Model Trains and Railroads: Resources and References


There are lots of resources available relating to model trains and railroads, many of which are credible, interesting, educational and fun to review. I have named a few of these within the pages of this website. However, I thought it might be a good service to provide one whole page dedicated to my favorite research and reference material that may be helpful as you are planning and building your train layout or diorama…


One of my favorite magazines is Model Railroader by Kalmbach Publishing. I usually read this one cover to cover. Much of what I know about the hobby came from this one source and its sister publications, like Model Railroad Planning and Great Model Railroads. If you’re even remotely interested in model railroading, whether or not you have a layout or are planning one, I would highly recommend this publication.

NMRA Magazine, formerly Scale Rails, is another very informative magazine put out by the National Model Railroad Association. The content has improved considerably in recent years and this is another one that I read cover to cover.

Model Railroad News — The NewsMonthly for Model Railroaders. Try 3 issues free! The most up-to-date and colorful coverage of the model railroad hobby available anywhere... • new product announcements • in-depth reviews • industry news • club news • columns • lots and lots of photos • railroad events and activities • national hobby show coverage • classified ads, • DC/DCC how-tos, and more... Get all your model railroad news from this very affordable, informative and friendly magazine.

Model Railroad News link

N-Scale Magazine - For those of you who like N-scale, this is the journal for you. It always has great, informative articles, many of which are useful for all scales. The only bad thing is that it only comes out every other month.

Trains is a very interesting magazine about prototype trains and railroading, which is helpful for learning how railroads work in real life – necessary for accurate model railroading, even if your layout is freelanced. It’s a great resource for rail fanning as well.

Classic Toy Trains is the one to read if you like Lionel, American Flyer and the classic so-called “toy trains”.

Classic Trains is a separate publication about the Classic trains of the 1920's to the 1970's.

Garden Railways is the bible publication for those who have or are planning a garden layout, which I would like to do myself one day.

Railroad Model Craftsman - another fine magazine chock-full of interesting articles about modeling trains and railroads.

Scale Rails comes automatically with membership to the NMRA.


How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery – Third Edition by Dave Frary - a fantastic book that gets better and better with every edition.
How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery, Third Edition (Model Railroader Books)

Scenery Tips and Techniques from Kalmbach Publishing - Lots of great information about making trees, backdrops, waterfalls, and winterscapes.
Scenery Tips and Techniques: Projects and Ideas That Will Bring Your Layout to Life (Model Railroader)

The New Scenery Tips and Techniques, also from Kalmbach - a newer version of the above, not a duplication, with additional techniques for building excellent scenery.
The New Scenery Tips & Techniques (Model Railroader)

How to Build and Detail Model Railroad Scenes, Vol. 2 - written by Lou Sassi, this is an excellent resource on how to realistically create specific scenes like a residential neighborhood, a firehouse scene, a Northeastern rural scene and others.

Shelf Layouts for Model Railroads - by Iain Rice. For those with limited space, this will tell you all about how to build a great model railroad on a shelf.

Track Planning for Realistic Operation by John Armstrong, one of the legends of model railroading. This is the book you can’t be without in the track-planning phase of building your layout.
Track Planning for Realistic Operation: Prototype Railroad Concepts for Your Model Railroad (Model Railroader)(3rd Edition)

48 Top-notch Track Plans from Kalmbach
48 Top Notch Track Plans: From Model Railroader Magazine (Model Railroad Handbook, No 39)

101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders, by Linn Westcott
One Hundred and One Track Plans for Model Railroaders (Model Railroad Handbook, No. 3)

Trackwork and Lineside Detail for Your Model Railroad from Kalmbach
Trackwork and Lineside Detail for Your Model Railroad (Model Railroader Books)

Basic Wiring for Model Railroaders by Rick Selby
Basic Wiring for Model Railroaders, second edition

Model Railroad Bridges and Trestles from Kalmbach
Model Railroad Bridges & Trestles: A Guide to Designing and Building Bridges for Your Layout (Model Railroad Handbook, No 33)

Creative Effects for Your Model Railroad by Paul M. Newitt
A Beginner's Guide to Creative Effects for your Model Railroad

Realistic Model Railroad Operation, by Tony Koester, 2003, Kalmbach Publishing
Realistic Model Railroad Operation: How to Run Your Trains Like the Real Thing (Model Railroader Books)

Model Railroad Books at - an online shop with a large selection of model railroading books.

Professional Railroad Atlas of North America "Covering rail in North America with current color maps, this volume - the only rail atlas showing the U.S., Canada and Mexico - has now been expanded to include all recent mergers, mileages, intermodal and port sites, and additional inset maps."

Historical Atlas of North American Railroads - "Westwood & Wood. Through more than 400 high-quality maps, plans and photographs, this massive volume - weighing 6¼ pounds! - examines the complete history of the transportation system that united the U.S., from the earliest surveys, the rail-building boom, and the building of the transcontinental lines through the development of urban trolley systems, the peak years of the 20th century, and recent consolidation."

The Complete Book of North American Railroading - Highly recommended. Loads of information about the prototypes. Great pictures to complement the text.

Tourist Trains Guidebook - Your best resource for planning a great vacation to include a tourist train ride, train museum or historical depot. Over 450 popular train tourist destinations.

My Life With Model Trains - A great book with lots of photos and information about how Howard Zane built one of the best train layouts in America.

The Definitive Model Train Collector's Course - Take a course on how to collect model trains. Lots of money-saving techniques are provided. Learn the right way to build a valuable collection. is one of my favorite resources on the web about model trains and model railroading. This site contains lots of informative articles, a blog, and a large number of links to other credible model railroading sites and blogs, an events calendar listing upcoming train shows, and even a newsletter you can subscribe to for updates. is another excellent model train information resource affiliated with Kalmbach Publishing through which you can purchase many of the premier model railroad magazines and how-to books which have been very helpful to me over the years.

Railroad Historical Societies can provide a huge amount of information about specific prototype railroads that you may wish to model. Check the National Railway Historical Society website for links to the specific local railroad museum or historical society that you’re looking for.

National Model Railroad Association (NMRA)- This is also a wealth of information about the hobby including the recognized standards required for universal measurements and operation of equipment. The NMRA Library is an extensive resource of information and photos about the history of railroading. The NMRA also sponsors awards for achievement that many model railroad craftsmen strive for – primarily the Master Model Railroader award.

A Closer Look at the History of Diesel Locomotives - a wonderful resource presenting an excellent overview of the development of diesel locomotives. The article also contains many links to other great historical railroad information. (This resource was discovered and graciously submitted as an addition to this website by Camp Nazareth in Minnesota.) - where scale modelers 
and craftsmen learn from each other over and over again.

Classy Model Trains - This site is actually a blog authored by Daryl Clayton Kennedy containing lots of very informative articles about model trains, scenery, structures, track-laying, historical facts, many locomotive reviews, etc.

Model Train Builder - A newer website complementing this one about building model railroad layouts. It contains additional information, including mathematics and geometrics about track planning, turnouts, grades and elevation, benchwork and more...

Trains O Scale - A very informative site all about O Scale trains and how to build an O Scale layout.

Model Train Repair - Model Train Repair offers parts and expert repair of HO scale, N scale, G scale, S scale, Lionel and American Flyer model trains. We perform model train cleaning, lubrication and other maintenance work, fix mechanical and electrical wiring problems and buy old, used, non-working model trains for parts.

Understanding Model Train Maintenance -An excellent article about how to clean and maintain model locomotives. Lots of related references are listed here as well. (Resource submitted by Olivia Pierce).

Train Horn Kits - If you like train horns and maybe even would like to put one on your car or truck, this is the place for you. They even have a page dedicated to model train resources to which this link points.

The Netherlands - Here's your connection to Dutch model railroading!

WestRail Canada - a great site all about the history of Canadian rails, how to travel by rail in Canada and an activities page for kids.

3D Printing - All about designing and creating your own unique 3D model railroad structures, boxcars, locomotives and other applications.

Model Railroad Forums are a great way to learn about various aspects of model trains and railroads in a fun, friendly environment of other model railroaders who always go out of their way to be helpful. These are some of my favorites…

Railroad Line Forums Forums

Model Railroad Forums

Nscale Community

HOscale Community

The Whistle Post

Basic Model Railroad Photography - Great tips on how to photograph your railroad.

Steel Wheels Train Photos - A large photographic collection of locomotives and rail cars, many Canadian and US mid-western lines that would be very helpful as reference photos for model railroaders.

Global 3-D Arts - Global 3D Arts has been working in this way with architects and developers for over 20 years. Our artists have over a decade of experience working with architects and developers in architectural animation, rendering, and in building scale models.

Dioramas - Great information about dioramas of all kinds can be found here, including tutorials on how to make trees and rocks, how to paint miniatures and how to build complete dioramas from start to finish.

Homeschool Activities - A great website that will help you introduce your young children to dioramas, crafts and model building.

Circuitron - Their downloadable PDF catalog is an excellent resource to learn about different types of electronic circuit boards and what they can do for your layout.

Webville and Hypertext Railroad Company - A huge database of model railroading information and links. -

HO Railroading - A site where HO model railroaders can share information and photographs, discuss new products, present clinics and get help from discussion boards.

Model Train Supplies

It’s always good to support your local hobby shop; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there, and then, where else would you go or take the kids on a Saturday afternoon? If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the local hobby store, or on the Supplies page on this site, then here are some favorite places of mine to shop…

Dale's Train Station - My favorite local train shop carrying supplies for all the most popular scales. What he doesn't have he can order for you.

Walthers Catalog and website are my premier references for model railroad supplies. It’s often fun and interesting to just sit down and browse the catalog to get ideas for your own layout. They always have excellent model train photos in their “Magic” section also.

Tony’s Train Exchange is a great hobby shop, with which I have personal experience. I have purchased locomotives and DCC equipment from them and can testify to the excellent service they provided. They will install decoders for you as well.

Woodland Scenics - This is one of my favorite resources for scenery materials and information about how to apply them. They also supplied the modular benchwork that I used to build my current layout.

Scenic Express - Well-known for their realistic trees and ground covers, this site also offers ready made rock formations, bridge trestle bents, foam cutters, scenic backdrops, figures, billboards and even neon signs.

Atlas has been my primary supplier of all my HO and N scale track, turnouts and wiring components, not to mention a good portion of my locomotive power through four separate layouts for many years. Need I say more?

Bachmann Trains, another icon of the industry, and supplier of many of the products that I have used, has been a leader in the production of high quality locomotives and other great model railroad equipment, and also in the creation of digital command control that is affordable and easy to use.

Lionel Deals - Great prices on everything related to Lionel trains.

Scale Model Plans - A website dedicated to creating and selling plans for scratchbuilding projects. Great for novices as well as seasoned modelers.

Garden Scale Structure Plans - traceable templates and dimensioned plans for 1:24 scale buildings from

Local craft stores like Michael’s can supply a lot of great material you can use to make trees. You can also buy small mirrors to use on your layout, not to mention the large supply of paints, brushes, spray bottles, glue guns, etc., etc.

Micro-Mark Model Trains has a long history of great service to model railroaders supplying a complete range of modeling tools without which we couldn't do what we do.

Backdrop Warehouse – All kinds of custom made backdrops for your layout.

Berkshire Junction - home of EZ line telephone wire and some electronic items like traffic lights, operating crossbucks, etc.

Standard Hobby Supply - a large selection of model trains, locomotives and railroad supplies.

Prestige Hobbies - Shop online from the largest selection of diecast cars and racing collectibles on the west coast.

Model Railcraft Supply Depot - a newer site reported in some forums to have competitive prices and good service.

Bill & Walt's Hobby Shop carries a large selection of plastic model cars, planes, ships and figures along with the paints, glues & tools needed to complete your project. How to Books on modeling plastic kits, trains & scenery. Also model rockets, educational items and model railroad supplies.

Model-Train Store - Lots of model railroad supplies at good prices.

Fast-Tracks - Contains all the tools, templates, jigs and information you need for handlaying your own track.

Mt. Albert Scale Lumber/ Mt. Albert Scale Models - An excellent resource for scale lumber materials and wooden scale models.

Rusty Stumps - All things related to building structures and fences for your layout.

Train Set Electronics - a great resource for all kinds of electronic devices for your model train layout.

Azatrax - An online resource for train detectors, crossing gate controllers and crossing bell sound effects. This site contains very clear and detailed instructions for proper installation and use of their products.

CTI Electronics - This site is dedicated to model railroad computer control with all the electronics you need to optimize layout control. See the page on this (BYMR) website titled Train Brain for more info.

Richmond Controls - Another great resource with information and supplies related to adding special lighting effects to your locomotives, passenger cars and cabooses - including headlights, ditch lights, FRED's, interior passenger car lighting, etc.

Micro/Mini Layouts - Cramped for space? Go to this site to find out all about how to do very small model railroad layouts. - Explore the history of railroading with the many books and videos on this site. Includes many structure kits, locomotives, and train sets. Also, lots of Maps and Atlases are available here. Find one for your specific railroad.

Schrader's Railroad Catalog - A multitude of model train and railroad gift items of all kinds for all ages.

The Track Stop! - Railroading gifts, cards, calendars, signs, memorabilia, hats, shirts, mugs, train sounds, model train graphics, software, books, DVD's, and a great selection of train posters. Also includes a large section on photography gear.

Hobby Tools!

- Dremel supplies, cut-off saws for metal, wood and plastic, precision tools, headband magnifiers, etc.

eBay -

Favorite Vendors I've Met at Model Train Shows

Train Town Toy & Hobby- Lionel, Thomas, HO, N and G Scale trains

The Peterboro Railroad - Tour the layout and check out the on-line shop with HO, On30 and Large Scale locomotives

Johns Trains Trucks & Things - N-HO-O & G Scale Trains, Trucks, Details and Accessories

Train Buddy Products - Walthers/Digitrax/Soundtraxx dealer

World's Greatest Hobby on Tour

Other Excellent Resources

RailsUSA - A large directory of model railroad sites.

Model Railroad Data/Links

Westlake Publishing Readers' Photos

J.A.Bash & Company - If you have a fairly large amount of money tied up in your model railroad and would like to have it insured, you need to look at this site. The Internet Railroad Directory - Guide to 15,000 rail-related websites including train travel, model railroading, railfan resources, train simulators, and railroad industry sites

Model Railroads.Net - Another excellent directory including a photo gallery, many links to layouts, DCC sites, electronics, brass locos, etc.

Recreation and Hobby Directory - A large directory containing links to model railroading and other hobbies Railroad Links Directory - Links to over 10,000 rail-related websites.

Gorre and Daphetid Model Railroad with pictures and a great story about John Allen.

Just Trains

Links to Other Interesting Sites

Christmas Village Fun Blog - A very interesting blog about miniature villages with Dickens style displays and other village dioramas that would be fun to use in combination with model trains, and not necessarily just for Christmas.

RC Cars Hub - an extensive review of a variety of radio-controlled cars, where to buy, the best prices, etc.

Majolic Ceramics - All about hand-painted ceramic tiles. The beauty and detail of these tiles are amazing. Put your favorite train on tiles!

Model Railroading Blog

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