Tips for Adding Music to Your Model Train Set

Model train sets are a hobby in which rail transport systems are modeled at a reduced scaled ratio. The scale models include locomotives, rolling stock, streetcars, tracks, and landscapes, including countryside, roads, bridges, buildings, harbors, vehicles, urban landscape, lights, and things like rivers, hills, tunnels, and canyons.

Model trainsets nowadays have become more realistic and technologically advanced. Model railroads are now created by modelers who frequently recreate real locations and historical periods. The world’s oldest working railway model was designed to train the old signalmen on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

If you want to take your railway system to the next level, the great thing you can do is add significant sound effects and music to transform your railroad and add some realism to the scene. From in-cab locomotive sounds to ambient effects and immersive surround sound setup, you can use several options for adding sound to your layout.

Ways of Adding Music to Your Model Train Set

1. Locomotives Having Onboard Sounds

If you have ever bought a new locomotive, you would probably know about the most modern models, including optional built-in sounds. The newer models equipped with DCC will usually reproduce the sound of the train’s prime mover, horn or whistle, or bell.

Most will perhaps go so far as to include startup and shutdown sequences, crew radio conversations, coupling and uncoupling, dynamic braking, and even rail and flange sounds.

2. Turning Up the Bass For Your Trains

Controlling the sounds of your locomotives from your DCC system is excellent. But you can also go even further to immerse yourself in your railroad model’s ambiance. If you want to replicate the whole ground shaking experience of a train running through your layout, you can opt for the Rolling Thunder system. It works in combination with the sounds installed on Broadway Limited Imports Locomotives adds much-needed bass to your train.

3. Choosing a Good Speaker System

If you have DCC/Silent model roasters and want to upgrade to sound, you will probably be happy to know that you can get simple model trains for as little as $10 if you don’t like to deal with putting effort into speakers on your DCC/Silent locomotives.

4. Using Direct Current (DC)

Even if you are running analog trains on Direct Current, you can still add the world of sound to your model railroad. The easiest method is an analog sound system like the DC Master Control Module by Broadway Limited Imports or sound cards for Kato HO or N scale models.

You can also purchase a variety of comprehensive DCC conversion kits to help you enhance your model train collection without having to figure out how to match decoders with speakers on your own.

5. Add Ambient Light Sounds

Although some locomotives provide ambient station or industrial sounds, you can enhance the immersion by adding sounds to your layout. Controlling these sounds is as easy as installing hidden features in critical areas and connecting them to the device to play the right noises.

Some more Useful Tips

1. Start Small

Turning through model railroading magazines will introduce you to one-of-a-kind and fascinating large layouts. Even though they should be motivating, some hobbyists become discouraged when they realize they lack the resources to complete such projects.

However, don’t forget that the model trains you see in the magazines are often built by large teams with more excellent financial resources to complete such layouts. If you are working alone or trying to make your first model, remember that building a smaller, less expensive layout can be just as satisfying as building a larger and expensive one, as long as you dedicate your time, effort, and patience to the project.

2. Recycle

A remarkable thing about model railroading is that it offers flexibility in terms of the materials you use. You can use whatever you want to make the backdrop, trees, and ground cover. It is the most effective method of recycling because you can search your home for any usable items. For example, you can use sawdust as a bulk load of woodchips in one of your vehicles.

You can make pipelines out of old pens or straws. In the meantime, the greenside kitchen scrubbers can be used for vegetation. There’s a lot of junk you can repurpose and use to liven up your layout. Just let your creative juices flow and your imagination fly simply. You can save a lot of money by recycling items.

3. Be Patient and Look Around

When you go to model shops, don’t be afraid to look around the shelves or ask the shop owners if they have any bargains. Some of them might have previously owned or damaged but high-quality products that can easily be refurbished and repaired.

You can negotiate with them to buy the items at a low price and work on repairing or refurbishing them at home. In this way, you will be saving money while being on a budget.

4. Don’t Buy Cheap and Low-Quality Items

Many modelers make a common mistake: they devote their time looking for great bargains but settle on the cheapest, low-quality new model kits, tracks, and rolling stock available. While you are saving money in the short term, it can be pretty costly in the long run.

These items will develop electrical faults over time or will stop working at some point, needing additional expenditures for replacements. You’re lucky if your locomotive doesn’t derail and destroy your scenery and other parts of your projects.

5. Try Trading

If you know any modeler who is skilled at making scenery but is struggling with creating baseboards and you, on the other hand, have carpentry skills to build these bases but need to work on your creativity and design skills. Then, in this case, trading can be a great solution. You can contact other modelers for exchanging items at reasonable prices, which will save you both time and money.

6. Selling Old Items

As you go through your model railroad journey, your skills will improve, your interest may shift, and the newer models will constantly be released. You can sell old items or models that you have unless they have the sentimental value of making enough money to cover your subsequent purchases. However, you should keep in mind that you cannot recover the entire amount you invested in these models.

Don’t worry because the experience you got building these projects is far more important than any cost depreciation. Furthermore, you will have the funds to invest in upgrades or projects that match your current skill set and interests.


The best way to quickly adding sound effects to your model train set is to be creative and design or retrofit your own layout for DCC operation. This gives you quick access to many controllable sounds available on a great selection of DCC/sound models.

If you like to use DC but still want to add sounds, you can add some reasonable quality speakers into your layout for a terrific DIY option or go with one of the DC sound systems mentioned above.