Fred and his son’s layout

“Hi there Alastair!

I was discussing these emails that I receive from you with my 13 year old (12 at the time of building the model) grandson, and I suggested ‘why not send him some pictures of your layout?!?’ so…. here we are. (The pictures are in another email)

He was inspired by visiting many model exhibitions, including Brighton Modelworld, and by reading an article in a Railway Modeller about a small 00 gauge shunting puzzle layout.

He then set about designing the track in a challenging, yet enjoyable layout to shunt on. He then pinned the 00 scale track down on to the 4ft X 1.5ft board and sprayed it with grey and brown acrylic aerosol spray paint. The rail heads were cleaned to allow current to the wheels, and he then built the station.

Most of the scenery and equipment is recycled or reused from scrap or old layouts that were never as good as this one. The platform was created from a block of wood, glued to the board with grey painted cardboard glued down on top of the wood.

After this, he repainted hornby waiting room/shelter to southern railway colours, stuck this on to the layout, and detailed it with a couple of posters. Extra details to the platform included a metcalfe signalbox, free with a railway modeller magazine, milk churns, fences with posters on and repainted telegraph poles with cotton treaded through them to represent the actual wires. The sides of the station are embossed brick sheets repainted to include a mortar course.

Some other details on the layout include a fly tipping area, that has copper piping pieces repainted to represent concrete water pipes and there is other random stuff that was repainted to look like rusty metal. One extremely random piece is a spare missile from an airfix harrier kit!

At one end of the layout, there is a small mud track for the guards and shunstmen to use to get from the station to the lamp hut. Whilst at the other end, a bit more is going on!

There is a farmers track made out of clay, painted black. It crosses the railway, and to achieve this, the clay was worked into the space between the rails and then painted. It leads up to a raised cattle dock, built on another block of wood, with cows in them plus a coal yard.

The coal yard features a rebuilt coal bunker (it was in really bad shape), a converted brake van, as the main office, and coal, made of woodchips, scattered over the bunker and over small parts of the yard, to represent spillages.

Vegetation amused me quite a lot, as after he had spread the ground cover around the layout, he ventured outside, found some twigs and cut some ornamental grass! This came from going into the local modelzone, and seeing twigs… real twigs… being sold for £5 when you could just go outside and get some yourself!

These were placed as a log pile near the dirt track and farmers road. Then, readily available hornby foliage was used to adorn the farmers track and log piles. He then added detail by gluing the ornamental grass in as bracken and thorn bushes. The cows also enjoyed this as it was used as straw for the cattle dock too!

The layout is based in the southern area of England, as he plans to build a recreation of Sheffield Park station, from the Bluebell Railway, and attach this layout to the other end at home. (Obviously not at exhibitions though!) He would love to take his finished Sheffield Park model to exhibitions, and when it is completed, maybe send pictures of it to you too! Another project that he is working on is planning, and building a working 00 scale wooden roller coaster, that will be housed in his home based railway layout.

He would love to read opinions of his first proper model railway from other people who see the pictures…

Many kind regards…


Loved Fred’s narrative of this layout. Sounds like they both enjoyed it!

Have a look at the comments below too. What a layout.

That’s all for today my friends.

Please do keep ’em coming. My inbox is getting hungry.

And if today is the day you make that important start on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

67 Responses to Fred and his son’s layout

  1. THOMAS says:


  2. Nice little layout you have built there from a lot of discarded material , good work from you both

  3. Rob Billing says:

    Hi Fred it looks very good, i am sure the lad will soon get tired of going up and down, so you will have to find him more space. Take care

  4. Gavin Fox says:

    Excellent work! The backscene is spot on. It is obviously photographed but can you explain the exact process as to how it was done?

  5. James Quirk says:

    with all the care on the setting some weathering to the cars and engines would make the photos better, less toy like.

  6. nice work looks realistic. with all that good work you could thinkof extending table by table, thats how i started table in the middle now have a table at each end in the shape of L. keep going for another 30 years or more.

  7. Tom Oliver says:

    Great job Fred! Particularly loved the background scenery. Blended into the model perfectly! Look forward to your continuing progress!

  8. john creasey says:

    Fred, i assume your Grandson has done most of the work with advice from you. A really nice layout, tell him he needs to start planning the next project

  9. Albert Weir says:

    Hello Fred ,
    You and your grandson must be so proud of your acheivements this is a superb layout . I just completed one with my Godson who is the same age it took 12 months what a great hobby eh and fun too!!
    regards and good luck Albert

  10. Joe says:

    Very impressive! I belong to several train clubs on the US Atlantic Coast and they would all be proud to display your layout as part of theirs at a public train show. It certainly puts my home layout to shame.
    Thanks for sharing, I look forward to seeing more of your creations.

  11. kenn says:

    Looking good. I only wish that I could get my system going as well. I like the back drop. Is this one you did yourself? Sure wish my son and grandchildren were nearby to help me with my display. Glad to see a father and son sharing something that will be cherished in memory for time.

  12. Bud says:

    From the front edge of the layout back to the track you’ve landscaped with grass, bushes etc and looks very good.

    Just a suggestion but why not use that area to add a “town”, some houses and small businesses, church etc just to add interest.

    I havent sent this to be critical, you’ve done a fantastic job, especially for your first layout.

    Goodness knows the modeling you’ll be doing in 20 years!

  13. Rod says:

    Brilliant – seriously impressive! Lot of talent there.

  14. Gary says:

    Very nice indeed, congratulations.

    I like the layout without weathering the cars and engines. Its a personal thing I guess.

  15. Brad says:

    Fantastic!! Good on ya!!

  16. PETER says:


  17. Willie Kerr (Glasgow) says:

    Hi Fred,
    you need to give your grandson more pocket money to build an even bigger layout. Very good indeed.

  18. Rob M says:

    A very nice compact layout with lost of re-purposed items. I like that and do a fair bit of it myself. Well done layout.

  19. Lawrence Phipps says:

    Great layout lots of colour, really like the rustic look with the undergrowth and odd bits lying around adds a lot of realism to the layout

  20. StJohn says:

    verry nice…good layout work and detail is the most important part. good luck to the lad.

  21. david says:

    i have to say well done, thescenery is great, the engine and trucks look very new,perhaps a bit of weathering,and it would look great. all the best.

  22. Don Garner says:

    Hi Fred,
    I think your grandson and Dave are cut from the sam cloth. Great job! It is so refreshing to hear of a youngster who uses his noodle to be creative rather than his thumbs to be entertained.

  23. Richard Standing says:

    I run an exhibition in Reading. If you’re within travelling distance I’d be glad to hear from you once SP is finished!

  24. Roland Burch says:

    Hello Fred,
    You have a wonderful layout. I like the detail work you and your grandson did.

  25. paul Otway says:

    Nice railway Fred, you buy a model of Stepney the Bluebell engine to run on it.

  26. John Tipper says:

    Good work, Fred.
    You’ve given me some ideas I can use on my first small TT layout.

  27. Bruce says:

    Great job. I’m sure he will go on to bigger and better in the future. Congrats to the young man

  28. Duane Hampton says:



  29. Archie Yarbrough says:

    I have a larger layout but this puts mine to shame! I have yet to put any grass or trees
    on mine.

  30. Colin Styles says:

    Very well done, both in the building of the layout and the excellent description. The background used really adds depth – could you describe how you achieved it please? Many thanks.

  31. Paul Wilson says:

    cracking, Layout,
    I wish I had the know how to build a layout like this
    well done great design, great modelling and well done with the recycling. I look forward to further posts and updates of your future ventures

  32. Wow! Thank you everyone! I am really pleased with the response I have got from you.

    Just to reiterate, it was I who built the whole thing. My Granddad (Fred) gave me some advice and ideas, but all of the detail was my doing.

    And Richard Standing, I would be delighted to exhibit Sheffield Park… Once it is complete. 😉

  33. John Birch says:

    Very well done. I think the scenery backdrop is brilliant.

  34. chris says:

    very nice layout, a lot of nice detail

  35. Jim Moe says:

    Great job, Tyler, amazing details. Very nice layout, keep up the good work!

  36. Rod Mackay says:

    Well done Tyler, lovely atmosphere and a realistic track plan too!

  37. keith Povey says:

    looks brilliant i have been looking but i cat find anything.
    help on this will be fantastic

  38. Barry Pearlman says:

    Although I haven’t started to build my layout yet, I am still planning it. This website has given me many ideas which I will incorporate when I start. I occasionally see questions here on where to get or make backdrops.

    My local FedEx – Kinko’s has a very large plotter and it will do at least 3′ x 4′ posters. I have not personally had an occasion to use it; for those not familiar with this type of printer, just think of a laser printer on steroids!

    The paper comes on a roll. I did see a finished job being wrapped and the resolution was fantastic. The picture was of a tiger and you could clearly see each and every whisker.

    All you need is the scene on some sort of digital media (flash drive, SD card etc.). and a high megapixel digital camera of some quality. I wouldn’t attempt it will a cell phone camera, as the resolution just isn’t there.

    We’re talking a high end Canon or Nikon or equal. Over here (USA), there are places that rent them by the day. I am not at all familiar with what’s available on the other side of the pond or “down under”.

    Just a thought,


  39. John Reynolds says:

    That is an awesome layout! The basic track plan and details are very well done.
    I would assume that you have made arrangements to add a “fiddle yard” on the left hand side (?).
    What I enjoy most about this is the ability to realistically operate both passenger trains (coaching stock? My English needs a little work on this point) and the freedom to do a considerable amount of switching (shunting) with freight (goods) equipment. Most small layouts I see like this seem to focus on passengers or on goods; I like the option you have made to enjoy both!

  40. Peter P says:

    13 years old eh! Wait till this young man gets to 63, his work is going to be out -standing. I wish my work was that good at13, I’m in my 60’s and it has taken me a long time to get realistic. Well done
    One piece of advice, “less is more”

  41. Jeff Salisbury says:

    Great job.
    Snohomish wa

  42. Daniel Brown says:

    An extremely well thought out and assembled layout that is definitely exhibition/show quality. I have seen stuff that looked like it was assembled by a two year old and they were proud of all the money the spent on the decorations. Using throw aways and natural grasses and twigs rather that throwing money away that can be used for that extra locomotive or freight box shows a great deal of maturity on his part! IMHO, You should start planning your next project with ultimate goal of having possible idea of adding it to the shunt yard at either end with the ultimate goal of having this beautiful layout at the center of operations. Word of warning, make sure the decorations have spent time in an airtight environment before adding to make sure you aren’t adding ‘wildlife’ to the yard. A light spray of clear flat shellac, will also slow the aging process of those carefully selected plant. No layout is ever truly done, we always find some way to tweak it here or there, that is the gremlin in our hobby(and the thing that keeps us spending money at the train shows.) Looks like he has an excellent start to a monster layout. Recomend staying with 4×2 sections even if you have to use more that two in a project. That was it is easier to move if the time comes. Again great project! Don’t forget to have fun with what you have beauty you have created.
    Dan Brown
    Charleston, South Carolna

  43. Mike Looby says:

    Fred … Your grandson is a “Rock Star!” Be sure to tell him for me! He will will have to send all of us updates every few years. It’s so great now, but just imagine how cool it will be in 3, 5, and 10 years down the road? Keep on rail roadin’ young man. And Rock On!

    Maple Grove, MN

  44. Ken C says:

    Looks like a nice switching layout.


  45. Jack Bury says:

    Great layout. I never would have thought to use wood chips for coal, but it looks pretty realistic. Thanks for sharing.

  46. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Your layout is excellent at this point and reminds me of the famous John Allen’s Timesaver switching/shunting layout. Very well done. with the use of the nice backdrop and small number of buildings the railroad appears larger and gives the appearance of wide open spaces.
    And the joy of sharing with our children and grandchildren, this is what many of us would sure like.
    This would be a nice layout to share in schools too if that is possible.
    Layouts are really never finished, as there are always things to do, new ideas, changes.
    I always have enjoyed seeing a layout come to life with a story line for it’s existence. and purpose. This will add character to the layout.
    Dick from Hardin Montana USA

  47. Cal says:

    Very good job. Excellent choice of backdrop scene. Blends very well with the layout. Great detail work too!!
    Cal from Oregon.

  48. Chris Westgarth says:

    A beautifully crafted layout. Given the size of layout to work with, it packs in a lot of detail and yet it looks uncluttered in terms of execution. Well done.

  49. NICk says:

    Great work! But, I can never fully understand why anyone would put in so much creative work for a layout that goes nowhere. Could someone explain? NRT

  50. Bob Martin says:

    Fantastic job , looks so real , great pictures . Do you want to build a layout for me ?( just a little joke ) I don’t think you would want to come all the way to the USA .

    But , you might considering building layouts in your local area .

    Again ,great job .
    Bob Martin

  51. Wm althaus says:

    Really nice layout! You made it the way you wanted it and you are having fun with it. That’s all that counts. Keep us posted as you do more on it or other projects. You have a knack for balance in your modeling.
    Bill in Virginia

  52. george zaky says:

    Great job. I hope your imagination carries you to great heights in the hobby. Your Grandpa is quite a guy.
    Bless you both
    George from NY

  53. Larry Mlynek says:

    So realistic

  54. Rube Simon says:

    It’s nice to see long stretches of country, like where I live. Well done!

  55. John Birch says:

    Excellent work. The whole “feel” of the countryside beautifully captured. Ver well done.

  56. Jim Donovan says:

    Nice work, really detailed well.

  57. Rod Mackay says:

    An old friend who had been a freight guard once told me his favourite job was a trip to Virgil Street coalyard in Cardiff, which surprised me as it was hardly a scenic spot, a dusty little yard between house backs and an embankment. He explained that the attraction was (a) it was always full of wagons so shunting the empties out the way of the loads you’d brought was a real challenge, and (b) there was nobody else like managers or inspectors making daft suggestions, you were just left to get on with it with the minimum effort you could manage!

  58. Robert Brady says:

    All that diorama and nowhere to go,there must be more room you can conjour up.
    lets go there’s more work to be done.
    The Critic

  59. Robert Brady says:

    All that work and nowhere to go,There must be more room somewhere to be found?What you have here is a diarama. We need a Train layout.
    The Critic

  60. Gary Mitchell says:

    Great looking layout – well done on the landscaping
    Gary NZ

  61. Chris eirich says:

    Wow the only comment I can make
    If it runs as well as it looks he should win a prize at next exhibition he takes it to for viewing.

  62. Roger says:

    Tremendous. I would love to know where the backscene photo was taken, and how it was printed …

  63. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    If your 13 year old planned and built this layout imagine what he can do when you find him more room to build. Excellant track detail and such real looking vegetation.
    Will be watching for a video of this in action.

  64. Russ Jones says:

    Great looking layout. I hope I can do as well when I restart my own layout.

  65. Erick says:

    Pretty Kool

  66. Clark says:


  67. Greg Marples says:

    Talented young railroader! He definitely has the “feel” of railroad right of way; “Weeds? no profit in getting rid of those..”, “Stuff you don’t know what to do with?-Push it in a ditch and leave it!” “Just keep the trains running and the cost down.” At least that’s the way it is where the government doesn’t pay for the railroad.

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