Alan’s first layout

“Hi Al,

I’m a first time subscriber to your site and would like to share my experience for what it’s worth.

Recently retired I decided to spend some of my newly required spare time building my first model railway. I spent the first little while avidly reading and digesting the numerous articles etc. on your site and many thanks to all your subscribers for their fabulous contribution.

I started by devoting a spare room to the project. Unfortunately the room is fairly small and allowing a bit of space to manoeuvre in, the layout ended up being 2.5m wide x 2.3 m deep(8 ft x 7.5 ft) with a cut out roughly in the middle 1.1m x 0.7m.

I would greatly appreciate any comments / criticism your readers might have.

Base constructed from 18mm MDF board with 90 x 18 stiffening planks around all edges. I next lined the base with 30mm polystyrene sheet and started thinking about track layout.

Preparing for the river.

Next came the background landscaping. The tunnels are lift off to enable track maintenance.

Started doing the ballast. Not my favourite part of railroading!

There is approx. 26m (85ft) of track with just the one power connection shown above. I use a Hornby digital “Select “controller which drives 3 locos and 8 point motors.


A wonderful narrative from Alan. I love seeing the layouts from the very start. I think he’s done a fine job!

I particularly liked the step by step approach – just like this.



43 Responses to Alan’s first layout

  1. Great job! Thanks for sharing the early photos also!


  2. Looking good well done.

  3. Nice One Alan! Any chance of a track plan?

    I too run a Hornby “Select” controller like yours (on a 13m triple-folded-loop). But reading others on this site about multiple power connections, I wired my crossings to get direct feed into each of my three loops. No problems, but I’m interested to hear that you can run double my track length off only one power feed; because I could never understand the need for multiple feeds, unless isolating and cross-wiring.

    Thanks for showing I wasn’t being thick!

  4. An excellent start. Keep up the good work! Oh for retirement! I am seventy three but can’t afford to retire so will keep at it until I drop! I do, however, have lots of railways from the past and am unpacking them and creating a new one after about 20m years of them being in hibenation. More anon.

  5. Very good Alan, especially for your first attempt, keep up the great work, would love to see more pictures. Well done.

    Peter the Mackem

  6. Alan;
    Great job! I think you have solved my own space problem. My room is just marginally larger than yours. I thought that it was too small to be viable Now that I see what you have accomplished, I had better get cracking here.
    Bill Fitzpatrick

  7. Nice job you have done there Alan

  8. Very nice job, Alan! You sure this is your first layout?

  9. This layout is superb. It’s difficult to believe it’s your first.

  10. Wonderful start and progress. I like seeing the ones of the beginning.

  11. really nice clean little layout!! good fun!!

  12. You’ve done a wonderful job in such a short space of time. You are to be congratulated. Keep up the good work and send more when you have completed. Carl

  13. Hey Alan – very nice job in a small space on your first effort! Way to go! The layout has a very neat and clean appearance; especially the benchwork design and materials. Though sticking to a simple oval design, you’ve provided sufficient running for multiple trains and visual interest with terrain level changes.


  14. Excellently done project. Boy I wish I had all the talent you guys have for this hobby. When I see some of the work done I don’t know how you can call it a hobby because it appears to be a profession. The dedication to your efforts is amazing. I know that this site is from GB somewhere and I wish that commenters would indicate the countries that they are responding from. I am responding from Southern Ontario, Canada.

  15. Looks like he is a master at this,looks realy great

  16. Very nice work. Thanks for sharing.

  17. There is certainly plenty of interest there Alan. as you get older you may regret having no lift up access to the centre hole, my solution has been a motor mechanic’s trolly that allows me to sit on it and punt myself over to the access hole. A great looking layout making good use of the available space.

  18. Congratulations Alan. Nice and well constructed layout.

  19. Awesome! Makes me want to Start over!

  20. Impressed, it looks really good. cheers

  21. Alan WoW!!!

    What a great first layout you have created, aso it was good to see you did not made the mistake a lot of modeler’s make, when building their first layout and that is to build something that is either to big, or much too complicated. Which in turn discourages a number of modeler’s from continuing with the hobby, which is unfortunate. But you have built a layout that looks very practical, so now it’s there to enjoy, so good luck with your future in this great hobby.

    Steve, Downunder.

  22. Very nice indeed. Would love to see a track plan drawing (difficult to tell from the photos). Well done. Please keep us apprized of your activities. We’ll watch with great interest for your next offering.

  23. Looks very professional for a first attempt. Great job. It appears to be just the right size. I suppose it is “OO” gauge.

    Anything custom built, like the bridges, etc.?

  24. Wow – wonderful job in a small space. Would love to see the layout schematic!

  25. Not much more to say than has already been said about your layout, it is very well done. I would guess you will have a great future in model railroading with your obvious talent displayed on this first layout.

  26. What gauge is this?

  27. Really well done! Is the top level track separate from the lower level? I can’t see how the trains would get up there, could you expand on this or provide a track plan?

  28. great layout looks like you kept it simple. went straight to digital allows more scope for expansion train wise i am into trains running around the track then lots of scenery but thats me thats the beauty of this hobby.

  29. One often puts quite a bit of force on a baseboard, hammering things in or leaning on it to reach stuff at the back, I wonder if those brackets and just a stiffener round the edge will take it, looks like quite a bit of leverage there. All the same, beautiful carpentry job there mate.

  30. Alan what a great layout you have built.

    Well done. Mike

  31. Nicely done Alan. Innovative and practical use of space, and it looks great too. A great big thumbs up from Lake Tahoe, Nevada the home for the V & T in miniature. BTW, we share a great lack of enthusiasm for ballasting. Trying to teach my new little granddaughter to love it, but at six weeks old she’s just as enthusiastic as we are.

    Keep up the great work
    Joe in NV

  32. Nicely done layout looks great! I wish that there would be a track plan with some of these layouts yours looks great.
    Well done Tony in IL

  33. Alan, I’m jealous ! That looks first-rate !

  34. Dear Al:

    I am impressed, daily, by the skill and imagination the model railroaders display on your Website…Alan amongst them!

    After viewing the layouts, I am struck by one item I believe would add quality to them: Given that most of the layouts are built in rectangular rooms, I would like to suggest that the modelers consider selecting a flexible section of cardboard, or plywood, or plastic, that is applied at the corners, for the background scenery, which eliminates the sharp crease, where one straight wall meets the other straight wall, and provides a smooth transition, from one wall to the next.

    I hope I have made my suggestion clear. Food for thought.

    Thanks, again, Al, for the daily dose of creativity! It is a great way to start the day, here in Indiana!

  35. Well done Alan, got some useful tips of your pics. I am about to start planning my new layout. Would love to see some of these layout in their settings if anyone fancy’s inviting me round?
    Alan R

  36. very nice Alan!

  37. Fantastic Alan. I plan to fully retire in about six months and have emptied a room for just the same. At 3m x 2.8m it is a bit bigger but like you, seeing all the help and suggestions on this site inspiration is never far away. Love what you have done.


  38. You have done a beautiful job.

  39. Could you refer me to a site for O guage (Lionel) trains just like your sute here?
    Thank you very much,

  40. No matter what gauge, or how big or small, I have found after six layouts all it takes is patience and attention to detail. Alan has all the qualities necessary.

  41. Alan thanks for sharing looks great. Thanks Al for all your great work.

  42. A great effort for your first layout and well done. Your scenery looks really good. Again, well done.

    Jim AZ

  43. To the responders who say that they don’t have the ability to build a layout, I say nonsense, and you won’t know until you try, and all modelers had to start somewhere and have all made mistakes. There seems to be a lot of age preventing one from building, and I am 69 and there is no time like the present. There are many scales, and a layout doesn’t have to be room sized, but can be any size, even an oval that comes with a train set. Get modeling and enjoy this great hobby, and Christmas is coming, so maybe trains will be under the tree. Cheers!

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