Model train in a suitcase

John’s been in touch – he’s decided to make a small layout, a model train in a suitcase!

“Dear Mr. Lee

I mentioned my desire to build a layout I could fit in a suitcase.

I began this in late May or early June.

Model train in a suitcase

Model train in a suitcase

Model train in a suitcase

It is On30 (1/4 inch scale narrow gauge).

I mentioned to you a while back when your covered bridge was new that I saw an engine shed.

The shed you see here is my “proof of concept”, there are adjustments to be made, a lot of adjustments.

The water tower is made from a loo roll and is loosely based on the water tower that served the Edaville RR.

The yellow shed you may recognize also.

I do not have the model train in a suitcase named yet but I am thinking “Valise Yard” as the layout is exactly three feet long when unfolded.

In this picture you see some of the equipment I have built for this little layout.

The little A frame ore cars are made of card and sit on Bachmann’s On30 Passenger Car trucks -one carriage bogie per car.

The real purpose of this picture has been to show the capacities of each spur, a 2-1-3 Inglenook

For those with very limited space, the Inglenook shunting plan is a great way to have a model railway.

The Inglenook takes up little space and is very fun to operate.

It is also a plan that is thrifty on the budget!

I hope you have enjoyed my model train in a suitcase today,


John from Cali”


Really enjoy your site. Used to build model trains and many great memories. These days, I do dioramas.

Working on a method to creat realistic-looking explosions.

1. Creat a cage around what you want to blow up with the chicken wire

model train explosion

2. Take the cage off the model and cover with stretched cotton balls attached by applying glue to the chicken wire. Be sure to pull the cotton and not just stuff in cotton balls

model train explosion

3. When the chicken wire is all covered with cotton, stuff orange and yellow tissue paper (or cellophane) inside the wire cage.

model railroad fireball

4. Spray paint the cotton using florescent orange and yellow paint touches of flat black. Stand back and only give a misting over the cotton. Mix the orange and yellow.

model railroad fireball

5. Attach an LED light source to model at to fit inside the cage you have built. (Here, using a light from a headstrap)

model train fireball

6. Turn the light on and place the cotton cage over the model … you’ve got your explosion!

Here is the final diorama scene for the explosing RV.

model train fireball explosion

John Fraim
New Albany, Ohio”

A big thanks to John for sharing his model train in a suitcase, and to the other John for his ‘explosion’.

It still amazes me what lands in my inbox every morning – hope you enjoyed today’s as much as I did.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to start on your layout (It’s all about making a start).



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

19 Responses to Model train in a suitcase

  1. Robert Brady says:

    Ill do it to my diesel repair shop,thanks for the fabulous idea John.

  2. BRry Barnes says:

    I have learnt something. Great.

  3. NJ Mark says:

    The explosion effect is perfect and will suit my needs for an exploding fireworks stand “owned” by my brother who is a fireworks fanatic. Many thanks. Cheers! NJ Mark

  4. Brad says:

    The explosion is terrific.Great tips and how to’s here constantly.Have saved some for after I move and BEGIN my large HO layout.GREAT hobby we have,with seemingly endless new thoughts and ideas.I want to thank Al for making this site possible

  5. Appookta says:

    Re: explosion: HA! How creative!!!

  6. David in old Albany, Ohio says:

    What a blast, John!

  7. Rob McCrain says:

    John from Cali, very clever. You can run and store your layout in a very small space.
    John Fraim, Love the concept of an explosion. You could add some fun or a surprise to viewers.

  8. Allan Jelinek says:

    I just don’t get it.

  9. Hemi says:

    THAT “Explosion” would BE GREAT used ANYWHERE…. LOVE the idea….. NOW how do I make a gasoline tank car explode……………. -SOUND be GREAT too!

  10. Andrew says:

    Thanks John and John – Great imagination and creativity

  11. Ralph Berry says:

    Great use for the Inglenook layout looks great.

    My grandsons will be very pleased to see an explosion even if it is artificial.

  12. Richard Standing says:

    You… were only supposed…. to blow the bl–dy doors off!

  13. Doug Godbey says:

    Got a serious case of the giggles over that Exploding RV. Writing this after getting my breath back. Really cool. I can see it in many different applications from mining accident to … well, let’s just say the mind boggles! Well Done, John.

  14. Wilbury Castle says:

    Love the explosive effect , I’m blown away with this !

  15. Bill McCourt says:

    Great use of Inglenook track plan. Have been thinking about something similar altho not involving a suitcase for a while now. May finally get off the dime and get started. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Brian Rockey says:

    Always lots of great ideas keep coming in. Thanks to both Johns.
    The explosive effects would be great for a war layout. How about using a flashing LED or combination of LEDs to make it even more realistic. I’ve seen that done on military modelling dioramas.
    Regards to all from Brian, Wokingham, UK

  17. George Zaky says:

    John Cali
    What cool cars- On30. Love it
    John Ohio- Beyond clever-
    Of course I crash them! Why else would a grown man play with Trains!”.. Gomez Addams.
    Big Al- brought a smile for the group-

  18. Big G says:

    That’s a great tip and looks very effective from the photos, it’s something I will try on my WW2 layout, I already have a bombed out building so an explosion or two elsewhere would be great. Thanks for the know how
    Brummie Bri Birmingham England.

  19. Dave Karper says:

    Having spent twenty three years in the fire department in a city with several large industrial areas, I really could see this as responding to one that was really off.

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