More pics of Robert’s layout

“Hello Al,

First off I want to let you know how overwhelmed I was at the response to my layout.

My children and grandchildren think my ‘toy’ trains are pretty but having a group of real model train guys let me know that they think my layout is pretty good really made my day and my week and probably my year as well.

Thanks to all for you comments and suggestions.

Secondly, it’s funny how one always needs more room for a layout.

I decided to expand my layout by using my 12 x 12 storage shed in the back yard. I added insulation, OSB walls, ran electric and added an a/c/ unit through the wall.

I use a little electric heater in the winter.

I decided to use a shelf type layout with a duck under at about 54” so I didn’t have to crawl. My train room also included a small space to work.

I also wanted to use as much as possible from my 1st layout.

On my first layout I used a plywood sheet covered with pink foam insulation.

The track was glued down (with white glue). On this layout I used an OSB base covered with sound board and the track was tacked with track nails. Some new things I tried:

1. I tried my hand at scratch building some items.

2. Built using different levels to add interest.

3. Added a water feature. Didn’t do too good on the waves part.

4. Built my scenery with screen, cardboard strips, balled-up newspaper and foam all covered with plaster cloth or plaster or drywall compound or tinfoil. I wanted to experiment to test what worked best for me.

5. Built some trees with kits(didn’t work out too well) and also weeds painted green.

6. Got some latex and built some molds …. A fun project. Also bought some rubber rock molds as well.

7. Added people into my vignettes. My wife’s idea. She was right, they really make the scene come alive.

8. Used a turntable with an auto reverser and a switch to run the turntable backwards and forwards. Figured out later that I could have used a switch instead of the Auto Reverser and saved a lot of money.

A couple of things I learned on the way:

1. Never put your turnouts at the beginning or end of a curve. Always start them on a straight piece of track. They always caused a derailment.

2. Duckunders are the easiest. I first tried a lift out… kind of a pain with the off and on thing and my alignment always needed a little adjustment. Then I got cute and built an elevator thing using a car antenna hung from the ceiling and the bridge riding between two metal tracks. The next try was a lift-up thing mounted on a furniture hinge. Too bad I didn’t take some pictures of these failures on my part. Most were good for a few laughs.

3. I really don’t like working with a magnifier mounted on my head and besides, my hands shake at the most inopportune times. Can’t imagine how anybody works with N or Z scale. I stand in awe of these folks.

4. Always add the background (if desired) before you build the layout.

I added many more little vignettes to this layout but I don’t have pictures because at this point I decided to get out of HO and go into something bigger. I decided on On30 which is O scale with the train’s running on HO track.

This began another journey …FYI, I was now 68 at this time.


model railroad backdrop

on30 model railroad lighthouse

on30 layout mine

model railroad crane

on30 turntable

on30 trestle bridge

model train layout

model railroad sidings

model railroad pier

model railroad coal shute

They are stunning Bob! A big thank you.

That’s all for this time 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.

61 Responses to More pics of Robert’s layout

  1. Ron Filet ( Holland) says:

    Very nice indeed. I particularly like the rock formation with the white lighthouse. Did you use real rocks? Thank you!
    Kind regards,

  2. Ralph says:

    Very good choice Bob.On30 gives you the size advantages of O scale but the layout space of HO. Tell us more about that turntable, did you make it yourself, or was it an off the shelf product?

  3. Nice job you have done there Robert , well done

  4. Simon Zeoli says:

    Beautiful my friend; be proud of what your imagination and hands have created.

  5. Rick says:

    Where did you get the crane shown in pic #4 ? I have been looking for something just like that. Also need some bulldozers HO scale if you know where I could find them. Thx.
    Rick. Alberta Canada

  6. I am in awe of (a) the space, (b) the tidiness (*doffs hat*) but above all (c) the attention to detail that goes into each little vignette.

    Plus, the article that goes with this post really does offer some great advice an an insight into how this hobby can go from fooling around with a few bits of track to an out-and-out obsession!

    I, too want to know more about the turntable, as I’m currently musing on adapting the Dapol kit (you know, the cheapo one!) by using Z gauge bogies and track to beef up the mechanism. I like the bridge, because it fits the layout, but I don’t like the plastic on plastic wheels…

    So, any guidance on building turntables would be great!

  7. Robert says:

    I must be reading your mind since much of the ideas in my head and on paper are strikingly similar. I am 67 and rebuilding from scratch because I lost everything during hurricane Sandy.

  8. Wayne Spencer says:

    WOW!!, Love the pics. Beautiful background in that first pic!! Good job wit the layout, Keep up the good work!! And Simon was correct your imagination and hands have created a masterpiece!

  9. Norman C Boling says:

    The wall background mountain scenery is just spectacular. I love it. Is it a painting or from a photograph?
    All the rest is truly beautiful and done so well. My hat’s off to you for a wonderful job………We’re so envious……Norman

  10. paul starr says:

    very nice indeed bob, a great creation.

  11. Deano (Harrisburg,PA USA) says:

    Bob: Nicely done. Can’t wait to see your fully-sceniced pics when you get that far. Also, have you thought about re-cycling your less expensive (Life-Like,Tyco) HO standard gauge rolling stock by “Kitbashing” it into an On30 piece? I have found this a great way to save money. At the same time it will create an hierloom piece with bragging rights built in. Ie… “Grampa built this.” just a thought from a fellow “Youngster”…. Deano

  12. Sheila says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiment escapades and the things you learned. A wonderful layout. I hope we will see more pictures in the future.

  13. 'nother grandpa says:

    Very nice pix, and particularly appreciate your “lessons learned” section. Thanks and keep up the good work!!!

  14. Al says:

    Would like to see more pictures, wish I could that organized.
    With my work space.

  15. CJ says:

    Awesome ! I am a N Scale guy in Hawaii, shaky hands are problematic
    But not insurmountable… When I make a little more progress, I may
    Send you all some pics..

  16. Gene Turner says:

    Good work Robert! Don’t forget to send us photo updates as you make changes.

  17. Chris says:

    Nice layout, be proud of what your hands and imagination can do

  18. Ian says:

    great pictures very good handy work very realistic just love it.

  19. THOMAS says:


  20. builder Kim says:

    wow very nice layout Robert.Love the rock’s.May i ask are you canadian.I see CN train’s thats why i ask.Im canadian.

  21. Tom says:

    Great Detail: Great Scenery: Great job!
    Thanks for sharing Robert and Al


    Tom N

    Keep on Training!

  22. jerry knispel says:

    very good job better than mine.

  23. Sundaram says:

    Good work and great enthusiasm

  24. Bob Miller says:

    Those are real rocks Ron. On this one I tried to use more natural stuff in my scenery. For example, for dirt, I used real dirt.

    I bought the turntable used on eBay Ralph and then I built the structure on top from a picture I saw in one of my railroad magazines. I was not sure what it was used for but I thought it looked neat…

  25. peter says:

    Hi Bop
    again great pictures they give me a lot of good ideas for my layout
    thanks peter

  26. Ron Mattila says:

    Great photos……………I am designing an “N” gauge railroad now.

  27. Kenny Anderson says:

    That’s a really good idea putting your layout in your storage shed. I have a 12’x12′ one in my backyard too that has been basically empty for years. It might be a good place for my layout though it gets pretty cold and snowy here in Chicago. . I’ll give it some thought. I really love all the videos and pics everyone sends in of their layouts. I’ve been buying up used HO scale rolling stock and I’ve got an HO trainset that I had built back in the late 70’s that I’m dieing to setup again. I want to do it right so watching all these tuturials, videos and photos has really pushed me in the right direction. Hopefully I can get started on it.

  28. Bob Miller says:

    Actually Rick, I have forgotten where I got the crane. I think it came in a blister-pack with work type stuff. I am sure I got it on eBay.

    Wish I had more pictures. The only reason I have any at all is that my brother kept asking about my model railroad and I sent him some pictures and saved them on my computer. Every time I built a new layout I sent him more pictures. It never occurred to me that other folks would be interested in my efforts.

    The background is from The Back-Drop Warehouse.

    That’s a good idea Deano, I had not thought about that. I will definitely give it a try.

    No Kim, I am not Canadian. The reason I have some CN rolling stock is that when I first started into model railroading I bought whatever I thought looked good to me. It did not occur to me at the time not to mix stuff from different periods or from different railroads.

  29. Bob Da Grouch says:

    Hi Bob! I’m Bob. Nice to meetcha Bob. I think I need to put in my request for a 12′ x 12′ out building. Nice!

  30. paul Otway says:


  31. Rob says:

    Hi Bob, i think you back drop is great been thinking of doing the same now i see it, it has become a must have. Congrats on all the work you make it look so easy. Compliments of the season to you and yours.

  32. Dennis says:

    Great layout, scenery, figures, …. all good!

  33. kimo says:

    super layout, would like to see the whole layout

  34. Bob in Georgia, USA says:

    Great job Bob!
    Goes to show that we’re never to old to learn.
    Please keep the up-dates coming. I believe that we all like to see how a real pro works.
    Thanks! Bob

  35. John Coffey says:

    this looks like a real neat set up you are working with,i am working on my ho set up and what you all are doing with these e-mails realy gives me good ideas .

    John Coffey
    Junction City ,Kansas

  36. Terry Schiele says:

    Just a question that I’ve struggled with ever since I started railroad modeling. I have always had problems with trying to put human figures or animal figures in the build. They just don’t fit even the most beautiful builds. They have no dynamism unlike an old SD 40 just sitting there. Beautiful! I also build, or rebuild, model airplanes. Rebuild in that I no longer have those I bought in the late 50 s and many of those are again available. I do not put in the pilot, pilots for the same reason. Does anyone have a good answer or have the same issue? Terry

  37. John Reynolds says:

    Very nice work…
    The turntable appears to be an Atlas model with a wooden gallows structure built on it (a very popular conversion).
    As to the use of figures, the best recommendation I have seen is to use figures that appear natural in their position. Workmen sitting on a box taking a break is a good example. One of my personal favorites is the scene of a couple of men playing checkers with a dog at their feet.

  38. Don says:

    All you need to do is search ebay for what you want at a reasonable price, remember all things come to he who waits.

  39. Marshall McMaster says:

    send more pic. of set up thanks

  40. Bill on the hill in wisconsin USA says:

    Every one, have a very merry Christmas semper fi

  41. Dave M Baker says:

    Great Layouts:

    I have a American Flyer from 1952, still runs

  42. Colin says:

    Bril layout. the waves look realy good. I’m just starting mine at 68 and hope it will be half a good as that.

  43. lARRY says:

    This is great info. I was debating on whether to use a storage shed or a 17.5 5th wheel. This has made up my mind, I am going with the shed. Wish me luck!!!

  44. George Intze says:

    Good job

  45. Jim says:

    Nice work. Great backdrop. Looks like photo. That’s what I used after trying to paint one for months only to yield to a professional background.

  46. tom says:

    Well Bob I guess all the good things that have been said are really true, Great job. I am 73 and in the last couple of years built a large N scale layout, Just too small. It takes up a whole small bedroom. I moved to my large covered patio where I am building a HO scale, it started as 4×8 but add on`s keep making it even more. I also have a12x12 out building a short distance from the patio. I though about it being a train room but it`s now my train workshop-radio room-wood working shop-etc. Iive in the mountain`s in northern AZ small town no hobby shops. Loved your work and your explanations of your experences. You sound like a guy I would like to know. Tom in Arizona.

  47. Larry Baucom says:

    Robert I LOVE your layout . My first train was a Lionel also wasnt old enough to play with it in 48 but by 1950 I was on my way to being king of the RR,I was 4 in 51 . I love the 18 hundred era trains. I have been looking for an old steamer with passenger cars so I can start my trains running once again . But $300 is way too much for a $700 social security check to take, that’s the starting price of most I have found on line. I’m 70 now and still in love with the old steam engines. If any one out there has a $25 to 50 engine and coal car let me know . My grand and great grand children love playing with my newer diesel model trains for hours on end but I want the old cone shaped steamer that ran in late 1700 and early 1800s. But just wanted to tell you how much I loved your pictures thanks again for making a crippled old mans day.

  48. Hemi says:

    NICELY done Robert!!!!! Tastefully done no less, and great choice of scale (NOT A lot of On30 done it seems (at least in my area) I’m strictly HO and some N, but the smaller gauge as mentioned gives you the space of HO with a little space but a little bigger for viewing pleasure……. Not to mention handles a bit easier too!

  49. Kenny A. says:

    Nice looking setup but just some thoughts about an outside backyard shed layout. I don’t know if anyone has addressed this or not but I would be concerned with things like plaster cracking from the cold in the winter unless you keep it heated above 50 degrees 24/7 all winter long and an ac unit running 24/7 in the spring and summer months keeping it dry and cool. Electric heaters can be costly to run and can catch on fire easily. so a hanging natural gas heater should be used and controlled by a thermostat. It gets pretty darn cold here in Chicago And damp too plus extreme heat and humidity in the summer as well so any kind of wood or plastic can warp real fast from humidity above 40%. Plaster and also any kind of plastic like rolling stock, building, switches, etc. especially real old stock will crack and crumble in the extreme cold or warp in extreme heat, plus engine motors and electrical connections will also corrode in high humidity so a 24/7 temperature controlled heating/air cond. system and a dehumidifier should be added if you live anywhere where it gets damp or extreme heat or extreme cold if you are building your layout in a backyard shed. Even if the shed is insulated moisture from high humidity or a rain storm will seep in through the cracks or concrete floor. Buy yourself a good hanging wall thermometer and barometer and keep that shed warm and dry at all times or you might regret building your layout in the backyard shed.

  50. Kenny A. says:

    The same principles apply for layouts in unattached, unheated garages too.

  51. Mark Hoy says:

    Your work Beautiful, I feel Duimb when i view your work.

  52. Wm althaus says:

    Very beautiful layout! Your rock scenery is very realistic. Really love the lighthouse scene!!

  53. Tom Asher says:

    Very nice and great inspiration for the new layout when I move!

  54. Danny Marso says:

    Your layout looks great,keep up the good work,congratulations !

  55. James Whitmore says:

    This is an adventure for me. I am 82 have no room to set up layouts but have been collecting all things transportational for about 40yrs. Father worked on LVRR for over 50yrs and I got the bug from him. about railroading. Your Pictures are a way for me to enjoy the hobby. Thank you and Alastair for the knowledge on building layouts. The Ideas are wonderful.

  56. very nice layout, great lighthouse

  57. Frank says:

    Lots of good stuff. You’ve got color, variety, interesting buildings and rock formations. I’ve got all my stuff put away….don’t even know exactly what I have.

  58. Some observations on a shed’s “controlled environment”. Obviously that is preferred. However, I had to move an old 4×6 HO layout to a 12×12 shed in northern Utah with winters in the teens and summers in the low 100’s. I did not have problems with track shifting (used Liquid Nails to bond track to foam). And I brought my locos out in a brief case for sessions, and warmed the shed with a portable heater. It was DC. Used an ink erasure to clean the track with some lite oil wipe follow up. No problems. But some temp extremes kept me away. Did this for a few years. Then moved south where temps could hit 120 deg F, and did the same in a shed. However, I used DCC and after one summer leaving the controller and some locos out in the heat, found their electronics heat damaged and wouldn’t run. Had AC window mount but due to elect costs only ran it while I was out, and it wasn’t effective. My experience might save someone else some heartburn.

  59. Per the above. Had no problems with plaster over paper towels / cardboard webbing for scenery in either shed.

  60. Richard Boles says:

    Great job Bob. Thanks for sharing!

  61. Douglas L Hemmingway says:

    Liked the photos. I am modeling in On30, but am doing a Kansas coal and grain hauler loosely based on a 3 ft. gauge road that used to run from Leavenworth, KS to Miltonvale, KS or a round 162 miles of track in NE and NC Kansas. I like the rock work you have, but I think my exposed rocks will be tan for limestone, gray or charcoal for shale and dark brown or black for coal. In my part of Kansas they mined soft or bituminous coal. Originally I was going to do a western mining road, but I started researching coal mining and other mining in Kansas. The nice thing is all I have to model are hills, cuts, rock outcroppings. grasslands and woods besides a small town and a mine.

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