Ken starts his layout

“Hi Al,

I really enjoy getting your emails and I always get some great ideas from the posts.

I am adding a circus/amusement park to my layout and I have not been able to find a N scale circus tent. So I decided to try to make one from scratch using different size tooth pics, styrofoam, plaster cloth, paint and other scraps I had laying around. Here are a few pictures of my results.

Happy New Year!



“Greetings Al,

Happy New Year from the U. S. of A. Best wishes to you and yours for 2017. I have been following your blog for some time now and find it very interesting and informative.

About 30 years ago when I had small children, I bought a HO train set for my son who was 5 or so at the time. It evolved over time to a small flat lay out with 2 main lines and switching. Never got any further because of lack of space and kids grow up. We moved 1 year ago so the lay out was completely dismantled. I have twin grandsons who are 9 years old and love to watch model trains run. So I got to thinking, why not resurrect the train that I have and expand it. I am 1 year away from retirement and have more time to fool with this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I must quit rattling on about the past and get to present day. I am building a larger table for the new lay out (144 inches longX61 inches wide at one end and 81 inches at the other end. I have attached some pictures if you are interested. The first is of the main frame, the second shows the casters on the legs as this lay out must be moved to work on it. The last three

Best regards,

show the frame and girders finished. I call this “The Storage Area Lay out” for lack of a better name.”

“This is my first post, I have been interested in architecture and architectural models ever since a bought my first Alan Downes book, so I have attached some photos of my efforts. I use cardboard scrounged/recovered from all sorts of places, for example, proper brand name cereal packets which use good quality card boxes, I also use foam board, which is lightweight but strong.


We’ve had quite a flurry of scratch builds recently – it’s wonderful to see the different ways folk make their buildings.

I thought I’d show Ken’s bench because for me that’s the first step in getting started, and often the biggest step too. Over the years I’ve noticed the posts all have a common theme, once you have a space of your own, you are up and running.

That’s all this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get off the starting blocks.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.


Mike’s New N scale

“Hi Al,

Just completed a small N-Scale project over the holidays. 2X4 platform, a simple oval, paper houses, foam mountains. It’s my first N-Scale so nothing fancy just getting my feet wet on this one.









And Cameron’s still beavering away (here’s his last post):

“Dear Al,

Yet another instalment.

With the three main building out of the way I moved onto the other minor structures. It may seem counter intuitive to build all the buildings and structures ahead of the scenery but on a small layout I find it helpful. This way I can experiment with subtle changes to the locations of the structures before they are fixed in place. Even on a layout like this, where I am essentially copying a real location, there is still a bit of artistic licence.

The additional structures include a stock pen, power pole, loading guage, fences and trees. The stock pen is plastic but the other elements are largely brass and metal. I found with my last layout is that scenic items like, trees and posts tend to get knocked around a bit as you are using the layout. By soldering these out of metal I can make sure they robust enough to handle my children’s enthusiasm.

The trees are made using wire from electrical cable twisted to form the truck and branches. I then take a small length of hemp or brown string and chop it up into small fibres only 3-4mm long. I brush a bit of white glue onto the very ends of the branches and scatter the fibres on top. The visible parts of the truck are then coated with a mixture of plaster and white glue to hide the twisted wire. This assemblage is then sprayed with some grey/brown paint. Once dry I spray the tree with some contact cement (Quick Grip is the product in Australia) and sprinkle on some fine Woodland Scenics ground turf. You can repeat the last process until you get the desired effect. Believe it or not it is easier than it sounds and best of all is a very cheap alternative to ready made trees.

The wire boundary fence is made from square brass stock with thin wire soldered onto the uprights.








Fantastic stuff from Cameron and Mike. Of course, I’m biased, but I loved seeing the printout scenery in Mike’s layout.

If you’d like to share any tips or pics (or whatever) please just hit reply to any of my mails. If you’re attaching pics, probably best not to send more than 3 pics per mail, otherwise they get lost in cyberspace. But send as many mails as you like to get them over…

That’s all this time folks, please do keep ’em coming. And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if it’s been a decade or two since you last laid some track.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Some great deals at this time of the year.


Layout updates from Eric and Cameron

Hall of Fame member, Cameron, is still busy beavering away (his last post is here if you missed it).

“Dear Al,

Yet another instalment.

The third building constructed for the layout was a provender store located at the end of the siding. This most likely would have been used by private feed suppliers for the surrounding dairy farms. There was little in the way of photographs of this building available other than in the background of a few grainy black and white photos. I looked for photos of similar structures to fill in the gaps and filled the shed with feed sacks which more than likely would have been stored in the prototype.

Like my other buildings this is also made with plastic card except for the stumps which are timber dowels. I always keep an eye out for plastic card sheets at the second hand stalls or buy/sell events organised by my local clubs.

I got some comments on the weathering on the previous posts so I thought this might be a good chance to share my method for this. In the past I have tried all sorts of weathering techniques including weathering powders, acrylic paint, real coal, talcum powder etc. These all work well but there is a lot of trial and error before you find the right combination. For these buildings I have just used a few basic enamel colours (gun metal, orange, dark grey and yellow) combined with some dirty turpentine to get the desired effect. I like this method because there is less to remember and it is easy to move between one effect and the next. As with any weathering it is important to work of photos of real weathered objects.





And Eric has given me a nudge too – his latest video is here (here’s his last post).

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still going strong.

Thanks again to Cameron and Eric. I often wonder how some folk find the time – and that’s certainly the case here.

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

If you want to share some pics and tips, please just hit reply to any of my mails and let me know what you’re up to.

Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to take the plunge.