A Guide For Beginners

Model Trains – A Guide For Beginners | By Clint Spille

If you’ve ever been curious about the hobby of model trains, read on through this informative beginner’s guide. We want to get you interested in model trains, so this article won’t get too deeply into the technical details and hopefully not be intimidating! Some of the most important things to know about model trains are scale and gauge.

‘Scale’ is the measure of the size of your train engine and train cars, as well as other accessories. These can range from the palm of your hand, and all the way up to trains that can only comfortably run outdoors. Letters are used to designate different scales. A model train in the ‘G’ scale is actually 1:24. In other words, a real train is twenty-four times as large. This scale of model train is usually used by train enthusiasts who have set up a track in their garden or backyard, or anywhere in their outdoor landscape. Model trains measured in the ‘Z’ scale are 1:220 the size of an actual train. While this tiny scale is great if you have very limited space, they’re so small that they present certain difficulties that prevent them from being used more often.


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‘Gauge’ is also a very important factor in model trains. It’s not the same measurement as scale, though it is often confused. Mixing up or confusing the two will sometimes result in a negative reaction from experienced model train enthusiasts. ‘Gauge’ actually measures how far apart your rails are set along the track. For example, a ‘9 gauge’ track means that the tracks are simply set 9 millimeters apart. As the gauge increases, so does the space between your rails.

It may be difficult to grasp at first, but fear not. Many people who are just starting out with model trains, as well as experienced hobbyists, use HO scale, which is 1:87. This size suits a variety of layouts, are easy to work with, and create great scenery. Because HO scale is so common in the world of model trains, it’s also very easy to find a huge array of accessories and tools to use with your HO trains.

Your experience with model trains can also be aided by accessories and layouts. Your model trains may be really unexciting if all they do is circle around a barren track. Your train can have a large number of accessories and additional cars, as well as tank containers and hoppers, just as some examples. Surrounding your train’s adventure are people and other vehicles, trestles, buildings, and all kinds of natural and man-made scenery. Your imagination is really your only limit when it comes to your layout. You can invent your own landscaping techniques, using parts from plastic plants or dried plants to create rustic greenery. Old cans work great as oil tanks and grain silos, if you put a little bit of detail into them.

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You can also purchase pre-made accessories, or kits to make your own, if you’re just starting out. The internet has tons of websites for this purpose, or you could look for a local train and hobby shop. Retailers can answer any question you have about the hobby, give you great ideas, and order the parts you want. I hope that this article inspired you to learn mode about model trains and that you keep on looking for neat ideas and clever layouts.

For more information on model trains be sure to sign up for my free “Secrets to Successful Model Railroading!” mini-course. This mini-course covers many important aspects of model railroading including model train layouts, how to properly setup your track to avoid future problems, and much more.

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