The Model Railroad Budget

The BIG question…“How much does it cost?”

The Model Railroad Budget There are three ways to approach budgeting your railroad.

  1. Freelance work (pay as we go) on your railroad.
  2. A set budget of what you want to spend for the railroad.
  3. No set budget and willing to pay for what you want.

Be realistic about how much railroad you can afford! 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)

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. 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, and our hourly labor rate is cheaper. If you need us to work on your railroad at your location, no problem, however, we charge an extra $25.00 per hour for labor, plus travel time to your location, mileage or gasoline reimbursement, and lodging and dinner meals may be required. This would be an extra charge above the estimate. Keep in mind that working on location may hinder the progress of your railroad or related projects and is subject to our crew availability. Onsite scheduling is Monday through Friday only. During the winter months (December-March) we typically do not make travel arrangements because due to uncertainty of the weather.

Our estimates for full model railroad estimates are broken down into three phases.
Phase #1 includes.
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.
  • CAD design
  • Building the benchwork
  • Roadbed & track laying
  • Wiring tracks & turnouts
  • Block signaling (optional)
  • DC Power/command control
  • Computer controlled (optional)
  • 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)

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 #2 includes.
  • 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

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)

    Note: These added expenses applied to railroads that have to be delivered.

    • Labor cost for railroad breakdown
    • Labor cost for railroad re-setup
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.