David’s Swiss Layout

“Hi Alastair,

I started my set in 1976 after a trip to Switzerland. As you can see I was influenced by its mountains. It took about 3 years to get it as it is. I only recently got back to it since I was busy with other things. Also, my cats always interfered with it when I came to play with it. They liked the heat of the lights and the movement of the trains. I am still trying to figure out how I wired it, although it runs its full coarse. And I am somewhat amazed that it does.



So I asked David to expand, and he came back with this:

“Hi Alastair,

I am happy for the interest and sharing.

The bricks on the viaducts are made from cut up balsa wood strips. After gluing the miniature bricks down I filled in the cracks with plaster and then slightly burt the whole surface with a blowtorch. I used screening , bulked up with newspaper to make some of the mountains.

I guess there is a philosophy behind the hobby of model railroading like there is behind any human endeavour. Obviously one of philosophical aspects behind it is the love of trains and locomotion. Another is a need to recreate a reality, often an idealistic or past reality. For some it is a form of escapism from the real world, like going to the movies. There is also a personal metaphysics and aesthetics involved.

I started my present train set after a trip to Switzerland. For me Switzerland represented a huge train set, with its many winding tracks, train viaducts and railway tunnels. It seemed so compact, like a train set. I wanted to recreate some of that in my basement. I loved the mountains and the valleys of Switzerland and how they contrasted with the train tracks and the rolling stock that ran on them. The contrast between the ruggedness of nature and the cultivated lines of the railroad tracks was mind-blowing.

I once asked a psychologist for an explanation as to why I was drawn to the parallel lines of railway track. She explained that it meant I was a futurist, peering into the future along railway tracks that go off into the distance. It is also emblematic of how I see the world’s development, in a parallel fashion.


Big thanks to David for sharing – and a wonderful narrative too.

Don’t forget folks, this site is everyone. Your layout doesn’t have to look like David’s to be featured: if you’re tinkering in your loft, basement, or where ever, please share.

And lastly, can you help me. I’ve had one or two mails saying the ebay cheat sheet isn’t working for them.

Please can you have a quick look here and tell me if it doesn’t load. I’d really appreciate it.

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



75 Responses to David’s Swiss Layout

  1. The ebay cheat sheet works for me.

  2. Hello. I model railroads in Alsace-Lorraine, next to Germany. The 3 low-relief bldgs I downloaded are excellent for the urban environment I plan to have as the industrial area of the town. I appreciate the quality of your downloadable offerings. They are not identifiable as US or UK backgrounds, so I can use them for my French town too. Please keep up the good work! I hope to find more of these background flats from you.
    Thank you again.

  3. Nice layout David, and Al the cheat sheet is working for me

  4. It works well for me also with windows 8. Graham.

  5. Cheat sheet works well for me. Keep up the good work.
    Regards Gideon.

  6. Well, what can one say, superb layout with great detail, very realistic mountains….just awsome.

  7. Truly amazing work on the rocks and caverns. However I do not know of any railway that would store cars in a canyon. But, the work is very commendable. I love it.

  8. Stunning layout David.
    Cheat sheet worked for me also.

  9. I live in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, a mountainous region. To me Davids’ layout is the most spectacular I have yet seen. I have not commented here before but I am afraid I just cannot keep quiet after seeing this. “Well done David” does not sound adequate.

  10. Fantastic scenery – but he didn’t mention the gauge – photos really give a 3D impression – no matter what gauge the size of the mountains in relation to the trains is correct – it definitely gives a sense of mountainous grandeur. Excellent!!!

  11. I take my hat off to these people. I am both admiring of them and envious. However, these very talented modellers do spur amatuers on to show what can be
    done. I gave up on my first attempt after spending more money than I should have. But it did run and the models were well constructed I was told by the president of the model train club whom I donated it to. At least it went to a good cause and I learned a lot, enough to prepare me for another attempt based on what I have seen on this sight, – and spend less money.

  12. A very nice layout indeed! I love the tall mountains and the detailed scenery. The lighting however, I think is an area of improvement (either the layout light, or the photographs – not sure).


  13. Beautiful layout David. No wonder it took so long! And Al, yes, the cheat sheet works for me too.

  14. Great looking layout, David. I would be interested in reviewing your overall track layout. Do you have something you can share?

  15. Alastir, have been collecting my train equipment for over 30 years and just now getting down to doing something with it. Your site has given me a wealth of ideas! David, your mountains are most interesting and how you incorporated the bridge work has inspired me to give it a try! Thanks for the tip on the balsa wood

  16. At a loss for words. Incredible skill Dave, just beautiful!!

  17. Only the Rolling Stock category is highlighted where I can click and it takes me to that link. All others do not function. They all worked a few weeks ago.

  18. Another great looking layout from David, is it N scale? It looks very big, hard to get an idea how big from pics, more pics please if you can, with wider views. Once again the rocks/mountains look stunning. Mike

  19. The stone/rock work done for mountains is of course extremely well done but what really sets it off is the very realistic use of trees on the mountains. This looks real.

    Also, the brick work for the stone archway bridges and supports is really well done.

    Very impressive layout!

  20. Judging by the photos, the layout looks huge. Extremely well done. Fantastic detail. I would imagine this is an HO scale layout. What is the size of the layout?
    Keep up the amazing work.
    Robert from Winnipeg, Canada.

  21. All I can say is wow! Remarkable realism!

  22. Great layout! The scenery is among the two or three best I have ever seen.

  23. That is a very nice layout David. The “cheat sheet” works in seattle wa AL

  24. David Never seen anything quite it. It’s my dream layout. Enjoy all your hard work and thank you for sharing.

  25. These are by far the best pics I have seen on this site. This is not to say that the rest were not good. All the submittals are very good. But these are great. The detail is awesome. I think the shot of the yard with the long look down the track and the detail of the mountains and the scenery is just fantastic. David, you should be very proud of your work. Thank you for sharing.

  26. WOW!!!! One of the best I’ve seen.
    Just marvelous. Which I could build such scenery.

  27. Superb scenery work! What is the size of your layout, and is it in HO or N scale.

  28. Amazing Mountains! Overall track out?

    I work on HO scale trians becasue I like the beauthy of it and it calms me so I don’t strangle my kids, wife and the dog in that order! …… Just kidding, maby be not! Dale

  29. I don’t usually comment since all of the pics on this site are great. These are awesome! The “stonework” on the bridges and the rock walls are as realistic As I have seen anywhere. Great job!

  30. cheat sheet works for me ok

  31. David,
    Your layout is outstanding–very real looking–nothing in it looks artificial.
    Love how the aging of the brickwork came out. Great Job. Show us more.
    Tried your Cheat Sheet link and it worked fine from my Macbook Pro/Safari portal.

  32. David, I have one word: WOW!

  33. David, Super, this is beyond my wildest dreams.

  34. Fantastic! If ever a layout begged for a video – including a miniature on-board video-cam, this is the one!!! Thanks David.

  35. Exceptional scenery and layout. I was just wondering the size of the layout and if it’s possible to get an overhead pic or would you need a helicopter to be able to get it all in one shot! LOL!

    Tommy B

  36. Hi robert coe .That is the reason for me building my own homes and such.Make signal lights work when they didn’t at first and was only a static model.You don’t realize how fast and how much you payed out for stuff till the end.I guess plastic houses isn’t what I like as they look so plastic.I bought a bungalow while back and didn’t like the color or how it was formed.I payed more for that plastic model than what it cost me to build my own.Not to mention I payed $12 just for the shipping cost to me.So in all I payed out $20 for a plastic multicolored house.If you need a bunch wow going to cost lots.Each home I built has cost me next to nothing as most of it is scrap.I like the cardboard cut outs but find they don’t have any open doors windows.If Al don’t mind I can send in a few designs ive done.I also done my own traffic signal lights from old telescoping antenna’s and credit cards and tie wraps.Cost price of leds.I don’t mind if Al gives out my email address to those who would like more info on building stuff.I will send them a how to.I regularly send to others who wanted more detail and info.I send to Al and am thankful for him publishing what I build.Thanks Al

  37. I don’t think you need a shrink to explain why one models railroads! It’s just FUN. Great layout…

  38. very impressive mountains.Great job!!
    Joe P. fromgraytown Ohio

  39. well done, i love the mountains,they look so real,i also think the scenery is the best iv seen for a long time.

  40. Fantastic sample of a model rr. Great artistic ability. If I didn’t know it was a model rr layout the photos could fool a person to think they were looking at the real thing. Great work!

  41. nice layout and the detail work on especially the bridges is brilliant!

  42. What a wonderful layout and great pictures! Thanks for sharing these on this site..

  43. Thanks for all the great comments about my layout. It’s N gauge. The size of it is hard to estimate because it is not quite a rectangle room. I would say that overall it is about 12×6 +, about 74 square feet.

  44. Fantastic layout! So I have been collecting locos for some time but never had a layout (everything is in a display case). Finally I have just finished a house renovation and I have space for my first layout but I have no idea where to get plans for the area I have. Can anyone guide me as to where I might find some inspiration?

  45. Link worked for me, went to both Rolling Stock and Locomotives no problem.

    Beautiful layout David! I love the scenery! If you could find a way to send in a video tour of your layout that would be amazing!

  46. brillant layout n1 dave

  47. keep it up a video be real nice

  48. Spectacular Views,Very well done great show David all the best.

  49. Hi David, What a great looking layout, it is truly inspiring to see the work you’ve put into getting it right, I hope your enjoying the seeds of your labor now that you’ve returned to the hobby again.

    Hi Al, I had no trouble following the “Cheat Sheets Link” it took me straight there, I even tried a few of the “Sub Links from the Home Page of the “Cheat Sheet” and they worked fine also. Thanks for all your work in supplying this newsletter I truely enjoy it.

    Stemar (Downunder)

  50. Fantastic mountains.
    Thanks for the idea of making brick-like panels.

  51. Amazing, strictly amazing. What scale is it? I was wondering though, Is this an outdoor layout? Looks very big and some areas would seem to be difficult to reach if indoors and one were to have a derailment between the mountains. but very good job on the rock formations and on the brick bridges.
    My layout is HO and still in the designing on paper stages but with winter approaching I hope to have something started soon to show everyone. It will have mountains and bridges so your pics here gave me some great ideas. Thanks.

  52. Wow! Spectacular layout of my home country. Just kidding I am American but my ancestry is from Switzerland. Canton of Appenzell. Your layout is very very good, I really love the viaducts and the mountain passes. Great work on the detailing a truly admiral job well done and should be admired! Could you provide some sort of dimensional information, a video and a aerial shot of some sort? This is truly inspiring workmanship! Well done! Thank you for sharing it!

  53. 1st Real nice layout from david. Would like to see some overall shots
    2nd cheat sheet stuck at n scale secenery refreshed screen loaded fine windows 7

  54. Nothing short of outstanding! A pleasure to look at and thanks for sharing!

  55. Absolutely spectacular, very talented. Cheat sheet works fine.

  56. Amazing rock features and realism.
    @ John Fuller. Try looking at South Africa as they store rolling stock in similar and even more bizare places.

  57. WOW! I am truly inspired by your fantastic modelling of mountain scenery. I will now ‘try’ to emulate your skill; but, somehow, I must first get beyond my own ‘holy cow, whatta layout’ reaction.

  58. Fabulous mountains, real scale, so rare to see in a model. If anyone’s going that way I can recommend a visit to Miniaturwunderland in Hamburg, how did they do justice to the Alps? Knocked through to the next floor of course!

  59. I had assumed the layout was O or at least HO based on the level of detail. Knowing it’s N scale makes it one of the best I have seen. You have a real talent for design and construction and attention to detail.

  60. Really great layout, love the mountains, cheat sheet works well

  61. Cheat sheet works OK for me too
    Keep up the good work


  62. Hi David, excellent job with the creation of the mountain scenes.

    And as a psychologist myself, I can tell you that there are endless interpretations that can be made of any piece of behavior. But that aside, your mountain-scapes have a somewhat eerie other worldly quality with the sharp contrast between the desert-like barren element and verdant vegetation; a setting that not for the trains is void of the pulse of humanity; especially enhanced by being drapped in the shadowy lighting . It creates a dream-like environment. Very artistic; what does it say about your personality?

    Keep up the artistic in you!

  63. An absolutely stunning piece of handi-work. We should all be working towards that kind of commitment and craft.

  64. Great work it does look authentic of the N&W in coal country just need a long string of hoppers behind that class A loco to look like the Va and WVA mountain lines they served .

  65. Stunning is the word that describes this layout. The use of scenery to make this work come alive is awesome. You should be VERY proud. I am modeling the Virginia & Truckee at my home in Lake Tahoe. I am blessed to have the space to create 3600 sq. feet to model it in. My only hope is that I can make my layout half as impressive as yours certainly is. I would love to see more of this layout.


  67. Real nice with beautifully done scenery.

  68. The best ever.

  69. This is the best I have seen. I just came back from a train trip across the Andes in Peru, from Lima to Huancayo, crossing a 15,200 feet above sea level, and this scenery that David is showing reminded me to the Andean scenery…..so much.

    Great job. Would love to see a video of the trains running and would like to know how big the display is.

  70. Wow what a great layout, I’ve never seen a layout with so much rock before & those bridges are so realistic, a real one off it’s a credit to you.
    Regards, Dave.

  71. Hi Al,
    Ebay cheat sheet works fine for me here in Dorset, UK

  72. Aside from God’s own work, I doubt that I have ever seen better mountain views. The use of lighting and resultant shadows is remarkable. I, too, am speechless. Wow! What amazing talent.!
    Note: The eBay cheat sheet loaded just fine here in the Midwestern U.S.

  73. I am a beginner in modeling, and I thought that I had a bit of patience, but I did not realize just how little I know when I see layouts like Davids.
    I am always looking for how to do items, as I am fairly stupid when it comes to modeling. although it is a wonderful past time.
    Thanks to Alastair for his great site, have collected every item he has put up. keep up the good work people, and have a great day.
    South Australia.

  74. These guys have an ability that you don’t learn overnight, that’s if you can even ‘LEARN’ that. I have started really late in my life trying to figure -What’s next- in my layout, by the way I’m 73 and past my sell by date in terms of health. I have built loads of buildings, have loads of tracks and turnouts of every type, plus 36 Locos of my particular liking, but all of that doesn’t make a me a layout, I have to figure ‘where do I place the Loco sheds? and where does the coal loading buildings go. I have all of these questions and more to figure, and never thought it would be so complicated. I want it to be perfect because I have a purpose for all of this, so have purchased books on my subject and followed this internet page, I will get there, but have I enough time left? I Hope so!!

  75. This layout is just awesome, it must have taken ages to get it done right

    Well Done

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>