Ian’s coal mine layout

“Hi Alistair,

I really appreciate your emails. I am an ex scale aeromodeller and just starting in model railroading and loving the learning curve. Please keep them coming as the tips are a great help.

I only have a small “L” shaped area for my layout. Approx. 3.5 mtrs X 2.4 mtrs and around 750mm deep. It will be a coal mining theme with around two to three elevated tracks. The scale is O (on30) so if you have any track plans for something like that I would really appreciate it if you could email them to me.

Attached is roughly of an area which gives you an idea of the theme.

Kind regards


(Image is clickable)

“Gday from Aus! Have recently worked with a carpet & vinyl floor layer- lots of ideas!!

The thick large cardboard tubes in carpet & vinyl rolls would make excellent tunnels.

Off-cuts of sheet vinyl would make excellent underlay for track- nearly 3mm thick,sound proofing,cut easily with a stanley knife to any shape required, & come in grey & black “slate” patterns.

Vinyl tiles would make excellent pavers,/ platforms. The “blotchy” grey ones would only need white paint edges, & pavers drawn onto them with thin black pen/ink/texta. Again ,they score & snap easily.

But what caught my attention is the “feather finish” grout they smear over timber/concrete floors before tiling. It is a dark grey colour, so I thought of rock faces, or block walling.(scribe before dry) >tunnel mouths,retaining walls,concrete etc Bit of trial & error on scrap ,card, mdf,>steel finish, spounge, sanded,gouged etc . No prep, just add water!!

One more. Fibro sheeting is made up of layers. Snapped between fingers, it gives a pretty convincing sedimentary/shale rock effect,as the layers break in staggered random arrays. Chisel or knife would expose more or less to suit.

All of these items can be found in scrap/skip bins on site or in industrial areas.

Happy scavenging, deano (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure)


“Hi Al,

I have been working on the layout and making good progress. It is disappointing to me, but I do not have trains running yet. In this video, I have built the raised platform for the tracks and station on Shell Hill. I have also laid in the 2% inclines, cut the track to fit and I am ready to glue down and plaster the inclines.

I am hopeful that this expansion will improve greatly the performance of the trains. It was difficult bringing my self to rip out the old scenery. I paused for a few days until I was used to the idea and ready to do it. I had spent considerable time creating it once upon a time. I hope your readers enjoy this video.

All the best,


Latest ‘ebay cheat sheet’ is here

And lastly, I’ve found out there were gremlins about the other week. You may have missed this post here.



15 Responses to Ian’s coal mine layout

  1. Hi
    I have been lokin for that kind of locomotive and wagons for HO for a long time.
    Does anybody know where to get some?

  2. Fibro sheeting contains asbestos. Not sure I’d want to use that product, especially in a small enclosed area.

  3. great looking layout. I thought for a few days I had lost being able to view the layouts Al sends to me as I did not receive any e-mails from him. Whew glad it hasn’t happened as I donnot have a way to reach him. As I said earlier great looking railroad ( the man that built my Z scale told me never use “model” railroad when speaking of my own or someone elses’, people know it is a model, pretty good advice, huh?). I too will agree with the comment about asbestos, I have been involved with it since being a child as the room that was built in the attic of the house we lived in in Norfolk,Va. had asbestos shingles on the outside and asbestos insulation in the attic. I also go around it while on active duty in the US Navy, Mar.,1967 to Mar., 1969 while aboard ship. And then again while in my trade, sheetmetal mechanic, when not in the shop fabricating but in the field installing ductwork and water/steam piping. I have been tested by the VA and have found some in my lungs and blood, oh well I’ve lived 66 years +. Guess I’ve overstayed my welcome time to go play with my “model” railroad. Keep up the good work.

  4. Nice video, Al. I really learned some things from it. Trying to finish the grandson’s layout and get busy on my larger one.
    Bonny aka Grannytoot

  5. Ian, many kudos on your mine scene. Wish those cars were available in N scale, but haven’t found any. Hope your truck driver is talented. He’s gonna have to make a couple K turns to get out of the pickle he’s in. That’s the finest mine scene I’ve viewed in quite a while, realistic, not too busy and totally beliveable. Had a lot of opportunity in SW Pennsylvania in the 50’s and 60’s to see similiar live scenes. Liv in New Mexico now and modeling N scale mining country circa 1900.

    Keep up the good work!
    Tom Pollok



  8. answer for Trond regarding locos.

    Trond these locos I will use are Bachmann ON30 scale. I think you can also get them in HO as well

  9. Love the detail. Being an old aeromodeler myself, I understand the detail required to build a safe, airworthy plane. That experience shows in the realism created in this mine layout. Great job!

  10. Ian, thanks for the info :)

  11. To Tom Pollock , those mine cars are available in N scale , I brought a set earlier this year on ebay , they were listed as HON3 , i hadn’t read the listing well enough when I bid and was looking for the ON30 mine cars .
    and am from W Pa

  12. Great mine layout Ian.
    I have a 2’x10′ yard on my n scale layout and I used vinyl as my underlayment.
    I found a scrap piece at a hardware store for really cheap and it was dark grey. Just unroll pace a few staples and you are ready to go. And unlike cork no painting was needed.

  13. A warning to Deano and anybody else thinking of using fibro sheeting for any purpose, don’t go near the stuff its dangerous. It’s totally banned in Australia and Deano if you know where there is some lying about call your council.

  14. Ian, I love the fact that you have decided on the On30 gauge. Bachmann has so many wonderful Spectrum locos and cars, as you can see in the photo of that Porter and ore cars. The weathering looks perfect. I’m sticking to 18″ radius, since my first Bachmann was a two-truck Shay (I was born in Ohio, and had to be loyal), and I have a 2-6-6-2 articulated Baldwin to consider. You can fit much more than I can if you go with the tiny engine and cars motif. Be careful when buying vehicles, because there are those who consider 1:43 scale to be compatible with O scale. But it’s 12% larger, and looks it. The truck in that photo looks just right. I have two Matchbox Models of Yesteryear in 1:48, and they are perfect. Also, if you don’t lay your own rails, don’t go with HO gauge track (it works perfectly with On30, but the ties (aka sleepers) are way too close together. PECO makes On30 track and switches that looks right.

    All the best,
    Ken in Fullerton, CA USA

  15. Excellent layout Ian and thankyou for your excellent video Farland. I look forward to everyone you produce.


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