Scale Model Trains
Who Else Wants Realistic Tracks for Their N Scale Trains?

It may have gorgeous mountains with abundant bushes and trees, but as long as the tracks just lie there in the altogether, the layout for your N scale trains will never look completely real.

Step One: Get Back to Nature

To get an idea of what a right-of-way should look like, get out of the house and find some train tracks near where you live. Check out the color of the ties and the ballast. Notice the plants and weeds that are growing nearby. Now, take a few pictures of what you’ve found, because it’s surprising how much of that detail you can forget by the time you get home.

Once you’re back at your layout, print your photos and use them for reference while you work.

Step Two: Paint Your Rails and Ties

Before you begin to paint your tracks, you’ll need to remove any flux and soldering residue with denatured alcohol, for these could interfere with the adhesion of your paint. Protect the rest of your layout with plastic or newspaper and carefully mask all electrical contacts.

Lightly paint the rails and ties with a woodsy shade of brown paint and let everything dry for 24 hours.

At this point, the painted areas will look a bit phony, but a light sanding of the ties will age them instantly. Sand the tops of the rails more vigorously to remove the paint nearly completely. When you’re done, remove the masking tape.

Step Three: Choose Your Ballast

Any hobby shop with a model trains department will likely carry ballast in various colors. Don’t feel that you must use the same color ballast throughout your layout. You might prefer having your N scale trains travel over a darker shade of ballast in industrial areas. A color that resembles local rocks will also work well, for railroads frequently make use of them for ballast.

Step Four: Add the Ballast to Your Tracks

Apply the ballast between the rails, using a narrow bristle brush to force it down between the ties. Sweep away any stray granules.

When you’re satisfied with the distribution, use a pipette to soak the ballast with isopropyl alcohol. Let this soak in for two minutes and then use another pipette to gently apply scenic cement to the ballast.

The shoulders are easier. Just paint the area with slightly-thinned white glue and sprinkle it immediately with ballast. Dribble some more white glue on top and let it all soak in. When everything has dried completely, vacuum off the excess ballast.

Step Five: Add the Plant Material

Any self-respecting railroad right-of-way will demand a few weeds to dress it up. Your hobby shop will have plenty of ready-made plant material to choose from. Buy whatever appeals to you.

The trick for achieving a realistic look lies in the proper placement. Weeds and bushes usually grow in clumps, and clumps will always look best when they contain an uneven number of plants. Set yours up in groups of threes and fives.

Remember, too, that these are plants, not wooden soldiers. Be sure to stagger them. Don’t just line them up and don’t space them too evenly.

Step Six: Admire Your Work

Give yourself a hand. Everything’s looking really good right now, and the layout for your N scale trains just got that much more realistic.

HO Scale Train Sets

Although HO scale train sets have become the industry standards for the universally sought scale models, they did not start out that way. Before the HO scale came into existence, the O scale was the more universally accepted size for model trains. Introduced circa 1900 and meeting the United States standard ration of 1:48, the O scale model train set was a highly sought model for consumers because of the low cost and high attention to detail in every locomotive.

However, O scale trains sometimes proved too large for casual hobbyists. More easygoing enthusiasts needed smaller locomotives to suit their needs but were unhappy with the lack of detail present in Z scale or N scale models. Bing, a German-based toy manufacturer, stepped in to solve this problem by releasing a new, revolutionary version of an old favorite. Because these new locomotives measured approximately half the size of O scale models, they hit the market as HO scale train sets.

Answering a Current Problem

HO scale train sets hit the market during the Great Depression, meeting with troubling times and empty wallets. Model railroading had previously been considered too expensive a pastime for most individuals, but the HO scale models made great compromises for individuals living on tight budgets. Times were tough, but HO scale model trains provided some relief. They weighed only half as much as O scale models, but never compromised on providing the best in realism.

Particularly in the United States, HO scale train sets became exceedingly popular in the 1950s when model railroading became a more serious hobby rather than just a game. Again, the HO scale model’s realism came into play. With a ratio of exactly 1:87, the HO scale model train set became a hot item on the market for hobbyists. The size was perfect for adding the highest amount of detail without sacrificing extra money and space on larger bodies.

HO Scale Train Sets: Universally Embraced

Although the OO gauge remains the standard for model train sets in the United Kingdom and some parts of Europe, HO scale train sets remain exceedingly popular in the European and United States markets. The size of an HO scale train set makes it less costly than other scales, presenting a golden opportunity for the beginning model railroad enthusiast.

The lower cost of HO scale train sets also make them excellent choices for families with children. HO scale model trains are hobby grade devices and not toys, but children of approximately 10 years can enjoy them for their detail and power. Accidents may still happen, but HO scale train sets do not cost as much to repair or replace in the event of unfortunate mishaps.

Because HO scale train sets have become so popular, finding track and accessories for them is relatively simple. Most hobby shops will carry an abundance of HO scale equipment like spare track or scale buildings, easily helping enthusiasts to bring their railroad scenes out of their imaginations and into reality.

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