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How-To Guide: Design and Build Model Railway Village

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Village Church, Roads and Fields

Village Church, Roads and Fields

A Model Railway Village in the Making

Welcomes Careful Train Drivers!

And Railway Enthusiasts

Welcome to a tour of Nathanville model railway village in the making, with photos, videos, and a detailed description on its constructions. If you’re thinking of making your own model railway village, or wish to expand upon your existing railway model, then I hope this how-to article packed with advice and tips gives you the necessary inspiration,

This Model Railway Village layout (in America, railroad village) was designed and built in our loft many years ago and was named after my son (Nathan); it was the founding name for my first website which was originally dedicated to the Nathanville Model Railway Village.

Nathanville is a fictional self-supporting model railway village set in a valley surrounded by hills. On one side of the village, and protecting it, is a 'Military base, docks and an airfield', and on the side of the village is agricultural land on the hill top earmarked for housing development.

The village, serviced with its own underground train system, has access with the outside world through a network of rail links.

Smokey Joe

Smokey Joe

Nathanville Model Railway Village in action

A short video I made years ago of our model railway village set up in the loft.

Layout and Construction of the Model Railway Village

The Original sketch plan map upon which the whole layout and design of Nathanville Model Railway Village was built.

Layout Plan

The Site Plan below (not to scale) shows the general layout as it currently stands. You may notice when comparing this plan to the actually layout that:-

  • The large areas behind the main station (centre), and the agricultural fields on the hill to the right, are still to be developed. Some of the agricultural land, measuring 61cm x 91cm (2ft x 3ft) being earmarked for residential development e.g. a row of semi-detached houses,
  • The waste ground behind the train station to eventually be a goods depot, and
  • The green patch of land next to the vicarage is also ready for residential development.

Below is a quick guide of the railway village in the making, with a step by step description for making various aspects of the model village including the:-

  • Churchyard and Grave stones
  • Base table
  • Railway (railroad) tracks at HO Scale
  • Roads
  • Scenery
  • Buildings and accessories
  • Military base, including airfield and docks
  • Transport system and underground (subway)
Nathanville Railway Village and Layout Plan

Nathanville Railway Village and Layout Plan

Layout Base Table

The Making of the Table Top

The frame and legs for the base tables were constructed with 2" x 3" (25mm x 75mm) softwood timber.

The frame for the main table top was made no wider than 4ft (1.22 meters) as access is from both sides and it is difficult to stretch more than 2ft (0.6 meters) to the centre of the board from either side.

The table top was covered using tongue and grove loft flooring boards, as this is more than strong enough to take the weight of the model village and railway. Sections were cut out of these boards for the military docks (shipyard), the valley and a small river running the width of the table.

Laying The Railway Tracks

HO Scale Model Railway Tracks

To ensure your design will work properly you need to test the layout of the track before you build any of the scenery.

Therefore I laid and tested the track (in accordance with my plan) before making the valley, docks and hills; so as to ensure that there was no doubt on where to cut the baseboard for the valley and docks, and where the tunnel entrances into the hillsides would need to be.

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The main board supports four railway circuits, of which one has a sub-loop hidden beneath the airfield.

Therefore, the main village train system can support up to five trains (four in operation at any time). As a train on the outer circuit enters the hill under the military airfield that train can be stopped, points changed, and the train on the other sub-loop started.

Thus, one train enters the hillside and a moment later another train emerges. The points that control this operation are wired to a central control making the operation seamless.

The system on the underground (subway) operates in a similar way; two main tracks, but with one sub-loop.

King George V model railway train

King George V model railway train

Scenery and Accessories

In this model, although most of the fences, gates, level crossings and some garden effects in the vicarage garden were purchased accessories not all the props were bought, as this can prove expensive.

For example I made the trees and hedges from sponge, and I also made the greenhouse, garden shed and flower bed in the vicarage garden.

• The greenhouse was made from plastic sheeting cut to size and stuck onto a matchstick frame.

• The shed was made from small bits of wood, and

• The flower bed was made from small bits of sponge ripped to shape and painted in a variety of colours.

All the buildings in the village are made from plastic kits, and painted; although you could use cardboard buildings (most model shops sell them), but plastic kits are more realistic and more durable than cardboard.

Roads and Fields

The roads were made first by pencilling the outline, painting the roads on the surface of the main baseboard with black paint then sprinkling tarmac effect scatter on the wet paint. The road lea