One last throw of the dice

“Thanks for all the great info you provide, I Am looking to sell my entire layout, I have provided a few pics, It is very highly detailed, with Gargraves O Scale Phantohm Rail Track and Ross Switches, It is around 90% complete, But is approx. 14′ X 10′ in 1 section, could be moved with carefull planning, It is in a temperature controlled garage, I have tons of Extras to, Let me know what you think, Or if you need more pics to see if you want to show it,

Thanks so much


“I found a new source for plaster cloth. Walmart sells a 4″x180″ roll for
$6.49 It is called “Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth” and can be found in the kids section. If your local store doesn’t stock it you can get it shipped to your local store for “free”. Scenic Express product sells for about same price but shipping and handling is $8.00.


“The only tip i have at the moment is i have found station platforms seem to be very expensive. so what i use now a days is plasterboard. naturally depending on how big you want your station but they are easy to cut, manipulate and paint. i then use balsa wood on one edge and carve out the station side and brickwork on the outer side.


Now one last throw of the dice:

I have had far too many emails from folk saying they want to stay on the mailing list – but $20 for the ‘golden key‘ is beyond their reach.

I have been very moved by these mails (just have a look at some of them at the bottom of this post) and I can honestly say I’ve had sleepless nights over this.

So here’s one last throw of the dice. I have found an option with Paypal:

$1.49 a month keeps you on the list.

You will still get all my mails. But please bear in mind this:

It’s $1.49 a month, for 20 months. Then, just like the golden key, you get them for good.

This option is more expensive than the golden key because paypal charge me around $0.32 for every transaction, as well as 3.4% of the transaction amount. (I’m not making this up – look on their site).

And just so we’re clear, this subscription does NOT give you access to the ‘golden key’ – it just keeps you on the mailing list. Nothing else. You’ll still get my mails and posts like you have for the last few years or so.

At $1.49 a month I don’t think anyone can accuse me of being money grabbing.

I really can’t do more than this, please understand I can’t fund this site any longer.

You can subscribe, at $1.49 a month, for 20 months, by clicking on the button below (just so you know, you can unsubscribe at any time)

Sadly, I know $1.50 a month will still be out of reach for some people, because life’s like that.

Here’s what Keith said about my idea when I mailed him earlier in the week:

“As for $1.50 a month, it seems little enough but this month I’m negative five days into the month – I can’t help my wife’s truck blew its engine and I emptied my account getting the parts to fix it (I did some 1:1 scale modeling) – some will be afraid to make the commitment, not because it’s too high, but their margin is so thin. I know, railroading is a luxury – except for some it is how they keep their sanity.”

So here’s the final word so we can all get back to layouts (I shall not be mentioning this again).

If you bought the Golden Key, you have access to the archives and you’ll still get all the mails and posts.

If you subscribe above, you’ll still get all the mails and posts.

To everybody else, I’ll do what I can, when I can. But don’t hold your breath.

My next mailing will be the last to everyone – then I’ll crack on as planned.



“Thanks Al, it’s been brilliant. Think I’ll call it a day too, but I’ll send you stuff on my under-bed layout sometime; maybe even on the picture-rail layout I’ve put up in our Community Cafe (since Beeching closed the real thing!). Just in case you’re interested.

But yes, take the right steps when it’s all getting too much.

All Best, and thanks again,


“Thank you so much for all the inspirational effort and hard work you’ve put in over the years.

Unfortunatley I’ve just cahanged my occupation and subsequently finances have dropped, so looks like it’s the end of the line for myself.

I wish you all the best for the future & once again many thanks,


“sorry but I can not afford the golden key I will miss this site it is a very informative and helpful site so I will have to unsubscribe it will be deeply missed but will be looking forword to it again if things change all the best . will miss daves posting


“Al,e saying is that the emails will stop? Is that correct? If so sorry to hear that. I am disabled and on a fixed income so cannot afford the Golden Key. I’ve enjoyed your effort.



“Hi Al,

Regrets but I will not be taking up your Golden Key offer as I am now retired (but not retiring!).

Many thanks for all the past tips and videos.

All the best,


“Al.. I too wish I could afford to pay you for all you have done. I really do appreciate the effort you have put into this blog. I know I have gained lots of wisdom from the folks that post. You have to do what you have to do. dont apologize for not being able to continue making this free when it cost you money. I dont think you’re into it to make a living, just to have it pay for itself. Perhaps in the future I too will have enough extra to purchase the Key and continue. I will not delete any post I have, just in case I get the funds.


“yeh what a shame. This is interesting stuff.

I really look fwd to this blog and will miss it.

sorry but I cant’ afford the golden key either.

good luck and cheers!!


“I am in similar situation to Tator… on a fixed income and can’t see my way to afford golden key. I had to give up my model RR some time ago and have really enjoyed your contribution. I guess I’m still modeling from an arm chair though. Very often I sit a design new layouts, mostly in G scale, but a few in HO. I was most interested in John’s Inglenook. Lately I have been using my grandkids wooden trains to build various “puzzles” for them to solve and enjoy. Anyway, I’m going to miss your emails. Like David R. says: ignore the negatives. Focus on those who contribute, but know that there are some of us out there who really appreciated your efforts.

Most respectfully,


“Maybe one day in the future i will be able to sign on and continue to injoy the reads and the fun.


“So sad to bad i cant stay on i to am on a very low income do to breaking my neck but i thank you for all the time and effort that u have put into this great site. Have to say sure am glad i kept all the ones i have receaved over the years.

Thank you for the reads and the fun


“For Mr. A. Lee,

With me being disabled, unemployed and on General Assistance, I will miss your e-mails and access to your fabulous and helpful blog.

I agree with Mr. Paul Gewalt’s idea of passing on your e-mails to other members on your list for you. Some of your Golden Key members would be your master e-mailers for you and they in turn would mail out to members in their area and those members could re-mail to others in their area, again. It should help to cut down your cost and I for one, would be willing to do so in order to help.

If your Golden Key members are agreeable to this idea, I can be contacted by e-mail
(I am in the south bay area of San Francisco, California, U.S. of A.)

In the mean time, Please keep up the good work and I wish for you many more years of a successful web/blog site.

Thank you kindly,

Ms. Toni”

“Hi Al, Thank you so much for your web sit and all of the work that go’s in to making it. I have only been visiting it for about 9 months but have gained a lot of information from you and all of your subscribers, it has been a valuable tool for me so I am very sorry to loose it but I am a pensioner and do not have any money left over after paying all the bills for luxury’s but thank you again and good luck with it all


“Al,you have been wonderfull putting all of the information out to every one ,on a very limited budget so please cansel me out

Thank you John”

“Hi Al, unfortunately I fall into the same category as Rob Billing by living in South Africa where our rand is worth nothing against other currencies. Being a pensioner makes it even harder. As much as I would love to buy the “golden key”, it is way out of my budget.

I thank you for what you have done to date and appreciate all the effort that you have gone to in producing the fantastic, informative website that you have.

I also thank you for the postings of my layout progress as well as the photos of my model building and the feedback received from fellow modelers.

I wish you all the best for the future.


“Hi Al,

Unfortunately, i am going to be one of those you will not be mailing to in the future. I will miss the items you send. I have compiled a rather large file on all the different posts that i have received from you. I do however under stand. The fact that i live in South Africa where the Rand is of little or no use any more as compared to the Pound or should i say the Euro, I just can not afford to pay the price asked for on your “golden Key”. Its sad to see you go but then as i say i do understand. To you and those who will continue to receive your posts i will say all the best and happy modeling.


“I have loved your mailings and, as a beginner, have used many items in your mailings but, alas, my limited budget does not allow me to spend very much so I will miss this service. Thank you for all you have done.


“To whom it may concern:

Thought I would be formal about this seeing how you have become all about business and not about the hobby,I have been a faithful subscriber for 4 years, I cannot afford to purchase your golden key nor would I want to as a condition of receiving your post.

It is unfortunate that it has come to this, I really got a lot of good tips for my layout from your mails and will miss reading them. I have been on disability payments for the last 4 years and my model railway is all I have left in my life that brings me happiness,But with my current financial status I do not have the money to spend more than a few dollars here and there, so I find ways to do my scenery using reused household Items,coffee grounds for ballast,limb clippings for trees, so forth.


47 Responses to One last throw of the dice

  1. It would be lovely to see a track plan for this stunning layout!

  2. Allistar,

    Hope I spelled your name correctly. I am one-hand typing due to very recent shoulder surery. Your site is the best for model railroading tips. I am also in a fixed income & just eliminated some other cost to purchase your golden key offer. I look forward to each future edition of your tips. I wish that all could some way to afford your site. Please keep them coming.

    Thank you for all your efforts,

    Mike Luhouse
    The Outer Banks of North Carolina

  3. sorry to read of all the RR guys that are in dire straights . it part of getting older and being on limited income . Stuff we need keeps getting more expensie Milk this week went to $3.49 a gallon and a loaf of bread is $2.00 Thank God I have a pert time job cutting grass on a golf course . but it takes away from the RR . I have HO and O in the basement and a 7 1/2 inch track and train around the hose . Its starting to need a lot of ties replaced . enjoy this site and will miss it when gone Thanks for the memories .

  4. You can also go to They have plaster cloth 8″ x 180″ for 36.00 for 10 rolls. The stuff works better than Woodland scenics.

  5. Al,
    I can’t thank you enough for all you have done to provide inspiration and assistance to all that have been fortunate enough to receive your emails. Model Railroading has benefited from your efforts along with the tens of thousands (young and old alike) as a result. The harsh economic realities cited above represent the decline in many countries of disposable income. I am sure I speak for many when I say I understand and thank you very much for what you have done for this tremendous multi-generational hobby!
    My grandson and I personally benefited and I will continue to keep a link to your site on my website as long as possible.

  6. Al,
    Snapshots In Time: The S&G Railroad was written while we were building our layout. It can be seen here:
    This is the true story about my journey through time with my grandson. I am sure that everyone who has receives your emails will identify with our story.
    Best of everything life has to offer.
    Samy & Grandpa

  7. Hi Al, thought I had paid to stay alive, my memory is slipping, I want the Key,but obviously dont want to pay twice. If I have not paid please please ask , and I will send it by return. sorry for being a nuisance, best regards Roy

  8. Very sorry to see comments like Tators about being a business. I for one know that hobbies do cost money many time must be handled as a business. I see no problem in supporting you for the excellent material and work you have provided. I really don’t see the need for all of the negative comments. I am sure that many of the readers who are complaining about the $20 or $1.49 / month membership spend at least that much or more on junk food, beer, soft drinks, or even a small item for their layout per month. I am not saying that everyone could afford it, but I feel that most of the complainers are looking for a free ride and don’t appreciate what it takes to do what you do.. I for one will be joining under a different email account, and as I am sure that many others who enjoy this hobby would be more than happy to help someone else join, but only if we can be convinced that they really can not afford to join. This would be very hard to determine who really needs and enjoys this hobby but can’t afforded it. I see it so often where people take advantage of a good thing and runes it for others. Keep up the excellent work.

  9. Alastair
    I was able to purchase your key. I have a thought – to all of you who purchased the key, maybe some of us can sponsor one other person. I think I can. We could help you and some of our friends in the hobby. I don’t know how hard it would be to organize such a thing, but if it is possible, let me know. If any others out there who could sponsor one other member could let Alastair know, maybe he can figure out how to do it. Alastair, I know that this idea will put another burden on you in the short term but would be beneficial in the long run. I have a small Lionel layout I am working on in my hometown of Hastings, Michigan, USA. I am promoting a train show, the first in my small hometown. I would like to hear from those of you who purchased the key if you think you could help one other person do the same. Take care all and God Bless.

  10. Fantastic layout Mark

    Thanks guys for the tips

    Al, No guilt trips. No regrets. I surely appreciate all that you have given and all that have shared.
    What I have received from this site … I would not like to say how much it would have cost me to seek this information on my own. So thanks again Al for everything you have done to help me in the model railroading industry. I will still have fun with my railroad and many tips have been incorporated into what I am doing. This site has been a welcome surprise. Again, thanks Al, thanks for everything.

    Best wishes, best regards,


  11. Thanks, Mark, for the pics. It’s great to see someone
    else doing “O”. Great trestles/scenery!!

  12. Could you please tell me how much is the “golden key”,

    Thank You ,

  13. Al… thanks for all the posts. Was fun while it lasted but understand. Will miss seeing all the exceptional layouts. Always looked forward to seeing your name in my inbox.

    Best to you, and keep on chugging!

  14. I purchased the Golden Key and I do enjoy the emails and tips. I recently retired from the military and have just built a 16′ x 30′ building to begin my lif long dream of starting my layout. I have been collecting for 40 years and now I have the space to do it. As for thos who truly can’t afford the $20 Golden Key, I would be very willing to sponsor several people if they truly can’t afford $20 dollars.


    Mike (Rio Rabcho New Mexico)

  15. Keep in mind when you are asked what you want for Christmas or Birthday I use these as samples and it makes the giver happy to know they made you happy without breaking the bank.

    How do I subscribe to the $1.49 subscription to the best, informative, site ever?


  16. Love the layout! What is the asking price? And what else do you have for sale?

  17. Hi Al,
    I am with Tom on this, and thank you so much for your hard work and effort you deserve the dosh, however I don’t have any at this minute to hand out, As like so many others.
    If I win the lottery I will be back tail between my legs with my cash in hand and top you up
    until then Thank you for all your hard work and hope to see you on the flip side
    Paul Wilson
    p.s. god luck with your ventures in model railways

  18. Al, I’m sorry to hear about all the woes connected to your news letter. I think everybody must realize how costly it can be to put out such a news letter. It looks as if you might be loosing some of the contributors in the process. I will miss their input. I have learned a lot from them and their posts. I’m not sure if this will work, but some folks might try to go to the PAYPAL site. They have a bill me later feature that allows you to buy now and pay over six months, interest free, if you pay off the loan in six months. Seems like a lot of rigamarow for $20.00 but what the heck, it’s an option.I too am a pensioner and on a fixed income but would be willing to sponsor another rail fan to your site as suggested by Brad. Best of luck in the future and God Bless.

  19. Let’s look on the bright side – if we aren’t all sitting here at our computers reading this, we’re all going to get SO much more modelling done, aren’t we?

    Thanks for all the interest Al, best of luck for the future.


  20. Hi Al,

    My Rand is not worth a lot against the dollar and the pound, my pension is stretched enough already, so I can’t afford to keep up.

    However, thanks for everything so far, you and your contributers have been a big help.


  21. Mark please email me more pics of the layout for sale.
    Where are you located?
    Thanks Joe

  22. Al,
    When I reread that the Golden Key was only 20 bucks I reconsidered. Being disabled and on a fixed income I figured I actually could afford the purchase. It’s worth well more than that. Anyone can afford the $20 dollars. Especially now that you have the PayPal account set up. I say give up a pack of cigarettes or that daily fix of Starbuck’s until you pay. It’s a small price for a large enjoyment.

    Sacramento, California

  23. I’m not going to start this off as formally as “Tator,” who sounds to me has allowed himself to become a bitter, selfish person. We all have our problems. Deal with it the best way you can and stop laying a guilt trip on Al. I feel blessed and privileged to have been able to benefit from Al’s kindness and generosity. In my book, he’s got all of us beat to have been able and willing to keep giving and sharing all these years. I have managed to purchase the Golden Key and look forward to continuing to enjoy the site. So far, I have focused on building kits and some scratch stuff – and I have neither the money nor the space to set up an actual train layout. But if I ever do, it’s going to be a beaut by the look of all the buildings, scenery, people and vehicle I have amassed in a few short years! It’s unfortunate that everyone who’s enjoyed these posts all this time can’t continue doing so. But that’s not Al’s fault. Grow up! Al deserve’s better than some of the rude comments and sarcastic jabs he’s been handed. Don’t let them get to you, Al. You rock!! Gordon.

  24. Al, I think most of your readers just like myself are either retired or disabled or both and on a fixed low income from the government and cannot afford an added monthly expense. Some are worse off than others. I too will miss this very much as I just actually started building my HO layout after watching Dave’s videos and reading all of the tips in each issue for the past few years and now I’m on my own. Hopefully you can find a cheaper or a free way to keep it going later on and bring us all back but if not, It’s been a real slice, very informative and fun to watch and read. Good luck in your future endeavors. Kenny.

  25. I am with Brad….. I have enjoyed your emails, hints, tips,photos & videos. I have been more fortunate than some of the guys in the comments above and would like to do something to help. I would like to send you a gift for you to use as you see fit. A contact from you, Al, is all I need.

  26. Thank you Al for all your kindness, effort and sleepless nights (and personal cost) for making this web site. Please know that your hard work has helped many people enjoy this hobby even much more. Please never feel guilty for having to end this site. I am sure you held on much longer than you really should have and have endured much cost. You have given a part of your soul to many. You Al are a good man. Now go out and enjoy life. Spend time with the children, grandchildren (if any yet) and take your wife out to eat. May God Bless… W.H. Rehn, Wapakoneta, Ohio USA.

  27. Al, If you will send me 5 to 9 email addresses with the post, I will forward them so they can keep getting the posts. I would prefer US people. I wish I could do more.

    Edwin, A.

  28. Thank you most are right you do good work do keep it going we all knead all the help we can get as for payment bank to bank ? open account just for payment of gold key no pay pal cost better for all ? or credit card ? yes ? no ? I will pay you when I have the money for 1 or 2 as you wish and others may have the ability to do so and cheaper as well good fun for all and good luck Doug

  29. thanks again AL for all that you have done it has been a great site to get into. thanks to everyone who has put in with tips and photos they where great. hope to catch you again soon. Ian from Australia.

  30. Dear Sir,
    Could you please send me a e-mail, to tell me how much the G/key is in English money and how to pay for it.
    Thank You,


  32. Mark contact me about selling your layout.
    Thanks Joe

  33. You have to do what you have to do. We all know that NOTHING is free in this world. Someone is paying for it. Obamacare is an example. Thanks for everything and I would be willing to pay the buck and a half. Tim

  34. Thank You!

  35. Im in o guage also please show more, im just beginning we just moved here and new layout being planed…thanks

  36. i get your e-mail every night but don’t know about the golden key is or does. i too am on disability and facing going into a nursing home at the age of 57, but wouldn’t want to miss these emails. they help giving me a reason to live. so if you could explain to me what is entaailed i for one will try to pay in october when i get paid again

  37. Hi Al,
    Can you put the Golden Key link too in your last mail (tomorrow). I would like to do that instead a month thing.

  38. Hello Al… Love your site, tips, tricks, layouts, etc. I understand how a hobby can turn into an on-going financial burden. As I see it you are providing a top-notch service that takes time, effort, discipline, and your own money to keep the hobby railway community alive and kicking.

    I am a graphic designer and use mailing list software quite often and a number of varieties.

    I want to see if I can find you a solution to your electronic mailing conundrum.

    How many people are on your email list?


  39. Hi Al I will be sorry to see you go your emails have been the first emails I look at each morning. I have enjoyed each and everyone, a huge thank you to you and everyone that sent in pictures of their railroads and tips. I am another on a aged pension and hubby id on a disability pension.b so I to cannot afford the $20.00

  40. Thanks Al
    I have been inspired by all of your posts on here and the tips are great, thanks for all the hard work you have put into this site you have been an inspiration to a lot of people and I will miss these e mails, my own layout is shortly going to be started on but since we have moved into this house the loft conversion has been an expensive and ongoing project once completed then the layout will be started and some of your hints and tips will be brought into use
    Once again thanks and I will miss these e mails

  41. Wow Al, Never knew so many folks were that hard up…I would be able to sponsor some of these members if they shared their email addresses with us… Just forward them to my email address if that is possible…no strings, just a gesture from my good luck over the years… My O scale layout is near completion and I will share in the coming months… How do they afford an internet connection and a computer..??
    Best Wishes,
    John P Clayton, CA

  42. Hi AL,
    I have been on your list for at least a year saving each post. model railroading is/was on my bucket list. Your site, with everyone’s contributions, is very entertaining and informative, seems like I know Dave in the UK very well and I never met the man. It seems to me a site this good and with the number of followers you have you could sell advertising and/or get a sponsor or sponsors. I look at other nonrelated sites and the ads are as interesting as the site. I hate to see such devout followers have to be left out of a really good thing.

    Dave Riggs, Morris, Alabama USA

  43. I am not going to be able to afford the golden Key I also am on a fixed income and this site gave me much pleasure, sorry to see you go

  44. Hi Al. I’m retired too. Military and for real. Model trains has always been considered an expensive hobby, but – good grief! I can’ believe all these hard luck stories. $20 is out of reach? Sorry, that doesn’t wash.

    You have the right not to lose money providing these invaluable tips, and I for one consider the one time cost a bargain.

    One request. Put in a link to the search engine again so I can save it. Thanks, and I’m happy to be with you on this.


  45. Al I just paid for the Golden Key. A buck fifty a month comes out of my account, big deal. One less beer is worth giving up for a fun and useful sight like yours. I love reading about how you guys on the other side of the pond do it.
    Come on guys and girls dig in, lets help out. We will all miss the sight when its gone its the high light of my day. And I will have nothing but trash mail to read. Paul

  46. Another fantastic layout. Great thanks Steve

  47. Hi Al,
    I do thank you for the constant work you have put in to your blog site.
    I have been following for about 2 years now and have bought things from your cheat sheet site.
    If your site dissappears for those who can’t afford it, you might want to think about getting sponsorship from modelling shops etc. to be able to afford to run a free to subscriber site.
    Being in Australia (little old Adelaide) we are quite restricted for ideas and at the mersey of hobby shops for consumer products unless we go online to purchase items.
    Your posting clients give handy hints as to soursing products which will be missed.
    As I know this activity costs money and time to run, I apprciate why the move, however please give some concideration to the sponsorship idea, might get you some free trade and boost your income to run it.
    Thanks again for all your efforts and I know, as you are a modeller at hart, that you will be back on the free airwaves if you can.

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