Tips for Improving Ready Run Railroads

Not everyone in the world of model trains has the time or patience required to personally craft the perfect model train set from scratch. Its not like model boats where you go to your favorite scenic boating destination and enjoy the beauty and the fun.  And not every beginner has the confidence to so either. Many people, especially those that are relatively new to the world of model trains, like to first dip their toes into this hobby by buying themselves a prebuilt ready to run model train starter kit that can be set up extremely quickly.

Now, there are some really great ready to run beginner and expert level model train kits available in the market, but one thing someone might feel after setting it up is a lack of personal touches. After all, if you just follow the kit’s instructions by the book, you’ll just end up with a model train set that is exactly identical to a lot of other people who have bought the same model train kit. And that’s perfectly fine for some people who just want to enjoy the feeling of managing miniature trains, but when half the fun of this hobby seems to be centered around the act of crafting everything yourself, even people with less time or patience might end up feeling that they need to improve their basic setup.

The Pros of Buying a Prebuilt Kit and then Adding Small Touches

You might be wondering, why bother buying a prebuilt model train starter kit if you’re still going to end up adding your own personal flair to it to make it stand out? The thing is, this is a totally valid introduction to the world of model trains. In fact, this is something that some model train hobbyists would argue is the only thing they enjoy doing. Some people just don’t want to make every little thing themselves, and that is perfectly okay.

And the act of setting up a prebuilt model train set and then adding small touches of your liking is actually quite a fun one. It’s like getting a set of Legos that is intended to be built into one specific item featured on the box, but then you add slight alterations here and there to the design until it looks perfect in your eyes. Building a readymade model train set and then altering it just a tiny bit to fit your wants is something that is not only completely normal, but also cathartic for some people.

Choose a Design Style and Stick to It

When you build up a ready to run model train set you might notice something that is very intentional; the whole set fits into a certain theme and art style. You could have Christmas-themed model trains with decorative props that make it look like the train is moving across a Wintery landscape. You might have a set where all the props and the trains themselves are based on real life locations from the 1920’s. Or you might have a set that is set exclusively in the countryside without a single person in sight.

This is one of the most important factors of setting up a model train set. You need to decide which time period and place you want your model train and railway to be set in, and then stick to it like glue to paper. Whatever additions you make to your prebuilt set should match the theme and setting the manufacturers went for in the model set.

Is your prebuilt model railroad set in the 1950’s? Don’t plop down props of modern sportscars and electronic billboards. Is your railroad set in the countryside? Don’t add in an awkwardly out of place office tower. Set during the 19th Century? You probably know better than to stick a billboard for Coca Cola along the tracks. Theming and set design are the most important part of designing model railroads, and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb more than something that clearly doesn’t belong there. Or even props and models that don’t scale properly with their surroundings. Be extra careful you don’t put down a tree that looks like a bush compared to your model train.

Make Sure the Colors Contrast Correctly


Another thing to keep in mind when adding stuff to a prebuilt railroad is to not overdo the colors. Doesn’t matter if you’re adding in store-bought props or something you painted yourself, you’ll have to make it so it fits in naturally with the included props and landscape as well as the train itself from the ready to run set. Adding in extra rocks? They shouldn’t clash with the existing ones. More trees? They shouldn’t contrast horribly with the already existing ones so that it looks like there are two seasons taking place at once.

Another color-related mistake people might make when adding in their own stuff to ready to run model sets is making the houses and buildings too colorful. For example, if your model is set in early 20th Century Britain, everything is supposed to be a bit drab and mostly brown and grey. Similarly, a railroad set in India would actually benefit from and look more realistic thanks to differently shaped and colored houses.

Make Backdrops, But Also Interesting Places


Naturally, the whole model train set cannot be crowded with eye catching works of art that take the focus away from the model train itself. The centerpiece is the train, and everything around it should only enhance its look. Your model should include a carefully curated balance of interesting buildings or scenarios alongside plain backdrops.

What this means is that including a festival or a house decorated for Halloween is fine, but when the train has gone past those, there needs to be a break where the train is the main focus again. A completely empty and boring landscape ends in lack of interest following the train as nothing different ever happens, whereas a model packed with unique things happening all over takes away the focus off of the train completely and onlookers begin to talk about the surroundings instead of the actual train. But, a careful balance between the two can trap viewers into waiting for the train to pass a particular point once more because of how good it looked in the moment.

Give Your Model Purpose


When it comes to ready to run model railroads, you will notice that there is some kind of beginning and ending to the whole set. Sure, the train keeps going in a loop of some sort, but you always bring it to a stop at the designated train station or someplace similar. If you add in something to the model, you’ll have to remind yourself to keep that beginning and ending in the model.

Adding additional tracks alongside additional landscapes can easily get you lost, and you might end up with a model train that seems to be stuck in limbo with no purpose of its running. From time to time, step back and look at the model set as a whole and determine if something looks amiss. In the end, like the colors and set theming we discussed above, there should be a natural beginning and end point for your train so it doesn’t end up looking like a pointless journey to nowhere.


Most of these tips are actually also perfectly applicable to model railroads you build from scratch – barring minimal changes – and only further solidifies the fact that be it custom-built or store-bought, the energy and passion behind it is the same at the end of the day. The world of model trains has never looked more lucrative to become a part of thanks to the insane amount of variety available today, and that only makes it even more fun to make something that sticks out and looks unique without going too over the top.