Everything You Need to Make Your Model Railroad Come Alive!

index sitemap advanced

Train Sets



How to Get Started ("Givens and Druthers" - John Allen)

Scale - The first thing to do when you decide to build a model railroad is to determine what scale your prefer to model. Visit the page on Model Trains Scales to find out more about the different scales and how to choose one.  

Theme - The second thing to decide is what will be the theme of your layout. 

  • What will be the purpose of your trains?   Will they mostly be passengers or freight or both?  What industries will your trains serve - coal, lumber, containers? 
  • LocaleWhere do you want your trains to be operating?  You might choose an industrial city like Chicago or the flatlands of Kansas or the Rocky Mountains.  Wherever you decide, your train purchase should be a railroad that operated, or is currently operating in that area. 
  • Also related to theme is era.  What period in history would you like to model?  You might like the 1950's when there was both steam and diesel activity on the tracks.  Or you might like to model some of the earlier railroads from the 1800's, or more modern railroads, like Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific and others.

Power - How do you want to operate your train(s)?  Standard analog DC, DCC, or battery-operated)?  The main advantage of DCC is that you can operate multiple trains individually from one power source. I would recommend DCC if you are really wanting to pursue a long-standing relationship with this hobby. It's a little more expensive at first, but cheaper in the long run, and much easier to wire if you plan to operate more than one train.

Display - How do you want to show your trains?  You may wish to just do a small diorama, or a small switching layout for starters.  Do you want a small corner layout or a shelf layout?  Do you like a lot of scenery, mountains, waterfalls, forests, bridges, etc.  Do you want more than one deck?  The amount of space you have available will help with your decision here. One word of caution: Be careful not to "bite off more than you can chew", as the saying goes. If you plan too big of a project, especially at first, you may get frustrated with the amount of work involved to get it going. This is not supposed to be frustrating - It's supposed to be fun!  You can always start small and expand later. 

Of course, you don't have to decide all of that right up front, but it's good to be thinking about it.  Don't get so mired down in the decision-making that you never get started.  Even if you don't have it all figured out in the beginning, just go for it! 

Once you have thought about some of these things for a few minutes, then you are ready to buy your first train set.  And here they are - right on this page!

Also see the Locomotives and Equipment Categories on this site.  Remember, you don't have to buy a whole train set to get started - You could just buy the individual items - locomotive, railcars, track and power supply.

Learn more about themes, locale, era. and settings for your railroad.

Learn more about types of railroad equipment.

Learn more about track planning and layout design.

Learn more about powering your trains.

Note: All non-product photos used on this site have either been taken by the author or the license has been purchased.

©Copyright 2020-2021. All rights reserved.