Tips for Choosing Your Model Railroad Theme
The planning phase is one of the most exciting parts of designing a model railroad. Planning allows you to flex your creativity and ingenuity as you pick out the trains, terrain, and scenery elements that will make your project come to life. Here’s what to remember as you choose a theme for your model railroad.
Before you get too far into the planning, you’ll want to consider why you’re taking on this project. Do you have a particular train that you’d like to build a railroad around? Or is it more important to try building for a specific historical period? Figuring out what’s most important to you will help align your other priorities for the build.
Do Some Research
Part of the fun for most model train enthusiasts is developing historically-accurate scenes to accompany each model train. If you already have a train in mind, research where these trains ran, including the towns they would have passed through. Historical photos and maps can provide plenty of inspiration for your new railroad.
Another thing to consider as you choose a theme for your model railroad is cost. Do you already have everything to build the train and construct scenery, or will you need to invest in more tools, buildings, and special effects to make your design come to life?
When choosing the individual pieces of your train, you have many options ranging from N scale locomotives with sound to HO scale dining cars with lighted interiors. The more detailed the train, the more tempting it is to create an equally eye-catching railroad scene.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down all the options, look at the list below for some popular model railroad periods and themes. Because they’re popular, you should have an easy time finding kits, engines, and scenery to bring your design to life.
- Vintage small town America
- World War I or II era
- The Wild West
- Rural America or Europe
- Victorian England
- Modern transportation
No Wrong Choices
The most important part of designing a model railway is to do whatever makes you happy. Many hobbyists prefer historical realism, but that doesn’t mean you have to! Make a haunted Halloween train, recreate a scene from your favorite locomotive-themed movie, or do whatever else makes you smile. Here at Midwest Model Railroad, we are happy to answer your questions and help you dive into your next project.