The best ways to customise your model railway

The best ways to customise your model railway

Building a model railway is one of life’s best little joys. Seeing your set come together is an experience that transcends age. Younger children can enjoy a model railway and adults can build expansive sets incorporating all sorts of features.

Customising your set takes a little bit more work but is a much more rewarding experience. Here are some of the best ways to customise your railway and make it your own.

Create your own buildings

Buying Hornby buildings and placing them is a simple way to spruce up your track, but you’ll have the same buildings and features as any other railway builder. If you’re an ambitious model collector, you can try your hand at making your own buildings or structures. All you need is a spot of imagination and the right tools. Buildings can be made of cardboard and glue or can be made stronger by using 3D printed plastic sheets. Click here for a simple guide to custom model building.

Don’t forget to add people

Model railways without any people on them seem bland and lifeless. Add models and figurines from different manufacturers to add a degree of customisation to your set. For example, if you’re a comic fan, you could add ninja turtle poking up through a manhole for a unique touch.

Create your own terrain

A flat railway set can be uninspiring and bland , so add some verticality with mountains and other geological elements. Doing this is fairly simple and requires a bit of creativity. Start off by buying foam insulation boards. From here, use a saw to cut out chunks and then use a scalpel or craft knife to whittle the foam into scenery. Spray it with an undercoat and then drybrush it with your colour scheme to create layered mountain scenery. Here’s a simple guide.

Ground cover

As well as good scenery, you’ll need to make realistic ground to make your railway convincing. To do so, most model enthusiasts sprinkle grass ‘flock’ across their sets, or use another material like stone or rock. However, you’ll need to add more than a single layer to create realistic terrain. Once you’ve applied your layer, you can add trees, bushes and larger patches of grass to create something more visually appealing than just flat grass.

Custom backdrops

A backdrop makes your railway even more realistic and is essential if you’re trying to create something convincing. Your home’s wallpaper won’t do the job, so mount a backdrop to the bench or wall your set connects with. You can use virtually any material that is sturdy and connects with whatever your railway sits on top of. Spray it with a light blue hue to match the sky and then get to work painting some mountains and clouds. You don’t need to be an expert- just take your time and try to match the backdrop with the scenery you’ve built.

Added moving parts

An overlooked aspect of mechanical train sets is creating moving parts that aren’t just related to your locomotives. For example, creating a moving water wheel or similar building can create a pleasing dynamic movement across the set, complementing the train itself. Of course, this requires a lot more planning and a knowledge of circuitry but it can really lift your railway from standard to exceptional.

Once you’ve taken care of these aspects, your model railway is sure to impress. Custom, hand-designed and ready to roll, it’ll be your pride and joy.

1 Comment

  • This story reminded me of how I got started building model trains many years ago. It was rough at first, I have to admit. I would get caught up surfing the Internet for ours on end for answers or would spend too much time going through the painful process of dealing with inexperienced sales people at my local hobby shop. But somehow I learned to create my own detailed model train layouts without having a big budget or a lot of space, even though I wasn’t good with my hands nor was I an electrician, a carpenter, or an artist. Now me and my two boys spend all our free time with this wonderful hobby. I’m glad that we are having fun together and they are doing something educational with their time.

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