If you’re just starting out in model railways, save yourself a lot of time and effort and read one or all of these 5 tip-packed books.
Written by experts with years of knowledge, these five books will guide you through building your layout with invaluable tips and advice and answer all your questions.
> These are of course good old paper books, but if you haven’t already got one I also recommend getting a Kindle ebook reader. There are millions of books available for it, including LOTS of model railway books including several of these here.
For beginners and newcomers to the hobby, there’s no finer book than Brian Lambert’s Newcomer’s Guide To Model Railways. Written by a 50-year veteran of railways, this is a book you’ll find yourself going back to time and again. Pretty much every aspect of building a model railway is covered, including digital electrics, with lots of tips and information to help you along the way.
I liked the numerous pictures and diagrams that help convey the points being made and while some people have commented that it doesn’t go into much detail on some subjects, it’s intended as a guide to get you started and for this it gives more than enough.
Although the next book on my list is called ‘Making A Start in N Gauge Railway Modelling‘ don’t be put off if you’ve chosen another gauge – it’s a great introduction in general. Topics covered include baseboard construction, how to lay track, cut it to size and join it and how to bring your layout to life.
Like the author of my first book above, this author of this book – Richard Bardsley, is a long-time modeller and writes with authority on his subject but Richard is also the author of over fifty railway-modelling articles which shows in his writing style, with subjects demystified and clearly explained in an easy to understand, easy flowing, manner.
Somewhat unusually for model railway books, Making A Start in N Gauge Railway Modelling is also available in Kindle format. I wish other publishers would do likewise.
When it comes to model railways in the UK, there’s one name that stands above everyone else: Hornby. This book written by Chris Ellis for Hornby should be in any model railway builders library. And although it’s not as comprehensive or technical as some of the other books here, and is very Hornby-focused, it’s ideal for inspiration, and general information and is packed with glorious photographs that make you want to run out and build and run your trains.
If you like reading the Hornby catalogues do yourself a favour and get the Hornby Book of Model Railways, you won’t be disappointed.
While the above three books are general introductions, there are some aspects of model railway building that most newcomers will need more help with and merit more information. Electrics is one of these areas and ‘Aspects of Modelling Railway Electrics‘ is one of the most highly-rated books on the subject.
Starting from a safe assumption that the reader has no knowledge above connecting up a train set, Ian Morton guides you through the various techniques used all the way up to complex railway wiring with helpful diagrams along the way. It doesn’t cover digital trains however which is sad but given the novice audience, this is aimed at understandable.
This book combined with Brian Lambert’s Newcomer’s Guide To Model Railways (above) will get anyone up to speed with railway electrics and help fix many problems that often crop up along the way. Highly recommended.
If you’re in America, this book can be ordered with faster delivery here.
Once you’ve got a basic model railway up and working, it won’t be long before you want to add scenery to bring your layout to life. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby, requiring skill, patience and practice. There are no shortcuts to the works of art that many model railways are but the Hornby Scenic Railway Modelling will give you lots of tips to help you along the way.
Written by Chris Ellis, the author of the other Hornby book in this collection, it’s produced to the same high standards, with glorious pictures throughout but this time a little less Hornby-focused.
Again, like Hornby Book of Model Railways it can skimp on details but with plenty of tips on the Internet – including more than a few here on ModelRailwayEngineer 🙂 – it does a more important job of showing what’s possible and motivates you to grab your paints and brushes and dive in.
If you’re looking for advice and tips on setting up a railway, these books will be a big step forward but may I also suggest you take a look at my posts aimed at model railways beginners.
Subscribe to my free email newsletter for more articles like this, plus the latest model train news, regular and exclusive tips, tutorials and guides. It's free, you can unsubscribe at any point and i promise never to sell your information. Click here to subscribe now.
Affiliate notice: If you plan to buy the products on this page or similiar, please use the links here. These will take you to carefully selected businesses, including Hornby, Rapid Online, Amazon, eBay, Scale Model Scenery and Element Games, through which you can buy products mentioned. These links are made under their affiliate schemes which means that although the price to you does not change I receive a small commission on the orders you place which helps me maintain this site and allows me to create more articles like this. Please see my disclaimer for more information. Thank you for your support, Andy.