Starting a train layout

David’s been in touch with his advice on a starting a train layout:

“Good morning Alastair and all blog members!!!

I have held off sending my pics in for awhile now. I’ve been a quiet member of this blog for awhile and every now and then, I may make a comment.

I actually start my day off every morning at 5am with my coffee and Al’s blog. It’s quite enjoyable to see everyone’s “Masterpiece”, no matter what scale or even what level of “Craftmanship”.

When I open up Al’s blog every morning, it’s like being 10 years old again on Christmas morning, every time!!!

The anticipation of what’s to come my way when I see one’s Masterpiece, is always a delight.

Many of yalls ideas have been incorporated into my layout. ( HO scale in my case) I am really greatfull of the tutorials that many of our members include in this blog. Without them, I wouldn’t gotten as far as I have, with my layout, as yall will see in a moment.

A special “Thanks” goes out to Al for providing such a great wealth of information, with a blog like his.

With all that said, I am a huge fan of both the G scale and HO scale model trains.

This post, I will be referring to my HO layout only. At least once a day and sometimes all day on Sundays, I am a 10 yr old kid trapped in a 57 yr old body, located here in Hickman County Tennessee.

The Mrs and I purchased this house 2 years ago, with the sole purpose of having a room for a mid-sized HO scale layout….yes, we had to have a room solely for trains. We call this room, ” The Iron Horse” room. This is not my first layout however, it is my first layout of my own, inside a building.

As AL states, “it’s all about The Start”!!! For some, it’s about “money”, for some it could be the “space”, and for others, it could be the lack of “imagination”, and lastly, for some, it could be all about the “when do I have the time”.

Well, for those that are new to Al’s blog, I’m here to tell you, every member of this blog has talked about how easy it is to overcome all these “objections”.

I’ve read how many members have built things, for free, with odds and ends, just laying around the house.

I’ve seen layouts that hang from ceilings, fold down from walls and even doors.

And if you don’t have an imagination, that’s okay, just open Al’s blog every morning and the ideas flow in.

As far as “Time”…well, building a model train layout is not something one does to complete in a day, a week, or even a month. Sometimes it takes years to complete.

Fact is, a “Layout” is never complete. The fun and excitement comes from building “it”.

My uncle, in Pittsburgh, had an HO layout, in his huge basement, for over 40 yrs. He was always adding something. It was a sight to see for anyone to see, especially a 10 yr old kid.

We spent many hours in that basement, when we got to go visit. It was my inspiration to build one of my own, one day. Well, November of 2022 was my day to finally get started.

Yes, after a solid year and a half of being in this house, I finally got started!!! As many of us here have once said, “we always tend to over think things and make things complicated “, when in fact, it’s pretty darn easy to get started.

Maybe it’s the “fear” of “messing up”, or maybe, “I’m gonna do it wrong”, who knows?!?! Well, trust me and others here in this blog, it’s YOUR layout…build it how you want to do it!!!! Build it for your reasons and build it for your enjoyment!!! If you enjoy it when it’s complete, then thats all that counts.

Back to my layout… I take many o’ pictures of everything I do, and with the Mrs being so big into Scrapbooking and her new Cricut machine, she will one day have a nice novelty to leave behind for the family to enjoy.

I could not even begin to choose what pictures I wanted to send AL. Please keep in mind, this is just a “Start”. I hope everyone will enjoy!!! And for those of you that are still thinking about “getting started”…well, TODAY is the best time, not tomorrow!!! Why wait for tomorrow, when you can start having all the fun and excitement, TODAY?!?!

I didn’t want to spend much time with a narrative of my layout, as much as I did about how important it is to “actually get started”!!! As you will see, there are so many pics and videos, that the progress speaks for itself.

David, from Tennessee”

starting a train layout

starting a train layout backdrop

starting a train layout painted backdrop wall

model railroad painted backdrop wall

model railroad painted backdrop wall

model railroad painted backdrop wall

starting a train layout bench

starting a train layout laying track

model railroad u shape benches

starting a train layout laying track

model railroad bench

model railroad laying track

model railroad u shape track

model railroad bridge

HO scale curve

HO scale laying track

HO scale layout

HO scale laying track

HO scale u shape

HO scale raised track

HO scale laying track

starting a train layout HO scale raised track

starting a train layout control panel

starting a train layout

Starting a train layout – the bridge:

HO scale river bridge

HO scale riverbed

HO scale river bridge

HO scale river bridge

HO scale trestle bridge supports

HO scale trestle bridge

HO scale model train bridge

HO scale model railroad bridge

HO scale model bridge scenery

HO scale riverbed

starting a train layout HO scale

HO scale adding tunnel

HO scale adding tunnel

starting a train layout HO scale tunnel

starting a train layout HO scale bridge

HO scale river bridge

starting a train layout HO scale steam

starting a train layout HO scale coal

starting a train layout coal hopper

HO scale street

starting a train layout HO scale river bridge

starting a train layout HO scale bridge

HO scale model railroad

A big thanks to David – his narrative is a tidal wave of enthusiasm, and of course, he’s right because it helps when starting a train layout.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

30 Responses to Starting a train layout

  1. Graeme COLEMAN says:

    Great painting of the backdrop. I wish I had the discipline and planning to have painted my walls first. Looks really good.

  2. George, Dabears1 says:

    David, what an awesome, fantastic job so far, I cannot wait to see the next set of photos and the progression. I love it, you are doing a super duper job!!

  3. Andy Cockton says:

    Excellent backdrop. You must have an artistic background to do that

  4. Sedat Nişancı says:

    your hands are very good. I’m watching with pleasure
    Sedat from Türkiye

  5. Stephen Hill says:

    Wow , actual planning and forethought .. who knew . That is going to be an awesome layout . Your bridges and water feature are incredible, very impressive craftsmanship and skill. Please keep us posted as you progress . This is going to be an epic layout when you “complete “it . I grew up in Pittsburgh and that is one train driven town .. everyone there seems to have a layout . Glad your uncle inspired you , the baton is in your hands now brother , and your work is inspiring indeed .
    Happy Easter to all!

  6. Brian Olson says:

    Love it when modelers document the evolvement of their model railroads. As an aside, I sleep in until about 6:30am to read here with my coffee!

  7. Mike Mumford says:

    That’s really good the way the window is incorporated into the scenery. Looks like the river is flowing in from some far away, and it silhouettes those great bridges. Nice!

  8. Bob Shipley says:

    Nice work! Love the story too. Lot’s of modelers like to say they are looking for a new train room…..hopefully with a house attached.

    What caught my eye was your MRC Dual Pack Transformer. I had the same one powering my old HO layouts many years ago.

    Keep up the good work.


  9. John Bullock says:

    Love the layout and especially your narrative.

  10. Robert Brady says:

    Great layout More suited for modern day diesel electric trains as opposed to steamers.. Good job though.
    The Critic

  11. DavidMichael Caldwell says:

    Graeme and Andy…
    Actually, the Mrs painted the backdrop. And believe it or not, if you took the “drying time” out of the equation, it would have taken about a half a day. I painted the blue background with a roller paint stick. All 3 walls took less than 30 mins. The next day, Donna basically smeared 3 to 4 colors on the wall with a wide paint brush. We let that dry, and the next day, we both used a “dabbing” method for the trees. We are not artists, but the finished results may look like we are. Thank you again for your compliments.

  12. Philip, in North East England says:

    Wow! What a fantastic start you have made. You have given me some great ideas for my own layout in ’00’ gauge. I can’t wait to see your next set of photo’s. It’s so good to see that so many people around our age are starting to build some fantastic layouts. Thanks for sharing it with us all.
    This is the first time I have commented, although I have been an onlooker for a few months now. I live in Northern England and find that most people here use ’00 gauge’ systems.
    Keep up your excellent inspiring work.

  13. DavidMichael Caldwell says:

    Stephen and Mike…
    Yes, maybe too much “forethought and planning”…lol
    Sometimes I really think that could be one reason why it takes one so long to make their “Start”. For the most part, the “execution ” is on track but sometimes, the “execution” doesn’t always fall in place with the forethought and planning, and we are faced with “altering” the design a bit. I never look at it as a “setback”, rather a chance to be more “creative”.
    The two bridges are made from scratch. The one against the window is actually one that survived a major windstorm on my G scale garden layout. It actually worked out on this HO layout pretty darn good and allows me to lay 2 sets of track side by side. As far as the window and the scenery of the trees behind it, well, I got lucky with the view. However, my plans for the window are to inset a canvas painting with a river to link the mountains on either side of the window. Once that is completed, I will create a dimensional waterfall coming right out of the painting, cascading behind the bridge, down to the base of the river on the layout.
    Again, thank you for your kind comments.

  14. TJK says:

    That is a serious build. Great bridges.

  15. DavidMichael Caldwell says:

    The MRC Duel pack is kind of unique, in my eyes. This transformer was actually given to me from one of the guys in the Model Railroad Club that i belong to. It is designed to run 2 N scale locos, however, with a .5 Amp higher than the HO transformer, it actually runs both my DC steamers better than my Tech 4 transformer. The 2 sets of upper tracks were intentionally designed to run DC only. This allows me to run my 2 favorite steamers, (4005 BigBoy and a Fleischmann 2-10-0), while I’m actually working on the lower part of the layout. The lower part of the layout will be DCC. And I will run both Diesel and steamers. I do not have the DCC power cab just yet, but my birthday is just around the corner…lol I plan on going with the NCE system.
    Again, thank you for your kind comment.

  16. Jim Sterling says:


  17. John R Schmehl says:

    Very nice work great job.

  18. Ed A. says:

    Loved all the “progress” pics. Nothing spurs on the imagination better than seeing the stages of how something comes together.

    Also, great job on the bridges as well; very nice to put a bridge past the window :).
    This looks like a layout that will bring you years of fulfillment!

  19. Jim Myrhum says:

    Interesting!! Always worth a look to get ideas for ones own layout. One thing I wish every poster would do in their narratives is include a room size, Sizes of benchwork, etc. this would really help a lot of us rookies in our planning!!

  20. Sam Hannigan says:

    Nice background. You have some talent there. I also like the tunnel and river scenes. This is where I need to work on more. My backdrop is my next project. Right now I am just pushed against the wall. This gives me some inspiration. Thanks Dave.

  21. John Duryes says:

    Love your painting skills for the back drop, layout is looking really good.

  22. DavidMichael Caldwell says:

    Jim M…
    You do bring a good point up, Jim. I see alot of layouts with enough space behind them to walk behind and have access, in case of derailment or wiring issues. It is wise to plan for this if one is vertically challenged or if one’s health prevents them from crawling under the layout.
    The room is 11’9″ x 12’6″. The actual layout is 11’9″ x 8′. I purposely built the layout against the walls. In each back corner, the is a cut-out large enough for my thin body to crawl up through and reach everything that will be behind the mountains. I will be able to reach everything from anywhere outside of the layout.
    Hope this helps, my friend!!!

  23. Dan Piccolo says:

    I hope to see more progress.

  24. Garry Schneider says:

    Have been enjoying Allister most every morning for several years. Usually, I admire the day’s presentation and then delete and move on. Not today! Mr. Caldwell’s work is going to reside in my computer’s memory. My Mother used to tell me that the only real compliment is imitation. I plan to perloin those two very fine bridges and have already set aside some wood for them.
    Thank you, Garry from Maine

  25. Mike Matejka says:

    Very impressive in a contained space!

  26. Matt says:

    Awesome David!

  27. Jim Landing says:

    Impressive, good detail!

  28. M- says:

    Awesome layout!
    The steam locomotive in one of your pictures looks exactly like a Marklin locomotive that I have, but I don’t think that you are running 3-rail ac.

  29. Gerald Edgar says:

    Looking forward to the finished product as the beginning is simply superb!!!

  30. Johnstevens says:

    Great start with pics?

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