Note: If at any point along the way you begin to feel overwhelmed, use what you’ve done so far and revert to the quick start approach. Don’t let yourself get frustrated and lose interest!

Decide what appeals to you about real railroads:

  • Watching trains work and move
  • Particular prototype railroads, historical or current
  • Particular regional geography or specific locations
  • Particular photographs or videos which excite or inspire you
  • Other aspects of railroads

Decide what it is about railroads that you would like to model.

Decide what you like about model trains:

  • train watching or, as we call it, railfanning,
  • operations like making up and breaking down, or classifying, trains and switching industries,
  • building locomotives and cars (rolling stock),
  • building structures,
  • building scenery,
  • filling in the details by creating “mini-scenes”,
  • planning layouts,
  • laying track, and/or
  • wiring and controlling your layout

Decide on a concept for your railroad and a focus for your modelling activities.

Develop a Givens and Druthers (I’d rather…) list to guide your decisions and activities.

Historical Note: The Givens and Druthers list is an idea in common use and first proposed by noted model railroader and layout designer, the late John Armstrong.

  • Givens: What are the constraints on your model railroading activities? Include space available, skills you have or wish to develop, model railroad equipment you already own and with which you do not wish to part, and style of railroad appropriate for your space. List anything that will limit the design for your model railroad.
  • Druthers: What are your preferences for your model railroading designs and activities? Include prototype, geography, era, railroad style (around the walls, island, etc.), and desired control system (DC or DCC). List anything to be included in the design for your model railroad.

Define a set of standards such as minimum track radius and maximum grade to help channel your design activities.

Begin layout planning with a simple, easy to execute starting point, and some quick wins to offer some satisfaction, and to whet your appetite for more modeling.

Develop a budget for basic tools, materials, trains, structures, and scenery.

Begin acquiring budgeted items. When you have the basics, START BUILDING!


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