We'll ask you questions either on the phone or through emails, to develop the right vision for your railroad. After consulting with you on the scale, size and complexity of your project, we can give you a free "ball-park" estimate and could be given over the phone depending on the details, or we'll suggest to develop a detailed estimate, with a supplies cost spreadsheet based on suggested retail prices, we do not mark up any products we are purely a service business. Our clients get all copies of the receipts for their records. Our labor charges are based on an hourly rate, and we'll consult time-sheets of our past projects, which will help estimate the labor charges more accurately.
Our detailed estimates could take a couple of weeks or months to develop. Each estimate would require a railroad plan supplied by you, or we can design one for you for a fee because of the extensive research and computer design time involved. This fee could be used as part of your deposit should you decide to hire us. We spend a fair amount of time estimating the details for your railroad; full estimates can take over 45 hours to complete, so that we can give you the most accurate estimate possible.
Our estimates are not "low-balled" to get you to buy, like some of our competitors, but are realistic. You will not pay more than what is on the original estimate, unless you make modifications to the original estimate.
If you're looking for artistic talent and quality workmanship, then our labor rate is actually quite reasonable. When you consider the type of work involved, it's like hiring all the services we mentioned above. Unfortunately, most of our greatest modeling tasks take time - we will not "rush" to get it done.
The fastest and most cost effective way to build your railroad is in our shops, where we can have control and more focus on completing it on a scheduled time line, also our hourly labor time is much cheaper. However if you need us to work on your railroad at your location no problem just keep in mind we charge an extra $15.00 per hour labor charge, travel time to your location, mileage or gasoline reimbursement, lodging and dinner meals may be required, and would be an extra charge above the estimate. You also need to keep in mind working on location may hinder the work progress of your railroad or related projects and is subject to our crew personal schedule conflicts and weather conditions. During the winter months (December-April) we do not make travel arrangements.
Our estimates for full model railroad estimates are broken down into three phases. CAD design, custom model building, or clients who want us to do freelance work onsite are done on separate estimates.
The first phase is for those who want to do the scenery and finishing work themselves. Most of our clients like to hire us to do this phase because we do the the most difficult parts of building a model railroad for example: benchwork framing, laying track and turnouts, Buss lines, electronics, lighting and sound effects wiring, as well as engine decoder installs & programming etc.
Phase #1 includes.
Sample estimate for Phases #1
- CAD design
- Building the benchwork
- Roadbed & track laying
- Wiring tracks & turnouts
- Block signaling (optional)
- DC Power/command control
- Accessory wiring buss (optional)
- Indication L.E.D. panels (optional)
- Control shelf/console (optional)
- Custom cabinets for under railroad (optional)
- Fascia and finishing work (optional)
- Video camera and monitors (optional)
- Backdrop installation (optional)
This is a sample estimate for Phases #1
(Call for current Phases #1 labor charges)
The second phase is for those who want us to do the landscaping, model building, custom structures, roads, weathering detailed scenes, and backdrops. We do all or part of the scenery phase.
Phase #2 includes.
Sample estimate for Phases #2
- Building the structures
- Scenery landscapes
- Scenery details - autos, people, etc.
- Engine or freight car details
- Animated accessories
- Lighting & sound effects
- Weathering trains, tracks, or structures
- Backdrop installation
- Fascia and finishing work
This is a sample estimate for Phases #2
(Call for current Phases #2 labor charges)
The third phase is for clients who want us to do freelance work onsite or to transport the finished or unfinished phase #1 or #2 of the railroad to their location and re-setup; or if need be to continue working once the railroad's phase(s) are completed.
Note: Most of our clients are not local.
Phase #3 includes.
- Supplies need for the task
(Phase #1 or #2)
- Crew travel labor time
- Lodging and dinner expenses
- Transportation expense
(packing supplies, rental car/truck, gas and tolls)
These added expenses applied to railroads that have to be delivered.
Sample estimate for Phase #3
- Labor cost for railroad breakdown
- Labor cost for railroad re-setup
This is a sample estimate for Phase #3 (with a backdrop add-on estimate)
(Call for current Phases #3 labor charges)
Click on these links if you want to view a few questions...
1) 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!
(Note phase 3 hours not included)
2) 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)
3) 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!
4) Can you give a ballpark estimate cost for the railroad?
Which ballpark do you play in?
- Little League (2x4 - 10x12 table size) $3,500 - $45,000.00
- Babe Ruth League (12x16 - 14x25 room size) $45,000.00 - $175,000.00
- Minor League (16x30 - 30x40 xlarge room size) $175,000 - $500,000.00
- Major League (Full attic or basement size) $500,000.00 - $999,000.00
- All Stars $999,000.00 - up!
The cost of the railroad really comes down to how much detail goes into the modeling and scenery elements which would determine how long it will take us to build it (Man hours) and supplies purchased.
5) Why are custom model railroads expensive?
Custom built model railroads do involve a significant cash investment, as with any high quality handcrafted item such as a piece of custom furniture, or a custom-built car or motorcycle. Think of it as putting an addition on to your house.
Why? Because of the large amount of time that is involved in producing a quality product. The majority of the cost of a custom built model railroad is tied to the large number of labor hours involved. Simple version: The more elaborate, the more it will cost. For more info click on the estimates page.
6) 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:
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
(payable prior to project delivery)
Of course we can work on a custom payment schedule that is right for you.
Our business reputation
We know how frustrating it can be to find an experienced and reputable professional who is willing to stick to a budget and timeline and deliver the end product as agreed. And that is exactly why we're in business today - to provide a caring, cost-effective alternative for those who seek only the best in one-stop model railroad construction and model maintenance services.