Itís many different scales to choose between, and you choose your scale based on which space you have and how much money you want to spend.
Many different terms can be confusing for beginners.
The most of the scales is international. You can travel to any country you like, go to a model railroad store and buy a wagon or a engine from that country.
The most frequent used scale is H0.
You also have narrow-gauge scales and other scales you canít buy everywhere. You only have to know the most frequent used scales, as you can see in the box below.
The mostly frequent† used scale is H0. You can find the mostly accessories in H0.† But if you donít have that space at home you can choose N instead, because you can get much railroad on a small space. Now you have a little to choose between even if you choose the N scale. Mšrklin have something they call ďMini ClubĒ, itís a small railway in the Z scale.
The Z scale you can use if you want to have a model railroad but havenít the space, or want to have exactly the same number of wagons as the real train. You must know a train in the Z scale is very small, an engine is mostly a few centimetres long. That small engine maybe canít go further if you have steeply hills. And of course the human beings you want to have all around your railway is very small. But of course you can have fun even with the Z scale, I have seen a railway into a briefcase!
The N scale is to prefer if you havenít space to build up a H0 railroad. Choose always N scale before the Z scale if you have the space. Even if you only have a chest of drawers or a shelf, you can build your N scale railway there. You can also build your railway on shelves around the walls.
Before you go to the hobby store you must think about a few things. How much space do you have?† Should you build your railway on a table, on shelves† around the walls or do you have a room only for the railway?
Start with your railway
Begin with a start box. In that start box you have all you need to get started. A round railway build as the instruction in the box is fun to drive only a few weeks. When you have the money, start to build your railway as you want to have it. You donít have to build a big railway with many tracks. You can have a little round railway with tracks to goods depot and engine shed. Donít forget tracks there you can put wagons. Maybe you donít need a engine shed, you can have a track where you put your engines.
If you want to drive people traffic, itís most fun to have two or maybe more stations. You donít need two big stations if you donít want to, one of the stations can just be one platform.
Donít forget to gauge there you want to have your railway, so you know how much space you have. In the railway start box can you see how big the railway will be. Ask always about that, so you donít come home with a railway you canít build.
In the most cases the manufactures of start boxes have additional boxes to sell. In this additional boxes you get some more tracks. In the start box can you see how the tracks look like with one and two additional boxes. You can have a lot of fun with that if you build a landscape around the tracks.
Donít buy a lot of buildings in the beginnings. You think you must have a train station, goods depot, engine shed with timetable, diesel tank if you drive diesel engine Ö itís no end of everything you need. You probably also want to build a little village or a city behind the tracks. All houses who look so nice at the pictures on the box, are bigger than you thought. And you must have something who look like grass, people, cars and so on, if you want to have it like the picture on the box.
Maybe itís enough with a train station to begin with. You can always buy other stuff later, when you have founded out what you really need, want and have space to.
Itís best if you have your own idea from the beginning, and hold on into it. Of course you must think on the house box, but donít buy for example a train station because Ēthey donít have anyone else in the hobby store, and I need a train stationĒ. Wait, look in different hobby stores and look on the net.
Start to build your railroad
You must know what you want with your railroad. Do you want to drive steam engines, diesel engines or electric engines? Do you want to have passengers traffic, or do you want to have goods traffic? How do you want the nature look like? Do you wan to copy a real railway, or use your own imagination? Figure out from which country and which time your engine and you wagons come from, and build the country in the same style. But you can of course build which country you want, and buy new engines and wagons when you have the money.
Do a real track plan on paper! Even if you have everything in your head and think itís easy to build, you should sit down and draw up it on a paper. If you do it properly, you can count how much tracks you need and of what sort. Donít forget count with the train station and other houses you need. You maybe donít want to buy everything from the beginning, but you must have some space to put the houses you buy.
It can be much easier to build with tracks than it is to draw lines on a paper. When you build your tracks after what you have drawn on you paper, you see much easier what you have space to. Build up the whole railroad at one time and put the buildings on their right spaces. You can see if you have thought right, and can change the tracks if needed.
Build up your railway
You can build up your railway in different ways.
If you have just little space, for example a table, to build your railway on you build it on a 12 mm† chipboard or 9 mm plywood. Make holes and put the cables from the bottom, so you donít have any cables in your way.
If you are afraid of damage the surface on your furniture, build four sides on the plywood so you get† a box. You can make holes for the cables and let them be in the box. The operating controls you can have on a little sideboard, or on a shelf you put on your box.
Build the tracks as you want to have it and put the houses all around. Look so you have space for every building you want to have. When you are satisfied, you must screw or nail the track if you want to drive your trains more permanent. If you screw or nail, you can move the track if you want to build a bigger track (and you want to, sooner or later).
Donít use glue to put the houses into the plywood. Put some Platignum (adhesive putty) under it. You can also use double-sided tape. Then you can move your houses if you want to build a bigger track or just change the nature.
Make things to the railroad
Even if you want to make your railway so authentic as possible,† donít buy a lot of stuff from the beginning. Some of it you can do yourself.
If you want you can build your own houses of paper or wood. But if you donít want to, you can buy your houses. You donít have to live near a big hobby store, you can find some plastic buildings in the next toy store.
If you buy houses, itís mostly a set of pre-painted plastic pieces you have to put together by yourself. If you donít like the colours, you can paint them so they get the colour you like before you put them together.
Trees and other nature things you can do yourself. Go out in the nature and take home knotty branches, moss and small stones. It can be hard in the beginning to make trees who look like trees, but just practice and learn. The material is without cost. Compare your trees with something else on your railway, so the trees is in the same scale as the rest. Of course you can buy trees and flowers, but it is expensive if you want to have more than a few. You can save much money if you can do it by yourself!
You can choose between different kind of cars. You can choose trucks, passenger cars, busses and so on to get a more realistic nature. Cars is often expensive, so donít buy more than you need.
You need people to see you railway comes to life. Without people your railway becomes very lonely. It can be passengers waiting for the train, workers, people who is shopping or sitting in their gardens.
You can buy people pre-painted or not painted at all. Itís always cheaper to buy a box with a lot of non-painted people than buy small sets of maybe 5 pre-painted people. The people gets very small, especially in N scale, so you need a very small paintbrush and have to be stable in your hand. Remember practise make you paint better and better. Can you paint your people by yourself you can save a lot of money.
You can buy coloured sand in hobby stores, but why buy sand when you can get it from the nature? Go out and get some. You donít have to think on what sand you collect. When you come home, you put away the biggest stones. They can be stones and rocks. Strain the sand with a little strainer. That sand you have in the strainer you can put away if you need it later. Put an old nylon stocking over a plastic box. Put some sand at a time on the nylon stocking. Put away all sand you get on the nylon stocking. The sand you put away from the nylon stocking you can have as macadam to your N scale railway. The sand in the plastic box you can have beside a lake or a sea.
You can buy planks in the hobby store, for example to your industry. You can make planks yourself, itís easy.
If you work in H0 scale, you just save that piece of wood you have left when you have eaten your ice cream. Cut off them to the length you need.
Planks in N scale you make of matches. Just cut off the sulphur and cut the match on the length into two pieces. Put down the match and use a hobby knife to cut the match on the length. Be careful when you cut! Cut from one side and to the middle, and then from the other side.
How you build a little railroad
If you donít have a table where you can build your railroad, or if you donít have the space to have your railroad on the floor, you can put shelves on a wall and build your railway there. Start to find a wall there you want to have your railroad. Make the shelf 70-80 cm deep and, if you have the space, 2-3 meters long. If you can, make the shelf as long as your wall. Itís better to have too much space than too little. The deep is very important if you want to youíre your tracks like a circle with some buildings here and there, or if you want to have many tracks in a horizontal line.
Go to the nearest store there you can get chipboard/plywood. They can make exactly the pieces you need. Of course, if you have some pieces at home you can put them together and let it be a part of your shelf. Screw the plywood pieces into the wall.
Build your railway as you have drawn in you track plan. You can see if you have bought enough track or if you have to buy some more. Write down all track pieces you have forgot to buy. Put away your track again.
Putty your shelf so itís flat. Putty very carefully in every joint. Choose a paint, ask the paint shop if you arenít sure of that type you need.
Put a paper on you wallpaper so you donít paint you wallpapers. Paint your shelf. Itís easier to paint big surfaces with a little roller if you have one. Paint the shelves one or two times. Let the paint dry before you paint again.
You can build your track on cork and let the cork be embankment. Put sand and glue over the cork and between the rails. You donít have to build a embankment of cork. You can nail/screw the track into the wood and put sand just between the rails.
Build up your landscape as you want to have it. You can buy landscape parts to put your tracks on in the hobby store, but you can also build that yourself. If you want you can have a flat landscape with some painted fields and a few rocks. Itís up to you!
This is a little checklist, the most important things you must have in your mind.
Start to think out where you want to have your model railroad. Gauge your space and choose a scale. Draw a track plan. Count how much track you need. The buildings take a lot of space, so you have to think on that when you draw the track plan.
Look for start boxes. A start box contains all you need to get started. You donít have to build as they description says. Use the tracks to build your railway as you have drawn in your track plan. Count and buy all tracks you need. Even if you donít need all things in the start box, itís cheaper to buy the whole box instead of buying all things separately.
Buy electric points from start, if you donít want to do everything manually. If you have manually points in your start box, you can buy a little motor to make them electric. Points are expensive, so just buy exactly so many you need. But you need more points than you think!
Donít forget to buy steering units! You must have one steering unit for the points, one for uncoupling tracks and so on.
Build your track as you have drawn on your track plan and do all electric work. Change if needed, maybe the curve is too sharp for the engine?
Think to build up your landscape you want to have and screw/nail the track into it. Donít make a flat landscape. You can do embankment with sand and glue. Put the sand into the track and make embankment in both sides if you want. Take away all sand who isnít in the glue. Be careful so you donít get sand into the points and other sensitive parts!
Build up a little bit nature at a time. Build more when you get more money. You can buy a lot of big, nice houses, and you want to have more than you can afford and have space to. Make space for the buildings, and let the building takes time. When you wait, a few big stones can be rocks and you can build trees and so on as described.†
At last: Have fun! You can have a lot of fun with a little railroad with a few tracks and some small houses. You donít need a big railroad with many tracks and a lot of details.