Narrow gauge layout ideas – Grant asks for advice

If you’re after narrow gauge layout ideas, Grant’s layout should get you thinking:

“Hi Alastair, and all readers.

Today I have for you both an update on what I am doing and a request for advice from your readers.

Over the past couple of months I have been starting a Narrow Gauge 009 layout called Foyers Falls. Today i finally had the track powered and the first run of my locos.

Foyers is a small town on the coast of Loch Ness that at one time had a small narrow gauge line to supply a local hydro plant and attached Aluminium Foundry.

It ran down to the small pier to gather bauxite and deliver processed ingots.

Eventually the foundry was closed and the power station upgraded to supply the local town.

While the foundry was open, a small Andrew Barclay was used to run the line. “The Fair Maid of Foyers” is in a museum today.

small diesel train

After the closure and for the upgrade of the power plant they used a Runston Hornsby diesel

narrow gauge layout ideas

The original line was a simple 1 mile stretch with a spur to the pier. I prefer circle run layouts so I added a great deal of artistic licence. Here is my track plan.

On this the “Goods Shed” will be the Foundry, with the power station on the far lower left.

narrow gauge layout ideas track plan

Here is the track all laid out. there has been some editing.

narrow gauge layout ideas

Next is the control box. My father in law, an electrician and train enthusiast built this for me.

narrow gauge layout ideas control_box

Today it was all running.

Now, to the questions I have for the group.

I tried very hard to source either a working model of the Andrew Barclay Fair Maid, even commissioned a local man to scratch build, all to no avail.

Finally I have this minitrains Kraus loco which I will somewhat edit to make into the Fair Maid.

There are already limitations on how close I can get it, so true prototypicality is beyond achievement. Also, the carriages I have are also German.

I want to know, beyond a fresh coat of paint any suggestions your audience may have to make these things more British.

I have already cut the smoke stack, removed the steam reservoir and bought a green paint.

I was considering extending the side tanks to match the original, but the loco has such wonderful detail on the side of the boiler, it would be a shame to hide it.

I will be going for an extremely weathered look.

Anyway. I hope this has been interesting and that there are some good suggestions and feedback coming.



Can anyone help Grant with his narrow gauge layout ideas? Please do post a comment below if you can.

Talking of which, thanks for all your comments and emails on John’s wall ‘how to’ – he really was chuffed with the response, so please do leave a comment if you enjoyed the video, and hopefully he’ll do another one for us all.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you’re looking for the Beginner’s Guide, it’s here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

45 Responses to Narrow gauge layout ideas – Grant asks for advice

  1. Kevin Blake says:

    Hi Grant
    Nice photos but some of the models you are altering would have been good to see to help us help you

  2. Russ says:

    Needs scenery.

  3. Gene Hatfield says:

    Al, Thanks for the bargain on the Rock Wall. Got it as soon as I received the Email. Can not wait for my new printer to arrive so I can start making things. Only if I can get them on paper to start building.

  4. Timothy Crump says:

    Great plan!! Yes, the loco you have is already nice….I would think with a few bits of foamboard you could simulate the exterior of the prototype…cover the large window in front, and make it like one of the prototypes….that and the green/red color scheme should look pretty good…

  5. john seale says:

    i am doing a Stirling Single based on “Emily” & i live in USA; more British…green & red…handrails…thing strikes me about ur locos is the dust….it’s like a smooth, uniformly deep dust every nook & crannie u know? silver buffers on my Stirling with pinstripes…just suggestions, hope this helps;

  6. Dale says:

    Looks good to me. Needs next of greens time to scessorise🌲🌳🌴🌿🐿

  7. Grant, I have always found that a few pints of Bitter makes things a wee bit more English or even perhaps a pint of Guiness….Your layout is and will continue to be fantastic…Lay back and enjoy…..Charles (North Carolina)

  8. John Bennett says:

    Hi Grant, sorry I can’t be of any help, but I just wanted to congratulate you on your Track Plan, really impressive. Well done with the work so far. Kind regards. John.

  9. paul Otway says:

    hi Grant don’t worry the german loco and rolling stock, you could say it is preserved heritage railway.

    Some heritage railways do run foreign rolloing stock.

    You could get a barclay loco by kit bashing something that has right wheels.

  10. William says:

    Sorry. If I could help make things look more British, we would probably still be under the Queen’s rule. 🙂

  11. Mike Street says:

    Hi Grant,
    I think this is what you want.

    on this site.

    Looks virtually identical, hope this helps

    Mike S

  12. Bob L. says:

    I have never seen British built railcars, except in the movies. Being “Across the pond” in Massachusetts, all we got is CSX and an occasional BNSF. I sure do like your layout so far, can’t wait to see it with all the scenery. Sorry I can’t give you.much assistance tho.


  13. Donald says:

    Grant, as being that your layout is on the shores of Loch Ness, just for some laughs go to a toy store and buy a plastic dinosaur to put in the outer edge of your lake to represent the LOCH NESS MONSTER

  14. John Clarke says:

    It may be difficult to do but the best way of making the look more British would be to cut each carriage in half and mount the halves on two fixed axles – they’re too close to main line types as they are especially for a short narrow guage line.

  15. THEODORE WAHL says:

    Well for a start you can buy all those buildings from the big kahuna bundle deal at 3.00 bucks each and you can make as many as you want, go for it you can cut them up and and kit bash them anyway you want too. If down the road you want to up grade to a plastic kit you can with out spending a lot of bread REMEMBER To use foam and make your self some hills paper towels and thin white glue. Dye your self some saw dust, you can get free at a lumber store use Rite die. GO FOR IT YOU GOT A GREAT START CHEERS THEODORE

  16. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great start to the layout. the story for your theme was interesting more red green and a splash of black might look good. looking forward to hear and see more.

  17. Rod Mackay says:

    Many UK industrial lines used foreign sourced locos, Orenstein und Koppel well tanks were not unusual and several lines post-war used military surplus locos such as the American 4-6-0Ts eg Peggy on the Ashover Light. British accessories often seen were bottle-jacks for rerailing carried on the framing, additional coal rails above bunker spaces, tarps rolled up which could be dropped over the windward cab door, and usually a bucket hanging somewhere handy.

  18. alan worthington says:

    love the layout design, as for the rolling stock why not leave it alone and say its either on loan with thoughts of purchase by the railway or its visiting. I make up stories about my railway as I’m on a limited budget.

  19. John Reynolds says:

    As one who lives “across the pond” but enjoys reading “Model Rail” and “Railroad Modeller”… The coaches are close enough to some Irish stock (or some of the stock in Wales) that a little paint in “Green and Cream” or some “Read and Cream” should do the trick reasonably well… The challenge is the locomotive… It has a nice mechanism that is an excellent start… Perhaps a “3d printed” body is what you need to “take the German” out of it…

  20. Soren Lippert says:

    Hi Grant
    Congratulations for a track plan that allows for a very good ratio between invisible and visible track. I think that your plan for altering the loco along with the advice above will make it nicely British-looking. The carriages, however, are longer than the typical British ones, so I suggest that you consider finding some shorter ones. Also John’s recent video on using Al’s printable stone wall will give you ideas for British-looking cottages etc. Google has a lot of pictures of stone built walls and houses that can help you achieve a good “style” for buildings.

  21. Hi Grant, Yes totally know what you mean! Books are the best reference but a few ideas might be OK scaled down from my blog which is totally British set in the 1960’s there are many books published with real photos in colour from this period as colour film was available to the masses! check out my engine shed and station blogs and you hopefully might see what makes it look like British. Hope this helps

  22. NJ Mark says:

    I love the video! Can’t wait to see the layout when completed. I’m sure it will be truly amazing! NJ Mark

  23. David D. says:

    Grant I have some coaches that I believe are British in looks. I have to find them and I’ll send you photos soon.

  24. Grant another thing to consider is there is now a large choice of buildings ancillary equipment stations sheds etc available off the shelf which can be tweaked if necessary to suit your layout. This is what I have opted for as I do not have the luxury of full time for the layout! Just about anything is available new and second hand on ebay etc. This creates an instant effect for time and region.the quality like the locos is excellent now too! good luck Regards Steve

  25. Ken says:

    How sweet. Keep us posted

  26. David Murray says:

    I thought the train went rather too quickly. I’m not far from Ashover, haunt of the Ashover Light Railway (1925-1950) and my late great aunt, father and family friend all rode on this and mentioned how very slow it was. Indeed, late great aunt remembered getting off while the train was moving and picking a few blackberries and jumping back on, sometimes during the early 1930s!

  27. Dave Ewing says:

    Hi Grant,
    Can’t help you with the “British” look but sure appears that you have a great start. It seems to me that your layout is well thought out and I’m anxious to see the rest of the story as you continue working on the layout. Please keep us posted as your progress will be an insporation to many.
    Dave in Eden, N.C.


  29. Greg Schaefer says:

    Can’t help with the British look either, but…if you put the power plant on the lower right side of the plan, or in the narrow part of the dogbone, you could easily create a “loads in, empties out” model.

  30. Albert Luppo says:

    The only item missing are the TWO SMALL RAILWAY UNION JACK FLAGS on the front of the cow catcher.

  31. J. Jeffrey Zetto says:


    Since I grew up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, USA, where we still have annual Highland Games and my friends and I walked around town with walking sticks and chanters,
    1. Display a piper and someone practicing tossing the caber.
    2. Display an active Football (Soccer) pitch (I was a US Soccer official for over 40 years).
    3. If you REALLY must be British, display an active Cricket Pitch, with team train unloading at the town station.

  32. Leon Soren says:

    This is just a mindset idea. Years ago I worked with early computer graphics. Since back then we didn’t have enough computing power to be photo realistic, we had to improvise. We would create images that would provide the essence of what we were trying to convey and let the human mind fill in the details. To use this idea see if you can provide small easy to implement details that lets the mind bridge the gap between model and real life. Again this is just an idea. I hope this is helpful.

  33. Roger Coleman says:

    I agree the coaches are too long and you could try cutting one in half and the other in 3.
    An important thing to understand is you aren’t modelling British you’re modelling Scottish when it comes to buildings so no cosy timber and thatch that’s for mid to south of England. Many properties would be Stone not brick trees would be pine types rough grass and Heather.
    Check out you tube for welsh narrow gauge railways.
    These lines were slow which allowed for not particularly good track laying and safety standards.

  34. Pretty cool!!

  35. Peter Harvey says:

    Red telephone boxes !

  36. Robert Brady says:

    First of all you can’t use particle / pressed wood out doors it will swell and warp in less then 2 weeks. It acts as a sponge.
    The Critic

  37. Rod Mackay says:

    Oh, another thought on a more British look for the Kraus. Remove the headlight from in front of the chimney, very few lines here used one, it was a requirement on the larger railways that they fence the route anyway. The quay line was worked with a regular set of wagons that included a control position rather like a lectern for the brakeman on the end vehicle, so the loco could propel the train one way, saving running round at each end, that would make an interesting model.
    Roger, not all British narrow gauge is slow, the Welsh Highland and Festiniog lines and the Isle of Man Ry all hit it up a treat. Most mainland lines are under Light Railway legislation which limits speed to 25, but that feels quite fast.
    Greg, the power station for the aluminium plant was hydroelectric, with a run of huge pipes down the adjacent hillside, the feed to them coming through a long system of tunnels connecting a couple of reservoirs and stream catchments back in the mountains, the railway had a rope inline up between the pipes and a very long route through the hills to get to all the various valve chambers and inlets for infrequent maintenance trains, there being few roads up there.

  38. Rob McCrain says:

    I like what you’re doing very much. The coach modifications suggested are good ones. Making it a look British in my opinion is more about the landscape, buildings, figures and feel of the layout. Rob McCrain – Farland Howe- CONW

  39. Bernard Hallas says:

    GRANT, first advice, modelling in 009,Join the 009 Society.
    The Minitrains Kraus fits under a number of 3D printed loco bodies, if you check on Shapeways, there are many designers who offer UK type locos in 009 scale. That way you can have a good-looking body as accurate as you would like on your existing chassis (use the fine detail plastic prints).
    CW railways, Dundas Models and Light Railway Stores ( each have a variety of loco kits in 009, which could fit on your existing chassis. Also rolling stock kits, coaches & wagons. I had heard that Backwoods was no longer producing models.
    As was suggested, your longer carriages could be cut into 2 or 3 shorter ones, or if you do not feel able to do that yourself, traded for shorter ones. (See the 009 society) The suppliers I mentioned earlier have many different coaches & other rolling stock in UK narrow gauge types available.
    Join the 009 society!
    A 009 modeller in Canada.
    Cheers, Enjoy, GOOD LUCK, Bernard

  40. AJ Romano says:

    It looks like it will be lots of fun to operate. Good amount of switching and then you have the expansion left hander, nice.
    Hope to see it when you finish.

  41. Jim Kennedy says:

    The only comment that I can offer is to build a prototype out of cardboard taking much care of the outward appearance. then using your prototype build the real thing. from metal or plastic. BTW do you have a picture of the real thing?

  42. Erick says:

    Look good.!!!!! I hope mine turns out that good.

  43. Chris Eirich says:

    Use your vise and bend the sheet metal square . Use a hammer if it does make a true 90 bend

  44. Bruce says:

    I enjoyed John’s wall build and I understood and enjoyed his commentary as he went along without his usual toddy. keep up the good work you Blokes.

  45. Andrew Aves says:

    Hi Grant,
    Put ‘Photos Scottish Highlands’ into your search engine and you will see pictures of the landscape and colours of the scenery.
    Then ‘Photos Scottish rural buildings’ and you will see the type of commercial, agricultural and domestic properties in the area.
    Follow John’s guidance for personalising Al’s printout buildings
    AND enjoy.
    Best wishes
    Andrew in Oz

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