Where’s Best To Build Your Model Railway

Wondering where to build your model railway? Loft, garage, shed or spare room? Here’s the pros and cons of each.

Along with which wood to build your model railway baseboard picking where you’ll build your layout presents many challenges and I’ve seen them in each of these spaces along with, of course, the trusty spare room.  There’s even the option of of building under your kitchen floor – as the wonderful Dennis Parker has done with his delightful Glendower railway (via British Railway Modelling):

But most of us don’t have space under the kitchen floor so this isn’t achievable.

model railway in loftInstead, we’re stuck with the usual suspects: the spare room, loft, garage and shed. While researching these options I found a great post by Brian Lambert covering the benefits of each type of space for your railway.

A quick summary is below, with my thoughts included. You can read the full post here :


Lofts

  • Advantages: Out of the way and can offer a large area to use.
  • Negatives: Temperature can be a problem as can lack of height to walk around; may be limited in the weight that can be supported.
  • My Thoughts: Can be expensive to do properly and fit out with creature comforts although lower cost conversions and windows are available with some restrictions, take a look at Instaloft for windows etc. The biggest challenge I’ve had with lofts, is lack of height in modern buildings and annoying cross beams in old properties that hinder access.

Garages

  • Advantages: Same as lofts.
  • Negatives: Similar to lofts, plus prone to dust and insects.
  • My thoughts: If not used for cars, garages can provide a great working space but check with local planners and deeds for the property as some restrict their use (this was a problem for a previous property I used). As one local council puts it, “A condition attached to a planning permission may also require that the garage remain as a parking space.” It’s also worth reinforcing the door as some garage doors can be broken open easily.

Sheds

shed starting

If using a shed, a flat, solid, raised base is essential.

  • Advantages:  Similar to garages.
  • Negatives: Electrical supply may be an issue and like garages insects can be a problem. Environment issues can be fixed if a good electrical supply is available. Security is also worth considering, does it have windows or a weak door that can be used to gain entry?
  • My thoughts: The home for many a layout and man-cave; a well built, well fitted out shed, can provide space, comfort and privacy. It’s definitely worth paying the price to have solid base laid for the shed to sit on and raise it off the ground with airflow underneath to keep damp out. Having a qualified electrician fit the electrical supply is also vital. A good alarm is also worth installing if your wooden cave is, as most are, some way from the house. Sheds and garages also make great workshops for messy tasks such as airbrushing that might not be suitable in a spare room. Speaking of which…

Spare rooms

  • Advantages: Great for comfort.
  • Disadvantages: None.
  • My Thoughts: The ideal location for a model railway but seek permission first 😉.  If the room is carpeted, putting sheeting on top of the carpet to protect it from paint spills etc will also save arguments later.

Where do you have your model railway? Do you agree with mine an d Brian’s observations? Add your thoughts below.

This post is part of my beginner’s guides. For more like it see my parent post, beginner’s guide to model railways and the companion article Beginners Guides: The four best train sets.


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Picture credit, Glamhag

4 comments
  1. What I was getting at is that building a large loft layout can take a few years. Over that time for a retired person there strength and agility can weaken and using a loft ladder especially if trying to carry things up and down can become impractical. It would be particularly galling to have built a fine layout and not be able to use it any more.
    A proper staircase is much easier to use and safer too. A shed or Garage would be easier to access.
    One friend did have a loft room built with stair access but also had a stairlift put in as his mobility was impaired. Unfortunately not all of us could afford such a solution.

    • The readers of MRE are spread across a wide range of ages but with equal numbers in their 30s,40s and 50s to those older so I write for all. I take your point however and will update the article with a note. Thanks, Andy

  2. You are obviously young. If you are taking up the hobby in retirement beware of using the loft unless it has proper stairs . Otherwise you may find yourself unable to get up a loft ladder.

    • Don, I didn’t express a preference for lots or others? I merely highlighted some of pros and cons of each which in itself was a summary of a post on the subject by Brian Lambert. I agree stairs may be problem as we get older but there’s not much I can do about that, unfortunately. Andy

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