Joe’s 27′ x 10′ HO model train layout

“Dear Alastair,

I have been enjoying reading about layouts others have been building and looking at step-by-step photos. It demonstrates how layouts are merely products of their creators’ imaginations. So I decided to participate and show the layout I have been building for the past 2 1/2 years.

For starters, it is an HO layout that measures 27’ x 10’. At my wife’s objection, it consumes about 2/3 of my basement. I have been dreaming about this project for my entire adult life, and at 67 I was finally able to realize it.

It is built with double ply 1” x 4” girders, connected by four major braces, and held up by eight legs. Photo 3156 shows the completed substructure. The next step was to construct the lattice work to which the 7” risers would be mounted (photo 3191). Finally, the sub-roadbed is made of 1/2” plywood supported by the 7” risers. This makes the top of the bench work 42” high (photo 3196).

Because of the size of the layout, it has been built in 13 sections that can be disassembled and moved to another located for reassembly. To make this possible, track and landscaping that span section boundaries can be separated. All wiring that spans section boundaries have had Hitachi-type connectors installed so that wiring can be disconnected.

I n my next email I will discuss the design and control aspects of my layout.



“Thanks for sharing the great camera train video, see attached photo, may wish to share so others can see what to build to hold camera. And, if one needs a video camera, yard sales on Saturday morning is a great place to find them and cheap as well!

I am sure everyone would love to know what to buy and also see how this is done.

Much thanks


A huge thanks to Joe – it looks like he’s going to build a stunning layout with all of that space. I can’t wait to see the next update.

That’s all this time folks. Please don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide, because with it, there wouldn’t be a site.

Keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still going strong!


Another train layout tutorial from Rob

“Hi Al,

I have been reading your blog for some time now, and finally started a 4 x 8 HO layout for my 7 and 9 year old grand daughters.

I followed the video “Building Your First Model Railroad”, figuring I’d build the Madison Central as it is described. Once I got into it, I found ways to modify it.

I added another track loop at one end and a mountain and tunnel. My wife had given me a ferris wheel some years back and I wanted to use it, so the downtown area on the Madison Central was deleted, to be replaced by an amusement park. I wasn’t going to do a lot of detailing, but the more research I did, the more possibilities I found for adding detail, and the more excited I was to get going.

The point is, you can follow the video and have a decent first layout. But if you use your imagination, you can make it your own. For me it was a way to stop the procrastination and start modeling.

Now for my tip. I was at Home Depot and saw they had free 6″ x 9″ linoleum samples, some of which resembled concrete, stone and wood. I took 8 of these and when I got home I noticed that the back side was textured. I sprayed the back with black paint, then a thin coat of Rust-Oleum Aged Iron textured paint (thanx to Kathy Millat and her blog). Looks like macadam. I’m using it for streets and parking lots. The material is flexible and cuts easily with a knife or scissors. Here are a couple photos.

Jack In Pennsylvania”

“Hi Al,

I love reading your emails and get a lot of ideas from them. I am struggling to start my layout ,returning to the hobby after 40 + years.

I have a loft space 20ft x 5ft to build a layout and have a couple of “train sets” including the hornby elink / railmaster control. I have installed DCC into 4 of my old stock and bought a new Castle loco with TTS sound. My problem is I can’t decide on a track layout !!. My Dad was an engine fireman/driver in Wolverhampton (Stafford Road and Oxley) all his career and my plan is to run all the engines he may have worked on so quite a challenge. any suggestions would be greatly received

In the meantime I have been making buildings( putting of the inevitable I guess).

I then thought I could do something similar. I photographed the shops in Tettenhall village and turned them into my own creations (see the pics) I am quite pleased with the results. My creations are the ones at the front of the picture. and a large photo of the Limes court building.

Keep up the great work



And lastly, Hall of Fame member, Rob, has sent in his latest ‘how to’ video for his new layout:

“Hi Al,

My new video – In it I install a Tortoise motor for point/turnout control and explain the tools required and an effective technique for getting one installed.

I also show the new control panel I am building and a great little economical and portable paint booth I have discovered. Plus of course a little running. I demonstrate the smoothness of the foam inclines by running a steam locomotive up the ramp with 5 coaches behind it at very slow speed. I have not tested it to see how many coaches it can pull on the 2% incline, but it is more than 5.

Well, if i am going to ever get this layout done, I better start cracking on it.

Thank you so much for all that you do.


Latest ebay cheat sheet is here

That’s all this time folks – please do keep ’em coming. And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you think it’s your time to shine.




Getting started on your layout…

“I thought that you might find these photo’s interesting.

In the past I’ve commented on making your railroad with modules. I had a 22 by 12 foot railroad started in our basement when my wife decided we needed to move to a condo. We bought one with an extra 15 by 15 foot upstairs bedroom, closet, and bath.

the first three pictures show the parts as delivered. The forth shows them in place. It was putting a puzzle together. The new layout is much different then the old but all modules were saved.

The photos show a new 2 foot square module in the corner, a 2 by 6-6 in the front left and a 6 inch piece added at the base of the angular section. A new corner section is shown next. Lastly the layout is shown in its current state. Much is left to go, but modules saved much time and money.


“Dear Al,

I never built a train layout before, even though for two years when I was 35 I managed the model train department of a large Model and sports shop in the north of England. 12 years ago I decided to build a layout in the loft of my bungalow after having it fitted out with a new floor, two velux windows, insulation and a wooden loft ladder.

I managed to build almost all of the base boards but no further . My wife was diagnosed with terminal Cancer and died within the month. I found that I could not live in the house any more and moved to an apartment. The woodwork had to be dismantled and consigned to a Skip when I sold the house. The track, locomotives, rolling stock,DCC control system had to be packed away in boxes and put in store.

7 years later I met a lady through an online dating agency and we became an item as they say. I sold my apartment and moved in with my new partner, taking with me all of the model railway gear and my precious tools. These all lived in the garage for 3 years until last September when we bought a house in Essex by the sea.

This bungalow had been kitted out with two upstairs loft rooms accessed by a wood loft ladder. Both rooms fully insulated and velux windows. At last I could start again and I am well on the way to build a large 12 feet by 15 feet layout . Track is now going down and I look forward to many hours of modelling. In the end age will stop me. I can shoot up and down the loft ladder well enough at the moment but in five years I will be 90.

I have this time built the layout in sections bolted together and the power bus will plug together so that dismantling the layout will be possible and each unit is small enough to get down the loft ladder when the time comes.

I have recorded the building process in pictures and I enclose a few.

One problem that cannot solve involves the triangle junction that connects the folded oval to the terminal station. I have purchased two Hornby reverse loop modules, but I,m not sure where to install them.

Can any one help?

Your sincerely.


My word – a big thanks to Mike for sharing his story – and it does just go to show, you’re never too old to start a layout, no matter what you’ve been through.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you’re still mulling over your layout in your head, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here