Here’s how to start a model train layout – all these gems are from the Hall of Fame members.
It struck me over the year that one particular theme in the comments kept cropping up, time and time again.
And because it’s such an important part of creating a layout, I thought I’d do a post dedicated to it.
What is it? It’s simply this: making a start.
That’s why I happily publish posts like this:
Paul makes a start on his layout
John starts his HO scale model railroad
So here you are. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.
Of course, I’m biased, but it’s solid gold advice, that’s because I asked the Hall of Fame members what their advice would be.
Let’s begin with Rob on how to start a model train layout:
“If you are thinking about a model train layout with a few trains running around, but you don’t know where to start, buy a train set with a controller and a simple train.
They come with a little track. It will be enough to form a loop usually, although it may be small.
Set it up on the floor or a table (like I did) and enjoy it. See what you think. When you are ready to try something more permanent, get a small sheet of plywood.
You can get half a sheet or a quarter sheet at your local home store or lumber yard (if they still have any lumber yards) and mount the track on it. Maybe get a turnout/point or two and some additional track, Just enjoy it and decide if it is for you. It is a learning thing.
You will start learning immediately on the table and then more on the plywood. Mostly enjoy it. Just remember, Farland started on a table top and then as a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of plywood on 2×4 legs. That original sheet is buried under it somewhere.
Always run for a while when new track is installed to make sure there are no rough areas like turnouts that are not level or track joiners/fishplates that are not put in right. There could be a track pin too high as well. Many things can cause problems.
Remember it is all a learning experience and the more you learn the more fun it can be. Don’t get discouraged. If you want to do something and you are not sure how, search for it on YouTube or ask someone you respect. They will be very happy to help you over a rough spot, I promise.
Inclines, I cannot emphasize this enough. Trains of all kinds like flat level track. If you want to go uphill with either a diesel or a steam engine, keep the grade to a minimum. 2% is the reasonable max for steam. Don’t think, oh I can get away with 3 1/2% this time, no you cannot. That grade will be doomed to failure. 16 feet to go up 3 1/2 inches/85 mm is your limit. There are magnets and things people have used for steep grades, but if you do it, then you cannot have a friend bring his locomotive over to run it on your layout.
If you want to know how big say a parking space should be or a platform width. You can always find one on a satellite view and compare it to the width of standard gauge track which is always 4 feet 8 1/2 inches or 1435 mm the world over. With a little bit of calculating you can closely approximate the size. They both need to be on the screen together. Above all patience and have fun.
A big thanks to Rob, here’s one of his post on the blog – how to make a Model railroad backdrop
As you can see he really knows what he’s talking about, as do all the Hall of Fame members.
Now Dave’s advice on how to start a model train layout:
“Hi Al …getting started !!!
Starting out is in this Hobby can be made easy or hard…. my advice would be to start with a DCC train set… and just the 6ft.x 3 ft base… then add a oval track probably 4ft x 2ft.
Learn all you can first re having a BUS wire feeding the track (these are feeds to the track and given distances )… then when laying track make sure everything is very level, and if you add points I would advise going for the longer Express points (gives a smoother run especially turning ).
As for the track underlay… maybe one of the best and cheapest is cork , cut the strips to just over width of your track and lay this down before adding track (you can disguise this with ballast later ) your track can then be Pinned down or glued down (I tend to use Copydex).
Once all this is set up and dependent on which control system you choose , I would just get used to running and then when happy with the track and smooth running , you can proceed with Ballasting … and then on to Scenics ..a lot of scenic material out there these days… woodland scenics is one of the best for starting out with and they do have a lot of Tutorials on YTube… as for buildings I would leave until happy with the running… but again big choices out there from build your own to ready made…
A Great Hobby and one which I have said before… we are never too old to start with.
Happy Modelling is my Motto…
Now here’s Cameron’s advice on how to start a model train layout:
I think first it’s great just to set up some track, however simple, and start running trains.
Set it up on the floor or the dining table and invite others to have a go as well. A simple set was my entry point into this hobby and I still have every piece of it.
If you get the bug it’s not too long before you are wanting a permanent base board. 8 foot by 4 foot is a popular starting point with boards readily available from hardwares and lumber yards. You can do a lot on an 8×4 layout without biting off more than you can chew.
I always let other people, especially kids, have a go of my layout and am quite happy to sit back and let them learn. They derail a few times but generally no harm done. There is a lot of fun to be had in the quiet solitude of creating a layout but there is also great enjoyment in sharing the creation itself.
And here’s what Brian has to say on how to start a model train layout:
1 – if you are thinking about getting into the hobby of model trains and have nothing in the model hobby other than reading matter, then my suggestion would be as follows: (this is what I used to say to customers when I had my hobby shop, when asking for advice on ‘what do I buy to get started’) you should start with a train set of your choice.
The reason for this is that you will get – possibly an oval of track, a transformer, some rolling stock and a locomotive. You can be operating your model set within a short period of time when you get home.
This is the time when you look for space in your home for a layout be it a 6ft X 4ft or 8ft X 4ft table. If space is a problem then maybe have a shelf where you can a least run a train backwards and forwards until you find the space or go around the walls on a shelf for your layout.
2 – once you have the “space” available and a track plan in mind (and on paper) it can always be changed as you progress. Do NOT be afraid to start building as you will learn as you progress and mistakes can ALWAYS be rectified. TALK to other modelers who can give you advice as well as the Internet for advice and photographs.
3 – as you progress, you can buy extras for your set as and when you can afford it. Do NOT be tempted to buy willy nilly as you may regret the purchase later (buying something you liked and not fitting with your theme). Plans WILL change a you progress but carry on and really have FUN doing it.
Never have a fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) of starting or failing just DO IT and learn from your mistakes. As said by many people, model railroading is fun. Enjoy.
I hope this helps.
And it’s not just the Hall of Fame members that have pearls of wisdom. Here’s a selection of comments I have pulled from the year on how to start a model train layout:
“Get Started!! Build a table. Lay some track. Put a work train on it. Start running. The rest will happen.
“I can not agree with you more about your statement today about helping beginers or even some more experienced modelers I am a circus modeler or converted model railroader and converted for that very reason meet some people that said it was more important to try to show your talent no matter what level you are at and not count all the rivets so to speak and now have a saying when ever some one picks something apart “its my show” or “It is my railroad” some of the best ideas I have gotten for adding detail is from kids some are very observant and can really add to your project.
Thanks for your posts and efforts I do enjoy getting the hints.
“I have found it is a life long hobby, I started with an OO railway, when I was 14/15.
That one was sold off due to space and I was around 48 when I got the bug again and restarted with N gauge and have spent many happy hours over the last 21 years building and rebuilding layouts.
Now at 69 I get much more fun out of building the tracks and scenery than actually running the engines. I have bad rheumatoid arthritis especially in my hands and in this scale it actually helps my hands keep active, frustrating and annoying at times trying to fit things together with fingers that don’t want to do what you want. If I stop building then my hands would probably just give up. But the joy of seeing the layout coming together is what makes it a worthwhile hobby to me at least.
Eric (Leeds) UK”
“Tom – Just remember that when you go to get started what you may have forgotten will come back to you, little by little. Why don’t you try putting in a helix and then your trains can go up to different levels more gradual. Do worry everything will work out. Remember Model Railroading is Fun. Don’t worry what people say if it’s not finished – layout is never finished just more fun to do more and to change things around.
“Paul – Who was it who said a journey starts with a single step? Put a piece of track on a shelf and run one loco up and down. Maybe add a point and a siding and take it from there Good luck and happy modelling.
“I am very impressed! As I’m only 72 and my very first layout is in its plywood stage, Mike’s place is inspirational. He has started! All of us – it only works if you start! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s the learning part, I was told.
It’s also the FUN part, to my surprise. I wish I’d started sooner, as I’m having so much fun now.
Excuse me, I’ve got a railroad to build.
– Graeme, on a small island in Canada.”
“I think the most important thing about a model railroad is just start and build it to your liking. Start simple and work up as you go and learn. Oh and by the way a model railroad is never completed. Too much information can at times be overwhelming, but let it work to your advantage … ideas … hints, tips, of all areas of model railroading are great tools to use along the way, a learning process. Model railroading; it is, a piece; a time; a place; that is brought back to
life in miniature. Enjoy!!
Tom: Central Maryland, U S of A”
“I started modeling about 5 years ago and am currently working on my third layout. When I started I knew nothing about modeling but was looking for something to do because it was too cold to play golf. Since then I have found a group guys who have been into railroading for many years. We meet every Thursday nite at each others homes and work on their model. I enjoy reading your posting and have learned from them Please continue to send them. Thanks for all your help and knowledge!!!! Art
“I agree with the philosopy of small bites at a time. Mountain climbers did not go to mount Everest for their first climb. They learned the basics,bought their gear, and worked on their skills as time permitted. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just work on some small aspect of your layout and enjoy that bit of progress.
“Step by step is the best way to build a layout. Start with a plan, or at least your basic plan. If you want a big layout, you might start with a loop or a double loop, get the track powered up and run your trains. Want a super yard? Include a turnout on your loop now which will eventually lead to your yard – it is easier to add some turnouts in the initial stage than to add them later. Next, plan a section of scenery. Before you start that, paint the rest of the layout tan and call it desert. It is easy to do, and it sorta looks finished. Now hit the computer, make a sign (billboard) “Under Construction, enter at your own risk”. Your layout is now complete – for now. More to come at your own pace.
“Getting started is half the battle. Make a plan and see how big you can go. Think about what kind of train and land you want and just start at one end and do a little at a time. Look for help like places like this, this web site has open dee my eyes a lot of times. Your train lay out is looking real good. Keep up your good work. Dave in Savannah, G. USA
“If you have not built a layout before, then set that layout to one side and by running that one will keep you encouraged. Then start planning a new layout. The hardest part is deciding what you want in your layout.
Start by were you going to have it setup and placed in what area. This will help in what size the layout will be.
Then plan what the theme will be (IE: a town, a industry, A mine. ) you get the idea.
All this will help in how you are going to lay out the track and scenery.
One of my biggest joys is in the creation of the layout. And I recommend you should at least build one yourself. There is lots of help and ideas you can draw from the model railroad community.
The old layout you can incorporate into your new one later or change to fit.
I like to build in modules much like you see from railroad clubs. And each module I do in a different theme. then I can add it into my layout at any time.
I hope this will help you decide on what you do next.
Most important have fun with it. And if you are not carful you will be hooked forever.
PS. if you build in the basement just remember the post hold up the house. And should not be knocked down to make room for your railway. ( HA HA) Note: I know of someone who really did that.
“Never ceases to amaze me how this part (Planning a layout) always brings a wealth of ideas and opinions.
And it makes sense since this is the basis of our Day Dreaming and fantasizing about what our final result could be with the proper planning.
It also makes sense that the novice (myself included) fears the starting and commitment portion of the hobby.
But if the novice pays close attention to the more experienced Modelers they will pick up on the fact that No layout is ever “really” finished and that the repeating questions are resources, Space, Money and time and so long as my funeral is not planned the Space and Money will eventually take care of themselves.
The lesson is “Just Start”, Learning to disassemble and rebuild is what has been focused on about Dave’s layout for the past couple of months.
Give up the Fear, Enjoy the Hobby, it is a practice, like Doctoring, never a completely skill set.
So there you go. I think this hobby is just like any other hobby, chore, job or task: making a start takes most of the effort. After that first step, and the seal is broken, you’re on your way.
Again, I’m baised about it, but here’s what Rob, the latest Hall of Fame member had to say about it:
“When you are beginning to think about a model train layout, as a beginner you are full of questions. Forging on without the best answers can be frustrating and very costly. I recommend Beginner’s Guide as your go to guide. All those hazy things you don’t know are explained in this book. Learning the hard way, is the expensive and slow way, this book is the road to modeling bliss. Read it first or refer to it as you go along It can be very overwhelming in the beginning. A slow and steady approach is the best when modeling and this book will help you get there.
Rob McCrain – Farland Howe”
A huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to the site over the years – every post seems to help on how to start a model train layout.
And if you’ve got any advice on making a start, please do leave a comment below.
That’s all for today folks.
Please do keep ’em coming.
And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to stop dreaming, and start doing.
PS Ebay cheat sheet does go mad at this time of the year.
Lots of good advice on getting started .
about the ” Post in the Basement ”
what I did was build the layout around the post and turn the ” Post ” into a very tall mountain , covering the post first with cardboard and then covering with styrofoam sheets , came out looking good and when the layout comes down years from now the mountain can be reused again
A big thanks to Al for putting this all together. I am certain that those who are afraid to start will draw inspiration from some fantastic ideas above and get started and have FUN.
Merry Christmas to all.
Greatest hobby for retirees or those about to retire. I keep the mind sharp, your hands busy and your body active. Cutting wood for both scenery and table. Electronics to operate the trains. Painting the scenery and backdrops. Computer for planning, drawing and researching, layout designs and train operations. Not to mention family involvement, grand children love seeing trains running around the layout. I started with a 8 ft X 4 ft sheet of plywood, in HO scale. Not so much room 2 ft X 4 Ft in N scale. Just make sure you use a plan that can e expanded because it will be! Happy modeling!
I would like to reply to the present exchange of ideas on how to get startedin model railways and include a sketch. If I send in my thoughts with the sketch as an email attachment will your system accept my sketch and print it with mt text?.
The encouraging comments and advice is one of the nicest “Holiday cards”
I’ve received in years ! ! Thanks to all of you and have a wonderful Holiday
and the very best in the New Year Oscar
dear allister just want to say merry christmas and a healthy, prosperous new year to you and yours. this year has not been kind, suffered a major stroke, 2 1/2 months therapy, then i had a heart attack, then there was more therapy, in september i couldn’t beathe and was put on oxygen and nebulizer. in november my cellulitus and lymphodema came back and i went to the hospital, 2 days later they found me not breathing aand unresponsive. they were able to bring me back to life and they wont tell me how long i was dead for and i know i suffered alot of brain damage. but hey i still answer to lucky. hs ha ha. i don,t know if i will ever be able tobuild my dream layout but i might have to sell 30,000 dollars worth of new train stuff i had bought wholesale over the years. it is all n scale. now for what i am trying to do. a little bit ago i emailed you about your paper models, i bought the big kahuna and am hoping that maybe out of love, and kindness in your hear,t that you could give me another deal with the rest of the models that have come out in the past few years for 1 set price. i am on a small fixed income which mostly pays my rent and groceries. thank you very much for your consideration and also for what you due on your blog bernie
A few things to remember –
You may be able to reach into the far corners of your board now when it’s empty, but you’ll still need to reach it for cleaning, repairs etc when you’ve filled the bit you now lean on with track and scenery. Leave yourself an easy reach.
It’s a lot easier to wire round an insulated track joint you find you didn’t need, than it is to take a lot of track back up to put in insulated joiners you left out first time round.
You may be planning a permanent layout, but life conspires against us, it’s less trouble to build-in some bolted joints to your baseboards at the start than it would be to find some way of sawing it into sections if you found you had to move.
You’re going to end up putting in more electrical stuff than you expect, so use connectors between baseboards etc that have a lot more pins than you need now.
Dear Alastair Lee and friends
Joyous Boxing Day
And may all of you have a truly joy filled and blessed year in 2017.
Model Railroading and getting started..
“Little by little you will go far”
A little modeling, a few minutes to an hour, each day builds skills and builds fantastic layouts.
Before you start remember that information can be your best friend…
Over the past 50 years I have built many layouts — of many sizes. About 10 years ago I got “bit” hard by the “micro-layout” bug. Each layout idea has its strengths and weaknesses.. It is very hard to run big engines and long trains on a “micro” as one example… The classic “four by eight” is great for HO and OO but is is a very deceptive “space eater” and few of us have arms long enough to rescue a train derailed on the back of the layout. N-Scale allows a lot of track in very little space (and z scale even better) but both can be a vision test when your eyes get a bit older… O scale is easy on the eyes but can take up a lot of space very quickly. HO (and OO) splits the difference.
In the end, beginning is a lot like walking, one step at a time… Follow your interests and do not be afraid to try new ideas… Some step slowly even from the start and hang on to every support… Others stand up in the middle of the floor, take four steps and then start running… (I have two children)…
When it comes to starting… I would say choose a good reference (“Beginners guide” for example) then get a little track you can “play with” on a handy table.
Have a bit of fun while you plan the next step.
When you are ready, plan a small layout and build a sturdy baseboard.
Using ideas from a guide, the path forward will be step by step from underlay to track to test operations to scenics.
Thanks Al – a good idea to devote this whole blog to getting started. I bet there are many readers who are interested but not yet ‘doing it’. There is so much encouragement here I am sure many will be clearing some space and laying a little track for the first time.
I like Carl’s suggestion about putting up a sign saying it’s work in progress – it is easy to be embarrassed when a visitor sees the layout nowhere near complete. But of course this must be the normal state for most of the time! I remember seeing Dangerous Dave tearing out part of his great layout so he could set about making it even better. That shocked me at the time, but I soon realised that was a powerful demonstration – there is no end to the fun!
Dusty K, UK
I have really enjoyed all the input articles on “how to get started” in model railroading. My dilema is, I want to set up O scale. I have the last edition of the Phebe Snow (metal edition) which I’m anxious to put together (layout). Having a hard time finding the right scale people, cars and building sources to get started. There is HO all over the place (more popular?) and I have a small HO I will set up separately later. Right now, I have to go with the O scale startup. Any suggestions on finding accessories for this scale?
I made a small layout for my son that rolled under his bed. It has a control box that unplugs for storage using a computer plug and socket. Apartment living was the reason.
Hi can anyone recommend a base board for a new person to start
A n guage model rail way .
Reply to Don on the 3 ft wide layout. Don most of us place the layout against a wall so we can have background scenes. Also trying to place scenery while reaching across 4 foot can have spills and damage from dropping tools etc.
Best advice I can give is a 2 part answer:
1) Join the NMRA. Take advantage of the support you can get with an NMRA membership. Pay the extra money to get the NMRA magazine. Take part in your region and division meetings where you can meet others and share with each other.
2) Join a local club, preferably a round-robin club that meets at each other’s homes. A local club lets you learn from experienced modelers and a round-robin club means learning from many different layouts in different scales and eras to help you make decisions before cutting that first piece of plywood. Our club has a Monday night work group that helps our members with building, maintaining and operating our layouts.
I am currently building an N gauge layout on a board which is 5 feet by 2 feet 6. This size is because it is over a single bed, fixed to a shelf which is fixed to the wall. It is fixed to the shelf using lift-off hinges. It can be lifted up so it is parallel to the wall so the bed can be used. The electrics are connected into the side of the board using DIN plugs and sockets.
It’s main use is to give me a hobby and for the grandkids to have some fun with.
Thanks for the blog, it has been very helpful.
A 3 x 6 layot will take 12 inch curves + some straight on the ends . Easy to work around from any side. Use it for a starter and THEN branch out to a larger layout space. Easy to add switches and interchange with a larger loop. Important thing is to get started!
The question was “why 3 feet by 6 feet and not 4 feet by 8 feet, ?” . I think the answer was because that was the size of a door and was easy to stand on its side or under a single (child’s) bed when not in use. As many starter sets were 00 or H O, the 3 by 6 was the size of the area that the oval needed; this in turn meant that the sidings had to be within the oval which limited the imagination of further developing the railway set. But with 3 feet wide you could reach the far side track to re-rail a derailed engine. However enjoying railway sets is by doing what YOU want and taking advantage of the offered advice of others that you may wish to use. Peter.
It may have something to do with the fact that 3 ft is about the maximum reach for most persons. 4X8 is good if you have access from both side. The best advice is lay some track and start running.
I live in US wherr standard size of plywood is 4’x8′
I believe in UK and its former colonies (Aus) size their plywood in metric.
Thus one meter (roughly 3′) by two meters (6′)
Just a guess.
I’ve just started with a 6 x 4 track layout and to be honest if I had the money to start again I’d go for N gauge instead of 00 as the base size will accomodate much more in terms of track and accessories, buildings and scenery etc.
With the smaller gauge you can really get much more onto the same size base.
This is a reply to Don who asked why people are using a 3’x6′ panel instead of a 4’x8′ panel.
The main reason is that people may not have the area for a 4’x8′ panel in their place and another is a 3’x6′ panel is basically the size of a standard American door that can be bought at almost any DIY hardware or home construction store like Home Depot or Lowe’s store. The door is already pre-cut and assembled so all that is needed is a set of simple legs to be installed. Using a door saves time for creating a base for a layout. A door can be bought either as a light hollow door for easy moving for people who move around a lot like military folks, or as a solid heavy door for mounting to a wall stud for a rock steady foundation that could survive an earthquake.
Also, doors make good modular units. A person can construct a basic layout on one door and run trains on it and construct an expansion to the first layout on another door at a later time.
For me, I have choosen a hollow door for my “N” scale layout because I’m on a limited income and live in an apartment. Occasonally have to move due to rent increases or building renovations, so I need a layout base that I could easily pick-up and move on my own that I don’t have to tear apart when I move.
I run HO so I do use a 4’X8′ piece of Plywood screwed to a base to keep it flat and to keep it from twisting
On the question 4×8 vs 3×6; 4×8 is fine if you are building a layout away from a wall so you can access from either side. We can’t reach 4′ and even 3′ puts you pretty close to damage to close in trains or scenery. 4′ allows at most 22″ radius curves which is tight for a lot of equipment. I am talking HO gauge here. But the reachable distance applies regardless of gauge. 2′ x as far as you can go really works great and also allows easy access to under table wiring. I know the urge is to slap some rail on a board and get started. But too really enjoy this hobby careful planning saves a lot of headaches and wasted effort and money.
Here is something I did with my 4X8 foot table which eliminates any and all “reaching problems.” The room I have my little pike in is a mere 10X11 foot spare bedroom – not much for an Empire Builder. I built my 4X8 table from on line plans which called for height adjusters under the legs. That would be perfect if the table were in my garage. However in the spare bedroom, the floor is level. So instead of height adjusters, I simply bought a set of four large Teflon “sliders” to place under the legs. The whole thing sits on low pile carpeting so those sliders are perfect. The table is placed about 3 feet from a wall with a window in it. That is where the controls are (it is a simple DC system). The short length of the table is against a wall. So I have access to all parts of the table by simply walking around it. The really cool thing is that if I get bored with the orientation of the layout, I can simply pull the electrical plug and turn the table from 90 to 270 degrees and plug it back into another outlet. I am not bound by any fancy wiring so moving everything is quite easy. I don’t know who thought up those Teflon sliders but I would like to shake his hand. For me, he solved the problem of long reaches. I don’t even strain to reach the middle of the table and I am 80.
The three foot width is probably so you can reach the opposite side. This would be for those who have the setup next to a wall. The main reason for width is the radius of the turns. Tight turns are trouble.
The 3 x 6 would work very well for N scale while the 4 x 8 would be good for HO or OO. What a wonderful group of people posting great comments. Rob McCrain
I took a clue from the NWMRR club in Traverse City, Mich to make sheets 32 by 48 inches. You get three sheets out of a 4 by 8 foot sheet without any waste.
32 inch wide is easy to reach the back. Make sure that the hardware takes account for the saw blade width when making the cuts.
3 x 6 works for N gauge, but HO needs a minimum of 4 by 6 for any oval. 3 X 6 in HO causes very tight turns that many cars can’t make. With minimum 18 inch turns in most train sets 4 x 6 allows sidings and passing tracks. Bachamann “your first railroad track pack” is a great 4 x 8 layout. It comes with a video.
A lot depends on room available. However starting off small is best.
You can even build a layout on an ironing board if you want too.
Here’s a plan I drew up (slightly larger than 6′ x 3′ – 1900mm x 105) which may be of interest (three of the corners were rounded off to make it easier to fit under a bed). If wiring for analogue, connect the inner and outer loops to two completely separate controllers, with double isolating breaks on the crossover at the back and the long crossover which comes right across the layout, to avoid short circuits. You should then be able to start a train from the long bay platform at the bottom, run it round the outer loop a few times, then cross it right across the layout to run round the inner loop for a bit, before returning it to the bay platform, putting another loco on from the spur siding and sending the train out again (you can actually queue three trains like this so there’s plenty of operating potential).
I started an O Scale layout on an unused 4 X 8 table and later added 5 X 6 on one side. . Lots of room to run the trains and to have interesting buildings along the way. I am an 80 year old woman (one of two women in our model train club) and am now working on a large ho scale layout. Kind
of learning as I work.
Dont feel confined by board size. If you have the space for an 8 x 4 board then dont fill it with a solid board but consider how you can use the space. Perhaps an internal.operating area to allow you to reach the across the space. Light construction with ply and.an open plan arrangement which will enable you to incorporate a good setting for a railway in a landscape. Scale.probably 2mm as you can accomodate far more and allow for decent running lengths or 4mm if you are happy with tight radii.
Have fun and a Happy New Yeat
Very interesting question, here is my two cents (by the way my first post to the site)
I have just completed my layout after a five year absence in the hobby, here is how I downsized and came up with what I believe to be a great layout.
1) Dedicate an area where the layout will be built, this will dictate the size.
2) Try if possible not to use a 4×8, you will end up with a circular toy like layout.
3) Utilize SCARM (Free track planning software on the internet)
4) If you cannot reach the layout on four sides, make you max width maybe 30″, and widen it at the ends for curves
5) Plan your layout for operations, ie: staging yards, classification yards and industry
6) think about scenery, if the layout is 4×8 a tall mountain will again look toy like. Opt for rolling hills
7)Go with DCC!! if you have many DC locos, install a DPDT switch to go from DCC to DC
8) Think of scene blocks and backdrops to extend the depth of field
9) Use “L” girder construction with a thin plywood base and extruded foam a top that. (Makes scenery all that easier)
i’m hardly one who is in authority on these things, but i do have the experience of having a wife for over 30 winters now who guards every facet of her nest with a lioness intensity;
my first thought is two 3×6 foot tables could almost fit in the space of one 4c12 one–and if your space is at a premium (i did manage to convince her to remodel the basement into something of a small theatre to house my 8-ft speakers and audiophile high fidelity system) having two tables that easily fold up out of the way for her entertainment desires can go a long way towards marital diplomacy;
as an aside, i’ve dedicated a substantial portion of one of my tables to a pair of mountains in her honour the lines run through;
i’m somewhat confused why i get a hard look whenever i point this out to her–perhaps it is my big smile when recanting my dedication to her…
For me, I designed my N Scale to fit into a spare bedroom. The room was 12′ long by 10′ wide- so the table came out 5foot x 7foot to allow room to easily walk around the layout and control panels. An added bonus is that it’s only 2-1/2 feet to the middle of the table so no cut-outs to reach the middle were needed.
Great topic, thanks for all the tips and ideas
My brother built a small layout. He attached hooks on each corner and then suspended it from the overhead bearers or rafters under the house . He can store it just below the ceiling then lower it for the running of trains. He used chains to suspend the layout base board.
6 x 3 feet = 1800 x 900mm also the size of a domestic door, which forms a great base to start your layout in N or HO scale (i do N myself) I used this for my first layout then extented it now 1800 x 2400mm L shape 900 deep.
Great to see people looking Al I have been watching for years.
reply for Don ,
size of your 1st layout depends on your available space and scale your using , i have had several kinds of layouts but i always keep it in modular form so it ca be arranged how you want or need if space changes, the scale i use is N-scale because you get more in smaller spaces , i’m working on a new configuration on my layout, it is going to be in a ” U ” shape with a 4’x7′ section , a 3’x 8′ section and some 2’x4′ sections, what ever you do have fun with your trains & there is no such thing as a completed railroad you always find changes you want to do
One of the problems with larger tables is the fact that you can’t always reach over to rectify derailments etc. Another is the fact that the larger the tables, the more supporting structures are necessary.
If you’re just going to the hardware shop to buy a sheet of timber, be it 2m X 1m or 8′ by 4′ or whatever, spare a moment to think of having it sliced into strips about a foot wide. Not only does this make it much easier to take home, but having a long, thin railway along a wall or two makes it much easier to work on and leaves most of the room free for other uses. OK, it’s true you won’t then be able to run trains round in circles ad infinitum, but unless you’re going to model the El or the Circle Line… A big hardware store probably has a cheap or free sawing service that will give you nice clean straight edges, too.
A 24′ x 48′ piece of plywood would be better especially for a N Scale layout BUT!!!!! alas back to reality a 3′ x 6′ will fit most rooms and is very nice to get your feet wet as become your railroad empire. Their is a lot of work to do in scenery and buildings to be made. At any rate it will give some welcomed experience.
I don’t have a permanent layout, but build a Halloween layout and a Christmas layout each year. I can vary the size of the boards, sometimes as single 6 x 3 or 8 x 4 board, and sometimes an L shape. I can change things around each year. Ir does mean less structured scenery, and new wiring for each layout, but it is so much fun to have something new. My friends enjoy helping me build Halloween themed cars using flat cars and modeling figures and scenery. My wife helps me, and often builds a Christmas village on one board with a simple oval of track. It does mean we cannot use the garage or the basement for 8 months of the year … So my layouts are always new, and it makes shopping at train fairs and garage sales great fun.
There are a number of reasons in favour of 6×3 against 8×4 one being weight of 8×4 with scenery and rails attached if you want to move it about.
A light weight honeycomb constructed door works fine without to much extra timber to support it and doors can be linked together to form a larger layout.
Lightweight 7x 3 hardboard door can be found.
Not having much room, I used a hollow door and cut it down to 30″x60″ for my first N scale layout. I built a wood frame table for it and put castors on the legs so I can roll it around in the garage when need be. I used foam on top of the door as a base and made a simple figure 8. Being N scale, I have been able to pack a lot of scenery into it. It is mainly for watching the train run and learn how to do scenery.
My next layout will be 2 ft x 12 ft N scale shelf layout along a wall in the garage. This layout is still in the very early planning stages but I do plan to run at least 2 trains with some switching.
The main thing is, work with the space you have, learn, and most of all, have fun.
I started with a 4×8 sheet of plywood so I could put on a 4×8 sheet of insulation board from my local lumber company which is the standard building material here. The only problem is you have to lean over to the other side which is a strain on my back and hard to reach over the setup. I do keep it away from the wall so I can get to the other side but you cannot put scenery on the wall because it isn’t tight against the wall.
Thanks for all the comments Guys. I guess you want more room to move around your layout room. That is understandable. I am going to send Al three 2 foot by 8 foot switching layouts. This will be for those of US that like to think how do get rolling stock in and out of the industries in the least amount of MOVES or the least amount TIME . It can be a game if you like to compete with your friends. This again is for you guys to have fun doing the switching of the railroad == where the real work of the railroad is.= not just “circle-burning” –round and round it go.
The three layout designs will be in an attachment. Yours in railroading Don J
I personally think it all has to do not only with the space abailable but what scale you’re planning on running (smaller scales mean more can be jammed into a smaller space). That being said I always opt for starting HO on a 4×8 sheet of plywood mainly because that is the convenient size it comes in. It’s fairly easy to pair down from there or even increase in size as your hobby grows. So I reiterate, space and scale are the two major things to be looking at when starting out.
Seeing all the wonderful comments you have already received, I will mention this. First, the scale you are working in will determine how much track and scenery you can get into a given area. It’s always a dilemma as to how much track you can lay down before you begin to get that “bowl of spaghetti” look. Also, speaking of whatever scale you choose to work in, track curves take on several functions: One is of a scenic nature where a larger radius produces a more pleasing effect. Radius also limits the size of locomotives as well as the length of freight or passenger cars. Too limited a radius will create a situation where either the train might appear to be chasing itself or make things look toy train like as there would be a tendency for each car in the train to appear as though it is about to uncouple.As some have said a narrow around the wall layout or approach can prevent some of these problems if space is available. One other thing would be to ask yourself what your interests are in model railroading. If you want to depict long trains running in open countryside, but you lack space, then I would suggest that you consider something like N scale. If you would prefer a switching urban setting, then you could get away with a larger scale, but keep things in an around the wall scheme. Finally whatever you do, remember, as others have said, a 30-inch reach is about all that is practical.
I had a layout years ago and have now started again with N Scale. The problem, so far with a 4 x 8 layout is the board is too big to reach across. I have a corner it needs to go into, so my solution on a slick floor was to put feet “cushions” on the bottom of the legs and until I’ve finished the layout I can move the entire board and frame around very easily.
I absolutely love the three piece 32″ X 48″ solution for the same 12 square foot single 4 X 8 layout. Perhaps a little more framing but just think of the flexibility.
Thanks for the thought, they fit in my trunk too.
I can’t comment on getting into this hobby as an adult, as my father started me into railroading when i was about 7 years old. I started with a Lionel “O” Guage train set. Many of my cousins also had sets so we borrowed and shared sets, added accessories, modified layouts, changed layouts completely every spring. None of my cousins, uncles, father got into scenery, but created realistic layouts where except for a derail we would makeup trains by uncoupling and coupling on sidings. Throughout the years, my trains were stored, but I kept buying and selling pieces waiting for the day I would have another setup. Now the day is here, 2 retirements, 3 house moves later and grandchildren, i am stoked.
With any table top 3×6, 4×8 or wider, make sure you have access to both sides of the table to work on it. So if it must be against a wall, consider some type of casters so you can roll it out.
Also, consider a scenic divider down the center, so trains appear to travel from one scene to another.
Jim, New Jersey, USA
Here a couple more thoughts on the 3X6 vs. 4X8 layout size.
First – I have never heard of a 3X6 foot door. Maybe it is “standard” in GB but standard doors in the US are either 24″ or 30″ wide and all are 84″ high. So I am not an expert on 3X6. Here is the next thought. Almost all lumber yards carry plywood in a size made for table tennis or ping-pong tables. That size is 5X9 and is a great size if you have the room for it. The only downside to that is that (I believe) it only comes in 3/4″ thickness which makes it quite heavy and cumbersome – especially if you are trying to wrestle with it by yourself. However, it makes a very solid base for a layout and is not prone to warping. I used the 4X8 size because I could handle it alone – it is 1/2 inch thick and I have had no problems with flexing. Good luck.
Years ago I built a layout in my garage, It was 10′ X4′ on one end and 20’x3′ down the other side. the tracks were ho gage. I had 4 sons and they enjoyed it a great deal when they were young. That came to an end when my oldest son returned home from the U.S. Marines and turned the garage into a bed room.. Now I am 85 and do not have enough room or ambition. However I appreciate the wonderful entertainment I receive from your site. Every picture and movie is a source of great pleasure for me . I wish to thank you and all those that subscribe to your efforts and for the pleasure this site provides to me.
As belated as it is I wish you all, A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Gordon. PS, save Christmas for next year, lol.
Alister, What a wonderful site you have. I really enjoy all the videos and comments from your readers. Being a YOUNG 67 YO, I am building my first lay out in 30″ x 2′, 3,’ 4′ , up to 8′ in length moduals. We plan on moving in a couple of years and I want to take it with me…30″ will be the max width for reaching issues. Thanks for ALL the great comments….TONY
This is an add-on to some of the comments, but for me, I think about the need to move the trains too. By that I mean, if there is a need to get work done in that room like painting or flooring, then I want to have the baseboard already in sections that will fit through the doorway without tilting them. I measured the door and allowed 2 inches and cut up my baseboard in strips that wide, but then used dowels and latches to make the baseboard whole again. I lined up the breaks in the track to go with the sections and the wiring has quick connects. The scenery like insulation boards and turf can also be pre-cut to allow for things to be taken apart. In my opinion, it makes sense to create the sections before you build on the baseboard since after you start adding to them it’s a lot harder to use a saw if you ever need to move it to another room temporarily.
WOW !! Being relatively new to the hobby I am impressed with the amount of knowledge in this article. Great stuff. I learned a lot. Thanks to all of you.
Don, two things: 1.) It will be cheaper to buy a hardware store before you start your layout and 2.) your friends and family will start to look at you differently when you start collecting styrofoam, cardboard, and other stuff that normal people throw away. Just kidding!
I’ve agree with all the comments, they all provide good advise. I believe that if you have limited floor space, then go with a 3×5 or 3×6 layout and use N scale. Build the layout against the wall. The 3′ wide layout will let you reach across the entire layout. If your room is large enough and can build a 4×8 or larger layout in the middle of the room to have access to all four sides, then I would suggest going with HO gauge. I think HO gauge has the best availability, price, and variety on engines, cars, track, switches, buildings, etc. To be able to run all the O scale Lionel engines reguires 72″ radius track, making the layout be 8′ wide. I’m 65 and decided to go with O scale due to failing eye sight. Bad decision! It would of been cheaper to get a set of new eyes than pay for a new Lionel engine. And the availability of assessories (buildings, vehicles, etc.) is almost non-existant.
Al, to the reply to the guy asking about O scale, I found that Dept 56 buildings are close to the 1:48 scale. I bought 24 Dept 56 Snow Village houses and stores on EBay for less than $450. You cannot find a nice looking O scale building for less
than $100/building and they look cheap!
Like someone mentioned above, there are allot of hobbies out there, but none is better than Model Railroading!
size is one thing being able to “reach is what the width is about. you can always make the ends wider so as not to have tight curves . The problem I made when starting out was using “BRASS” flex track. Now I have nearly replaced the lay out with “NICKEL SILVER ” a little more money but well worth it . Brass oxidizes and causes electrical problems with the locomotives . Brass is a constant “clean the rails” problem . So good to have more people staring a railroad. Its a great hobby .
I run 0 gauge trains . Right now I have 2 4X6 ft. boards, and will make a 4X12 layout to start with. Plan to get at least 2 more 4X8s… I will be running Lionel, MTH and K Line trains.
l have got a good lay out and it is HO and l have found out that matchbox cars and l have a 6 x 4 lay out and l only live in a single bed unit and this train set works and it is along the wall and l have another one in the making and l would like to thank you and the people that have sent in there ideas that they have done on their track lay outs over the last few years l wish there was a way to show you all my lay out in here asl have sent in a few but they seem to have been missed or not shown at all but that is not why lm here for ,
l just wanted to say thank you to every one and to have a happy new year and good luck for 2017 to you all
Jim mentions having a scene divider down the middle of a table-size layout, which is a great idea, but you can do something similar with an end-to-end shelf layout. Most such layouts run from a terminus station into a hidden ‘fiddle yard’ or staging sidings, but you can have a different station at either end, even from different eras or countries, eg a modern American yard at one end and a German steam-era station the other. Most of us have more than one railway interest, in my case British Rail 1960s and Italian electrics c.2000, so a layout that accommodates both would be handy, you would just use one set of stock at a time and ignore the scenery in the end you were using as a staging yard for that session.
Everyone is right, there is no errors in railroaded unless you are driving the real thing. But there are wrong thing’s that you can do also when installing the track. What I suggest is go to your loco Train store and see for yourself of the different types of trains. You will see what types that interest you and go for it. Have fun and in joy yourself. Let the little kid out and again, Have Fun.
Size of board 3 x 6 or 4 x 8?
Answer – you use what ever size suits your environment – big small it does not matter……………………..just have fun :-))
Having served in the US Army in France and Germany I would say that the size of the table has more to do with the size of the plywood panels that are available. Typically, a beginning layout in the US would be 4′ X 8′ because that is the standard size for a full sheet of plywood. In Europe where metric measure is the norm, a full sheet of plywood usually measures 1m X 2m which turns out to be slightly larger than 3′ X 6′. If you pay close attention to who writes the article on a particular layout and where he lives you may find a correlation with the above. Whatever size you start with it is likely to get larger in time and as your enthusiasm grows. Don’t forget that more layers can be added to create grades and over/under interchanges. The most important thing is to get your feet wet whether its a small pond or a large lake! Have some creative fun.
Utilizing a 4×8 sheet sounds great, room to expand etrc, however working towards the middle becomes extremely difficult, particularly attempting to work over scenery or correcting a rerail.
Hello and Happy New Year from Dickinson, Texas. I have been in the hobby for 10 years. My first home layout was two 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood in a dog leg. DO NOT USE 4 X 8 sheets unless you have arms as long as a mutated monkey. My second layout was on 36″ x 80″ flush doors and 3/4″ rigid foam. Much better! My third layout is 3′ x 6′ rigid foam on a 1″ x 4″ pine frame in a horse shoe modular arrangement. Much, much better!. Our club layouts (website above) are 32″ x 6′ feet modules which conform to NMRA standards. We are the largest club in Southeast Texas, with over 5,000 square feet of operating trains.
accessibility on any layout is extremely important, as you can surmise, leaning across scenery on a 4×8 board can be somewhat of a chore, particularly if one side is mounted against a wall, easy access, on any layout is extremely important,
probably the difference between an enjoyable pastime and a dust covered would-be railroad.
Don,starting off in MR welcome ,size of baseboard it all depends on how much room you have ,all model railways are good just that some better than others,I would suggest that you start off in modular (2′-4′) and buy a Roco starter kit with DCC (or any other kit that is DCC ) 2′-4′ modular’s nearly any where and can finally fill any sized room ,can be move easily and safely and there are many ways to fix them together alternately if you have plenty of room you can have table top that swings so that the top swings vertically I have one that is 15′-6′ it is on wheels and easily moved about the shed or stored against the wall (heaven forbid) at the moment it is attached to my modular and all runs of one rock unit with only two wires to the track ,I think as light weight as possible ,as mobile as possible and as simple as possible that’s my secret of my 50 years in model don’t be frightened of making throw it out and start again, new ideas great you have let them out try them ,I now use expanding foam I have hedges,trees,rocks whatever I have a lot of used foam in the rubbish tin but am also having some great results all the best JohnA keep it going Alaster it the best
Great advice and tips!!!!!!!!!!!
Phew! I can only write the most obvious: model railroading should be fun. The tracks and wiring are the most technical and care should be taken. After the “hard part” is done, use your imagination and create a world of your liking. Stuck for ideas? Go downtown and look at the architecture and building placement. Look at what nature has laid out for you in the woods and the hills and mountains. Most of all, enjoy what you are doing. Cheers! NJ Mark
To Al, and everyone.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years.
I very much appreciate all of the advise that I’ve been reading over the last few months. I’m new to the hobby and I can see that I started out completely wrong.
I have a 16 x 12 foot setup in my basement constructed out of whatever I could find laying on the floor. Great layout, but I pray it will work?
As for the gentlemen who suffered a stroke and is dealing with cancer.
I want you to know that I have you in my thoughts and prayers this holiday season and I will continue to pray for you as I visit this web site. I also am struggling with a very rare blood cancer, and I know the pain you are dealing with. It is wonderful to have this hobby to help us take our mind away from our
loss of functioning in life. Hang in there my friend and remain strong.
You will find a way to enjoy your dream even if you are like me and can only
do a little at a time. Just staring at a locomotive not running is far better than any Chemotherapy. Blessings to you and everyone who is helping you.
Thanks Alistair, this has been a super Saturday blog. So much information, so much to take in, so many enthusiastic modellers. This is a pastime that will never die, it is so addictive. the only problem is alway needing a ‘fix’. If a week goes by with nothing new coming through the post you can easily start to get withdrawal symptoms. The railway modelling world is a fantastic outlet for hidden talents, all you need to do is ‘start’, then it becomes endless. To infinity and beyond. A very merry Christmas to everyone who has contributed and given me so much pleasure………….Pete, on the Isle of Wight, UK
I have recently rekindled my childhood hobby with trains and had a 5 x 9 table built. Your site with all the wonderful comments/suggestions has been most valuable to me. I appreciate all the u-tube videos and the brilliant/innovative ideas that many individuals have shared. Thank you for all you do by publishing this web site. It’s most inspiring, interesting and filled with knowledge and testimonies of what model train lovers enjoy doing. God bless & Merry Christmas.
Rev. Louis Guiliano
Hey Everybody, Im 73 and have gone back to the fifties on my layout!! It was as I remember a quieter and more peaceful time and all the folks in my little town are very happy with their way of life. An occasional steam engine and may disrupt the calm of everyday life for a while but the people downtown dont seem bothered as they go about their daily chores. Down at the factories and even on the farm the residents tend to their chores also…Yes in the city and out in the surrounding burb life is good…Ah the memories of youth!!! Its all there on my platform and AF trains….
Great Information and Comments.
I must say that the essay by the 73 y/o fellow brought back many fine memories of how simple things were in the 1950s in the ‘burbs.Building go-karts and mini-bikes from old lawn mower engines. Shooting our Red Rider B-B rifles….
I just lost a couple of paragraphs on this inferior, sub-standard, third world, LEMON
DELL PC built in CHERNOBLE< MAY4, 1986..
Fantastic post Al! You have inspired me to go to the timber yard (lumber yard for my colonial cousins in the USA) yesterday and buy some plywood sheets and wood for framework! I have started (AGAIN!) after a long break!
All the advice is spot on! START! And I have!
Merry Christmas to everyone!
I have been working on a layout off the actual Oberon branch line here in New South Wales Australia for a number of years now, but keep changing it so I can fit every thing in due lack of space. I have only 2.4m x 2.4m space.
I enjoy reading your E-Mails as it make me of things to do on my layout specially Dangerous Dave
PS I know another David
I still work for railroads and transit properties, and am still building my railroad here in Baltimore, MD – USA. The great thing about our hobby is that whatever mood one is in, something is there to fill the need. Painting a model, fixing track or a train car, building a world where mountains soar and rivers run. just need quiet time? Wire some lights, or pick a small area and add flowers, or another tree. Maybe more people enjoying the stream, or waiting for their train. Yep, always something different to do as we bring our reality to “life” in so many tiny ways.
And Thank you Al for taking the time and effort to allow all of us to see what our friends we have never met are doing across the globe and in their “world.”
John from Baltimore
Dave, Bravo,Bravo love your Dangerous Dave show. Very entertaining I truly love your backdrop scenery.Want to wish your family a Very Merry Christmas.
Alastair,Thank you for having all the entertainment and information available to us Modelers.Merry Christmas to you Alastair and ur family
MERRY CHRISTMAS To all MODEL RAILROADER’S
From Randy Dent
Live in Beaverton, Or. USA
WOW!!! So many great and wonderful comments. It’s still a hobby which inspires imagination, planning and dedication to represent realism modeling railroads and landscapes everywhere.
Alastair, thank you for sharing your platform and to those who support it.
My advoce is to go out and buy an IKEA table then screw an 8×4 chipboard to the top. No woodworking skills needed ;o)
Just like a few words I have been in model railroads for 80 years from HO, LGB & now n scale and it all has been fun age in no problem as I’m pushing 87 and still going with n. So enjoy,there is no better hobby. Ron from sunny Florida,
Thanks for the years of enjoyment and knowledge given us by your most ambitious love for both Trains and Video.
You are one of my favorite artists.
Merry Christmas to you. Keek up the amazing work, have learned quite a bit from you over this last remodel. Happy 2019.
???? Thoughts of using ez-tracks?
Hi all of you lovely people, I started like so many with a OO set on a table in my bedroom when I was about 10 years old, as I grew up motorbikes became my new thing, followed by girls then marriage, then children then back to model railways, still on OO Hornby, the again motorbikes and racing took over, followed by scuba diving, then back to model railways, but this time G gauge.
Now having a crippling lung disease I am back to railways but found Lionel trains
I started with IKEA floating shelf in a simple13ft X 12ft X 8ft there and back 036 fast track layout, now expanded to include three tracks, 072, 060 and 036 a dry long and gradual process but I am not in any hurry, adding and subtracting as I go, but that’s the fun.
Regards and a happy new year
Ernie. Essex, UK
John Allen started with a 3.5 by 6.5 railroad. From there, “It just grew.” Key word??? Started. For those of .you who never heard of him, just Google his name or “Gorre & Daphetid”. It will be fun reading.
Thank you all for the year of insight, tips, and advice, especially this hall of fame. I live in knoxville, ten, USA and have not been in the hobby for probably 40 years and recently found my engines and rolling stock in my mother’s basement when cleaning out her house. Almost all is Austrian or Swiss (bought there in the 1970 and bug is backup start again. So just a large thank you to all who contribute to this invaluable source and for me it is time to start or is it start again.
My husband started a model train layout a coup;e of years ago. He had the benchwork set up and was laying track when he became too ill to work, After he passed away I kind of got the urge to finish what he started in a room about 12 X 15, I have made a river with boats and a small town with purchased and home made buildings. Next came a farm with crops, horses, cows and a house with barn. I took my track over a small stream and made a lumber mill, trees, followed by tunnels with a coal mine in front. then came a commercial area. I am now ready to finish with a round table and roundhouse. I am 84 years old and having lots of fun with this hobby.
I’ll my two cents (US) to all the great comments. I started with an N scale round layout around the base of a Christmas tree. I got a late start. I was about 50 years old. This was going to be my retirement project. My first real layout was about 3′ x 4′ a double oval with two turnouts. We moved and moved the layout in one piece. The new layout built off the old layout became 3′ x 7′ with real landscaping, a couple of hills and a lake. Retired and moved into our retirement home. The retirement home had close to 900 sq. ft. for my railroad. Salvaged what I could and began construction of my third layout. Still in N scale. The new layout is 4′ x 14′ L shaped. DCC with 14 turnouts. Modeled after the Gettysburg area in Pennsylvania. I am rewiring to make it easier on my back. Crawling on the floor is not good for a senior citizen. I am now 81. Pictures to follow.
To Rob Brown. I have been in N since the 90’s. I started with a hollow core 36 x 80 door, with 2″ of foam glued on top. Drilled holes thru those layers for wiring. Cut out rectangles of the skin on the bottom to mount switch machines. I still have that layout, for the use of my grandkids. It is stored, vertically, in my basement when not in use. The ‘legs’ are my dining room table. I put a heavy felt pad on the table so it doesn’t scratch. I would reccomend metal folding legs, like the ones used on card tables. (Glue a piece of 2×4 or 1×2 across the bottom where you want to mount the legs.) If you want greater height, use PVC pipe extensions slipped over the legs. I have had no warping. Nickel silver track. I can carry it myself (70 year old woman with arthritis. ) I made the tall mountain removable. It has served us well. There are many layout plans that will fit nicely on one of these, or bolt some together to expand. It is wide enough to put a view block in, small enough to go in almost any room, sturdy enough to be stored vertically. Can even mount on a wall with long bookshelf brackets. Enjoy! Lee
For those who have a wide layout there is a device called a reacher grabber sold to handicapped people. Just go to Amazon and look for reacher grabber. These are 32 inch long devices with grabber arms on one end and a handle and trigger on the other end. Many sell for under $10. Some fold up but I would recommend getting one that doesn’t fold as I believe it is a little stiffer. A great device for reaching 32 inches plus your arm length. A very handy device.
After resding all the answers and information, It’s wonderful this web site and people who use it. THANKS THANKS
All these comments inspired me to dig out of the attic some old Hornby and Triang trains I have had stored for many years. The kids are all off to college and the Wife allotted me some space in the basement!
With some old Bachman Ez track I and a purchased used tech 7 on ebay I cleaned two locos and voila I have a train running back and forth on a long track.
Ha – what joy it is to see this old loco run back and forth. Now it has a coach.
I got the bug back – so I just bought some used Peco track and I have started a more grandiose plan.
The important thing in my opinion is to get something running – thats what got me really interested again.
Who knows maybe I’ll take some pictures of the start and progression.
Thanks to everyone – keep the ideas coming
This is the first time I have sent in comments and I apologize. I have been receiving emails for several years and have kept all of them. I will do this in bullet points. 1. Get started – collect information and put it in a file (never stop adding to it). Look for GOOD sources for information ( model train shops, internet, train show events, tell everybody you know or meet what you want to do). 2. Get started – buy a simple train set and get home and set it up on the floor or table. Then look at the wife ( stand several feet away) and say “I need more room”. Space will start to appear. 3. Now have Fun. Will you make mistakes? YES!! Will you Learn? Yes!! Will you become an artisan? In time Yes. Take pictures, it is really fun to see how far you have come. At some point you will realize “I can do anything”. Then look at the wife and say ” I need more room” . Now you have the BUG.
I started with a train in the Xmas tree, then around the XMAS tree and finally the basement is mine. Half of it is my workshop and the other half is railroad (26″ X 17″). I have six projects going. I work on them a little at a time, plus making buildings ( plastic ones and yes Al paper ones of all types), trees, grasses, weeds, brush and rocks. Your limitation is your imagination. I you run out of ideas read the blogs, watch the videos, use the internet and DO NOT FORGET THE KIDS. THEY TONS OF IDEAS, not to mention Smiles.
One last thing, DO NOT FORGET THE WIFE. Happy wife happy life and “more room”.
I started model railroading when my dad created a set in the attic of a Victorian home in Port Washington. That was 1949 and I loved learning and watching my dad build everything. We had great fun and by my high school days I was running a layout in another attic with handmade control panels and my dad’s original engines. I worked in a hobby shop part time to afford some supplies and learned electric designs from neighbors. I am a few years older now and my grandson is really interested in HO trains. I am currently building a portable 4X8 layout table and finding items at railroad shows for my grandson (both of us). What fun.
As previously stated, getting started is the big thing. I started out to build a diorama with a mountain similar to one I saw in a hobby shop. I have always liked model trains, so decided to included a H O layout with it and the bug had landed.
Sixteen months into this project, I am having a ball, making mistakes and learning as I go. Along the way I have attended model train shows, watched video’s, and read as many train magazines and “how to ” articles as I can. If I were to do this again, I would pay more attention to any desired elevation changes I wanted to incorporate in the layout and how best to utilize available space in my design. Another important item is to decide what time period to model and what particular area. Don’t be afraid of a mistake, they can be corrected. By the way, I have learned many helpful tips and a ton of ideas from this great site. Happy modeling!!
This repost was extremely helpful. I appreciate Brian’s comment on limiting grade to 2 1/2 percent. I am design my siding right now, and every new post gives me more and more to consider. Thank you all and especially Alstair for posting
I’m a train lover real and modal ones. I don’t know if you have to be a lover of trains but, I found out it helps. I was nine years old when I got my first train set American Flyer. My second set was Louis Max . Like most set, it was round set. I never had the room to create a larger layout. I would take it out of the box and put it together on the floor. Now that I’m of age I have the room to create a 4×8 layout. If you want to get into modal trains, my advice is to start out small and add to it if you have the room. You will love every moment knowing you have created your dream and passion of having a modal train set. Good luck !
DC vs DCC
I believe that it is best to wire your layout as if you are going to operate DC locomotives. Put in sufficient section blocks so that you can run 2 or 3 locomotives at once on DC. I use Dort center off switches for each block. So now I can have fun running the DC locomotives.
Having wired for DC, I am all set to operate DCC. Remove all of the DC locomotives and unplug the DC power supply. Plug in the DCC power supply and set all of the section switches so that the current is going the same direction. (This would be the same as DC switch operations. Now you’re set to operate your DCC locomotives.
Being an old guy most of my locomotives are DC. I still like to run my Mantua Pacific that I built in 1953.
You do not lose anything by wiring for DC with lots of sections for DC operations. Having only 2 or 3 sections for DCC operations only limits your possibilities.
DCC is fine if you have endless financial resources, but I been in he hobby for years and there is no way I could afford to put a receiver unit in each engine for a cost of about eighty dollars each. However it is getting harder and harder to get a simple trains transformer with simple DC current. Thanks. Used equipment will not cut it.
If you are in ho the track pretty much dictates base size. I can only
use 18_in. radius track (36 in. circle) so 4 foot width leaves enough
edge. My GG1 doesn’t like any tighter radius. If you are just starting
putting money into dcc is a conmitment. Just try dc via ebay with
tested units, save $$ and switch to dcc when you are hooked.
When you start planning a layout, a few things are important . The radius of curves is crucial, some locos that might take your fancy whether it’s a Big Boy or Flying Scotsman, will only go round curves larger than a certain minimum radius, also if you model modern railways with 23 metre coaches or 70’ freight cars they will need extra clearance from adjacent tracks – not to mention looking very silly.
Another vital factor is train length. That Flying Scotsman is going to look a bit daft if it can only run with a couple of coaches, for instance, so establishing a minimum train length that you wish to be able to fit into passing loops, sidings, platforms etc.
Finally, compatibility; even if you don’t want to commit to the cost of DCC right away, I’d still try to buy stock that says it’s DCC ready, meaning you can just plug a chip in later, as DCC is the coming thing, and I should fit insulated fishplates where needed for DCC up front, easier than trying to retrofit.
You could have construction train loaded with ties, rail and ballast on a single track construction sight on a railroad being built. This would be good reason for a train shuttling back and for to deliver needed materials.