Yes, you have to start somewhere. As mentioned elsewhere, a permanent layout, however modest, is a far better thing than having to constantly unpack, set up, operate, disassemble and pack up all the time. It also lets you start to get creative.
These pages (3) will give some ideas on constructing a basic layout. Most of the pictures show HO / OO scale, but the methods work for other scales too.
First of all, let me say that there is no one particular "right" or "correct" way to build a model railway. There are too many methods for me to even try to mention them all, and certainly not do justice in trying to describe them all (even if I knew what they all were). Suffice to say that what follows here is just the basics. If you want more detailed information or ideas on more complex layouts, then I strongly suggest picking up one or more of the many books on the subject. You'll find that one book will tell one or more ways to go about the task. And another book will tell you several completely different ways to go about it. Read up, gather ideas and then select the method or methods you like the sound of.
The board. This is the obvious starting
point. If you're not into carpentry at all, you'll want something easy to make,
or perhaps even ready made. An old table, the large sheet of chipboard, even a
table tennis table are some of the things I've heard of people using. And it
really isn't all that difficult to build something yourself.
Laying the track.
If using set track, slide the sections together carefully. Ensure that the rail slides into the joiners, not on top of them. If using flexible track, you'll need to trim the rails to length on curves as you lay it.
You can cut rail with a razor saw (Atlas snap saw pictured above left), a motor tool (Dremel being a popular brand) with a cutting disc (click on the centre photo above) or a specially made rail cutting tool (Xuron, on the right). A hacksaw is likely to snag and rip the rails out of the sleepers. Side cutters will work, but crush the rails, requiring extensive cleaning up with a file before you can slide a rail joiner on them. Unless you only need to cut a few lengths of track, any of the above are recommended. The Snap-Saw is the cheapest option. Xuron the quickest and easiest to use. If you already have a motor tool, then use that. These have many other uses besides cutting track and even outside hobby use. But probably not worth buying for rail cutting alone.
The Atlas Snap-Saw, Xuron Rail Cutters and motor tools are all available from Hobbies Plus.
When laying flexible track, especially on curves, you can easily cut both rails at the same place, but it is sometimes worth the little extra effort to stagger the joints as shown by clicking on the above photo. This keeps the rail from creating a kink at the joins.
Fasten the track to the board by nailing it down.
Small blackened nails or pins are sold for this purpose. You could use ordinary
nails, but they are usually larger diameter and tend to split the plastic
sleepers and cause other damage or poor running.
Page updated 16/10/2012