Frank’s superb railroad layout

Frank has been kind enough to send in a video of his superb video.

If you missed the pics, they are here.

Here’s what he sent in with the vid too:

“Ok here it is, I finally got some time to sit down and wright something out.

First thank you Al for posting my pics.

And thank you to everyone who commented on them. I cant enough about the kind words you all had to say. It speaks volumes to a rookie.

Ok the layout is on a 4×8 and a 4×4 in an L shape its pulled out from the wall about 2 ft in witch I added a raised platform for the back part of the HO scale. Oh by the way the top is HO and the bottom is O 27, Lionel.

The Lionel I’ve had since I was about 7. Through the years its been up only temporary. I’ve always wanted to do some sort of layout. But never got the chance.

The Foam board, I lucked out with that. We had some construction where I work and I plucked scrap out of the dumpsters and I was surprised at how much there was. I originally was using it to insulate a crawl space but there was so much I decided to start on my railroad.

I first laid out a track platform for the Lionel Train. I wanted to keep it simple, (no switches and no branches). Not ready for anything too complicated. I knew I wanted mountains, It got a little out of control.

But anyway its construction foam its different and better than styrofoam.

I stacked it up where I wanted and glued the layers together.

After they dried I carved them. (Tools) Drywall saw. Shark tooth saw.

Screw driver. Glazers putty knife.

I’d jab a screw driver or a drywall saw or the glazer tool into the foam and break off a piece then another. Where the foam broke off made nice rock like formations, I also would take a pointed edge and scrape it causing the foam to chafe and break off also with good result.

Then I would take the big shark tooth saw and made horizontal

Shallow cuts one inch apart all the way across to simulate layers.

I then took a spray bottle filled it with eggshell white latex house

Paint added a little water to thin it and spry’d a base coat on the foam.

I bought a cheap airbrush witch turned out to be a great choice.

Bought small latex paint samples at Lowes. For a couple of bucks.

And started painting light layers and just go over the same area a few times to get the effect you want.

Light coats first you can always put more on but you cant take it off. Use earth colors and flats.

The O gauge tunnel entrance is actually HO that some one gave me after I had it done but I put it in anyway. I made it work.

The HO tunnel at the right of the bridge goes through the mountain and loops around and comes out behind the upper spring.

Two big mistakes I made:

I didn’t think about making the bridge open in the middle so you could see thru it.

And I should have put it back farther because the lionel bridge is behind it.

3 rd mistake was I forgot to put the rail wood beams down the length of the top of the tresell. (Not sure what there called). The Bridge is made from round and square doll rods.

I made a jig to make each trestle. I laid the vertical legs in first Measured and cut each cross peace and then used a dremil to nutch each one as to glue each one across the uprights. I was trying to anchor them in a foam base but found that a peace of wood worked better. I measured and spaced each one where I wanted it to be on the board making a grid.

I drilled holes into the board where the legs would line up inserted the trestles in place. I put the hole thing on the layout where I wanted it and then adjusted each trestle so they where all level then I glued them in.

After they dried I Then cut and glued in all the horizontal joining peaces.


Don’t forget the very latest ‘Ebay cheat sheet’ is here.

Now on to Barry:

I started this project the middle of January but I only work on it 2-3 days every 2-3 weeks and they live about 1-1/2 hours from my home.

I have about 110 hours into the total project so far and will probably require another 30 hours to finish the rest of the scenery and then I will send you a complete set of photos showing the development from beginning to end.

Thanks for the compliments.



model railroad layout

railroad layout and scenery

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

A huge thanks to Barry and Frank for sharing.

That’s all for today folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here.



33 Responses to Frank’s superb railroad layout

  1. Layout looks very good Frank , the viaduct is something along with the waterfall

  2. Mike Street says:

    Thanks for the video Frank, great idea incorporating 2 scales. The purists won’t like it, but it seems to work! And those mountains still look great, what are your plans for finishing the ‘bare bits’ Missed a trick though on your video backing track, got to be Rocky Mountain High (-: Mike S

  3. Jeff says:

    Massive skills, need to give a class on that

  4. Simon Zeoli says:

    Great job Frank; you really got the “rock scene” down pat. Would like to get more of the layout concept.Keep up the good work and more videos.

  5. John Fuller says:

    For a large scale train this is a great layout in such a small area. This type of construction foam is all over our area in new subdivisions and I am sure they would not mind if some went missing from the bins. It would be nice if the contributors would say where they are from or at least the general area.
    I don not mind saying that I am from SW Ontario, near London, Canada.

  6. Franl says:

    Mike, sbout the unfinished spots I’m
    Doing some planning on those for towns and other
    Scenery .

  7. Kerry says:

    Aerosmith. Nice!

  8. Scott G says:

    Very nice, Thanks for sharing! The mountains look better than I would have thought using that kind of foam. I have a bunch too, and think I’ll try using it when I get that far. I was thinking of using the florist type foam, but that costs money.

  9. Frank Stroot says:

    John I’m from St. Louis Mo USA

  10. Martin Wood says:

    Frank I use the building foam and thought that my cliffs looked good, but yours I like a lot better. Thanks for showing us and it has encouraged me to get carving again. Well done!

  11. Sheila says:

    Thanks for following up with the video. Very impressive layout. I like using the foamular board, too.

  12. peter bridges says:

    vert good

  13. TJ says:

    WoW Frank that is great modeling work…!
    thanks ever so much for shairing with us

  14. Glenn Roach says:

    Frank a very good beginning for a layout. Also what good luck to be at work at a job where they were using that construction grade foamboard at a very good price!! Now U saw how much is wasted during a construction job. To bad that they probably didn’t use real wood to build with then you could have gotten the lumber scraps to build your framework also. If they are still there U might also watch out for any electrical wires they discard because they might also throw away partial rolls of it. Even phone wiring or the wiring or keeping all the computers connected thruout the new construction. I am telling u this from my experiences looking into the throwaways they do some pieces of wood might even be complete pieces not even cut down.

  15. The idea that “purists” won’t like the use of an HO scale track to represent a higher line of an existing O-Scale track, is certainly a good pint; how ever, let me point out that many of those “purists” did like the idea of using an N Scale track and train to make it look like an HO Scale train was traveling on a higher mountain line. I have seen layouts using this idea, and it seems to work out just fine, provided you have the space to build “floor-to-ceiling” scenery, to make it work.
    FYI – Al: Planning, Stage One, for the upcoming layout to be built in a room measuring 60′ by 180′, is complete. Now we get the fun of finalizing those plans before moving on to bench work.

  16. tore johnson says:

    you did great work. in my opionion i couldnt use tubular track. fast track, gargraves, snap anything else, just me.

  17. PHIL WARNEFORD says:

    Some of the best large rock formations I have seen Grand Canyon style Frank.

  18. paul Otway says:

    nice layout the third rail is a bit of a give way showing O gauge’s tinplate origin, but a great layout.

  19. Peter Evangel says:

    Love the water feature! I’m trying to do something similar with my fathers three rail system. Not turning out the way you’re is!!!! this is great

  20. THOMAS says:


  21. Paul in Golden says:

    Indeed, an incredible job with the rock formations. I have contemplated starting a layout with that type of rock strata in mind, and I really appreciate your sharing the effort.
    Since I am “armed” with a “Roto-Zip” saw, I can now see the practical uses of that tool
    for working with the foam board! You have definitely peaked my interest in working these techniques into a layout. Thank you for the video–I was astonished when Al posted the pictures yesterday, and now I am even more impressed!

  22. John Coffey says:

    thank you Al for putting Franks layout vido on i realy like this setup it is superb.

  23. Ron Schultz says:

    Love the mountains . and its nice to see a loyout where you can just start the trains and then set back and watch them . I have a table 8 X 8with open center 3 loops of O track and i just let them “roll” .I have taken it to a to a local train show and let some of the kids “run the train” . It felt good to share my trains and increase their interest in a model RR. I have an HO layout that I do the switching and operation of a pick up and set out local type operation .

  24. Enjoyed it, The scenery is great as the water falls. That trestle bridge must have been something to build. Would appreciate any tips in building a water fall and river, specialy the types of materials used.

  25. Mark says:

    At most hardware shops you can purchase a lightweight, inexpensive wood rasp that looks like a hand held cheese grater. It works good on the construction foam to give a rough surface texture. You can use it lightly or press for more material removal. These mountains look great. I have incoprated drywall compound as a filler and sealer on my mountains over the foam. A little food color or paint pigment mixed in can give this layer some color and be finished with layex craft paint easily. Thanks for sharing!

  26. John Reynolds says:

    Very well done. The use of HO scale to force perspective is a nice touch and so well done I almost missed that it was a different engine in a different scale. There have been club tracks that mix O gauge and S gauge and one that even added HO to the proceeding two. One of these clubs dates from the early 1960’s or late 1950’s — I have seen two such clubs in California. At one time the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles had a very large Lionel (Semi-Scale) layout and in the bottom of one canyon it had a little train (a metal toy that was about 1/3 z scale) that they had animated to run in a loop. Forced perspective is effective when done well and the video shows that you did that very well indeed!

  27. Mike says:

    I asked for O gauge layouts to be shown. Wow! I hope in the future there will be even more O scale. Great job, we all loved it! Thanks again.

  28. Neil Griffin says:

    Great work I have done some mountains with foam and found that a hot knife with a blade, not one that uses a wire makes very realistic looking mountains when airbrushed in earth tones.

  29. Brian Jones says:

    The 3 rail track kills the whole effect. Too bad it wasn’t an American Flyer “S” Gauge layout.

  30. don says:

    What wonderful rock work, I only hope mine will look half as nice.

  31. Louie says:

    Absolutely superb. Don’t let any negative comments about three rail or tubular get you down. You have history with that equipment and that is priceless! Would appreciate a “how to” on the waterfall….


  32. Shelby Crochet says:

    What a beautiful layout,I am going to start mine in a few days and you gave me so many ideas and the how to knowledge to start.My grandson will be overwhelmed.I have a large room,and hopefully it will turn out well your skills are amazing .I hope you keep on giving us more updates and most of all the type tools and how you used them to create the finished piece.

  33. Shelby Crochet says:

    What a beautiful layout,I am going to start mine in a few days and you gave me so many ideas and the how to knowledge to start.My grandson will be overwhelmed.I have a large room,and hopefully it will turn out well your skills are amazing .I hope you keep on giving us more updates and most of all the type tools and how you used them to create the finished piece. shelby Louisiana

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