Bern’s layout update

“Dear Alastair

Perhaps you would like to see our latest efforts with our analogue OO gauge model railway.

It all started just under two years ago in the model railway wilderness of France.

With lots of thought and little planning mistakes were plenty and we are still seeing where improvements can be made but seem to have run out of room!

The setup would be of most interest to people who “want to watch trains going round” rather than the experts who seek perfection but we have done our best.

Thank you for all the information and videos you have sent, they have been of great use and are a wealth of great ideas.

Best Regards,

Bern & Fay

At the crossroads in Trans La Forêt, 35610, FRANCE”


I thought you and your readers might enjoy some of these.

This 80 year old, coal fired J Class (the 611) from the Norfolk and Southern made three runs this weekend between Manassas, Virginia and Front Royal, Virginia (west of Washington DC).

I was able to photograph it all six times (outbound and inbound).

I do process my images to look for like illustrations. Feel free to distribute any way you wish.








And lastly, here’s something I couldn’t resist.

Rob – who has featured a fair bit on the site – has very kindly sent in the below. So please, please leave a comment below. I’d love to see what Rob comes up with. His last post was stunning.

“Hi Al,

I have a question for you. I am more than happy to provide custom videos on any subject you think is appropriate. After 5 full time years of modeling, I feel, I have a good bit of knowledge in the subject matter.

Things like:

layout design
problem solving
airbrushing the rails
object placement
road building
tree building
static grass


Next… another vid. I don’t like to publish two vids on the same post normally, and apols if you’ve seen this before, but it’s new to me and I loved it.

Watch the look on the kid’s face when he works out his dad’s the driver:

That’s all this time folks – except one last thing. Have you had a look around the store yet?

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you’re starting to chomp at the bit and want get your hands dirty. Come and join in the fun today, because today’s always out of reach.

Keep ’em coming. Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Some good stuff about at the mo.



41 Responses to Bern’s layout update

  1. Roger says:

    Hi Bern and Fay.
    I have just started building my 00 gauge layout but I am a model engineer at heart. You may have seen my 6″ scale traction engine on this site recently. I live in Meneac 56490 not a million miles from you. Perhaps we could meet up.

  2. Carl Kokes says:

    this is unreal… beautiful — well done and very calculated …. wish outdoor garden railroading could work so neatly …. different issues of course ……almost makes me want to put something like this in …….. CTK

  3. Lee Barry, CEO LZPMRR says:

    Great pictures of the “J” and the cars.A little story to tell you. I am from Norfolk,Va. originnaly and when my brother and I were small boys 3-9 years old our father would take us to the train station downtown Norfolk,Va to watch the 611 J pull the “Powhatan Arrow” either from Cinncinnatti,Oh. or leaving to go. A lot of people have seen the excursion 611 J, I’ve been to Roanoke,Va to the train museum to see it sitting under the tent, but not many can say they actually watched her come and go from Norfolk,Virginia.

  4. Barry Gaffney says:

    Alistair. Thanks for including John’s pictures of the N&S J611. My wife and I rode the 19th and last car, a 1934 Pullman with 6 berths, last Sunday afternoon. We couldn’t see the engine from that far back! It was a great 4.5 hour trip through western Virginia though. Barry

  5. david howarth says:

    Well done Bern and Fay..dave

  6. John Bennett says:

    Very well done, What is the “footprint” size of the layout. It looks to be oo gauge is that correct? Again very nice layout. John.

  7. Gale Madison says:

    I really like Bern’s layout it was great and has a lot of operating possibilities. I model railroads in N scale and was wondering if you have a drawing of your track plan I would really like to build one like it in N scale.

    Thanks for the video it is great work by you and your wife
    Gale Madison
    Smyrna Tn 37167

  8. William "Speedy" Dunn says:

    As children my father would take my brother and I the five or six blocks to see the Powhatan Arrow pass over the Indian River Road crossing when she left the downtown Norfolk station and passed through the Berkley section of Norfolk. The J Class was the most beautiful engine ever. I believe the numbers of the J Class were from the 602 to the 612 or 613. Have three of the HO model J Class engines.

  9. Jerry Mikuls says:

    Thanks for opening the store.It’s a better representation of these products. I’m looking forward to purchase the embankment walls for the o gauge layout I’m building. I’m more of a carpenter than a toy collector type. Does the purchase include instructions on enlarging to o gauge? Thanks for your help & your great site. jerry

  10. Helmut Eppich says:

    Excellent video with great explanations. Fantastic quality on the layout. Always amazing to see the beautiful craftsmanship which goes into creating these realistic railroads and villages with small towns.

  11. BullfrogEH, in Ontario says:

    What a wonderful memory was created in a young man, to actually see what his ‘dad’ does ‘at work’.

  12. dave says:

    When did they put the J back in service ?? Id like to see the A out there again too I rode both of them in the 90s before they killed the steam program

  13. Roy Pachkowski says:


  14. Jim S says:

    Greatly appreciate your detailed work.

  15. Ray Suckling says:

    Hi Rob, I am currently looking at building an 8×4 layout because of space restrictions and am looking for design ideas. Any thoughts you could come up with would be appreciated. I am modeling in HO.

  16. Charles says:

    Amazing track work Bern🚂🚂🚂😎

  17. John Reynolds says:

    All is very good but the store is EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I love the choice between individual buildings and the “bundle” deals….
    It encourages me to make more purchases….
    The photos of the buildings are better too… A real kick int the enthusiasm…
    Perhaps you can add your book and the building videos also… Just a suggestion…
    John R

  18. Warner says:

    Thanks Alastair for showing Bern and Fay’s absolutely wonderful layout. Your video tour and commentary Bern was fantastic. Well done.

  19. John Tipper says:

    Well done, Bern and thanks for the train ride! It’s totally unlike any other layout I’ve ever seen and must have taken a lot of imagination.

  20. Chris says:

    Nice layout Bernie. I noticed your railing in places runs very close to the edge with no barriers in place. Initially I had a few spots like this on my layout but after a couple of kamikaze derailing’s with locos hitting a hard tiled floor I put in a few OH&S systems to prevent this disaster. Hope you haven’t experience the same issues.

  21. NJ Mark says:

    I love all of the complexity of the track work. It was fun to “ride” the train. Thanks for the great commentary, Bern. Cheers! NJ Mark

  22. Darrin Peterson says:

    nice job bern

  23. DOUG SASSMAN says:

    mr. berns———–can you tell me what used in making your cossover besides???????????? track (center pice btween four tracks)——–i’m trying to build a crossing the first one shoted out because my gaps were to close ect.if you can just mail me useing my address—-thanks doug sassman

  24. Mark Johnson says:

    We definitely need to see the whole collection in the store please. We’re almost ready to start buying now 🙂

  25. Andrew says:

    Skipped over the first vid and went straight to the kid. Awesome!! Thanks

  26. Ron Bunch says:

    As a child in Shenandoah Virginia during the 1940s, I saw the Norfolk & Western Js many times, in that Valley filled with steam sounds. Last time I saw 611 was about 1989 in Alexandria VA. I was sitting at my office desk at 1619 Duke Street and heard a steam whistle.Jumping up, I ran outside and saw 611 stopping for service at the old Alexandria Yard, now all gone. 45 years after having last seen a J in motion, I couldn’t go back to work until it departed. Someday, I’ll model the Shenandoah Yard and Shops where my grandfather worked and died: run over by the Number 2.

  27. Gerry says:

    Been and Fay,

    Very nice layout, “Thanks for the tour”. I would love to see a drawing of your layout.


  28. Klaas vandenbos says:

    Good afternoon
    I have enjoyed your emails very much, keep sending them.
    This is going to be my first attempt to build a HO railroad.
    I would like some help and suggestions on building a modular (Individual tables etc) HO railroad with using Ring Engineering’s Rail Pro.
    My space will be U shape 3 x 4 feet deep on the right angle,12 feet by 2 feet turning left (the back side) 3 feet by 4 feet turning,the left side

  29. john hochmuth says:

    hey bern great layout would love to see your track plan 4 times around is wonderful

  30. Ross Johnston says:

    Bern! What a great layout! I really enjoyed your video and thanks for sharing. I would love to drop in one day but I am over 12000 miles away in Adelaide, Australia. Take care in these Covid Times! Cheers Rossco

  31. David Ward says:

    The face on the young man when he sees his father is a great memory. I grew up in this area of Alden, NY when the building across the tracks was a working Erie Railroad station. There is a lot of history around this area due to the Village connection to the Black Water Baths that became popular for relaxation and healing in the 18 and 19 hundreds.

  32. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Bern and Fay……..wonderful layout. Great scenery and great video.

    Al…..I love the video with the son and his dad the engineer. That was great.

  33. Brian Rockey says:

    Amazing content as always Al.
    Great layout Bern and wife.
    Loved seeing the little boy’s emotion on seeing his Dad driving the train – magical.
    Best to all.
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

  34. Rod Mackay says:

    Brilliant video of the little lad spotting his dad. My son came to my signalbox once or twice but I don’t know he was that impressed – all ‘old crap’ I suppose and nothing to do with sports. I tell him running a railway is the best team game in the world but I don’t think he believes me.
    It seems rather a pity to lay as much track as Bern has and not have routing options, missing a lot of the potential.

  35. Marklin ed says:

    Well Al many thanks again for your site, as usually with it’s wonderful people and videos and wealth of knowledge. Has been very helpful to me.

    happy christmas and healthy new year toyou and alll your family.
    in the usa we say merry christmas so merry christmas to you

    thanks al

  36. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Very nice the mom and her kids watching dad go by in the freight train was GREAT! Have a nice Christmas all!!

    Thank a Vet over Christmas God Speed!

  37. Will in NM says:

    Awesome Layout & Video Bern! Thanks for sharing it. Amazing what you and Fay have accomplished in just a few years.

  38. Erick says:

    Greet layout. Would like to see more.

  39. Thomas Meleck says:

    Bern & Fay’s Layout is fantastic. I loved the video as well. It’s positively mesmerizing. Thank you very much for posting. Terrific use of your space. I hope you have many more years of enjoyment of this really well thought out layout.

  40. Love the videos specially the “Engineers Son”!

  41. Nick Keep says:

    Hi Bern & Fay
    Nice job, great video and enjoyed the ride!
    I always say, “it is your world, so do what you like!” 🙂

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