5 Must Read Books For Model Railway Beginners for 2024

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.

#1 Newcomer’s Guide To Model Railways

newcomer's guide to model railwaysFor 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.

At the time of writing, the Newcomer’s Guide To Model Railways is on its sixth edition and one of the most highly recommended model railway books. If you’re in the US, it’s available via  Amazon.com.

#2 Making A Start in N Gauge Railway Modelling

making a start in n gauge

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.

#3 Hornby Book of Model Railways

hornby book of model railways

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.

#4 Aspects of Modelling: Railway Electrics

aspects of model railway electrics

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.

#5  The Hornby Book of Scenic Railway Modelling

hornby book of scenic railway modellingOnce 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.

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Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. 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.
  1. hi, ive just recently bought a hornby flying scotsman train, im having trouble with derailing, the front wheels boggie is so loose it causes it to derail can you recommend anything I can do.
    gareth evans

  2. Hi Andy, both articles, particularly the second, were very helpful in starting to get my head around this subject. I’m sure it will all become much clearer in time!
    Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated.
    Regards, Johnny

  3. As a recent (inspired) convert to the wonderful world of railway modelling, can anyone recommend a book or website that explains the history and meaning of all those letters and numbers that are attached to locomotives and the like? I love reading the articles in magazines and looking at the lay-outs, but I would enjoy them more, I’m sure, if I understood a bit more. Many thanks.

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