Model Railroad Bridges

Model railroad bridges play an integral and important role on model train layouts just as they do on prototypical railroads. As in real life, model train bridges serve to span rivers, allow roads to pass underneath, make it possible to pass through mountainous regions, span gorges, valleys, rivers, and also can be used for pedestrian traffic.

In addition, bridges also lend to that all important touch of realism which plays an important role for every model railroaders model train layout. Initially the prototype railroad bridge was made of wood and had relatively weak load bearing capacities.

The manner by which bridges were built changed after the construction of railroads were completed throughout the country. At first, consideration now had to be given to the heavy weights they would have to support. Construction methods were changed and the use of iron and steel became the main stay for bridge construction, as well as the use of arches and cantilevers.

Plate Girder Railroad Bridge (Free Plan)


There are a variety of prototype bridges which the hobbyist can consider for modeling a bridge for their layout. You may want to invest a little time traveling around the area that you live in to view the bridges which are a part of your local railroad.

If you decide to do this, make sure you take a camera so that you can take a few photographs to use as a reference should you decide to “scratch build” your layout bridges.

Another viable and often chosen option is to simply purchase a pre-built bridge for your layout, and of course, almost all of the major manufacturers offer more than one choice for bridges offered in various scale sizes in their catalogs.
Another option because there are a variety bridge kits available is to consider kit bashing your bridge. In so doing you create a situation where the bridge which is added to your layout will appear to be unique and not found anywhere else. However, if the bridge you’re modeling must be a prototype because of the era or railroad your modeling you may have to build it from scratch.

If you prefer and an option you may find to be more convenient is to do your bridge kit shopping online where you‘ll find quite a few vendors who sell kits in just about every scale. The other option which is always available is to do your shopping at your local model train hobby shop.

Truss Railroad Bridge (Free Plan)


Quick Tip: Not only will you be building a bridged for your layout……you’ll also be creating the scene around it. The best way to do this is to build the bridge first and then construct the scenery next. In so doing you’ll be able to adapt the scenery around or to your bridge. This is of particular importance because many bridges span rivers or other bodies of water.

That said, planning is essential. On the other hand you do have the benefit of adapting the scene to your bridge where real life engineers do not have that luxury. The study of photos will help immensely, as will building your bridge into the scene rather than on the scene. The inclusion of bridge abutments which appear to be planted into the ground will greatly improve the realism of the scene.

Bridge Building Tips Continued

As mentioned, there are a variety real life bridge types that you can consider to model for your layout, and some of these include: Deck bridges, cantilevered bridges, through bridges, trestle bridges, truss bridges, arch bridges and many more.

Which of these you decide on to model for your railroad is a matter of personal preference, and also one that may be a matter of necessity because of the location and era which you are modeling.

There are two types of track flooring which you can use for model train bridges, and they are conventional wood ties or by using a flat trough, which is what the ties are then placed on, and then the tracks are attached and ballasted to.

In addition, you’ll also want to consider modeling guard rails for your bridge or bridges which aid in keeping the wheels on your cars in line and also help prevent derailments.

Another important step in adding more realism to your layout pertains to your bridges as well. Time should be invested in painting and weathering which will contribute to a more authentic appearance to this layout component. This will ramp up the realism effect another notch.

Finally, the most important thing to remember about adding bridges to your layout is to insure that they are in keeping with the era and location that you are modeling. If you decide to scratch build your bridges there are quite a few well written and easy to follow books which have been published about this topic and many are available online at Amazon.


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