Model skills aren’t just for railroads!

“Hi Alastair,

I made this model for my sons last year. It is my interpretation of Tracey Island from the Thunderbirds which I made from about $90 of materials, and 3 months of my time.

I included LEDs and a rechargeable battery pack, which lasts 9 days of charge, and cost less than $15.

Planning is the key, do concept drawings, details and elevations to plan it out.

Then do a mockup of all the foam bits to make sure they will all fit together before gluing.

I use polystyrene foam as the main building material. It’s light, cheap, strong compressive strength and you can use PVA glue and acrylic paints without dissolving it.

I also used balsa craft wood, yoghurt containers, perfume cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, steel cans, pumice stones, seaweed, timber hardwood and acetate film for the “glass” on buildings.

I hope this helps.

I’m doing an 8’ x 6’ train model for them next with 3 loops, tunnels, bridges, elevated trestles, a boat harbour and a mountain peak.


“Something for people without a dedicated Railway Room. And as a change from recent articles on here, this is about Layout rather than scenery. My priorities are:

Get as much track as possible into the available space.

Re-use as much as possible; this means 50yr-old rolling stock from my Hornby 3-rail days, and old timber “that’ll come in useful sometime” except this actually did.

I’ve identified redundant space near eye-level in my 6ft x 2ft walk-in wardrobe: with sloping walls, which my head hits before my shoulders do, the space is unused.

I also realised the following:

From my train-spotting days at GWR’s Acton Goods Yard, I actually like shunting.
Small engines improve operability in a confined space.
With DCC, I could run multiple engines independently on the short lengths of track.
No circuit is required (or possible at 00-guage in 2ft wide!).

Hence the decision to build a 6-siding track, as below (this based on standard Hornby curves, flexi-track was used in practice):

Further maximising my track in the limited available space, I added some “dummy” sidings (adjacent but unconnected, just by cutting flexi-track on an angle) on which I placed my old Bristol Castle and steel-wheeled trucks as “scenery”. The track had to be built in two halves to get it into the wardrobe; the pieces are as shown below. [Inset shows how the track has to run clear of the sloping wall.] Note that, for added immediacy, the track runs along the edge of the base-board where possible.

Having no space between tracks for signals, huts etc, my only scenic options were as backdrop. Inspired by the Acton Goods Yard of my childhood, I photo-shopped views from Google Street-View such that my sidings to the left represent the main-line from Paddington, and those to the right the Acton Goods Yard itself (now greatly reduced from its heyday).

The finishing touch was to construct a backdrop panorama between the two siding sets: I decided to photo-shop from my holiday pictures, including the Tamdhu Station building on the old Speyside line, the Cambus o’ May Halt building on the North Deeside Railway, and shots of the Spey at Granton; these rendered surprisingly realistic by some rubber hedging material in the foreground.

I couldn’t resist getting Ince Castle in as well, so now have four DCC locos installed. And yes: it is possible to run all the trains individually, although it takes careful planning; which all adds to the fun and realism. But being routinely confronted by one’s trains at eye-level at both ends of the day is something I can’t recommend highly enough!


I know – and odd collection today. But what fun!

Don’t forget the ‘ebay cheat sheet’. Still staggered by the comments I get on it. Glad it helps.



(There are hundreds and hundreds of posts to enjoy and learn from – but the only way you’ll get to see them all is by being on the newsletter).

24 Responses to Model skills aren’t just for railroads!

  1. Paco Gayon says:

    Congratulations, it is very clever of you to develop such beautiful layout in such small space.

  2. builder Kim says:

    wow thats super nice work.Love to see more photo’s.Keep up the good work.Is that 1 inch styrofoam for the base.I can see room for signal’s.Save money and build your own.I bought nonworking signal’s used Led’s and wam have working one’s.Check out the earlier how to’s on signal’s.thanks for the photo’s.Gave me some idea’s.

  3. All looks good

  4. Ben Zalewski says:

    Amazing what you’ve put into such a small space.

  5. Tom says:

    No matter how much space is available … pre-planning is the key. Job well done! Awesome!

  6. paul Otway says:

    Nice good idea, makes it portable as well

  7. Duncan says:

    This is the most unusual utilization of one of those narrow wardrobes I have ever seen! I would never have thought of building a railway in one – very clever. Personally I don’t like shunting, but this has given me an idea for a cupboard half way up our staircase which is pretty useless for anything except cramming with junk. Now i just have to persuade her indoors……………..Thanks for the idea. And great idea for backdrops, too. D/

  8. Richard Standing says:

    Do the swimming pool and palm trees work? 😛

  9. Roberto says:

    Thanks for the good comments. The base is actually chipboard salveaged from shelves way-back and painted with grey Hammerite (that splits its colours to mimic under-track ballast). Simples!!

  10. chris says:

    great job guys, which that I could have had a Tracey Island like that one

  11. THOMAS says:


  12. THOMAS says:


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  14. Roberto says:

    A couple of other points for the eagle-eyed: I glued little blind-spot mirrors into each corner to give different views of approaching trains. And the diesel trains stuck on each end wall are packaging from Taiwanese green tea: great they printed it at 00-scale!

  15. Christine says:

    I like spending time on youtube steam trains.

  16. Jaques Shellaque says:

    Amazing. Another great job.

  17. Amazing so much in such a small space I know it can be done.

  18. Sid says:

    Tracey Island, Wow, that is a blast from the past, And Anderson Mainia was the inthing all those years ago, As far as im concerned, it still is!

  19. James Quirk says:

    Very jealous of what you’ve been able to do in so little a space.

  20. Rob McCrain says:

    Amazing what can be packed into a small space. Very creative and looks great.

  21. paul Otway says:

    some Hornby Dublo trains can be converted from 3 rail to 2 rail plus converted to fine scale

  22. THOMAS says:


  23. sheldon mankes says:

    iwished to send you photos of my 8×16 ft ho rr but i need tohave were to send them. sheldon.

  24. i’m just going through this because your group asked and I wanted to print the plans and info that’s been posted. thanks much, terry

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