Fun things to do with a model railroad

Mark’s been in touch with some fun things to do with a model railroad:

“Hi Al.

Although there are serious railroad modelers, the average modeler should try not to take everything they do too seriously.

Model Railroading is FUN……so have some! No model railroad clubs in your area? Build your own!

Attached is a photo of the HO scale model railroad club on my HO layout. This group shown is currently planning to build an N scale layout INSIDE the HO structure. Calculations show that a standard size 55-foot RS-1 Diesel Locomotive would be approx. 3/16” or about 1.1mm in length!

Now we just need to calculate tie length, rail height, etc.

If all this seems to be a little daunting, you can always just do a little painting of your layout!


fun things to do with a model railroad painter

fun things to do with a model railroad club

fun things to do with a model railroad close up

“Here is a tip to your followers: Whenever you throw away an old power tool or appliance, always cut the power cord off and set it aside. First, nobody else will hurt themselves by trying to re-use the item. Second, now you have a replacement plug for something else when the plug fails or is damaged. Or by putting a female connector on the bare end you get a short extension cord to fill in the gap ( Dutchman ).

I recently threw out an old Carbon Monoxide Detector, but saved the cord. It included a small transformer/rectifier that produces 12 Volt DC. Not powerful enough for a lot of things but will energize a few LED lights for sure.


Now on to Tom:

“I just started this layout in January this year. It’s on two 4×8 sheets off plywood and foam.


model railroad

model railroad

model railroad

model railroad

Next, Saeid shares his N scale:

“Good Morning Al,

I live in Southern California, USA and have made a really nice N scale layout.

I love building them and have overgrown the layout and the wife constantly nags about how much space its taking. Can you help me sell this beautiful layout?

I took the layout from the Model Railroad magazine, it is made with Kato tracks, has a DCC Controllers.

It took me over 9 month to complete, working on it in the evenings after work about 3 hours.

I have over $4,500.00 invested in track, sceneries, trains, cars, table and wiring.



n scale model train

n scale model train

n scale model train

n scale model train

n scale model train

n scale model train

n scale model train

I couldn’t agree with Mark more – what’s the point of this hobby if it’s not fun?

With a bit of thought, there are lots of fun things to do with a model railroad.

Mark has contributed with lots of excellent posts over the years – you can see a some of them here.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.



PS Latest ebay cheat is here. Still going strong.

46 Responses to Fun things to do with a model railroad

  1. Paul Reeder says:

    Beautiful layout. I am enjoying your posts and forwarding them to friends. Thanks

  2. Michael Wilcox says:

    As a retired Electrician I whole heartedly endorse Mark’s comments regards cutting off the Lead. In my State in Australia it is actually illegal for anyone other than an Licensed Electrician to put a Plug Top (male) or an Extension Socket (female) onto a Lead. I have seen instances of 2 Plug Tops (male) fitted to a Lead – I kid you not. With all due respect to Mark – new Leads are so inexpensive I just do not understand why people try to save a couple of Dollars.

  3. NJ Mark says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that model railroading is FUN. If it becomes work, step back for a while. Never let ” your world ” become a burden. Always enjoy it! Cheers! NJ Mark

  4. Barbara Schermerhorn says:

    Is there an anwer to Saeid’x request to help him sell his layout?

    What does one to when the time comes to part with ones layout?


  5. Mike says:

    I suggest that Saeid tries putting his layout up for auction on Ebay. He can set a price, buyer collects etc.

    On the other hand he could consider keeping the layout and changing wife!

  6. Rod Mackay says:

    Sadly, the chances of any layout you build finding a buyer who likes the same scale, style and period as you do, has the same space and lives near enough to collect it without excessive transport costs, are pretty small. My best tip would be keep the boxes and packing for all the rolling stock and universal items like control gear as they’ll be easier to sell and post individually.

  7. Dave says:

    Saeid has a wonderful layout he should keep and think more of selling his wife.

  8. tom says:

    I too have a N scale layout I may sell, I am very interested to see if this is possible. I am now 73 and have a hard time with the small N scale. I am working on a HO layout much easyer for me to deal with. I hope you post his results. Thanks Tom in AZ

  9. don says:

    There are 8 blue switch machines. What are they? What do they cost? tortuous machines are too expensive for me. They look nice and are they manual?

  10. Lee Barry says:

    In regards to selling his layout. It is made with quality #1 Kato. I to had to sell my N scale layout. This was a choice between not eating/paying the rent( oh yes some of us in the hobby do rent, we do not make enough on our cheep wages to buy a house or afford the taxes and any repairs) at least I am doing the next best thing and that is renting a small house. By the way I sold over $35,000 worth of Z scale engines/rolling stock ( no cheapies in it ) all Kato engines, MT rolling stock, Kato passenger cars,ConCor engines ect., you get the picture. You need to price your layout, none of that damned OBO crap, the quickest way to lose out on a sure sale. I don’t buy much for my Z scale, no it is not DCC, the price has gone out of site. Knew it would once the economy “got straight ?” and then they forgot the ones who kept the hobby going thru bad and good years, we the retired persons in the hobby on so shall I be secure, $1125 a month, small VA pension, $281 per month. The prices of engines, $175- to over $200 is out of my reach.

  11. Lee Barry says:

    I forgot to say I sold my N scale for $2000. I kept the track, buildings.

  12. List the N scale layout for sale on Craigslist in addition to eBay. Make sure you can get it out the door if a buyer surfaces. Go to local train shows and put flyers on their front table. Contact the local NMRA groups and let them know what you want to sell. You ballasted your Unitrack so that makes it unsaleable.

  13. Roger Casper says:

    To Tom in AZ

    I am 79 and just starting my first complete layout and if we are close enough together would like to talk to you. I live in Tolleson.

  14. Perry says:

    Tell the wife that at least she knows were you are. At least you are not hanging out in some bar or with another women.

  15. paul Otway says:

    nice layout s

  16. Peter P says:

    Hi Saied
    Here is a better idea for your layour? Sell your wife! Two immediate benefits will be, you keep the layout and remove the nagging? I know fat chance but you never know! (Grin).

  17. Mike Pettruzzelli says:

    When you first started your layout did you ask your wife to help? Most women are very adept at painting(especially backdrops)and scenery….Or has she helped you run the trains?….Good luck with it….Mike

  18. terry powers says:

    love the artist by the tunnel in the first photo

  19. Brad says:

    No spouse should force you to give up your dream/joy. If she did a 180 on you after marriage,you married the wrong woman.Been there,did that,now single and doing what I enjoy doing

  20. alan spence says:

    hi mark i just wondered why you use kato turnout control items
    super layout

  21. Hi All
    From childhood the love of trains has been in my blood. Have been an N scaler for 45 years, have built small and garage sized layouts in the scale. Moved around a lot over those years. Have sold a few items at local flea markets. Having a spouse to give there two cents on the layout or layouts can be a challenge. But as Perry said at least your not in a bar every night. Keep the railroad put up with the nagging. Your love of trains is in your blood too!!

  22. Susan Cannon says:

    I fully agree with selling the wife instead. There are women out there (myself included) that would enjoy a layout and encourage participation in the hobby. But good luck to you either way.
    (Maybe he thinks he can get more for the layout than he would for the wife….LOL).

  23. Dan Hulitt says:

    Nice cars at the rail club, but is there a little layout in the building? haha Yes make it fun, a little whimsy adds to watchers delight. Someone recently posted about having guests find particular scenes in the layout, a great idea. So what is the guy doing behind the railroad club? And I missed the artist the first time around. Maybe it is Carl Dalio, a painter of southwest scenes.

    Saeid, be sure to show the responses on your post to your wife. She might get the idea that your enjoyment is at least as important as her need for space.

    MN Dan

  24. TOM SAWYER, GA.USA says:

    i agree with those who recommend “sell the wife!”.

  25. Ray Z USA says:

    Hi Everyone: A possible way to sell all or part of a layout is to look for a train club to contact. Many train clubs exist in retirement villages and some also exist in their own property. Christmas time many put up temporary displays Train shows is also advertised in model train magazines with telephone numbers to contact “train people”. Good luck.

    Best regards: Ray

  26. James Harris says:

    For someone from southern California, you don’t know correct striping of our streets. Different directions of travel are separated by yellow lines, dashed single lines, solid single lines, double lines or a combination of solid and dashed lines where passing is prohibited in one direction. Adjacent lanes for travel in the same direction are separated by white lines, mostly dashed but sometimes solid where lane changing is discouraged. Sometimes said lines are supplemented with raised ceramic dots colored to match, some reflectorized, some not.

  27. Phil O says:

    I have been collecting N scale for 55 years. I’ve built some small ones to put under the Christmas tree. I bought a Suisse loco and 5 passenger/ baggage cars when I was in London as a young man. Every year Santa puts some sort of N scale item in my stocking. Got a bridge and a can car this year. As soon as I am done with my shop/garage/man cave, I have a spot upstairs for the layout. 7’ X 7’ horse shoe style. I guess I’m pretty lucky, she wants to know when I’m go out to the shop. Right after dinner!!! I really enjoy all the posts and great ideas. Keep them coming.

  28. I do not have a problem with the wife, she just tries to keep me from pending to much $ on my hobby but she does not mind if I work on the RR and the scenery
    as long as I get enough sleep to keep from being a grouch !
    I have been out of touch due to a glitch in the computer ops here at home and having brain damage when it comes to programing ? I am sorry you had to lose
    the time and the fun it gave you but you can always try new ideas on the next
    RR guy – I am glad you chose to stay the cores for all of our sake Alister ! I for one would not be able to find a better info source – George- be well and stay safe Sir !
    I may have to go to a different email page on a different web site soon ?

  29. Beautiful work on both!

  30. Greg in MO USA says:

    Mark’s ideas are fun. But modeling a 1.1mm long locomotive is far beyond my skills so I’ll just stick to regular N scale, thanks. (p s., 1.1mm is less than 1/16″ 😁)

  31. George Zaky says:

    The wife is a problem. Advertise wife & layout for sale. To preclude you from this Hobby and fraternity is totally unthinkable and unacceptable. So give her away and expand on the layout and send us photos.
    The N scale within the HO does not require any calculation because the relative size difference should be a function of visual difference as does prospective. I am very interested in that so let us know

  32. Cross Otter says:

    Sell the wife and keep the layout.

  33. Erick says:

    Looks pretty kool.? I hope mine comes out that good,

  34. Richard Rudolph says:

    Some great work on those layouts.

  35. Alabama Mike says:

    Mark, you have a super nice layout. I really enjoyed seeing it. Great job

  36. G. R. Broad says:

    A 55′ locomotive in N scale would be 55×12″=660″/160=4.125″ long.

  37. joe novak says:

    cant beleave you havesome buildings ect like i have from the 60,s great job

  38. John says:

    I believe your n scale figures WITHIN THE HO SCALE are in error but am not enough of a mathematician to figure it out!

  39. Rich B. says:

    Do approve of both showings today here. Each is like salt and pepper but both are very worthwhile. Even bright blue water looks very good, guess it depends?

    Now on to wives, coming up on 60 years together. We fight all the time, nothing in common, no same interests. The formula is what she does best and what I do best, we combine talents. Does it work…. sure does both financially and all other facets. These days better friends certainly and assist each other of coarse lmao. Wife likes cooking too much and I can eat spaghettios (sp?) out of the can, hard to keep weight down. Read each others mind.

    Rich, Again

  40. Kevin McArdle says:

    It’s “tortoise”, not tortuous, thank God.

  41. Brian Olson says:

    Saeid, really nice? Make that very, very nice!

  42. Don says:

    this is the first setup, I’ve seen with a auto hauler awesome, love the log train & whole setup is great

  43. robert dale tiemann says:

    really like the water scene.

  44. Tom Pickett says:

    Be patient and respectful, and transparent, then ask your wife to invite her closest friends over for tea, and to run trains.
    Then ask them how to increase the scrams. And where to add people.
    Ladies are all about relationships, it’s most likely the miniature people are missing from your community.
    Just a thought, it worked for me, my wife gave me the “formal living room. Best wishes.

  45. DC says:

    Heh, an N scale layout built by HO scale people. I couldn’t have done that at any point in my 71 years, especially not now!. A good laugh for me this morning. Thanks, Mark 🙂

  46. Chris Sylvester says:

    Great job on both layouts!!! Do not sell the layout keep it that’s part of what makes you who you are and it’s not hurting a damn thing!! It’s a hobby it’s helps relax and shut your brain down and decompress and that’s a good thing and it’s mentally healthy to do that. Your wife should help and get involved instead of trying to control and change you, you could be doing a lot worse things then this! Don’t let her change the person that you are !!! Sell her ! Chris from Michigan

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