OCT 7, 2013

A guide to buying model trains

So you’ve decided to start your own model railway. You’ve planned your set and now it’s time to buy your first model trains. Before you go ahead and start purchasing there are a few things to keep in mind.

In this blog we’re hopefully going to give you a guide on buying model trains for the first time. I hope you find it useful!

Toys vs. Models

For many first time buyers the line between toy trains and model trains can be hard to distinguish. The main difference is in accuracy. Model trains are designed and built to look as close to their real life counterpart as possible, whereas toys are built with ‘fun’ in mind and are usually quite a bit cheaper.

When you’re purchasing your first model trains you need to be sure that you’re buying a model, not a toy. You can usually tell just by looking at the product, but if you’re unsure, make sure that you ask the seller. You don’t want to pay lots of money for something that’s actually designed as a toy.


Before you purchase you should also decide on a scale for your model railway. The scale will dictate the size of the set you build. The scale you build to is likely dependent on the room you have to build in. Here’s a quick guide the most common scales:

Z-scale – These are probably the smallest trains going, perfect for anyone building with limited space. Despite their size, they’re highly detailed allowing you to create a realistic set.

N-scale – This is one of the most popular scale choices. They’re perfect for hobbyists who want to concentrate on scenery. Slightly bigger than the Z-scale they’re versatile and fit well with many different sets.

S-scale – Not quite as popular as the N-scale this scale is usually for hobbyists who are more interested in the train than the scenery as they usually dominate the layout because of their size.

G-scale – The biggest scale going, these are ideally suited to outdoor model railway sets. Because of their size they’re perfect to withstand the elements and are usually very well detailed.

Make sure that you choose the scale that’s right for your home. Building a g-scale set inside an apartment wouldn’t be a great idea.


Buying your first model trains is exciting. You’re so close to seeing your set come to life. Remember to ask questions of the seller and make sure that you pick the right scale. Good luck with your railway!  

Created on 7th October 2013
Back to list