Model trains create and stir memories!  Children of all ages (especially men!) never lose their fascination with trains!  Why not include a train in your overall decorating plan?  A simple, well placed model railroad display can be attractive and inviting for young and old. 

"All aboard" for a trip down memory lane with surprise at every turn!  

Let’s start with some "rules of the track":  

· In a professionally decorated setting a model railroad will gain most of it’s appeal and acceptance from the movement of the train, not from fancy intricate layouts.

· In order for a train layout to be attractive as a decorating feature, it needs to be relatively simple in design so as to not be overpowering.

· Virtually all layouts that fit these premises will be a single line, probably around the circumference of the room if indoors. Notice I said "if indoors"

· Outdoor displays can be an intriguing addition to your landscaping plan if incorporated appropriately. This usually translates into a single line running through planting areas such as flowerbeds and rock gardens.

· For outdoors your only choice will be "G" scale railroad (large scale) and for indoor either HO (small scale) or "G" scale will work..

Indoor:

Where would a train set-up look appropriate and enhance your decorating? The first place that comes to mind is a child’s area such as bedroom or playroom. Another would be a game room, bonus room, or how about the home office?  Remember we’re talking about a decorating feature that will enhance the setting, not necessarily an item intended for play. What scale train should I use? This will be totally up to you and your setting. The large scale trains look beautiful slowly plying their way through your room.

The best placement of the layout when used for decorating is at the top of the room about 12" down from the ceiling. This placement allows uninterrupted track runs, as you are above windows and doors. (And above little hands!) You will use a shelf for the track to run on that is fastened to the wall. This placement also keeps track decorating details such as buildings, trees, fences to a minimum since your viewing from below.

 

Don’t let a little thing like a wall stop you! Let’s be creative. Wouldn’t your "Little Engine That Could" look neat leaving the room through a tunnel? A few seconds later it returns through another tunnel opening…your room is alive! Are you worried about cutting your house apart to make a tunnel? Rest assured that even if you change your mind later, repairing these drywall openings is simple. Click here for exactly how to do that.

 

One of the best ways to fasten your track shelf to the wall is to use a heavy duty 4 inch angle bracket such as Stanley #75-6511, or Lowe’s #64760. This bracket will be mounted to the top of the track shelf and will be hidden from view. Position the brackets to hit each stud (16" or 24" apart) If your shelf is unusually deep (over 12" ) you may need to use a larger bracket. Another method of fastening the track shelf to the wall is to use decorative metal or wooden brackets from below. Again you would space each bracket to hit a wall stud.

The track shelf can be made from a variety of materials such as ¾" pine shelving, or ¾" plywood. The advantage to plywood is you can cut the rounded corners without any seams. The disadvantage to plywood is you will have to dress the edge with veneer strips that glue on (Lowe’s stock# 16546 )

The easiest way to determine the size needed for your track shelf is to lay out your track on the floor directly below where it is going to be installed. This will show you the radius needed at the corners. Make your shelf 2" bigger than where you are going to place the track.

Start the installation by measuring down from the ceiling and marking the wall at each corner or where the wall makes a turn. Snap chalk lines from mark to mark as a guide for installing the track shelf. Install the corner pieces first, then measure, cut and install the fill-in pieces between the corners.

 

Tunnel

If you decide to have the train leave the room, it will be through a hollow section of the wall (between wall studs) . Most walls will be hollow for 14" from each corner. Most track layouts will fall within this measurement. Once you have determined where to cut, you can cut whatever shape you desire for the tunnel entrance. We have provided one tunnel example. This could be made 3-dimensional with plastic stones, or simply painted on the wall. Styrofoam tunnel entrances are also available at hobby stores. We’ll present you with two ways to deal with the hollow area between the wallboard of your tunnel. Bend and glue cardboard (not corrugated) to fill in the space, and spray it flat black, or simply spray paint the inside wall cavity with flat black paint…you’ll never see it!

 

Outdoor:

An outdoor layout is more challenging because most landscaping isn’t compatible with a circular, level route, necessary for train tracks!. If you have a back yard setting that allows this or you can modify a few items, the touch of a "live" train running through your gardens is quite unique!  The addition use of a tunnel or bridge will give you some flexibility because you can have the track run under (or bridge over) an area that would normally be an obstacle.

The giant scale trains ("G") were originally made for outdoor use. If you do plan an outdoor set-up, just make sure the train you purchase is for indoor/outdoor use. The first question asked about outdoor train use is about the track bed…or what the track sits on. A fine crushed gravel bed will work well as long as the underlying soil is not loose.  The most important thing is to make sure the soil under your track bed is stable, by tamping  it.  

For those who want to pursue model railroading, here are two links that will let you gain all the knowledge you need to do it right, indoors or out. Backyard Railway Supplies, Garden Railways Magazine, Model Railroader Magazine.