Model train shelf layout

John’s been in touch with his model train shelf layout which he made in a day! (Well, nearly.)

“Hello Al,

Yesterday I decided to build a layout, a budget micro layout that I call “No Excuses”.

I began at 8:50 in the morning and was running a locomotive on it before noon.

At 7:00 pm I was getting tired and still had two more things to do to it before I would say “It is finished”.

I am now working on the last couple of structures and may build an extra.

Of course it is a little shunting layout and it is only 5 inches wide and 52 inches long but…

One response especially tickled me, the responder said that I had built more in one day than he had in almost 60 years

model train shelf layout

tuning fork layout

The second hour of work.

This type of micro layout is generally known as a tuning fork. Inexpensive to build and a great little shunting puzzle.

ballast for tuning fork layout

model train shelf layout ballast track

model train shelf layout backdrop

model train shelf layout backdrop

It took me two hours to get the backscene squared away. This is wrapping paper glued to Masonite hardboard.

At this point I had four hours into the project.

Because my layout is extremely narrow, all the structures needed to be flats.

You may recognize some of them. Some were fully scratched from card. Most took about an hour to “get right”.

freight for tuning fork layout

backdrop buildings

tuning fork layout

backdrop with freight model train

This bridge was the most labor (labour?) intensive part of the project, four hours!

model train shelf layout bridge

bridge shelf layout

bridge shelf layout

Looking at the layout this morning, two days after I started, I decided to add scenery to the fiddle area.

fiddle yard

There are a few other details that I would like to “finish” like maybe adding some fascia but the project is essentially done.

If one has never built any kind of model railroad I hope that this might inspire them to make a start.

All the best,


A huge big thank you to John for sharing his model train shelf layout. I do like it when I see any of the printable buildings on a layout.

Another one that springs to mind is, John from Canada’s shelf layout.

You all probably know what I’m going to say – this hobby is all about making a start, and what a way to dip your toe into the water.

If it’s been a few decades since you’ve played with trains, why not try a simple layout like John’s? Then just throw in the some scenery if you find yourself having fun.

A layout hasn’t got to be the size of the room you’re in, and it doesn’t have to consume every waking hour either. But in the same light, it’s nice to have one when you have the urge to lose yourself for a few hours.

Of course I’m biased, but when something makes you lose track of time, it’s something you should pursue. Because when time stops, and you find yourself wishing there was a few more hours in the evening so you could carry on, you’re on to good thing.

I suspect most people who potter on their layouts experience the same – time just disappears. And as we all know, this only happens when you’re having fun.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you decide to see how much fun you can have, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

12 Responses to Model train shelf layout

  1. Zahiruddin Ghazali says:

    I am still at awe with the iron board

  2. Andrew Aves says:

    Nice one John, It demonstrates that one does not need lots of space and money to make an interesting and workable layout
    Andrew in Oz

  3. David Howarth says:

    A good day’s work done here

  4. Dwight in Toronto says:

    Nice way to spend a day, the modeling is well done, and it makes for a wonderful little diorama. But to call it a “layout” is stretching things a bit, and for me, I can’t see it having much repeat operating appeal. A little more engaging than running back and forth on a programming track perhaps! A fun day and a good job though for sure.

  5. Brian Olson says:

    As there are no rules as to how big your layout should be, or what scale or how to operate it you get an A+ for your effort.

    One suggestion: When shooting videos hold your phone horizontally instead of vertically. That said, good work!

  6. Adrian Campbell says:

    Ironing board. BRILLIANT. Can’t wait to give it a go myself.

  7. Paul Bejger says:

    Nice little layout. Good practice on. Did paint the background your self?

  8. John Thieling says:

    I’m looking for software to design a customer track plan. Can you recommend something that will meet my needs? I haven’t been very successful so far..

  9. John Reynolds says:

    Thank you for the kind responses.
    The “Tuning Fork” is a simple puzzle but not as simple as some might think.
    There are many real life spurs in industrial areas that have track plans that are like my layout or the two switch (turnout/points) version known as an Inglenook.
    There is a phone application available (free) where one can experience just how much operation can happen with an inglenook set up.
    Layouts can take many forms and each has its own challenges and pleasures.
    Switching/shunting layouts appeal to some but not others.
    Some people prefer oval layouts that feature continuous running.
    As my father would have said “Ya pays Yre money and Ya makes Yer choice.”
    There are three complaints that I have heard about this hobby:
    Three “excuses” that spring up like daisies after a spring rain;
    No Time, Costs too much, No space.
    My little layout is about the minimum possible on all three points if one uses American pattern equipment with HO scale. (Someone will prove me wrong on this at some point). Since I built this with things I had on hand, my total investment in this project was $2.00. If I was purchasing everything but the trains new one could expect it to cost around $50 (American).

  10. John Reynolds says:

    For Paul Bejger.
    The background was actually wrapping paper.
    I originally was going to use photographs but they did not print out as I would have wished.
    My next project will be learning how to paint clouds.

  11. Jim AZ says:

    It’s all good, no matter what size. Nicely done.

    Jim AZ

  12. Bill in Virginia says:

    John what a wonderful layout. You have shown that space is not a limitation or budget. A shelf and odds and ends one can pick up is really all that is needed to get a start. With this you can even be a true armchair modeler and actually model .

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