Model train hobby

Boyd’s been in touch. His retirement is going to consist of his model train hobby in the winter months, and my word, what a start:

“Hello Alastair,

Let me start by saying I enjoy your daily emails, and have drawn inspiration from the various layouts presented.

I have debated for a few months now whether to send in something from my own layout. There are 3 reasons really for my hesitation.

First, nothing I am doing is new, in fact some of it was picked up from your readers, some from reading anything could get my hands on, and much from watching countless YouTube videos.

Second, nothing I have done comes close to matching the many beautiful layouts I see in your daily mails.

And third, and this was the biggest stumbling block, despite how stunning many of the above mentioned layouts are, someone always has to find a reason to criticize them, and this really pisses me off.

The folks who submit their work are justifiably proud of it, I guess some people just aren’t happy unless they are miserable.

In the end though, I did decide to send you a note, because simply put, it is my railroad, I will do it as I like, and I really don’t care if someone finds it not to their liking.

More importantly, I know how you like to encourage folks to get a start, so if I, someone with no previous experience, can spur on even one person to give it a go, then it is worth it. Please see fit to use any, all or none of this correspondence.

The back story is pretty simple. Unlike many of your readers I did not have a model railroad as a kid, but I always had an interest.

As I approached retirement, I decided I needed a hobby for the Winter months, so decided it was a good time to get a start on a layout.

Since these questions always come up, I should have mentioned……HO scale, layout occupies a space 12X15 feet.

My layout is not prototypical, it is not meant to be, and never will be. It is a hobby that I can share with my grandkids, and can get enjoyment from as I progress and learn new things.

For now, they are of an age where they just enjoy watching the trains run, but there will be plenty of opportunities for operations as well for their and my enjoyment.

With the exception of a few kits and figures to get started, everything will be home made, trees, flock, buildings, etc.

Going into it I envisioned it to be an 8–10-year project to get the basics in, and as we all know, it will never be completely finished.

Because I wanted to fit in as much as I could in my designated space, and really had no idea how to best do this, I did get assistance with the track plan.

After several configurations, I settled on what is surely an ambitious plan for a novice, but full speed ahead. There will be a gravel company and logging industry on the upper layer, a port area, yard, industrial area and small town on the lower level.

I am 14 months into it now, working mostly in the winter months a few hours at a time.

Here are a few pics showing how I progressed.


Blank slate, track plan on the wall:

room for model train layout

Mapping the track plan:

track plan spaced on floor

First piece of benchwork:

model train benchwork

Getting there:

laying track model train hobby

Starting scenery:

laying track tunnel

model train mountain plaster paris

Gravel Company scene nearly complete.

model train turnouts

HO scale tree model train hobby

Future logging area:

logging area

HO scale model train hobby mine

model train hobby  mine back hoe

model train HO scale freight

A huge big thanks to Boyd for sharing this.

I love what he has done, but I loved his narrative even more.

I totally subscribe to his point of view. As the saying goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t saying anything at all”…

I do concede there is a place for constructive criticism, and I’m all for that.

Unfortunately though, every so often a comment that shouldn’t slip through, does.

For this I can only apologise, I do my best.

I manually approve the comments so the site doesn’t get overun with bots and other bad stuff.

I remember once a very ill worded comment got published one bleary eyed Sunday morning.

Fortunately one of you lovely lot mailed me and I was able to remove it.

Anyhow, back to Boyd.

I know what he means about the comments, and I hate to think it stops people sending their layouts in.

He words it perfectly:

“Simply put, it is my railroad, I will do it as I like, and I really don’t care if someone finds it not to their liking.”

Amen to that. Your layout. Your rules.

Please do leave a comment below, if you’d like to add anything.

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.

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

78 Responses to Model train hobby

  1. Brian Moretti says:

    Very nice start love the vision you have can’t wait to see a overview pics

  2. Kevin Green says:

    That’s Freaken Aweson, seeing it come along

  3. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Really like the way the track plane is cut out on paper at ‘full size’ on the actual available space to see if it works before any track laid.

  4. dan robinson says:

    All I can say is beauty and well done, and I love the CN engine, seen one like it in the old CN colors, like new and in the box maybe coming up for sale soon.

  5. Philip Underwood says:

    That’s absolutely amazing, what a great start, you should be very proud.
    Keep up the good work 👍

  6. Stephen Hill Woodstock GA says:

    Boyd, you are off to a magnificent start indeed , and if you don’t mind me saying so you have the cleanest room for housing your display that I’ve ever seen . I enjoyed your narrative , I too was hesitant to subject myself to the trolls . It’s your display , should be your way . I think you’ve done marvelous work and it appears you’re on your way to a great display. The detail and effort you invest now will pay off as your grandchildren enjoy your work . Truly a great job , don’t be derailed by the critics .

  7. DJP says:

    You’re doing great! The appearance is fantastic, everything looks “railroady” and it looks like there’s a lot of operating potential as well.

  8. Gabriel Bowman says:

    I believe that everyone layout will show that person who there personal likes are

  9. Dave G. says:

    I especially like that you’re building your layout with accessibility and made use of the space well. Your work is above beginner level IMO, at least as I can see from photos. Great start !

  10. John Duryea says:

    It looks awesome. I especially like your gravely yard looks so real. I’m working on a layout myself and hesitate to send any pic for the same reason you had. Really glad you shared your layout with us.

  11. desmond lynam says:

    Fantastic looking layout to be honest. I love the quarry aspect of the plan.

  12. Bob Sandrus says:

    Here, here to Boyd’s and Al’s comment about the critics. They are our railroads and we will make them go, do and be as we dang well please. On my raulroad all of the streets are named for my grandkids, I’m sure thats not prototyical. But my grandkids get a kick out of it and that makes me happy. Happy Modeling Gang!

  13. Brian Olson says:

    Great examples here of planning and solid construction. Great ideas here for folks thinking of building a new layout.

  14. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    Isn’t it really something how we can take a beautiful room in our house ( with hardwood floors no less) and make it a shambles just building our dream layouts!
    No way would the wife let me take a room like that for such a whimsical thing. I guess I will have to continue my railroad life in the garage.
    Boyd it is beautiful! I can see you are a man of detail. Your benchwork is really done well.

  15. Rob McCrain says:

    Lovely layout. Layouts are very personal things. What suits one person may be completely wrong for another. There is a Facebook group that reflects that perfectly, “It is my Railway and I’ll run what I want.” I like that. No one needs to like the way you do things on your own railroad. Just get out there and build it.
    Rob McCrain

  16. Leo says:

    Boyd, thanks for speaking for most of us who enjoy the rail road hobby for what it is, it’s a hobby to enjoy as opposed to the nay sayers. I find your rail road to be outstanding and obviously you are enjoying the results. I learn from everyone’s accomplishments but especially in knowing (speaking for my self) that each addition to your rail road provides enjoyment to you and that is all that matters. Thanks Leo from Langley, OK

  17. John Hauser says:

    Impressive plan and layout progress. Having an adequate space is a huge advantage and the space being an actual room avoids large temperature fluctuations that can affect layout elements. Nice job, thanks for sharing.

  18. Tony Weisbecker says:

    A most excellent layout my friend even has its own room to excel in .

  19. sam hedgpeth says:

    You may be new to modeling, but you are not new to artistry. REALLY good.

  20. Bill Holt says:

    Amazing layout……WELL DONE !!

  21. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Boyd…… Great work on those mountains and rock formations……..and those tall trees look really good and nice detail on the mining site.

    Also, I agree with what you said about it’s “my railroad”. This is not our job….. its our hobby and its for our entertainment and pleasure. And your right, most of us can’t compare our layouts with the Hall of Fame layouts that Al post…… but your work is damm good (excuse my French). Great job.

  22. Matt says:

    Nice work here Boyd. Would never have beleived this was your first!

  23. val christiansen says:

    hey Boyd, you’ve got a great start to your railroad it looks great so far .I started on my layout a few months ago,but had to stop due to health problems as I’ll be turning 81 in a few months . but I’m back building my railroad.i don’t have any photos yet to show but Will soon,. I agree with your comment it’s your railroad and if others don’t like it, That’s too bad for them. good luck in your endeavor I’m sure it will turn out looking looks really great!! thanks for sharing your layout…val in utah

  24. Bill Clark says:

    Boyd, what a great layout. It looks so amazing. Your comments were right on. Have fun.

  25. Greg Marples says:

    From your excellent bench work to your full size track pattern to your landscape forming to your use of sticks and gravel to realistic weathering on your buildings, oh, and the way you bent your background board so smoothly around those curves, I was impressed over and over by your “beginner” efforts. I can’t wait to get back to work on mine to see if I can get it up to your high level!

  26. George Zaky says:

    Your narrative is spot on! If you scratch built that mining operation then you go to the head of the class. It was the right thing to show us your handi-work because you are a talented modeler and we’d like to see updates.
    To all
    All of the displays here on this on this site are very positive and a contribution. There has to be a spirit of comradery because we all need to learn from others and I wish to hear more about the blunders. We all make them and we are not stupid but we just did not know better. Mentoring, assisting and constructive advice is what we get from this and thanks to Big Al, who culls out the Nut cases, we so love this site. So let’s hear more about some failures and a little more techy stuff like whose track, turnouts, controls etc. so we all can benefit.

  27. Paul Verhil says:

    Boyd oh Boyd, I too have that pissed off feeling when criticized but if that ever prevents me from proceeding would have never accomplished much so please shoot me if or when I let that happen! The irony, Ive usually found that those who constantly criticize aren’t capable or willing to do for themselves. Great work so far! Keep us in your loop.
    Paul from La grange, Illinois

  28. Robert Kersten says:

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t provide a lot more pictures of this amazing detailed layout. You have inspired me and my train designer will be here shortly so hopefully I’ll get some energy to work.
    Yes retirement is good but energy and motivation are sometimes challenging.
    Thank you for your inspiration.

  29. Mike Vest says:

    Your retirement layout looks great, you have given me some ideas on how to make a gravel area work on mine, great job. Please show more as work continues.

  30. Gene from Atlanta says:

    This is awesome work and must be complemented. You are no beginner and I envy your talents. Enjoy the journey.

  31. Danny Henderson says:

    He has a great beginning to his layout. Three cheers for both him and his efforts. He can be proud of what he has already accomplished in his accomplished endevors. I also agree about the negative criticism of others. I agree that corrective/constructive/ instructional information helps another person immensively . But any type and all negative/derogatory down-putting of others and their work type of criticisim has absolutely no place in model railroading – Or any other hobby field for that matter.

  32. Jim Marek. Chicago says:

    I hope we get to see more follow-up pictures you’re doing a great job hard to believe it’s your first time I’m surprised it got so much attention but personally I’ve been dealing with crap talk for 60+ years No problem.

  33. Jim Kennedy says:

    Those of you who have layouts this size either live alone or have the best wife on the face of this earth. Do not get me wrong. they are impressive and I can only wish. I envy your layouts. I am nearly ready to start my first layout (N-scale) but it will be on an interior door with a hollow core. That will be the full size of everything. My ambition is to make everything from scratch except track and trains. I have procured my base and need to get a couple more projects finished before I start my layout. I am looking forward to getting started. I have been collecting these articles for years now and I am expecting many of them to come in very handy. Thanks to all of you who contribute because it helps us newbies so much.

  34. James Corradini says:

    Hi Boyd, I think your layout is awesome and equally as awesome is the room that you built it in probably the most beautiful train room I ever seen. I look forward to these emails everyday for the last several years and I’ve only posted one time on it with negative comments so I’ve never done it again like you said is your layout you’ll do what you want happy railroading and retirement.

  35. Mr. Ron from South Mississippi says:

    Great looking layout. Don’t let the nay-sayers discourage you. There are always ways that one can critize the work of others, but this hobby is not a “pissing contest” as to who can do it best.

  36. Dave A Bellian says:

    Nice, Nice, Nice layout. Well done and the narrative is spot on .Yep way to many self proclaimed critics out there I appreciate all the posts and all the layouts. Great job on this daily site. Well Done.

  37. william janmes palmer says:

    awesome work

  38. TJK says:

    That was the Best narrative I have seen on this post to date. Boyd, I could not agree with you more.
    Your layout looks terrific. I also have refrained from submitting photos of my layout, specifically designed for the enjoyment of our grandchildren. I may have a vehicle out of scale, a road to nowhere, lights too bright or something that may trigger a negative response from critics bound to what they consider perfection.
    You have inspired me to forward my own photos.
    Thanks Boyd. And a thanks to Al as well. TJK

  39. DON MARCHMAN says:

    Boyd, that is fantastic layout. I like that you laid out the room in full size first. Your scenery and trackage is great, plus doing want you’ve done in 14 months and only a few hour at a time. It gives me great inspiration.
    Thanks for sharing

  40. matiSon says:

    When’s I see something that I really like, I snap a picture of it. Not to copy it, but to use as an inspiration on future projects. That’s what I did with your coal plant setup with the dump trucks and machinery. In the next year, I’ll be starting a HO layout. I haven’t figured out where to put it yet…

    I like what you have done. Great start!

  41. Ben Olson says:

    Boyd, your layout looks great! Question: Did you make the pine trees or did you purchase them pre-made? They look awesome. I also agree with much of what you have said in your post. I think we all have an appreciation for “constructive” criticism, helpful suggestions, etc. But as some other folks have already stated, people don’t need to be nasty. I must say, that’s one thing I like about Al’s blog, he does a good job of monitoring comments to be sure what gets to us is positive, uplifting and inspiring. Again, beautiful layout, keep it going and please post more updates in the future!

  42. Kay Isbell says:

    Amen to Boyd and you, on the comments.

  43. thomas rhoads says:

    looks nice thats what its about ,having fun good retirement plan

  44. Anton Bruce Sr says:

    Boyd, I can’t say anything bad about your layout! Those trees that you made yourself? Those are IMPRESSIVE!!! And the scenery looks fantastic.

    I wish MY first layout would have turned out so well. Then again, I probably don’t have the skills or the patience that you have so lovingly displayed here. Thank you sir!

  45. Boyd says:

    Thank you folks, for the positive comments. I am fortunate to have what has become known as “Grampie’s train room” to use for my hobby, and trust me, it is not always so clean and tidy. As some of you have mentioned, this is a very personal endeavor for me, each area of the layout is named for Grandchildren, Liamsport, Jaxonville, Leo’s lookout, Mila’s mountain, and a yet to be named section when # 5 arrives in April.
    Ben, the trees are homemade, the ones in the gravel company area are “bottle brush” trees, the close up pic is made from furnace filter material. Making them was a real learning experience but great fun. I only need another 300 or so for the logging area.
    I will send in pics as I finish each area, the logging section is next. And finally, a big thanks to Al for all he does to promote and support the hobby, I think we all look forward to his email every day.

  46. John says:

    Boyd… great care on that benchwork and layout design and detailing. Your sentiments are felt and agreed to by everyone here!

  47. Al Otis says:

    Super start sir and the scenery is beautiful. I also couldn’t agree more, it’s yours and forget the criticism and nit pickers. It’s all about enjoying yourself.

  48. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done so far. Great plan, great space (envious of your room as my layout is in the garage) and the scenery is well done. The details are spot on. Have fun and enjoy your railroad.

    Jim AZ

  49. Jeffrey in Seattle says:

    So fun to see this take shape. What an encouragement for us all. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing!

  50. Jamie Lockwood Pauley says:

    I love this layout. I am starting an HO and I will use a lot of your ideas. Great Job

  51. Don Waldron says:

    This layout is deserving the photo landscape backgrounds that a contributor has shown on this site!’

  52. Chuck Holsclaw says:

    Great layout! I loved all the pics you sent. Would love to see more, better yet video of your trains running. Is your layout dcc. It is costly but when you add the realism of sound to your locomotive not to mention the operating features that allow to run multiple trains, it really makes a huge difference I think. Thanks for sharing your layout. Enjoy


  53. William S Kling says:

    Just to keep this short, I totally agree with Boyd and the commenters. Great work for a newbie! FWIW, decades ago in my 20’s, I realized I could not/would not be insulted by anyone. If what was said was true, no matter how nasty, I took it as constructive criticism. If false, the person didn’t know me or was an idiot, or both. Water off a duck. PS, if you ever get a camera car, the video would be awesome to watch.

  54. Keith Goodman says:

    Great vision and man out of my own heart. I have some Hornby and Triang rolling stock and locos from about 1966 that I’m trying to get running. I might have some stuff from the USA on there as well!!

    Keep up with the layout and like others would like to see some pictures of larger areas when you get them done.

  55. LD Berger II says:

    I would kill for a space like yours. Envy your work and planning. Great 😊

  56. Lou Caputo says:

    With all the overwhelming positive feedback, I’m thinking Boyd is glad he took the plunge and submitted his awesome photos to Al! There is tremendous effort given to planning this layout and the benchwork looks especially meticulous in design and construction. Might there be a follow up that shows the wiring plan? A lot of hard work exhibited here and I appreciate the vision and energy required.

    Lou in Savannah, GA

  57. Vincent sama says:

    As I was reading your narrative, I was getting ready to see a beginners layout which is perfectly fine. After seeing the pictures, I said to myself holy **** . That is an awesome job. Looks fantastic. Please post more pictures as you progress.

  58. Vincent Sama says:

    P.S. be careful of the wood floors. Lol

  59. Glyn Jones says:

    Well said Boyd and a terrific start to your layout. I, like many others here, can only echo your sentiments from the naysayers and rivet counters: these are our layouts and we can build and run them in a manner which satisfies us even if not prototypical! Keep up the good work and we look forward to seeing more from your progress in the future.

  60. Malcolm says:

    Really looking good! Beautiful. I really cannot remember much in the way of nasty comments, I suppose I just ignore them. Constructive criticism should always be welcome, especially if the owner has mentioned problems (and we all have them, don’t we?).

  61. robert dale tiemann says:

    really good set. lots of work. seems to have paid off.

  62. Rocco Maley says:

    Boyd, What a job. I really can’t believe that you are new to this hobby. Also your narrative hit the bulls eye. I couldn’t agree with you more. I loved the way you built your benchwork and the way you have supported the and built the legs. I just have 2×2 and levelers on my lay out, but after seeing your I think I am going to support the 2×2’s with 1×3’s or 1×4’s around the 2×2’s. I really like the L – girder benchwork. It’s very sturdy. Some of the critics that you have mentioned (not by name), but I know who you mean, Have not sent in one reply to your comments. I wonder why. Thank you again and Thank you Al for the great support you give to each and everyone of us Model Railroaders. Rocco from Northern N.J. U.S.A.

  63. Chuck Wertalik says:

    WOW! Great planning! Looks terrific!

  64. Dave Anders says:


    For a beginner, you learn fast. I think you have done a remarkable job. Can wait to see how your layout progresses. Good luck and have fun.


  65. Bruno from Illinois says:

    An awesome layout for someone who’s been doing this for years. For someone’s first layout it is beyond words. wish I was as talented as you. Wish I had that much room too!

  66. Dave Karper says:

    Boyd, in my time in this world, I have found that those can, do, and those who can’t, criticize.

  67. Al Campbell says:

    I don’t know why Boyd seemed apologetic about being a novice. This layout is awesome so far. Keep going your doing great.

  68. Brian Rockey says:

    Wow Boyd! Some really fantastic modelling – really glad that you decided to send in your photos.
    Critics – unfortunately, they’ll always be there, but this fantastic site that Al has created and committed his life to, thanks Al, has got to be the most appreciated model railway blog across the globe, enabling us modellers, beginners or experts to share in our wonderful hobby.
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

  69. Richard Denzau says:

    Boyd! Boy-O-Boy, Boyd!
    What fantastic work! You “confess” to being a beginner, but your work suggests otherwise! I would put what you have done up against anyone’s of any experience! Really great layout! Excellent comments too! I agree on all points! Keep it up, mate!,
    Rich D.

  70. Mike M. says:

    Boyd, this is a fantastic looking production! My favor is a somewhat freelance version of a major railroad, reserving the right to do things “my way”! Keep at it, you”ll be well rewarded.

  71. Bob says:

    Great layout… Can you take a better pic of the track layout?.. That is on the wall

  72. Brian Messenger says:

    Boyd, I totally agree with your comments. I also live by yours –
    “It is my Railway and I’ll run what I want.”
    Your layout looks fantastic and has excellent detailing on it.
    A question, are your logging trucks Rivarossi???
    I used Rivarossi log trucks in HO but pulled out the code 100 rails and replaced them with code 70 weathered rails.
    I replaced the HO standard gauge trucks withHOn3 trucks and couplers, then weathered the complete piece of rolling stock for my HOn3 Cascade Creek Railroad for my logging area.
    Well done on your layout so far and keep up the excellent work on it.
    Brian the HOn3 guy in Knysna RSA

  73. Charles Eyster says:

    Boyd, superior approach using the paper plans! I’m so sorry to even imagine a childhood without trains or model HO’s. So much of my childhood (born 1955) was spent playing with “imagination reliant” toys, Little Army with plastic soldiers; Big Army where we carried toy guns and weapons and even my HO trains and the imaginary cities and things that they rode through before things could be purchased or materials saved up to make them. Everything was scratch built at some level of skillfulness. I commend you for your late but hearty entry! May you have many years of fun and enjoyment ahead!

  74. Jamie L Pauley says:

    This looks really great. The detailing steps are very nice, I expect I will copy a few of them. I really like the moose and forest floor.

  75. Joseph Augeri says:

    What about O 27 gauge train layouts I have a doubled decker . One is a 4FT by 10 Ft and the upper one is 10 FT X 3FT looking to do some dhanges ant udfeas

  76. Jeffery Gale says:

    Well done mate, you do it your way and b****r the rest. I love what you have done. Jeff from down under.

  77. Chuck says:

    I agree with Boyd some folks have to say something negative it seems. Unfortunately we’re not all Rembrandts but what a miserable world it would be if all those who lived to paint decided not to because someone might criticize their work.

  78. Jon Webb says:

    Wow. Excellent design and workmanlike construction. And artistic! I love logging layouts as I lived a few years near to a famous logging RR in northern Idaho. Remember Charles Bronson on spectacular wooden trestle bridge?

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