To develop your model train layout there are four major steps to take before you begin construction:
1: Select the size of your model train, that is the scale or gauge. Scales range from micro-sized Z scale for tiny layouts to giant G-scale used mostly for outdoor garden layouts.
Visit hobby shops or model train websites and see the various scales available. Staff at a hobby shop will usually be happy to point out the advantages and/or disadvantages of each scale. Your decision about scale/size will be partly based on the space available for your layout. The most popular scales are O scale which is 1/48th actual size and the smaller HO scale which is 1/87th actual size. As a result of being the two most popular scales these have the greatest variety of locomotives, cars and accessories available.
2: Learn about layouts for the scale you have chosen by reading magazines such as O Gauge Railroading and Classic Toy Trains (these two are for O scale). Model Railroading provides detailed information about HO and N scale. All are full of information – all the good train hobby stores carry them or you can pick them up at places like Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
Also visit websites related to your scale choice Google the term “model train layouts” for a great listing of sites with information about model train layouts.
Re-visit hobby shops you visited for information when deciding on the scale of your model train set and ask questions about layout. The good ones can provide helpful advice and they sell how-to books on wiring, scenery, detailing and other subjects.
3: You then need to decide on how you start. Do you want to start with a little layout that can later be extended? Do you want to set up a permanent layout right from the start? Do you want to develop a ‘theme’ layout say a layout depicting California logging railroads in the 1920s? The major decisions are to determine your objective and set the size parameters for your layout. Don’t forget that the size parameters for your layout will be determined largely by the space you have available a basement? the corner of a lounge room? portion of your garage? etc.
4: Begin making sketches and drawings on plain paper it’s easier to make changes to your drawing than to have to physically pry up a section of track that ‘went wrong’. Refer back to magazines and websites during this planning stage just to see what others have done. Many magazines and websites will have photos of layouts appropriate to the scale you have chosen. There are even some computer programs which can help you with designing your layout – look for ads in model train magazines.