This column is the second in a series which will help you plan the steps of building a model railroad. Toy trains are fun, and building a layout can be rewarding and educational. A wide range of skills can be developed in the construction of a layout. Basic geology can be learned from landscape construction. Building architecture is studied as you decide the types of structures to be incorporated, and their use. Wiring the layout will instruct the hobbyist in the basics of electronics. History becomes important as you study the era you are modeling, and economics as you develop the industries served by the railroad. These and many other skills are involved as you develop and build the layout.
The first step will be to determine the scale of model train you want to work with. There are three commonly available scales, each offering distinct advantages and disadvantages. This step may be skipped if you have inherited a nice train from somewhere, and want to build a layout to run it on.
O gauge is the largest of the common indoor toy train scales, Lionel being the oldest and most popular of the trains available in this scale. Using Lionel creates a more toy-like train layout. The numerous operating accessories can make a fantasy-like setting. The layout and accessories take up more space than other scales, so if you don't have a lot of space, 027 may not be the best choice. An interesting collection of cars and accessories can be formed from creations by Lionel, K-Line and other manufacturers.
The most popular scale by far is called HO scale. More accessories are available for HO than for all other scales combined. It's about half the size of 027 and much more realistic. Cities, industries, and other features can be accurately modeled in HO scale. Sound systems can be incorporated to add to the fun. In HO, just about any type of plan is possible.
If space is limited, you can plan an N scale layout. The trains are about half the size of HO, so a nice railroad can be built in a relatively small space. N scale is the least popular of the major scales, but the advent of E-Z track has caused an explosion in sales of these neat little toy trains. The layouts are pretty cool, and can be tucked into odd corners of your home.
After you have chosen the scale you want to work in, then you must choose an era. Accessories, trains, rolling stock, buildings, etc., can be found for just about any historical era you choose to build. Old time layouts can have operating steam engines and other colorful accessories to add flavor to the layout. Research old photo, maps, etc. to accurately model the site of your choice. Modern layouts are more common, and are a little easier to research. Or you may just want to make something up.
Planning a model train layout is just the beginning of the fun. Toy trains are fascinating to work with through all phases of the layout construction.
Choosing a track plan iss covered in the next column - The Morning After - What To Do With Your New Train Set. Some really neat layouts can be found in layout books, or be creative - make one up! The key is to build what you like and have fun!
© 2012 Hobby Hobnob
A Look At the Modern Electric Toy Train