Want a bridge on your model railway? There’s more to it than you might think.
Look at any railway and you won’t have to go far before you see a bridge.
Whether it’s a footbridge to allow people to cross a railway line, a rail bridge carrying trains over a river, road or other lines or a road bridge so cars etc can pass over a line you’ll find them everywhere. In fact, according to one source, there are approx. 35,000 bridges located on or beneath Network Rail lines.
First up are three videos by Jenny Kirk that cover the basics of road bridges. As is typical in so many of Jenny’s videos there are lots of extra tips along the way. Her second video is particularly interesting as the bridge she works on holds not just a road but the main station building on her layout in a very similar fashion to what I’m doing on my Wandle Valley OO shed layout. As such it’s not only a bridge but also has to be strong enough to support buildings and the wiring for their lighting.
Jenny’s videos cover modern style road bridges but if you want more traditional stone bridges, such as that shown in the photo above, you can use the same core construction techniques and finish it off with stone and brick paper: cut it to the shape of the sides and glued in place. For N gauge layouts, I’ve also used air drying clay, carving the stone and brick into the clay before it sets, but it’s a lot of work.
That’s road bridges over railway lines but what about when you want to carry railway track over a road or drop in the landscape.
Before getting to construction, however, I recommend watching the video below, although American, describes the main types and forms, is a good introduction to them and gave me a lot of ideas.
Railway Track Bridges
For the construction of railway track bridges, I run a thick-ish piece of card (with wooden piers underneath to support it if the bridge spans more than a short distance) across the gap which the bridge will cross. With this in place, I then position the track across it as normal.
With the track in place, it’s then a case of making the girders and visible supporting framework and positioning it on and around the track. These can be scratch built from common materials – card, balsa etc – as shown in the video below.
For footbridges, allowing passengers and pedestrians to cross the railway and there are many models around that can be simply constructed and placed.
Hornby, Dapol, Ratio, Faller, and Metcalfe all offer various incarnations of OO gauge footbridges which should match any requirement.
Hopefully, this has given you lots of ideas and inspiration plus a few tips on how to make your own bridges. If you’re interested and want to learn more I also recommend Building Bridges and Viaducts for Model Railways by Bob Alderman. It’s a comprehensive book on the subject with lots of hints covering numerous styles of bridges.
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.