Railway Model Making

The model railway is a business model on trains and railway world , especially their reproduction according to a scale and a set theme and their exploitation .

It is about the evolution of the simple game with a miniature train or the act of the electric train : the goal is to constitute a realistic model on which the trains will be the central subject. Railway modelism then consists, for most of its practitioners, to build a network (sometimes improperly called ” circuit “) arranged and decorated, on which the model maker will circulate his trains based on the reality of the railway world.

Rail model making is an activity that is found all over the world, with a predominance in North America , Europe and Japan .

Model making or model making?

Leisure “technical and artistic 1 “, model railroading is a dual activity at the same time modelism , by the construction or the improvement of reduced models ( super-detailing ), and model-making , by the construction of a network or a diorama on which will circulate or will be placed the model train. Although it is an activity assimilable in the majority of the practices in the model making, the term of model making is and remains the most used 2 .

Model railroaders


Railroad model trainers are among the ” ferrovipathes ” (meaning “train sick” humorously ), “ferrovimanes 3 ” or ” ferroviphiles “, terms that include fans of the world of railways and trains in all. genres. The model trainer is called a rail model maker . The ferromodelism neologism is also used by the railway model makers , who practice, as a result, the ferromodélisme .

The level of demand of some modellers for the quality of miniature reproductions can sometimes go as far as caricature. In the European Francophonie, the most picky modelers about the quality and accuracy of the reproduced models are often called “rivet counters” by their colleagues, with reference to rivets real steam engines, which are often abundantly supplied L 1 . Another aspect of caricature, collectors are sometimes nicknamed “hamsters” or “squirrels” 4 .

Demographic Data

Railway modelers mainly reside in non-Mediterranean Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, France, etc.), the United States and Canada L 2, as well as in Japan 3 . They are mostly men, Note 1 , from all social categories L 2 , with a “fairly high” average age 5 , the most represented age group being the 31-50 age group in 1993 (survey of a journal French 6 ), evolving in 2009 to the 40-69 age group (online survey of an American magazine 7 ) and, in 2016, to 60-69 years (survey of an American magazine 8 ). Often described as children fascinated by the time of theL 3 steam locomotives , by mechanics and the L 4 movement , these people have been practicing ferromodelling for a long time: 26.94% have between 21 and 40 years of practice, 40.12% over 40 years (USA, 2014) 9 . This trend, as well as a higher purchasing power, is shared in 2014 by other forms of model making 10 . They have a budget of 50 to 100 US dollars a month .

Rail model making can be an individual hobby (in 1993, 83% of French modelers have a personal network 6 ) or practiced in a club . The number of railway model makers is estimated at around 30,000 in France L 5 , excluding collectors (50% of model makers practice the collection in 1993 6 ), including 3,200 11 belonging to a club affiliated to the French Federation of Model Railroad ( 2009).

In 1992 , the number of model trainers in the United States was estimated at 250,000 12 , or 0.1% of the population at the time. 25,900 of them join the National Model Railroad Association 13 . 72% of them own a network 12 , the rest being mostly builders or model collectors. These figures do not take into account the simple holders of a train box , nor trainspotters . The activity is then family most of the time, or grouped into informal clubs, the owner of a network opening its doors to other modellers who participate in the construction and its exploitation.

In the US also, the practice of model railroading can be distinguished by the title of ” Master Model Railroader ” (MMR – “master model railroader”) awarded by the National Model Railroad Association for talented designers 14 .

In Germany, one out of every five households owned a model train in 1993, most often made by Märklin 15 ; 40,000 model railroaders would live in Japan the same year 3 . In the United Kingdom, an estimate of the order of “hundreds of thousands” is given in 2005 L 2 . In 2009 the NMRA includes 19,496 members 13 .

History of Railway Model Making


The beginnings of model railroading are rather obscure. We do not really know who had the idea of ​​miniaturizing the trains, but this was done while the world massively adopted rail transport 2 . The first trains are free reproductions, produced by manufacturers of items tinplate , that benefit falls to realize small trains 16 . Around 1840 , miniaturized steam engines were available in England , allowing the creation of the first miniature trains, nicknamed ” carpet railways “. In 1891 , Märklinpresents a clockwork train, but the majority of the productions are trains to hang out or floor trains , without rails L 6 . These trains will remain in manufacturers’ catalogs until 1930 L 6 . Exception to these trains without rails, Napoleon III has built for the Prince Imperial a network of railway garden L 7

Then come, around 1890-1900 L 8 , so-called toy trains , rolling on rails. These rails coupons, first ruts 16 and then with real track elements (sometimes improperly called “rails”) are assembled at will. These track elements allow the first ovals of track, embellished for some of track equipment ( switches , crossings , etc.).

As for the trains, they are LP 1 luxury toys made of stamped, stamped and / or lithographed sheet metal. This type of production, developed about 1910 , is called tin plate , and marks EHD , Hornby , Märklin have been emblematic Note 2 . The trains are then reproduced at scales between 1:15 and 1:45, without any standardization between the different brands, making the trains of the different brands incompatible and making it possible to attract the exclusivity of the trains. customers L 9 . It is more the evocation of reproduced material that takes precedence over realism. Note 3 we are here in a form of reproduction that is clearly that of the toy train rather than that of model making. The popular models are summary reproductions: a Pacific , with its six axles , is often reduced to two axles, those of the motor bogie driving the toy, common to many motor equipment of the brand L 10 ; the way is the same for all models leading to disparities of proportions, also voluntary L 9 .

Originally driven by mechanical systems, the locomotives receive electric motors from 1905, the switchgear remaining always with manual control L 11 . Electricity is provided by a third rail, located between the two guide rails. All these toy trains remain objects sold in toy stores known as “scientific” and are beginning to have the reputation of a serious hobby with educational virtues; this will always be the case until the 1950s L 12 .

The beginnings of modern model railroading

Purpose models while metal exist at the beginning of xx th century : Bing offers the “Black Prince” in IV of 1902 17 but the first model railroaders, little regarded by major train companies toys, often have to resort to full construction models L 13 . In Japan, amateurs and some craftsmen build from time to time faithful reproductions of brass locomotives at scales I or 0. These reduced models are, however, of advantage the status of object of art intended for the exhibition in showcase 3 .

Some train enthusiasts seek to do better than run more compliant trains rolling in a set, including the first club, The Model Railway Club is based in London in 1910 L 13 , 18 . This practice occurs in continental Europe and in particular in France L 13 . The first French railway modeling association was created in 1929 by some amateurs: the French Association of Railroad Friends (AFAC) . She still occupies her premises in the basement of the Gare de l’Est 19 , 16 . The day afterFirst World War , the first artisanal productions appear, confidential; they offer rolling stock and track equipment L 13 . These enthusiasts also transform the models of the trade, order specific materials to the manufacturers and also interested in the sets L 13 . They remain however very rare L 14 .

In 1920, the track coupons were given a hole, intended to fix the track on an L 12 board and the first electrically operated track apparatus appeared in 1930, making it easier to operatetrains L 11 ; it remains a practice of bourgeois families L 12 . Competition is established between the faithful of the “3 rails” (in fact two rails and a central wire) allowing the most complex loops like at Jep or Lionel , or the “2 rails” more realistic, but where the realization of the Lesser turnaround loop requires a savvy game of inverters and cutoff rails 2 .

This period, until the Second World War, saw craftsmen propose models of trains, like the French Fournereau, Gaume and Lequesne, for example 16 , L 14 . The first specialized magazines appear: two specialized journals in Japan are published in the 1930s 3 , which is the period of modern journals with Model Railroader in 1935 in the United States; Loco-Revue in 1938 in France.

The post-war

The post-war years are prolific: the queen scales of the beginning of the century (II, I, 0) are quietly abandoned for smaller scales ( 00 and HO ), and the plastics industry can greatly reduce costs while having finer models (a tin-plate car costs the price of a starting box in HO) L 15 . Large scales remain the preserve of wealthy amateurs for whom craftsmen produce very fine models L 15 .

These scale models are produced industrially from 1950 by brands such as Märklin and Trix Express (Germany), Lionel (USA – scale 0, 1:48), Jouef(France) or Fleischmann (Germany). Often composed of an oval of tracks, a locomotive, a few cars , or sometimes cars , and a very low voltage safety transformer , they largely contributed to popularize the model train and to take it out of the frame. of the luxury and scientific toy, to which he belonged until then. In Europe, the HO network, stored under the bed on a decorated two-square-meter board, becomes the L 16 standard.

In the United States, the scale 0 resists: the occupation of Japan has made it possible to discover the craftsmanship of Japanese artisans and the import of 1:48 machines is developing. In Japan, rail model making is changing from being a collector’s item to an adult’s game. Ladders 0 then HO , inspired by American achievements, are becoming popular 3 . The journal TMS was founded in 1947 3 .

These years are also those of standardization, with the creation of international bodies ( NMRA in 1935, MOROP in 1954 ) which allow, thanks to a series of standards, the circulation of materials of all brands together. The power supply “2 rails” begins to take over thanks to the realism of its way.

Also during this period in the United States, John Allen began construction of the Gorre & Daphetid , an experimental miniature network. His experiences around staging, setting, patina or exploitation, as reported in the magazines of the time, are precursors of the modern model railway, called ” atmosphere ” 20 .

The 1960s: the advent of the current model

The 1960s consolidate the market and the democratization of prices makes it possible to create very compact networks including a maximum of channels, inheritance of scales I and 0 L 17 . The arrival of plastics and zamac , as well as the pressure of the pattern makers and the specialty press, bring a new fineness to the models in HO, with finer details L 18 .

Scales even smaller than the HO are born L 16 : the N in 1965 , by Arnold-Rapido and Minitrix (Germany) very quickly followed by Kato (Japan) 3 ; the Z, by Märklin, in 1972 . In 1968 , LGB, a German garden train company, is founded , which takes advantage of the construction of residential pavilions with gardens to bring back to scale II L 19 . In the United States , the National Model Railroad Associationwhich federates the model railway knows its golden age with 29 139 members in 1979 13 .

In parallel, in Japan, brass is still very popular with older modelers or those who practice the HO scale. The semi-scale production is relocating to South Korea 3 . The realism of these models, with many finer parts than others, make prices are increasingly expensive in Europe. However, some models at the HO scale , such as cars , remain shortened in length (1: 120 or 1: 100 instead of 1:87) in order to adapt to the radius of tight curves of amateur networks. L 18same for LP 2 buildings .

The 1980s are the first steps of gatherings around modular networks in Europe, the highlighting of other forms of networks than the ovals of lane laid on a board L 20 , L 21 , L 22 and the birth of model making. atmosphere 2 , LP 3 : the term “model railway” is becoming more and more popular LP 1 . The idea of ​​making “realistic” networks, that is to say, inspired by reality and with logical tracings, is spreading 21 . In Japan, the N scale is a success with the new generation 3 . Europe discovers North American modelism and its techniques in the1990s 12 , 22 .

End of the xx th century and current period

In the 1990s began a “vocations crisis” 23 (in 1993 in France, the readership of Loco Revue is made up of 20% under 30 years 24 ).

This vocations crisis is linked to several factors: the reduction of living space, the cost of equipment, the change in leisure fashion, the production of very limited series on the European market, the lack of robustness (or the greatest finesse). ) material 25 , 26 , etc.

Major restructurings and buyouts manufacturers are beginning to create large groups ( Hornby Railways , Bachmann Industries , Märklin , Roco ), bringing uncertainty as to existing models and after-sales service 27 . These years have a trough in terms of production of rolling stock 28 , illustrated in particular by the few novelties at the Nuremberg toy fair 29 . Driven by consumers, the rolling stock is more realistic, requiring advantage of manufacturing steps and different techniques, resulting in higher prices 30 .

For specialists, model railways suffers from three unfounded prejudices: model railroading would be too complicated, too expensive and take too much space L 23 , 31 . Initiatives to attract young designers are in place at the end of the xx th century .

After the year 2000, the model of atmosphere becomes the norm, pushing to the realization of the realistic sets, sometimes more detailed than the miniature trains themselves L 24 . The networks at the forefront are presented as closed scenes with dressing bands, lighting and background scenery, the curved track radius is one meter and more, the plastic couplers give way to more realistic reproductions ( hitches screw in Europe, Janney hitch in North America), control of the crossings is done manually by levers, etc. L 25 . Railroad model supply has never been more important than at xxith century, both for its wealth by its quality 32 .

The latest technical innovation comes from the orders for the miniature train. The so-called “digital” digital system , which controls the train via a microprocessor, adds a new dimension to the operation of the networks, through, among other things, sound reinforcement, trailer management and simplified wiring.

Evolution of the reproduction quality of models since the Second World War
  • The 1940s
    Toy train in sheet metal, 1949. The locomotive reproduced is simplified to the extreme: the axles engine, surely more numerous, are reduced to the minimum. The motor unit used is probably the same for all the motor vehicles of the manufacturer.

  • The 1960s
    Play of a BB 67000 by Jouef in 1964. The general shape is well restored, but some details lack finesse or realism, like the gears visible under the bogies or the huge coupling.

  • The 1990s
    The 1990s saw the development of the models, which were gradually gaining finesse, such as this PrussianHO scale machine , manufactured by Fleischmann .

Organization and standardization

Clubs and Federations


Two major organizations share the standardization of the elements necessary for the practice of rail model making, such as jigs, curves, wheels or, for amateurs, L 26 network modules :

  • the NMRA ( National Model Railroading Association ) 33 is the US National Rail Modeling Federation, founded in 1935. The NMRA is active in several other countries, such as Canada 34 or the United Kingdom 35 ;
  • the MOROP is the European Federation created in 1954 , grouping and capping the various national federations of model railroaders and amateurs of railways in Europe. It enacts the NEM standards (European standards of model making) in agreement with the amateurs and the manufacturers 36 .

MOROP and NMRA are working together to define certain standards, such as the so-called digital digital controls . Fans are more likely to follow one or another of the standardization bodies according to the themes and brands they choose.

National Federations and Local Clubs

In France, the French Model Railroad Federation (FFMF) has played this role since 1953 . Many local associations relay the FFMF at the local level.

Fans interested in particular themes also come together in associations, the main ones being AFAN (French Association of Friends of the N), for amateurs of the scale 1: 160 37 , the Circle of Zero, for fans of the Zero scale (1: 43.5) 38 , the GEMME (study group of metric and narrow gauge model making) 39 , which includes narrow lane enthusiasts and the AMFI (Amicale of independent rail modelers) 40 .

In Belgium , since 1982 , the Federation of Belgian Railways Associations 41 has brought together associations and individuals within its Modeling Commission. The Belgian Zero Federation groups practitioners for the 1: 43.5 42 scale.

There are also many groups of non-club modelers, as part of virtual meetings on forums . These forums may depend on a magazine , in which case most topics will be discussed, but, most often, these forums are dedicated to specific topics, such as narrow gauge , current French trains or model rail North America .

Reduction Scales

Railroad model reduction scales are often imposed by public demand for life constraints (size of dwellings, budget) and by the construction techniques used (size of wheel flanges, presence of couplers …). A strict reduction in scale is impossible unless you work on very large scales (1:10 and more) L 18 .

Old scales

In the early days of model railroading, ladders did not matter. Since the proportions of models were dependent on the mechanics and the manufacturing constraints, the normalization was done by the spacing between the miniature rails. The scales of the time thus designate the distances, without distinction between normal or narrow way. The flagship spreads of market leaders are then followed by newcomers, determined to ensure the interoperability of their equipment. This is how I and the 0 will appear , future benchmarks of reference for the modern productions, whereas the IV and the IIIhave disappeared now. The multiplication of manufacturers and the desire to facilitate compatibility led to the standardization of these values.

The old spacings were measured at the axis of the rails, which could leave incompatibilities related to the thickness of the rails and the tolerance of the axle locks 17 . Modern ladders are now being measured from the inside of the rails. The old distances are as follows 17 :

  • the IV , created before 1914 by Bing, spacing of 75 mm ;
  • the III , created before 1914 by Märklin spacing of 75 mm ;
  • the II -a , created before 1914, used by Schoenner , Carette or Bing (under the name of III for the latter), spacing of 67 mm ;
  • the II : created before 1914, used by Märklin or Bing, 54 mm spacing ;
  • the Standard , from 1906 to 1930, created and used by Lionel (United States), 54 mm spacing ;
  • the I , from 1925 , used by Märklin or Bing, 48 mm spacing , which will give the modern gauge I (1:32, 45 mm spacing Note 4 ).
  • the 0 , used from 1900 by all marks with a spacing of 35 mm , which gave the modern 0 (1: 43.5, 1:45 or 1:48, spacing of 32 mm Note 4 ).
  • the 33 mm or the 28 mm , respectively appeared before a world war, were used by FV , CR and JEP. The 18 mm is exclusive to JEP. These three spacings directly designate the spacing of the rails.

Standardized scales

Main article: Railroad Modeling Ladders .

A certain number of scales of reproduction exist, indicated by a ratio (1:87, 1: 220 …) or a letter or a figure (HO, O …) and normalized by the NMRA 43 and the MOROP 44 , except contrary mention. .

The letter or the number designating the scale is in the masculine: “the HO”, “the Zero” … The pronunciation of the designation is sometimes given to make the difference between the numeral zero and the letter O, as well as the notation used at United States or the United Kingdom. The standard scales most often encountered are:

  • II (“Two”): scale 1: 22.5 often reserved by its dimensions to the garden gear. Practiced in the United States asF(ratio of 1: 20.32 (15 mm scale), in terms of exact scale reproduction,G, diminutive ofGarden(“garden” in English). ), is the designation of a broader set of reduction ratios, ranging from 1: 20.5 to 1:28, to facilitate reproduction45 ;
  • I (“A”,3/8 “scale): scale 1:32, formerly popular scale, now sold more confidentially byMärklinor some artisans;
  • 0 (“Zero”, or “O”, 1/4 “scale ): corresponding to different reductions (scale 1:48 in North America, 1:45 in Germany or 1: 43.5 in France and the United Kingdom ), it is used a lot by toy trains between 1920 and 1950. In Europe, unlike in the United States, the Zero is now reserved for amateurs with a consequent budget, often collectors L 27. Very used for very detailed networks, this scale is very popular for the reproduction of narrow gauge railway;
  • S ( 3/16 “scale ): 1:64 scale, rarely used in Europe but running in the United States, especially in narrow gauge railroad reproduction;
  • 00 (“double-zero”, or “Doublo Note 5 “, 4 mm scale ): scale 1:76, almost exclusively available in the UK Note 6 ;
  • HO Note 7 ( “HO” , two separate letters, meaning Halb Nul : in German “demi 0” ) or, according to the publications, HO ( “H-zero” ): scale 1:87 (Europe) or 1:87, 1 ( 3.5 mm scale , USA), created in 1935 , is the most widespread scale in the world, representing the majority of industrial productions;
  • TT : scale 1: 120, rarely used outside Eastern Europe;
  • N : scale 1: 160, popularized by the firm Arnold-Rapido in 1965 , is the most widespread scale after HO for its gain in place. Widely used in Japan and the United States; its name comes from the initial number of millimeters of rail gauge: nine (nine in English, nine in German) millimeters.
  • Z : scale 1: 220, launched by Märklin in 1972 . Still not very widespread in France, this scale is divided between reproductions of European trains, mainly German and Swiss, and American trains.

Other scales

There are many other scales, standardized or not, mostly confidential.

Bright Steam Garden Trains

The different spacings of live steamer trains ( Live Steam in English) are 1/2 “ (1:24), 3/4″ (1:16), 1 “ (1:12), 1/2 “ (1: 8), 1/2 “ (~ 1: 5) and 3 “ (1: 4); 3, 5 inches, 5 inches and 7 ¼ inches for Europe.

These models are mostly reproductions of steam locomotives , fueled with coal or gas, and are sometimes capable of firing several hundred kilograms . The normalization of these scales is often done by the spacing of the tracks on which these models can circulate.

English scales

The English scales have a designation based on the reduction in millimeters of a real foot, as well as some peculiarities.

Small ladders first, with the N scale, reduced to 1: 148 instead of 1: 160 for the standard N, rolling on the 9 mm gauge track for reproduction of the standard track at the actual scale or the 2mm scale Note 9 , 46 , scale 1: 152 for a reduced spacing of normal channels of 9.42 mm . Popular in the 1950s , it became, under the name 000 , a scale with fine standards .

The scales HO and TT have their equivalents, namely the 3.5mm scale and the 3mm scale , without there being any impact on these scales contrary to the multiple definitions of the 4mm scale Note 10 , designation grouping the trains with the Scale 1: 76,2 including three reproductions of normal track gauge:

  • the 00 scale , normalized 47 , reproducing 1: 76,2 scale trains running on reduced gauge tracks of 16.5 mm , which is an error with respect to the reduction scale chosen;
  • the EM scale , reproducing 1: 76.2 trains running on 18 mm reduced gauge tracks , which is the closest industrial gauge to the chosen reduction scale;
  • the ScaleFour 48 (S4) scale ( Proto scale 4 , a fine standard exactly reproducing 1: 76.2 trains running on 18.83 mm reduced gauge tracks .

For larger scales, there are also special features: the 7mm scale Note 11 , reproducing the scale 1: 43.5 normal track on a reduced scale track at 32 mm gauge, like the standardized Zero. The Zero designation is also common 49 : the ScaleSeven 50 (S7) scale, a fine standard reproducing the scale 1: 43.5 normal track on a track at the reduced scale of 33 mm gauge, and not 32 mm .

Japanese scales

Japan does not have standardization bodies for rail model making. The modelers rely on the standards of the NMRA, the MOROP or the manufacturers’ proposals to reproduce the many trains of the Japanese archipelago . This applies to conventional scales, like HO and OO, which in Japan is reduced to 1:80 to reproduce the path of 1067 mm , a majority in the archipelago, on a small lane 16.5 mm . The Japanese N is reduced to 1: 150 to reproduce the 1,067 mm track on a reduced 9 mm track .

Other spacings exist, reflecting the particularities of rail spacing in Japan : the 13mm , reduced to 1:87 to reproduce the track of 1,067 mm on a reduced track of 13 mm and the 9mm , scale 1:87, to reproduce the 612 mm track on a reduced 9 mm track. Note 12 .

There are some peculiarities related to Japan’s reputation for miniaturization, such as the T , which replicates 1 077 mm 1,067 mm Japanese suburban trains , with a 3 mm gap between the rails. 51 , non-standard, or ZZ (spacing of 4.5 mm , scale 1: 350), non-standard, is produced exclusively by Bandai in Japan.

The other small scales are the ZJ , a Japanese variant of the Z 52 scale ( 6.5 mm gauge , scale 1: 220), produced by Plusup Co., Ltd. Only applicable to the Japanese market 53 or M , 1: 200 on 6.5 mm track , manufactured for the Japanese market by Takara Tomy .

Market shares

There is no real public study on the distribution of each scale, but it is possible, thanks to a comparison between the range of manufacturers’ ranges, articles devoted to specialized journals or by observation of the networks presented in exhibitions, to get an idea.

For large ladders, the II or G has the share in the field of garden trains . The O-scale is currently a prestige scale in Europe for normal-track models, and as such is not widely used, unlike in the United States, where costs are much lower. The dynamism of this scale comes mainly from the metric track and especially from the narrow gauge, especially in recent years by the rise of the American narrow gauge, under the impulse of Bachmann . In the US, this scale is the third in number of practitioners, with 6.3% market share 7 .

The HO scale is the most common of all (67.7% of the market in the United States in 1992 12 , 65.7% in 2009 7 ), probably because it brings a satisfactory relationship between the size of the models and the technical ability to achieve quality industrial reproduction at reasonable cost. The place occupied by a 1:87 network is also reasonable: a shelf 40 cm wide along a wall is sufficient for a basic network 2 . The amateur with a large space can also, on this scale, achieve the reproduction of an entire region with several stations, depots, yards… In North America this kind of multi-operator network is commonplace.

Small scale relative to the HO, the N is the other dominant scale (16% of the market in the United States in 1992, 40 000 people 12 , 21% in 2009 7 ). The progressive decline in the space available for urban lifestyle networks and the high quality of recent models may explain the recent dynamism of this scale 2 ; dynamism already very strong in Japan, thanks to the productions Kato and Tomix , and because of the small housing 3 , 5 . Since 2009 ref.  desired], this scale is experiencing a renewal in France, because of the reappearance-appearance of brands offering reproductions of French models ( Piko , for example).

The ” Z scale “, which has the status of a ” gadget ” in Europe, has for some years been booming in the American market, thanks in particular to the dynamism of American Z Line (AZL), the democratization of the Micro Train Line models. (MTL) and the digitalization of models, now easily possible.

The other scales are not very widespread, remaining regional specificities, the main journals devoting them only very rare articles. Thus, the I has its market in Germany , the S in the United States, the 00 in England, the TT in the countries of the former Eastern bloc .

Fine standards

Main article: Proto (model railroad) .

In addition to scale-of-scale differentiation and track gauge reproduction (normal track, metric track, narrow track), some amateurs choose to reproduce trains based on reproduction standards ( wheel profile , spokes, etc.). curves …) closer to reality than the standards advocated by international bodies. Practitioners of these fine standards ( fine scale in English) are grouped together since 1966 under the term Proto (English prototypical , designating the prototype which is the repeated element), followed by the numerical value of the selected scale : for the HO scale(1:87), we are talking about Proto87 .

Track Differences


In addition to these reports of reductions, there are clues letters, sometimes accompanied by figures to indicate the distance of the path Note 4 . Two systems exist: the European system standardized by MOROP and the American system standardized by the NMRA.

The absence of an index indicates that we are dealing with a standard gauge ( UIC gauge of 1435 mm , reduced to scale). Similarly, broad tracks are not indexed by international bodies.

In Europe, the letter e designates a narrow path (the spacings retained by the manufacturers being often between 800 mm and 600 mm ) and the letter m indicates the reproduction of a metric gauge in reality. In Germany mainly, the index i and the index f exist for industrial roads and forest roads. The index z that is sometimes found indicates the presence of a rack 44 .

In the United States, it is the indicative n (for narrow , “narrow” in English) which indicates the reproduction of a narrow way. This code is followed by an encrypted value based on the imperial units of measurement and representing the real spacing reproduced; one digit for a measurement in feet (Sn3, 3ft 1:64 scale track reproduction, two digits for a measurement in inches (0n30, 30 inch track reproduction at 1:48 scale. ‘there is no specific designation for the meter gauge , the latter being a feature of metric 43 .

Rather than making a tedious conversion, the standard designation used in the country in which the replicated railway is located is generally used by the model maker.

There are, of course, additional standardizations for narrow lanes. In Great Britain, it is more often the designation of the reduced spacing used that takes precedence. We can thus find 009 Note 13 ( Double-zero rolling on a 9 mm gauge track), 0.14, 0.16.5 (Zero rolling on a 14 mm model track, or 16.5 mm), etc. Fans generally follow the designation given by the builders.

Report to scales
The three lanes above each have their use: on the left, representation of the standard gauge of 1435mm at HO scale ; in the center, representation of a narrow track gauge (~ 760mm) on the HO scale (HOn30); on the right, representation of the standard gauge of 1435mm at the N scale ; The center and right lanes have the same miniature spacing, which makes it possible to share certain accessories (locomotive engines, tracks, etc.).

In the context of a model reproduction, it is possible to use the same spacing of the rails for several scales, in order to reproduce this or that real spacing. Thus a spacing of 9 millimetersmakes it possible to reproduce the normal track on the N scale (1/160), the metric track on the TT scale (1/120), the narrow 750mm track on the HO scale , the track 600mm wide at 00 scale, 550mm wide at S scale (1/64) and 400mm wide at 0 scale. This is known as track gauge rather than scale. reduction to denote the mechanical system and the channels used.


In Europe

In Europe, the system of times makes it possible to locate railway equipment over time. The times are defined differently according to the countries 54 and constitute the different variants of the European Modeling Standard 800 55 and only concern Europe. They are six according to the global standard, the sixth epoch having or not been implemented by the national federations. At each transition between epochs is a major evolution of the railway world. These times are sometimes subdivided into sub-epochs, specific to the country concerned.

The different epochs of railway in French-speaking Europe – NEM 800, 2007 55
France 56 Belgium 57 Switzerland 58
Update 2010 2003 2009
era I 1832 – 1925 :
formation of networks of initial companies, steam locomotivesonly;
1804 – 1925 :
beginnings of the railways, birth of the private companies and constitution of the Belgian network ;
until 1920 :
constitution of the Swiss rail network , developments of the steam, beginnings of electric traction;
epochII 1925 – 1945 :
groupings of companies, unification of equipment and signaling, creation of the SNCF ;
1925 – 1945 :
supremacy of the steam traction, unification of the numbering of the material and creation of the SNCB ;
1920 – 1945 :
electrification of the Swiss rail network, double steam / electric traction;
epochIII 1945 – 1970 :
unification of the network under the national banner, decline of steam in favor of diesel and electric;
1945 – 1970 :
new numbering of equipment, decline of steam in favor of diesel and electric;
1945 – 1970 :
end of electrification, dieselisation of shunting machines, commissioning of high performance locomotives and railcars;
era IV 1970 – 1990 :
total disappearance of the steam traction, development of the electric traction, first colored liveries , modernization of the network, appearance of the TGV ;
1970 – 1990 :
new numbering of the motor equipment, replacement of the diesel equipment by electric vehicles, delivered colored;
1970 – 1990 :
operation with unified rolling stock, UIC marking , introduction of the type R catenary ;
era V from 1991 :
creation of the activities of the SNCF , development of the TGV, new logo, appearance of regional materials;
of 1991 :
lines and equipment at high speed, progressive liberalization of freight traffic;
1990 – 2005 :
map ” Rail 2000 “, equipment renewal, emergence of foreign materials at high speed trains block creation, major infrastructure projects (tunnels);
era VI Since 2005 :application of livery Carmillon , opening of the rail network to the competition, management of the regional equipment by the French regions . Since 2005 new directives ( COTIF , TSI) in line with the European Union directives for rail traffic, formation of an international high speed train network, an international railway network and progressive renumbering of UIC equipment .This standard has not been formalized at the Belgian level 57 . Since 2005 :
high speed in Switzerland, renewal of equipment, new signaling devices, renovation of freight stations.

Periods are indicated in the catalogs of some European manufacturers, in front of the reproduction of a material, which makes it possible to compose trains coherent with material of the same time L 28 .

In France, two times, larger, are often referred to as follows: the “old” era with its steam locomotives and the “modern” era with more contemporary electrical equipment. Each era presents advantages and disadvantages for the model making: possibility of short trains for the old period, but reduced prices for the modern equipment, less complex L 29 .

In North America

There is no standardized era for the United States and Canada . In most cases, each model maker defines his network according to a decade, 59 defined according to the history of the companies reproduced or the history of the chosen region. There are, however, several major informal periods, the most prominent being firstly the conquest of the West, corresponding to the beginnings of rail in the United States, and secondly, the transition era 59 , corresponding to the period between the end of the Second World War and the 1960s, when diesel engines took over from steam locomotives. According to a survey published in December 2016 in a North American magazine, the decade 1950-1959 is the favorite for more than a third of modelers surveyed (36%), followed by the period 1990 – present (13%) 60 .

Other standardizations

Apart from ladders and track gauges, there are other standardizations, which differ between NMRA 61 and MOROP 62 . This concerns track systems (curves, turnouts , track coupons, racks, etc.), the Digital , the train gauges , the couplers (in the 1980s LP 4 ), the wheels, etc.

Railway modeling practice

The main activity of rail model making is the creation of a network (decorated rail circuit), on which trains will evolve. The activity of detailing and patina of the trains, even of integral construction of the models, completes the construction of the network. A French survey of 1993 6 reveals that 83% of respondents have a network, that 28% build their models themselves, and that the average budget of respondents is then 3,000 francs per year. Another poll 7 reveals in 2009 that the average spend for model railroading of the majority of North Americanmodel makers Note 14 was, for the majority of respondents (40.4%), 50 to$ 100 a month. In Europe, the model makers have an important purchasing power 10 .

Model railway clubs often have a large network, sometimes offering traffic tens of meters of track. In the United States, amateur networks frequently occupy about ten square meters and require several operators. In contrast, in Japan, the networks are on a small scale (often N 3 ) and microarrays have the spotlight 5 .

Networks are often defined according to one or more themes, or even a philosophy , a power supply system and some methods of construction.


There are many themes in the model railroad, which can be related to the gauge of the track, the geographical location or a chosen era. Of course, the themes detailed below are not limiting and it is quite possible to find networks and dioramas that are part of many of these themes, or, on the contrary, none of them.

Theme related to track gauge

Most often, the model railroad practice tends to reproduce trains called “normal track”, that is to say, reproduce the trains of large national companies rolling on a track of 1 435 mm gauge.

Some modelers prefer to be interested in the reproduction of metric or narrow-gauge railways, reproducing a quantity of different trains such as shortlines, industrial, agricultural and countryrailways . The practice of the narrow track is considered to be freer than that of the normal track. The narrow track also allows a given scale to be used on a smaller surface: curves, wharf lengths or track beams are often less important than LP 5 .

Theme related to the environment

Railway model makers are often passionate about the reproduction of the immediate environment of trains and railways. This has led some to create model networks that implement reproductions of houses or geographical features that sometimes go beyond the mere construction of a structure or the building of a station or a building. signaling model that will be used directly by the train.

Some networks even consist mainly of the realistic environment Note 3 in which a small number of trains evolves, according to a chosen theme: mining , industrial , urban , service of factoryor more simply a particular station . The environment then conditions the trains there, and highlights the entire model rather than the train only.

Other model makers prefer to devote themselves to railways of foreign origin. For example, in France, there are many model railroaders dedicated to American trains, whether they are normal or narrow gauge 63 . In England, the SNCF society brings together French train enthusiasts 64 . Any theme is then treated.

Themes related to exploitation

All miniature railway networks have one thing in common, with rare exceptions: rolling trains. The network is therefore often designed and optimized to have a maximum of rolling possibilities. In the case of the reproduction of a station, a service, a junction or any remarkable railway site, this one is often chosen for its possibilities of game.

There are several ways to exploit a miniature network : time sheets, random constraints … An adjacent ” coulisse ” can facilitate the storage of trains, evoking an “elsewhere” 21 . Some networks have routes studied to bring additional operating constraints, such as too short ways to maneuver a complete train. This is often the case for micro-networks .

Conversely, in the “noodle dish” (or ” spaghetti “) network, ironically named by the avant-gardists by the similarity between the positioning of the rails on the network and pasta entangled in a dish, the rail plays the main role, through a tangle of tracks to use all available space L 17 . The installations are condensed (for example, the platforms are strongly shortened H 1 ) to facilitate play and exploitation, to the detriment of realism and, for some, the pleasure of playing LP 6 . Often presented by industrialists as an ideal to achieve H 1, this kind of network is often the one desired by beginners whose goal is primarily to run trains on a maximum of tracks 21 , or to collectors who are primarily interested in rolling stock without modéliste concern. This type of network has developed in the 1960s, and was running up the democratization of the atmosphere model in the 1990 L 17 .


Some model practices lead to questions, definitions or biases that have defined particular and identifiable currents.

Atmospheric modeling

The choice of a particular theme and the creation of a network or a diorama to the dedicated environment allows to reproduce in a mock-up the atmosphere of real places, whether through a faithful reproduction of the reality (reality sometimes compressed in length due to the size of the actual LP 7 rail installations ), or the creation of a railroad site respecting all the characteristics of a region, a specific activity.

This aspect of model railroading is called model-making of atmosphere , reference to atmospheres Note 15 evoking the reality that emerge from the scenes, where the aged and weathered material is presented in a complete set 2 , following a exploitation based on reality. Launched in the 1950s by the work of John Allen and his Gorre & Daphetid Railroad network 20 , atmospheric modeling gradually emerged from the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, notably by re-emphasizing technical diorama P 1 to become the current trend put forward by the press 65. Some modelists go so far as to argue that atmospheric modeling is the “tenth art” .

Imaginary worlds

Beyond the model of atmosphere that seeks to reproduce reality realistically Note 3 , there are modelist achievements completely out of the reproduction aspect of reality in the strict sense. These networks then have, in the manner of a fictional universe in a novel , a film or a role play , their own universe with its rules, habits, stories, inhabitants … The train is often presented as an important social vector, to say the least: the model represents a utopia railway with all the details usually implemented to suggest the impression of life, for example by playing on the patina of the elements, the operation of the network following rules, the justification of any railway element or the scenery according to a story .

Idea of ​​the “Tenth Art”

Related article: Classification of arts .

The “X th art” is a model railroading practice defended by some model railroaders. Jacques Le Plat , a Belgian model railroader , is the main defender, and theorized it through a platform in 1998 in Loco Revue 67 and the publication of a manifesto in 2000 68 . He defends the fact that beyond the model networks, the search for realism and the technicality of this “scientific toy”, we must also note the concern to convey by model railroad emotion and poetry. This is what many artists, painters, writers, photographers and musicians have demonstrated in just over a century through works of artcelebrating the theme of railroad 69 .

In the field of the model train, it is the ferromodelists who have taken over with sensitive creations, treated in a truly artistic way, and since the 1930s : the Madder Valley Railway of John Ahern from 1939 ( England ), the networks of Minton Cronkhite ( USA ) from 1933, Frank Ellison’s Delta Lines ( USA ) in 1941, or John Allen’s later work on Gorre & Daphetid Railroad ( US ) are for Jacques Le Flat the precursors of this tenth art 70. Their achievements are aimed first at making a particular atmosphere, as they feel it and communicating their feelings to the spectators, following the principle of the model of atmosphere . The three – dimensional treatment and animation of miniature networks would be “3D art 71 ” , works that are both paintings , architecture and theater . From this idea follows, for the defenders of the X th art, the fact that model railroading constitutes an unprecedented artistic form, and that it is not usurped to want to elevate it to the rank of an art in its own right, the tenth, as previous ranks are already awardedto other disciplines 70 .


microarray (English micro layout ) is a type of model railway structure, which differs from networks treaty by a very small area, and a holding which up to the maximum of maneuverspossible 72 , 73 , 31 . These distinctive signs are sometimes accompanied by an unusual structure (for example the shoe-box layout , a network designed in a shoe box ), a particular shape ( pizza layout Note 16 ), a known track layout 74 ( Timesaver , Inglenook Sidings, return, etc.) or extremely complicated and twisted for maneuvers.

The micro-network is sometimes called “animated diorama” or “rolling diorama”, because of its reduced surface, characteristic of the railway diorama , but nevertheless functional.

Micro-grids are often a Japanese specialty, due to lack of space in housing, or English Note 17 . Competitions are organized, in particular on the occasion of Expo Narrow Gauge in England or Expométrique in France 75 .

Garden Trains

Main article: Garden train .

There are garden trains intended, unlike the majority of the models, to be installed outside, allowing, by the space available, to overcome some of the difficulties of the model making “of interior”. The decor is then the garden itself, with small trees or structures created according to the existing terrain L 26 , L 7 .

Small garden models are however of a certain size, designed to avoid mechanical problems related to the outside ( weather , humidity, dust …). Thus, the networks at lower scales 1:32 ( level I ) are extremely rare L 30 . Garden trains are therefore manufactured to weather L 26 .

There are generally two types of garden trains. First of all models on a scale ranging from 1:32 to 1:19, standardized by the G and II scales and using a common channel 45 mm wide L 26 . These models work either on electricity, powered by the track or by a battery, or by steam that is produced by gas or alcohol burners. These are called models of the L 7 steam train .

Then there are large scale models (from 1:12 to 1: 4), often made from scratch, on which it is possible to sit, or to be pulled, sitting in a car . Historically created in England, these steam trains that are overlapped are often really fueled by coal , oil or gas L 31 .

Narrow and Secondary Ways

The theme of narrow gauge (and metric) with trains often outside the conventions and norms, is a discipline in its own right. It is freed from the constraints of large companies: equipment in large series, defined deliveries, regulated signaling. Note 18 , 76 . The designer can then create his company , its rolling stock, its history … This practice eliminates realism to go to the principle of “atmosphere” inciting a creation, while still retaining a notion of coherence 76 .

This theme has appeared in Britain and North America (primarily driven by John Allen in the US), where it is widespread, before coming to continental Europe 76 . The advantages are those of narrow gauge (space saving), the ability to easily start the model (eclectic material) or change the theme for experienced modelers 76 .

A specialized press exists for this practice: Free Way , the title also refers to this practice Francophonie, and the Narrow Gauge and Short Lines Gazette in English speaking countries (mainly North America), presenting achieving high quality 77 .

Power supply

The models of electric trains are traditionally supplied with direct current at 12 volts . their control is done remotely, by a regulator. Since about 2000 , we are witnessing the generalization of “Digital” control systems, designed around a high-frequency chopped DC power supply. Before 1950 , alternating current was usual, probably because of the low cost of production – by a simple transformer; mechanical propulsion systems from the beginnings disappeared from the 1930s .

Classic system “2 rails”

The most common and widespread system still widely used is a 0-12 volt DC power supply. This system has been adopted by most manufacturers. The supply is made by the two rails, one being the positive, and the other the negative. It is then necessary to have isolated axles and the presence of certain configurations of particular ways, that are the triangle , the racket and the diagonal require some precautions (rails of cut, switches) in order not to make short circuits 2 , P 2 .

System “3 rails»

Historically, the manufacturing methods do not isolate the two wheels of the same axle. The feeding is done by means of a rail placed in the axis of the way. The capture of the current is done by a metal pad located under the locomotive, along its longitudinal axis; the return of the current is ensured by the wheels and two rails “carriers”. A large O-scale circuit, powered by a third side rail, is still functional in the premises of AFAC 19 , Gare de l’Est in Paris.

For the sake of realism, the third rail has been gradually “faded”, turning it into an alignment of studs only visible on the sleepers . The Märklin brand, whose trains are powered by alternating current , has retained this system, which makes it possible to simply realize the impossible rail configurations with the system “two rails” 2 , P 2 .

The principle of the “three-rail” system can be converted as part of a miniature network operating with a realistic system of current capture , such as third-rail capture on the side (in case of many metros ) or by catenaries : the catenary or the third rail feed the miniature train, with current return by the way, as in reality. The use of a catenary simplifies the wiring of the switches, improves the P 3 current collection , but reduces the accessibility to the trains.

Digital system, says Digital

This “decoder” for Digital system is installed on board the locomotive. It allows to analyze the high-frequency signals emitted by the control unit to translate them into orders on the machine.

Since the development of consumer electronics in the 1980s , it is possible to control its network by a numerically controlled system. It uses high frequency electrical transmissions and decoders on motor vehicles. Thus, two power supply wires are sufficient to control a whole circuit. Some precursors propose this new system, such as Hornby with the command “Zero 1” P 2or Märklin.

But it is current in 2000 that many brands have democratized this control system, each launching its “Digital” system with its own standard. Since then there has been a focus on the Digital Command Control (DCC) format , supported by the NMRA and the MOROP Note 19 and now more open to all protocols.

When creating a network, the press and specialized retailers now advise this equipment in place of the conventional transformer for all the additional functions it offers: having several locomotives on the same track, independently controlled; allow a slow idle end with inertia effect; ordering accessories (convoy lighting, smoke, automatic coupling and uncoupling) or accessories on site ( switches , signals, etc.); set up a real sound system embedded in the locomotives, proportional to the speed and reproducing the braking sounds L 32 .

The whole set can be supervised by a computer , simply by interfacing with the control panel. Some information can be communicated by the locomotive to the control unit: position, speed, simulation of consumption, etc., accentuating the possibilities of simulation L 32 . Since 2008, some embedded decoders 78 and all new control stations support multiple protocols, whether the DCC or the Motorola protocol (Märklin).

Some modelers sometimes blame this system for its cost, always higher than that of a conventional transformer-regulator , as well as the obligation to modify the old models to add a decoder. However, it is becoming widespread: the new products proposed by the manufacturers are directly equipped or able to receive the decoders. Older non-equipped models are often outdated in terms of fineness of reproduction, or replaced by new reproduction more faithful and therefore already equipped. In addition, the cost of cables , switches and automation , necessary for the power supply of a conventional network, is largely reduced by the choice of a digital control.

Rolling stock supply

On the rolling stock side, the locomotives are driven by an electric motor that uses the traction current supplied by the rails, more exceptionally by the suspended wire of a catenary or a third rail . It is also common to find a reproduction of the lanterns of the locomotives. More exceptionally, the power supply current is used to animate various accessories present on the machines, such as simulating the sounds produced by the machine, or the steam emissions of a steam locomotive by an electrically heated smoke generator.

These ancillary systems often require the introduction of complex electronic systems in the case of a conventional power supply or in an old machine. Now, more and more firms are designing pre-installed add-ons from the outset, or installing them easily in machines, to simplify the modeller’s task.

Wagons or cars can also use rail power to power their interior lights or end-of-train lights. In the case of a conventional power supply, several solutions exist. The installation of batteries and accumulators in the rolling stock makes it possible to have a source of energy that is not dependent on variations in the voltage in the track. Another solution, the development of permanently powered systems allows these effects without imposing complementary large circuits.

In the case of a Digital network, the entire process of supplying accessories, both on the machines and on the towed equipment, is simplified, the train always receiving a power supply. Many functions can then be envisaged, such as a realistic control of machine fires (ignition and extinguishing), a remote uncoupling system or control of the movement of pantographs . The Digital system therefore tends to make all these accessories popular, by the simplification provided.

Other feeding systems

Main article: Steam alive .

At certain scales (1:32 and beyond Note 20 ), the power of the machine can be provided by a reproduction of its mode of operation. There are thus real miniature steam locomotives, on which the power supply, if there is one, is only used to remotely control the organs of the steam engine. These machines are then called live steam engines ( Live Steam ).

The mechanical feed of the model trains of the first years, which was done by a system with mainspring or by inertia , has now disappeared.

Track Systems

Network composed of track coupons and hands: each element has a predefined geometry, it is possible to have a complete network in a short time.
Coupon channels, ballast integrated or not, marketed by several European manufacturers. We will notice the difference in length of each element, because of the lack of normalization.

The railway line on which trains run is a vital element. It comes in several aspects: in “coupons”, in “flexible” way, or to build oneself. The road mainly reproduced is a Vignole or UIC profile rail laid on wooden sleepers. Most model train manufacturers offer a range of tracks, more or less compatible with the competition. There are also manufacturers and craftsmen specializing in the supply of miniature tracks, such as the English Peco and SMP ( double mushroom track ).

In the 1980s, rail profiles were available in steel, brass and nickel silver. This latter material has supplanted the rust sensitive steel P 4 and the unrealistic brass P 5 .

All tracks are standardized with respect to the height of the rail, designated by a profile by the MOROP, representing the height of the rail in tenths of a millimeter 79 or by a code by the NMRA, representing for the latter the ratio of the height of the given rail in thousandths of an inch 80 . The MOROP standard uses the NMRA standard in its designations, and the code system is the most used (North America, England, France, etc.).

Way in coupons

The coupons are track pieces sold in the form of pieces of defined length, rigid travelage , fishplates included. The lengths are defined according to the range of the constructor that composes them. It is enough to assemble elements of way in coupon, rights or curves, to have a beginning of network. Included in the starter sets , coupons are simple to use to create a first network, but the fact behind assemble short lengths each other leads to loss current , irregularities and misalignments that may lead to derailments .

Coupons are sometimes sold with a flexible sole undeformable Note 21 showing the ballast (e.g., route Unitrack of Kato or channel Rocoline Roco). In addition to the desired aesthetic appearance more realistic, this sole allows to lay the way on the carpet and dampen the noise when laying on a board. As the thickness of this flexible sole is not standardized, the majority of the “pre-ballasted” tracks are not compatible with each other.
Tracks in coupons are standardized by the NMRA for the United States, but not by the MOROPin Europe, where the values ​​of coupon length, curve radii or needle deflection angles are defined by the manufacturers 81 .

Flexible way

The “flexible way”, also called “by the meter” because of the approximate length of the coupon at the time of its sale P 3 , consists of a semi-rigid travelage. Less expensive to purchase, it is possible to shape it at will and cut the lengths that are needed, which allows for all possible networks, with all the imaginable curves of curves P 3 . The electrical losses are much less important because there are fewer cuts and splices . The shaping and laying of the flexible track is a little more delicate and the splicing is to be ensured by the track setter P 3 , but it is the most used way by the modellers. Introduced by the Belgian firm Elec at the end of1940s , the use of the flexible way really spreads from the 1960s LP 8 .

Track devices

The needles are adaptable to both systems. There are all kinds of needles, with more or less important angles of deflection. The NMRA normalizes the deflection angles of the needles 82 , while most European manufacturers offer their own radii of curvature and deflection angles 81 .

Construction of the tracks

Some modelers pose their own way and build their turnouts to have the model of their choice. For this purpose, they use miniature rail sections, printed circuit ties , on which the rail is welded , and others made of wood. Some even put miniature screws to keep the way, as in reality.

This practice, long for experienced model makers or practitioners of modeling Proto , tends to democratize its flexibility to adapt to the requirements of designers or the emergence of systems that facilitate the construction, such as the Canadian Fast Tracks 83 .

Network design and construction

The network is the name given to the decorated presentation model on which trains run. It is composed of a structure on which are placed, after definition of a plan according to the chosen or imposed constraints, the tracks, the decor and the buildings, as well as, of course, the trains.

Network Design

The design of the miniature network is the first phase of realization of the model. This is where the chosen theme (place, time), the desired feeding system and the specificities of the trains that will circulate, on the chosen scale, and the modeller’s wishes will be defined.

The size of the network and its location are also reflected in this step LW 1 . The stereotype of the miniature railway network represents a very large circuit established in a dedicated room; which becomes an excuse not to embark on LP 9 model railroading . Some modelers choose this type of installation, time consuming in time and means 20 , but many others prefer other types of networks, ranging from micro-networks to modular installations , went through a “network shelf” established the along a wall, a removable tray matching the furniture LP 9 , P 6 , P 7 , even the garden.

During the design, a series of sketches , then several plans to scale, made by hand or in CAD Note 22 , make it possible to put the ideas on the paper. Publications 84 , 85 , or websites 86 , 87proposing plans exist to facilitate the creation of the network. The plan is then refined to include possible constraints and, for permanently installed networks, to adapt to possible handicaps P 7 , H 2 (sub-slope, support pillars, domestic appliances, etc.) and possible traffic corridors and other LW accesses 1 .

Some designers make a 1: 5, 1:10 or 1:20 pre-scale model of their future network, to see the arrangement of the different elements between them, any inconsistencies of layout or decor, see possibly its location in the place where it will be exposed P 8 , 88 , H 3 . In the case of an in-situ design, the plan can be drawn on 1: 1 paper on the floor of room P 8 , LW 2 .

A number of rules exist for the design of the H 4 network : they are of a technical nature, such as the creation of ramps and slopes , the design of helical ramps Note 23 , the gauges for the passage of trains or the application of the type of power supply chosen. The lanes also obey the technical rules to avoid errors of alignment or derailments H 5 .

The other aspect is more aesthetic and fun, and will allow to achieve a network that is pleasant to operate and observe, with a good balance between channels and decor P 4 . This can result in the choice of wide curve radii so that the train’s circulation is visually pleasant, the setting up of fireworks to hide the passage of a train when it must not be seen anymore (passage behind a row of buildings, a forest , under a bridge , etc.) or the installation of lighting to highlight a particular point of the model H 6 . At the level of the layout, the model maker will seek to ensure that the layout of the stations, garages and backstage makes the railway game interesting.P 9 .

Three-way slide for storing rolling stock outside the network. The network connection is located at the bottom of the photo.

In order to evoke the fact that the train comes from “somewhere” and goes “elsewhere”, the network is often next to one or more backstage H 7 . As in the theater , this is the part of the network that is not visible to the audience. This idea of ​​backstage, initiated in Great Britain, is introduced to the French-speaking public in 1981 L 21 .

It is there that are formed, stored and handled the oars, but also where with trains traveling at different points of the network to appear before the public 21 . Behind the scenes can be a key element for traffic, they are often thought from the design of the network 21 . To mark their neutrality, the wings are usually undecorated or painted black. They can be placed at the same level as the decorated part or be under the H 7 network .

Layout of tracks

The layout of the road, because of its importance in the railway game, often the subject of trade publications 84 , 85 or even associative reflections 89 .

In addition to being adapted to a structure , and often equipped with a slide, the route of routes also meets certain characteristics 84 , H 8 , often defined by Anglo-Saxon terms.

The most common route is the track oval, which is the track layout provided in the starting boxes . It allows the train to “go around in circles”. This type of route is often decried because the train will inevitably pass several times at the same place, and the scenery seems to be surrounded by the H 1 track . For Clive Lamming , “it’s a miniaturized and sedentary toy train” L 16 . Equipped with a slide and a backdrop, or greatly enlarged and deformed, this type of route remains a good base for fun H 9 .

The point to point ( point to point ) is another possibility with respect to the oval. The trains go from one point to the other of the network, each end being a dead end . This may be two stations, or a station and a slide. This type of layout is highly adapted to networks installed in L 33 shelves . In most cases, the trains must maneuver to start the other way. A variant is the loop point ( point-to-loop ) and allows to turn the train in the loop, which corresponds mostly to the slide, before making it back to its starting point.

The other forms are the dog bone , composed of two loops, connected by the tracks, which gives a shape similar to a dog bone and the network of maneuvers ( swiching layout ), created only to maneuver the trains. It can then be a depot , a factory or any other place where the trains are forced to many movements.

The stations themselves are places of operations, and their typology is the same as that of the actual H 8 stations : crossing station, terminal station, curb station, bifurcation station …

Construction of the structure

There are many types of structures for a model network, each adapted to the use that can be made. Most of the time, the network consists of a simple board on which the rails are fixed, and where the decoration is built. This is the simplest design, which tends to evolve later as we approach the model rail.

We find more and more presentations in boxes, also called show-cases (sometimes Frenchified in “presentation box” or “closed module”), which allow a clean presentation of the model as a small theater, with lighting and a backdrop created by painting or photomontage and to close the scene 90 , LW 3 . This configuration helps to better protect the decor from shocks and dust.

In addition to these presentations, there are two main types of structures for indoor networks: “modular” networks and “fixed” networks.

Modular networks

The “modular networks 91 “, removable and transportable, are acclaimed by the modellers LW 4 exhibitions and gatherings . Their design is then thought to the most practical: the network is then divided into several sections, standardized or not, to allow its transport and its connection to other modules, in a defined order or not.

The initial goal of the “modular” was to allow large gatherings of modellers. These networks were initiated for France in 1980 by FFMF 92 ; in the 1990s, the module became a means to transport more than to assemble, networks consist of non-standardized modules forming a coherent whole 93 . There are many modular standards, with more or less notoriety: those of the FFMF in France 92 , 94 , the NMRA in the United States (N-Track for the N scale, also used in the Netherlands and France H 10 ) and in the zone of influence of association 95 , FREMO in the Germanic countries 96or those of the Junior Module in Europe 97 for beginners.

The construction of a modular network is often simpler: we work module by module P 6 , but it can cost more wood LW 4 . The connection between modules is often marked by an unsightly groove LW 4 . These modules do not easily allow the use of certain methods, such as the construction of turning loops, helical ramps Note 23 or multi-level networks without increasing the complexity of realization H 11 .

ixed networks

Networks installed permanently, called “fixed networks” are built permanently at their location Note 24 . Several techniques exist to build these networks 98 , such as the design of a structure of wooden couples, which support the decor. The L-Girder technique or ” L-shaped carrier” LW 5 makes it possible to create networks with a very flexible structure, making it possible to change entire portions of decor without having to attack titanic works. The latter very common technique in the United States is beginning to be known in Europe 99 . In the extreme, as part of a network taking a whole room, service galleries can be arranged through couples, under the network100 .

Fixed networks are more free in terms of their location, since the only gene comes from doorframes, possible domestic appliances or architectural elements and passages needed to intervene on the network: visit hatches are then arranged LW 1 .

Other structures and containers

There are, of course, other types of less known or less used structures. Some designers sometimes try stuffing or exploring new possibilities of containers, often as part of the design of a micro-network , by making models in unusual structures, such as shoe boxes, instrument cases music, suitcases, etc. 101 .

Construction of scenery

The decor is then built on the structure. The design of the decor is made in such a way as to facilitate the movement of the trains, to facilitate the intervention on the tracks (breakdowns, cleaning), but also to think this scenery in a realistic way H 12 : the mountain that is added to hide the way was, in reality, present before the train.

There are several types of constructions for relief. The use of polystyrene plates for modeling relief is the most common technique. Once the polystyrene is cut and formed, it is plastered to produce a smooth relief P 10 . Decorative elements are then integrated like rocks, tunnels or roads. Another option, the grid structure is lighter: on wooden couples, a fine wire mesh is stretched and shaped; it will then be plastered P 10 , P 11 . The hardshell or technical shell , used cardboard and / or newspaper leaves rolled into balls.

Then, it is the stage of the setting up of the decoration itself, with the realization of the grounds, the human achievements and the vegetation. There are many brands offering decorative products ( Faller , Bush, Heki, Woodland Senics, etc.), but some designers also use natural products: branches, mosses , sands and land . Many techniques exist to reproduce all aspects of the railway and its surroundings: roads , structures , buildings , trees , water and streams.etc. The very last step is the addition of details (detail) on the completed scenes, so as to suggest life 90 . Some rare networks have an abstract decor H 13 .

Construction and detailing of rolling stock

Model makers build their own equipment, either by mounting kits , modifying kits ( kit-bashing ) or by performing an integral construction ( scratch ). The basic materials are often brass , resin and plastic card. These modelers, minority, are often considered an elite L 27 .

The kits are usually produced by the craftsmen diffusing original models in small series. In 1993, French modelers practiced the integral construction of models for 28% of them and the assembly of kits (43%) 6 .

It is also possible to modify commercial equipment, either slightly or in depth. It is then possible to obtain rare or unpublished versions. This activity, widely promoted by the model railway magazines and supported by many artisanal parts, is called on-detailing L 27 . The technical side of the models can also be reworked by changing the couplings for realistic replicas L 25 or a revision of the L 27 engine .

The patina of the material is also a regular activity. It is a question of reproducing the natural wear of the material, namely the dust, the traces of grease and soot, the shocks, the paint that goes on or flakes … The methods are numerous and presented frequently in the journals.

Construction of buildings

There is an offer of kit buildings, ready to be fitted by modelers. These can be industrial plastic kits or craft kits made of various materials: synthetic plaster , brass or resin 90 .

Some proceed as for rolling stock by building their own buildings, or by modifying and combining kits. For this purpose, materials such as plastic, cardboard , wood , etc. are used.

Around model railways

And magazines

Like other model activities, model rail has its own specialized press. There are a large number of journals around the world, most of them in English, often specialized on a specific topic. Model Railroader , founded in 1934 in the United States, is the world’s first magazine, both in terms of circulation and seniority. Loco Revue , French magazine founded in 1937 , holds the lead of French sales [ref. necessary] with an edition of 10,000 copies 102 , alongside the publications of the LR Press group . Since January 2009 ,Model Railroad Hobbyist , a journal American virtual , quarterly and free due to funding by advertising , is available for download only 103 .


These events allow modellers to meet and exchange with each other, but above all, they allow to present achievements and sometimes techniques to the public. The manufacturers present their novelties. It is also often the occasion of a stock exchange to acquire used equipment Note 25 .

Exhibitions and meetings listed below are internationally important events most frequently reported in the specialist press Note 26 .

In England

End of October, takes place at Swanley in Kent Expo Narrow Gauge 104 (ExpoNG), organized by the Greenwich & District Narrow Gauge Railway Society 105 , which gathers on a day lovers of narrow lanes and micro-networks, coming from all over the world. Europe 106 . A competition to create micro-networks and dioramas in a limited time and according to specifications is organized for the occasion. Fitters taking the challenge are invited to present their achievements, completed for the exhibition.

In France

The international exhibitions are two in number: the World Model and Model Reduced in June Note 27 , and RailExpo , formerly Expométrique , in November, in the Paris region. These exhibitions are an opportunity for manufacturers to unveil their news, relayed by magazines and websites.

Exhibitions are also held in the provinces. The main ones, in terms of affluence and media coverage by the specialized press Footnote 26, are organized by the Orleans clubs (Salon du train miniature) 107 , every two years alternating with that of Sedan (Rendez-vous d’automne modelers and modelers from the Ardennes – RAMMA) 108 which attracts 9,000 visitors in 2007 109 .

In the USA

The NMRA Convention , a convention of the NMRA, has been held annually since 1935 in the United States for one week in July 110 . The popularity of the event means that its location changes every year, with editions planned several years in advance. The National Narrow Gauge Convention takes place in September and brings together all narrow track enthusiasts 111 . These agreements provide for non-railway activities for enthusiasts 112

Germanic countries

FREMO modules are held throughout the year in Germany, Switzerland and Austria . This is an opportunity for designers to assemble their achievements in order to realize a network of very large 113 .

The Nuremberg Toy Fair ( Nürnberger Spielwarenmesse ) in February is not a place for the exhibition of railway models, but just an exhibition of novelties and innovations in model making 114 , relayed by the magazines .

In the Netherlands

Eurospoor takes place at the end of October in Utrecht ( The Netherlands ) and is the largest European exhibition of model railways 115 .

Permanent Exhibitions and Attractions

There are modeling presentations on all scales, made by enthusiasts and open to the public. These may include presentations at a museum dedicated to real railroads, such as Rosny-Rail( Rosny-sous-Bois , France ), or solely devoted to miniature painting.

In the latter case Miniatur-Wunderland in Hamburg (Germany), which has an extensive network at the HO scale , which would be “the largest train modeling platform in the world” 116 , Ardèche miniatures in Soyons (France) , which operates a network of garden trains on the theme of the Vivarais railway , or the Rambolitrain in Rambouillet (France), which offers permanent exhibitions of model making at a very high level on a Zero scale .

Research and documentation

Model railroading is only part of the passion of many practitioners. These are often very interested in the railway world in general. Thus, apart from the actual modeling practice, many designers take time to document their favorite themes. In Anglo-Saxon jargon, these people are often called Railfans ; in French, it’s the ferrovipathes.

This can be the documentary research (photos, texts, videos, plans, cartography , archives ) about a desired railway, which is sometimes inaccessible to them geographically (for example a French model maker reproducing an American line) or temporally (path of disappeared iron, reformed material, etc.) The exploration of a railway place, active or not, to grasp all the aspects with the aim of reproducing it (implantation of the train in the landscape, vegetation, color of the rocks, architecture encountered), is another way of documenting oneself.

A special case of research and documentation is rail photography . It can serve as a basis for the observation of rail movements, documentation, sometimes shared 117 , just as it is used to mark events in the railway world, such as the passage of a special trail.

Traditionally, the father is suspected of offering an ” electric train ” to his child to play LP 10 himself . However, model rail is an adult activity, and it should accompany the child in the practice of this leisure LP 10 . This activity crosses the most common fields of play, ranging from the simple act of rolling a train on a railway, to the most careful reproduction of technical reality and railroad activity on a reduced scale. However, if the only circulation of a rudimentary train is an activity practicable by the toddlers, model making is not any more LP 10 .

Rail model making is recognized as a particularly complete leisure 118 : it is necessary at the same time to maintain the skill of one’s hands for the construction (joinery, electricity, laying of the way …), but also to be able to carry out researches or surveys, to constitute documentary files or to think about the possibilities of maneuvers on a network LP 11 , L 4 . Training in technical and artistic aspects is essential, in order to successfully implement the various tools, materials and products needed to produce a functional model that is pleasing to the eye 1 .

Actions towards young people and new modellers

The vocations crisis in the 1990s, linked to the market, consumer habits and lack of guidance and proposals to beginners 26 , 119 , led the model community to mobilize to attract new followers to the model rail. The first actions are aimed at young people: practical introductory courses, playful courses in exhibitions and a specific welcome in the model-making clubs. Some actions are supported by model train manufacturers 120 .

The practical introductory courses are supervised by train modelers and take place during the school holidays. The fun courses take place during exhibitions, and consist of inviting children to a game during which they can realize a small element of scenery and make maneuvers on a network. At the end of a six to eight-step route to discover the exhibition, the children are presented with a model-making magazine and a memo with the addresses of clubs near their homes. For their part, these clubs are committed to welcoming young people, who receive training and sometimes material assistance. Rail model making is then approaching a creative leisure activity, such as theater or drawing, with educational content and a “project of the

These actions were implemented 23 in the United States with Juniors College , under the auspices of the NMRA, creator of this project; then in Germany , under the auspices of the Bundesverband Deutscher Eisenbahn-Freunde(BDEF) 121 , the German Model Railroad Federation, the first edition having taken place onand finally in France, in the French Rail Model Federation , under the name Juniors du Rail 122 , whose first exhibition track was held on.

The principle of Junior Module 97 , which allows to begin by building a small surface crossed by a pathway, is an evolution of these actions: the modest surface allows to learn about the main principles and the basic techniques of model railroading then ‘progressively evolve towards a complete network.

At the turn of the century, manufacturers introduced simplified rolling stock ranges at more affordable prices; this is the case of the range ” Jouef Junior ” 123 . The reviews are in the same movement by establishing, at the same time, dedicated sections for youth and beginners 124 . Specialist publications for beginner modelers of all ages are appearing in the early 2010s, such as Keys for Model Train 125 .

Railway operations: game forced and professional learning

The reproduction of the railway operation is part of the model railroading aspects 126 .

Some networks, mostly in North America, are designed to meet specific operating rules , which require automatic lockers and schedules , or to implement a game of duplicating the shipment of cars 127 , P 12 , 128 . Each train and car has a form indicating its point of departure and arrival 5 . The operation of the network is made according to constraints close to the real railway 21 : respect of the schedules, maneuvers of service, even simulated incidents.

The route, by routes limited in length or sections inaccessible by a type of equipment, can spice up the rail game. There are so genuine railway puzzle , such as Timesaver 129 famous railway puzzle, created by John Allen 20 .

Miniature trains can also be used for professional apprenticeship in the world of railways. The representation of the progress of a train and its interactions with the signaling and the safety devices , in real situation among the other convoys, can be put in place on a miniature network. It can then be used to demonstrate safety rules and to teach future railway workers , especially for future regulators .


Rather than building a network, or in addition, some enthusiasts focus solely on the material aspect of rail models, leaving the playful aspect to that of the collection 2 . It is then a question of collecting small models to place them in showcase. These collections, focused on rolling stock, often have a well-defined theme (a specific time, a region, a real or model builder, etc.). It is not a model-making activity per se; therefore, practitioners are not considered modellers , but as ferrovipathes.

Some people engage in super-detailing models in their collection, so that they are as faithful as possible to the real model, which is then a model activity . Others buy models to speculate 4 .

The collection also includes ancient trains sheet from the early xx th century in Tin flat , simplified forms. Some of these models are sold at high prices in auction houses, such as PLM 220 C 21 to C 60 “Windbreaker” across IV with live steam of Schoenner brand (Germany) in 1902, awarded byat the Hotel Drouot for the sum of 200,000 francs 17 (about 30,489.80 euros ), holder of the world record of the sale price for a model railway.

Toy trains

Train modelism is distinguished from the toy train by the modelist approach, namely the desire to want to reproduce the railway reality (or a plausible reality), a so-called “realistic” environment LP 1 . An oval circuit is, for some authors, a characteristic of the H 14 toy train . The transition from toy train to model railroading is then through the creation of a network inspired by reality H 1 .

Toy manufacturers (eg Lego and Brio ) offer trains reproducing more or less approximate existing trains that can be pushed by hand, spring or can be powered by electric current as at the end of xix th century . It is most often free drawing toys or reproduced with a lot of freedom. It is sometimes through this that amateurs come to the electric train , and then model railroad.

The term “toy train” is also used by model makers to describe models of rolling stock using standard standards (track gauge, supply voltage) but coarser, even fanciful in their engraving or their colors. They are especially offered at very affordable prices. This category, however, tends to disappear with the improvement of manufacturing techniques, in favor of hobby ranges , simplified versions of productions for model makers 130 .

The layout of the tracks also comes into play: an overloaded network of railways could be qualified as a “toy train” by certain LP 3 modelers .

Note, however, the existence of amateur associations of Lego 131 , whose members manage, using bricks, to reproduce trains and railway universes full of realism.


Rail model making comes from the toy industry. Also, there are large groups manufacturers and distributors of various games. However, a large number of craftsmen contribute to diversify productions by reproducing specific models or by marketing kits to be assembled by the amateur.


There are many manufacturers, although groupings and buyouts are becoming more frequent. Some brands stand out from others by their importance.

In Europe, there is Hornby ( United Kingdom ), which has bought several European brands, including the French brand Jouef. Another major manufacturer, Märklin ( Germany ), founded in Göppingen in 1859, remains a forerunner in the world of miniature train and collection by its notoriety and seniority.

Outside Europe, there is Bachmann Industries ( Bermuda / Hong Kong , US design office), the world’s largest manufacturer 132 , specializing in American, English and Chinese equipment, and Kato Precision Railroad Models(Japan), the main manufacturer of miniature trains of the Japanese archipelago.

Some companies, such as Union Pacific , CSX or the AccorHotels group (owner of the ” Orient-Express ” brand ) have their model trains manufactured under license : the manufacturer who builds the models must then pay a license fee. reproduction 133 .


Craftsmen offering trains and parts for model railroading are extremely numerous and diverse: often specialized in a scale of reproduction or a level of quality, their importance goes from “almost industrial” to confidential. Most of the products on offer are kits, in order to reduce prices, and allow enthusiasts who wish to do so to transform the model from the moment of construction. Brass (shaped or photoengraved ), bronze , white metal and resin are the main materials used.

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