Want to join the likes of Pete Waterman and Rod Stewart in a shared hobby? Then join the thousands of people who are involved with model railways.

Building a model railway or simply collecting trains and steam engines can be a life-long pastime with many spending hours upon hours crafting layouts to create some of the UK’s most notable railway links. While there are people up and down the country who stand at the end of stations watching the passing trains, others channel their love of trains into developing their own collection.

Model railways can pass down from generation to generation but for those of you who are new to the hobby you’ll be wondering what is the best way to get started. Here is a simple guide for starting out in the world of model railways.

Do your research

What type of model railway will suit my needs? This is the first question you should ask yourself before diving in. There are numerous different style of model railways coming in all different shapes and sizes. For example, you could go down the scaled-down Hornby-style models which allow you to build various layouts or you could opt for a more traditional approach.

One of the popular options within the model railway community is authentic steam engines. Companies such as Mamod deal exclusively in the creation of steam-powered trains, traction engines and stationary engines among a host of others. This will give you that sense of nostalgia seeing real steam trains chug their way along the track and are also a great education tool for learning about the workings of a steam engine.

So before you do anything you should take some out to research what kind of models are both interesting to you and also within budget.

Set aside some space

As seen in a recent episode of Coronation Street, when Roy Cropper invested in a model railway set it took over his entire flat, so it is important to plan. Once you have decided which trains or models are right for you then you should look to dedicate some space, or a room, to your hobby. The spare room, study, garage or even basement can be the perfect location for your train sets and other paraphernalia.

This can be your space, allowing you to be free to create whatever you desire with your collection. Make sure you set up a table where you can either construct a layout or use as a workbench when you need to make some repairs to any broken parts.

Join a club

The great thing about the model railway community is there are various clubs and societies across the country that you can get involved with. These clubs allow you to mix with like-minded people and discuss how to get the best out of your own collection while also working together on large scale projects which can be displayed at various events up and down the UK numerous times a year.

The National Model Railroad Association British Region is the UK base for the US organisation of the same name. For just a nominal fee you can be part of one of the biggest model railway societies in the country. Aside from the national societies there are also a plethora of regional clubs which have been running for decades.

For those of you who have decided which type of model railway set you want then there a number of specialist clubs across the UK. Some societies are dedicated to working with Z & N Scale collectors while HO Scale, S & O Scale, Large Scale and Narrow Gauge are all accommodated for.

This side of model railway collecting is what it is all about and you can a huge sense of community spirit by attending regular meetings and discussing the latest approaches to the hobby.

Creating a layout

Depending on which type of model railway you want to achieve, there is always the option of building a layout. You will have no doubt seen displays depicting the British countryside at museums and attractions across the country but these can be created in your own home. As long as you have the right amount of space set aside then you develop pretty much anything you wish.

Collectors have previously recreated scenes from their childhood such as sleepy railway sidings or busy main stations. Others have taken inspiration from abroad and made sceneries reminiscent of the likes of mainland Europe or the rugged landscape of the US. The great thing about creating your own model railway layout is that you can simply let your imagination run wild.

Whether it is a plan that has stuck religiously by real life or whether it is something that has come from a memory, there are endless opportunities when building a model railway.

Be price conscious

Sadly, model railway collecting is not a cheap business but it can be done in an affordable way. When you are first starting out you can simply buy the basics which will give you a perfect starting point. You could decide that you want to splash out on your first train but purchase just basic track which will give you the beginnings of your collection. It is really up to you how to approach it but there are numerous cost-effective measures you can take.

When it comes to steam engines, there are a number of models that Mamod offers in a kit format. They are not only much cheaper than the pre-assembled models by they are also a great project to start. Putting together a model yourself will give you the satisfaction that comes with completing a building job.

Whichever way you decide, a model railway is a long-term project so there is no rush to get all the desired pieces that you want.