Cameron’s layout

I love seeing layouts built from scratch, so I thought I’d share this excellent ‘running commentary’ from Cameron.

Hope you like it!

“Dear Alistair,

Last Fathers day my kids gave me a Hornby Mixed Freight set. Bless their nylon socks. Since then I have contracted a major case of the Model Railway Bug and have been putting together a layout ever since. Although I am from ‘down under’ it is based on a small town in Surrey England I spent some time in as a kid. This is the first time I have built a layout since I was 10 so I have pretty much had to learn from scratch again. I have been reading all your posts and they have given my a great deal inspiration along the way. It truly is the best forum on the interweb. With fathers day 2012 just around the corner and the layout getting close to completion I thought now was a good time to start sharing some of my own experiences and anecdotes. I have taken photos and notes of my experience along the way so if your readers are interested I can put together a series of posts on the process and outcome.

Phase 1 – Head Scratching
The kids gave me oo scale, so oo scale it is. The Station Master at the local Hobby shop recommended an 8×4 layout so that was another decision easily made. I then found I had plenty of time for ‘head scratching’ while I saved up for the track.

Having done a bit of drafting in my youth I decided to use some simple model rail computer software to design the layout. Not as well considered or drafted as Alistair’s designs but for me it was all part of the process. Good design drawings have some great benefits down the track.

– I designed the layout with a couple of loops so I could run two trains simultaneously (red and yellow on the plan).
– I did one loop with large radius bends so I could run larger locos at higher speeds on it ( yellow loop on the plan).
– a shunting yard is an important part of the layout. I incorporated a long ‘yard lead’ (the handle of the fork,) that does not interfere with the loops. The lead also seves ad an arrival/departures track for the station. There are lots of good articles on how to arrange shunting yards. The yard and lead are shown as green on the plan bellow.
– Every one says to be prepared to rethink it all once you lay the track and start running trains around it. I have to agree.
– the other tip is to mark the beam supports (if you have any) on the plan. This way you can locate them away from any point motors or other equipment that might need to go on the underside of the board.

At this stage the ‘trouble and strife’ (wife) did not know what she was in for. Hold that thought.

Next week I will go through the base board.

Bye for now.


Excellent! Now let’s fast forward a week….

Dear Al,

This is the next installment of the Reigate Layout.

Phase 2 – Sawdust
Now relegated to the shed I commenced the construction of baseboard and table. The table is made of 9mm medium density fibre board with a pine frame under. The ramps are 4.5mm plywood with blocks of timber every 100mm or so to prop them up. The whole lot is glued and screwed together. To achieve the section where the track goes under a bridge I put gradient on both the inside and outside lines of the track. This ensured the gradient of the inside track did not get too steep (3%) while the outside track stayed at a very shallow gradient (1%). This created a lot of extra framing work so I am not sure that I would attempt it again next time. For the bridge I used a piece of aluminum flat bar that I picked up quite cheap from the local hardware. One thing I found from the train set I had as a kid was that when you went to fish out derailed trains from tunnels the detail on the engines would get caught on the tunnel framing and chicken wire causing them to break. For that reason I made the inside of the tunnels quite smooth to avoid damage.

Some great cost saving tips I found at this stage are as follows.
1. Ask your local hardware if they have any mdf or plywood packing sheets left over from other orders. When sheet plaster and other items are delivered to hardwares they often have a packing sheet top and bottom to protect the main item. If they don’t give it away they will usually sell them but for only $5 a sheet. This is a lot cheaper than a new sheet. They are usually, and quite conveniently in this instance, 8 foot x 4 foot.

2. When it comes to pine framing ask them if you can go through the off cuts.

Save your pennies for track and train I say.


More from Cam next time!

I agree with him about saving the pennies for the track and train – have a look at the latest ‘ebay cheat sheet’.



21 Responses to Cameron’s layout

  1. Excellent planning and fundamentals of railway modelling ensured.

    good work.


  2. G’day Alastair

    Hello from the great land down under.

    I too am building a layout from scratch, but a biggie – in a 7 metres by 7 metre train room I have built in one end of my shed. Since I live in a rural area of Brisbane I have tried to keep the room snake proof and so far so good.The layout is based on six or seven 2.4 x 1.2m tables I suppose.

    So far I have laid about 60 metres of track and I am not sure if I have finished yet. The layout includes a funicular, a city circuit, sidings, fiddle yard, turntable and an overall elevation of about 45cm from beginning to end. It is all Fleischmann profi track with digital and should run about ten trains at a time. I have had six running so far testing points, curves etc.

    I am taking progess shots as I go and if intersted I will provide some with a story a bit later.

    I enjoy your mails and follow them eagerly for inspiration and ideas.



  3. great layout plan has given me some hints for raising track. keep the updates coming.

  4. Yes please, Damian!

  5. I too will be doing an o guage from scratch and I will document every step. will share with you all soon. probably late oct.

  6. very nice

  7. What a great help Cameron’s write-up and pictures are for me. I, too, have been absent from model railroading since my first Lionel train set in the early 1950’s. I’ve been reading and studying books for over a year and now have some slight idea of just how much I don’t know!

    I’m as fortunate as Damian indicates in his reply in that I have a 10′ x 15′ area of our family room to work in. Not nearly as far along as Cameron, but hopefully gaining!

    Thanks to everyone for their contributions to this web site and Alastair for hosting it.

    Art Risser, Watertown, WI, USA

  8. Hey Cam …

    Great start to a wonderful hobby! Keep us posted: Will be waiting for the next addition!

    Thanks Al and Cam for sharing.

    Keep on training,

    Tom N

  9. Is anyone using Marklin HO Digital ? any comments ?

  10. Great attention to detail on the track layout, Cameron!

    Have a fun filled day, all of you Trainiacs out there!

  11. Fork handles?

  12. I love the cockney rhyming slang!

  13. Another good place to find cheep lumber is a local construction site. I picked out a couple hundred dollars worth from the scrap pile when the built a house near me. All I had to do was ask.

  14. Excellent design especially in attempting double tracks along with gradients.

  15. all good layouts start off small, you have done a great job so far.

  16. For someone who hasn’t been involved in model trains you have made a very workable layout that should keep you well and truely ocupied with switching and through trains as well, great job and thanks for sharing!!! I to am from Downunder.


  18. Howzit ! Reference making things snake proof – in Rhodesia we used to pour/paint creosote around vents and doorways etc. Snakes hate it as do frogs etc. Also good to keep ants and termites away. A bit smelly when fresh but it fades. Re apply in the wet season when the snakes are very active. D/

  19. Awesome start Cameron, keep up the great work. I have a large HO Scale set up in my basement and love it. Been a work in progress since last December and still working on it. One of these days it will be complete, or will it? Love railroading. Can not wait to see your finished job. Best wishes always.

  20. Cam, that is fantastic. My folks got my son a ‘Thomas’ train set with which I was required to lay on board. It gave me the bug again!Dug out some of my old trains lost somewhere in my parents loft and now me and my son want to do a bit more sophisticated layout. But I’ve had trouble coming up with something…until yours, which has inspired me no end! Cheers from Surrey.


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