Saturday, August 20, 2016


MODEL RAIL SATISFACTION IS GUARANTEED with easily available ready-made buildings and trackside equipment. Is it model-making though? Maybe not if that's as far as a train set goes, but when dioramas are concerned, it's a different matter.

Lee Carnihan: The detail and artistry that goes into researching model rail scenes, painting backdrops, designing and making the scenery means that they are still a hit with people of all ages. And now with digital equipment for operational control, they’re becoming more impressive than ever. 

Nicely done detailing (below) with this tractor, carried as a load on an 0n30 layout. 0n30 is a neat solution to space issues. The locos and rolling stock are traditional 0-gauge, but can run on 00/H0 gauge track, effectively making 0n30 a narrow-gauge format. The biggest provider of 0n30 stock is Bachmann, which makes a variety of beautifully detailed products.

One of the largest model rail displays in existence is at Wunderland (see video at bottom) in Hamburg, Germany, spanning more than four square kilometres. Building it required more than a few pairs of hands and some serious elbow grease - it took 500,000 working hours to create! Visiting Wunderland is something of a holy grail for train enthusiasts, inspiring many men to rush out and upgrade their own sets with realistic details and add-ons.

For many of us though of us, playing with model railways is also a way to relieve stress, indulge our interest in trains, and flex some creative and problem-solving skills.

“You can begin by researching the different railways and trains, and then of course, a great deal of skill goes into the planning,” says Mike Hughes, marketing director of the US-based National Model Railroad Association (NMRA). “Woodworking skills are required to lay the track and then electrical skills to successfully install all the wiring. You improve your artistic and modelling skills as you build as well.”

Working with models of any sort is a real craft, whether you’re putting them together or painting them. It’s a craft that requires concentration and creativity, which in turn helps you relax. The stress-relieving benefits of creativity have been widely acknowledged by scientists and mental health therapists, perhaps most recently with the popularity of adult colouring books, which dominated Amazon’s bestseller book lists in 2015.

If you like the idea of building your own railway set but don’t think your creative skills are quite up to scratch or can’t seem to find quiet time alone, then perhaps an out-the-box model is a better option. 

And that’s where companies like Hornby may score well, as a ready-to-run boxed set may not only include locomotive and rolling stock, but also offer such items as a track mat, some buildings, and of course, a control system. With a ready-to-run set, you can go from opening the box after breakfast to being a train controller in time for lunch.

All the photos in this article were taken at an excellent weekend model rail show, held in the seaside town of Southwold, UK. There was much skill and talent on view, making the trip well worthwhile.

About Lee
I'm a father of two and writer with a love for painting lead figures of the Warhammer variety and setting them up in dioramas. I also like biplanes such as the Sopwith Camel, and building boats out of balsa wood. However, they usually sink, because I haven't mastered the art of ballast yet. And model trains? Absolutely - I love ’em!