Another collection of your layout pics and tips

Last time I got quite a few mails asking about Alasdair’s wiring, so he’s kindly set this explanation in:

“Hi Al , thank you all for your very kind comments as to my layout, the control panel is like a canopy fixed to the baseboard flush as to save taking up scenic space, it is hollow underneath to hide all the wires,and a little shelf for the controls,hope this helps.



“Hi Al

Well it has been almost 1 year since I started my layout. It is far from finished, however the track laying is complete. Here are some pictures showing progress so far.

Remember I am in Mexico and some things others take for granted just do not exist here. Also because this is in a rented space, like a storage unit facing a busy street, I have a constant flow of people stopping to look and talk, most have never seen anything like this and the children are the best , with their excited expressions and wide eyes as I run a train for them.

All the best, enjoy.

The beginning: From this;

To this;

To this;

To this;

To this;

And this;

And from this;

To this;

To this;

And from this;

To this;

To this;

To this;

To this;

And from this;

To this;

Materials are simple, pink building foam, dry wall compound, clothes dryer sheets, news paper, regular house paint. For track ballast I use sifted sand, the kind used in construction from local building site. Trees come from fabric store, or dried flower supply store.

Also along the way I discovered a few places where changes were called for.

For example;

This view is the back side of the mine, main line on top, mine track through tunnel just off right, and the road that goes through the tunnel to the mine. The lower track begins the climb up to main, closer one to the main platform. This is how I planned it and saw it in my mind, then wife comes along and asks, where are the houses going, got to have houses? Only one place left, above everything else.

This road is the only place to do this, so continue road up and build a bridge.

Bridge under construction, checking clearance with large box car, so far so good.

Trouble; same car, hits wall.

Track surgery called for, move away for clearance.

Change complete, track moved, aligned, leveled and checked,

Next is paint, base coat is grey, why , you ask, because I have lots of it. Then comes black,

Then washes of brown,

All for now, hope this helps some one, I decided before I started that operation was first, looks second, because I could over time improve and or change the looks easier than operation.


A big thanks to Ken, I do love seeing the progress – and the time and effort – that goes in to a layout.

Please do leave a comment below if you’d like to join in.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you take big strides towards your own layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

36 Responses to Another collection of your layout pics and tips

  1. Rob Billing says:

    Hi ken, what scale do you model in? Your trees seem rather large for ho as for the rest great work

  2. Willie Kerr (Glasgow) says:

    Hi Ken, your layout is coming on fine. I like the way you improvise with available materials. A man after my own heart.

  3. John M says:

    Great photos! Thanks for the control panel and wiring shots!

  4. Arnie Steiner says:

    Many thanks to Alasdair and Ken for sharing their respective layout’s progress and the behind-the-scenes views.

    This type of pictorial information is always helpful to those thinking about starting a layout of their own. My layout, the SV&GS in N scale, shown a number of times on this site, is over 10 years old and I don’t have any detailed step-by-step of early planning and construction images to share with the readers. So again, thanks guys for taking the time to do this for others to benefit from.

  5. Lee Barry says:

    No one ever finishes their layout, even if they say it is finished there is always something they are changing, even if it is a different car or truck on their roads or a different placement of them. My layout is finished? but I always am finding out something about it that I have never seen before, and I have had it since October,2010. Ken, keep up the good work and keep the pictures coming.

  6. Stuart says:

    there’s a lot of work gone into that set up. Well done, bet it will be mega when it’s finished

  7. Kurt Hibbert says:

    Nice job! Love the benchwork and the layering. Tons of track in a small space makes for lots of visual interest. The children in your town are so lucky to have you! Happy Railroading! Kurt

  8. Al Good says:

    I always enjoy pics like these. I was to have retired 15 years ago, still part timing the entire then, but do have n gauge plans for when I do.

  9. John Butz says:

    Hi Ken,
    Continuous hard work pays off; great progress.

    I was really excited when I saw the kind of electrical switches you are using to control the turnouts on the control panel. I’ve never seen these in the USA. They clearly indicate the train direction. Super!

    HOW CAN I GET 21 OF THEM? I need double throw, double pole for use with my Kato electric motor turnouts.

    Thank you,
    Eden Prairie, MN

  10. Paco Gayon says:

    Hi Ken, you doing great. Am curious; you are in Mexico. I was born in Mexico City 89 years ago. Of course I travel to Mexico, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta etc.
    Always was cracy about Rairoads. I have a nephew who has a Toy Store in San Luis Potosi, with trains, planes, cars etc.
    I saw a layout with Engine of the Mexican Rail Roads. I have no idea what is the state of it. Love to receive your comments.
    My layout is suspended from the ceiling and measures like my King size bed 6 X 7. The winch is a closet and am working really hard inmaking some gadget that will make cars run on a road.
    Paco Gayon

  11. tom scott says:

    i like how you are put plaster over the foam , the mountain i did for the ford train club carved the foam,i used a of white glue for the landscape. then made lake on top with river and waterfall with realistic water,i made a three track portal that they wanted with a lot of sand stone chips from that made from my garden out side .So far you are doing a great job ken

  12. John Molloy says:

    Thanks for the pictures of the control panel. Can you tell us what brand and model you used for the switch controls?

  13. Tom says:

    The wiring … most impressive!
    Under the platform looks like an electrician’s nightmare. Just kidding!!
    the railroad is coming along fine
    the best part … thanks for sharing


  14. Ray Appenzeller says:

    Great layout! Do you know the approximate dimensions? Do you have a sketch drawing of what you plan to do?

  15. Ian says:

    it is great to see layouts in progress i have made the same mistake have forgotten to have photos as my layout has grown . thanks for your designs, materials used these are all great hints to me and others keep them coming.

  16. paul Otway says:

    neat layout

  17. THOMAS says:


  18. Michael Ankerson says:

    Hi Ken…

    Great photos!!!

  19. builder Kim says:

    Hi Im one for helping other’s.Even at times go out of my way big time.If you need some info on making stuff drop me a line.telephone poles lots more.

  20. KEN says:

    thank you all for the great comments. There have been some frustrating moments along the way as every one has experienced I’m sure. Paco if you are ever in Chapala look me up, not hard, just ask about the train guy.

  21. Bill Stowasser says:

    Hi. On your yards you are showing indicators showing the switch as being either open or closed. I live in eastern North Carolina USA and I have not seen these kinds of indicators. Are they available in the States?

  22. use 5 amp dc fuses for auto motive fuses that are easy to replace and priced right

  23. Mic Flynn says:

    I love your layout, I’m learning alot from your pictures. Thanks so much for posting. Keep up the great work you should be proud of your layout.

  24. Darrell Smith says:

    Dang ! Ken, its, Awesome, Incredible, Great…. Trying to find best words to describe your work. Glad you shared the photos with us. You have invested a lot of time and patience in your layout, that most folks don’t realize how much planning and work it takes to build a super layout. You certainly have something to be proud of. Congratulations. Keep sending more photos as you roll along.

  25. Burton Franklin says:

    Great layout is that a 80 ton Shay

  26. Jim says:

    Nice work Ken. It’s going to be a great layout. Looking forward to more pics and trains running.

    Jim AZ

  27. Perry says:

    I would also like to know the names of your switches and where did you get them?

  28. Jim Wilson says:

    Is it just me, how does the loop work. even with DCC the polarity would change on the return to the main line?

  29. Fred Levora says:

    Where did you get your switch machine controllers ? I have never seen them in the states. I will need 40 of them.

  30. Jan Watters says:

    gr5eat job there!

  31. Bob Schworm says:

    For the reader that wants to run cars on a road, check out the FALLER road system.

  32. steve joyce says:

    love the progress pictures. Definitely inspirational. One of these days… I am still accumulating stuff. Though in next couple months going to get one of those Mianne benchwork 4×8. If it does what is expected then get the other 2 (4×12 and another 4×8) to make a U

  33. Old Ben says:

    Love your story

  34. John Aus says:

    Hi Ken, a great layout, it must be fun to have passersby watch your progress. A little tip for trees is to use small twigs from an old plastic Xmas tree, they can be used among other trees to add mass to a forest.Good luck and keep running trains, John Aus.

  35. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    Alasdair, Please tell us more about those white turnout switches. They are perfect for an old guy like me to tell what direction my turnouts are in.
    Did you make them somehow attaching them to switches underneath the panel, or can they be purchased?

  36. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Alasdair and Ken…. great work

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