European model train layouts – Michel’s

Michel has been in touch – he’s added to the European model train layouts on the blog:

“Dear Alastair,

I send you my train story, please feel free to correct my English.

What you do with your blog is of great interest, in particulate to me.

I thank you very much for all the work done. I enjoy reading what all the contributors write and it helps me get updated with all the model train story.

I have enjoyed your daily e-mails for years now and finally have decided to share my layout with everyone.

First a little about myself, I am French, 77 years old, and I have always been interested in running model trains. I live in the east of France, in the Alps, close to Geneva and the Swiss amazing mountain trains.

I am not a “real” modeler (my hand skill is not very good) and I don’t spend a lot of time to make things look real although I appreciate a lot reading all what is done in your daily post.

When I was 10, I received an electric model train (HO) as a Christmas present and since, I made a lot of layouts till university.

When I got married and had children, I made another one hanged in my boy’s bedroom, but this was not very convenient. I kept some HO locomotives, carriages and buildings. Few years after retirement I decided to build the layout I am sharing now.

My grandchildren used to play in a small attic room at the top of our house but now they don’t use it anymore and in agreement with my wife I decided it was the place to build a train layout. I started to use my previous DC models but soon lots of electrical problems appeared and I decided to switch to DCC.

european model train layouts

I choose to use Roco’s DCC system because it appeared to me it was one of the more complete and simple at a reasonable cost.

Ballasting is not my favourite task, although it gives a real look, and I choose Roco HO Geoline track system with its realistic plastic ballast bedding. Turnouts are equipped with electromagnetic motor and decoder in the ballast and do not need any additional cabling. Locomotives and turnouts are controlled by the same application.

model train control panel

DCC Control system Roco Z21, on the left train control and on the right control of the turnouts at the touch of the screen of the tablet.

The layout comprises four loops and block systems with detection and breaking modules allowing up to 8 trains to run simultaneously. Light signals are monitored by the system or by the turnouts.

ho scale wiring diagram

Block-type installation (Lectix or Lenz):

This block system is only working with locomotive decoder compatible with the Lenz’s ABC breaking system. My locos are mainly 8 Roco, 1 REE, 1 Jouef, 1 Pico, 2 Trix and 2 old ones now fitted with Zimo decoders. Only the Trix (Marklin) locos are not compatible with this breaking system.

A loop timer relay module allows the trains to stop at the station and starts the selected station announcement using recordable sound modules.

Infra-red sensors are used to help train parking, a small video camera is also used to see trains hidden under the first layer of the layout.

ho scale wiring

Electronic board:

Electronic modules are connected to the layout using ethernet (phone) connectors.

Details of the layout (AnyRail).

ho scale track plan

HO scale track plan

3D view (AnyRail).

Some elements of the layout are 3D-printed such as bridges, platforms, train station footbridges and advertising boards. Roads and some walls are paper printed.

Traffic lights in the village are controlled by a microcontroller AT-Tiny 84 programmed with an Arduino. Sounds have been added to some buildings (Disney castle, entertainments …).

I use an old smartphone as a video advertising board with old ads videos.

Most of the buildings are from previous layouts kept for several years. The Disney’s castle and station have been built with paper by my wife, a huge work!

The main supply for buildings is 12V, other voltages 5V, 4.5V and 3.3V are obtained with adjustable voltage converters.

The carriages are illuminated by LED strips with diode bridge fitted with capacitor and resistor. The buildings are lit by LED strips.

The mountain is made up of several sheets of MDF, adjusted in height by threaded rods, then covered with wire mesh, plaster tape and paper.

european model train layout overview


european model train layout main station

Main station

european model train layout mountain


HO scale bill board

Video wall

model train naturist camp

Naturist camp

european model train layout main station

Main station

Ho scale siding


model train hotel

Lack of space can lead to funny situations like the night club located near Disney’s Main Street!

model train church

The village

model train platform

Village station

model train layout

Small station

mountain backdrop model train

Disney castle

ho scale track side

Railway sidings with infra red detection

All these elements can be seen on the video. A Sony FDR X-3000 was used to record the on-board videos.

Again, thank you so much for your daily email and congratulation to all the contributors.


A huge big thank you to Michel for adding to the European model train layouts on the blog – I love what he’s done.

That’s all for today folks.

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.

25 Responses to European model train layouts – Michel’s

  1. Kenneth R Fox says:

    He obviously has put a lot of time, effort, and money into creating his layout. I’m not really into multi layer or busy layouts, but there are a lot of features in his set that I really like. I especially like the lighting system with the clocks, blinking lights, blinking signs, the video screen and other areas where he has utilized various lighting features to help enhance the buildings, signs, rolling stock, and different aspects of his layout. Even though there are some areas that I find were over done, for the most part, he has done an excellent job and something to be proud of and have fun with for years to come.

  2. Keith says:

    Michel, The layout is fabulous with lots of train movements and a huge number of cameo scenes. What a credit to you!!

  3. robert dale tiemann says:

    lots to see in this one. i really like the multi-level terrain, great stuff. lots of work, and lots to see. very nice job.

  4. Jim Donovan says:

    An old cell phone as a billboard is a great idea. Drive in theater? CGI for your layout. Put in a tunnel to nowhere (dead end mirror trick) with a video scene. Christmas scenes will be fantastic…lightwars,,,

  5. Brian Rockey says:

    Fabulous layout Michel and a well put-together video. Thank you.
    Best to all.
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

  6. Stephen Hill says:

    Very nicely done. Great scenes and buildings , got love the naturalists .. too funny , perhaps that should be next to the Disney castle . Great layout , thank you for sharing

  7. Greg Marples says:

    Your electrical systems are amazing. The control center is so nicely laid out and neatly wired. You may not have my landscaping skills, but I wish I had your technical expertise!

  8. Rich B. says:

    Sure, more advanced than the real thing. A multitude of talent shown here and I would say this is one of a kind unequivocally. Yes, it certainly has a busy look about it and completely lost on green streets, more research on this first lol, best kept secret?

    Now I can’t say he should have done this or that, too much to in-jest just as is. This is a cut above the rest not with scenic aspect but overall sheer advancement.

    Rich, Still Around

  9. TJK says:

    Electrical panel and switches are a grade A+ presentation.

  10. Don says:

    great layout

  11. Lewis Damrauer says:

    A great layout with lots of thought. I too have a European layout in the states and appreciate what Michel also has been done here.
    I wonder why on many of the layouts with catenary the catenary is not used and the pantographs are kept below the catenary.
    Congratulations on a great layout.

  12. Eric Kiehl says:

    Michel, OMG over to top layout. That is something to be very proud of. Instead of texting so much , I am going to say all the above comments are what I would say.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Eric the retired firefighter from St. Louis , Missouri area.

    GREAT JOB my friend

  13. Tony Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Stunning! And very well described! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Peter John Bullock says:

    Michel, fantastic job. The animation throughout the layout is superb!

  15. George Zaky says:

    Tres bien! C’est magnifique! Merci beaucoup for the time & effort you spent putting this wonderful piece together.
    My only disagreement with you is you say ” I am not a “real” modeler “. Oh no! You belong at the top with Big Al’s best. Your entire approach, skills, and talents that make up this marvelous creation are to be commended. You are much too modest.
    You are much advanced in electronics, controls, and planning than many of us are and we can learn so much from what you did.
    I hope you keep in touch with this group and look forward to seeing your name again.
    Big Al
    Wow! Cafe au lait, Michel, et vous. 😁 C’est Bon matin.

  16. John Philip Ruetz says:

    Great layout and great video. Looks like lots of work put into it. Good work.

  17. Ken G says:

    I love the Disneyland railroad station! Was that a kit? And I like you have the OG Disneyland station next to the DIsneyland Paris castle!

  18. matiSon says:

    Great layout!
    A few months back, I purchased a few used European model homes for my layout. One of them had rocks on the roof. I had never seen that before or since, until I saw a picture of one of your models with the same types of rocks. Do some homes have this?

  19. Bob Towers says:

    Finally someone has the courage to use catenary in their layout. Well done Michel. I would love to see more model railroads using overhead. Sure it’s a lot of extra work, but its sooo cool.

  20. roger turner says:

    Great layout with lots to see and well done. I am especially blown away by your use of electronics and technology. I am jealous. The mountain backdrop certainly adds a nice touch.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Roger in Kansas

  21. Mike Balog says:

    Michel, Al, Et El,,, Michel you have a Fantastic European Model Railroad. That comes to life when you switch the power on. Just memorialized by your Video of the different trains going thru many transition areas between scenes. The Video Screen,the Sound Effects of several trains running at the same time. With all the RR Signals working perfectly, and the many scenes combined keep you glued to your monitor. Questions, such as what is the min radius of your track as the Passenger Cars hang over a tad,,,, The multi levels are
    impressive how it all works together. You mentioned you used MDF Board,,,
    how is the Noise Factor as a result of material used? Only negative thing I feel the Trains Run Too Fast around the layout.. Do you have slip switches that allow the trains to transition from one line to another? What model if the Green Locomotive, as it appears as an American style GM Clone. A GP 38 Type unit? Again. Fantastic Workmanship and technical Appreciation. Best Regards for Mike in N.H. U.S.A.

  22. Steve Ruple says:

    WOW !!!!!!—AWESOME LAYOUT !!!!!!!!! Love it !!!!!!

  23. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. Great looking layout . The video, though a little bit long truly provided a wonderful experience to see all the interesting and highly detailed scenes. The cab ride portion was amazing. And your lighting effects were quite effective. I would make one suggestion that you reduce the train speed especially during the cab ride. It would be more realistic and allow viewers to see more.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  24. Dan Piccolo says:

    Michel, very impressive, interesting, and beautiful.

  25. John Birch says:

    Michael, you don’t need to say ‘I am not a “real” modeller’. I too, as mentioned above. am not ‘really into multi layer or busy layouts’ but you have created many interesting scenes and made good use of electronics. Well done.

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