About Model Railroads For Beginners

A lot of people are considering what should they know about model railroads for beginners, and in this article I will try to explain everything you need to know about model train sets and railroads for beginners.

This hobby is more than a century old and it is still very popular – there hasn’t been more train set on market like there are these days.

But what is the first thing you should be aware before getting yourself or to a child a very first train set? According to my experience – space, you need some spare square meters ( or feet), to set railroads. Even the smallest set takes some space, and believe me, you do not want to set railroads and then clear away after you or a child are done playing with railroads.

I had literally the smallest train set, and because of a lack of space we had to clear it away after playing, and of course things got lost and broken very soon, in matter of days. So if you have some extra space you can sacrifice then you are on the right “track” for some train sets.

In this article I will explain some basics you really need to know, before diving into this awesome hobby of railroads. I will talk about scales and gauges, train controller and about compatibility among different brands. Just read further to learn about model railroads.

Model Train Scales

I never knew that scales are so important in model railroads – scales are basically a standard and a law, when it comes to model railroads – at least for clubs and shows for those hobby lovers.

So first of all scale in model railroads is relative size of a train in proportion to real train – train’s size compared to a real train.

Each scale has its own name, and those are:

  • G scale – it is 1: 24 to 1:32
  • O scale – 1 – 48
  • HO scale – 1.87, HO scale is the most popular among hobbyists, HO stands for Half “O” scale
  • S scale – 1:48
  • N scale – 1:160
  • Z scale – 1: 220

HO scale is the biggest selling scale in the world, N scale comes second.

Compatibility Of Different Train Brands

There are a lot different brands that offer model train sets by scale standards. The most popular and simply the best are Lehman, Lionel, Atlas, MTH, Williams, Bachman and more. I will try to answer the question of how is with compatibility among different brands, but first you need to know what is gauge – gauge is used a lot in modeling trains and what it means is that gauge is the distance between rails – standard gauge ( for real trains ) is 1,435 meters or 8 feet 8,5 inches.

So gauge in specific scale (either G, O,HO,S,N or Z) is the same among different brands. To explain you with an example – Lionel’s Polar Express in G scale and Bachmann’s North Woods Logger in g scale have the same gauge, so they can run on both tracks – Polar Express can ride on North woods loggers track and vice versa.

Track are a bit difficult to explain. They are not compatible among brands, even though the gauge is the same, almost every brand has its own set of tracks, and in the most cases they are not compatible. I do not understand why is that so, but, you know, those brands are really old, and they patented their own tracks, and don’t want to let any other brand driving on their rails.

What I’m trying to tell you, trains of the same scale can drive on any tracks they want, but tracks from different brands can not be connected to each other, not all of them, but why bother? Every brand, you choose, has additional tracks, and you can buy them and make a lot of variate in your train layouts.

Train Control

Latest Train sets include a DCC ( digital command control ), what does that mean is of course as technology is pushing forward, computer controlling a train has become a new standard in model railroading. It is widely available in HO and N scales (the first and the second most selling scales in the world). If you are a beginner and want to step into railroading I recommend you DCC train sets and nothing else.

Pick Your Railroad

Now that you know basics about model railroads it is time to pick your own set of railroads. Which one do you want? Do

you want to drive through Europe, Canada, Alaska or Texas? You name it – every locomotive and cars have the same color of a railroad and has its trademark printed on them. You can get old railroads, that don’t exist anymore or were taken by larger company. Usually people choose a railroad that went through their town or village or house when they were young and bring them back memories.

Standard gauge (1435 mm or 4 feet 8,5 inches) Origins

So standard gauge has quite a his5tors, before 1900s, but there is a story, it is not confirmed because it is hard to approve that, where does this standard gauge come from. Supposedly, back in the Roman Empire there were these rutted roads marked by chariots – you will never guess the gauge of wheels of chariots – the maximum gauge between chariot wheels was 1500 mm – so basically Roman Empire set the standard gauge for us.


Bottom line is that do not get into high debts with railroads if you are a beginner, get yourself not very expensive trains set for start. Let’s say about $100 is a great deal for a start, because high quality top-notch train sets cost from 300 to $600 and think about the fact that it isn’t the one you wanted or even worse, you don’t want to have it anymore? Don’t go for a G scale, it is too big and it should be for a big garage or in the garden, go for OH, it is widely used and spare parts among brands aren’t difficult to get.

If you are interested in getting a model train sets for yourself, click on link below and it will take you to “HO” train sets:


Imagine having this awesome railroads in the mountains or in a dessert, or in Europe – how great would that be?

if you have any questions, comments please write me in the comment section below and I will be happy to reply.


Primoz P.

10 thoughts on “About Model Railroads For Beginners”

  1. You are so right when you say that you need space, and if possible a special space to set up for your railroads. Building this is like a form of art that you can add to all the time, and to have a space like this for display in your home looks awesome. 

    As children, we had one set up permanently and we loved it, although my brothers and I used to fight about what farm animals to use and how many cars needed to go onto the board. 

    I remember those days fondly though and get a very nostalgic feeling when I see the beautiful railways that others have built. Reading your article has made me want to do it all over again.

    • It does right? I have two brothers -just imagine the fight we have been through for being a “conductor” of a train.


      Primoz P.

  2. Have always been amazed and surprised whenever I see railroad train toys even though I get to see it only in movies and I’ve not gotten the chance to see it real life but they’ve been my nightmares. Thanks for the great review you have provided to us on railroad toy trains. I’ll have loved to see it purchase link on your blog post. But I didn’t see the purchase link. Can u give us the purchase link to some of these railroad toy trains for beginners?


  3. This is a lovely review; i am just getting to know about model railroad for beginners .i love the way you highlighted their usefulness; pros and cons.i have learnt alot from your deductions and  i will also make more research to learn moreThanks for sharing this lovely review. its well appreciated

  4. The most beautiful thing I like about railroads is that it brings back old memory’s  and u don’t have to have big garden or space to own a railroads, You don’t have to go for a G scale to have it. OH is great and it spare part is not Hard to get.

  5. Hi! I have initiated this hobby and I’m so happy I found your post.

    You have started mentioning space. And I must admit it’s a very important factor.

    You have also opened my mind concerning scales and the compatibility of different train brands. Knowing that tracks are not compatible is important.

    I want to purchase my first digital command control train set. I’m excited! Thank you very much!


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