Essential Considerations in Designing a Custom Model Railroad
By John Hamlin

Your Personal Online Train Store and Hobby Shop

As they say, starting is the hardest part of doing anything. You may find yourself stuck in the planning stage of building your railroad model because of the many things you need to gather and all. In starting, everything must be organized, and every constraint should be identified. To help you with that, we have summarized the primary considerations you’ll need in making your custom model railroad.

Before we proceed, for a detailed resource and a comprehensive reference of everything you need for building a model railroad, Building Your Model Railroad is the right place for you. This was established by a passionate hobbyist who finds pleasure in writing anything about building a custom railroad model. BYMRR is the best website for learning how to build a model railroad. Here, you’ll get to read about different strategies involved in putting your model together, from metal cast components to the most intricate laser cut parts.

Without further ado, here are the major considerations in designing a custom model railroad:

1. Space availability

You may have overflowing and unlimited ideas, but remember, your space has a limit. First, you have to define one of the main constraints in creating any model layout, the space area you will be working on. This is critical because it is your first fixed factor that will influence you in many aspects, like the design, scale to be used on components, budget allocation, and so on. Establishing the space area for your railroad model will help you in conceptualizing and squeezing in creative ideas early on before you proceed to the actual building stage.

2. Schedule and Cost

Let’s be objective on this. Most of us are faced with budget constraints when working on something. No matter how beautiful your vision is for your model, it is essential to be practical about what you can afford to build and maintain in the long run. You have to define this one because many options are offered in the railroad model building industry that will work in any budget range. There are many kits available that are built to be modular so that you can start small and gradually expand your model railroad as your budget permits.

3. Theme

When building your model, you have to set your aesthetic goals straight, whether you are modeling for an actual project presentation or a hobby. This includes the motif of your signages, railings, and even the operations you’ll be integrating into your railroad design. The overwhelming availability of different components and materials to choose from may come as a challenge when creating your railroad model. Why? Because it may serve as a distraction that may affect the coordination of the components in your model. The bottom line is to focus on a consistent theme or aesthetics you want for your model. Establishing your theme will help you choose and buy the appropriate models or materials you need for creating your custom railroad.

4. Components involved

Here is a brief overview of the most important components that go in to building a model railroad.  BYMRR has a lot of resources available on this site regarding this matter. 


Also called “train table”, this will serve as the main structure to support your railroad. This can be anything from a used table to a custom-made one for your railroad needs.

      Train Tracks

Depending on what brand you’ll be getting your kit from, there are many types of tracks available. Different brands offer tracks with predetermined straight and curved sections to suit any railroad design.


Another part to be mindful of is the circuit that will be powering up your railroad. Most devices for scale models are powered through direct current (DC).

      Railroad landscapes

These include the miniature trees, rocks, or backdrops that will complete your model.

      Miscellaneous Structures

These components will add life and story to your railroad model. There are many kits available that you can buy, like scale houses, cars, people, animals, and others. You can even design your own unique buildings and have a company like Great Lakes Engineering create the parts for you.

Model railroading is a great hobby where you can learn so many different things, but it’s mostly about exploring your own imagination and creativity and sharing that with friends and family. Start small with the information on this site and expand as your space and budget allow. You will be amazed at what you can do with a 3’ x 4’ space.

You might also like these pages:

  • Model Railroad Software

    Various types of model railroad software are available which may be helpful for developing actual or virtual layouts.

  • The Basics of Model Railroading: Getting Started

    The basics of model railroading, including descriptions of model train scales, types of model train displays, and how to get started in the "World's Greatest Hobby".

  • Train Room and Lighting

    Having a nice air conditioned, heated, finished train room with adequate lighting has greatly enhanced the pleasure and process of building my model railroad.

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