How long does it take to build a layout?

Well, seeing as the world and his wife are having a sale today, I’d thought I’d chip in with this.

I’ve been going through this year’s posts for Decemember’s ‘most-popular-this-year’ countdown, and I came across this.

And seeing as it may well be in that countdown, I thought why not post it again, because it’s a jolly good offer:

Here’s another ‘how to’ video from the talented John.

I gave John the latest offering in the print out scenery range, so he could have a tinker with it. But I have to say, I was amazed with what he came up with.

Believe it or not, it’s all made from just one print (printed out lots of times…)

It really does show how this embankment is only limited by your imagination. You can make an embankment as long or as short as you like. Here are the pics of his ‘creation’:

embankment_2

emabnkment 3

john_500

So how did he do it? Well, John was kind enough to record this ‘how to’ video:



I really can’t thank John enough.

And there’s more good news too. Just like the engine sheds, you can grab the stone wall embankment, at a knock down price, before it gets put on the site at full price ($9.97).

So right now you can grab it for just $5.

So here you go: click here to get the stone wall embankment for just $5.

(The embankment print is HO scale at 100% – as they all are. Print out at 50% for N scale).


“Alastair: Been following you and the mob for a little over a year. Thoroughly enjoyed this site and all the help, wisdom and encouragement I’ve gleaned from everybody, the talent displayed is nothing short of astounding.

This may be an oft repeated question but could you or one of the mob answer this for me?. Could you please list and compare the track gauge sizes of the US, Britain E.U., and Australia by ascending or descending sizes (I don’t care which) as well as two & 3 rail classification for us novices and the advantages of the various power systems.

Dangerous Dave’s (and the others) are astounding but what size are their tracks (is Dave’s what we in the US call HO?) Watching the video’s on your site can fool the eye as they are so realistic. Again Please take pity on a novice & elucidate.

Don”


“Hi,

Here are 3 photos of my layout, the signals are home made.

I have wired them so that when one shows red the one facing the other way shows green.

Paul”

1-model-steam-train

2-model-train-lights

3-model-train-bridge

Earlier this week I was flicking through my inbox, from years back. I get lots of mails, and I know I miss stuff I shouldn’t. And I found Tim’s mail below. How did I miss this I thought? It’s amazing. But carry on reading and you’ll see why.

“Mr. Lee,

I do not remember how I subscribed to your news letter. But I also enjoy it.

Here is a PDF of my monster O Gauge in progress.

Each main Line is 250 feet.

Feel free to publish it on your news list.

Cheers,

Timmy”

1-o-scale-track

2-o-scale-track-crossover

3-o-scale-yard-approach

4-o-scale-main-yard-pair

5-main-yard-and-turntable

6-main-yard-ladder-track

7-main-yard-crossover-o-scale

8-o-scale-turntable

9-o-scale-bridge-cross-track

Well – what a layout. But it looked familiar. Had I posted. I checked. I checked again. Nope. So I thought I’d publish… and then I found it.

Have a look at Tim’s post here.

So why have I just posted Tim’s earlier pics now? Two reasons. I love progress pics. And Tim’s post, shows in spades how long a layout can take (Okay – Tim is the other end of the scale…)

I think it’s really important just to make a start – and it’s best said by Kevin, who posted this comment recently:

“To all of you who are older, stop waiting to build, even if it’s an oval on the dining room table. There are no guarantees in life, except for the near universal love and enjoyment of model trains. Get to it.”

So I need your help. Please post a comment below – how long does an average layout take? (I know there is no such thing as an average layout… but let’s have a go).

That’s all this time folks.

Don’t forget the stone wall offer at the top of this page. Runs until Sunday, then it’s gone again.

And for all you arm chair modellers out there, if the stone wall doesn’t get you excited for a first project, there’s always the Beginner’s Guide.

Keep ’em coming.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still going strong!

22 responses to “How long does it take to build a layout?”

  1. Ben Hawkins says:

    That is Great information

  2. BullfrogEH, in Ontario says:

    How long ? – Well, my first layout started under the Xmas tree in 1950, in 3-rail Lionel 0 gauge, with 027 track. It was dismantled in 1961, when I moved into the working world. It was revived in HO gauge in1970 at the birth of my son, and lasted until ‘retirement’ towards the turn of the century. The third layout was kick-started just about 5 years ago, and continues as a ‘work-in-progress’. So… how long ? About 65 years – – – ‘so far’ ……. (‘dave’ – – in central Ontario)

  3. Marklin ed says:

    Thanks for the great pic. O gauge was my first layout It was on tall wooden legs over my Bed on a 4 by 8 plywood. I slept under it, at Christmas time. Bang my head many times but it was worth it.

  4. Richard Horton says:

    I had the beginnings of a layout built in the late 1980’s in a large shop area that came with the house we had just purchased. Well, instead of the layout growing, the family grew and the space was needed to accommodate 2 of the eventual 7 kids so the layout had to go. Two years ago, after reading your column and most of the kids gone, I began to build a small HOn3 layout. Then life changed and we relocated to north central Wyoming from southern California. But, we bought a house with a basement room that is dedicated to the hobby. Still trying to unpack so I can begin however I have been able to spend time on retrofitting old NMRA couplers with Kadee and obtain track, buildings, scenery for what will become my mixed HOn3 and HO layout. I am now 62 years old and looking forward to retirement where I can spend much more time on a hobby that started when I was 7 or 8 with an American Flyer train set.

  5. Eric says:

    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 tio space and I was around 48 when I got the bug again and restarted with N gauge and have spend 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

  6. Kevin McArdle says:

    As a young boy, I received a Lionel train set in 1955 when I was seven, but my brother Brian who set it up, prevented me from playing with it, saying it wasn’t right, meaning he hadn’t used up all the smoke pellets, which he did. Fast forward a few years, and I started with HO because you could fit more trains in less space, set them up on a plywood table with rudimentary buildings, and ran trains. I enlisted in the Marines in 1967, and had all my trains, in pristine condition, and gave them to my nephew on the condition that he take care of them like I did. Well he didn’t, and they were jammed in a box in his basement. Never again. So in 2006 I started building craftsman models in HO and purchasing trains for an eventual layout, and rather than going through the logistics of building, and taking over a room in the house, I purchased a custom railroad from Rasch studios in HO, and hon3 five feet by nine feet. Needless to say it’s stunning, and I couldn’t be happier. Just google Rasch studios and see some of their work. Even though I could build a layout, just like most home repair, I decided on hiring a professional. I thought the cost would be prohibitive, but they price their layouts in three ways, layout only, mostly finished with some scenery and buildings, and complete railways where you just run trains. Sorry for being long winded, but just my two cents. Happy railroading.

  7. Don says:

    Great stuff!! Keep it a comin’!

  8. Dr. Bob says:

    I’m not sure a layout can ever be completed. You can discontinue working on a layout, maybe even spend an entire lifetime improving your layout. Completing a layout is like saying you now longer have the ability to be creative. So, you can spend an entire lifetime building a layout.

  9. that print-out stone abutment idea is awsome
    I hafta try some of that myself
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  10. Gene Fricks says:

    Has anyone modeled a gas storage tank, esp. in N scale? Before the early 1960s, gas made by several different industrial processes was a widespread feature of many towns. The gas was typically stored in cylindrical tanks whose roof(s) could rise or fall depending on the volume stored. I am looking for a design to scratch build as I have not seen anything like a kit to accomplish this. Thanks.

  11. Bruce OScale says:

    For Lionel Tim and the great looking layout. Where are you located? I am about to start my build in new home next March just after we move in and may want to pick your experience.

  12. Ralph Berry says:

    It all depends on when you decide it’s finished. It took me a year for my present ho layout to get to the stage of running trains through any sort of scenery. After a total of five years it is still not fully finished as there are pieces of scenery still being filled in. The block instruments and signalling are still to be fitted, as well as electrifying the turntable. Meantime I have built a small portable oval layout for my grandchildren to use when they stay and a small tram layout that is still growing on a corner of the bench.

  13. Paul says:

    Hi Al, I grew up with a rail line at the bottom of the garden and started building a model railway for my two kids in the late seventy’s in the spare bedroom, well they grew up & we needed the bedroom so the railway moved into the loft but then sport & other things including girlfriends took over their lives whilst I spent many days working away from home & the railway was forgotten until I retired & my sons bought me a new loco. Well that started me off again & it’s still well short of completion what with converting loco’s to Dcc etc. Still it gets me out of the way from time to time. So 40 plus years is my submission. Will it ever be completed ? We’ll just have to wait & see !

  14. George Ross says:

    Going To Try O Gauge. Eyes To Bad To Continue HO. Hope Every One Enjoyed The Holidays And Those To Come.

  15. Robert Virnig says:

    My current layout has been under construction for over 4 years. I am about 70% done. Because my layout has been accepted to be on the tour for the 2017 NMRA National convention, I need to have it completed by July. It’s good to set deadlines to keep from getting sidetracked.

  16. David Scott says:

    Last weekend we visited Pendon. Back in 1975 we went there as a family and were shown round by the founder Roye England. Still unfinished and still people are making things to fit in place.
    As in my other branch of the hobby 5 inch live steam modern technology is catching up and with computer built up buildings etc things speed up.
    We are still limited by 24 hours in a day so careful planning is essential!!!

  17. Don J says:

    As I am sure other POSTS have stated that there are a lot of variables to your question.
    Here are some that come to my mind.
    How much space do you have?
    What scale are you modeling and in what era?
    think about the supplies you will need then purchase all of them.

    Boiling it all down it all depend on how much time and money you care to put into the building of the layout.. then there are a zillion questions there after.
    Good luck and like a blind man stay in touch with your progress.
    Don

  18. John Reynolds says:

    I have been in the hobby over half a century now…
    With all respect, the first challenge is to define what an “average layout” is: The common size here in the United States is 4 foot by 8 foot (a standard sheet of plywood) for and HO layout, N scale is more commonly 2 foot by 4 foot for a “starter”. I have seen articles in model magazines that have built layouts to those dimensions in as little as two weeks but more commonly stretched to four or five months.
    I tend to build small or “micro” layouts as popularized in Model Trains International or on Carl Arndt’s site. A very basic operational layout can be built in as little as one weekend. Scenery will take longer.
    May years ago I built a 3.5 foot by 5.5 foot layout with all scenery in a matter of four weekends.
    So, how long does it take to build an average layout? The best answer is…
    It Depends…
    Hope this helps..
    John from California

  19. Rod Mackay says:

    For the guy asking about scales, from the bottom up –

    T Too small to find if you drop it. 3mm gauge. Can’t yet get working points I believe.
    Z Zoom in to view. 6.5mm gauge. Stock doesn’t look bad but couplings, flanges, point motors etc look HUGE.
    N No good for the banana-fingered. 9mm gauge. Good range of stock and accessories, US-outline stuff very good value for the standard.
    TT Table-top was what it stood for, overtaken by N in terms of Trade support, bit of a niche following these days. 12mm gauge.
    HO or OO, Half of O supposedly, 16.5mm gauge, or “Ooh, just what I wanted. The pretty much universal choice for kids train sets, so also what most go on to model in.
    O “Oh, it’s HOW much??” 32mm gauge. Great ranges of ready to run and kits now available for UK themes, but not cheap.
    1. “One heck of a big basement.” 45mm gauge, lovely, but curve radii just start getting silly.

    Now, scales are a slightly different question, in many gauges there are slightly different scales used, mostly reflecting the earlier manufacturers’ need to fit available motors into the bodies, some international/UK scales are –
    For N: 1/160 versus 1/148
    For HO: 1/87 whereas OO: 1/72
    These don’t sound much different but put a OO model car on an HO layout and it looks ridiculous. Anything scenic marked HO/OO basically means “what, you think we measured this? Ha!”

    There are several other gauges and scales used by people who want greater accuracy, such as EM or S4, or the ability to work in Imperial measure, eg S gauge, but then you might have a life and want to get out more.

    Also, real railways are not all standard gauge, so of course you can use one of the track gauges above to represent a narrow-gauge line, modelling to one of the larger scales, for example, if you model in 4mm to the foot scale, as you would with OO gauge, then 9mm gauge track represents a prototype 2’3″ gauge line such as the Talyllyn Railway. For an American, if you model in HO (3.5mm to the foot) then the 9mm gauge track could represent the 3′ gauge DRGW.

    My advice is look at your space first, you’ll need more than you’d expect, and however much you fancy that HO Big Boy in the catalogue, if it can’t get round your curves it’ll be a constant frustration.
    Rod

  20. Bob says:

    When I was 4-5 I had an Am Flyer. I musta liked trains, next thing I know I was into Lionel until about 10-12. Then moved on to HO, really got into that layout with my dad – had a big L layout until I got married at 23. But had no place to put it and it was too big. That layout was closest to ‘done’. Then when wife was pregnant, started a ‘new’ HO.. had it from 1974 -2011! Was only missing people and vehicles, almost got it ‘done’. It was 6X10, a close copy of Jack Mamula’s Gizmo Gulch from Model Trains 1951. We moved to smaller place, had to dispose of that. Now I have two N scales, one in MI (in garage – 48″x 34″), one in AZ (3′ x 8′), both are coming along…don’t want to ever be finished!
    Bob

  21. David Hannan says:

    That has been so useful for a beginner – thanks!

  22. Mr Al
    I saw someone ask about setting up a tank farm using scratch method. I tried using balsa wood and toilet tissue rolls (they severed as the tanks body) with the balsa as the end caps. I then took spackel and lightly covered the tanks making sure all smoothed out using 400. Grit sand paper. Base was made from balsa strips type lumber using the cradle style. Piping was old pieces of plastic that model piece come with and glued together in the configuration desired. Bottle caps with plaster.to the top act as the filling and inspection hatch. I found a lot of useful things are the.answers to a project and using the plaster, spackel, paint and a lot of imagination and patience with pictures and research. really pays off and when done you start looking for the next project challenge.

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