Best Model Train & Railroad Websites
Whether you’re a veteran of model railroading or just starting out, you’ll find useful info in this collection of five online model train sites. Be sure to allow plenty of time to browse; each model railroading site offers a lot to see.
Micro/Small Layouts for Model Railroads
Carl Arendt has gathered over 1,500 model railroad pikes on his Micro Layouts site. This railroad genre applies to pikes that are “usually less than three or four square feet in area, that nonetheless have a clear purpose and excellent operating capability.” You can no longer use lack of space as an excuse for lack of a layout – not when a functioning example sits on top of a Spam can. All scales and types are covered, with either track plans or fully detailed dioramas, or both.
There are G-scale locomotives on pizza box layouts no bigger than one square feet, T-gauge commuter lines in 16” x 24”, an On30 steam switcher in 12” x 84”, a modern traction line in 16” x 48” and an N-scale European station annex measuring only 2” x 3.5”. Many use ingenious strategies to increase operations such as manually operated turntables to turn locomotives around at the end of the line and sector plates to move trains from one track to another.
Sadly, Carl passed away on March 4, 2011, but his cause was taken up by Jack Trollope and Jonathan Scott. With their efforts, the website will continue to expand.
Need the roster of engines for the Soo Line Railroad? Perplexed by an electrical problem on your layout? Or maybe you just want to show off photos of the Japanese bullet train you just rode on your vacation. You’ll find plenty of opportunity to ask questions, offer advice and show off in the forums of TrainBoard, which bills itself as the Internet’s original train forum.
The members here are always ready and willing to help out with any train-related issues, often posting pictures and track plans to break up the otherwise long stretches of text postings. Though you can read information and look at the pictures as a guest, you’ll need to register for a free membership to do searches or to post your own messages.
Walthers is the world’s largest distributor of model railroading equipment. Every year, they solidify that position by issuing catalogs in HO and N & Z scales. But don’t worry if you can’t afford these compendiums of the model train hobby. Their full contents are available on the Walthers Website –including locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, structures, figures, vehicles, scenery, tools and books. Be warned, however, prices here are at manufacturer’s suggested retail, which is higher than average. But if you can’t find the item at your local hobby shop, you can order it online.
The website also contains goodies too new to make it into the catalog, O scale items, videos, technical resources and a hobby shop locator. All items are searchable. Plus you can subscribe to their free monthly sale catalog by mail, or download it as a PDF
What scale do you model in?
Model Railroad Hobbyist
If Model Railroader, the hobby’s main mag, seems too expensive for a subscription, then read Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine, an online journal edited by Charlie Comstock. This professional-looking, full-color delight runs over 100 pages each month and is totally free due to its large advertising base.
Articles take full advantage of online techniques like interactive links, flash downloads, videos, and magnifying glass zooms, and cover a variety of subjects. For example, one issue has a basement-sized Southern Pacific track plan in N-scale, tips for buying trains on eBay, procedures on building a polyurethane structures and a first-look on layout sound CDs. You can subscribe to the mag or download thousands of pages of back issues.
The world’s largest HO model railroad, Miniatur Wunderland, is located in Hamburg, Germany. It impresses with the final statistics it plans for 2020, when the entire layout is completed: nearly 25,000 square feet of layout, over 65,000 feet of track, 1,300 trains, 6,000 buildings, 300,000 figures and 330,000 trees. This giant of a pike is crafted by a staff of 200 working about 850,000 hours at a total construction cost of 15 million Euros.
But the statistics are meaningless until you marvel at the many pictures and videos on the site. Areas are devoted to such locations as Switzerland, Hamburg and the U.S.A. These include replicas of such famous attractions as the Matterhorn, the Hamburg Main Station and Las Vegas. Knuffingen Airport sprawls over 1,600 square feet, complete with scale airliners taking off and landing. Cars rush through highways, moving through proprietary technology, while boats cruise down waterways. Small wonder that this attraction has become on of the top sites of the city.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Aurelio Locsin