Tim’s monster railway


I enjoy your newsletter and have been on the mail list for a few years.

I would like to share my 0-Gauge layout in the attached PDF with your subscribers. The PDF includes as-built track plan and progress photos.

The Joliet and Western Railway is a dual mainline basement size layout using Lionel FasTrack. The layout is approximately 29 feet x 34 feet with ~697 feet of track, 50 switches and 11 diamond crossings. The mainlines are ~283 feet each, the yard with receiving tracks & etc is 79 feet, and other sidings are 151 feet. A to be add helix will add another 75 or so feet to the total.

My design philosophy was ease of access for construction and operation; ability to run multiple long trains; yard operations not interfering with mainline trains; and some interesting operational scenarios.

As seen in the progress photos the Joliet and Western is now ready for wiring, then permanent affixing the track, followed by landscaping.

I have received comments from other model railroad forums, that the Joliet & Western maybe one of the largest privately owned Lionel FasTrack model railroads that those forum members have seen. And I would like to share the J&W with your list members.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Construction began in earnest 14 months ago with platform erection, but collecting and stockpiling of track, rolling stock, accessories, wiring, buildings, landscape supplies began 9 years ago with a Lionel Starter Set gift: “Neil Young’s Greendale Theme Train”.

What’s a Budget?

I have been a savvy purchaser of FasTrack, having maintain the FasTrack Vendor’s Price List in the Yahoo Fastrack Group, thereby had a thorough knowledge of competitive pricing and shipping policies of a dozen online vendors.

Over the years, I found purchasing in bulk boxes of track is very economical when funding allowed. Also, I purchase most items when only on sale or closeout. Such as when a hobby store chain in the Chicago area discontinued carry Lionel and model railroad accessories/supplies and everything was mark-down up to 70%, I went to 9 store locations in one day using a 40% off coupon at each location on top of the 70% discount. Or several years ago when on on-line vendor had remote switches on sale for $45 each. That was the big switch buy of 2009. And I have purchased direct from China for track signaling and street lighting. Then everything went into storage for the day when enough track was stockpiled to begin construction.

Fortunately, I have been the recipient of many much appreciated train/track/building gifts over the years. Such as the past Christmas when I received several hundreds of dollars in wiring, wire connectors and terminals. That’s a start to the wiring that began last night with making up 100+ female connector track power leads.

So the Budget has not been unreasonable when spread out over nearly 10 years.

Again thanks for you comments


Quite a project! Big thanks to Tim for sharing.

And if you can’t buy bulk like Tim, there’s always the ebay cheat sheet. Latest one is here.



108 Responses to Tim’s monster railway

  1. One word, WOW.

  2. Crikey Tim!
    I’m lost for words and really envious of your space and layout

  3. Now that is what i call a layout. THANKS FOR SHERING IT WITH US

  4. Impressive O gauge! wanna see the landscaping!!

  5. WELL,WELLisn,t that something? All the benchwork and then the track, wowie full marks for effort. And after this come the scenery ,I can,t wait so lets see some follow up Tim, all the very best from Bernard in Bewdley (home of the Severn Valley Railway)

  6. Great Job. I have never experienced seeing a basement that clean with no “stuff” in!!! Super layout.

  7. Struthe mate you could run daily excursion.s round that site great job mate

  8. that a good layout.it looks biger than ingland,good work

  9. OMG, the layout of my dreams. I see all kinds of landscaping in my head for this layout. Very cool, wish I had this kind of room.

  10. This is awesome, I wish I had that much

  11. I like large layouts! But where is the “attached PDF” ??

  12. I’ve seen the 3-rail tracks a lot and wondered about the polarity. Is the central rail ‘+’ and the outer ones ‘-‘? You could do loopbacks if so. Fantastic layout. If I had that space and used N, I could model the whole of Lancashire!

  13. i love your start !!!!! Please keep up the picture sharing, Tells a lot that words can not tell.

  14. I’m sorry. but I’vegot to say this. It looks too much like a train set to me, and not a model railwayHornby realised this when they did away with 3-rail track. It’s OK if thats what you want but, sorry, it’s not my cup of tea.

  15. My Lionel Oval from my youth pales in insignificance. Enjoy the realization of your dreams .. Share the experience w others.. WOW !

  16. AWESOME – What else can one say? I cannot wait to see the scenery ready.

  17. Tim,

    What a wonderful large model railroad … trust you are enjoying every step along the way and to the finished product. Of course never done?

    Please keep us posted on progress. As StJohn says, “Want to see the landscaping.”

    You will have to give maps out when you invite people in to see this RR. So they don’t get lost.

    What a wonderful railroad.

    warm regards,


  18. Nice! Plenty of room for those big O gauge consists…! ;>})
    I also noticed you put sound deadening board under the tracks, which is probably a very good idea because on a layout that size if the noisy plastic based Lionel Fastrack were directly laid onto plywood you would get a lot of noise from the running trains.

  19. What a fantastic project! And what an amazing thing to see a basement that size with nothing in it! I could probably construct something on that order if it weren’t for the washing machine, freezer, furnace, tv, luggage, Christmas decorations etc. etc, etc!

    Congratulations on a wonderful layout!

  20. Wait, I’m still trying to find my way back to the stairs…

    In a word, WOW! You’re doing a fantastic job. My only regret is that you’re not my best friend and next-door neighbor.

    Please share videos of the layout when you start running trains.

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Hey Tim: What a great job! I noticed two different color table tops– One that appears blue and the other that looks like pink. I have had people tell me to get “foam board” and/or “insulation board” for my own set. But, when i go to Home Depot and elsewhere the clerks haven’t a clue about what i am asking for. Is there a better name for these products? And, if you are, indeed, using 2 different products, can you tell me what each is used for?

    Thanks, Tom

  22. WOW. Tim, you seem to have some unused basement! Are you slacking off?
    I had a bunch of Lionel stuff as a child. The quality of those trains was wonderful. But looking at this layout, two things come to mind: I still cannot ignore the unrealistic center rail. And, can you imagine what you could do with this much space in HO?
    Please do not allow my personal preferences to in any way diminish what you have done and are doing, Tim. Between my vocation and avocations I have constructed many complicated things. I have an appreciation of what it takes to build what you have.
    May I be so bold as to make one suggestion? If I were you, before getting into scenery, I would either securely diagonal brace, or attach to the floor, each of those legs. You will have to crawl around under there a good bit to wire etc. And if you accidentally knock out a leg, you could cause a terrible amount of damage, which is the sort of thing that takes the wind out of my sails when I am deep in a project.
    Thanks for sharing your impressive layout. Ian Brown

  23. 2 words, Wow and envious!

  24. I hope you protect all of those crossovers. I’d hate to be the signal man ! What a superb set up.

  25. Only one word, Wow!

  26. Great layout Tim and thanks for sharing it with us. I liked your plan too which will give me ideas for my HO layout when I start construction soon in my 20 x 18 shed. I do agree with ian about the centre rail but that’s mer. If you have the capability it would be great to see a video of your layout operating. All the best with your scenery construction. Cheers Rossco

  27. Too cool for railroad school! Kudos!!!

  28. Brilliant lay-out man Very Envious But the one thing i would do before you get to much further along is close out the beams of the floor with sum sheet ply or something you will appreciate it as you get further into landscaping and scene your lay-out as it will save you a hell of a lot of track cleaning ect but all in all a Very Good Lay out

  29. WOW great layout Tim Could you add another 3 feet to make it a round 700 ft long lol. Great to see the pics when you add the spiral.

  30. At last, a person with a layout much larger than mine! I can show it to my wife and maybe she won’t think I’m crazy anymore! Great job! My layout is also O-gauge Lionel, but focused on old post war trains and track.

  31. Fantastic layout with lots more fun to come. Please keep us all informed as the project progresses. Thanks for posting, Cam

  32. I love it and I really love seeing the 3 rail system. Thats all I have and won’t change for anything. Great job.

  33. Terrific layout and impressive size. Had trouble reading the track plan. I noted 4 different colors but could not read the legend. Could you submit a larger track plan with the legend legible.

  34. Very impressive and patience to accomplish your mission. Congratulations.

  35. Very impressive Tim.
    Look forward to further updates. I am contemplating building a gauge 1 railway in the garage. I am presently constructing a garden railway to run electric and steam.
    Cant wait to see your scenery.

    Cheers, Chris in Australia

  36. Brilliant. Can’t wait for a video, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!


  37. When I grow up, I want to be like you! Very nice layout. Thomas Smith

  38. what a layout unbelievable amount of room there is going to be so much enjoyement over the next few years working on this project have fun send updates please.

  39. Awesome!

  40. Well now I know where all the switch track went haha, Dude that layout is too cool good job so far, can’t to see the finish product, keep us updated

  41. Very impressive. I have to admire anyone who goes to that extent with the very unrealistic 3 rail track. It obviously doesn’t bother you, so go for it.

  42. Lowe’s has the “Styrofoam insulation board” .5″ to 1″ thick 4’x8′ sheets.

  43. F*** me! I’m struggling with 9′ x 6′!
    And for the carpers: it IS a train set – like it or lump it, and I can only marvel at your expertise. Well done.

  44. Very impressive Tim,would love to see many more pictures as you move towards completion.
    Regards chuck

  45. WOW – mind boggling. Looks very professional.

  46. Awesome layout. maybe not someones cup of tea but great job non the less. post some vids when your finished… PLEASE!!!

  47. A marvelous effort, Tim. I will shortly submit photos of my O gauge layout on this site, which though more mountainous than yours, is not as large a footprint your layout You’re going to have a beautiful result to show for your efforts once the scenery is complete. My hat’s off to you for the work and planning so evident in your masterpiece.

  48. That is nice… would love to see a video with trains running now and when it’s finished… wow

  49. As a lapsed O gauge fan I can only stare in awesome admiration at the size and complexity of this layout. My poor old O gauge crowd have to wait until the sun shines to be set up on the back lawn.

  50. Tim, any chance you could nip over to Scotland for a weekend and build me one too? 😀


  51. You must make video! I would love to see these trains running!

  52. One word, AMAZING!

  53. WOW What a big one…

  54. LOL, brilliant! Reminds me irresistibly of The Addams Family, are you going to wire those magnificent bowstring bridges to blow up at the crucial moment! Those Lionel curves seen very sharp and sudden yet the length and layout and scale certainly gives it a “real railroad” feel, even with the third rail. Wishing you much joy of it!
    Oh, what’s the helix for, by the way? It seems to come back in at almost the same height it went out?

  55. Couldn’t it get any bigger? Nice, but still kind of limited. LOL

  56. Great looking layout. I agree with Greg Rebman and would love to see a larger track plan with a readable legend. I would love to investigate adapting your track plan to HO guage. Can’t wait to see progress pictures.
    Congratulations and cheers from Australia,

  57. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, that has to be the envy of every modeler alive. Beauuuuutiful layout, congrats!!!

  58. Fantastic layout very wee done to you.

  59. Fabulous! Can’t wait to see it running. Nice job!!!

  60. To Paul Re: track polarity – With 3 rail Lionel, it uses AC not DC. The Center rail is insulated from the ties with the two outside rails comon. Using AC, there are no problems with reverse loops with the polarity problem you would have with DC’s + and -.

  61. Well done Tim I wish I had a basement to do the same, cant wait to see the finished layout with scenery.

  62. Time, don’t over do it by adding too much. O is maybe the hardest scale
    to look right.Let the trains be the focal point, don’t loose the trains with
    the props on the layout.

  63. Where are you located? I live in northern cali and I’d give anything for a basement!

  64. Fantastic! That’s the beauty of a having a house in the States, big basement area for model train layouts. Keep up the good work.

  65. What a layout, is this set out in the basement of the White House, or a warehouse, cant wait to see finished product…probably in the year 3000

  66. Fantastic Tim, great layout and I love the bridge, well done. Peter the Mackem.

  67. impressed by size of layout and must be close on the biggest number of positive comments, very well done.

  68. I am being redundant like everyone else, WOW and Awesome!

  69. From what I’ve seen and read, THAT’S NOT a home layout, it’s a one man club!

  70. Oh to win the lottery !!!!! WOW !!

  71. Well done Tim. Fantastic layout, and thanks for the track plan. It does help to see how the whole thing fits together. Chris.

  72. Great looking layout, and in O gauge. A real credit to you.

  73. Super layout!! Waiting for video of the trains operating. Please do not forget us when you are complete.

  74. Tim –

    Ditto the comments above. I am old enough to remember when all it was (in the states) when 3 rail Lionel and 2 rail American Flyer were all you could get. Its always been a rivalry between the two.

    I would do something similar, but in N or Z. Then I would charge admission to pay for it!


  75. Wow Tim wonderful,Thanks .I am working on my o gauge lay out right now stopped and after seing your layout I will get back to work,As the comments to 2 rail vs, 3 rail it reminds me of Ford vs Chevy or vs Chyrsler ,a car guy argument that is still going on since High School . I am using post war Lionel ,MTH it reminds me of being a kid and I am 70

  76. Absolutely great layout, beautiful detail, great use of space.

  77. I have a two car garage which i am going to convert to at train yard. got your pdf but could not enlarge it to really study it. I have O gauge lionel post war stock and engines.Is there a way to get a larger print of your track plans? Wonderful layout and thanks.

  78. Beautiful!!

  79. That looks like a lot of fun! I’d never go upstairs 🙂

  80. Awesome effort
    Inspiring for me to get off my butt and do something to mine, though it’s not on any such grand a scale as that one

  81. I thought my 10 X 14 feet Lionel Fast Track layout was going to be big until I saw this. As others have already said, “WOW is the only word to describe you layout. Best of luck.

  82. I’m working in N scale on an 8 x 2.5 foot (US) shelf layout. It took me a year to purchase and lay the track. Wiring coming up. On a layout the size of Tim’s it would take me 50 years to get as far as he has. Congrats on a fantastic layout ! H.

  83. Oh my God!!!!!! What I could do with that much space.

  84. At last! Pictures from someone modelling in O gauge. And with Fastrack no less! What an outstanding layout. My wife and I just started into this hobby about 18 months ago. We’re also modelling in O gauge, with Fastrack and Lionel trains. Even with all the great info on this site, O gauge stuff is rare. It is great to see what someone can do with enough space, time and money. I am very much looking forward to your updates. Keep up the great work!
    As for the complainers about the third rail out there, GET OVER IT! This is a HOBBY, which means we can do it in any way it pleases us. It also means we are ALL playing with toy trains.
    Again, great work Tim!

  85. Amazing! To be able to do that in O gauge, and what we as kids called 027 (found out just recently that it was called that because the sets you would buy at the store had curved pieces that were a radius of 27inches). Sometimes I wished I hadn’t let my father talk me into trading in my Lionel 027 for a Revell HO set. All the cross-overs and such. Absolutely excellent design.

  86. TIM,
    WOW buddy….This is the layout of my dreams. I am an old modeler my favorite has always been O gauge Lionel from the 50’s and 60’s.
    You ave done a fantastic job.
    Cannot wait to see the many updates and Good Luck.
    Let nothing stand in your way.


  87. That space is bigger than my unit! Brilliant!


  88. Job well done Tim……thx much for sharing. Please keep us in mind as you finish each phase…..your work is interesting to say the least as you are in a large basement with plenty of wiggle room. Are you staying DC or going DCC? Wiring will be interesting if you can picture that also. Take care and “Keep on Training”.
    Looking forward to see more. Harold Jr. TX in USA

  89. Love your setup. I wouldn’t know where to start with something that big. The wife would through me out of the house if I tried that. I am in the middle of my O27 layout. My mother got me started in the early the 50’s and would add something new every Christmas. Well I retired a few years ago and dug the old stuff out. Three rail may not be as realistic as two rail but so what. It makes me happy and I know my mother is looking down at me and smiling.
    Looking forward to seeing more.
    Steve from Jersey

  90. Thank you Tim for showing us what an “O” gauge can be if you have the space.. Keep up the good work. I can see how easy it will be to wire with AC not DC.
    I can’t remember any shorting out problems as a boy as long as you use those insulated pins in switches as noted on the schematics and as supplied.
    There are just as many 3 rail train fans out there in our hobbyland, I am sure !!.
    We just don’t take the opportunity to publicize it. I hope this is a new beginning as there is room for both at Al’s A#1 site !!

    “Grandpa Trains” in Wisconsin

  91. I would strongly suggest you use some HD foam underlay under all those tracks as the fastback can become noisy with several trains running. The 1/8″ hardwood floor underlay will work and not be too expensive .
    WOW…best ever !
    I pray that you will have time to work on it often and for many years.
    Lionel trains last forever !

    Charlie Choo Choo

  92. Wow – to have that amount of space at ones disposal. I’m not jealous at all really. Great layout

  93. love your layout lots of tracks/trains/locos and your basement most be one huge train site good thing you can build what you want at any time make me jealous as no have that kind of space but still would love to run one outside in plex iglass 2 foot tubing but its the cash that I am short on and don’t want to go into the hole over a model dream I have I have most of the track to start all the locos that I want which is 50 and the small locos for switch gangs lol lots of box cars or rolling stock 350 pieces to date if not enough I am sure I can efford more it was not that that ate up the cash me not working and bad healht was the cause

  94. only wish I had this sort of room at my place

  95. Great layout! Having Lionel trains was for the rich kids. My parents were poor and could not afford to buy them for me, so I started delivering newspapers and saved up enough to buy a Fleishman HO deisel locomotive 63 years ago, which still runs on my layout. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Frank near Mickey Mouse, Florida

  96. WOW! When I lived in Connecticut I had a basement or an attic or both for my trains. But here in Florida I don’t have either! I use part of the garage and a small bedroom, Your layout would take up about half of my present dwelling. BUT ITS AWESOME! ANDY in high water table Florida

  97. I have just one question , how do you afford all the O gage rolling stock and track
    not alone all the other stuff to go with them ? I run N scale and have spent years collecting my junk to go with it before I even tried to start my first layout and it was only an 30″ X 8′ with one main and one siding and a lot of grass and trees made by hand , with a few buildings and very few people or cars and trucks .
    and had to fight my wife for ever to get any thing to put away for any thing bigger .

  98. Time is the requirement here. Slowly and dedication to detail is a “MUST”. You have achieved this and it is a treasure to gaze upon this feat. Enjoy your layout with your family and you will never have a moment to say I’m bored. Congratulations.

  99. GREAT job. I would have to live forever to complete such a project. 🙂
    Not sure about the three rails but with a layout this large I can not believe
    that DCC is not in your future. This alown would save time and money and allow
    Lots of trains running at one time….

    Sheldon. Phoenix 🇺🇸

  100. Tim, nice and massive layout. I too, sold my HO and American Flyer and went with O gauge. Probably should of stuck with HO due to accessibility of accessories. You can’t find any descent buildings, autos, so forth in O gauge. My wife had huge collection of Dept 56 Snow Village around the house at Christmas time and found the scale was close to O scale.
    I have a couple of questions? I am disappointed with the old type of switches. My engines and cars have problem going over the switches. Do you have similar problems with the FasTrack. Second question. I have 6 expensive engines and would like to upgrade them to Lionchief Plus so that I can run all my trains on my two main lines. Do you know anyone that has done this?
    Suggestion. My main lines are 200’ long so I ran a main power line down the middle of my layout using red wire for the positive (center rail) and black for the negative to the two outer rails. I tapped off every 25’ of track so that I don’t have a power drop. My engines run great. I bought the Woodland scenic foam to put between track and the plywood to deaden the sound.
    Can’t wait to see your video.

  101. Well now I’m impressed! Our club uses a 20’x50’ room for its three rail layout. My only question is are you going to run DCS or conventional on this impressive layout.

    P.S. Carpers need mot reply to Tim’s post as this is his choice of what to build and run, if you don’t like it the shut your pie hole, nobody cares.

  102. Tim- very nice thank you for sharing. Can you send me a pdf of the layout? Cant read dimensions and other details on the one in alastairs post.
    Thank you !

  103. Fantastic!
    However, I see some very tight curves there. Before you fix the track down, you might want to run some trains (especially long carriage consists) at desired speed to make sure they handle these curves. You might find they need larger radius curves.

  104. Wow Tim- thanks for sharing, can’t wait to see more as this project develops. Love the layout, looks like its built for great viewing. Is that a rocket launch pad? very cool, please do keep us updated. Cary in KY

  105. I would like to make one recommendation. Relocate the legs along the outside perimeter, move them in about 2 inches. As suggested above, add cross bracing. Your walkways are quite narrow in some areas, and it would be more comfortable if you allowed room for toes as you move close to the layout while someone passes by you.
    Judging by the extensive bracing on the outside curves, it appears you intend to close in the base with some kind of hard covering. Be sure you allow access to wiring underneath.
    If you want to satisfy the 3-rail comments, there is a compromise. I think the Micro Mark catalog offers a chemical for blackening/darkening metal. You could darken the center rail. It is a conductive coating.

    Have fun
    Carl in Kansas

  106. Holy Sheetsky, hope it doesn’t take another 10 years for scenery, I may not be here to see it, awesome!! My big project is to make a different scene under the Christmas tree every year !! Still a challenge, but I love doing it. Merry Christmas!

  107. For sound deadening rather than using thicker blue or pink foam you might try using the thinner hardwood floor sound deadening stuff. It’s a whole lot thinner although a bit more expensive but seems to work just fine on my layout…

  108. The only comment I have is you need to close in your ceiling before you put down and scenery to keep down the dust.

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