Modular model railroad – Lawrence’s

Lawrence has been in touch again. This time he’s shared his modular model railroad.

(His last post is here – hope I haven’t got me Lawrence’s mixed up.)


With a module-based train club in my area I plan on joining them. So a module was in the making to the requirements of standard modules. After getting the framework (front to rear (24 inches) and side to side (48 inches)) correct started with the layout. The idea was a hunt scene.

The main (required) two tracks go through a tunnel, the top will lift off for any problems in the tunnel. There is a siding into a mountain and a track for delivery of the hunters (top also is recoverable.

modular model railroad

modular model railroad

modular modelrailroad

modular model railroad

modular model railroad

modular model railroad

modular model railroad

Getting more and more modular model railroad posts at the mo – they are good to see. Scott’s springs to mind:

Modular model train layout.

Now on to Mike:

“Hi Alistair

Just a few shots of my up-and-coming N gauge layout. The track is finally laid. I plan to have two platforms at the front right, with a shunting yard behind. The top left is a branch line to what will be a quarry.

A long way to go, but at least now the track is laid.


model railway bench

model railroad bench

model train track plan

Now, I know there isn’t a lot to Mike’s layout yet, and I do get mails asking why I publish such sparse layouts – and the answer is simple. This hobby is all about making a start.

And with that in mind, here’s a question from Jim that I thought was interesting:


As I consider getting back into model railroading – did it many years ago (lets say about 3.5 to 4 decades ago, in my teenage years). I have found your website and blog postings to be very inspirational and insightful.

While I am crafty type, good mechanically (engineer – electrical by degree but lots of mechanical background as well) and have a wood shop in my garage – so I am confident I can do a at least a fairly passable modelling job of all this.

However in many regards I am going to be a novice at some of the more detailed and/or advanced modelling techniques (though in watching the videos you post I have discovered water features are not nearly as hard as they appear in the models to pull-off).

I am really leaning towards modelling the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad towards end of steam era and early diesel era – possibly mixing a few time periods on the model. I would like to do HO or HOn3 but space considerations may drive me into N or Nn3 scale.

I would like to model it faithfully as narrow gauge, but my research is beginning to indicate that may limit my selection of narrow gauge loco’s and rolling stock. Here are some of my questions as I consider this choice – certainly some of the answers would be subjective, but I am interested in hearing others opinions and their justification in their choice to each of these questions:

Given that as an older adult this is really my first foray back into model railroading should I just stick with a standard gauge layout (either HO or N)?

I have discovered good quality locomotives (especially fully DCC equipped) can get rather pricey – I have a strong suspicion price goes up even more in narrow gauge. How much am I limiting myself on track, locomotive and rolling stock selection if I do decide to work in narrow gauge?

What vendors/sources as well as websites, books,or magazines do you and/or your members recommend for narrow gauge loco’s, track, rolling stock, supplies, and reference material?

Are there conversion kits to convert the wheels and axles (both drive and free spinning wheels) on standard gauge (HO or N) to narrow gauge (HOn3 or Nn3)? If they do exist, where would one source these from?

Thanks in advance Al,


Can anyone help Jim? And a big thanks to Mike and to Lawrence for sharing his modular model railroad too.

That’s all for today folks.

If the folks over the years have inspired you, grab the Beginner’s Guide and get to work on yours today. There’s just no point sitting on the side lines – especially at this time of year.



PS ebay cheat sheet goes mad at this time – have a look.

22 Responses to Modular model railroad – Lawrence’s

  1. Ruud de Sterke says:

    Converting analogue locs to digital (sound) loco’s is not very difficult. Especially in HO. But converting normal gauge to narrow gauge is nearly impossible. It is not only changing the wheels, but the framework needs to be adapted too.

  2. NJ Mark says:

    A an older adult myself, I chose HO over N gauge because of my eyesight and dexterity issues. Whichever gauge you select, the main thing to do is have fun. Cheers! NJ Mark

  3. Mike – have you tried running trains on your layout yet, or even pushing two coaches past each other on the curves? In some places your tracks look very close together and I suspect the overhang on coaches may lead to collisions between trains.

    Best to check that before you ballast the track and get on with scenery!

  4. Malcolm Hodgson says:


    One thing that I have found coming back in to the hobby 40 years after leaving it and doing a modest sized layout in 00 gauge. Is that it is a huge amount of work and time more than you think it is going to be just to get track down and wired, signalling, control panels, point motors etc. Even ballasting takes days and days to get it just right and let the glue dry etc…..

    In terms of motivation, therefore, even with standard gauge track and ready to run stock it can be quite some time before a result starts to appear. Along the way I have made many mistakes and had to start sections again realising that my sequence was not right or that the plan was not right and the execution of the plan was not up to the standard I wanted.

    So I would suggest you think really hard before setting yourself the task of starting back into the hobby with the aim of faithfully reproducing a specific railway, to a specific period with specialist locos and stock. Mainly because the progress might end up being too slow to maintain your interest.

    How about trying out a small diorama first to practice the techniques you will need before committing to the grand plan? That way you will know if you have the time, patience and skill to model a larger plan to the exacting requirements of a faithful reproduction of an era and a location.

    Kindest regards

    North Wales

  5. Mike Walsh says:

    From Mike
    Thanks a lot for the advice. I’ve checked the track and there’s one point in the top left corner where they touch. I’ll get that fixed.
    Much appreciated

  6. Richard Horton says:

    I, too, waited a long time to get back into model railroading after a long hiatus due to family, work, and most of all, no space. As kids left and job changes happened, we moved and obtained a house that had a ‘spare’ room just made for trains. Although not a huge room I am able to build a good size layout that includes both HO and HOn3. I just incorporated the HOn3 as a tourist train (which is mostly what the D&SNG is today) along with a modern BNSF road.

    I have been using Blackstone Models for my HOn3 locos and yes, they can be expensive but once you have one you will appreciate that expense. I wish you luck and lots of fun in your future whatever your choice is.

    Wyoming USA

  7. Wes says:

    Hi Jim,
    Might I suggest On30? They are basically “O” Gauge trains running on HO track.
    They can be found at on-line auction sites and my favorite, yard sales. Best of all, being made by Bachmann, they support what they sell and parts are available.
    Just made a return visit to the area you wish to model and Bachmann has many offerings both in passenger & freight consists. finding used equipment enables you to customize & ‘kit bash’ to the specific piece you wish to add to your roster.
    Welcome back & Good Luck!

  8. Brad says:

    Jim,perhaps you should think about not doing a specific era/location and just have fun with it instead. You could do some some type “theme” in HOn3 as I believe the Bradford Exchange items are narrow gauge and those themed items can be found on Ebay(depending on your theme) I know they have say,civil war train sets for example.I would not buy them directly due to the fact they are a bit more expensive(but new with warranties),but find some on Ebay for a better price.There are also ceramic buildings out there in this scale which,whilst you are making your own ,can be placed to get quickly to get things up and running.Layouts are never done as we know.Doing this would let you enjoy your trains while you are making other things.These ceramic buildings can be re-sold on Ebay later to evolve your layout. I know also that Bachmann offers some HOn3 locos in steam such as the D&RG

  9. Wm althaus says:

    Very nice work from both modelers. I really enjoyed the hunting scene. The lookout reminded of a free standing play fort my dad built for me in the mid 1960’s :D. Really like the scale layout track plan as well. Can’t wait to see you share more as you move forward.

    For Jim – some really good comments have already been made. I would suggest you type in HOn3 in eBay. You find equipment is a liable but as you commented the price is often higher and in some cases much higher than quality HO gear. It’s a trade off of sorts. Modeling narrow gauge is something I’d like to do at some point but it probably would be a diorama for me as . A diorama is a great way to start or a shelf layout. Gets your feet wet without high cost and you get to rebuild skills and learn new ones as you go. Bill in Virginia

  10. For Jim (and any others to whom this may fit)
    I have been in this wonderful hobby most of my life. Though that time I have done both narrow and standard gauge modeling — In several scales. For most of my years, my space available has been very limited — Never a “spare room” available BUT I have always had some kind of operable layout.
    In many ways this is the BEST TIME to be in the hobby! The available products and quality is amazing — In every scale. Yes, it can be pricey but it has always been such.
    Now for some suggestions… I build small layouts do to my space restrictions — And because I find them fun! A small layout can be completed quickly (anywhere from a weekend to a few months). They are great for learning skills as you ready yourself for your masterpiece.
    If your interest is narrow gauge, I would suggest considering On30 — 1/4 inch scale (O Scale) that runs on HO track — The bigger scale is a blessing on older eyes. The disadvantage is that your structures take up a lot more real estate.
    You may want to consider a short line or branch line also.
    HO has the largest variety of ready to run stuff — A blessing in its own right — but my experience with HO narrow gauge dates from an era when reliability meant a lot of extra work and even then the results were unpredictable… I have heard good things about Blackstone models however.
    Just my two cents on the issue…
    John in California

  11. Mark says:

    This is my first time every doing a layout. When my father pasted away he left me my first train set when I was a kid. That was 40 years ago. This is something we always talked about doing together. Now I have started but am having problems with the locomotive. It runs just not on the track. Heart stoke over it so I am looking for an other steam locomotive. Any ideas on what I need to be looking for

  12. Pat says:

    Appreciate you mixing posting early stages of a layout as well as the full in depth finished layouts …….we all started somewhere and it gives new ideas to the “beginners” to think about to help avoid mistakes being made in the early stages.

  13. Jim says:

    Hi this is Jim who asked the questions about modeling in narrow gauge versus standard gauge.

    I really appreciate everyone’s responses so far and it is giving me a lot to think about. I do like the idea of doing a smaller switching or diorama layout to start. I’ve also considered trying a modular layout for a larger layout that can be broken down rather easily. So if I go the modular route and somewhat think ahead I could make a switching yard layout to begin with (possibly modeling the D&RG round house in Durango on that module as well). I was thinking doing 2′ x4′ or 4’x4′ modules. Since this would mainly be for my home I wouldn’t need to try and meet any of the club module layout rules (though if I do get involved with any clubs I could see a benefit in trying to make sure I met their interfacing rules for joining modules). Not sure if modular adds even more complexity then I should be trying to tackle or even try and do a section of model that might be able to build from into a larger model latter.

    Of course as an engineer I am most likely way over thinking this and should just start modelling something.

  14. Jim says:

    Oh another though – (This is Jim again). Does anyone know of any good model railroading clubs in the Houston,TX area – especially on the north side from the Conroe, TX area to anywhere in Houston area north of I-10. Though I would consider going even further south of I-10 if needed.

  15. Craig Burton says:

    Hi,this is Craig, I suggest reading about this great hobby! Mrr. OGR Ctt all kinds of inspiration to enjoy and new things to learn. Start small with plans to expand. Larger scales are better!!! Shop around, the internet or better yet,local. Have Fun.

  16. Kevin McArdle says:

    If you like HO and HOn3, you can purchase track that can run both scales. It’s a three rail track, so you can have the best of both worlds. Check it out.

  17. Kevin McArdle says:

    Dual gauge track, HO and HOn3, three rails,

  18. SHELDON. PHOENIX. USA. 🇺🇸 says:

    Joining a club is a great idea 💡. Members are always a great resource and willing to to help. Might want to attend a meeting to get an idea of what there interest are. Our club has a little bit of everything including a member who spends a lot of time on the internet. With the help of a member I just installed a whole new buss system…. 👍 The better your equipment is the the more fun you will have running the trains. Spend lots of time laying your track. It is so important to get it right….

  19. Peter Maylott says:

    Hi Jim,
    Modelling in HO or HOn3 would be possible, expensive for the new stuff but depending on where you live, Ebay might be a solution. Track wise, you could model both gauges using Tillig track and points, and for this I would buy new and model a dual gauge inter-change. It would give you plenty of scope and it would be possible using modular sections for your baseboards. There are some plans showing such schemes and both Roco and Tillig have a good selection of locomotives and rolling stock in both gauges to keep you busy, only snag their stock is mainly based on German proto-type.
    The main thing is to have fun, either building, running or both, ENJOY !

  20. George Zaky says:

    As an engineer who over thinks, and is old and not as nimble as I was, I had to chuckle because we are doomed -paralysis by over analysis- and normal people seem to do things simpler. There are many great comments here to ponder. The macro view to me is:
    Scale first- largest you can tolerate with your given space, consider sturdiness, availability, & how old you will be in 5 years. IMHO- ON30.
    Keep it simple- Dont worry you can complicate the hell out of it after you finished because layouts are never finished.
    Buy only factory DDC Sound equipped-NEVER incomplete DCC.
    DCC and if you plan to run more than 2 engines then min 5 amps
    Have a Fun time and keep us posted
    Oh -read Big Al’s blog every AM and use his bldgs.

  21. Orvan Gene "Hat" Hatfield says:

    I live in Lewiston, Idaho, but the best and oldest club in Houston is the San Jacinto Model train club. They meet the first Tuesday of the month, which is today May 2nd at 7:pm or 1900 hours. They meet at Bayland Park Community Center.
    If that is not close, Zoom to the meeting.

    “Hat” a disabled US Army Veteran in Lewiston, Idaho

  22. rich says:

    I have a modest collection of HO and N scale trains that are DCC. Not a problem finding them. I recently dove into Z scale and I’ve been converting them into DCC. Digitrax and TCS do make DCC boards that you can use to convert to DCC. Very few Z scale Locomotives can be converted to DCC and there is very little information out there to help you. Incorrect/improper fit boards can burn your Engine up in seconds. HO and N scale are easier to work with.


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