Beginner's Guide

Introduction To Model Railroading

Welcome to the NMRA's "Introduction To Model Railroading" web pages. These web pages have been put together by the NMRA. to introduce people to model railroading. Our goal is to help those who are interested in building a model railroad but who have never done it before or to assist those who may have a simple track plan and now wants to learn more.

Since these pages are designed for the novice, we go over the basics of model railroading, things like what scale means, and what trucks are. We also go over basic tool use. But don't worry! We realize that more than a few potential model-railroaders are not completely comfortable using tools so we'll make it simple.

After the introduction, we'll build a model railroad. This won't be a simple "loop of track around the Christmas Tree", but the beginnings of a real, scale, model railroad. This model railroad would be something to set up permanently in your basement, recreation room, or other available space. We start easy, as a simple loop of track. This may sound boring, but it won't be, with this loop and other information, we'll cover all of the basic techniques for building a model railroad. After that, we will grow the railroad by adding scenery, more track, buildings, and so on. Unfortunately, the first step is generally the hardest. Since we assume that you are a novice at all this, we have to introduce a number of different skills and techniques all at once. But don't worry, it's not all that hard.

After the first few steps, each step will be self-contained, teaching an additional skill or two. At each step, we give a list of tools and parts that are needed and describe what the goal of the step is. Then we go into doing it!

We recommend that everyone who undertakes this project reads through all of the appropriate web pages before starting to actually do any work. It will give you a sense of where we are going with the project. You don't have to understand everything, but by getting a feel for what's going on, you might be able to make modifications for your specific circumstances. Also, if you're more comfortable with some of the tasks than we are assuming, you can combine steps.

Finally, the "bad news". A model railroad takes space, time, and money. The first railroad we show you will be 4' by 8'. Additional access space around the sides is needed so that you can get to all parts of the model to build it. The amount varies with the size and agility of the people who have to get there. On average, you should assume you need an additional 3' or more on one of the long sides of the model, with 2' on the other three sides.

Please Note: The usual disclaimers will apply. Even though we will examine tools, construction methods, and electrical wiring, it is assumed that you have some very basic knowledge of these items. In other words, 'if you smash your fingers with a hammer, it's not our fault'! For more information, visit the Safety Page

Continue to the Beginner's Main Page