Brian’s OO scale 4×8 layout

“Hi Al,

This letter to you has been a long time coming! I have been an avid reader of your site for the last 6 years or so and look forward to opening you email every day.

I retired some 5 years ago and in the runup to retirement, I decided that, post retirement, I would build a model railway – maybe prompted by my wife’s adage “we married for better or for worse, but not for lunch” and she definitely did not want me messing her social calendar.

However, I got a slow start. We decided to downsize shortly after retirement and we moved into a 5th floor apartment.

I had spent much time reviewing and researching what type of model I wished to build – I am a British expat living about 40 miles up the Long Island coast from New York City (moved 30 years ago expecting to stay 3 years) and wanted to model the British theme of the 1950s and “60s, ie at the end of the steam era.

The first complication was the minor difference of the US’s HO and the UK’s OO but more of that later.

I have never lived in an apartment before, and I did not consider the challenges of woodworking 5 floors up, so the first challenge was the table.

I decided to start with an 8ft by 4ft layout as this seemed to be a standard size and it fitted our 3rd bedroom but cutting timber at ground level and carrying it up 5 floors didn’t seemed attractive – never mind the mess that would be unacceptable to the HOA – so I was delayed until I found the Mainne Benchwork website which sent one through the mail.

The mode of construction is not dissimilar to a piece of Ikea furniture! So, at last I could start.

I then laid 2 4×4 sheets of fiber board on top. I had read from many of your contributors that I need a polystyrene base on which I could model.

My local Home Depot only had the white expanded polystyrene insulation which I bought – so I have been working with this ever since. Its not ideal but is easy to cut and I have loads of it to use up.

I used Any Rail software to design my layout and came up with this- and this is basically what I have today, although the bottom side of the inner track is raised. There is a station both at the bottom side and at the top side.

In early 2019, events took a major turn – my wife and I decided, after 4 years of apartment living, that we would prefer to live in our own house rather than in an association, and so the railway was put on hold again until we moved, which caused another delay of 6 months plus the time it takes to settle in and all the other stuff which goes with it.

So it was not till November last year when I started to put it all together again.

In my days of commuting into London from Sussex, I had always been very aware that the railway line is never at ground level, it is either well above suburban gardens or going through a cutting or tunnel and so I wanted mine to have cuttings and tunnels and gradients. Here is the overall view followed by specific areas.




There is one major addition to the plan shown above. Many years ago, I bought a streetcar (or tram) and decided that it would be fun to add it to the plan.

In the photos, you will see the viaduct which joins to 2 higher scenes together and it is this tram which runs on this track, with an automatic stop and reverse so I can just have it running and leave it alone. Most of the buildings are either Metcalfe.

I am sure I am not the only one to have made many mistakes, some of which have been interesting to solve, and some just frustrating.

I never thought that 8×4 feet would not be big enough, for instance I can only run trains with 2 carriages.

I also built the tunnels too high, and the viaduct which connects the 2 higher levels obstructs the station which is behind it. I will have to change this at some stage.

I also wanted a way to link the lower level with the upper level, it is too high to build a road connecting them so I looked on the internet and found a funicular (cliff railway) from Langley Models in Crawley Sussex.

This has proved a bigger challenge than expected so would be interested to hear from anyone who has one on their railway and got it working properly.

Finally, on the question of HO vs OO scale, which is 1/87th vs 1/76th. I have bought HO track in the US (Atlas) but bought engines and rolling stock from the UK, mainly Hornby. I find that the front bogies of an engine come off the rails regularly and wonder if it is a function of the different scales – anyone else had the same problem? I may have to buy new track next time I am in Blighty!

As you can see, there is still much to do, especially at the lower level – ballasting and trees and…

The current pandemic has enabled me to progress much faster than I would have expected, but I have learned from reading other modelers comments that a layout is never finished.

I hope you have enjoyed my script and photos and look forward to your comments.

Brian (from CT, USA)”

A huge thanks to Briand for his wonderful pics and a superb narrative.

I do love it when a layout has a theme, especially when it’s from someone’s past too.

That’s all for this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here, if you want to take those first steps, just like Brian did.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

27 Responses to Brian’s OO scale 4×8 layout

  1. Richard Healey says:

    I had exactly the same problem with the track. I had Atlas, peco and Hornby track. The atlas track is certainly a problem with Hornby and to a smaller extent Bachman locos and coaches. I model BR 50’s with all the steam locos. We live in Atlanta but also have an apartment in UK and, whilst I get my models and some track in UK, the modelling is all in US. We are lucky in UK as we live only 45 minutes from Beer where Peco are based.

  2. a first class job you have done there Brian , you have added so much detail in to a small layout …dangeroius dave

  3. Ken says:

    I love the older settings particularly when their so well done. Lot of details to relish. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Brian Foster says:

    Hi Brian. The problem is the front trucks on the Hornby are very light and derail so easily you will need to weight them down, the track h0 / 00 gauge is interchangeable it’s identical on size, other than track and flange width there is a difference I would suggest you buy a one of the NMRA h0 gauge tool it’s about $5 ish is very useful for tunnel heights,track gauge flanges ect, I’m in the United Kingdom and wouldn’t be (unfortunately I have to import from the USA) without one. Check your curves if one is pinched or a slightly twisted it will feel tight on the gauge tool replace it will never be any good . Regards Brian F.

  5. Robert Brady says:

    A whole lot of stuff in a small space .Great job,How did those people get on top of that tunnel? Lol.
    The critic

  6. There is a Cliff lift operating on Wimborne Model Town’s Model Railway
    there is a video on their facebook site
    a rotating disc has a cable attached to the carriage and as the wheel rotates it goes up to the top station pauses and then descends
    we based the operation on an article about an N gauge funicular that went up a shallower slope

    like the viaduct, keep on modelling

  7. Herman Crauwels says:

    Hello Brian,
    Verry great benchwork and beutiful layout thanks for de foto´s.
    HC Treintje Belgium Herman.

  8. Nice layout – however note that your tunnels are not “too high” – most modellers make their tunnels too low. There are many layouts where the tunnels are barely higher than the trains – the railway builders would have just dug a cutting there. To make matters worse, many modellers then put buildings on top of those tunnels – with the railway line running straight through the foundations! As it is, you’ve made tunnels that are high enough to justify a tunnel being dug, and with enough height that the foundations of the buildings above won’t be undermined. It’s also given you plenty of room to get your hand in for track cleaning/retrieving errant trai

  9. Great job brian I love the tram and the delivery trucks. You are right there is always
    something to do on your layout

  10. David Toll says:

    I have both Peco and Atlas track – some of my Peco track came with us when we move from the UK more than 30 years ago. Peco track is readily available here in the US. You can get it from Walthers, but is available elsewhere for markedly lower prices.

    Atlas and Peco track have identical gauges, but I find Peco easier to work with.

  11. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Brian- Great start to your railway! I love the detail, especially the window washers! I work in HO and OO and use the same track for both (mostly Peco). I agree that the problem is probably weight on the front trucks. I also agree that your tunnel heights are fine. You have captured a lot of detail in a small space, keep us updated on your progress.

  12. Bob says:

    Love your layout and your comments on how you got started! I would love to know where you got the wood for the frame!

  13. Brian…
    First of all: What a wonderful layout.
    When it come to track… I have used Bachmann EZ Track, Atlas track, and Peco…
    Here is my experience… Bachman EZ Track is a robust product that is fantastic if you have small children that like to play on your layout. That said, it has many limitations including some quality control issues.
    Atlas is a venerable American product. Sad to say that through the years it has proved to show every advantage and every flaw of American products. I am an American (born in California) — but I am honest when it comes to judging things. We are great at mass production and keeping costs low… Quality control however is not one of our strongest points. I have often had challenges with Atlas turnouts (switches or points). There are several weak points and many articles on how to fix them. (The biggest challenges is that the flanges on your railway equipment often “pick” the ends of the blades (the points).
    Peco is a great British product and well worth the extra money. It is finely crafted with excellent quality control and exacting tolerances Its only weak point in my experience is that everything that makes it such an excellent product is its weakness when it comes to the not-so-subtle ministrations of young children.
    As to scenery…
    The height of your tunnel depends on many things… Loading gauge of the prototype is a big one. The land space over the tunnel also varies… What is common American practice seems to be much rarer on the other side of the pond. The reverse also holds true. Land is dear in Britain and Europe… We have a lot of country to bridge here… Our trains in America are massive compared to those in Europe.
    As to buildings on top of tunnels… They are rare in America but they do exist… The Church of Saint Mary in Virginia City is a prime example… And the Virginia and Truckee railroad ran just a few feet under its basement!
    Keep up the good work…
    John .

  14. Terry Wood says:

    Very nice wonderful job I love it!! Hope my train layout look that good

  15. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Hi Brian…. I sympathize with you on the derailments. I also use a mix of HO Peco and Atlas code 100 and have found the same problem with derailments mainly on the turnouts with a combination of light front trucks and the gauge not being perfect. I have bought a gauge tool and are working on the problem. Replacing the track seems to be the proper solution. Very frustrating; hang in there.
    Anyway, great looking layout….nice detail……love the tram.

  16. Cary B says:

    Nice layout Brian, you must be the “Englishman in New York” Sting sang about 😎😎😎 Cary

  17. Chuck Stewart says:

    Hey, that steep tram way is called an Incline here in the US. Where can I get one, as I’d like to model one after the two that are situated in Pittsburgh, PA?

  18. Brian, it looks great. I can understand where you are coming from having caught the morning-workmans train from Eastbourne to Victoria every morning and home again at night for many a year. We live now on Vancouver Island but have the same problem with OO vs HO

  19. George L. Stamatiades says:

    Brian Looks wonderful.
    I have a question for you. I have a Lionel 001E and tender (just purchased), however the tender has a wire that I imagine attaches to the engine but no obvious place to attach. (pictures available)
    Do you or anyone else have any information? I been all over the net with no success. Caught a very small comment that it might be a bell or horn issue,
    By the way, GarGraves manufactures 00 track.

  20. Kevin McArdle says:

    I highly recommend Mianne bench work for their kits, and will build for whatever configuration you want. I had them build bench work for my 5×9 ho and hon3 layout. It goes together seamlessly and can break down the same. Saved me time and headaches. Check it out.

  21. Capt'n Kirk says:

    Brian…loved your “incline”…I am from Pittsburgh, Pa also and it brought me back home as soon as I saw it! Thanks so much for sharing.

  22. Steve Joyce says:

    I got the Mianne benchwork as well. excellent stuff. Easy construction and SOLID. I put 3/8 plywood with a half inch thick fibreboard insulation for my base. Going to town as well due too not spending all my time in restaurants, movie theatres, and stores….LOL. Not any where near as far along as you but i have a much bigger layout…2-.4×8 with a 12×4 running between them.

  23. Ray Z PA USA says:

    Hi To: Chuck Stewart:: Brian said in his narrative that he bought the incline from
    Langley Models in Crawley, Sussex, England. I just did a search and in fact, is in business. I live in the Pittsburgh area and know what you have in mind.
    Been on the incline several times. Good Luck

    Regards: Ray

  24. John Hauser says:

    Brian: I’m impressed by your apartment project, I love the English Village and landscape, especially the funicular. I wish I had the foresight to have the table under structure as professional as yours. You inspire me. Although I’m a New Yorker, I think the English trains and towns have a special look and are beautiful. Great Job!

    John H.

  25. Hi Chuck
    Langleys had a note saying it was not in production
    I built the one on Wimborne’s Model Railway based on Bournemouth’s Cliff Lifts
    used a flat long wheel based chassis and the body of an old Triang clerestory coach
    Lay the track first. get your angle of slope, build up one end to sit the body on , get the measurement for your coachbody and cut to length. make coach end out of card/plastic .should get 2 bodies out of one
    To make the frame I used old Airfix/Dapol Footbridge pillars
    Then it took a year as a static model to motorise it
    costs arose due to buying electric motor the rest out of our gash bits
    The Duquesne incline shows pictures similar to the one I made
    Good luck

  26. David Byatt says:

    The problem that I have found running British models on US track is with the back to back measurement of the wheels. Hornby and other British models have wider treads than NMRA standards and the flanges tend to be thicker. If you get an NMRA gauge you can use that to check the wheels and may have to gently move them outwards to increase the back to back distance to US standards.

  27. Norman Rosen says:

    Brian: I am in N gauge but appreciate your problems. Years ago I used Peco track; this time I switched to Atlas and in part wish I had not; John Reynolds is absolutely correct in his track discussion. I wish I had not bough the Atlas switches. I have Bachmann steam engines and too light front trucks are indeed a problem. Keep up the good work.

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