Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Riding the trains is wonderful, but building them with your own two hands is another experience altogether. We are going to talk about how to build your own track, the necessary wiring, and the scenery needed for the full thrill.

Getting Started

There are three sizes of the model train that are the industry standard. They are, from smallest to largest, Z, N, HO, S, O, and G. HO, or the Half-O Gauge, are the most common, with the 1:87 scale to the original train car. Z and G, respectively in their own categories, are sought out by collectors that like to brag about the size of their models or lack thereof.


DCC, or digital command control, is kind of pricey, but it allows you to control multiple trains independently. That being said, it may not be the perfect choice for a ferroequinologist-to-be. You would not go wrong with using the direct current, or DC, for your train. They are much more affordable but need some experience with wiring and insulation.

Track Building

A good model train track is something you cannot do without, which is why many model enthusiasts love building their own. There are usually four different types of materials that are commonly used for track building. They are:

· Brass,

· Steel,

· Zinc-coated steel, and

· Nickel silver.

I’ve actually talked with a few people about it and most prefer nickel silver as it lasts the longest. The other conductors relatively quickly oxidize and rust. While this is also the case with nickel silver, its oxide can still conduct electricity, so it is a good material for train tracks.

Alternatively, if you want to have the train on the tracks as soon as possible and don’t mind the frequent cleaning, brass is the way to go. It is, I believe, the most common conductor in model building, so it is pretty good for beginners that don’t want to spend a lot of time setting everything up and hunting for supplies.

When it comes to sections, there are a few options regarding length and curvature. Sectional track pieces are often about 9 inches long and the curved section comes in 15’’, 18’’ and 22’’, though different manufacturers may provide you with additional options. Make sure the sections are properly fixed to each other, as you can either crash the train or break the electric circuit.

Whenever you can, try to make your curves generous (get your mind out of the gutter – train track curves). Sharper turns mean less speed and smaller train cars. Bigger curves with wider angles give you more options.


You can either make your own scenery from scratch, which is okay if you are good with your hands, or you can use a kit.

Personally, as I’m not really dexterous and could not make a replica of the post office to save my life, I go with kits. It’s amazing how much variety and how many details are already pre-packed for our enjoyment. I will not give out any brand names, even as references. However, the selection is great.

The most common material in these kits is plastic, though many come with wood, metal, and plaster. If you are not afraid to experiment, you can try something called kit-bashing. It’s when you combine several elements from different kits into one scenery.

Bottom Line

If you are just starting out, you should consider buying a simple train kit and seeing how it feels. A simple HO model train with a standard power pack and some basic scenery is all it takes to get you hooked. If it’s not, then you won’t be spending a lot of your time and money on different models.

By Ella