If you are a seasoned model builder or toy train enthusiast, then building a miniature amusement park is the challenge you have been looking for. Kevin Jones, a professional model amusement ride builder, recalls on his website, ScaleCarnivalRides.com, that his family's business grew out of a love of setting up a toy train Christmas scene each year. Building an amusement park will take more time and energy than the seasonal display, but will be labor of love for the entire family to enjoy.
Pick a space to build your ride kingdom. A theme park is going to take considerable space; at the very least, you will need a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood to work on. However, if you have the space, a theme park model can easily fill a garage or section of your basement.
Choose the model's scale. Many kits and pre-made pieces follow the popular model railroad sizes (N, HO, O and G). For your model to look realistic, you will need to adhere to the same scale for all the pieces. N-scale is 1/160 of actual size, which will allow you to fit more pieces in a tight space, however working with small parts can be tedious and frustrating. HO-scale at 1/87 actual size and O-scale, at 1/48 of actual size are most popular scales given that the majority of model train enthusiast use these two sizes. Professional roller coaster model builder John Hunt makes most of his models to match the HO scale.
Draft your layout. Whether on graph paper or using a CAD program, you will need to map out your park. Like a real amusement park, there are too many elements in play to place pieces haphazardly. Consider incorporating a model train set riding around the perimeter of the park.
Decide if you will build your rides from scratch by using a kit or purchase pre-made rides. The Internet is full of enthusiasts who will build custom models of your favorite real park attractions to the scale of your choice. Similarly, there are companies that build kits of standard rides, such as Ferris wheels and carousels. Just remember to choose the correct scale.
Build your park one section at a time. Enhance your fun by building the park in planned phases, like a real amusement park. Complete the front section with a couple rides first. Then, you can place "caution" and "under construction" signs to block off the incomplete areas until they are finished. This way, your park can entertain "guests" and begin a revenue stream while still under construction.