Model railroads for small spaces

Jeff’s been in touch proving that there are always model railroads for small spaces:

“Hi my name is Jeff and I built a custom fold up on rollers HO layout.

Its 5′ x 10′ on rollers and it rotates like a rotisserie to save space.

When it is folded up it takes up only 2′ so if you have it in a garage you can fold it up and roll it against the wall and still get a car in.

I have photos from start to finish and I hope you like them.


model railroads for small spaces

model railroad track plan

model railroad paper mache mountains

model train paper mache mountains

model railroad adding scenery

model railroads for small spaces revolving table

model railroads for small spaces revolving table

A huge big thanks to Jeff – it’s another fine example of not letting lack of space get in the way of enjoying yourself.

It’s all about making that start, even if it’s on a revolving table…

And when it comes to making a start, John has this sound advice as you’ll read below.

I wondered how his amazing minimum gauge layout was going.

Here’s a youtube of it that will jog your memory:

minimum gauge garden railway

Anyhow here’s John’s reply to my mail with some very sage advice on getting started:

“Hi Al!

The thing I enjoyed most in a recent post was the comment about “Paralysis by analysis”.

Many of us have heard the expression “Get ready, Get set, GO!”. While investing in planning is good and wise, the problem is that we can spend so much time getting ready that we may never get set.

If we do not get set, “GO” definitely will not happen.

To get things done sometimes we need to just get a general idea of where we are and what we want and then GO — without waiting to be ready or set. Most of my modeling projects begin with me having an idea of what I want, checking my resources, and then making things happen.

How does GO, ready, set really work in practice?

It all begins with dreams and making a lot of mitsakes. (Yes I intentionally misspelled the word.)

When I was around 12 I dreamed of building a ride on railroad in my backyard. I did get 20 feet of track down and I had a locomotive but that was as far as the railroad got.

When I got married in 1985 I saw an area of Nevada that I wanted to retire to. I also dreamed of living without any debts. Those were dreams that I never let die.

Fast forward to 2020. That was a very bad year and a very sad year. As bad and sad as it was, in August of 2020 I was able to purchase the place I live in now. I was almost debt free but had a tight budget (and it has been uncomfortably tight at times).

I also began the railroad in my yard that I had first dreamed of in 1971. Mitsakes have been made (one reason that I am almost debt free). My 7.5 inch gauge railroad has nearly 2000 feet of operational track on the ground.

That is the BIG Scale view.

On a smaller scale the process has worked like this.

I have been in model railroading for a very solid six decades now. While my earliest trains could hardly be called models, the dreams began then when I had Brio style trains and no real ideas of what dreams and limitations were. (Can you remember much about what you were doing at 2 years old?)

“Scale model railroading” began when I was about 5 years old and we had Marklin trains, I also had Kusan O gauge at that time.

By 1969 I was involved with both N scale and two rail American H0. I also purchased my first brass locomotive that year by saving pennies, nickels, and dimes — It took me a year to save up the $45 that I needed for both the locomotive and the tax.

It all begins with a dream and a strong desire.

At nearly 64 years of age I can honestly say that the longest time that I have spent without either having an operating layout or a layout under construction has been about 3 months (and that may be stretching it). Most of my layouts have been H0 scale and small, less that 12 square feet total area. Many fit on the return leg of my desk.

One reason my layouts have been as small as they have been is a result of restricted living space. At my parent’s house I had my bedroom 10×12 feet. It had to have all the normal things like my bed, dresser, and desk. I had big dreams but a small living space.

After I got married in 1985 we lived in small apartments from 1985 to 2010 when I purchased a mobile home. That mobile home did not have any real space for a layout but that lack of space just meant that I continued with my small layouts.

While I have room on the property for a dedicated layout building now, I still keep building small and portable layouts — they are fun to build and require little in the way of time and resources.

If I do end up with a dedicated layout shed it will probably be small itself.

To repeat myself..

“Ready, Set, Go” is a recipe for “paralysis by analysis” and “being stuck”. It is a recipe for wishing and never really having.

The philosophic spin is “Have, do, be”. The idea that one cannot do what they want until they have what they think they need.

“Go, set, ready” sounds odd. It is “Be, Do, Hove”.

There are many examples of individuals whose dreams were bigger than their resources or skills.

When the dream is big enough — even if all the space for a layout is the top of the dresser in your bedroom — you will make things happen, you will get started, you will have a layout and you will have fun!

All the best,
Nevada, USA”

A huge big thanks to John for these words. I couldn’t agree more with him.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one – please do leave a comment below!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you take the first step to getting started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

15 Responses to Model railroads for small spaces

  1. Don Poitras says:

    Awesome job!It’s easy to see you love what you do.👍👍👏👏👏👏👏😎

  2. C.Oli edinburgh says:

    Keep it coming Al

  3. Brian Olson says:

    Yep, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  4. Robert Brady says:

    Great lookin layout that tunnel should have been for double track and you could have still had a double turnout .
    The Critic

  5. Stephen Hill says:

    Jeff, that is a great idea , I imagine it took a good bit of planning and assuring that all things are secured to the platform . All that said , it’s a superb layout in its own self .
    A lot of effects and stuff going on … awesome that you catalogued the progress, you can see it come to life .
    I too have a similar display , 10×6 HO , knowing that in the coming years we would be downsizing to a home we currently rent , I constructed my table legs to be detached and that I could rotate my platform and several able bodied sons would move it through any standard door . Naturally it required being assured that all items would be securely attached… we shall see .
    Not about mine today… you’re the showcase sir and indeed a showcase it is … well done !

    Thanks for the tips fellow enthusiasts.. always great stuff to be learned and applied.

    John I wished I grew up in your hood .. the locals must love you , that’s too cool . Knowing the difficulty in laying out a model display on a platform I can’t imagine the obstacles you had to overcome to achieve what you have there . That really is the funnest and most inventive train display I’ve seen on this page . Totally awesome !

  6. Eugene says:

    I need a version of this for my space,, Simply put, well thought Jeff, can you post additional details on the hinge point, such as spacers between the wood to allow smooth rotation, the brace to lock table in place, and support framework including the legs and rollers. Dimensional lumber used will help in my planning I imagine the relationship between the table and the support legs to provide stability so it does not tip over when the table is rotated are equal in width. Thanks a bunch

  7. Bill in Virginia says:

    Love the space saving layout design. Solid case work there!

    Also to John’s story he is absolutely right. Never let lick of space stop you from doing something. Even if you can’t build that dream layout you can build and weather rolling stock or buildings and have fun in the hobby and build your skills.

  8. Steve Boisvert says:

    I am very interested on the layout in a flat position and what keeps it locked in place. More on the construction of the swing table top please!

  9. Ed Olsavicky says:


    I am new to model RR after a 60 year break. I noticed your track looks like the track I got at an auction that started me back on to building (Power-Loc is the name I think)

    Because I got a lot of that track, I started adding to my supply are various auctions, Ebay, yard sales, etc. And now I don’t want to dump it all and start again with brand new track. But the reason I am considering that is I have tried 3 different layouts on a 5×10 table I built and still cannot run a train for more than 5 minutes without some kind of hiccup that stops the train.

    Any suggestions for this new guy?

    Ed O

  10. Rocco Maley says:

    What a great idea ! This is great for people my age 78years young. I am surprised that no one realized how easy this is for us old folks when it comes to wiring this layout. No bending and getting under the table. I have been looking for something like this to build my layout. Thank’s so much. Like some of the others I would like a little more Information on the hinge point and the hardware used for between the platform and the foundation. I take it that you are a carpenter. I am far from that, but I am going to try my best to come as close as you when building this wonderful space saver. Thank’s again. Great work Jeff. Rocco from New Jersey.

  11. Tom Plancon says:

    Hi Al,
    John from Nevada’s letter is awe inspiring! I read it as the ‘the model railroad philosophy of life’! So much good stuff to glean there.

    You attract the best Al. Keep up the good work!

  12. Brian Messenger says:

    Hi Al, I agree with all the above. After a major medical issue last year in August which kept me in hospital (ICU for six weeks) I was unable to walk after being flat on my back for that period. It took me another four weeks to learn to walk again with the aid of a crutch. After coming out of hospital and during the process of learning to walk again, I was able to sit at my work desk and build, detail and paint models for my layout. I never let anything get me down – being unable to stand for long periods of time. I was able to start working on the layout again at the start of this year (2023). Yay !!!!! My health is now back to 100%.
    I have always maintained that the hobby of model railroading is a lifetime hobby and if you don’t feel like (or cannot) work on it, it will be there when you get back to modelling. (As per Jeff’s comment – after a 60 year break)
    Al, please keep up the excellent work on your site.
    The HOn3 guy in Knysna – RSA

  13. Jon Kelly says:

    Jeff’s table looks fabulous. It reminds that my Dad hung a 4×8 sheet of plywood, appropriately framed and braced, on several large hinges on a horizontal stud on my bedroom wall. With fold-down aluminum legs, it was ready for The Next Big Thing in the early 1960s – slot cars! This would work, like Jeff’s, for a train layout too.

  14. George Duran says:

    Thanks to Jeff for the great ideas ,I was wondering how to build a layout with my limited space .

  15. Chris Sylvester says:

    What a GREAT idea for your layout !!!!!! It doesn’t eat up a lot of space and when you want to use it just pull it out and unfold it and plug it in and go !!!!! Nice thing is when your done just fold it up and can’t really tell that it’s your layout. Love the idea thank you for sharing!!

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