Building a model railway layout

When you begin thinking about a model railway layout you need to decide who it's for. Is it to be a high detailed layout or something fun to play around with. Decide now because the two are not really compatible. Of course you can use your imagination and create lots of action without slavishly following some kind of real life replication.
If the layout is for children think about how robust the layout will need to be. Think about what children want, bridges, tunnels, roads and other fun features.
Whatever the style of the layout it needs a firm base referred to as a baseboard. There are many ways of building a baseboard, but the most popular and standard construction is to use a topsurface of insulation board with a supporting frame of softwood battens running along and across the underside of the board. For a Hornby TrakMat layout the baseboard will have to be a minimum of 1800mm x 1200mm (6ft x 4ft) in size.
Now take a break and watch this video for some inspiration....

Now for the gauge. Gauge is the distance between the rails. The main gauges are (in descending size order) O, OO, HO, and N. OO gauge is the one most British modellers use. There are two main track manufacturers, Hornby and Peco. They can both be used together, costing about the same although they do look slightly different. Hornby track looks good and it is more readily available.
There is also two types of track, coated steel rails and nickel silver rails, again both can be used together, but the steel rail takes more maintenance.
Fitting the track is a simple process of nailing the track to the board with track pins. It is best to put together a full oval of track before you start to pin it down so that adjustments can be easily made without the need to unpin track. Do not pin every hole as it is unnecessary and time consuming. Pin every other hole, or less on longer sections. It's was easier to use pliers to squeeze the pins in to the board, than to hammer them in. You may want to consider drilling holes for point motors, signals, and track power cables before fixing the track down.

If you are planning to have a large station you may want to position it on the board at the same time that you start positioning the track. You may need to make room for it at the edge of the base board or take out a siding to make room for it.
Once you have your baseboard built, TrakMat fixed down and track in place, it is a simple task to plug in a standard power supply system - the transformer plugs into the controller, the controller plugs into the power clip and the power clip plugs into the track - all these items come with your train set. However, to control the full TrakMat layout, you will need at least one more controller, so you can control two trains or more at the same time on different circuits. The Hornby HM2000 controller is a complete transformer and speed control unit in one, with built-in control for two separate trains and bi-directional running.
So there you have a basic set up that you can enjoy for many hours, months and even years. You have buildings to position, scenery to make, roads to build, lighting to install and trains and rolling stock to choose. Of course if you've got the bug you'll be wanting to expand your layout, increase your trains and so on. To do so you should start by reading our guide to DCC control.

Further Reading

Model Train Secrets by Bruce Morgan

The Model Railway Design Manualby C. J. Freezer


Other Model Railway Guides

Model Railway Design

Model Railway Manufacturers

Model Railway Gauges

Digital Command Control (DCC)

Garden Railways


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