Dennis’ Model train layout

“Hello Alastair,

I’m not sure how I got on to your email distribution but I’m glad you did.

I really enjoy the links and other information you send out.

I live in St Louis, Missouri here in the USA and have been an avid model railroader (I think) from the day I was born.

My father bought a Lionel train set for my first Christmas. I’m guessing my mother probably wanted to kill him as at $25.00 is was the equivalent of a weeks pay.

I still have the set and it still runs very well. I’ve been O gauge since.

My current layout is loosely patterned after two of my loves, the desert southwest and Route 66.

Here’s a link to a video that was made of it when it was a featured layout for a round robin tour with the St Louis Lionel Club.

Enjoy and pass as you see fit. Keep those emails coming.

Kindest regards!


Latest ebay ‘cheat sheet’ here

Dennis’ mail says it all! That was a week’s wages well spent if you ask me.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide, if today is the day you start your railroad adventure.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

86 Responses to Dennis’ Model train layout

  1. Kaustav says:

    wonderful – full of fun!

  2. david says:

    what a layout, so much going on, i would like to know how long it took you to biuld .well done

  3. Dirck Hecking says:

    OMG that’s me!

  4. Roger says:

    What a visual treat! In O gauge. Must be a hoooooooooooge layout. I guess we all opt for either the scenic or the realistic. This is a superb argument in favour of the scenic – the kind of layout I love. And beautifully constructed.

    So many glamorous American trucks and cars too. The whole thing encapsulates the vision of the US which we Brits have – largely as a result of American movies.

    Something I’ve always wanted to ask friends in the US. Are American station platforms always at ground level? Are there platforms raised to the level of the carriage doors? I’m thinking of a scene in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ where a glamorous movie star clambers down the steps of the carriage in a tight skirt and heels! A six foot drop. Hope guys will write in a give me the answer.

    Big, big thank you to Dennis and congratulations on his fabulous work.

  5. David H says:

    you must have collected those buildings for years as well as those wonderful cars trucks and trains acessesories

  6. Andy says:

    Very very cool…so much going on, really reflects that fun era in california

  7. Len says:

    WOW – a ton of excellent tinplate -well done

  8. Dustin says:

    Job well done there may be a lot going on but there is nothing like your lay out. Grade: A++++

  9. Bill McGroom says:

    Great layout. Must take a lot of room for an O scale this size. Love the music.

  10. Richard says:

    The 3 unit Santa Fe brought back old memories as that was the first train I had back in the 50’s

  11. JIm Noel says:

    Terrific layout. Excellent use of the huge collection of accessories and buildings.
    Perhaps someone here can answer my long stranding question,”Why do all 3-railers run their trains at or near maximum speed? Ithink doing so detracts from the layouts.


  12. Deltom says:

    As stated above lots of fun……… On a fall Sunday morning. A keeper for those interested in all scales. The music is a great touch for those of us who were there.

    As for scenic vs reality……… reality is never all that authentic as to prototypes. It’s the look and feel that gets you.

  13. MIKE says:

    WOW what a layout. Only to have that much space for my N scale layout.I could make the Springfield Illinois area with every line that went thru it. Thank you for sharring. REALLY A NEAT LAYOUT

  14. Denny B in Pennsylvania, USA says:

    HI All:

    The train station in Pennsylvania’s state capitol, “Harrisburg”, the train station is above the tracks coming through. There are stairs leading down to the bording platform. It is a beautiful “OLD” building, back when the architecture had beauty and class. You “may” be able to see it online somewhere on the web.

    There also an “O” gauge train layout on display inside the terminal for your enjoyment. Just press a button and it cycles for a minute or so.

  15. Nice looking layout, but it looks really crowded. I don’t like dissing such modelers, but I think he tried to crowd too much into the layout. Combining “Route 66”, with the Southwestern Desert, is all well and good, but there was slightly too much activity for my tastes.
    Still, it was a well ordered layout. He did, at least have Santa Fe trains running.

  16. Gene says:

    awesome layout and construction…but,the construction equipment is not period…but fine just the same!

  17. Cord says:

    @Roger –
    Most platforms nowdays are at coach (carriage) door level. Some rural stations still have ground level platforms.

  18. John Seale says:

    great to see a Blue Goose…martains on what’s that a T-80??? i can almost recall the ozone…thanks for sharing

  19. T.Bailey says:

    Nice train set.

  20. Glenn Roach says:

    Dennis that is an awesome O guage layoutl!! Seeing how u mixed the Plasticvile buildings and the newer ones is nice also. Having a hard time pulling my eyes off the layout I see that you must have a loving wife that likes model RR for u to have most of the space in your basement for your layout. My guess (on the size conservative side)of your layout it looks like it would be at least 20′ X 20′.

  21. Tom Oliver says:

    I am in awe! Great layout with music that puts you in the era. Wish I had the space!!! Great job Dennis!

  22. paul Otway says:

    Wow impreesive

  23. captain eddie says:

    excellent video and sound track! the song peticoat junction by flats and scruggs should remind some of us oldsters of the tv show by the same name! That show had a neat little steam loco setup! (mid 60’s if i remember right.}

  24. Dave Desantis says:

    Just a wonderful layout.This gave me many Ideas for my 9′ by 12′.6″ o-scale layout.It’s all about having fun and scale doesn’t always have to be perfect.A fun layout is always great and I love to see the kids smile as well as I did when I received My first marx missouri pacific mo pac train set for christmas in the early 70’s.The music is what I used to listen to my parents play back in the days.Watching your layout video and listening to the music made me smile and put me in a great mood.Thanks for the video and enjoy life,family,and friends.

  25. TOM says:


  26. Arnie Steiner says:

    I’m a devoted N scale modeler but I have to say that your O scale layout just tickles the funny bone. Looks like a lot of fast action fun!

  27. Sheila says:

    An excellent layout. So much to see I am sure if I were there to see it in person it would take hours to enjoy and to see and understand all that is happening. Loved the Petticoat Junction song. Haven’t heard that in years. A wonderful visual and auditory treat. Thanks

  28. Austin Wilson says:

    Love it, very nice. I run HO Scale which I love working on. Seems finished, but still an ongoing job. Love the trains.

  29. Pastor Don says:

    I got answers to some of the ideas I have for my O Gauge layout, thanks.
    I too have my first Lionel train I got my first Christmas – circa 1936 that still runs. I display my locomotives, diesel and steam plus all rolling stock not on slat wall board of a total of 4×28 feet around my layout.

  30. Len Lainsbury says:

    What an absolute pleasure to watch !!
    The whole layout was a feast for the eyes and the music really brought the whole thing to life. There are so many talented people who contribute to this wonderful site and Denis has provided something right up there with the very best. To be able to model in `O` gauge to that standard must be very fulfilling. Thank you so much for sharing with the rest of us !
    These e.mails from Alistair make my day and every one is played again and again and then filed away for future viewing. It certainly beats wasting time watching the TV !!

  31. Dingo says:

    Man that is HUGE and bloody fantastic, if only my poor little N gauge could be so good oh well one day it will be.

  32. chris says:

    wow alot going on there. really cool. I too am O guage mostly MTH

  33. CJ says:

    Awesome! Makes me think of a simpler day… I used to have a vintage 1950s Lionel too.. Mom sold it at a garage sale ($10?)..while I was deployed to Okinawa circa 1984…
    … I think more Americans should reflect on the era portrayed in those awesomely modeled scenes …

  34. Alistair Fraser-Peters says:

    There should be some sort of federal recognition for this wonderful piece of Americana

  35. Robert Perez says:

    do these building patterns come in G guage

  36. Frank Goessler says:

    Being a second generation O gauger, I love the layout. Too much going on, I hardly think so. I saw a lot of recognizable equipment that my dad originally had circa 1950’s. Now all of his stuff is set up in my basement and has become a major obsession for me. I am also in St. Louis and would love to check out the St. Louis Lionel Club. Is there a website I can go to for more information?

  37. Jim Stiles says:

    What fun! Terrific little scenes that tell stories in themselves. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a “toy train” layout so much ever before. Congratulations on building a charming and enjoyable, no make that “fun”, layout!

  38. David Rines says:


  39. David Rines says:

    One of the better ones I have ever seen. Congratulations

  40. David says:

    Really nice.

  41. David Stonerock says:

    Dennis’ Model train layout is phenomenal. I love the entire layout and all the special detail in his towns. I am getting ready to do a massive layout and am always looking for ideas. This one has really caught my eye.

    Thank you Dennis


  42. Richard Zeitler says:

    Have a lot of what you got right up too Route 66 sign but I don’t have the base that sign plugs into to light it up. Great work and fun working with the train in many sizer . Thank for letting me see it.

  43. Randy Hinke says:

    this has a big time wow factor to it.

  44. Keith Groninga says:

    I just completed a trip in my motor home through the southwest and think I may have been wise to stay home and view this video – super!
    Living in the central valley of the Peoples Republic of California I have daily reminders of how powerful a force the railroads were to our nation. In my area there are abandoned rails and rights of way everywhere and our roads are congested with the trucks used to move goods. To borrow a British phrase I’ve always admired as we were “penny wise and pound foolish” by allowing our railroads to be degraded. The RRs are much more vibrant in the southwest and sure is great to see that.

  45. Albert Luppo says:

    Being a model railroad enthusiast for many years, this layout brings memories of my cousins Lionel layout. If the Lionel units were on a two rail system it would be more realistic. PLUS, the size of all the tracks and units is prohibitive in inner city apartments. It is a terrific setup, but alas and alack, cannot be enjoyed in an apartment. Continue in our hobby and maybe I’ll be on-site some day.

  46. Bob says:

    This is the first time I’ve written about a layout on this site. Dennis’ O Gauge layout was wonderful. Although not extremely detailed as some it is just detailed enough to have fun running the trains and bringing back memories from a much simpler time when I was a kid. (I’m 66.) Kudos to Dennis for a great layout!

  47. Cary B says:

    Awesome layout from Dennis, It brings back fond memories of a neighbors O scale that I loved to watch run in my childhood. Thanks to Dennis and to Al for sharing at this Holiday season.

    Cary B

  48. JACK WINDT says:


  49. George M Steffens says:

    That is an awesome layout. So much going on. It is a lot of fun just examining everything. Terrific job!

    George S.

  50. Robert Rolfe says:

    Very well done, Great music, only thing I would do is slow the trains down, to me they look like they are moving (70 + miles an hour, that is to scale, way too fast for where they are, just saying.
    NV BOB

  51. David A. Massimi says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful layout! Don’t think the video did it justice, as I kept wishing I was there to see it ! What you’ve put together there is a testament to the notion that model railroading is FUN no matter how one approaches it.
    Again, thanks for sharing it !
    Dave in NY

  52. Hugh Centerville says:

    Awesome layout, and I loved the video w/ the music!

  53. Dan Hulitt, Mn says:

    Love the set. The two rock formations are right and left mitten, popular with John Ford and other western film directors. Nice black and red livery for the Same Fe.

  54. Louie says:

    Very nice, neat, cool… Lose the music and tell us all about it or lower it and talk over it. Thanks for the video.

  55. GEORGE Ross says:

    outstanding !!

  56. RonE says:

    I saw the Saguaro at frame 0.28. We call them cactuses or cacti here in So. California. Good scenery all around…well done.
    Never seen so many Corvettes. LOL

  57. David R Adinolfi says:

    Great layout. Layouts reflect very individual tastes (as well as space needed). I love O gauge, have 7 engines and much rolling stock. Sadly mine are in boxes since I’ve just moved, but I will resurrect it when have a train room again and stop using it for storage.
    Really enjoyed the video and the music that went with it.

  58. JIM hINES says:

    wow, very good use of scenes and contemporary “stuff”. so much “Crammed together, monster layout, just too jammed together. Lot’s of work.

  59. Allen Montville says:

    Love all the old cars (hot rod city) Alot to look at, alot to enjoy. Love it, Farmer AL

  60. Bob Davidson says:

    Great video, on a great web site, but I live in central New Mexico and do not remember the southwest being that crowded, however, I do remember the car(carriage) porter had a set of steps he put on the station platform so you stepped off the car to the steps the platfofm?. Now, you just step from car to platform. Hope that answers the Brits question.

  61. John Hauser says:

    I’ve recently begun to follow your posts and frankly I’m amazed at the creativity, complexity and beauty of the layouts you post. These folks are talented. I also learn something each time I read your articles and comments. I’m semi retired and beginning to plan an N Gauge layout, the more I research and plan the more intimidated i get. This is not an uncomplicated hobby but thoroughly enjoyable!
    I look forward to your daily posts , they inspire me.

  62. George Zaky says:

    This further displays the talent and artistic capabilities of us common folk ( who are not so common) when something stirs our passions. The time and expense are beyond my comprehension. You have to see this many times because there is so much to cover and is a great representation of our country.
    My other thought is the huge space this masterpiece resides in.
    Just WOW

  63. Donald Weinmann says:

    Fanatic Thank you

  64. James carry says:

    I can’t get used to that center rail. 3 Rd rail goes on outside. And your trains seep to be traveling at nearly light speed
    I wouldn’t want to be the arm man holding the Conductors orders for him to catch on the fly. That speed would tear your arm clean off.
    And as for packing. Can U squeeze in 2 more buildings and 20 more autos.??
    I model in Ho scale and a bit more serious about my modeling.

  65. steven waltmire says:

    Thank you for sharing. Looks like you may have been by the wigwam motel ( 811 W Hopi Dr, Holbrook, AZ 86025). A nice addition to a fantasmickal layouot.

  66. John S. Brunel says:

    I recently came across my old Lionel trains from the 50’s and early 60’s, looking forward to starting my layout again. So, inspired by the creativity shown by so many modelers. I am with Hauser on noting that it is somewhat overwhelming to be starting up again after so many years. It truly is not an uncomplicated hobby.

  67. Robert B. Severance says:

    Why, oh why do these people run their trains so FAST? Can’t see any details they are speeding around so fast…. :^(

  68. Sid Pratt says:

    WOW! Every inch is covered. Looks Great.

  69. Gerald MacPherson says:

    WOW !!!!!! What a layout. Super O gauge has it all. Absolutly a work of art. Thanks for the look see
    All best Gerald MacPherson (Thailand)

  70. Andrew in Johannesburg says:

    AWESOME!!!!!! and STUNNING!!!!!! with so much character, humor and entertainment. A hearty well done and thank you for sharing.

  71. Vinnie fromStaten Island says:

    Absolutely fabulous. Nice to see a well thought out O guage layout working with out any hitches

  72. Vinnie Montagna says:

    Absolutely fantastic.. Great to see a well thought out layout working with out a hitch

  73. Jim Beam says:

    Makes me claustrophobic

  74. Al Kondas says:

    Really a nice layout. Obviously a lot of time and effort put into it. For those commenting that it is too crowded and everything is not “to scale” and the trains are running too fast, lighten up. It’s called playing with your trains not working on the railroad. If you are not having fun you are doing it wrong.

  75. This is just the thing that hooked me on model trains at age 3. My grandfather built a large layout covering the whole walk up attic of his row home in Pittsburgh, PA. It had cows and milk and saw mill and even a Saturn rocket launcher. Thanks for stirring up those memories!

  76. Bill Butler says:

    But, but, but, you crashed a ’57 Chevy into the tree! Didn’t you have an old Ford around for that? lol!

  77. What memories! Not only of my own Lionel sets which Santa brought, but also the fact that every time Captain Kangaroo had trains on his show. I was “sick” so I could stay at home and see the wonderful layouts! In addition, the “magic” drawing board introduced me to what is still one of my favorite pieces of music, “Bachianas Brazileiras No. 2”, in which a trip on a steam powered train is beautifully recreated.

  78. HAL says:

    why are the trains going so fast

  79. Steve says:

    Great looking.

  80. Greg Marples says:

    I’m an N gauge modeler, more about landscape and buildings and open spaces, but I had so much plain fun living in your world for a few minutes! Sometimes when I’m wearing magnifying lenses and trying to steady my tweezers I forget that. I saw your wall of trains at the end there and it made me wonder if you new my brother Brad. He bought an old house for his trains, they were taking over! Now that he’s retired he spends a lot of time there. Once my wife retires, I may do the same.

  81. I have read and glazed over most post since I began receiving these emails. Typically deciding quickly if there is anything I need to save for future reference when I get to build one, one if these days. Right now I spend most if my time working on finds and waiting on parts. Not very thrilling until today, I saw this video and of course so many absolute beautiful work I’ve see , but this somehow has rekindled my fire. Maybe it was the music. I need to get out to the barn and get the heater going, but wanted to say thank you to the one who made the video and all you people who keep me going.

  82. deDad says:

    Roger, in the US many platforms are elevated to the carriage level. Hope this answers your question.

  83. matiSon says:

    What I would give for some space to make my dream layout…My little room is so cramped, that the train table covers many of my things. I hope to someday be able to afford a
    shed/workshop, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Dennis, you sure did make excellent use of the space that you have. It is a wonderful layout of (IMO) the best scale. I use N due to space limitations, but if room were not an issue, O would be the perfect medium to make highly detailed, yet easier to wire and build train setups. Your results speak for themselves. Congratulations on a job very well done!

    ps: I’m always using “setup” or “layout” to describe model train compilations, due to my inability to find more descriptive words or phrases. Is there a better word that any of you modelers/hobbyists use?

  84. Mike Mihich says:

    Well done. My grandchildren will love it.

  85. Fred Warren says:

    Have ridden AMTRAK many times, and the depot structure in South Carolina was and still is at ground level, and entering and departing passenger coaches is always on portable steps deployed and collected by the porters. This was the case in the 1950’s. and the same in Texas and Florida also.

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