Tag Archives: Model Railroad projects

Give a young person a gift that will last a lifetime by introducing them to model trains.

Model Trains

We here at Walthers believe model railroading is the world’s greatest hobby and we love to help bring others aboard. Model trains have been around for nearly 100 years and have seen changes that have taken the level of sophistication and accuracy to new heights never dreamed of before. What used to take many of hours of work can now be purchased off the shelf at your local hobby shop or ordered online from one of hundreds of different retailers.

Why so popular?

Model railroading has so many facets as a hobby. Engineering, electronics, sculpting, carpentry, history, teamwork, and exceptional creativity. This makes it very appealing to creative and intelligent people who love watching the giant machines roll down the tracks. They want to preserve the awe struck feeling they have every time a behemoth locomotives pulls its cars past. For some there is a specific place in time they wish to capture, for others its specific models of locomotives and cars…right down to the engine and car numbers. All over the country people have these same memories that they share with each other, building bonds that last a lifetime. For some people, they like to create the world in a way they would like to see it — a world of their own design.

Historical HO Scale Model Trains

Model trains preserve history

Real trains, like everything else in this technologically driven world, are changing very quickly. But for many modelers, preserving the past is a key part of their hobby fun; while an actual steam locomotive may have been scrapped decades ago, a three-dimensional working miniature becomes a snapshot in time like no other.

Why hobbies are so important to people

Hobbies are very important, because without them we live day-to-day habit-filled lives that don’t give us much escape. Hobbies, especially model trains, provide many positive experiences and effects:

  1. 1. Meeting new people
  2. 2. Experiencing new things
  3. 3. Building self-esteem and worth
  4. 4. Flexibility and creative satisfaction
  5. 5. Clearing your mind
  6. 6. Having something to look forward to
  7. 7. Setting and accomplishing goals

Model Railroading is a great hobby because it will give you an opportunity to relax and build skills at the same time while expressing yourself in fantastic ways.

Father and sons working on a model train layout

Share the love for model trains

Connecting with family is also much easier when common interests are shared and enjoyed. Model trains appeal to curious young people who enjoy solving problems, and have an eye for detail and like to challenge themselves to acquire new skills and learn new things.

Imagine how much fun it can be to enlist and receive help from a young person on a part of your layout or a kit project. Nearly every skill that can help young people develop can be found working with model trains.

Toddler boy playing with thomas model train

A great way to start

Simply throwing young people at an existing layout can be stressful for everyone involved — kids are inclined to touch things – as are a lot of adults. Instead of using your prized models, make the investment in some basic equipment everyone can share. A few minutes spent learning how to handle and operate less fragile cars and locos now can really pay off down the tracks, opening the doors to helping them start their own model railroad. So, where should you begin?

First buy a set, you can find hundreds of train sets on walthers.com.

Expand the basic track from just an oval to something a little bigger by adding a track expansion set.

Take a couple of hours and build a model railroad layout base with grass mat together, or buy a kit like this one from Woodland Scenics.

Add some landscaping or points of interest.

Add some structures using kits or pre-built buildings.

From there, the sky is the limit. As young people grow their interest in model trains will grow as well and before you know it they’ll be teaching you things!

More information

The places to find model railroad information are abundant with programs across the country designed to help get young people into the hobby. There are also programs and websites to help kids who are already engaged in the hobby. Model railroad museums around the country are great places for young people to really get a look at mature layouts.  Milwaukee’s Trainfest and other model train shows have programs that help young people get involved. Each year young people absolutely love the layouts at model train shows. Online articles like this one and several forums are also great places to find information to bring young people into the hobby of model trains. More and more social media content around the hobby is being developed as well as video.

Walthers is leading the efforts to bring younger people into model trains. If you have ideas that you’d like to share with us on how to find success while getting young people involved in the hobby or if you are currently helping to pass along your love of model trains, send us your thoughts to growthehobby@walthers.com

We love hearing from and learning from you! Some of your ideas may be featured in future blog posts or features here at Walthers. We are committed to this cause, and know that some of the very best ideas come from you!

10 Reasons to Visit your Local Hobby Shop

Walthers Cornerstone® Hobby Shop Kit

Whether you’re just getting started with a new train set, or you’re a longtime modeler, visiting your local hobby shop (if you have one) can be a fun and inspirational learning experience.


  1. Inspiration

If you’re thinking of expanding or adding to your new train set, you may not know where to start or what’s available on the market. A good way to get inspired is to visit your local hobby shop to see what types of products they carry and how they’re displayed. Often times, the store will have a variety of layouts and themes on display.

Take your time and notice the details and different components of the display. Seeing all the elements together as a cohesive system can put things into perspective. It can be hard to see the big picture while looking at products online. Acquaint yourself with the different brands, trains, accessories, tools, and controls, as well as any reference books. Even if you don’t make a purchase your first time into the shop, you’ll leave with a better understanding of the hobby than when you came in.

For longtime modelers, you may be experiencing a plateau with your layout and need a catalyst for change. When was the last time you went to a hobby shop that isn’t your regular, go-to store? Take a look at our store locator (link), and dedicate an afternoon to visiting a new shop. A new shop means new layouts, new staff, and possibly different products. Seeing these things in a different light may inspire you to try something new, or give you new ideas.


  1. Begin with the basics

After visiting a hobby shop for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of products and accessories it took to create the in-store train layouts. Understand these types of layouts take a very long time to build. Talk with the staff on what they recommend for someone just starting out. They’ll be able to show you the basic building blocks of any model layout (track, freight and passenger cars, buildings) and walk you through the pros and cons of various aspects of model railroading. By starting with the basics, and building step by step, you’re more likely to finish all of your necessary components, rather than starting and abandoning ambitious projects.


  1. See products before you buy

If you’re just starting out as a model railroader, you may have a lot of questions or lack direction for your layout. Sure, you know that N and HO scale are different sizes, but what does that size difference look like? Do you want DC or DCC? Should you buy Code83 or Code100 track? The benefit of going into your local hobby shop is seeing the products firsthand. Sometimes the actual packaging conveys more information than you might see in ads or on the internet, and you’ll be able to view the product in different angles versus one picture online, or no pictures at all. In certain circumstances, your hobby shop may be willing to let you demo a product that you’re interested in! Being able to physically touch, see, and hear the different components allows you to make a well-informed purchase, and can save you from buyer’s remorse down the road.


  1. Compare similar products

Multiple manufacturers may offer similar trains, vehicles, figures, and scenery materials. Small details can be the deciding factor in the products that you purchase, especially amongst similar items. Often times, pictures on the internet cannot accurately depict the exact color, emphasize minuscule details, or give you that sense of assurance that seeing something in person provides. If you’re deciding between two similar products, make a visit to your local hobby shop. Chances are, you’ll be able to quickly tell which model is best for you.


  1. See store displays

Manufacturers like to promote their products in stores via displays, models, and interactive tools. These allow you to compare products side-by-side, or see a range of compatible products. Your hobby shop may have scenery, hardware, vehicles, paints, adhesives and more displayed on special racks. In many cases, the racks have informative signs and graphics showing the basics of how the products work together. This can remove a lot of the guesswork for a new modeler, and make for an expedited shopping experience for more experienced modelers.


  1. Ask the experts

Most hobby shops employ modelers on their staff. Even if they don’t model trains, they may build military models, aircrafts, or vehicles. In such instances, they can usually answer questions about construction, painting, weathering, and scenery. By talking with an expert, you’ll be able to talk about what you are doing, and let them know any general products you’re interested in receiving a recommendation about. Your hobby shop should be willing to provide feedback and make recommendations — after all, they’re counting on you to return and become a lifelong customer.


  1. Books and DVDs

Are you a picture person? Imagine ordering a scenery how-to book online, only to find out that it’s completely text, or worse, receiving a DVD in a different language! Hobby shops aren’t libraries, but they should carry a number of model train books and DVD’s for you to browse. If you’re just starting in modeling, take time to flip through and choose some how-to books that fit your needs.

If you’re a seasoned modeler, or building a layout, books and DVDs about real railroads are great modeling reference. Not only can you see the train action on your favorite railroad, era or region, you can also look at features in the background for scenery and detailing ideas.


  1. A learning experience

Many great hobby shops foster the personal growth of their customers. It’s becoming more common for stores to host lectures and offer how-to classes on model railroading topics. Subjects can range from scenery, to DCC, to weathering and detailing. In addition, many shops sponsor or advertise local model railroad clubs and railroad events. Check out the bulletin board – you might find something you want to visit!


  1. Model railroading ideas sometimes come from other hobbies

 Don’t limit yourself by exclusively purchasing products made for model railroading. Yes, in general, those items are your safest bets, however, you could be missing out on nuggets of information for your layout. Full-line hobby shops often carry military, aircraft, vehicle, and other modeling supplies that can also be used for model train layouts. Craft supplies are also common in hobby stores.

Additionally, are there dioramas on display? Check them out, and if you see a scene or painting technique you can apply to your model railroad, ask how it was done. By expanding your product base, you’re tapping into numerous new, unique looks and techniques for your model train layouts.


  1. Meet other modelers

Model railroading can sometimes be a solitary and isolating hobby. Staying active in your community by visiting your local hobby shop can connect you with other model railroaders and hobbyists. Some hobby shops encourage camaraderie between its customers by running contests, hosting events, and even sponsoring a local model railroad club.

Often times, there will be a wide range of experience amongst your fellow shoppers, from novice to experts. Engaging with those on the same skill level as you serves as a way to gauge your progress and share similar experiences. Seasoned hobbyists can act as mentors, and are typically eager to give advice and guidance.

Even if you’ve been in the hobby for decades, sometimes a chat with someone new to the hobby can provide an insight you haven’t considered, and interacting with other modelers can revitalize your interest and reignite your passion for the hobby.


One thing is for sure, when you are visiting a local shop, look for Walthers products. Shops that carry the Walthers brand are good shops, and if they don’t they are missing an iconic brand that has led the industry for 85 years.

New Year’s resolutions for model railroaders

With the holiday season coming to a close and the New Year upon us, why not consider a few model train resolutions? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, model railroading has touched your life sometime before or during the holiday season. Whether you just received your first train set, or you’re a seasoned model railroader, there are all kinds of hobby ideas, or “resolutions” to consider in 2018.

Excited about receiving a new train set for the holidays? If so, that’s great! You or your family has embarked on a tradition and hobby that’s fun year-round. So why not make a resolution to keep the fun rolling into the New Year?

Put away the tree, not the trains!

With the decorations being boxed up and the tree coming down, it’s time to figure out where to move the trains. In many households that often means a table, long shelf in the basement, or lacking a basement, a spare room. Wherever you decide to set them up, it’s important to ensure good temperature, humidity, and dust control. This makes it easier to keep the track and electrical contacts clean and working reliably.

Once you’ve identified where to set up, the fun begins. If you’re just starting out with a train set, there is no need to make things permanent —yet. Simply get it up and running, and enjoy! A lot of folks like to add more cars and locomotives for extra variety. Keep in mind that it takes advanced controls (such as DCC) to run more than one train on the same track without more than basic wiring. If you have questions, some train sets come with basic how-to DVDs, but if yours didn’t, here are a few books about getting started in the hobby.

Are your trains only for the Holidays?

Whether you’re getting started with a Christmas train, or you’re a longtime modeler with equipment you bring out for the season, holiday-only trains require diligence in packing and storage to make it easy to keep the fun rolling in future years. A good resolution is to carefully pack away your holiday trains. Here are some suggestions that can make setup easier next year.

To begin with, keep vigilant when packing up your locomotive and cars. Gently uncouple them and check them over for damage and dirt. Clean the wheels on your locomotive, and check for carpet and tree skirt fibers that may have gotten caught in the wheels and gearing. Carefully place the loco and cars into their packaging or boxes. If you don’t have packaging, wrap them individually with bubble wrap, clean rags, or thick paper towels that can cushion them.

Next, disconnect your power pack from the terminal track and tape or tie the wires to the power pack so you can find them next year. Disassemble the track sections, clean the rails with a track cleaner, and neatly return them to their packaging or box. If you don’t have the original box, bundle sections together with rubber bands to keep them organized.

For storage, add desiccant packs to all boxes or bins before putting them away. These will minimize the chance of corrosion from moisture. Store all boxes and bins away from extreme heat or cold.

Resolutions for longtime modelers

If you’ve been in the hobby for years, you’ve surely got some projects you would like to tackle or complete. Even those with completely operable and scenic layouts or modules can appreciate and enjoy projects to improve and maintain their collection. Not every resolution may be applicable to you, but here are a few to consider for the New Year.

    1. Finish what you started

Those of us who have been modelers for a long time often love to work on several projects at once. However, sometimes life gets in the way and projects get shelved. Instead of starting a new project, why not complete that kit, assemble the parts from a kitbash, or finish painting that locomotive or car? Finishing a model or project is rewarding – enough said!

  1. Try something new

Learning new modeling techniques or working in a new modeling era or scale is fun. If you haven’t, why not build a laser-cut wood, resin, or cardstock kit? Kitbash or scratch-build a loco, car, vehicle, or structure? Ever use an airbrush? If not, try it! You get the idea, trying and learning new things makes us better modelers.

  1. Light up your world

Lighting adds interest to models and scenes. In recent years, lights for buildings, locomotives, cars, and vehicles have become better than ever, thanks to tiny circuits and LEDs. Don’t forget to visualize the bigger picture – chances are, it can use better lighting! Layout room lighting can make dark, dingy layouts spring to life, and they’ll also be easier to see and work on. Well-lit workbenches make for a pleasant workspace and can make model building easier.

  1. Add DCC to your layout and loco fleet

Could this be the year you upgrade your DC railroad to Digital Command Control (DCC)? It’s a good resolution to make and there’s no doubt that it’s the future of the hobby. Although there are many considerations to factor, if you operate multiple trains on a block system, or if you like prototype operations, sound and/or automation, DCC is likely the way to go. Recent advances in DCC systems (Link: https://www.walthers.com/products/power-and-controls/command-control/set/show/120), decoders, and trains make conversion easier than ever. But if you’re happy with your DC railroad, it works well, and you’re having fun, that’s great – fun is the object of any hobby!

  1. Don’t wait until spring to clean

Dust never sleeps, and neither does corrosion. A great resolution for the New Year is to clean your layout, locos, workbench, and train room. Clean track and wheels on locomotives and cars make operations more reliable. An uncluttered workbench means more room to build, detail, or decorate models. Finally, a good dusting with an appropriate lightweight duster can do wonders for the appearance of layout scenes and structures.

  1. Make a few good tweaks

If you’re satisfied with your control and power systems, consider making some small upgrades you may have put off. On DCC railroads, adjust the programming on your decoders such as volume on sound decoders and speed matching on locomotives. On DC systems, how about fixing annoying little dead spots, powering dead turnout frogs, and fixing other electrical bugs? Address minor track repairs wherever derailments are frequent. Fix incidental wear and tear to buildings and scenery. When everything on your railroad runs and looks as intended, the fun keeps on rolling!

  1. So many projects, so little time

Pressed for time? How about resolving to do a few quick projects? Many of these projects take only a short time, require few materials, and are easily interrupted if you’re pressed for spare time.

Weathering trains, structures, track (yes, track!), and scenery can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Dusting up a freight car with chalks or dry brushing takes about an hour. Weathering track goes quickly, and if you get interrupted you can easily pick up where you left off. See this link for many, many weathering products that make adding realism to your layout fast and fun.

Adding small details to trains or structures can greatly enhance appearance, often in a minuscule amount of time. Rolling stock often has drill starter points for adding wire grab irons and handrails. Why not drill them out and add grab irons for extra realism? On your layout, add figures to your scenes for a realistic upgrade. Street details like vendor carts, trash cans, planters, hydrants and more are quick and easy to add. Window awnings, interior details, fire escapes and other parts are fast and fun to install on buildings.

Looking for a sign telling you what to add to your layout next? Try adding signs to your scenes. Street signs, business signs, track side signs, and billboards give scenes a time frame and add to your layout’s value. Thousands of signs are available and they’re quick and fun to add.

Pick one, a few, or none at all

As a fun hobby, model railroading has plenty of opportunities for enjoyment and no two people view it the same. When you’re a beginner, getting the trains up and running is usually the focus, and watching a train roll down the track makes us smile! For seasoned modelers, watching your first train circle the track still brings feelings of joy!

In between, a sense of accomplishment and the fun of doing and learning keeps modelers motivated to take on or complete new projects. At this time of year, however, many of us reflect back on the past year and make plans for the New Year. We hope that this blog post inspires your thoughts and imagination to make a few model railroading resolutions as we roll down the track into 2018!

Browse Walthers categories to get a feel for your next project.