Marklin HO layout

“Hi Al

Thank you for all you do for the hobby!

It has been over 5 years since I last contributed to your site having built a Marklin HO layout when I was living in Illinois. You very kindly featured it on your site.

I have since retired as a Plastic surgeon, moving from Illinois to Santa Fe, New Mexico and had to break down the old layout, trying to preserve some of the landscaping elements which you may recall relied heavily on Woodland Scenics shaper sheet and plaster rocks.

I stored the pieces in a plastic container bin together with numerous containers of track, locomotives and rolling stock before transporting it all to Santa Fe where it remained in storage for 2 years.

We finally moved to a different, larger home in Santa Fe where I had enough space to spread the wings of my favorite hobby as it had a wine cellar (basements are extremely rare out here as there are no tornadoes). Wine connoisseurs will cringe at the sacrilege of turning a wine cellar into a train room, but not being a wine aficionado, I had no compunction about the decision!

The cellar leads off an outdoor patio and measures 23’x13′ with polished plaster walls, an arched ceiling and varnished brick floors. It is dry and perpetually, comfortably cool.

I removed all of the wine racks and installed a radon remediation system as the radon levels were high and I didnt fancy glowing in the dark over time! Anyone building a layout in a basement should check the radon as chronic exposure to high levels can cause lung cancer.

My old layout in Illinois had suffered from numerous issues. It had started as a simple 16’x4′ flat layout on homasote panels and morphed steadily into an E shaped layout with serial additions that posed grade and track alignment problems resulting in running issues.

Some grades were as high as 4% which challenged some of the heavier consists. While it looked quite good in the end, I left the background til last (major mistake) and had to paint the back wall while reaching long distances over delicate scenery.

I had also started the construction on steel sawhorse trestles which left ugly protruberances jutting out around the edges of the baseboards.

So, when I decided to begin afresh in Santa Fe, I was determined to use the tried and tested approach of careful planning and better technical execution. The result has been much more gratifying.

I cannot stress enough to beginner modellers, the importance of good planning, sturdy construction and meticulous attention to wiring, reliable power distribution and smooth running characteristics.

The time spent getting it right up front will save hours of frustration and misery in the future! Learn from the mistakes of others and try not to repeat them yourself.

I have to stress that I am not a “rivet counting” prototypical modeler. I run the trains I like because I find them beautiful, interesting or mechanically fascinating.

When I was 5 my parents gave me a Marklin 3-rail AC folded dog-bone layout on a baseboard with a small DB Prairie Pony loco & 4 freight cars. It gave me hours of pleasure for many years and I sold it to help get cash for medical school. Big mistake.

In my forties my interest was re-kindled and I began collecting once more. I tend to favor eras l-lll primarily but will spill over into more recent models if I like them.

My collection consists mainly of Swiss/German locos like the famous Swiss Crocodiles that hauled freight over the Gotthard Pass and the K.Bay.Sts.B locos of the old pre war Bavarian Railways (e.g S3/6 Rheingold) and earlier German locos of the DB like the V200 diesel.

In addition I have a modest collection of American steam and early diesel locos including the famous UP BigBoy.

To further complicate matters I have a large collection of Swiss and German style buildings but couldn’t resist purchasing many of the beautiful kits coming out of Fine Scale Miniatures like those featured in the Manchester South Franklin Railroad and also some of Doug Foscale’s kits, many of which showcase 1910-1930’s Americana.

The question has always been how to incorporate all of this variety into a single railroad layout.

In the end I decided once more to blend the 2 by having 2 main limbs of the layout connected by a narrow bridge focal point.

I have always been drawn to a particular track plan in one of Marklin’s excellent track planning books and I modified it to suit my needs.

On the left or south side of the layout I have the Swiss-German border layout featuring a large through station with steam service including turntable, roundhouse, coal, water and sanding facilities.

One limb courses round the periphery to disappear beneath the town running the full length of the room as a hidden loop to emerge through a tunnel before passing over the lower of 2 bridge structures.

The outermost limb runs east then turns north to run over a large steel span bridge before crossing to the north limb. These two limbs then pass along the north wall of the room at 2 levels. The upper level is exposed , runs through a small rural station then descends to what will become a 1920’s era US town.

The lower level passes through a tunnel to a 6 lane staging yard before emerging into a double main line leading into the US town with waterfront.

Who knows how it will turn out but I love the layout and its variability in terms of running options as things stand.

First I built a scaffold to which I screwed the masonite panels for the backdrop. I painted the basic backdrop before starting the framework for track.

To date I have built the entire framework, lain the track and set up a bus wire with feeder wires. Control is DCC using the Marklin CS2 system.

I have started landscaping the extreme east end of the south limb and will gradually work west then over to the north limb. To encourage myself along the way I built out the bridge sections which provide a visual focal point on the west wall.

I am enclosing some preliminary photographs but will start generating videos documenting the process from beginning to end as time permits and forward these to you for your readers’ interest. Being retired I have much more availability so progress will be much faster than before.

HO scale marklin layout north limb

North Limb

HO marklin track plan top tier


HO scale Marklin track plan

Finished HO scale Marklin track plan

model railroad bench construction

HO scale marklin painted backdrop

HO scale marklin layout scenery

model train stone bridge

model train HO scale

model train european buildings

ho scale platform sidings

model railroad girder bridge

model railroad crane

HO scale freight

The pics I am attaching show the basement at the beginning, the early backdrop and where the west end of the south limb currently stand. The layout track plans also shown.

More to follow and happy modeling to all!

Best wishes


A big thanks to Glyn – what a project – I can’t wait to see this one progress.

That’s all for this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. Glyn saved the day today, but if you don’t hear from me over the next few days it’s just me putting my feet up because there is nothing to post.

And if today is the day you poke boredom in the eye and get started on your layout just like Glyn, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

31 Responses to Marklin HO layout

  1. Jerry Treich says:

    Wow! It’s great to see someone else running Märklin trains! I’m about 100 miles south in Belen. I’m in the process of building my train room now – about 18’x24′. Guess I’ll have to send Al my plans!

    You have a beautiful layout and the backdrops are great! I hope you enjoy many long sessions running them!

    Jerry in Belen

  2. Andrew Cockton says:

    Terrific model so far. The backend is superb. You are a very good artist. Can’t wait to see more

  3. John Floyd says:

    That’s a true masterpiece, thanks for sharing this with me 😎👍

  4. Andy says:

    Fantastic layout. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Glyn. Fine layout. Well done. I like the track layout.

  6. George Zaky says:

    Why Big Al didnt use the term stunning for your layout is puzzling. You chose the finest kits to build from and it doesnt matter what period because they are spectacular. Your backdrops are awesome. Very well done. I’ll be looking at this many more times.
    Please keep us updated.
    To All: Keep supporting Big Al’s cause or otherwise we wont see these super works of Art and great tips. I bought his latest building but cannot decide what picture to post. Doesnt matter-LOL.

  7. Bill McCourt says:

    Wow! What phenomenal painting of the backdrop! Glyn, you have a wonderful talent.

    Bill in Dover, DE

  8. Brian Olson says:

    Wonderful work and as I discovered commandeering our new retirement home’s basement, I too learned from so many “errors in judgement” of my previous layout.

    Model Railroads are indeed better the second time around.

  9. Stephen Hill says:

    Glyn, amazing layout indeed … would like to see that in action . Excellent detail and realistic scenery . You are truly talented . Anyone who has tried to build a layout can see you have great talent . Your buildings are simply amazing and cleanly built … square and plumb. Really adds impact . Just a great job sir !! Thanks for posting .

  10. Greg Marples says:

    At first I thought you were a little nuts, having European stuff in the desert, after all…! But wow! You can take a trip to Switzerland in your cellar! How cool is that?!

  11. Rob McCrain says:

    The planning impresses me. Planning and craftsmanship during the building process are critical to running and operating a satisfying, fun layout. You have certainly proved this. 4% grades are too steep and will yield dissatisfying operating characteristics. This seems to be the most common mistake made by beginners. Also, I have noticed it is made over and over again. Congratulations on the magnificent layout. Rob McCrain

  12. Glyn Jones says:

    Thanks all of you for the very kind comments. I do have a video series that I’ll start putting together, but have to compress them in order to deliver them to Al! Rob who is one of my heroes in this site, reiterates a point I made about the grades. 4% is just too high, so in this layout I limited my maximum grade to between two and 2.5% creates very nice parade routes to showcase the locomotives, and their consists.

  13. Ed A. says:

    The artistic talent and creativity displayed on this site never ceases to amaze me. For all the talented people on this site (much more talented than me), I’d like to offer a small suggestion, which in effect, is a challenge:

    We need to share ideas on how we expose others, especially children, to the wonderful aspects of modeling. As a kid, I became fascinated with modeling (mostly aircraft, but trains as well) back in the 60s. This came about because I was influenced by older, experienced, talented modelers.

    As a teacher (Science-8th grade) I had my students building models for over 25 years. Then, in my last 5 or 6 years of teaching, I had a shelf railroad (DCC) in my classroom. I was able to utilize it for active demonstrations & labs within various aspects of my science curriculum. Also, as a reward for getting through a lesson, the students would love it when I would “run the trains” for the last few minutes of class.

    For students who were interested, we would meet during free time; I would teach them construction techniques, soldering, basic electricity, etc. When I run into students who are now adults, they always refer back to the model building as their favorite part of my class; some tell me how they now build models with their own children as well.

    Glyn, sorry to put this out there on your post (I did ramble a bit). Perhaps Al could post my thoughts for all to see. Nevertheless, GREAT JOB with your layout!

  14. Jack Bury says:

    Spectacular scenic work, Glyn.

  15. Scott says:

    Thanks for the details what a clear and concise plan – bravo … I’ll take many of those best practices forward on my S Gauge build !

    Thank you

  16. ScenicsRme says:

    As an artist and degreed art teacher, I can say that is the best backdrop painting I have ever seen bar none!

  17. Mike Balog says:

    Glyn: Fantastic Layout as is the Background… You would make Bob Ross Happy! The Background is So Real,,, You feel like you are there in the Swiss Alps! All that is missing is the Yodeling ! From, Mike in New Hampshire, U.S.A.

  18. David Zehr says:

    A remarkable layout! Especially the backdrop and bridges. Would love to know where/how you got those bridges. Keep on railroading.

  19. David H says:

    your blending of foreground to backdrop is stunning. This is the best I’ve seen, its hard to tell where the backdrop starts. Fantastic Job.
    Al as always great newsletter, please do keep them coming, they are most appreciated.

  20. Rocco Maley says:

    Glyn, PLEASE on your next post give us the maximum and minimum radius’s to this MAGNIFICENT layout. I cannot believe the talent you have in artistry. Those back drops are so beautiful. As Greg Marples (above) said, It’s like taking a trip to Switzerland in your cellar. What a job. Well done. I have been to Germany over 15 times since 1963 ( met my wife when I was stationed in Augsburg in 1963) to see her family and I have bought many rail passes and traveled through the Swiss, Italian, Austrian and German alps many times and this is a beautiful replica of what I have seen. Thank you for this beautiful layout. I too have many German railway diesels and steam that I have bought back with me on every trip I made there. I had to buy another suit case just to carry back what I have bought each time I went there. Rocco from Haskell, New Jersey. Thank you Al for this wonderful website. Without it we would never see masterpieces like this one and all the others that your great readers have contributed to this site. Thank’s again.

  21. Jeff Gainsborg says:


  22. Randy Johnson says:

    That waterfall and your whole layout is stunning

  23. Glyn Jones says:

    The bridges come from 2 sources:
    The uppermost is the Faller #120535 Bietschtal bridge in HO scale. I think they make it in N scale as well. It’s a beauty but over 3’ (1m) long and very finicky to assemble. A tip for those with the intestinal fortitude to tackle it- make a solid plywood base to mount it on as it sags in the middle if not supported well at each end.
    The lowermost bridges are Marklin C track bridges consisting of an arch suspension bridge flanked at each end by Marklin truss bridges. This is duplicated to give a double main line return over the ravine, so a total of 6 bridge segments to create the effect on the lower tracks.
    As to the question concerning radii:
    I tried to avoid the smallest R1 (14 3/16”)radius track as I have as some long locos including the UP Bigboy and they can derail on short radius track. I used mostly R2/R3 (17 1/4, 20”) radius curves with an occasional R4 (22 1/4”) thrown in. If I had my way I would have used R4/R5 but the narrow width of the room at just 13’ precluded the use of these big beautiful curves as I would not be able to fit a walkway between the 2 halves of the layout for operations and it would have increased the width of each side of the layout beyond the 4’ maximum I had planned. It’s REALLY difficult reaching across anything more than 4’ wide even when you have Neanderthal like arms as I do (!). Even with a 4’ maximum, I have had to place lift out sections within the town to give me access to some areas at the back of the layout. Always factor access into your layout plan. Planning is everything- and there are still some things I realize I messed up but you live and learn!! Oh well….

  24. Norm says:

    i was intrigued by the description of your move. I just moved to the Cape and when I sawed up the layout in Western Mass, I had hoped to re-use most of it in the new basement. Not going to happen. Lots of new stuff to figure out and lots of scenery to redo. I was able to save the backdrop in tact and it has been reinstalled. Waiting for some help from my new club. It’s on the way

  25. Brian Rockey says:

    Wonderful mountain scenery!
    Best to all!
    Brian, Wokingham UK

  26. $100Bill says:

    Glynn certainly made me homesick! Prototyping Swiss railways is difficult because most of the cool lines are loaded with steep grades and switchbacks. Many of the Alpine lines are narrow gauge, some even center gear driven.
    The opening of the Gotthardtunnel made that run much easier but, many remain largely unchanged.
    One advantage of modeling Alpine towns is the old buildings and houses never go out of style. My father-in-law’s house was well over 100 years old when he bought it.

  27. Robert Brady says:

    Just one word 𝓕𝓐𝓝𝓣𝓐𝓢𝓣𝓘𝓒 !
    The Critic

  28. Bob From Towson says:

    FANTASTIC!!!!!! Your attention to the smallest detail just blows me away!!! You sir are a great talent!!!

  29. Bob From Towson says:

    As a trained artist and former pro photographer all I can say to you is”SPLENDID !” Your composition and color palate are extraordinary!!!! Thanks for allowing me to enjoy it…..

  30. roger turner says:

    Beautiful, beautiful layout. Some of the pictures look like the real thing, excellent job. love all the attention to detail.

    Roger in Kansas

  31. Eugene from California says:

    These are the best pictures I have seen on Al’s emails. Great work! Sharp focus even when zoomed in.

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