Caravan railway

Got another one from the archives today – it’s a great use of space.


Steve’s recent “Sofa Layout” was an excellent illustration of using available space if you don’t have a basement or a loft. Garages are often too crowded. I live in the countryside & don’t have either & my workshop/shed is too dirty for a model railway.

My solution was to buy an old caravan which I park next to the house. At 150 pounds it was cheaper than a new shed. It is waterproof, dustproof and has tons of cupboard space. I took out the beds etc and put in some light worktops.

I was able to build a layout 14 feet long down one side, 6 feet across the top and 8 feet down the other side with room for a small workbench at the other end.

Here are some pictures if you are interested.

Baobab Junction in the Kabanga Enclave, between Rhodesia, Zambia & Botswana where the Mwena RIver runs into the Zambesi.
( this way I can run US, UK & European locos & rolling stock all given as Gift Aid to this remnant of colonial Africa).

Please keep up the great site.

Thanks to all the contributors.


How impressive is that! I loved it. Well done to Duncan. Just goes to show, where there’s a will, there’s a way…

Latest ‘ebay cheat‘ sheet is here.



A video showing what you can make from the printable scenery:

61 Responses to Caravan railway

  1. Maverick405 says:

    What a fantastic idea. The layout looks excellent with lots of attention to detail without being too overcrowded.
    Wonderful stuff!!

  2. Stemar says:

    WoW! you’ve done a very good job and I can see you have covered all aspects of railroading. I hope you enjoy a lot more years with your railway!

  3. Terry says:

    How did you make the curb along the street. The curb is fantastic especially with a street that looks like asphalt and the curb looks like concrete. That detail really makes the street seem so real. Fantastic job.

  4. Terry says:

    by the way, what is a caravan?

  5. John Michael says:

    What is a ‘caravan’?

  6. In Britain a caravan is a lot like our “house trailer”.

  7. Gary says:

    For those people in the USA a caravan is called a camper in the States.

  8. Jan Boen says:

    A caravan is a trailer… i.e. house on wheels you can tow behind a car.

  9. Bob da Grouch says:

    For John & Terry, it looks lke what we colonists call a camper.

  10. Mark says:

    If i recall correctly a “caravan” is what the British and perhaps a a few others, call a “trailer”. Kinda like “boot” and “bonnet” for “trunk” and “hood”.

    Or more importantly what we Americans call trains “cars” they call “wagons”.

  11. Now that is what I call making good use of a caravan

  12. Tim Crump says:

    LOL…..can’t resist the temptation to pick some nits!!!

    A camper is what you put in/on the bed of a pickup truck, usually has no wheels.
    A trailer with a tongue, attached to a ball at the back of a vehicle is a “travel trailer”…..not to be confused with a:
    Fifth wheel……which is the kind of trailer that sits OVER the bed of the pickup truck, and connects to a frame bolted into the bed, much like the tractor trailer that hauls cargo.
    The British “caravan” is usually like a travel trailer…

  13. Roland says:

    What ever you called it. The setup is great, good job.

  14. chris says:

    Great job done, really interesting scenery

  15. Ben Zalewski says:

    Fantastic layout! Would never have thought of using a caravan; great idea.
    It must be a few years since you lived in Rhodesia.
    Neat way you’ve placed the bridges.
    Your baobab trees really capture their majestic stand against the sky.
    Good job catching the boat design.

  16. great job. yes if theres a will theres a way. keep up the great work.

  17. Ian says:

    a great idea using a caravan thas also what aussies call them. send more photos. can the the caravan be moved, could be an idea for going to shows great layout plenty of everything love it.

  18. Ralph says:

    The ultimate answer to portability. Ideal if you move house, just hook up the railay and take it with you!:-D

  19. John says:

    Great idea! Own space and transportable!! WOW

  20. Mark says:

    Great and great information with so much update

  21. Jay Walther says:

    Looks great, but some pictures from the outside would be great to put it into perspective. My wife and I live in a motor coach while we travel for work, and maybe I could talk her into something like this.

  22. TOM says:


  23. Patrick Mulligan says:

    And should Duncan need to move, he doesn’t need to tear it down, all he does is hooks it up to the car! Brilliant!

  24. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    A great idea. I even have the room for it. I’m certain my ” Building and Zoning Officer” would not approve it however, unless I was planning on moving into it. Something to think about.

  25. Lindsay McIsaac says:

    A great model, by the way did you remove the wheels from the caravan – I’d hate to hear about some lowlife towing the love of your life away.
    Keep modelling.

  26. George Daulman says:

    WOW, well done! I love camping and model railway but never thought of combining it together! Brilliant Idea! 🙂

  27. Louis Seldon says:

    You should show a photo of the Caravan (from outside).

  28. Dave says:

    Excellent idea. We have a 36ft x 12ft static caravan at the top of the garden. Is there someone brave enough to tell my wife I need it more than her. I think I’ve got more chance of building a model of the London Underground under the floorboards.

  29. Don says:

    Brilliant, great use of any space available. You may have started something new. Would this possibly be called a “RAILER”, railroad on a trailer?
    Love it.

  30. Meirion Jones says:

    Excellent idea and what an interesting layout, Love the use of the cupboards for displays etc. and as one other person beat me to it if you do move you don’t have to dismantle the layout just tow it to your new home, you may well have started a trend here

  31. Steve newton says:

    busy for a few weeks,you are a star,fantastic work mate.

  32. sheldon mankes says:

    your work is fantastic butiful great. love it. sheldon

  33. Mic FLynn says:

    Absolutely Brilliant. and if you go on holiday you can take it with.

  34. Larry Perry says:

    I would like to add to a prior question– How did you make the street curbs? Larry from Corpus Christi

  35. Paul Vogel says:

    Hey Duncan, your my hero. I’ve had a motor home for sale for over a year with not to much luck due to gas prices. Maybe I’ll keep it and turn it into a hobby center. I’ll move my train layout into the motor home and free up a lot of much needed space in my work shop. Great job on your layout. Paul

  36. Gene Fricks says:

    This would be an ideal installation for a backdrop of translucent plastic material with a sky blue coloring and some indication of clouds. It would make the windows less obvious, still permit illumination, and add to the sense of outdoors.

  37. SHELDON PHX. AZ. says:

    This is one for the books !
    I can see a lot of FOR SALE signs coming down.
    Sheldon, Phoenix

  38. Randy Hinke says:

    very nice lay out

  39. Bruce OScale says:

    Well done D. A couple of comments.
    You can now “trailer” your layout with you on vacation and have joy on those bad weather days.
    You may want to put covers on the wheels and tires to keep the sun from slowly turning them into undesirable rot.
    For log periods, jack up the caravan to relieve continuous pressure on springs and tires.
    ’nuff said on comments.
    Beautiful work on your layout.
    Bruce in SC USA

  40. Billy Mills says:

    looking at some of these layout pictures I often wonder “what scale is this?”

    It would be nice to know.

  41. David Hannan says:

    Great for transporting to exhibitions! No set-up or take-down to do!
    Regards, Dirty Dave!

  42. Bob Walker says:

    Great use of an old travel trailer… sounds like you didn’t pay very much for it, either… how about a photo of the outside of the trailer? -Bob W, NH, USA.

  43. mike says:

    What a great idea, great thinking and a super good, loving it

  44. Frank says:

    Curbs. Use 1/8 inch square dowels cut to length and painted off white concrete color
    Easy to age with some gray.
    Paint or use number 2 pencil to outline expansion joints and don’t forget the weeds the grow up at the joints.

  45. Tom Durham says:

    SUPER setup. My neighbor has offered me a free Winnebago motor home with blown engine. Thought about making a kids fun ‘guest’ house for grandkids who seldom visit. Would be great for a train ‘room’. Could mockup/paint exterior to look like a diesel loco or coach. Thank you, Steve. Would appreciate photo(s) of your caravan exterior.

  46. Brian Lee says:

    What a great example of lateral thinking and an unusual setting for a layout.The mocking up of the outside is a natural extension to the theme, looking forward to seeing it.
    Love the bickering over terminology. I think it was Winston Churchill who said: “America and Britain are two great countries split by a common language” or something like that. Long may it be so.

  47. Ian McDonald says:

    great thinking better than a shed easy to move around.great detail. hope you had some fun.

  48. Forest Driver says:

    I should have thought of that instead of buying another house that had a room to suit my planned train setup. Here in Australia we call them caravans, we have a new 21 footer, and I got the dirtiest of looks from she who holds the cheque book when I suggested it. When I move to new house, my setup will be 12 foot on one side, 9 foot across the top and another 11 feet down the other side.

  49. Robert Brady says:

    i was so involved looking at your great layout then when I clicked on pic and it didn’t get bigger i was so heart broken.Love what I could see though. lol

  50. Ken loomes says:

    Makes ones mind boggle imagine 12 meter 5th wheeler living on the road and able to have your model rail system with you. must admit did have a dream of that and mounting the railway under a glass top kitchen bench top may be using Z scale \. thought it be something different.

  51. Sid Pratt says:

    Making do with little space. Well done.

  52. David Simmons says:

    Great idea and love the layout. Doubt my wife would let me have an old caravan parked up by the house for that though! LOL!

  53. John Rousch says:

    Well done, and you can travel with it

  54. John H Wolfe says:

    Brilliant idea! Kudos!
    This gets me thinking about that 10′ X 6′ enclosed aluminum cargo trailer I have in our retirement community’s storage lot! My 4′ X 8′ layout would fit easily!
    ….Hmmm…. I’ll be thinking HEAVILY on that!! ~ JW

  55. Gary Hildebrandt says:

    My dream come true! Actually, I want an old caboose. I guess that’s redundant. Your group is just so fun! I wish my city and it’s codes, shared your sense of humor. Waaaaaah.

  56. Quacker says:

    I have a 6.5FT X 16FT cargo trailer that I ordered and just received for my layout. A cargo trailer is a trailer that has NO windows, a ramp or door(s) in the rear and possibly (option) a door on the side. The thing that must be remembered is to level the trailer to keep the track inclines as planed. I will send pictures as work progresses.
    Also I can be found on the forum.

  57. British Innovation at its best I love it.

  58. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    Fabulous idea, but I think I would have a big problem with my Homeowners Association with one of those in sitting in my yard.
    Great work, and I love the layout.

  59. colin edinburgh says:

    Great Idea. I think if I tried the same the Boss “wife” would be delighted and quickly have me and all my belongings installed in the caravan. One can only hope.!!!
    Well done a great use of space and the ingenuity to think of this solution.

  60. Mike Hansell says:

    That was a lot fun reading what different countries call a caravan. I’m Aussie so I understood. I read the contents to my British wife and mum-in-law and they had a laugh (or as they say a “laff”) as well. Great idea. The baobab trees really add a lot. Good work.

  61. This is a fantastic idea, even if you do have other space. Imagine being able to take your layout anywhere with you, maybe to train shows so they can line up in the parking lot to see your layout.

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