James’ layout

“Here is a series of pictures from my current project. This is about 1/3 of the first half of the layout. Please feel free to post on your page (if you’d like).

This is a small town in the layout of the North East area of the US.

The water feature (creek) is not complete as it ties into one more board. Also, I stopped painting the buildings until I have them in place. That way I can blend them together better.

As a note, I am an architect, so I enjoy building the layout. The trees are a mix of woodland scenics and real “sedum” plants that have been covered with grasses, etc.

People have been hand painted.

Base is styrofoam with plaster for roads, etc. there are three panels in these pictures that I started the scenery just after Christmas.

Hope you enjoy!


That’s your lot for today peeps.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you leap into action on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.


PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

65 Responses to James’ layout

  1. John says:

    Very nice work!

  2. Ross says:

    Great work James! What will be the final dimensions of your layout and have you got a print of your overall layout? Really impressed with your buildings and bridges. I hope to see more in the future. Possibly a video too. Thanks for sharing with us. Cheers Rossco

  3. Roland Burch says:

    James, you have a wonderful 1/3 of 1/2 layout. I can’t wait to see the completed layout. Please provide track plan.

  4. Peter the Mackem Jones says:

    Looking good James, keep us up to date with your progress. Peter

  5. Bob J says:

    Great layout! Can’t waittosee the completed layout!

  6. Gavin says:

    James, an impressive start. I think your buildings are very realistic, do you use card or styrene? Look forward to seeing more.

  7. Nice one James well done

  8. roy hall says:

    nice layout im new at this I have no clue how to put togeather a working layout any place to get plans my board is large 21′ wide and 9 ft deep but not a rectangle I have o guage

  9. Orrin says:


    Shapeways does #D laser printing. If you go to theit miniatures section (in the menu bar) and then go to model trains/railroad, you will find a variety of items in different scale, both US and European prototypes. THey usually have price attached.

  10. Orrin says:

    OOPS, 3D

  11. Gary D says:

    Nice pictures of what you have so far on your layout and very nice scenery. Would like to see more as you progress as mentioned above and a video if possible. What will be the size when you add more tables? As a retired Teamster (Red Star), I like the Roadway and Yellow trucks too. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work. Gary

  12. Alan Roberts says:

    Hi James, I went to a 3D printing demo last week to see how it’s done.
    Last year I bought a narrow gauge diesel loco from a company called NARROW PLANET. It was 3Dprinted which included some etched brass components. I had to buy a KATO chassis to fit. It looks great. I will post a photo on Al’sweb page soon

  13. kimo says:

    WOW, can’t wait to see more, thanks for the showing.

  14. Pete Evangel says:

    great looking start. Next is all the detail work, tedious but so worth it. Keep going!

  15. Skip says:

    Looking great, where did you find your street lights? My lay out is very similar, still in the track stage but the senery is very close to what I have in mind. My lay out is 4×8 and growing. Thanks and keep the updates coming

  16. Doug Nicholls says:

    I’ve purchased a number of N-scale items (cars, mailboxes) from Shapeways. The detail is amazing, and overall I’m quite satisfied. There was one item, an airplane, that they could not print. This is usually due to the design having parts too thin to print reliably within their guidelines, which are quite clear.

    The way they work is to have design submissions from designers, which are available on the website and priced in units or package deals. These may or may not have ever been printed yet (apparently not in the case of my airplane). I believe the designer gets a commission and Shapeways charges for the printing, materials, and shipping.

    They estimate delivery conservatively, so don’t be dismayed by delivery dates a month out. I got my stuff in a week. Shapeways gave me a credit for the plane that couldn’t be delivered and a contact to get the design fixed; I have yet to follow up on that.

  17. Tom says:

    Your workmanship, detail are great … can’t wait to see the next part of this model railroad.
    Thanks for Sharing

    3D printing looking into this now!



  18. Hi, I’m assuming you are planning to buy the 3D Printer you promoted. Will you keep us updated if this thing is worth the $47 they’re asking on the hugely boring “sales letter” or is it a gimmick to sell a REAL 3D printer?


  19. chris says:

    nice layout

  20. paul Otway says:

    James, where did you get your buildings? Were they built from kits or Scratchbuilt or purchased ready made?

  21. the buildings look great would love to see the overall layout.the 3d concept seems to moving fast will it end up making models cheaper. hope to hear more on your research regarding this.

  22. ben miller says:

    like it 3d is making me think diffently on some things

  23. Quite impressive. I wish I had the space you do, but I am limited to part of my TV room 36″X 80″ not big but interesting just the same. Hence my use of N Scale system. Can anyone tell me of a book that shows newer N scale layout. Mine is an Atlas layout book about 1985 vintage. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you

  24. THOMAS says:


  25. C.J. May says:

    Nice work James!

  26. alex bruining says:

    hey like the part of the layout what is the theme

  27. Rod Mackay says:

    Well done James, how are you making the buildings, and what of? From original drawings or are you estimating from photos? I find cutting styrene card a real pain if it’s heavy enough for walls, and building up layers for relief (eg window surrounds) seems to increase warping? Where I can I use thin ply sold for model planes and ships, and a table fretsaw, much easier on the old knuckles.

  28. Christine says:

    Weathering guys weathering.

  29. Harvey says:

    Looks good…but just like every other layout I see…..WHEN WILL SOMEONE STOP MAKING THEIR LAYOUT LOOK LIKE ITS ON A FLAT BOARD. I mean roads are never flat…they are designed so water runs of them…carparks the same….they have high spots and low spots near the drains.

  30. Andy in Yakima,Wa. USA says:

    Looks great, James. Looks like you are having a lot of FUN with your efforts.
    Wise choice to wait until you get all of the buildings in place before you blend the weathering of the area. ( sorry Christine, if you took the time to read his discriptions, you would have not embarrassed yourself again )
    Hey everybody, it’s a hobby, remember?

  31. jim morris says:

    nice , jim

  32. Thanks everyone. The layout has progressed from those and I will send Allistar an update.

    This layout is approximately 12’x8′ – there is 3″ of height variance on the board and several over and under passes for cars and trains.

    The small interchange yard has new lighting and switching now and a small portion of “Main Street” is shaping up too.

  33. Curtis says:

    Looks great!

  34. GOPAL DAGA says:

    Very Crisp and neat layout. Love to see this kind of hard work. Cheers!
    GOPAL Daga
    Calcutta, India

  35. James:

    Thx for sharing your wonderful ideas of modeling. Your still pictures look as if you’ve still got work to do. Keep on sharing your ideas as I’ve gotten several ideas to copy from what you have already displayed.-Harold Jr.

  36. Allan Clarke says:

    I don’t know why I bother.

  37. Allan Clarke says:

    Very nice layout.

  38. Allan says:

    Hello James,
    I read with interest your comments on 3D Printing.
    I am building my own at the moment, and they are not as dear as on your picks, I can buy a good one for $399.00.
    Love to hear your comments.
    Allan from down under.

  39. David says:

    Nicely done.

    And you enjoy at the same time. What a deal.

  40. Kevin McArdle says:

    Lots of well done structures, but no real idea of a layout. Be careful in trying to squeeze too much into a small space, because operation will suffer. That big bridge in the first picture is beautiful, but doesn’t look like it’s installed. More pictures of the layout, please.

  41. Rich B. says:

    I find this intriguing. It’s about the journey not the destination. What I really like is things aren’t all crowded together, plenty bustling but spaced out also.

    Always look for the poles strung with wire. There is made in different gauges this bunji.cord type cable for scale poles. Keeps tension on the lines, most rely on imagination.


  42. Rob Shuman says:

    Wonderful work James! Keep going.

  43. Robert Brady says:

    How r u going to finish the wall plastering and backdrop? Whoops did u get ahead of yourself? Other then that great job so far .

  44. Robert Brady says:

    We need busy streets go on ebay cheat sheet and get people,we need people,lol
    great job,oh btw trains need trains

  45. DJfromNJ says:

    Nice work, James!
    Just echoing other comments re. track plan and video.
    Maybe Dave has spoiled me? Nahhhh..

  46. Mark Harter says:

    I really enjoyed the stories behind each scene. You said you had a script for the entire layout. I’d love to read it.

  47. Mike Street says:

    Great job James, really like idea of having a street running layout, buildings look superb, Mike in UK

  48. Very nice work James. I really liked the little planter boxes in the sidewalk area next to one of the buildings. Also, I thought your marked parking spaces on the street were quite a neat feature. I agree that adding more people will make the layout more interesting. I’d love to see your overall layout plan to get a better Idea of what the photos represent. Keep enjoying your model train work!

  49. Bernie says:

    I love the detail, especially around the level crossings. Makes me re-think what I would want to build in my layout. Lots of details to serve as eye-candy. Well done!

  50. Great layout (fraction of). I see where you enjoy the balance of urban structures to trackage to be towards the urban side. Your roadways look to be very well done. I will be modeling more towards the congested trackage end of the scale. I prefer more sidings servicing the buildings before the trucks took over from the train freight.
    I commend you for finishing A-Z on your segments also. I will be concentrating on trackage and get it down neatly, and then moving on to the scenery details. I have most of the structures already assembled, to use for scale and size fitting around the tracks.
    I look forward to seeing more of your layout in the future instalments.

  51. Clive Hill says:

    As a long time reader/enjoyer of this site, it fascinates me how much most contributors seem more interested in building scenery, backgrounds and features than they are in actually running trains.
    Please do not ever stop, it is so rewarding to see differing styles and techniques used, from various places around the globe.
    I love it.

  52. Erick says:

    Nice work and pretty kool

  53. Roger Ringnalda says:

    Great layout and detail James. Your work definitely has the architect feeling about it and the detail so far is wonderful. Hope to see more as you continue to finish your work on a great layout with your design and feel for archetechture!

  54. Excellent work. Very nice layout. Thank you for sharing.

  55. John Stevens says:

    Great layout James!

  56. ScenicsRme says:

    @ roy hall how comfortable are you with a computer? XtrackCad layout planning software is free for Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs. It has good online instructions and tutorial and not as steep a learning curve as some. Just follow the getting started step sequence rather than trying to run before you learn to stand up. Also don’t worry about messing up, just delete the file and start again. There are track geometry files for about every type made and even hand laid, from TT to live steam amusement park ride-on size! Just load up the applicable libraries, pick the track piece and set it in place on your virtual baseboard. A new piece will automatically connect to an unconnected piece nearby. Keep going like that until you have a mainline in a loop or point to point that pleases you and fits the space. That’s the hard part done. Now you can cut a replace sections of the mainline with turnouts wherever you want, add secondary routes, sidings, delivery stubs, yards etc to your heart’s content. Congratulations, you have made your first track plan!

  57. ScenicsRme says:

    @ E Douglas Elliott:
    Just google 36″ x 80″ N Scale layouts. I just did and got 95 MILLION hits! Then since I’m a visual person I picked the images tab in the results and had about 5K pictures of layo8uts to look at.

  58. Eugene Shaffer says:

    You are doing a great job of building scenery but I wonder what you are going to do about the backdrop. I recently watched a YouTube video by J.D. Stocks in which he lamented the fact that he built his layout up against the wall before he put up his backdrop. I am in the process of building my layout and I think I am going to follow his hint. At this point I can still install the backdrop before I install the benchwork as a permanent fixture.

  59. Malcolm Cleaveland says:

    An impressive start James. I build and sell in Z scale and use Shapeways for items like liquid containers and detail parts for trailers, chassis, etc. Someone recently said they could not find any Z scale Canadian locomotives and rolling stock. A quick look at ZscaleMonsterTrains and Ztrack Center (primarily AZL) shows lots of both, plus another company put out a lot of covered hoppers which are still available.

  60. Dave Karper says:

    Rich B: my father-in-law was in charge of electrical distribution for Baltimore Gas and Electric for many years and I learned a lot from him. Taut electric wires had a tendency to break in high winds. High winds started at approximately thirty miles per hour. Also, taut wires would “sing” in high winds..The pitch would vary with wind speed.”Singing was quite frowned upon in residential neighborhoods.

  61. Steve Ruple says:

    WOW !!!! really a nice layout

  62. Kurt says:

    James, I too am an architect. Now that I am ready to start working on a train layout, I am kicking myself that I didn’t build a little N scale model of all the buildings I designed or worked on over the course of my career. It would have been so easy to make as small model as we wrapped up each project, and how cool would it be to have a collection of all your “greatest hits” through the years ready to populate a train layout?

  63. Tom D. says:

    James, your work is excellent but due to the term period these builds need weathering . I have followed Dave Frary and George Sellous (FSM) in building . Keep up the good work.

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