How do I Mount a Train on Walls?

By Mark Morris
An exciting model railroad can be built on a narrow shelf attached to your walls.

Most train enthusiasts will never own or operate a full-size locomotive. But a scale model of that same train is within the reach of any train lover. Installing a train to the wall presents a number of challenges. Before you begin, decide whether the train will travel in a returning loop along one or more walls or in a circle at a level above the room's doors.

Measure the walls of the room and determine where the train will run, as well as if it will turn around in a corner or run in a continuous loop above the doors. Return tracks have a larger footprint than loops. A loop works best for small rooms where space is limited. Find a place for the train controller that is near an electrical outlet. The controller can be plugged in anywhere along the railroad line.

Take measurements to get dimensions of track pieces, buildings and other model elements you intend to include. Design the elements to fit within the narrowest space from the wall. Draw a scale version of your train's track layout on graph paper. Draw an outline of the shelf you will need, including dimensions.

Mark the wall at the intended top height of your train shelf. Use a chalk line to mark the wall along the length of the proposed railway line. Locate the studs in the wall with an electronic stud finder and mark them. Install a metal L shelf bracket to each stud, ¾ inch below the chalk line. Use 6- or 8-inch brackets for the straight runs and 12-inch brackets to support areas where the shelf will be wider. Use 3-inch treated deck screws through each screw hole in the bracket.

Lay out the outline of the shelf from the scale drawing on ¾ inch plywood and cut it out with a jigsaw. Install the shelf onto the brackets using ¾ inch self tapping sheet metal screws up through the mounting holes in the shelf brackets. Use one screw for each bracket.

Install the track first with whatever bedding or support you choose. In general, some track systems are nailed down with tiny brads, while others are glued. Track can be laid directly on the plywood or on a cork roadbed. Make solid connections between track pieces to ensure good electrical flow.

Make your electrical connections from the controller to the track. This is done by plugging into a special piece of track with a receptacle built into it. Test the train by running it several times, watching for problem areas. Make any adjustments needed. Now is the time to ensure proper installation before adding models and landscaping.

Build models and landscape elements on a stable, accessible work surface. Then install them on the shelf.

Things Needed

  • Tape measure
  • Model train with track and controller
  • Graph paper
  • Chalk line
  • Stud finder
  • Metal L shelf brackets 6 to 12 inches
  • Treated deck screws, 3 inches long
  • Self tapping sheet metal screws, 3/4 inch long
  • Cork roadbed
  • Track brads
  • Craft glue
  • Models and landscaping to your taste

About the Author

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.