How to look after your train set: tips for floor based train sets

train on floorFloors are deadly places. And not just for spiders that get stamped on as they cross the room! Carpets and other floor surfaces are hostile places for your model trains with their delicate wheels and engines. So what can you do to look after model railways on the floor?

If you’ve just got your first model railway or bought one for your children, such as the lovely Hornby Flying Scotsman set, it’s more than likely you’ll first set it up on the floor. Certainly for young children this is often a great place, it’s low down so they can get to it and they can watch and even follow the trains as they trundle around the circuit.

Even for older kids 😉 it’s tempting to set up your first train set on the floor – just to check it all works of course!

But while floors and carpets may look okay to us, for the fragile components of a miniature railway they can be lethal, deadly, places.

Deadly places

The fibres of carpets can tangle wheels and interfere with the electrical contacts while the dust, dirt, pollen and other tiny particles that accumulate on the floors can build on on track surfaces and clog up points and static can play havoc with engines and contact points.

And even the cleanest of carpets will have its own population of tiny critters itching to climb into every nook of your trains and munch through their delicate components. Flee’s, mites, carpet beetles are all waiting on their platform for your trains.

Also, and hopefully rather obviously, trains on the floor run the risk of being trodden on and kicked.

Ideally, you should never run your trains on the floor but there’s always the temptation, especially if you’re building a proper railway layout and you want to have quick play before it’s ready.

So how can you look after your floor based railways, keep your trains running smoothly and save yourself the expense and heart ache of a broken railway set. The following four simple tips will preserve both model railways – Hornby etc – and also railway sets for younger children, Thomas train sets included.

Four Tips To Keep Your Trains Running

Firstly, and ideally, put the railway on something in stead of just laying it directly on the floor. This is doubly the case if you have carpets!

It doesn’t have to be permanent or expensive; just a sheet of wood to separate the tracks and trains from floor itself. You’ll also find that placing the track on a firm surface will allow the trains to run more smoothly as the surface will be flatter and the connections less likely to work lose.

If you don’t have a sheet of wood or are tight on space to store it, get a temporary surface. I’ve seen train sets running on the interlocking floor matting used for home exercises (such as these ones) work well as a temporary and easily storable base.

compressed airSecondly, always put the trains and rolling stock away when you’ve finished. Keeping them off the floor and ideally in sealed boxes will keep them dust free. Ideally, it’s also good to have a compressed air spray can – I use this one (pictured) – handy to give them a spray and blow away dust before and after usage.

Thirdly, keep animals, food and drink away from the layout and especially when the trains are on track. A spilt drink, a running dog or cat lying across the line can do untold damage to your miniature marvel. And as explained in this post on keeping your layout pest free, food attracts critters. Keep them away.

Cushions and blankets should also be kept away as these come with their own collection of railway perils.

Fourth and finally, clean the tracks and train frequently. Even when used in a dedicated setting, away from floors, model rail tracks will attract a huge amount of dirt and over time this builds to the point where the trains won’t smoothly. When running on floors, the dirt an build up in no time at all and quickly bring your trains to a juddering halt.

Or, my preferred technique is shown in the video below.

Here I use tried and trusted IPA which is available here.

Follow these four tips and you’ll protect your train set from the nasties on the floor and it’ll run happily for a lot longer. If you’re looking for other tips, why not subscribe to my free newsletter below.


> 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.

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