There are many different types of model railway shop available. It is important to choose the correct model railway retailer depending on your requirements. In this guide we go over the different options available to you, including; online model railway shops, model railway auction websites, and model railway specialists.

Online Model Railway Shops

Often the easiest way to purchase model railway equipment is via an online model railway shop. These offer a convenient way to shop for model rail locomotives, rolling stock, model railway scenery, train sets, and other accessories.

For more popular products, such as train sets and starter packs, the best place to purchase would be via a reputable company with an online store such as  Amazon. Returns are easy and the customer service is also excellent. However, for more specialised products a model railway specialist retailer may be more appropriate (see below).

Online model railway shops can also be used as a research tool to search for products and compare prices prior to traveling to a physical store to complete your purchase. Some online retailers may also offer a 'click and collect' type service where you can reserve products online and pick them up in store.

Using model railway shops with an online store is the most convenient way to purchase model rail equipment.

Model Railway Auction Websites

There are often some excellent deals to be had on used model railway equipment using model railway auction websites; the most common being eBay.

If you are willing to consider the used market, model railway auctions can be a good way to obtain substantial savings over the same product at brand new prices.

As with any used product purchase, there is always an element of risk involved when purchasing second hand model railway equipment or train sets on auction websites. To help mitigate this, it is advisable to:

  • Always use recognised platforms such as eBay, the Amazon used marketplace, or purchase from reputable second hand dealers.
  • Only purchase from trustworthy sellers with a high reputation rating. On sites such as eBay click on the sellers rating number and read examples of their past feedback.
  • Read the whole listing description thoroughly prior to bidding to ensure you are getting the correct product.
  • Check the listing photos carefully to confirm the condition of the product. Ask the seller for additional photos, if necessary.
  • Ensure you are happy with the total cost, including delivery, before bidding. Sometimes sellers will set a low item price, but increase the delivery cost to an exorbitant level.
  • Shop around. Don't always assume eBay is the cheapest. Check other online shopping sites, including the used marketplace and warehouse deals on Amazon.

It's also worth adding that, in some cases, it may actually be more beneficial to simply buy new, rather than used. If an item holds its value well then you may decide any saving is negligible and it's simply worth paying the additional amount to get a brand new product. You will of course benefit from the manufacturer warranty and any return policies provided by the retailer. However, if the saving is significant then buying used model railway equipment may be the way to go.

Model Railway Specialists

Model railway specialists are usually the best place to go to purchase distinct products such as specific locomotives or rolling stock. Many of these model railway shops have an online store as well as one or more physical high street shops, affording you the flexibility to shop as you prefer.

These companies only stock model railway equipment, so they have a number of distinct advantages over the larger, more generic retailers:

  • They will have a more comprehensive range of specialist model railway stock available.
  • Staff will be more knowledgeable about railway modelling, and as a result can provide more personalised and specialist advice.
  • Many have second hand or pre-owned stock, giving more choice and greater value. Some may allow you to trade in your old model railway equipment for cash or store credit.
  • Some will have loyalty schemes that reward you for repeat business, allowing you to save money in the long term.
  • Many allow pre-orders of stock yet to be released, or have knowledge of products in the pipeline for the future.

Popular in the UK: Hattons, Kernow Model Rail Centre, Model Railways Direct

Popular in the USA: Model Train Stuff, Train World, The Model Railroad Shop

Which Model Railway Shop Should I Choose?

Taking into account the options we have covered above, which model railway shop should you choose?

If you are willing to utilise the pre-owned market then using a model railway auction website will be the most suitable solution. However, always be aware of the increased risk when compared with purchasing new, and consider utilising the tips discussed above to help protect yourself.

For most people using a reputable model railway shop or model rail specialist will be the most suitable option for purchasing new products. They often have competitive prices, extensive ranges of stock, and provide a convenient method of purchasing products using the best model railway shops available.

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