Model Railways: What do you need to get started

first-railway-what-is-neededSo you’ve decided to build your first model railway but don’t know where to start or even what you need to get started? A quick search of the web will more than likely confuse you and leave you with more questions than answers. But it’s actually very, very easy and relatively cheap to just get started. It’s not a secret. Just start here.

When I re-started my model railway hobby after a few years sojourn away I thought I’d just scan Google, read a few articles, make a list of things to buy, head over to Amazon and in a matter of days I’d be locked in my spare bedroom for weeks at a time playing with my new train set. Sadly not.

Google found an disconcerting 39million results for model railways! Page after page of admittedly awe-inspiring but complex layouts scrolled past. Dictionaries of new words for my budding hobby jumped out of my screen and what seemed like millions of adverts for products, accessories, tools and techniques for building a model railway begged for my attention! (see footnote).

But it’s actually really, really, really simple to get started.

Sure you can spend a fortune; spend ages planning and designing a layout and then take weeks and even months to build it but if you just want to have a play with a model railway, maybe to enjoy with your children, you can get going very quickly indeed.

All you need is a starter kit – I love the Hornby Red Rover Train Set or Hornby Flying Scotsman Train Set and a flat surface. I’d also recommend that if you don’t have a well equipped tool box you pick up these 17 essential tools as it’ll make your railway building a LOT easier.

That’s it.

model railway hornbyEverything you could want is included in the starter kits: track, locomotive to pull the trains, wagons, power supply and controllers to start and stop them and assembly is a doddle, literally snapping tracks together and that’s it. With a couple of clicks the train set is on its way to you and within a couple of days you’ll be able to put it together and be running trains around your first railway.

If you get on with it, you can buy more track and trains and start to expand your layout but to just get started either of these sets are all you need. If you’re interested in moving on and want to know more have a look around this website where I explain some other things you’ll want to know such as how to look after your model railway and common model railway jargon.

The Next Stop…

If you’ve decided model trains are your thing and you want to get a train set, take a look at the sister article to this post ⁠— getting the best prices on Hornby trains where I cover how to get your first railway at a discount.


Footnote: Actually, it’s wasn’t all bad. It was directly as a result of this confusion that I then went onto to create this website (ModelRailwayEngineer) ⁠— where I strive to explain in simple language and easy tips and steps how to build and create your own model railway.

* Picture credit: Sn.Ho via Flickr.

> 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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