The £35 model railway challenge: project history

drawing model railwayIn the summer of 2017, I set myself a challenge to see if a model railway could be built for £35.  

The goal was to build a model railway for just £35 (this budget covering materials, track, electrics, controller and rolling stock) and to complete it 4 months.

Above is my initial back-of-an-envelope concept sketch, below is the history of its creation to date. Below is a step-by-step guide to its creation, from beginning to final status.

Part 1: The challenge

Part 2: First thoughts

Part 3: The box.

Part 4: Electrics

Part 5: Starting with the scenery

Part 6: Buildings and cliffs

Part 7: Failure?

Part 8: Conclusion, final report

Project status

In the end, I missed my self-imposed deadline for the project but did achieve the main challenge – making a model railway for £35.


  • Track: Budget £5, Spent £5.
  • Materials (box): Budget £10, Spent £9.98
  • Electrics: Budget £10, Spent £9.99
  • Total: Budgeted for items purchased so far, £25. Spent £24.97.


  1. DONE: Choosing gauge, layout size, theme and track plan. End of August.
  2. DONE: Aquire basic materials: wood, track, electrics. End of September.
  3. DONE: Lay and ballast track and electrics. End of October.
  4. DONE: Get rolling stock and make scenery and/or buildings. End of November.
  5. DONE: Add finishing details. 2nd Week of January (allowing for Christmas holidays).

Although missing the target deadline, and giving £100 to a charity, it was a really fun challenge, I learnt a lot along the way, and met some great people building their own model railway challenges. I’ll definitely be doing this again. Watch this space.

> Think you know about model railways, take this model railway quiz and see how your knowledge compares.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.