Getting Started With N Gauge Model Railways

For beginner model railroading hobbyists that face space constraints, N gauge model railways provide an excellent way to set-up a great layout in a small space.

As one of the most popular model railroading gauges, there are a variety of model trains and accessories available to model railroading hobbyists in this scale.

Because these trains are smaller, you will also be able to build long trains for your model railroad. Overall, the N gauge gives hobbyists the opportunity to construct some of the most realistic model railways in operation.

A Bit About N Gauge Model Railways

The size of the N scale follows a 1/160 ratio. A gauge is the name given to the in-sides of a railway’s tracks, the distance between the left and right outer rails. Simply put, the N gauge is suited to N scale model trains and accessories.

Seeing an N scale train and its tracks will help you to form a better understanding of how these trains and accessories measure up against other scales. Once you know how the N scale looks you will always be able to select and purchase the right accessories for your N scale model railroad’s layout. This includes its buildings, scenery, extra cars, figurines, and the list goes on.

N gauge model railways feature a few nice advantages that railways in larger scales don’t. One of these advantages is that you can create a relatively large model railroad in a very small space.

For example, many HO gauge model railways require at least a 4-foot by 8-foot table for their track plans, while N gauge railways often only need a 2-foot by 4-foot table for theirs.

Another advantage is that their small scale allows you to create a number of detailed scenery pieces for use in a relatively small area. Also, mountains on an N gauge model railway are seldom more than a foot high, while mountains on layouts in larger scales may need to be a couple of feet high in order to look good.

Can You Combine The N Scale With Other Scales?

You may be wondering whether or not N scale equipment can be used on layouts that feature a larger scale. One way that they can be used to complement model railroads that feature a different scale is to use them to create an illusion of depth, especially on a larger layout.

For example, you could choose to use an N gauge model train towards the back end of your O scale layout, which would make this train look as though it is far off in the distance.

Some HO gauge model railroaders have found this to be particularly helpful. One hobbyist built a layout using HO gauge trains for his city scene, at the front of his layout, and towards the back of his layout he used an N gauge model railway to make it look as though his trains were operating in an entirely separate town.

One of the best N gauge sets available to hobbyists is the Royal Blue Passenger Train Set – N Scale available from Historic Rail.

Introduced in the 1890s, the Royal Blue passenger train ran along the Baltimore and Ohio lines, and provided first class passenger rail services between New York and Washington DC.

This complete N gauge set is lead by a 4-4-0 American steam locomotive. Following this locomotive is:

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  • A tender with a powerful motor and a realistic coal load
  • Two old-time coaches
  • A combine


Each of these features a clerestory roof, glazed windows, a detailed under-frame and authentic Baltimore and Ohio markings.

Accompanying this train you will receive a 34 inch by 24 inch oval E-Z tack, a power pack/speed controller, and an easy to understand set of instructions. Together the locomotive and the tender measure in at a length of 4 inches. If you are going to be modeling a passenger service railway, this train set will serve you well.

Overall, the advantages offered by N gauge model railways can’t be matched by larger scales, and perhaps this is why these spectacular looking small trains are quickly becoming some of the most popular model trains among hobbyists in Europe and Japan.

A Beginner’s Guide To Model Train Wiring

As a beginner model railroading hobbyist, wiring your railroad may seem to be a daunting task. However, model train wiring can easily be understood by grasping a few basic principles and applying these to your layout.

Once you have mastered these principles, you will be able to quickly and easily wire your own layout, and run your trains like a pro.

Connecting Your Model Train Wiring

The first thing to understand when wiring a layout is that there has to be a way to get the electrical current to the model railroad’s locomotives.

The railroad tracks are the medium through which the electrical current will be transmitted. This means that essentially the rails are acting as a positive and a negative wire that will carry the current to the locomotives.

In order to have a smooth running railroad, rail joiners are used to connect the tracks and allow the electrical current to flow through the entire model railroad layout. Therefore, in order to have an efficient model railroad, your joiners must fit tightly and be clean at each point where they join together.

If these are not kept clean and fitting tightly, there will be points along your railroad where the train will run slowly, or may not run at all. If this happens, you can clean dirty rail joiners by using a little bit of alcohol and a small Q-tip. If the rail joiners are loose, then they need to be replaced with new rail joiners.

The next thing to understand regarding model train wiring is that your controller runs the voltage which sets your train’s speed. On most controllers, there are two sets of posts for connecting wires. The first set is for the direct current, the DC terminal, and this is used to power the train itself.

The other set is the alternating current, or AC terminal. The AC terminal is used for operating accessories like crossing signals, street lamps, and building lights. It is usually very easy to connect wires to the AC and DC terminals, because these are usually clearly marked on any model railroad controller.

In addition to controlling the voltage that runs through your layout, a controller serves as an electrical converter which changes your home’s AC current into DC current, which your locomotives need to be powered with.

When wiring your track to your controller, it is important to remember to connect the wires from the tracks to the DC side of the controller, and not the AC side. Failure to do this will result in a damaged model locomotive. Remember to connect only accessories to the AC side of the controller.

Protecting Your Railroad Wiring

When wiring any model railroad layout, it is a good idea to use insulated wiring and insulated joiners to wire and join your tracks together. By using insulated wiring and insulated joiners, you will prevent possible accidents from occurring due to improper wiring, because they serve the purpose of keeping the electrical current in the tracks and wires, preventing this current from making contact with flammable materials on your layout like grass mats or structural wood pieces.

Also, the use of insulated joiners and insulated wiring helps to prevent any shorts in the track that can cause dead zones or slow zones from developing throughout the course of your railroad.

At the end of the day, the best way to make sure you are doing everything properly is to work with some form of guide. An excellent book that focuses specifically on model railroad wiring is the; Wiring Handbook For Toy Trains available from Historic Rail.

Don’t be confused by the words toy trains. In many cases model trains are simply referred to as toy trains. Compiled by Plummer, this 96 paged soft cover book is a thorough guide to understanding traditional wiring for model train layouts.

With over 60 color photographs and illustrations, it shows you how to master the basics of electricity and wiring. It shows you how to hook-up your transformers and other components. It also shows you how to solder your own wiring, how to maintain your layout, and includes a troubleshooting section too.

With a guide like this at your side you should be able to put your layout together in no time.

In conclusion, speaking to veteran railroad hobbyists about model railroad wiring can help you to acquire valuable information regarding this issue. You may also want to read through a good wiring guide like the one mentioned above, which can help you to quickly understand the fundamentals of model train wiring.

Track Laying And Scenery Tips For Your Model Railway Layout

Building a model railway layout can be one of the most exciting and challenging tasks to undertake. However, you may face a few problems if you don’t yet understand the basics regarding the handling of your track and scenery.

By gathering knowledge, you will be able to build a layout that will provide you with many realistic railroading experiences for many years.

Preparing Your Model Railway Layout For Operation

One of the first things you need to understand when it comes to building a model railway layout is how to properly lay down your railroad’s tracks. To begin with, you will need to find a plan that you can work from. There are a number of books and free online resources that can provide you with excellent plans for your layout.

Once you have your track plan, you can start your project. You will want to use a pencil to draw the track plan directly onto the surface on which your model railway is going to be built.

Once this is done, you will want to use a hammer and a few small nails to lay a cork roadbed all along the penciled outline that you have drawn. This cork roadbed will form the base for your model railroad’s tracks, and will allow you to get an idea of how your layout will look before it is completed.

After laying down your cork roadbed, you will need to fasten your track’s ballast to it. To do this, you can coat your roadbed with a thin layer of white glue and then place your ballast over it. This will make a realistic looking roadbed for you to lay your tracks upon.

Once this has been done, the time for you to lay down your tracks will have arrived. This is accomplished by once again using a hammer and small nails to tack your tracks straight onto the ballast covered cork roadbed. Once you’re finished, your tracks for your model railroad will be laid.

Perhaps one of the best features to use on a layout is a hill, or many hills. To make a basic hill you will need about 4 pieces of 1 inch thick Styrofoam. Then, you will need to glue them on top of one another with the largest piece at the bottom and the smallest piece at the top, much like a pyramid. Once this is done, you can use a hobby knife to carve the hill into the shape you desire.

On top of making a hill, it helps to know how to add a worn and weathered look to your layout’s locomotives, railroad cars, and buildings. To do this, you can use a large paintbrush to apply watered down paints to your equipment and accessories. Once this dries, your equipment will have a very realistic weathered look that adds realism to your layout.

Another helpful tip is to use pastel chalks and make-up kits when you are weathering your railroad’s equipment. Dark colors can be applied to the chimneys of your buildings with a cotton swab to give the impression of a build-up of soot. You can also use brown colors to create the illusion of rust on the sides of your locomotives and rail cars.

A Guide For Hobbyists With O Scale Layouts

Hobbyists who want to feature buildings on their layouts will want these buildings to look as realistic as possible. An excellent book that can help them to achieve this is Realistic Plastic Structures for Toy Train Layouts.

This unique book is available through Historic Rail, and can teach you how to combine various plastic building kits, otherwise known as kit bashing. It focuses on the O scale, and will show you how to create original plastic structures by using different pieces from different building kits to create realistic, authentic, and original buildings for your layout.

It includes a number of step-by-step photographs and illustrations, as well as concise instructions that will guide you every step of the way. With a total of 80 pages that feature 75 black and white photographs, 20 color photographs, and 40 illustrations this is the perfect guide for any O scale model railroader wanting to add realism and originality to their layout.

In conclusion, the tips mentioned above will help you to easily lay the tracks for your model railway layout and will help you to build realistic scenery, and this in turn should render a fantastic layout that you will enjoy sharing with your family and friends for a very long time.

Creating Fabulous Model Railroad Backdrops

Model railroad backdrops are an integral part of any spectacular model railroad layout. Whether you are constructing a simple switching layout or a mainline operation, a good backdrop will make your layout look as though it is a place in time that really exists.

Therefore, knowing how to create a great backdrop for your layout will help you to reach new heights as far as the level of realism on your layout goes.

Points To Remember While Creating Model Railroad Backdrops

1. Keep it simple.

One of the most important things to remember when designing a model railroad backdrop is to keep it simple. For example, If you examine the sky you will find that the sky and the horizon are usually very basic in appearance. The same concept applies to a model railroad backdrop’s skyline.

Model railroad backdrops that are very complex tend to draw a viewer’s eyes away from the layout. When this happens, all of the detailed work that is present on the layout seems lost. Therefore, backdrops that overt a viewer’s eyes back onto the layout’s intricate details are ideal.

2. Allow your streets to recede into your backdrop.

When using streets on your layout it is important to make them recede into your backdrop, if they continue to a point where your backdrop meets your layout. By doing this, you will give your layout depth.

There are a few ways to accomplish this effect. The first is to paint a section of grey street onto your backdrop that gets smaller as it moves up the face of your backdrop. Your street will come to an end if it runs over a hill or takes a turn behind a building.

3. Use busy backgrounds for your industrial areas.

If you want your layout to look extremely realistic you will need to use images of factories and other commercial complexes on your backdrop, if it meets up with an industrial area on your layout.

4. Place your buildings directly against your backdrop.

If you decide to reflect a town or an industrial area on your backdrop, it is a good idea to place a few of your buildings directly against your backdrop, in front of these areas. This will create continuity in your layout, and will help to detract from the fact that your layout actually comes to an end.

One of the most effective ways to create a continuous look is to have a building begin on your layout as a partial model. Then, you can finish the building by painting the remainder of it onto your backdrop.

This will trick the viewer’s eyes into seeing the depth of your layout, as the building melts into the continuing city or industrial area that is reflected on your backdrop.

A Video That Can Teach You How To Make Your Layout’s Backdrop

In addition to the tips mentioned above, it is a good idea to watch videos that show you how to make realistic model railroad backdrops. One of the best videos available is Modeling & Beyond – DVD available from Historic Rail.

This DVD set consists of 5 fantastic DVDs that will take approximately 4 hours and 36 minutes to watch.

These DVDs are titled:

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  • Photo mural backdrops
  • Scratch building structures
  • The Rio Grande Southern – modeling the prototype
  • Steam operated sawmill
  • 4 narrow gauge layouts


You will be shown how to create your own super realistic backdrop for your layout. You will also be shown how to build the following:

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  • A small boiler house
  • Offices attached to a roundhouse
  • A repair facility with interior details
  • A passenger and freight station
  • Your own evergreen trees


In order for you to learn more about these structures you will find yourself traveling to places where they can be found. For example, you will tour a working Oregon sawmill served by a stranded gauge steam railroad.

These DVDs are in color and feature Dolby Digital 2.0. With them, you will be able to create a layout that you can sincerely be proud of.

In conclusion, the three dimensional world stimulates the senses, as does the concept of depth. By knowing how to add depth to model railway layouts by using model railroad backdrops, you will be able to create a layout of your own that provides all its viewers with a sincere sense of amazement.

Creating Your Own HO Model Train Layout

If you are anything like most beginner HO model train enthusiasts are, you are excited to begin your first layout and will want get it operational as soon as possible, so that you can enjoy all of the interesting aspects that your new model railroading hobby has to offer.

However, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the costs of name-brand scenery supplies, and may be wondering how you are going to afford everything you need in order to make your railroad look great.

Well, there’s no need to worry. By considering the following proven techniques, you can create a great-looking model train layout with hardly any trouble. Also, your overall costs will be much lower than the costs of using name-brand scenery supplies would be.

How To Make Your HO Model Train Layout

1. Use dark colored ballast on your model train track.

A way to make your model train layout look outstanding is to use dark colored ballast on your track. Because in real life the middle of a track is exposed to a lot of oil, grease, and grime that drops onto it from passing trains, it is best to use dark ballast in the middle of your track too, to simulate this effect. After this, you may want to add lightly colored ballast, for a realistic effect, to the outside of your track bed.

You can make your own darkly colored ballast by finding tiny rocks in your yard, or along the street of your neighborhood. These rocks are already sometimes dark from the grease and grime that has fallen onto them from passing cars.

If the rocks you find are not darkly colored, you can easily darken them with a little bit of used copier toner. To do this, place the rocks into a sealed container with a bit of the used copier toner. Then, shake the sealed container until all of the toner has covered the rocks, and Voila you will have your own dark colored ballast that is perfect for any track.

2. Use the internet and your computer to make paper signs.

Rather than paying for signs for your HO model train layout, you can create your own unique signs from papers that are appropriate for your layout. One way to do this is to search the internet for vintage advertisements, and then use your computer’s desktop publishing program to print scale copies of these advertisements onto paper. You can then glue your paper signs onto pieces of balsa wood that you will then place in just the right spot on your layout.

3. Use people in your urban layout.

Anywhere you have an urban area on your layout, use plenty of figurines. Since tons of people in real life are found in urban areas, you can’t go wrong by putting scale models of people in your layout’s cities and towns. This will add to the realism of your layout and help it to have a life-like feel once it is completed.

Using Simulated Neon Signs For A Unique Look

One thing that will really help to make any 1950s style layout look more realistic is to use simulated neon signs. A great-looking simulated neon sign that will fit any 1940’s to 1960’s HO model train layout set is the Reddy Kilowatt Animated Sign from Historic Rail.

This sign features pre-wired working lights that bring this one-of-a-kind sign to life, and helps to give a life-like feel to any layout that uses a mid-20th Century setting.

Remember, by using the techniques mentioned above, you can really give your layout a realistic appearance that is sure to make it one of the best looking layouts ever made. These techniques will also save money that you may otherwise have spent on scenery supplies, which means that you will have more money to spend on your HO model train and rolling stock.

Scenery For An N Gauge Model Railway Layout

Scenery is a very important element on any N gauge model railway. N scale train sets and their accessories are usually rather small; however this is one of the reasons why model railway layouts in this scale are so appealing in the first place.

Creating your miniature world will be fun, and to help you to create the best layout possible, there are a few innovative techniques that you can use in order to make fantastic scenery of your own.

Materials For Your N Gauge Model Railway Scenery

1. Use acrylic glaze to create water scenes.

An inexpensive way to create the effect of water on your layout is to use a thin coat of acrylic glaze. A few hobby stores and hardware stores stock an acrylic glaze product known as Gallery Glass. This product, when painted over a surface area, leaves a shine or glaze over that area which can simulate the appearance of water beautifully.

On your layout, simply paint the area where you would like the water feature to be with blue paint, or a variety of blue paints for a more realistic effect. Then, once your blue paint has dried, you can paint a coat of acrylic glaze over it which will create a shiny looking body of water.

2. Make mountains out of newspaper.

Making mountains for your layout is simple. All you will need to do is take a few pieces of newspaper and scrunch them up in to a puffy ball. Then, press this puffy ball into the shape you prefer. For example, do you want a hill or a rocky volcanic looking mountain?

Next, use a few pieces of construction paper and some glue. Place the construction paper over the shape you have made for your mountain from newspaper, and then spread glue liberally over the construction paper. This will give your mountains a smooth surface. Once your mountains are dry you will be able to decorate them any way you like.

3. Use cat litter for various features.

A way to make realistic looking track ballast is to use cat litter over your track’s cork roadbed. To do this, place your cork roadbed on your layout. Then, cover it with a layer of white glue and sprinkle cat litter over it.

Once the glue has dried, you will be able to tack your track down onto a very realistic looking roadbed. The cat litter simulates the gravel that real railroads use for ballast on their tracks.

Cat litter can also be used to simulate loads of gravel that are hauled by your gondolas. By mixing it with black paint, it can also be used for coal loads in your steam engine and coal hopper cars.

Cat litter is also great to use when you want to simulate rocky shorelines or rock piles. You can make great looking rocky shorelines by putting white glue along the edges of your water features. Then, sprinkle your cat litter liberally over this glue and voila, your rocky shoreline is born.

Rock piles can also be simulated by gluing cat litter to a triangular shaped piece of foam that has been painted grey.

An Excellent ‘How To’ Guide

Reading about scenery tips in an article like this is nothing compared to actually seeing examples of homemade scenery in picture form.

Being shown how to create your own scenery pieces step-by-step from scratch is even better and this is why Dan Morgan, veteran model railroading hobbyist, decided to compile Model Trains For Beginners, an e-book that tells you absolutely everything you need to know about model railroading.

From the moment you start out in the model railroading hobby, this comprehensive downloadable guide will be there for you, to help you to decide which train set will suit you best, how to set it up, how to wire it, how to use transformers, how to connect your power pack, and so much more.

Once you have your basic track and set together you will be shown hundreds of different ways to get your layout to look the way you want it to. Dan provides step-by-step tutorials on how to make your own scenery from scratch. He also shows you how to maintain your layout and your train set, in order for them to last many years.

With countless examples of layouts built by veteran hobbyists, and tips and technique advice galore, this complete guide is perhaps one of the only guides that covers everything to with the hobby of model railroading.

When you make your purchase you will receive this complete guide as well as five bonus books that discuss various model railroading issues in detail. You will also become a part of MTFB’s mailing list, which means you will receive reports periodically that will keep you up to date with the latest happenings in the model railroading world.

In addition to this you will also become a member of the MTFB Insiders Club for 30 days, allowing you to take a sneak peak at exactly what membership to this club has to offer.

If you do take advantage of this offer, and after 60 days decide that you are not entirely pleased with what you have received, you will receive your money back, every penny, no questions asked.

In conclusion, by using the money-saving scenery ideas mentioned above, and by always keeping an excellent guide or reference book nearby as you construct your N gauge model railway layout, you will be able to create amazing scenery that will give your layout a super realistic and authentic appearance, and you will be able to operate a first-class model railway that will keep you, your friends, and family members entertained for hours on end.

Designing Your Own Model Railroad Track Plans

Well-designed model railroad track plans are the key to any excellent model railroad layout. They are your railroad’s blueprints, and provide a way for you to visualize your railroad before it is built.

When it comes to designing your model railroad layout, there are a few points that you will need to take into consideration as you create your plans. By understanding these points, your plans will help you to build an award-winning layout that will render years of enjoyment.

Points To Consider As You Create Your Model Railroad Track Plans

Before you design your track plans, you will need to consider the size or scale of your model railroad. The HO scale and the N scale are excellent scales to consider if you are looking to build a compact layout, because train sets in these scales are small and do not require large surface areas in order to operate.

The O scale is a great scale to consider for train sets that are going to be operated by young children. This scale is larger than the HO and N scales are, and train sets in this scale tend to be robust and durable, which is exactly what a train set operated by young children will need to be.

The important thing to remember is that you should always use an appropriate scale, which will be determined by the space you have available and by knowing who will be operating the set.

As you design your model railroad track plans, you should introduce as much variety as you can to your layout. Railroad layouts that feature switching operations and long haul runs can be more fun than railroads that just go around-and-around are. Therefore, you will want to include a number of switches and cross-overs in your final track plans.

If you need inspiration when it comes to designing your plans, you will find that there are a number of books available to model railroading hobbyists; books that are filled with track plans for you to choose from. These plans are usually very easy to follow, and will help you to create a great layout for your model trains.

A perfect book to start out with is Starter Track Plans For Model Railroaders available from Historic Rail. This book offers track plans for a variety of HO and N scale layouts for tabletops, 4 X 8 surfaces, and even layouts for shelves.

Its 64 pages are filled with color photographs and instructional text, which is concise and easy to understand, and will tell you everything you need to know about construction materials, rolling stock, structures, scenery and so much more.

Designing your layout according to one of the track plans from this book is a great way to ensure that your layout will function efficiently and look good too.

Design Your Track Plans Using Your Computer

One of the most interesting ways to design your plans is to use your computer. An exceptional program that will help you to build and operate the model railroad of your dreams is the Trainz Simulator 2010 – DVD-ROM available from Historic Rail. This Engineer’s Edition features state of the art software that allows you to create your own 3D layouts.

Not only will you be able to create your own model railroad track plans with this software, you will also be able to experience what it must be like to be an engineer, and even choose which locomotive you would like to operate from a large variety of passenger and freight train locomotives.

You will drive your locomotive by operating it with your realistic in-cab controls. You will also be able to operate a busy railway line, and control multiple trains at the same time.

Further features of this DVD include:

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  • The largest Trainz collection of routes, locomotives, rolling stock, and scenery
  • In-depth driving tutorials
  • Screen-shot and video capture functions
  • Compatibility with Trainz 2009


In order to use this software you will need a Pentium D 3.4 GHz processor or an equivalent, a 128MB video card, Windows XP or higher, and a DVD drive. With everything it has to offer, this may be the best track designing program ever invented.

In conclusion; always remember that very few creations can actually materialize unless they are carefully thought out before they are put together. If you consider the above mentioned information as you begin to design your model railroad track plans, you should be able to create a great model railroad that you can thoroughly enjoy for years to come.

A Beginner’s Guide To Live Steam Model Trains

Few trains in the world of model railroading can match the realism and excitement of live steam model trains. These trains are the closest thing you can get to a real-life locomotive, without owning your own full-scale railroad.

Whether you are a fan of the pioneering days of the first steam engines, or the heyday of steam in the 1930s, you may find that these trains are perhaps the most interesting and thrilling trains you will ever operate.

Discover More About Live Steam Model Trains

One of the best ways to learn about these trains is to read some of the popular magazines regarding model trains. Two of the best magazines available are; Steam in the Garden and Garden Railways. These two magazines cover everything you need to know, including what to look for when you buy your first locomotive, and how to model scenery for your live steam railroad.

There are a number of manufacturers that provide excellent live steam locomotives. However, a locomotive that is very affordable and of pretty good quality is the Jane from Brandbright. This locomotive is a well-built model of a British quarry 0-4-0 type engine that can be bought for about $300, and provides a beginner with a strong running locomotive that will last for a long time.

While live steam model trains are a bit complex in the way they are set up, they are easier to learn to operate than a car is. All you really need to do is learn a few fundamentals from someone who has experience in running live steam model trains. Then, before you know it, you will be operating your own.

One of the best ways to learn about operating a live steam model train is to join a live steam train club. Many train clubs offer beginner programs that are coordinated by veteran instructors who will teach beginner model train enthusiasts how to operate a live steam model locomotive.

You can find a live steam train club that offers a good beginner’s program by talking to someone from your local hobby store, or by looking at the listings of clubs for live steam model trains in the Steam in the Garden and Garden Railways magazines.

A Good Book For A Beginner

An excellent book for any beginner, and even experienced live steam model train enthusiast, is; Making Simple Model Steam Engines from Historic Rail.

This book gives you detailed illustrations and step-by-step instructions on how to construct small-scale steam engines. It also covers “how to build a simple steam locomotive”. It is highly resourceful, and will help you to understand how steam locomotives work, and how to get the best out of your live steam model train.

With their unparalleled level of realism, these trains offer an unmatched model railroading experience. Overall, any hobbyist who operates a live steam model train is sure to find it almost as wonderful as having their own full-scale railroad.

Once you have joined a local club for live steam model trains, and learned how to operate a live steam model locomotive, you will discover that live steam trains are definitely the most enjoyable model trains available to any railroading hobbyist today.

How To Make Customized Signs For Hornby Model Railways

Hornby model railways are usually always associated with high levels of realism and quality, due to the fact that Hornby model train sets are some of the best on the market.

Creating the perfect railway for your perfect Hornby train set will be a challenge, but if you know how to add those super realistic special touches to your layout, you will end up with one that does your Hornby train set proud.

Custom made signs will certainly add a unique touch to your layout. From antique signs to modern day billboards, these scenic accessories give you the opportunity to exhibit the exact era and geographic location you have chosen to model.

Selecting Signs That Suit Hornby Model Railways

You may be wondering where to find signs to use on your Hornby model railway. By simply browsing the internet for images of signs and advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s you will find a number of ideas for signs, and all of them will be original and authentic.

Another way to get hold of authentic and original ideas for signs is to contact model railroading clubs, or even the National Model Railroad Association via their websites. You will discover that sometimes these clubs have pages on their sites dedicated to helping model railroaders build their perfect layouts. As a bonus you may find a few downloadable vintage or modern signs on these sites, which you can use for your Hornby model railway.

Once you have found the right signs, you will more than likely want to print them out so that you can begin gluing them to your balsa wood, and get them ready for your layout. Model railroading hobbyists often want to alter or customize the sizes of the signs they intend to use; to make them smaller or bigger for their layout. For these hobbyists, a computer graphics program known as ‘GIMP’ is the perfect graphics program to use.

Once you have printed your signs, you can glue them to your balsa wood or onto a side of one of your buildings. You should then coat them in a clear lacquer that will protect them and create the enamel ‘shiny’ effect that is often found on many vintage signs and billboards that are used outdoors.

A Software Program For Vintage Advertisements And Signs

For beginner model railroaders, and perhaps even a few veterans, it can be difficult to know exactly which signs are the right signs to use. The most important thing to remember is that the signs you use should be the ones that were commonly seen along railroads from the era you have chosen to model.

For example, you would not see a billboard for ‘Microsoft’ on a model railway that runs a model steam locomotive. Your layout will have a precise theme and it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find signs that suit your theme perfectly.

If you are modeling a railroad from the era of steam or from the early diesel locomotive era you will want to make use of vintage type signs. The perfect software program for you would then be the ‘American Advertising Collection CD-Rom’ available from Historic Rail.

This software allows you to choose from a number of 1950s and 1960s advertisements. Once you have made your choice, you will be able to print your advertisements in a miniature scale, making your signs suitable for even a ‘Z’ scale layout. You will even be able to alter the sign’s coloring so that it suits your buildings’ sides or your boxcars and so on.

This program, suitable for Windows ME or above, includes more than 100 classic advertisements and generic information signs like ‘Rooms For Rent’ or ‘Barber Shop’. It also includes a choice of 25 complete ‘Burma Shave’ sign groups.

Without a doubt this is the perfect program to use when it comes to creating signs and billboards for your model railway.

In conclusion, due to the fact that Hornby model trains are as respected and trusted as they are, it is important that anyone constructing a model railway for a Hornby train set understands that their layout should look realistic and feature as much authenticity as possible. Hornby model railways always serve their Hornby trains well, and this is something you must keep in mind as you select your first Hornby model train set.

How To Make Abandoned Buildings For HO Model Railroads

Abandoned buildings are often found in both urban and rural settings. Because of this fact, modelers building HO model railroads may want to learn how to build realistic looking abandoned buildings for their layouts.

By following the techniques mentioned below, you will be able to build structures that are very lifelike and feature the same grime and damage seen on most real abandoned buildings.

Abandoned And Destroyed Buildings For HO Model Railroads

Abandoned factory buildings are often found in commercial districts along real railroads. Models of buildings like these will add an air of realism to your HO model railroad. They can easily be built from cardboard, or balsa wood, and a few other inexpensive materials.

As a start, you will want to find pictures of factory buildings from the era you are modeling. You can use these pictures as guides as you draw your own pictures of a building’s side onto your piece of cardboard or balsa wood.

Next, you can cut your building side out of your sheet of cardboard or balsa wood. Make two or three more sides, from the same design, to get a three or four sided building. You can make a roof for your building if you like, but many times an abandoned building will no longer have a roof due to natural deterioration and damage.

Once you have made your building’s sides, position them to create the frame of your building on your layout. Before you attach them to your layout with glue, you can paint them with watered down gray and brown paint. This will result in the building having a grungy deteriorated and abandoned look once the paint dries.

In many rural areas, it is common to see houses that have burned down and been left to deteriorate. To create a similar look on buildings for HO model railroads you will need to build a building, the same way you built your abandoned factory building.

Next, you will need to drop a small hard ball onto your model that will break the roof, rendering a ragged hole that looks realistic.

Next, paint dark black paint around the tops of your building’s doors and windows, in a wavy pattern. This should look like the soot left behind from flames that came bursting out of the building’s doors and windows when it was on fire.

With this done, you can now place the model on your layout and decorate it with vines and trees that might have grown through the building after it was abandoned.

Helpful Books About Model Buildings For Layouts

As you create your buildings, it’s a good idea to have a reference book or guide with you at all times. One book that has proven to be a valuable resource to many modelers is ‘Realistic Plastic Structures’ available from Historic Rail.

This 80 paged book published by ‘Classic Toy Trains’ will teach you how to combine a variety of kits in order to create a unique looking building or structure. This is known as ‘Kitbashing’.

The book’s content includes:

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  • 20 color photographs
  • 75 black and white photographs
  • 40 illustrations
  • Step-by-step instructions


This book will help you to crate unique and authentic looking buildings, abandoned or stable; from building kits that you may already own or intend to obtain in the future.

In conclusion, abandoned buildings render a high level of realism on any layout, and by knowing exactly how to create these types of buildings you may find yourself owning one of the most realistic looking HO model railroads around.