John’s first layout

“Goodday Alastair.

My name is John Bakker and after looking at your tips and Dave’s layout photos , I was feeling confident enough to give it a go myself.

I actually had to build a shed first and sectioned a 6 metre area for the layout. Constructed a frame , topped it with orange-tongue flooring, designed the track layout , scenery , build the buildings etc. I had a lot of fun doing it as I am a recent retiree.

As I am nearing the completion I thought I would send you some photos of my work to see what your thoughts are. If you like what I have done I can send you some more photos including some of the trains I have which are mainly steam era.

I have a total of six trains , all DCC and three with sound. As you can see in one of the photos the trains are parked in a shunting yard where I can select the train I want to run, or as I did yesterday , had four trains running at once. I pay a lot of attention to detail, as you may have noticed. I made some of the trees myself, and a section of rock wall next to coal yard is real slate.

Thanks again for your advice photos etc.












“Hi Al , just about done those changes , this is the latest update …extra line added around the small station , and a village pond now added .



A big thanks to John and Dave. And if they’ve left you feeling inspired, this will get you off the side lines



67 Responses to John’s first layout

  1. Great layout John. Good to see an Ausie flavour. Where did you get those great background pictures?

  2. Congratulations on such a fine effort. It’s quite admirable and an encouragement for all those who haven’t yet dared make the step.
    I am currently – slowly – embarking on my first “retirement layout” – not worth a photo yet – and the lesson remains the same as it was with my first and previous layouts of many moons ago: take your time, don’t rush things, keept it simple, don’t be overambitious – things can very quickly run out of hand (just imagine what the maintenance of a very large layout and a fleet of engines and rolling stock involves). And has John has done, produce a layout that combines realism with atmosphere. Well done!

  3. Love John’s depth in his layout – and the Aussie flag in what seems like a mixed-country layout!

  4. Excellent work, John! I too am interested in the background pictures,if you painted them your self,can I hire you? Ha! Great job!!

  5. Looks great to me. Well done to you.

  6. Great layout. Love it. Currently on my fourth layout now, this one being a hollow square layout and so far I am impressed with it. One of the 4 X 8 foot 3/4 inch sheets of plywood is my railyard nine tracks wide with larger commercial buildings behind. Got three tracks going around, one passenger and two tracks for freight. Love model railroading.

  7. Excellent senics and track plan. I see industries and passenger stations. I like the (to be continued-under construction area) photo. Great posibilities in the whole layout design. Keep it going, John!
    Don Wick
    West Bend, WI USA

  8. What a great layout you have created! I especially love the backdrop. I am into my sixth layout and hope it turns out as well! BRAVO!

  9. Simply stunning John.

    I have just started my first layout in N gauge on a layout that is 22′ long and 13′ wide. It will take me quite a while to get it anywhere near as fabulous as yours is.

    I was just wondering…….I’m an Aussie and if you don’t live too far away could you……No. :)

  10. very nice layout. I really like the back ground and the rocks that you have made. over all great layout/

  11. Great layout.

  12. A true insperation to us novice starters here! Great detail is putting it mildly! Working on my true love hobby just like you, retired in 2008 and my 4 x 8 layout is growing. Sharing it with my 2yr old Grand Son has been a real joy! Keep on working and posting photos, gives us out here some real perspective of what can be accomplished!
    Skip Kerr
    Brunswick Ohio USA

  13. Well done Dave,look forward to your up dates.

  14. Love John’s layout and, especially, the little scenes and the back drop. Dave’s little pond scene is a very nice addition to his remake of the area. It has given me even more incentive to get going on my second, larger, layout. Thanks, guys.

  15. Good Job!

  16. Well done John , that is a nice layout you have built and a good manageable size ..well Done …From Dave

  17. Great layout John, I can almost smell the tar-laced ties[sleepers] on a hot summers day. The background scenes are great; you have really caught the atmosphere of a country setting. Best Wishes, Mike Hooper,Ottawa, Canada

  18. Alastair, there is a way to code the photographs so that they can not be taken from your site. I have forgotten what the code is as I haven’t used it for many years, but I’m sure it is out there available for use. Good luck. TJ.

  19. I object to your negative connotation re: “cowboys”. The Cowboy is an icon
    of the old west (U.S.) standing for independence, hard work, and high moral
    values (i.e. John Wayne-type characters). I admit that not all lived up to the “standard”, but those were “rustlers”, “cut-throats”, “bandits” and other
    “bad guys”. Truly sorry that you have been plagued by “rip-off” artists.
    Great layouts, advice, etc. as always. Thanks.

  20. Your opening comments are very disturbing and disheartening. My heart, and my anger goes out to both of you. This website brings a wealth of information, tips, tricks, how to’s, and cost saving ideas, given freely by the contributors in a very neat and understanding fashion. Your efforts in bringing it to all of us are quite simply altruistic, with an obvious love for the hobby, crossing oceans around the world.
    The lack of respect for people’s intellectual property by stealing that information, and then distributing it for ANY purpose beyond advancement of the hobby, is scurrilous, underhanded, and, in many respects, illegal…at least in the USA! Especially if it is used for ridicule or commercial advancement in any form.
    As a member of the legal profession for over 30 years, I find myself ashamed and embarrassed by members of this hobby who would do such a nefarious and deleterious act. I, for one, will be on the lookout for anyone abusing the privilege of using this site, and will dutifully report any misuse back to you, and, wherever possible, will take steps to insure that it stops instantly, one act at a time.
    My heartfelt thanks to you, and all the wonderful contributors for their contributions, and sincerely hope that you will all continue.
    I end by saying, c’mon guys let’s all play nice in the sandbox.

    Joe Kincaid

  21. Nice, don’t forget weathering, That’s what makes it not look like a kids toy.

  22. Great looking railway, good detail – is it 8×4 or bigger? – would love to see a track plan.
    Sad to hear about the rip-offs. Would be upset if it caused you to abandon as there are always great tips from your emails.
    Keep up the good work!

  23. Yes John a great effort looking great

  24. Great layout John, can’t believe it’s your first.
    I too am sorry you have been ripped off Al. I concur with Joe Kincaid, there are some evil people out there. Keep on shunting!

  25. Great work all the more as it is your first lay-out!!!

    Make it a little dirtier to make it look even more realistic and impressive.
    Not talking about weathering your rolling stock… keep that for later as it is pretty hard to make it look good. Start with scenery first. Ballast, greenery, buildings…

    Keep going and enjoy :-)

  26. Good stuff, Alastair but sorry to learn about the abuse of your site and hope it does not recur. Having pasted up a set just this week I can advise John’s backscenes came from International Models “Hills & Dales” series. When you Google International Models Backscenes you should note the 206 and 207 series actually come from the same set of originals, adjusted as to perspective, so watch out you don’t duplicate obvious skylines & other features in conspicuous locations if you need 40 ft in total.. I mounted the sheets on Masonite panels (a 3/16 inch hardboard shiny on one side), which can be bent, jammed between a workbench and a heavy chair and the curved middle portion dunked in water for a couple of days, curved corners being a lot more attractive than squared ones. The curved, dried Masonite shiny side was then primed. The backscenes are printed on heavy paper, as opposed to typical wallpaper and not being able to obtain in Canada the paste mentioned on the website I used Sherwin Williams 785. I found the paste dried too quickly as the sheets were being adjusted and a sloppier paste would have been better. I’m pleased with the result but with all the glorious countryside in Britain I would have thought it should be possible to photograph several hundred non-repetitive feet of backscene from several areas, printing them as required. I’m a Sussex South Downs fan and felt “Hills & Dales” was as close as I could get. If I could get over there with my camera I would! International Models seems to have the longest sets but for shorter layouts, take a look at Gaugemaster. Cheers. Michael

  27. First layout?? Brilliant!! I’m going back to the drawing board!!

  28. I tip my hat to you John, a job well done …. I can’t wait to see more. Maybe a video to both see and hear more.

    There is a right and wrong way for everything we do. Some people for what purpose choose the wrong way. That makes it tough for those doing what is right. Your steps hopefully will end this stealing, I sure hope so. Keep the vigil!
    I was asked by my Son … why do they do these things … how can we defeat them? By not being like them.

    Thanks, Alastair for everything, you will prevail!!!

    very best regards,


  29. what a great way to get into this hobby by building the train shed first. i built my shed to take the wifes car and my layout. nice layout more photos are needed. the update Dave is great. i need to go to the shed and do more on my layout. Very sad to here what some people are doing to your site Al i hope you catch them .

  30. I hope my first layout is half as good. like the Flag – It is the best flag in the world !!! You can guess where I come from John B

  31. John, Fantastic effort ,especially for a first layout. Well done. Jon, Canberra Aust.

  32. Hi Al and fellow followers,

    Has anyone used the Heljan DCC Turntable and what comments doo you have. I am only starting out after retirement.
    I enjoy the tips and layouts.

    John B

  33. Al,

    I know how you feel mate.

    Someone recently hacked into my computer sent emails to my freinds and contacts. it caused a lot of mischief. An email to watchout for is called keeping up with the kemplars. Don’t open it just spam it if you see it.

    I send my pictures to other sites, but only as a joint email,

  34. This is the very first time that I have made a comment. I should like to echo the sentiments of those who have decried the behaviour of some deeply unpleasant people.


    I greatly appreciate this site and enjoy all the tips, advice and, most of all, inspiration that it provides.

    I am hoping to start my first layout when finally we return home and have a permanent base.

    All power to you and confusion to your enemies!

  35. Very impressive layout for your first attempt John. Keep up the good work

  36. That’s a first layout? Oh my goodness. Congratulations on a wonderful layout.

  37. John, you have done a great job in integrating your backdrop; I cannot see where the layout ends and the backdrop begins! Thanks Dave for your updates and your track camera shots – more please – just love sitting back and watching the passing views!
    Al, I have also been hacked recently on my yahoo mail (for the third time!) I have now changed to Gmail. I did send you a seperate message, but it seems you did not see it. Please advise how we can notify you of contact changes etc. All the best and good luck with the “Bandits”!

  38. Just wanted to add my admiration on your first layout John. Absolutely fantastic achievement for a first time out. Loved every thing about it. You really have a talent for detail.

  39. Background and foreground blend beautifully!!!

  40. What a great first effort. You should have alot fun with that. and since you went to the trouble of building a proper setting you can build anew when the time comes.

  41. As a seemingly fellow “novice” my only comment is – you don’t need any help!!!! You have done one fabulous job!!!! Only hope my first shot turns out anywhere close. Best regards.

  42. An awesome setup!

  43. very impressive, everything blends in so well and the background is just wonderful. excellent work

  44. Al tell Alick to ignore the rude comments his is a great layout and they are only jealous.

  45. ou have good reason to feel very proud for many reasons. You had to make so, so many hard choices and decisions in creating electrical, landscapes, track and building decisions to have it all come together in harmony–or at least appear so! And it does!!! Fantastic job. Cincinnati, OH

  46. So lovely to see, and reading the comments to keep things simple and not to cram everything in.
    We are now close to the Blubell railway and visited on a model weekend, yes the simple layouts were remembered.
    Sadly missed the Exeter shows this year now we have moved from EX2!!!

    David and modeling daughter Katie.

  47. Great Layout! Keep up the good work!!!

  48. I don’t have a reply but a question. I want to try and build a military setting with military trains. do you have any good sites to purchase military trains.

  49. This message is for JOHN. Just as others have said , you have a great layout. I especially like the ERIE Decapod steam engine # 2464. I model the ERIE & EL, & CNJ = Jersey Central. Keep up the nice work John
    DON J in the USA Raleigh, North Carolina

  50. Very well done outfit ! love it. I too have small N scale layout with 2 trains running in opposite direction. now I wish to construct a bigger one with all DCC controls with number of features, like running &stopping light on & off, whistling, signals & turnouts working in synchronized manner, level crossings, house lights, water fall,
    With ACCESORIES like, fire engines working, working signage, welder on duty, shunting yard(operational with timer) any many more.

    GOPAL Daga
    Calcutta, INDIA

  51. I greatly appreciate this site and enjoy all the tips, advice and, most of all, inspiration that it provides.

  52. The Erie 2464 Locomotive is it a “Decapod”? If so what scale and where did you get it?
    The Decapod was the largest locomotive of its time. Baldwin made a bunch of them for Russia but the order was canceled and they were used in the US. #950 was used to haul iron ore to the ore docks in Ashland Wisconsin.

  53. I have had a layout for over three years it has been rebuilt three times it is a fall tipe seen in the us I have a big boy a sd70ace 2 gp35-2 and a sd45 and a alco.
    0-4-0 Pennsylvania steemer

  54. I like this site it’s informative it awesome

  55. Very impressive! My wife and I have decided to build one of our own. Although we know absolutely nothing about them, after seeing what you have done makes me extremely excited and motivated to get started. If you have any advice on a good starter kit and what to look for I would like to hear from you.

  56. I can’t believe what I see for a first attempt. I started mine in 1972… too large for a first attempt. Still not running and nowhere near finished. When you come to Milwaukee, stop by to give me a finishing hand. Great work.


  57. Hello, I have some HO trains, cars for sales if your interested they are about 40 years old and still in the boxes in good condition

  58. John the world of trains has changed soo much since i was a kid. I really appreciate the help you have given me over the last few weeks. In the last 2 months from knowing nothing i feel that i have come a long way thanks from this forum and trial and Frustrating error. I must say your layout looks like your in Train Heaven you have a lot of knowledge and it shows. To bad we didnt live closer🚂 Thank you again pete 🛤

  59. A great layout. Well done

  60. Great stuff!

  61. I am new to model trains. I have planned a track around the wall of my bar and man cave. This will be about 12″ from the ceiling and attached to the wall. Any ideas or help would be appreciated.
    Thanks Jojo

  62. I did not know I was joining a unofficial large group of recent retirees who take up model railroading. At age 72 and working since age 14 I am exploring new territory. I have an original box American Flyer received in 1947 for Christmas. Worked with reluctance within the last 20 years. I want to make it part of my new layout – HO I have decided on because of cost and availability and size. My first question is how to add track to my original American Flyer-size? and how to get running again – only thing missing is transformer and track connection.

    I am looking for help as I take my first steps. I have worked out room for a 38″ x 80 ” layout using a hollow core door – large size. I am taking over part of the garage to my wife’s dismay. Have read many books and done a lot of planning.

  63. A great way it is, keep up your work.
    Lou G. Bray

  64. looking forward to see whats up —– have a n-sale layout already but always looking for ways to make it better running and better looking —– i am kind of old school work with just the basics —– blocks ( about 50 ) on d.c. only ———– very low finances —— if / since your free i am interested to hear from you and your company from time to time .—— or as thing’s come up and change in the future with new things —– mike

  65. Hi, John,
    Very impressive, if fact I have “O” knowledge about setting up model trains. Recently I had these desire to get involve in Model Trains, since then been actively looking in the nets for ideas and details. I am interested in HO Scale Models and a simple 10’x6′ layout with DCC system. Need some advise.

  66. Yes, awesome! I too wonder where to get the background scenery, JPW

  67. I’m having trouble getting my train to run. It’s my first layout. Don’t kmow where to start looking. Anyone have any ideas? Johns layout is me in a new emai as I’m not computer savvy.

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