Model railroading has existed as a hobby for over a century. It combines radio-controlled technology with novelty railway cars to form a dynamic hobby. Model train enthusiasts take pleasure in constructing train layouts, buildings, and scenery.
No two hobbyists perceive model railroading in the same light. Therefore, beginners should become familiar with the basics before pursuing more advanced concepts. Understanding the history of the hobby and its founders will help put into perspective the appreciation people have for it.
In addition, some basic understanding about the scale of a model train and the gauge of a train track helps when it comes time to lay down the track.
Below are some helpful links for any range, from the beginner to the experienced hobbyist. Enjoy!
The History of Model Trains as a Hobby
The history of model trains traces back as far as actual railroads themselves. The earliest model trains were made from metal and powered by steam or clockwork components. The average home did not have electricity to power model trains in the same way that modern homes do.
As a result, the earliest model trains had high price tags that only the wealthy could afford. As the prices began to drop in conjunction with the improvements involved with model railroading, more enthusiasts started to get involved with the hobby.
Model railroads started to become more common from the 1920s as they were mass-produced for the general public.
- A Brief History of Model Railways: An avid hobbyist explains the evolution of model railways.
- Any Make, Any Gauge, Any Age: The Train Collector’s Society explains the development of model trains as a hobby over the years.
- Tony Cook’s Ho-Scale Trains Resource: A webpage dedicated in providing information directly related to the history of ready-to-run model trains.
- The History of Model Trains: A short description that explains the historical roots of model trains as a hobby.
- Model Railroading: Evolution of the Model Train: An article covering the evolution of the model train since its inception.
Model Train Manufacturers, Museums, and Exhibits
Hundreds of model train manufacturers provide scores of products for enthusiasts. Bachmann Industries, one of the oldest model train manufacturers, have remained as one of the leaders in the industry since 1833. Lionel developed and maintained its legacy as a leading model train producer since 1900.
Other recognizable manufacturers include USA Trains, Atlas O Trains, Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC), and the Rokenbok Toy Company. Over the years, enthusiasts have formed organizations, museums, and exhibits to help support the hobby of model railroading. This has kept the hobby alive, while also keeping the model railroading market rejuvenated for future generations.
- Lionel Trains: Official website of Lionel featuring product catalogs, and additional support for new and seasoned hobbyists.
- Bachmann Trains: Bachmann has produced model trains for hobbyists since 1833.
- Model Rectifier Corporation: As a leader in quality hobby products, MRC continues its stride in excellence while producing some of the best model train materials on the market.
- USA Trains: USA Trains was established in 1987 as a manufacturer of G-Scale model railroad products.
- Amherst Railway Society: A non-profit organization consisting of over 450 members who love model trains as a hobby.
- National Model Railroad Association(NMRA): The National Model Railroad Association is an extensive resource full of images scale model railroading.
- Twin City Model Railway Museum: A museum focused on furthering the hobby of model railroading and preserving all historical information about it.
- Golden State Model Railroad Museum: A membership-based museum that offers events and special theme days for California residents.
- The San Diego Model Railroad Museum: The largest and only accredited scale model railroad museums in the United States.
- The Great Train Story: The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago provides an exhibit displaying more than thirty trains running on a 1,400 feet track.
- Walthers Model Railroad Trains: A brief history of Walthers, a prominent model trail producer.
Resources for the Avid Model Train Hobbyist
Beginners getting started in model railroading will need to seek out several sources to understand the basics of the hobby. Model railroading involves more than piecing together a train track and powering a locomotive. In fact, it requires a great deal of cleaning and maintenance to preserve the life of the train. These resources will help the beginning and avid model train hobbyist perfect what they love to do!
- Maintaining Your Lionel Trains: A guide that teaches you how to maintain Lionel tracks properly.
- Track Maintenance: New Railway Modelers shares tips and tools used to clean railroad tracks.
- Model Train Tips: A set of simple tips that for storing, maintaining, and trouble shooting model railroad tracks.
- Signals For Your Model Railroad – Getting Started: A beginner’s guide for learning the appropriate signals to use for model trains.
- Designing Model Railroad Operations: A webpage describing the complexity of designing model railroad layouts.
- The Basics of Model Railroad Track: An article introducing the basics of model railroad track.