Bob’s layout

“Hello Al,

I have been enjoying your site for some time now and thought I would try and contribute something.

I never had a train set as a child but I had always admired watching them.

After I retired I decided to spend my children’s inheritance on building and running a model train layout.

I built my first layout when I was 65 (HO w/DCC and sound) in the corner of our spare bedroom. It was 8 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide.

I found most of my information on the internet as there is no hobby shop within 150 miles of my home.

I built everything using purchased kits so I could get a feel of what was available.

Got to say, I was not impressed with today’s kits as I remember building model airplanes, boats and rockets as a kid and remember the quality and instructions as quite a bit better.

I have attached some pictures of my first layout.

I dismantled it, expanded it and moved it into my workshop in the back yard after a couple of years and I will be glad to send you some pictures of that updated layout if you wish.


model train track plan

Great layout, Bob, but I know what everyone will say: “Yes, we want to see the pictures of the updates!”

That’s all for today folks. Hope you enjoyed it as much as me.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

73 Responses to Bob’s layout

  1. Grant Preston says:

    Awesome layout. I have been looking for a coal mine operation like yours. As well, the storage tanks in the photos. Where did you get these? Thanks

  2. Grant Preston says:

    Sorry, I am looking for O gauge. I am sure this is why I can’t find them as our choices are limited in comparison to HO. Thank you

  3. If this was your first layout Bob the 2nd one must be very good , yes think we all would like to see it ….Dave

  4. Jerry Morris says:

    Bob you may have found some of the building kits that were not ver good. I builded a layout about 3 years ago. I found that Branchline and Blairline have some good kits. they are laser cut kits and the price is a little high but I foune they were worth every penny

  5. James says:

    YES, please let’s see the new bigger version. Most impressive pics above. i like how you managed to get the different heights into your layout.

  6. Robert says:

    This is very inspirational for me. I lost all my Ho and N scale equipment as a result of hurricane Sandy. Time to rebuild. At age 67 I can relate to Bob. Good job Bob. Can’t wait to see the update,

  7. D.Milburn says:

    Nice Layout and the mural “back drop” is a great fit!!

  8. Mark Allen says:

    NICE, NICE, NICE work Bob, thanks for the pics

  9. paul starr says:

    Great compact layout with some nice touches.

  10. William Schart says:

    Pictures of all these layouts are great, but I would also like to see track plans too, even if just a sketch. I like to see how he managed this in 8 by 2 1/2 feet.

  11. Jake says:

    Nice! Just goes to show you don’t have to have a large space to have a great looking layout. I would really like to see pictures of the new one.

  12. Rod says:

    Great layout and I was impressed by the wall mural backgrounds; did you paint them yourself or buy them; if so through what source.

  13. Larry Schwartz says:

    I appreciate contributors taking the time to photograph and post pictuers of their layouts. However, it would help us get more information from photos if the photos included a layout diagram no matter how simple the layout design.

  14. builder Kim says:

    Very nice Bob.May i ask are you canadian.I love the back drops ya have.My layout is at a stand stiff right now.Been to busy building stuff for the layout but havent placed anything.Going to be nice haveing more room for your layout.I been working on building workable cranes.will be made from metal wire and should be able to run on 2 to lift up and down and one to turn 360.Hopefuly it will be able to lift a engine off a track and shift it and set it down.It will either operate with a mini hand controler like you get from a rc toy.or switches.I just built a very realistic metal microwave tower.Like you see out there.And going to take the same concept and make crane’s.thanks for the pictures and love the layout.

  15. Sheila says:

    An excellent layout. I look forward to seeing the pictures of the expansion.

  16. M1 Fred Q says:

    What an impressive layout!

    I appreciate looking at the wonderful work many model railroaders have

    built. The layouts are very inspiring and have given my son and I l lot of ideas.

    When we get started it will be a “learn as we go”.

    It has been amazing to see how much he has learned because of this hobby.

    He is in third grade and tested at a 6th grade level in a recent school exam, He had some difficulties in Kindergarden. My wife is on board

    Best of luck on your lay out and keep the pictures coming!!!!1

  17. Fred Stupp says:

    Great layout—-love the detail. Here I was so proud of my layout efforts and when I see great layouts like these, I realize what a rookie I am. Love the pictures.

  18. Paco Gayon says:

    Bob, you are an artist. Love the coloring and design.
    Paco Gayon

  19. Wayne Wallace says:

    Some where in here is that saying, “Don’t mess with us old guys”. We have been watching you young guys and learning, age does have its benefits. Great job. I watch this site for everything and then change ever thing when I see something I like better. Six months and I yet ran a train on the track. It is like playing pool, ever shot is different. Thanks to all for their input.

  20. Bob Miller says:

    Hello All,
    I will try to answer your questions as best I can. First of all, I noticed that my pictures were a bit fuzzy. I guess I sized them too small. I will try a larger size the next time.

    Actually Robert, I started into model Railroading after Hurricane Katrina. We lived about 22 feet above the 100 year high flood mark. This info required for homeowners insurance. The water went over the top of our house. Sure wish we had flood insurance!

    To William Schart , I copied the track plan from the April 2008 issue of Model Railroader which featured Tom Miller’s Meramec Valley Railroad. The original plan was 94″ x 28″.

    No Rod, I didn’t paint them (I’m not any good at murals). I bought this one a the Backdrop Warehouse on the internet.

    I’m American Kim from Pelahatchie Mississippi at the present time. We don’t have a stop light yet but we do have a 4 way stop in the middle of town.

    I will work on sending pictures of the expanded HO layout. Thanks for the input.


  21. Randy says:

    i really love ur backdrops….were did u get them Bob?

  22. John says:

    Very, very impressive! Can’t believe it’s a first layout! I’ll be 72 next month and hope to start a new layout after about 25 years of waiting for retirement, with all rolling stock, buildings, etc safely stored. I can’t afford to retire so I’m still waiting – but will start in the next few weeks, in a new garage recently built, in the odd spare moments that I can find.

  23. Glen says:

    You have a lot going on here but I’m really impressed with how you divided and allocated spatial juxtaposition of all the scene elements. Very nice work indeed! You could have easily had a mish-mash of parts and pieces!

  24. Ian says:

    great layout nice theme love the bridges kept it simple so it looks but alot of decated work in the building well done nice to see a overall view of the layout

  25. Duncan says:

    Hi Bob, Thanks for this, is that a Camelback locomotive? Who makes them?
    Hurry up and send the next batch of pictures in. I have an interest in Canadian railways. D/

  26. bigbadbob says:

    if you take the time you can work out the track plan

  27. charles says:

    Bob I think your lay out is great. If this is you first I can’t wait to see your 2nd.Best to you.

  28. Tom says:

    Great job …. bring on the other pictures.

    Tom N

    Keep on Training

  29. THOMAS says:


  30. Bob Miller says:

    Yes Duncan,that’s a Camemback. I bought it on Ebay (where I get most of my stuff) although I also use the ‘HO Yard Sale’, a Yahoo Group. Anyway, I had my Loco’s installed with Sound Decoders and capacitive power assist’s. The extra capacitors were needed to allow the small Loco’s (also had 0-6-0 tank switchers) to go over the turnouts without stalling. I use Peco insulfrog turnouts and flextrack.
    To get the sound decoders installed I had to have the speakers placed into separate cars that I coupled to the Loco’s. Although the Tank Switcher didn’t need a coal tender, it looked O.K. to me. Today, only a few years later, they now have micro decoders and speakers that can be installed into these small Loco’s. FYI, it’s not cheap to have these decoders installed. My advise, buy them with the decoders (with sound if desired) already installed. Bob

  31. Brian Clauser says:

    That coal mine building is the same as I have in my layout. Mine was purchased about 30+ years ago…..No idea where….

  32. Don Wick says:

    You sure crowded a lot of industries into a limited space. It looks great and your next layout will be even better. A great effort without a hobby shop near you. Don Wick West Bend, WI USA

  33. Sundaram says:

    Thoughtfully laid out and given attention to details. Great effort given the constraints. All the best for your new layout, which I am sure will be a cracker as you have the experience now.

  34. Bill Markey says:

    Really nice layout. Cannot concur with the comment about Branchline structure kits. Am on my third one and I find them to be very detailed with all the parts fitting together properly as you would expect with a laser cut kit. Also have had some very positive experience with kits by a small firm named Creative Laser Designs which you could also consider.

    Bill Markey, Pleasant Valley NY USA

  35. chris says:

    Great 1st layout, like to see what your 2nd will be like

  36. paul Otway says:

    A great looking layout

  37. peter says:

    Hi Bop
    i started my layout just like You in my living room gone now in to my work shop and expanded to 21 by 6 feet and i am 70 years old
    grate pictures peter

  38. Wayne E says:

    Looks really great for a small area to work in.
    What REALLY draws My attention is your Background Scenery!
    Was it bought and from whom? Or did you have it painted by someone?
    Keep up the work and keep spending your children’s inheritance : : : told ours the same, and Now They Know I am serious! : – )

  39. Nico says:

    Good work and shows what a great resource the net is!

  40. Les Coultas says:

    Excellent layout bob. Can you give us some info on the updates. I am the same as you, although I built a layout for my nephew in my early days. I am no sixty, divorced and having my second childhood, so I have now start to build a layout for myself, although due to lack of space it is only 6ft by 4ft. I will send some pictures.

    Les, Hereford. UK

  41. jean says:

    merveilleux, f,licitation, la disposition est superbe.


  42. Ben says:

    love the pics. will someone please tell me how to get my ho pics. on here

  43. John Reynolds says:

    Very nice.

  44. Mike says:

    How about someone sending in a layout for O gauge. There are several of us who are interested in this. PLEASE!!!!! Mike

  45. RON B. FROM MAINE says:

    You did a really great job for a first layout.

    Ron B. from Maine USA

  46. Tony says:

    It’s amazing how creative we can get when there is nowhere to acquire what we need or want. Great job!

  47. ian says:

    hi great layout started mine about 12 years ago still not finished the track but there’s no rush like the back ground just a quick question my layout will have 14 lines and i won’t to run this in dcc what is best way forward any idea’s.
    cheers ian

  48. Jeff and Jane Kernel says:

    This is a very impressive layout !! It reflects alot of hard work and great planning !
    Thank you for sharing your passion .

  49. Dienzel says:

    Love the backdrop. May be the best I have ever seen, and I have seen plenty including my own. Could you give us some more information about this master piece. Thanks, big D

  50. Bumper says:

    Al, anyone who e-mails you have anything to do itch “0 ” gauge ? Can you put something together.


  51. Harley says:

    Thats a nice layout……

  52. Dave says:

    In picture #5 you have those storage tanks. Did you build them from scratch or where they from a kit and if so where did you purchase them from.

  53. Kevin McArdle says:

    i am a craftsman modeler, and two companies, South River Model Works, (Van Gelder), and Fine Scale Miniatures (George Sellios), make phenomenal craftsman kits with highly detailed instructions. They are available on eBay, but for a premium, since many kits are no longer commercially available, but with one model you can build a diorama in different configurations. I hope that helps. Nice layout.

  54. Gene Hildebrand says:

    Great layout, BOB…….enjoy it completely and most of all….have fun…..

  55. Kevin McArdle says:

    To all of you who are older stop waiting to build, even if it’s an oval on the dining room table. There are no guarantees in life, except for the near universal love and enjoyment of model trains. Get to it.

  56. Rick says:

    I do not know which button you pressed, but it opened the “ego” door. Some of us are very proud of what we’ve done, aren’t we? But I can see it, I do not need to be told again. The guy did an amazing job. Just give Bob the kudos he deserves and move on. I’m sure he doesn’t need to hear it again either. Thanks Bob for sharing,

  57. Frank Goodman says:

    Hi Bob; Great layout in a small space! As a few others have asked, where did you obtain the background murals? Commercial or hand painted by you? If painted by you, you should offer them commercially! Let’s see the second layout!

  58. Billy Mills says:

    a note to all who contribute pictures of your layouts: It would be useful information – to me any way – to know what scale you are working with.

    Just a thought.

  59. Tom Lawton says:

    The use of levels is really good, and effectively concealing the return side of the loop behind trees , buildings and terrain (without going into a tunnel) is a great touch. I look forward to emulating such design effects on my layout. Regards, Tom
    PS For those O scalers, you can put up a video, or just size the ideas to match your room. If you want the detail, you need more room or have a more restricted design. All the best!

  60. Mike says:

    Awesome layout.. thank you for sharing.

  61. Hemi says:

    GREAT work Bob!!!! Can’t wait to see the 2nd one!!!!!

  62. Gerd Ueberberg says:

    Re Coal mine ,if i remeber right,this kit wase done by Fa. Faller in Germany,about 20 years ago,.but You olso can findet at Waltons Cataloge .May this is of some help ,wish you good hanting.Regards Gerd

  63. Larry Mlynek says:

    Thanks for sharing. Gives the viewers many new ideas.

  64. Excellent Bob- and like so many posts here, inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

  65. Danny Marso says:

    Great layout, if this was your first effort, I am impressed! Thank you for sharing !

    Dan Marso


  66. Bernie Schainholtz says:

    Wonderful small layout. Where are the people?

  67. mark says:

    great to see. Gives me the encouragement to begin my pre- retirement layout. i have a 30 x 25 foot area my wife gave me in the basement,

    Trying to think about where to start is the most difficult.

    i have purchased all N and HO with DCC sound and action.

    i have led signs, buildings, surburban stations the lot all Kato, Graham Farish and lima.

  68. Konrad Lau says:

    Nice layout but much, much too clean!
    Everything looks freshly scrubbed and brand new.

  69. Bill Kennedy says:

    Needless to say (because I would repeat what everyone else is saying) It’s a great job! It would be nice to bring it alive with people. Such as, a person climbing the ladder to the oil tank. Just a suggestion for your appetite. Don’t loose faith you are doing a fine job keeping it together!

  70. Danno Five0 says:

    Very cool.

  71. Will says:

    There as always great layouts and fantastic fotos; scenery. I do have one grip, with all layouts, (posts) i only sometimes see in the post whether it was O/Ho/N/Z scale? I know that the logistic for different scales cause turn and elect challenges. It would be of help if some of these issues were posted along with your layouts. It is a dream to build layouts as you have meet many challenges. Please post scale and time to build; Also you may add a ruler or other device to show scale. It is a pleasure to see all these wonderful works of art.

  72. val says:

    hi there bob, what a great layout you’ve built . everything looks great, Im almost retired but want to work for at least 2 Orr 3 more years. am still working on my first h o layout , the table work is done,but haven’t had much time to get things moving along at a faster pace.. I’ll soon be turning 80 yrs. and anxious to get things moving along, I love your coal mine and the bridges too . am looking forward to seeing pics of your other layout. terrific job in what you’ve accomplished… thanks. val in Utah. hopefully soon I can send in some of my layout pics .

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