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F.A.Q. Section
Many questions arise when doing custom railroads, so we try to answer as many of the most common questions asked. Please click on the links below to view the FAQ answers.


1) Where are you located?
Our office and shop are in Lowell Massachusetts about 30 minutes north of Boston.

2) What is the best way to contact you?
The best way of contacting us is a phone call 9:00am-6:00pm E.S.T. Monday-Friday.
We get so many emails it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. But we use email all the time for sending contracts, updated information and photos of your project progress.

3) Do you only build for clients in your area?
Most of our clients are not local, so our railroads are made in modular sections and can be delivered to your location. We have a crew ready to travel anywhere in the continental United States, if need be we can work on your railroad at your location.

4) Are all your railroads modular?
Yes, most of the custom railroads we build are in modular pieces, which in turn makes it easier to ship and set up. It also adds more value to the railroad if you decide to move it to a new location or sell your railroad in the future.

5) What scales and types of railroads do you build?
We can build "G"-"Z" scales, even narrow gauge, American or European prototypes. We can build a realistic model railroad with themes or toy train layouts. We specialize in large multi-level and multiple running trains!
9'x17' "Z" scale Railroad
We also build outdoor G-scale Garden Railroads!

6) What is the difference between "model" and "toy train" layouts?
Model railroads are modeled after the prototype, or actual railroads. They include scale details of structures and scenery. They are very time consuming to build. Toy train layouts are more fantasy and not realistic and take much less time to build.

7) What sets S.L.A. apart from other custom builders?
  • We subcontract people who specializes in a specific field of the hobby.
  • We like to take on challenges that other custom builders would hesitate to do.
  • We listen to our clients and give them exactly what they want, not what we want.
  • We keep up-to-date with all the latest model railroad technology.
  • We work with many different types of manufacturers Atlas, Bachmann, MTH, DigiTrax, NEC, Lionel and many more.

Most of all our experience, for example, We have worked on hand-laid track, super elevation, catenary systems, custom structures, helixes, and computer-controlled trains, just to name a few. In fact, some custom builders are our clients as well. We pride ourselfs on our reputation of building a railroad on time and on budget!

8) How long does it take to build a railroad?
It depends on the complexity of the railroad. A simple oval on a sheet of plywood wired to a power pack with no scenery would be up and running in a day, while a multi-train operation, with freight yards, a turntable, animation, custom structures, signals, lights and other details for a building as large as 30'x65', could take several months, even years to complete.

Here are a few examples of railroads built for our customers. Below each picture is a description including the amount of time it took to complete that particular railroad.

Lionel O scale Size 2.5x6
Labor time: 26 hours.

HO-2 Size 8x8 Railroad
Labor time: 146 hours

HO-3 Size 8x8 w/signals
Labor time: 386 hours

G Scale Size 12x14
Labor time: 882 hours

Z Scale Size 9x17 w/automatic block signals
Labor time: 1,482 hours

HO Size 14x18 w/custom buildings and 3 control panels
Labor time: 2,232 hours

HO Scale Size 17x20 w/automatic block signals
Lighted buildings, Backdrops
Labor time: 4,087 hours

HO Scale Size 18x36
Custom LED indicator panels
Over 160 custom buildings
Labor time: 15,124 hours

If you have a certain deadline we'll make it work!

9) I want to build it slowly over the years, would you build in stages?
Yes, we can build in different stages or what we call "phases".
Phase #1 - Benchwork, roadbed, track laying, signals, control panels & wiring.
Phase #2 - Scenery, landscaping, roads, structures, people and details.
(Both phases can be tailored to fit your needs)

10) Can you visit my house to build or work on the railroad?
Yes, we have a crew ready to travel anywhere in the continental United States. All work can be done on location of the railroad. Travel time, airfare, vehicle rentals, food expense and lodging would be required, and would be an extra charge added to the estimate.

But if at all possible have your railroad built at our shop then shipped to your location, this will save you thousands of dollars!

11) Can you give a ballpark estimate cost for the railroad?

Which ballpark do you play in?

  • Little League $8,500 - $125,000.00
  • Minor League $125,000 - $500,000.00
  • Major League $500,000.00 - $999,000.00
  • All Stars $999,000.00 - up!

Custom built model railroads do involve a significant cash investment. Why? Because the majority of the cost of a custom built model railroad is tied to the large number of labor hours involved, as with any high quality handcrafted item such as a custom-built car, furniture or a additional room on your house.

Costs range anywhere from several thousand dollars for smaller projects up into six or seven figures for larger, more elaborate, railroads. The cost of the railroad really comes down to how long it will take us to build it (Man hours) and supplies purchased. (we've had supplies cost over six figures) Fact: Model railroads have more electrical and electronic wiring than houses!

We can plan a budget for you that will suit your needs.
For more info click on the "Estimates" page.

12) Can you design my railroad?
Yes we can custom design any size or scale railroad, we can also design control panels and custom cabinetry.

13) Do you have a payment schedule, if so how does it work?
Yes we do. Let's look at a $120,000 budget as an example. 
     Payments might be staggered as follows:
    Down payment:                                      $25,000.
    Completion of construction milestone 1         $30,000.
    Completion of construction milestone 2         $30,000
    Completion of construction milestone 3         $30,000
    Completion of final construction milestone     $5,000.
      (payable prior to project delivery)

Of course we can work on a custom payment schedule that is right for you.

14) How do we start the process of building my railroad?
It all starts with a layout plan, a budget/estimate based on the plan, and then a schedule for completion will be determined. The project starts when we get a deposit and signed contract.

15) What types of payments do you accept?
Checks, Master card or Visa are accepted. Please NO cash!

16) Once the railroad is completed, will you ship it to me?
You can pick up the railroad from our shop, but most people have us ship the railroad to them, it really is up to you. Shipping costs range anywhere from $2,500-12,000 for smaller projects and $12,000 and up for larger railroads.

The actual cost depends on size, breakdown time, shipping, and re-setting up time plus travel expenses. This would be in your budget/estimate before we start work.

If you have more questions you can email us, or continue browsing our website.
Of course you may call us between 9am-6pm in the eastern standard time zone!