Model train building kits

Ken’s been in touch – and he shows what a difference some model train building kits can make to a layout.

The pictures speak for themselves – best of all, the whole family rolled their sleeves up and got involved:

“I worked for the Milwaukee Road and CP Rail for 42 years as a locomotive engineer.

I retired in 2009 and began building this layout in 2011. The layout is 16 feet at its longest point and 12 feet wide in places.

I worked in the Chicago area and modeled this layout according to some of the yards I switched out, such as Bensenville yard where I would start out to Chicago’s Goose Island. My sons have been a big part of this layout also. My older son , Joe constructed the foundation and my younger son Mark, the scenery.

A lot of the buildings were kits that I put together and painted. My family and I have truly enjoyed watching this layout grow and come to life making it what it is today. We enjoy having other families visit and enjoy it as much as we do.

I appreciate all you do for model railroading. Thanks!


model train building kits

model train building kits

model train building kits

model train building kits

model train building kits

model railroad

model railroad

Model train building kits:

model train building kits

HO scale

HO scale

HO scale model railroad

HO scale model railroad

HO scale model railroad

HO scale model railroad

A huge thank you to Ken for sharing his model train building kits layout. It’s easy to look at a layout like his and think, “Wow! Probably best if I just stay on the sideline and watch.”

But where’s the fun in that?

Starting is the key. Take Keith for example – he’s made that all important start:

“Hi Alastair,

Here are a couple pictures of a bridge I am building for the track to make it to an actual folding bridge – access entrance.

I am using this craft-type balsa you can find at a big-box hardware.

This balsa represents 8×8’s about 16 feet high. Then there will be side rails that will be the foundation for beams about the same width. These will support the track.

This will be an area as a dry river bed. And, formed with a drywall patch compound that sets up quickly.

The white foam area will be an oil platform and scenery. It will have a track and a siding for service.

So, here is the beginning construction. Perhaps you could consider sharing this.


model railroad bridge

model train bridge

Never forget, every layout you see, however good, was once a rat’s nest of wires, wood, glue and paint.

So make that start! And that’s what the Beginner’s Guide is for.

There was a time when Ken had never made a layout before… It’s all about having a go.

And if you read the comments below, you’ll see for yourself.

That’s all this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.



132 Responses to Model train building kits

  1. Robert Stone says:

    Please, Please, Please include track plans



  2. David Hedlund says:

    Just curious, do you have the above items for “Z” gauge?

  3. David Jeannotte says:

    Unbelievable, the layouts are amazing!! I am in are and would give anything to have the time… And money to do one half as good as these. I have a theme I want to revolve a layout around, it’s just finding the $$ and time lol… Thanks for sharing though.

  4. Bill Orzechowski says:

    I would love to see the track plan. I am presently planning a 8 X 16 layout. I haven’t had a layout in over 30 years and finally live in a home with space. (And my wife said I could.)

  5. Rod Mackay says:

    Lovely job Ken, full of atmosphere.

  6. wow that’s one of the most incredible layouts I’ve ever seen
    the detail is superbe
    wow John always has terrific models
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  7. James Lawson says:

    Very nice job. My loft layout is the same 16 by 12. Time is the great limiter, more so than money as lots can be achieved by using a lot of materials that ordinarily are thrown away such as polystyrene, wood off cuts etc. Only hope my ideas come to fruition in the fullness of time. Always look forward to the local shows in the North east

  8. Dangerous Dave says:

    Great Layout you have built there Ken …and John …well you sure make some great boats , be ideal if we had good weather and decent lakes …Dave

  9. Mark Piznik says:

    Simply Awesome. Great attention to detail. I loved the water effects!! NJ Mark

  10. Nathan Perreira says:

    Amazing layout, with your railroad experience and your artistic talents you really brought this layout to life.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Don says:

    What can I say but out standing and wish I had her no how.

  12. terry powers says:

    16 x12? Boy, I wish I had that type of room!

  13. Ed says:

    A great layout Ken with such detailed scenery. I really like the thought that the family has been involved and gives you all, not only a sense of achievement but also a focal point. I wouldn’t mind betting that many a family conversation has started around the layout. Inspirational!

  14. Dave Ewing says:

    Hi Ken, people like you with so much talent really motivate me to strive to do even better, well done.
    Dave in Eden NC

  15. John R says:

    Very nice layout with great detailed scenery

  16. Larry Johnson says:

    This is just a great, fabulous layout! So much detail, which is also the hallmark of my A&C RR. My ’56 Mark 2 Continental is black.

  17. Jon B. says:

    Stunning, absolutely stunning. Great attention to detail, some of the shots look so real I had to look twice. Please share more, perhaps a video. Thanks Al for sharing this artwork.

  18. paul Otway says:

    Nice railway .


  19. Jeff says:

    Do you have the track plan

  20. Kenton says:

    Awesome layout!

  21. Ray Makgill says:

    All I can say is WOOW, thank you Ray.

  22. Larry Johnson says:

    This layout is something that dreams are made of. Right now I am dreaming of a larger space for my layout,somewhere in the range of 20 by 20 . But thats just a dream . This layout is a real treat for the eyes.
    Thanks for sharing

  23. Harold says:

    Impressive layout; nice detail, but it would be nice on these featured layouts to give the gauge. The last layout did not mention the gauge either.

  24. David Hodges says:

    Ken, What an amazing layout – one of the best I’ve seen, and so realistic! Even the road striping not being so ‘perfect’ makes the scene look so real. And I understand what you mean when you mentioned how your friends enjoy viewing your layout. There are many people who love to see a good model train layout! David in Indianapolis

  25. Ian says:

    Beautiful. You have obviously spent a great deal of time on the layout. It’s the little mini-scenes that add so much interest – I like the police scene!

  26. Ian Mc Donald says:

    it is really great when the whole family get involved. the scenery is real like. great work and keep enjoying the hobby.

  27. David De Bondi says:

    Wow Ken, stunning.

  28. Rene Vanderneut says:

    Wonderful looking layout ken.

  29. Joe says:

    Would love to see the whole layout as a picture.
    Great work.

  30. Mike Wright says:

    One of the better ones. Keep up the good work!

  31. Tom Durham says:

    Ken, what scale are you working with? Guessing HO? Thank you for a great show.

  32. Ross Johnston says:

    Sorry Ken! I’ll try again. Could you please send in your layout plans to give me some ideas as I am about to start my layout. Cheers Rossco

  33. Pete Evangel says:

    Ken and family. Absolutely fantastic. Attention to detail is tremendous and everything looks very “finished”. I really love that this is a family affair and all hands had something to do with it. I think you can be proud of what you folks have put together.

    Pete-At home of Super Bowl 50

  34. peter bridges says:

    what scale is your layout regards

  35. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    One of the best I’ve ever seen. Simply wonderful.

  36. John Ortis says:

    Very good looking layout . I bet it’s ho thanks for the layout pictures. John from Milwaukee Wisconsin 2-2-2016

  37. John says:

    stunning so reealistic great stuff

  38. Chuck Bartunek says:

    Great layout,defiantly would like to see a track plan.

  39. Carlos says:

    Great detail, great layout, and the best is that ALL of the family participates!!!!
    Please Ken, provide a simple track plan, a hand drawing will be enough, I can see you have curved turnouts, it seems you have 2 levels in one section…I am planning to build a smaller room like 11 by 12 only so this could be a good basis. Please share plans!!

  40. Ken paulsen says:

    I will work on a hand drawing of track plan and post ASAP!! Thank you all.

  41. John says:

    fantastic layout and attention to detail love the sub

  42. Jon Fourre says:

    Great stuff! This site continually provides me with great ideas. The double curved swiches in Ken’s layout solved a problem that I have had with my own layout. Thanks to you folks for continuing inspiration.

    Jon from Green Brook, NJ, USA

  43. Ken Stramel says:

    Excellent. So real. Great job. Keep going.

  44. chuck67 says:

    This layout rates at the top in my book. You guys are artists that like to model. Detail photo’s are impressive. Thanks for sharing

  45. Noel says:

    Very nice lots going on,great job

  46. Noel freckelton says:

    Great job brilliant layout.

  47. Tom from South Carolina says:

    A beautiful layout! I am going to build another layout in a month or two as i have just moved here. I thought this was a great day when I saw this layout… A delightful experience. Where did you get the police scene??? Awesome…a video?

  48. So many models , love the artwork , I have an N scale figure eight unfinished
    from 4 years ago that has 3 layers to it but it is only 6′ by 30″ so it is too steep an incline for most of my locos to pull much freight up or hold back on the
    down side . so I get a lot of derailments from the turnouts at the bottom area .
    I have been away from this hobby for to long and I am glad to see all the work you all have put together -thank you for the kit in the pants to spur me on guys !

  49. David says:

    Like to see a video of the trains running.
    Impressive layout.

  50. Paul Vogel says:

    Hey Ken, come on over to my house and bring your brain. I’ll supply the coffee, beer and the sandwich of your choice. Great layout Paul Ohio.

  51. John S Dawson II says:

    Beautiful layout Ken!!!!!! Can I use photos of your layout as a diorama for mine?? Lol, j/k. AWESOME!!!!!!

  52. chris leseberg says:

    Mr. Al
    Really enjoyed viewing Ken’s layout and a particular photo (#12) caught my eye. Back in the early 50’s I was raised in a home like that only it was a 2 story.
    Would like to know where could find the building so could include it in my layout if you don’t mind.
    Many thanks and blessings

  53. Kermit Beckmann says:

    The pictures of your layout are over the top. Having grown up in New Jersey next to the Erie Lackawanna I had visuals of what you must have seen every day of your 40 years on the Rail road. Love the visuals of the meatpacking plant and other debris beside the tracks it is definitely as realistic as I can ever remember. Your sons did a great job as well. You’re keeping of scale is five star.

    Merry Christmas

  54. ken says:

    It’s the beauty of what you have accomplished that keeps me in amazement of what can be done. Great job!

  55. John says:

    Love the freeway(tollway) overpasses as that’s truly part of Bensenville. Nice work.

  56. John C. Rasp says:

    This has got to be the best layout I have ever seen! It is so realistic and full of life. The trees, rocks, water, people, police scene and the street with the worn center line are amazing. I love the way the tracks wind through the scenery. The only thing I can say about this layout is WOW, WOW, WOW!

  57. Gary O'Connor says:

    What a remarkably talented family you are. The scenery is simply stunning. I love the scene with the motorbikes. Your attention to detail is amazing. Everyone that looks at these pictures will be envious and, hopefully, encouraged to do as well themselves though I doubt that many of us will succeed.
    I would really love to see a video and, of course, the track plan.
    Take a bow, you deserve every one of the accolades you have received here and more.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Gary O’Connor. Australia.

  58. Henry McCoy says:

    Wow nice model . Love the detail work . I will be 54 in a few days I wished we could go back to days of steam . I grew behind the B&O roundhouse in Baltimore . I can remb. steam being pushed aside . Lotta good memories .

  59. Reed A Millner says:

    Ken, You and your family have hit the nail on the head for me. Great work!! So many times you see nice layouts with life looking so perfect ( and fake) but not real. The attention to detail you guys deliver is over the top. I’m 66 years vintage, retired and about two months away from starting my bench work in an area 26′ X 13′. My vision is to have a layout that comes to life like yours. I figure it will take me 20 years and if I need more time I’ll just add on another 20 years.

    Again GREAT WORK and thank you very much for sharing your efforts.

  60. wayne guess says:

    choppers were a nice touch , to a very nice layout

  61. Terry Beeler says:

    Great job. I only hope mine will turn out something close to what you have done. I am building the old Missouri and Northern Arkansas from Harrison Arkansas to Seligman Missouri.

  62. Terry Beeler says:

    great job. Can only hope mine turns out somewhat close as yours.

  63. Ross Johnston says:

    Great layout Ken!!! I have just finished my baseboard framework in my shed which is 20 x 18 aand you have given me some ideas re the inclines. Enjoy and thanks for sharing your layout. Cheers Rossco, Adelaide South Australia

  64. Franco428 says:

    I think he should adopt me so I could enjoy this marvelous layout. An outstanding job of creating a world in your home.

  65. Wayne Stirland says:

    my word this is the best layout I have seen to date by far, (apology to other great modellers) most definitely something to aspire too although room cost and the dear wife are prohibitive items to be considered, can’t wait for parts to arrive and clear the space for my first layout to commence.
    well done and thanks for sharing.

  66. Jerry P. Cram says:

    Very nice…I am only one year into my 8 X 12 HO layout and hope in 5 or 6 years I can enjoy something similar…I am deliberately taking it slow…I don’t want the fun to stop when I’m “finished”…On the other hand I’m 74 and would like to see it done before I take the big “dirt nap”…Good job !
    Jerry Cram
    Raleigh, NC

  67. Awesome job Ken. I just started a 12×20 layout in my basement and would love to see the track plans for this layout. Most people think I’m crazy for doing this but I have a real passion for this hobby. Most people just don’t understand why I do this. Because I love it.

  68. Robert Krumwiede says:

    I grew up in Bensenville and your layout looks better than the area ever did.
    One of my Uncles worked at the yard and took me there so I could get my
    Chevelle out of the back of a rent-a-truck.
    Great job.

  69. Kenny A. says:

    Looks awesomely realistic. I also had to look twice. Some of the street scenes look so real. Great job. I’m just a litrle sourh of you in Oak Lawn and would love to see this in person. WOW is all the more I can say. Kenny.

  70. Al Hinkle says:

    One of the very best I’ve seen. Would enjoy a personal visit. Must be so enjoyable to watch trauns pass so many scenes. Wish when layouts are displayed that the scale would be provided. “O”, “HO”, “N” etc.

  71. steve joyce says:

    have to add my request for a track plan as well. Love the detail in the scenery. I’ll hopefully be starting mine in 6 months or so. Been accumulating all sorts of stuff for years. Been going a little nuts lately buying stuff…little people vehicles and all those extra special buildings you think you need

  72. Jim Eberly says:

    Great look. I’m planning a layout about that size. I’d love to see the track plans.

  73. Lou says:

    Fantastic job. Truly a labor of love.

  74. how do I get the layout plans and is it HO I going to build a 24 X 16

  75. Dan McMahon says:

    Ken & Family, congrats on a wonderful layou, my Grandfather was an engineer on the Milwaukee Road in the 40’s&early 50’s. Sadly i never met him, but Thank You for Sharing

  76. Allan Jelinek says:

    I really feel like an Amerture when I see these layouts….. Great job…..AL

  77. David Henady says:

    Amazing layout! I love the attention to detail, the lighting, and the realistic setting. I would love to see a POV video from trackside and a camera car. A track plan would definately be a plus.

  78. Steve says:

    Awesome!!! Brining your memories to life by building future memories for your family and friends!!! Great job. Enjoy!!
    Question – can someone provide info on how a layout of this size and complexity allows for access to the areas beyond ones reach? I don’t see any access panels, which if there are access panels that’s amazing in and of itself!!

  79. Bret Peterman says:

    I am so impressed. I am building a new layout (5’x9’) and love the mountains you built. Were they made from extruded foam? Really nice.

  80. Rich B. says:

    No mention of zip code…… I’ll be moving to that camp by the pond with Lilly pads lol. Always wanted a railroad career myself, had to settle for DoD though. The detail even is exceptional with individual scenes that require explanation- none.

    Regards, Rich

  81. Edward Allen says:

    That’s a really amazing layout beautiful in its detail I hope to have such a layout myself thanks for sharing it with us

  82. Michael Foster says:

    The house and street light effects really bring the model to life, I am jealous.
    Fantastic job how long did you spend planning, after 2yrs planning I have just got started.

  83. Stan R says:

    I am so impress by people who enjoy their hobbies and dedicate themselves to it. Your layout is amazing… I’m hoping that I will be able to come up with a layout for “Z-Series” when I retire in a couple of months.
    Big thanks to you

  84. Warren Ferguson says:

    Beautiful work, Ken! Sime of the very best I’ve seen. I loved the street scene with the choppers all lined up. It reminds me so much of my military years in Charleston, South Carolina. We had a club (The Swamp Foxes, for revolutionary hero Francis Marion), and would line our bikes like that. The police sometimes weren’t very happy about having forty some bikes lined up in one place. Thanks for the memories, and best of luck with all your future railroading!
    Warren, AL

  85. Andrew (and everyone else) says:

    To Al
    I am probably not using the correct forum (so you can blame me for being a newby) but I think I speak for everyone in saying a big thank you to Al for all his efforts and encouragements. He is an extremely positive contributing to this wonderful and sometimes vexing hobby. So, (speaking for all of us again), we wish Alastair and his family a most wonderful and safe festive season filled with everything that makes a man’s heart swell with joy and pride.

  86. Patrick L. says:

    I am building a layout. aaaaaaagetting some great ideas.

  87. Ross Johnston says:

    Paul! What a great layout!~I’m still working on mine in a 20 x 18 shed but I’m not good on electrics. Due you have a layout plan to share? Keep smiling and working on a great layout. Cheers Rossco Adelaide South Australia

  88. Neil Willson says:

    Sir…stunning realism, beautiful work throughout. I especially like your copious use of streetlights. The scene looking along an urban street with choppers lined up on the curb is “look twice” real-not-real! I’m starting my very 1st layout summer of 2020. You are an inspiration. Cheers!

  89. Bill Kennedy says:

    Well Ken you’ve heard it all. There is not much more I can say, except what are you going to do now that it is finished, or is this one project that will never be finished?
    I wish you the very best in your retirement.
    Bill Kennedy–Roselle,Il

  90. Bill Kennedy says:

    Ken, I wish you the very best in your retirement.

  91. Tom Danieli says:

    Is there a track plan available?

  92. Ken Seibert says:

    Ken & Family 👨‍👨‍👦‍👦 all of you deserve a Standing Ovation for presenting such a family project as this Layout. Congrats Ken on your Retirement from the RR. I put up a small on30 Lemax Christmas 🎅☸🎄 Village. I plan to expand it larger this yr. I would like to know the radius of the curves and switches as well. I would appreciate all the help I can get, houses from Lemax is O scale size. Thanks Again for your help.

  93. jeff steinman says:

    nostalgic and outstanding

  94. Rob B says:

    I will like many others ask that track plan be included please!

  95. Greg A Eddy says:

    Beautiful layout, I can only dream. But thanks for the dream!

  96. Robert Brady says:

    YO Rob why do people ask for a track plans? I didn’t pre plan mine just laid track. Not every one blue prints their layout dah. What the heck are you going to do with his track plan anyway?

  97. Rich Wentzel says:

    Fantastic layout! Can’t wait to see the video. HINT! Great that it is a family project and you can all be proud of the end result.

    To Tom in South Carolina: I live in Easley. Are you closeby?

  98. Bud Back says:

    There are many adjectives to describe a layout like this. Beautiful, awsom, striking,
    ambitious to name a few. Such great detail. Lots of hours of hard work and labor.
    I am sure the above produces great operations. Left me wanting to get to my scenery.

  99. Mike says:

    Ken, your layout is truly stunning! You and your sons have created museum quality
    scenes. Please post a video of your trains running.

  100. Carl Vaughan says:

    I am really impressed with the lighting and the tarmac roads and parking areas! Also, I’m not saying it’s never been done but in picture no. 9 it looks like the caboose is lit from inside? Never saw that before. Great work! Congratulations and thanks to the whole family!

  101. Steven L Jones says:

    Nice layout! My father was an engineer for Milwaukee Road and worked out of Savanna. Sometimes he went to Bensonville.

  102. John Birch says:

    Stunning layout with amazing detail. Well done!

  103. Anton Bruce says:

    What an absolutely fabulous layout! Exquisite and very detailed work! I would LOVE to see the track plan! And the guy being arrested? What was HE arrested for???

  104. Jim Robinson says:

    GREAT closeups of some wonderful detail work! Would love to see some longer shots of the whole layout (and/or a graphic of the layout?)!

  105. What a magnificent layout. Track plans would be so appreciated.

  106. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Ken my man outstanding!! Wnhhat can anybody say but great things about your layout!! VERY NICE!!

  107. Tim shirk says:

    The brick are approx 8 inches long according to 2 foot ceiling tile? Thus rr cars would be less than 7 inches? Ken’s scale could be HO? Very impressive and detailed layout. I am always interested in learning about how the wiring is done in the growth or finishing of such a layout. Seems like there could be lots of redoing in the process. Just curious.

  108. Will in NM says:

    Ken, I love your layout, especially the street level photos that make it feel “alive”. Your use of figures is excellent and gives one the feeling of being in an active neighborhood, Also the extensive street and building lighting is used to great effect. Thanks for sharing. Please send a track plan and video if you can. You and your sons should be justly proud of your efforts.

  109. Fantastic Layout! I was drawn to your spatial perception of the city streets. Proper HO scale in the width and curbside proportions! You were able to create a “moving” city within the confines of a “static” display! EXCELLENT WORK!

  110. Erick says:

    Looks pretty kool.!!! I hope mine turns out that good.

  111. I am not certain, how many times I thought…Wow…while enjoying your pictures, however I am inspired to continue. Thank you and your family for your work and for sharing.

  112. val christiansen says:

    hi al, I’ve been working on my h o layout now, for about 3 weeks now. the tables for the layout are almost done. the problem is I don’t have a specific track plan yet! the layout measures. 40″ by8′ on one leg, and the other measures 40″ x 48 “!! I sure like to have anyone out there come up with one or two track plans that would fit the measurement’s. my layout will be mostly a mining set up.. any track plan ideas from anyone would be ppreciated at this time. I have really loved some the most recent photos.

  113. val says:

    I almost forgot, my layout is named, the eureka, tintic and western. I’m patterning it as my father worked in the coal mines here locally west of where I live, he was in his late teens and early 20’s. when he worked there!!

  114. Hemi says:

    NICE work Ken! Thats a GREAT looking layout man!

  115. Wayne Rybak says:

    You surly know how to create scenes. The placement of the people is outstanding.

  116. Old Ben says:

    One of the BESt layouts I have ever seen Cograts

  117. Gary M from Long Island says:

    One of the keys to a great layout is the attention to detail……..and you all have certainly mastered that. Fantastic layout.

  118. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. The street scenes are one of my favorites to see on layouts and you’ve done a great job with great details. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  119. Maurizio Fasone says:

    well done the streets look great

  120. Jim Landing says:

    Awesome detail! Great job Ken.

  121. robert dale tiemann says:

    great work on the terrain and streets. the police werent eating doughnuts were they? just kidding.

  122. Brian Olson says:

    A grand sized layout with wonderful small scenes

  123. Frank Pumillo says:

    Absolutely stunning and detailed effort. I appreciate and thank tou for sharing.

  124. JEFF says:


  125. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout Ken, I’ve always wanted to make a layout of chicago area but don’t have the room to do it.

  126. matiSon says:

    Ken, your layout has a really good realistic “feeling” to it. It looks like an interesting place to explore. The under the bridge shot is awesome! I’d love to see more of this layout.

  127. Glenn Holden says:

    Fantastic- what more can I say??

  128. Don says:

    very well done

  129. kenneth s roth says:

    yes it would bw great to seethe track PLan a couple well picked photo does not show anything

  130. Tony Weisbecker says:

    Outstanding is a good word for this guys work . A wish list for others and I’m one .

  131. Chris Sylvester says:

    Ken, that is an awesome layout!!! Brings back alot of great memories for me being born and raised in the Chicago area and my grandfather working for the Soo Line RR at the Bensenville yrd for many yrs and visiting him at that yard. I live in Michigan now but go back to visit family from time to time and always make a trip back to that yrd. I have a lot of old pics and can’t believe how much things have changed like when they had a round house in the yrd and turntable, which is still there last I remember .Thank you for the trip down memory lane and thank for sharing your story and layout. Makes me want to go home and start my Soo Line layout.

  132. Don says:

    can you send Mark north a bit..scenery is my downfall. I don’t know where to begin.
    Brookfield, wi

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