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New to Building Model Trains? Everything You Need to Know

New to Building Model Trains? Everything You Need to Know

15th Jul 2020

Building model trains is a fulfilling, valuable hobby. You can lose yourself in the intricacies of building trains and creating cities or towns. As tempting as it is to jump right into assembling, there are a few things to consider first. Fortunately, Plaza Japan can help. Not only do we have plenty of model train kits to build, but we also have a handy guide that explains everything you need to know about building trains. 

Sketch Out a Budget 

Because there are different models and scales to choose from, and because you also have to think about how you're going to decorate your train space with other figures, building model trains can be costly. It helps to purchase your model trains from a reputable and affordable source, such as Plaza Japan. It also helps to set a budget from the beginning. 

You never quite know how things will add up until you get started. You may want to begin your budget by allotting for the model trains and their tracks. However, if you have the cash to play around with, then you can set your sights a bit higher. Still, you want to make sure you enjoy the hobby before you invest a ton of money. Start small by putting together a single train or two, then add accordingly. You can always put a cap on how much you spend. 

Plan Your Space

steam engine train in a Christmas scene

Trains are delicate, including larger-scale models. You don't want to leave your completed masterpiece on the floor. Although we have a plethora of model train kits to build, you can't just jump right into it. Even before you buy your first train model kits, you need to think about where and how they'll be displayed once you finish them. 

Many hobbyists decide to dedicate an entire room—or more—to their model trains. The basement might be perfect, but so is an office or a spare room. That's not always feasible or practical, so you can scale it down a little, if you'll pardon the pun. Just because you can't devote a whole room to your hobby, that doesn't mean that you can't plan a dazzling display.

Consider placing a large conference or card table in a room that you rarely use. You can even place a piece of plywood over the table to change its dimensions, if necessary. Any flat surface away from the floor will do. Ensure that the tables are level. If you want to make them more attractive, consider painting them or covering them with thin, smooth cloths—no wrinkles! 

Fit to Scale 

When you get interested in building model trains, it's not as simple as buying any old kit. It's important to consider the scale first. A train's scale is the ratio of a model's measurements compared to the original prototype, i.e., the actual life-size train. That's not to be confused with the gauge, which is the measurement of the distance found between the rails of the train track. 

Plaza Japan has a variety of scales available, beginning with HO scale. HO scale model trains are among the most popular options. They boast a 1:87 ratio, which means that each HO model is 1/87th the size of the train it represents. These models aren't too small, but neither are they too large. They're right in the middle, explaining why so many hobbyists prefer this scale. Typically, HO trains can easily fit on any piece of wood or table that measures four feet by eight feet (4x8). 

We also offer  N scale trains. They're smaller than the HO scale by quite a margin. N trains have a 1:160 ratio. In other words, they're 1/160th the size of the trains after which they're modeled. Choosing a smaller scale train for your hobby allows you more room to expand your miniature world. Better still, you may be able to put together a longer track for your trains, leading to more impressive journeys. 

You can also find Z scale trains in our selection. Z models are some of the smallest you can find, with a 1:220 ratio. Because they're 1/220th the scale of their protocol trains, they can fit on smaller display tables—or, conversely, you can make an enormous yet tiny world on a larger table or piece of wood. It's also possible to use Z scale models and scenery to create a forced perspective in your displays, which will make them appear more realistic. 

Envision a Theme 

Before you start searching for model train kits to build, you ought to think about the overall theme of your display. Your railroad needs a purpose, for example. What will it be? What is the destination of your trains? Why are they making that trip? You have the opportunity to put together a whole world in miniature, so you need to think about the details. 

You'll have loads of fun thinking up the setting, including the era and your train set and the location. Think about a time period you've always wanted to visit. You may choose to assemble a world of old-fashioned steam trains, or you might prefer a modern era ruled by diesel trains. The choice is up to you, and the options are endless. 

Select Your Scenery

a model train and its scenery

Next up, think about your scenery. That's one of the most fun aspects of building model trains. The world you create needs storefronts, shops, the train station, and people. Take a look through the possible scenery accessories available to you. 

Are you ready to start building model trains? Now you know everything about the hobby! Snag your first model train from Plaza Japan today.