Heritage Model Trains Article

Toy Model Trains for Big and Little Kids

It’s not hard to imagine anyone getting excited over model railroad trains. Just watch their faces as a model train come to life; chugging, moving through a tunnel, climbing a hill to a bridge over water and finally pulling to a stop in the railroad terminal where people of all walks of life are waiting to embark.


It’s all so real you might feel like the giant in Grimm’s story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Adults and children alike love to build their own model railroads and everywhere on the planet they enjoy this trend daily. If you are a beginner, it could be troublesome just knowing where to start assembling; and in this case perhaps a model railroad layout kit would be your best choice.



In every effort not to discourage new beginners I will try to stay technical-free for this article. I guess the first thing that any hobbyist should know is about scale and gauge.


Scale refers to the actual size of the train engine, cars, and accessories. They can be small enough to easily fit on an office desktop or large enough for a garden railway. Scale is also referred to in letter form as in ‘G’ or ‘Z’. 


The next part deals with gauge. While this is often confused with scale by many beginners, it is not the same and mixing up the two will definitely anger experienced train buffs. 


What gauge does mean is the distance between the train track rails. That makes sense because if you have a small train engine, naturally it moves on a smaller track than others; the bigger the gauge, the bigger the rail spaces. But don’t worry about that right now – it will all come together soon.


HO scale is the most commonly used scale in the model train world… basically because parts and accessories are easy to find. This is the ideal scale for many new beginners as it is small enough to fit well with different train layouts, yet big enough for the average person to handle, and of course – they show well.


Having model trains would be rather boring if all it did was move along a track. That is why a model train can include many different train cars, passenger cars, hoppers, and tank containers to name a few.


Then there are all the layout accessories, like trestles, miniature people and vehicles, as well as buildings and scenery. The possibilities are only limited to your own imagination.


You can create your own landscaping ideas, with plants, trees, shrubs, and other things like traffic, street, and bridge signs, even railroad warning lights. Paint your own used tin can to look like a grain silo or oil refinery tank. John Deere sells a miniature tractor for your farm scene and do buy some cows, sheep and maybe a dog or two for the back yard.


We have built these scenes so many times, my own thoughts run wild. Try visiting a model train layout and see how much you can learn in an hour or two.


Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains