Model Train Tips To Help Keep Your Dream Railway Right On Track

If you search online you will be able to find all kinds of different hints and model train tips, from how to choose the right model train scale, to how to create realistic looking model train scenery.
In this article I am going to bring some of the lesser known tips to your attention though.

Now, in the introduction I mentioned model train scale and by typing those words into any search engine it’s relatively simple to find tips as to how to determine model train scale and what the difference is between scale and model train gauges.
However, do you know what the implications of these size differences are?

Now I’m not talking about the fact that different scales can’t be used together (well, not without modification, but that’s a different whole different story!).
Instead, I’m talking about a consideration that is rarely thought about with much level of detail by newcomers to model railway building, which is the curve radius or your model railway trains.

More importantly, I want to look at how to avoid derailment, which let’s face it, is an extremely frustrating problem.
It comes down to calculating the tightest turning circle available that allows the locomotives and carriages to get round safely.

A simple guide for this is that the layout width must equal at least the minimum turning circle your train can make without derailment.

For example, in HO a tight 180 degree turnaround takes 86cm / 34″, whereas on a TT scale model railways, a tight 180 degree turnaround takes only 53.4cm / 21″.
Another tip that I feel is worth mentioning here is that many people who are new to model railroading (and even some experienced ones too!) are unaware that model train track curves can be bought with different radii, with track pieces possibly be available in 15, 22.5, 30, and 45 degree arcs, depending on manufacturer. This means that sharper or more gradual curves are possible with the same amount and length of pieces.
The trick is also to making sure that you trains are designed to work within a certain turning circle, with four axle trains being able to get round tighter turns than those with six axles. It’s also worth noting that older trains and freight wagons which, often have shorter wheel bases are going to be able to handle tighter turns much better than newer, more modern passenger trains. Therefore, if you are designing a layout for small space with tight turning circles, this will lend itself better to a freight yard theme than an Intercity passenger set up.
My final tip is to remember, although we want to make sure that our model railroads are as realistic as possible, we also have to remember that we have to be realistic about the amount and size of space that we have available. Just because you may not see a turn of such radii in real life, if your lack of space dictates that you must then there really isn’t much you can do to change this.
If it is something that bothers you though, I’ve learnt a neat little trick and that is that you hide this in your scenery in some way, such as in a tunnel or behind a hill, row of trees or building for example.
A word of warning though, relating to the point I made earlier about derailments and that is that even though you may have managed to hide the tight turns, your longer locomotives will still not be able make it around these turns and this may limit the choice of train available to you. You will therefore have to choose between more rails and smaller trains.
Of course these are just a few tips and tricks that are available and there are obviously far more model train tips than can ever been written in a single article! However, if you follow the links below, you’ll be taken to the where will find a lot more useful information and handy tips to get you going with your model railway.

Tim McCarthy – About the Author: Tim McCarthy is a model railway enthusiast with many years experience in the field of model trains. For further information on model railroads, including more on model train tips, please feel free to head over to

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