Essential Tools for Model Railroads

Model Railroads are just really fun! They’re fun to build and exciting to watch zoom along the miniature landscapes.

Fun fact: According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest model train measured 925 feet and 6 inches. It was built by the Wilmington Railroad Museum - Model Railroad Committee in 2011. It was built in the HO scale of 1:87.1, which means that at full 1:1 scale, this record-setting train would be 15.27 miles long! 

Like with every hobby, this one also requires a set of tools. In this article, we'll cover the essential tools and how to use them.

Shop for a Model Railroad Tool Set

Mitre Boxes -

A small aluminum guide for sawing at 45-degree and 90-degree angles. Use to cut tracks as well as raw materials to the needed size. 

Razor Pull Saw

Razor Pull Saw -

Use this small, hand-powered tool along with the miter box tout the material down to the desired size. This style saw is short and thin, teeth sizes range from 24tpi to 46tpi. Use with the K5 or the K6 handle. 

Needle files - 

Small and narrow, these needle files are perfect for refining and smoothing details. Use the round file to enlarge and smooth holes or curved surfaces. Use the flat file for smoothing edges. Other shape files include half-round, triangle and knife files, a good assortment will ensure that you have a file for every scenario of your model trail project. 

Sanding Sticks

Sanding Sticks - 

Sanding sticks are made for precision sanding. They are long and narrow which helps to target precisely the area that needs sanding and smoothing. This tool features a spring-loaded mechanism so the sanding belt is always taut and allows for full control of belt rotation. 

Sanding belts are available in #80, #120, #240, #320, #400 and #600 grits. 


Hand Drills and Pin Vises - 

Used to drill holes for screws to connect pieces and add decorative elements, among numerous other purposes. Hand drills are an essential tool for the model railroad hobbyist. Drills come in sizes #61 - #80. 

A great starter is the 20-piece drill dome set, it includes one of each drill size. Each drill is conveniently stored upright on a drill stand for quick access. The base also includes the drill's numerical size and its decimal equivalent.


Pin vises are hand-held and hand-powered handles for the drill bits. They feature a self-centering aluminum chuck that accommodates drills #50 through #80. Our mini pin vise conveniently stores the drills inside. 

These small drills and vises work on soft materials like balsa or other softwoods, lightweight plastics or metals.  

Swiss Style Mini Hammer

Swiss Style Mini Hammer - 

A miniature world requires mini tools. The Swiss Style Mini Hammer is used by many hobbyists across many industries including upholsters and jewelers; this tool is also a must when building mini railroads and the world surrounding them. The hammer features a wooden handle and a forged steel hammer head with a flat face and a chiseled face. The overall measurement is 9in/22.8cm. 

Model Railroad Ruler

Model Railroad Ruler

A handy guide that includes the most popular model railroad gauge scales as well as quick reference charts and formulas. 

Purchase a Useful Model Railroad Ruler

Hobby Knife - 

All-purpose hobby knives, like the K1 or the K2, are must-have tools for model railroad hobbyists. Use them to trim, cut, score and more. 

Pliers - 

Another indispensable tool is pliers, they are always good to have around. For an in-depht look at the different types of pliers and their uses, read our previous article: The Types of Pliers Every DIYer Should Know About

Sprue Cutter

Sprue Cutter - 

A sprue is the opening through which plastic or metal is poured into a mold. The word is also used to describe the “nub” or the piece of plastic or metal that turned solid in the mold, especially where there are many small pieces. 

As the name suggests, this tool was designed to cleanly cut off sprues. Flat on the underside and slightly bent, this spring-loaded tool cleanly and neatly cuts sprues off the parts to get them ready for assembly.

Aside from model railroad and other modeling, sprue cutters are also used in 3D printing, jewelry design and floral design. 

model railroad tool set

We’ve put together a starter model railroad tool set that includes most of the tools listed above in one convenient wooden storage box and it was created with the modeler hobbyist in mind. Check it out!