Building a train layout

Mike’s been back in touch with another missive of what’s really involved when it comes to building a train layout:

“Hello Al:

Hope this email finds you well. It’s been a while since I last checked in, and I wanted to share a story that other model train enthusiasts may or may not have experienced.

As you may recall, I last was working on a large n scale layout featuring an old western town and the town of Hill Valley from the “Back to the Future” movies.

Life circumstances brought it to a temporary halt as the family urged me to give up the basement in favor of a more desirable gathering and movie viewing room.

I decided to accept their concept and relocate the trains to a 10ft x 12ft office room off the garage. What might sound like a total capitulation on my part actually turned into a blessing in disguise.

If I may digress for a moment, I must say throughout this period since my interest in model trains was rekindled some years ago, discovering your web site has been an inspiration.

As I subscribe to the philosophy of Walt Disney that everything we endeavor to achieve in life is a work in progress and often never actually completed, I find much satisfaction in building and rebuilding my model train layouts.

That said, many thanks for your almost daily posts, I never miss enjoying those words and pictures of encouragement.

Also, my original building constructions were built around solid blocks of wood, making lighting difficult at best. I recently took advantage of one of your special offers on printable buildings and I am looking forward to creating buildings and landscape that can be effectively lit with LEDs. But that’s for later.

Now, right to the point, I am happy to report that I have abandoned the Bachmann track system entirely. When I made the decision to invest in DCC, I discovered the superior quality of Kato trains.

Even on Bachmann EZ Track, the Kato locos and rolling stock ran much smoother than my starter sets from Bachmann. So I took the decision to recreate my layout exclusively using Kato track products.

The math, geometry, and wiring of Kato tracks and accessories made creating a new layout to my satisfaction a dream.

I plan to send progress reports as I make decisions on how to address the landscaping needs of the new layout, but here are a few photos of progress so far.

I can’t thank you enough for all the help. Keep up the great work.


building a train layout

building a model train layout

laying kato track

kato turnouts

testing kato track

model train control panel

building a train layout

building a train layout

A big thanks to Mike for sharing what goes into building a model train layout.

(I remembered his ‘back to the future’ layout – it’s here if you want to have a look.

I do admire the way Mike has just carried on despite a number of set backs (HO or N scale?) and just enjoyed the journey.

I do think a little planning can go a long way – but most of the time it’s not until you’re in the thick of things, you discover what’s right for you, and what’s not.

Here are some planning gems from the Hall of famers (as always, there is just as much wisdom in the comments):

How to start a model train layout.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you poke boredom in the eye and join in the fun, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

16 Responses to Building a train layout

  1. Herman Crauwels says:

    Nice start of your layout !!
    HC Treintje Herman

  2. george zaky says:

    I wanted to create a small N scale layout for my grandson and I did not listen to my good friend John who was Kato all the way and running smoothly. He advised that other brands of track & equipment did not work well for him. I did not listen & thought I could save some $ thru Evil Bay and created the disaster of the century. There are boxes of stuff on the shelf, a layout with track up against a wall and a bank account about $1000 lighter because I didnt listen to John. It never ran right and is the most disappointing thing, other than my X wife, I ever did. Conclusion: If N scale then its Kato. Period. Besides- A gorilla cant do N scale.
    Big Al
    😁 Keep truckin

  3. Brian Moretti says:

    I’ve had a lot of experience with n scale Kato track
    And if your mail is going to have a few switches on it I’d make them number 6 I had bad luck with the fours
    But that’s up to you
    My layout is on YouTube just search trackspike64

  4. Stephen Hill says:

    Sounds like you know what you’re doing . You’re definitely off yo a great start , I agree it seems like they never really are finished so you’ve a lot of fun and excitement ahead of you . Good luck and keep posting your progress .

  5. Brian Olson says:

    Love it! One suggestion would be to add a turntable and roundhouse. Lots of operating fun and nice place to keep engines.

  6. David says:

    Well done Mike, I have just changed from n gauge PECO to Kato and it really S-o easy to put together. Look forward to seeing more photographs. Keep up the good work.

  7. JOHN BULLOCK says:

    From what I’ve read here, many folks have enjoyed the opportunity of relocating or rebuilding their layout. I like your “blessing in disguise” comment. What a great attitude!

  8. robert dale tiemann says:

    nice beginning looking forwatd to seeing it done.

  9. Runna Muck says:

    Unlike some people YO! steep Hill

  10. Greg Marples says:

    I guess I’m going against the grain here, but I don’t like the way Kato plastic roadbed and especially crossings and other accessories look. I used Micro Engineering code 55 flex track and their #6 switches in the yards, while hand laying #14 (if I remember correctly, it was a long time ago) switches on all of the main line turnouts to add realism as the longer steam locomotives and passenger cars go through. Actual tracks never curve as tightly as we have to curve them to make them fit our miniature worlds, but I do what I can. My trains run very well, by the way!

  11. Marklin ed. says:

    looking good the new layout so far. N scale is too small for my old eyes and hands. The move to the new room looks like you made out. Can’t wait to see more of the work.
    Great to see where some of the comments come from around the world .

  12. John says:

    I like the layout and the comments.
    I’m building a 2’by 3′ z gauge layout with an old weat theme. No place in particular. Just from my imagination. I’m laying out z gauge track and having trouble with the connections. I’m using marklin track. Is there a better brand to use ? Is flex track better?

  13. Norman Rosen says:

    What track you use depends upon your own goals as to what you want to do. I agree that KATO one piece track system is superior to Bachmann, but I regard their flex track as a real pain to use. Some people insist that you do model railroading, you must go for realism and running your model railroad like a real railroad is the way. So then why don’t model airplane devotees try to duplicate airlines?

  14. John says:

    Wonderful layout. THANKS for sharing it.
    Could you provide a layout diagram, labeling points of interest.
    Also, is this HO?

  15. John Hauser says:

    Mike: I agree that KATO N gauge trains, and their other products, are well engineered, relatively trouble free and allow one to enjoy this wonderful hobby.
    We all learn from our mistakes, even George.

  16. Tom says:

    Question: Is the themes still Hill Valley (Today–i.e. Back from the Future)? Remember “our future has not been decided yet, it depends on our choices!” That’s my best recollection paraphrase of Doc Brown’s last words to Marty and Ginger. Thanks for the reminder–It’s way past time for me to watch those great movies again!!!

    I also hope to see your Hill Valley Gin–In The Future–Phots and Video if possible!!!

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