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Big Indoor Trains™ - A collection of 'how-to' articles for people using big trains indoors. This photo shows a Bachmann On30 observation car next to a Marx tinplate car in a setting that showcases our Tribute to Tinplate projects.  Click for a bigger photo.Visit Big Indoor Trains™ primer pageOn30 Display Trains
O Scale Accessories
O Gauge Christmas TrainsOn30 Christmas Trains

Written by Paul D. Race for Big Indoor Trains™

Big Indoor Trains™

Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns™' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much moreBig Indoor Trains™ was founded by the Family Garden Trains™ editors to answer a growing flood of questions from readers who had bought or were thinking about buying bigger-than-HO trains to use inside or out. At first we tried to focus on questions that neither the collectible village suppliers nor the hobby shops could answer for our readers. But then folks with many other interests found our site, too, and some have started contributing articles and project ideas. As a result, this site has grown in directions that we never imagined, and we are attracting people from even more hobbies.

We especially try to answer questions about:

  • On30 trains from and Bachmann and Hawthorne Village®
  • O-gauge trains from Lionel®
  • Using model trains with collectible village structures and accessories.
  • Click to see Christmas Collectibles with railroad themes.Using other big trains, including Large Scale, indoors.
  • Creating your own scenery, as well as realistic and vintage-looking buildings and accessories.

In short, this site is meant to help you sort through the choices you face when you start planning any kind of indoor railroad, or display village, or both. It draws on ideas from traditional model railroading, collectible village displays, and a dozen other hobby and craft traditions. Hopefully we can help you achieve results that meet your specific expectations for your hobby.Click to find out details about Christmasa-Themed Open railroads.

Mark Your Calendars! - The annual Christmas-themed open railroad on our own New Boston and Donnels Creek will be on November 10 this year (2012) (near Springfield, Ohio). We're planning for more trains, popcorn-cart popcorn, and other great activities and treats for the whole family. Click on the picture to see information on this open railroad and other Christmas-themed open railroads in the area.

New for 2012! A Family-Friendly Halloween Novel Just For Our Readers - Inspired by Howard Lamey's "Spook Hill" putz house projects for indoor seasonal displays, we've done our best to imagine what it would be like to live in a town where it was Halloween all year 'round. We started publishing a chapter a week several weeks ago, and now, just in time for Halloween, we have finished uploading the chapters. Spook Hill Chronicles is online for your reading pleasure. If we get a lot of response, we may "publish" a sequel next year.

Update for April, 2012 - We have moved! You may or may not be able to tell, but we have changed servers. When we started building a web site to support our favorite hobbies back in 1999, we had no idea how the content would grow, as we continuously gained new readers with new interests. Sadly, neither did our ISP, who couldn't figure out how to get us more HD space on their server without forcing us to nearly rebuild our sites from scratch. In 2010 and 2011, we experimented with starting a few sites on competing servers ( and

But we put off moving any existing sites for a number of reasons - one of which is that many of the organic Google rankings we have earned over the years point to the literal directory names on the old server (and not to the domain name of the sites, which won't change). Also, several of our smaller sites like,, and shared so many files that separating them out required a great deal of detail work.

But our experiments with the new sites on the new servers were successful enough that we're now gradually moving our old sites to new servers, saving the biggest for last. This means that we have to revisit every link and make certain that it is pointing to the domain name and not to the literal name of the old server. So you may see some broken links we've missed for a while. And doing all of this technical stuff has kept us from adding new articles that we've had in the pipeline.

Our readers will discover that for the next several months, Google searches and any existing search engine favorites/bookmarks are going to point you to the old pages. For a time we'll probably keep pages active on the old server that point you to the correct page on the new server. And you'll have to "add favorites/bookmarks" once you've found the new version of the page (not to mentioning removing old favorites/bookmarks). For those "growing pains" we apologize. The good news is that we will be able to add in some features we've been holding back for lack of space. So stay tuned.

Also, you may be wondering why we have so many separate little sites instead of one gargantuan site? I've discovered that as long as I'm the main webmaster, bigger is not better. Huge sites are harder to maintain, and they're harder for users to navigate. Yes, we have lots of links among our family of sites, but when you're within a certain site, you should have relatively easy access to the subject matter you need.

I hope this makes sense. In the meantime, please contact us with any questions, missing links, etc. that you come across while using our sites. Best case - you won't be able to tell the difference. But I've done too much HTML programming to imagine I've done everything right the first time.

We now return you to your ordinary "home page."

Resources we provide include:

Primer Articles that get you started and answer common questions. There are dozens of articles in our Primer section; some of the most popular include:

  • Sizes and Scales of Big IndoorTrains - Explains which trains are best for using around a collectible village or other display.This photo shows three of the scenery ideas on our primer pages combined.

  • Combining Trains and Towns - Why combining collectible village pieces and model trains is a growing and rewarding hobby.

  • Scenery Project Ideas - Ideas for "sprucing up" your indoor model railroad or display village, such as:

  • Building Project Ideas - Original articles about creating inexpensive building projects to add depth and interest to your town or railroad.Click to go to Building Project Ideas Projects include free downloadable plans and patterns, photos, and detailed instructions.

  • Real Trains We Model - A new section to provide some historical background for your hobby, including:Click to go to article.

    • 30" Railroads - On30 is a fast-growing hobby and the trains are sure "cute." But do you know there is a century of fascinating history behind those "teakettles" and the thirty-inch-wide tracks they ran on? New, April, 2008!

    • Click to see article.Small but Mighty - 30" Power - This article reviews the "real-world" steam locomotives that pulled 30" trains in North America (and elsewhere, to some extent). Baldwin, Shay, Porter, and other manufacturers made some amazing developments in their efforts to maximize power on minimum rail gauge and weight. New, May, 2008!

    Click to go to article</a><a href=

  • Special Features - Other articles of interest to people who run holiday, collectible, or other indoor trains, including:

    • New Feature! - Department 56® Village Trains - Learn about train sculptures and real electric trains that Dept. 56® has issued over the years to go with its collections, as well as current products that look good with Dept. 56® villages.

    • New Feature! - "Tribute to Tinplate" ArticlesClick to go to article Here's a series of projects that pay "Tribute to Tinplate," based on the tinplated-steel trains and towns of a century ago. Free downloadable commercial-grade graphics and instructions will help you inexpensively add an authentic vintage look to any indoor railroad. Most projects have multiple pre-scaled plans and graphics, plus scalable graphics for the smaller scales, so you can easily add a vintage look to ANY railroad or holiday village, no matter what size your trains and towns are. We have new projects for December, 2009, plus more on the drawing board, so be sure and check back.

    • Click to see 'What is a Glitterhouse?' articleWhat is a Glitterhouse? - Collecting and building authentic, vintage-style pasteboard houses. Includes many free downloadable plans, photos, and detailed instructions. We also provide instructions for making scenic accessories designed to go with any Christmas village, including:

    • Click to see the Spook Hill IndexWelcome to Spook Hill™ - Howard has designed a whole, family-friendly, Halloween community built in the vintage "putz-house" style. Includes many free downloadable plans, photos, and detailed instructions. Each of these projects also nicely complements the collectible Halloween Trains made by Hawthorne Village. New for 2009! We have some new resources posted for October 2009, and a few more planned, so take a look now and check back in a couple of weeks. Or sign up for our free Newsletter to stay up-to-date.

    • Click to see the Sandy ShoresIndexWelcome to Sandy Shores™ - New for 2009! For those who like summer, or looking forward to summer, Howard has designed a series of seaside projects that are so much fun, you can almost smell the salt water. Includes many free downloadable plans, photos, and detailed instructions for delightful structures, as well as easy-to-make sea grass and palm trees.

Click to go to Article Letters to the Editor Page

Although we have been answering questions about trains for decades, we actually started the Big Indoor Trains/Big Christmas Trains Letters to the Editor page about five years ago. The page now includes about 100 separate questions and answers, going back over five years.

Is there something you've been wondering about but haven't gotten around to asking? Or would you just like to take a look at the questions and ideas other folks have come up with over the years? Click the photo on the right for more information.

BIG Train Store™ - A collection of buyers' guides to help you make the best decisions when starting or expanding your communities and railroads.

Trains-N-Towns™ - A newsletter for people who

  • Run big model trains during the holiday season,
  • Use model trains with collectible villages,
  • Own collectible trains by Hawthorne Village(r)
  • Are starting a model railroad using On30, O gauge, or larger trains.

Resources for Big Indoor Trains™ - These pages provide free, downloadable building front, brick patterns, business signs and more, to help you inexpensively add interest, depth, and character to your railroad and communities. Include links to free instructions for sqeezing a downtown into a few inches and more.

click to go to Tinplate Building Textures pageNew For 2009! Tinplate Textures This section includes brick, shingle, siding, door and window patterns inspired by the tinplate buildings that Lionel and other companies made to go with their toy trains a century ago. Many of these have already been used in our Tribute to Tinplate(tm) series, which has been embraced by toy train buffs.

The Tinplate Textures page provides most patterns in three different scales to help you find the best sizes for your existing railroad or holiday village.

Click to go to article.Christmas Building Textures If you want to design your own buildings for a Christmas railroad or village, check out this brand-new addition - roof and wall patterns for making your own holiday-themed structures. The Christmas Building Textures page includes brick, siding, and roofing tile patterns in colors that are ideal for Christmas and other midwinter decorating. Patterns are available in three scales for all of your "big train" and Christmas village needs.

Click to go to our Christmas Train Primer page.New November, 2009! Christmas Train Primer - After five years of writing articles related to Christmas trains, we've finally put together an index to our articles and our most important buyer's guides and project pages. Everything you wanted to know about Christmas trains and then some, including the following articles:

  • Sizes and Scales of Big Christmas Trains - Contains more details about the relative sizes of the Big Christmas Trains listed above.

  • Choosing Christmas Trains and Villages - Describes more options for picking out or making Christmas villages, as well as for choosing trains for your towns. This article answers questions like "How Big are Christmas Villages and the Trains that Go With Them?" "Where do Christmas Towns Come From?" "Where do Christmas Trains Come From?" and "What if You Don't Have Room for a 38" Track Circle?"

  • Scales and Gauges - They're not the Same - A detailed description of the difference between scales like O and HO and gauges like O gauge, On30, HO gauge, HOn36, and so on. From Big Indoor Trains™ New November, 2009!

Books, Magazines, and Videos for Big Indoor Trains™ - To help you get started, and to provide a huge supply of fresh ideas for growing in the hobby.

Watch this page: more articles and resources are in the works.

Home Pages
Reading Index Pages
Buyer's Guide Pages
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page Return to Family Garden Trains Home page Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads

Note: Family Garden Trains™, Big Christmas Trains™, Big Indoor Trains™, Big Train Store™, and Trains-N-Towns™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications™ ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.

For more information, contact us.

Click to see exclusive, licensed train collections in your favorite NFL colors!

Click to see exclusive, licensed train and town collections featuring Disney characters and graphics.!