Patrick’s layout

“I contacted you just about a year and a half ago as I reentered the hobby after being out of it for more than twenty five years. I asked if you could solicit your loyal readers and have them give their opinion on what comes first, the buildings or the track. Many responded and it was pretty much evenly split as to their preference.

Subsequent to that time, I joined a traveling modular group called the Miami Valley Modular Railways, which has a very large traveling layout comprised of members individual modules which are constructed to be able to match the neighboring units. They can set up anywhere from 24’ x 80’ to 36’ x 132’. We set up at last year’s NMRA convention in Grand Rapids and are planning to set up in Atlanta this coming May for the 2013 NMRA convention as well. We also travel all over the mid-west to do train shows on average of twice a month from August until May.

It took me almost fifteen months to finish my 30” x 96” unit and I have attached photos of it. I am currently working on 30” x 196” steel mill which covers two units.

The finished grain operation is modeled after the Cargill Processing Plant in Dayton, Ohio, our home base. The backdrop is a combination of that operation and three other grain operations I Photo Shopped together.

The basic principal of the module is to represent a brand new facility next to an much older one which is being rehabbed back into operation. The Cargill plat in Dayton produces both corn syrup and vegetable oil so we have covered hoppers coming in and tankers going out. Next to the two surge bins above the pit building there is a group of men welding the support structure for a third bin.

Hope your readers enjoy the photos.


Nice pics, Pat – even if the jury is still out and what comes first, the buildings or the track!

Don’t forget, the very latest ‘ebay cheat sheet is here. Have a look right now and bag a deal.



(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).

60 Responses to Patrick’s layout

  1. Joe Perry says:

    Very impressive. I’m thinking of starting a new layout and building it in sections. Any suggestions?

  2. Klaus says:

    I love the photos and it is refreshing to see that excellent proportions are used. i particularly like the welding scene and those effects. Track laying for me is no.1, as this allows you to “play” as you start your scenery and position buildings, but a good plan is essential

  3. leon says:

    I read all of the mail you send to me and was just wondering if layouts such as Patricks are privately owned or are they a club layout. It appears to me if they are privately owned the owner must have all the time in the world for it and also must have an unlimited supply of money to spend to accomplish what they have built.

    Sometimes curiosity overcomes me.

    Thank You;

  4. Cameron says:

    Great layout and photos Pat. Fantastic detail as well. Would love to see a video of the layout if you get a chance to post one.



  5. Nice layout Pat , well done

  6. MIKE,Seattle WA says:

    Very nice layout Pat.IT’S whatever you need at the time that counts BUILDINGS OR TRACK ???

  7. Lou Santello says:

    I saw this at NMRA in Grand Rapids. Based on the photos, it’s obvious the track is worked around the buildings, which I think is the right way to do it for industries and facilities. Unfortunately, including me, we all get caught trying to cram in 10 pounds of track in a 5 pound box and not leaving enough room for the buildings that really makes the layout POP!

  8. WoW I really like the set up of the Petroleum Refinery, I would of had an extra track running along the front of the tanks or between the 1st and 2nd row, with pipes running along side the track with outlets from each tank so it looks as if the Tanker Cars can be filled on this siding. but overall you’ve done a really good job with this section of the overall layout, so enjoy moving the trains around on it, as I can see plenty of fun ahead.

  9. Lou Santello says:

    My last post is another layout showing track vs. building. After reading it, the post seemed a little confusing that I was pertaining to Patrick’s. Both are remarkable pieces of work.

  10. Simon Zeoli says:

    Great comeback ! Really nice work;continue to have fun.

  11. Paul Brady says:

    Great industrial layout

  12. Don Wick says:

    Excellent scenery and buildings. Well weathered structures and rolling stock.
    Your modules are absolutely great! Should win “Best Of Show” at any Train show.
    Don – West Bend, WI USA

  13. Ray Noble says:

    I love what you’ve done with your module, very well detailed, and a nice job done, but the only thing that caught my eye was in the first picture at the top. And that would be how did the semi- tankers get between the tanks without any roads or crossing over the tracks. Or maybe the angle of the picture just didn’t give a clear shot of the roadways for then to enter on, But in all, I would say very nicely done.


  14. Joe Johnson says:

    I think it looks great. I like the details, such as the little spot fire being mopped up by the fire crew. I agree with Lou, I like that the railway appears to work with the environment, as opposed to being forced into it. I’m trying a similar method with my n-scale project. Building the bench work, and major base scenery first, around an idea of a track plan, and making the railway be built after the ground is built.

  15. keith says:

    Impressive layout, how long does it take you guys to set up the big sectioned layout? With regards to the initial question I always do a dry run with the buildings and track, its a lot easier to move pieces around when they are not stuck down. But then does it really matter its all about fun. Keith

  16. Tom says:

    Great layout…

  17. Bill Ennis says:

    I’m getting ready to start building a combined train and HO slot car layout. I have my original Aurora track (and a few cars) from when I was young (back in early 1960’s) and I want to make a nice big layout, complete with buildings, scenery, etc. Really enjoy your information that you share. Keep up the great work!

  18. Pat Taylor says:

    Thanks for all the comments. To answer some of the questions: My module is part of portable layout with all modes owned by individuals but clamped together at shows under the name Miami Valley Modular Railway. We have about twenty five members and some have two to three modules. The club owns the interrior yard which can hold over 1600 cars and they own the yard throat. All others are privately owned but stored together on special carriers in a 48′ goose neck trailer.
    I am new so I have just one so far. Time and money are always limited and buying inexpensive items and kit bashing saves a lot. Examples, the two smoke stacks on the large gray building are booster rockets from a space shuttle kit. The old rusty silos on the right are cardboard tubes I get at work and are wrapped in paper that I worked up in PhotoShop to look old and damaged. Total cost for those five silos was less than $1.
    I know it looks like a typical tank farm for petroleum but the tanks are for the corn syrup and vegetable oil produced. I am working a on a catwalk that will allow filling of the tankers in two locations. The layout, as most of yours are, continues as a work in progress.
    I did decide on the buildings first and then arranged the tracks. 30″ wide with three mandatory entrance and exits points made it a little more complicated. Our group requires the main lines which are designated East and West, enter at 8″ and 10″ with an industrial track at 21″ all measured from the front. What you do in between, as long as you maintain larger radius turnouts and curves, you can do pretty much anything you want.

  19. Sheila says:

    Love the layout. Hope to one day see it at a show I am attending. Welcome back to the hobby.

  20. Tom Howes says:

    I love the layout, and the method your club is using to connect! Thanks for the insight into how you made the silos!

  21. Tom says:


    Keep on Training!

    Tom N

  22. Sean Sullivan says:

    Saw this layout at the train show in Indianapolis last weekend. It was awesome. The last picture on the set is of some people welding on the platform and was very realistic. Loved the layout, keep up the good work…

  23. Very nice. I really like these photos. I should suggest, that you should ask Cargill, if they allow railroad diesels to pass through their unloading shed, to switch cars. We have a similar type of Cargill plant here in Wichita, Kansas; and there is an unloading shed on a single track next to it. Cargill, out here, says that railroad diesels may not enter the unloading area, which sees the incoming loads being shoved in using the empties going out. This is also done because Cargill doesn’t like to have diesels too close to their plant. Something about diesel exhaust being hazardous to human health, (as if what their plant produces in the way of by-product odors isn’t harmful?) I should also point out that where the tank spur ends near a storage tank, you should have a larger bumper to protect the tank from being accidently ruptured by a tank car, or other freight car switched onto that track. Yeah, I know, I am a nit picker. What can I say. I run a railroad salvage business.

  24. Great layout lot’s of hard work thank’s for the pics

  25. Patrick Taylor says:

    To answer the next set of questions: I do have a video I shot with my phone. It is OK but not the best. I plan on taking another next weekend (19 & 20) in Columbus Ohio at the GTE Show. I will also take a picture of the carts we haul the mods on. It took us just over two hours to set up in Indainapolis last week end and we were 32 x 98. It took 65 minutes to pack up. Each module is pre-wired ands just get pluigged in the next.
    We run on a NCE DCC system and normally have four to six trains running at once.
    There is a road for the trcuks to drive oiut but you can not see it at this angle. It starts to the left of the filling station and travels on to the next module (Steel Mill) where it joins with the steel mill exit road.
    On You Tube, if you search for the Miami Valley Modular Railway, there are many videos to view. I have a 120 car ore train with the name of 13ptphoto.

  26. paul Otway says:

    Welcome back to Model Railroading.

    This is the greatest hobby.

  27. charlie c. says:

    It’s a great lay out. Nice and clean. I can see you put alot of work in to your lay out. Like to see video of your lay out. Best to you.

  28. Sundaram says:

    A thoroughly professional job. I am sure 15 months is not too long considering the kind of effort and the final result.
    Did others hell you with this layout and the mill objects/ processing plants etc.

  29. George Ross says:

    Great Layout! makes me want to get back in to Model Railroading.

  30. Don says:

    Very good but would like to see video of it

  31. K Cunningham says:

    well done…. looks great wish i had the time for one like that..

  32. Toni says:

    Here is my suggestion for those who are trying to figure out what is first when planing a layout.

    Here is what I do:
    1) I think about what I want my layout to basically be about.
    2) With pencil in hand, I’ll draw my basic idea on graph paper to scale of my layout base.
    3) Look in books and magazines for scenes close to what I want to achieve.
    4) Refine step #2 and add desired details.
    5) When satisfied with step 1 to 4, I’ll cut foam to fit layout base and pin it to the base.
    6) I’ll transfer my layout drawing from graph paper to layout foam.
    7) Temporally pin tracks and structures to the desired locations, then adjust tracks and structures until I feel that things are in their place. Then I’ll mark out where things go with a marker.
    8) I’ll add extra foam to create hills, valleys, gullies and mountains and shape them as desired.
    9) When I’m satisfied with the way things are set out, I’ll go and tack the tracks down, and wire the layout for a basic ‘test run’ and adjust things as needed.
    10) After a successful ‘test run’, I’ll set down my streets and sidewalks where needed and then lay down scenery material after I anchor the tracks .
    11) When things are secured and dry, then I’ll set back to admire my work while running trains on the layout.

  33. Stuart says:

    Looks really great, especially the oil and gas tanks, a lot of work there. Well done

  34. THOMAS says:


  35. Rod Mackay says:

    People tend to think that the more track you put down, the more fun you’ll have. Ain’t necessarily so. A fairly confined layout with limited length sidings and so on, can be more of a challenge to work. Maybe you can’t park your whole consist in one siding? Good, that means another two shunts. Maybe your road crossing would be blocked if you just shunted those hoppers to the power plant? Have to split them in the middle! The railway’s full of rules and precautions, the more you know the more of a challenge it gets to make it work like the real thing.

  36. Dwight Jensen says:

    Hello good job but I wonder is this HO or N???

  37. Murray beaton says:

    Simple what came first town/village or the railroad the you can cut the corner off a cottage to get the track through just like the cottage at cambus of may on the old deeside line before ballater royal deeside

  38. Rog says:

    Really Great work!! An encouragement to all.. I agree with Toni in “graphing” out a layout on paper does me well.. I then Lay Track.. this is easier for me.. Seeing work like this just makes me go out & do something on Mine.. Welcome back – Rog

  39. Jeff McNeal says:

    Visually stunning. A triumph.

  40. kimo says:


  41. Buehlster says:

    Being in the grain industry all my life and having worked for Ralston Purina your attention to detail is outstanding. Cargill is definitely the “king” of corn syrup and your facility depicts that very well. I will use your pictures to add realism to my layout and look forward to the day I can actually see this layout in person. Thanks all your work and congratulations on a job well done! Bob

  42. Lee Barry says:

    pretty excellent job you have done. The main question to answer is are you yourself satisfied with what you have done, ie: scale, HO;O;N;Z, your modeling in. Also the pleasure you got out of doing it. If the answer to all of these questions is truely yes then don’t worry what others say in regards to it. I myself have critized what I have seen in the pictures of the layouts shown but I am judguing by what my layout looks like and the scale,Z, I am into. So if you are happy with it the hell with what anyone else says, if you put 50 people in a room that has all of the walls and ceiling painted black there would be 25 that would say it has different shades of black and the other 25 would say no it don’t. Keep up the good work. As I have said before if you want to see pictures of my layout you can go to Z Central Station and click on gallery and then click on LZPMRR. It is a Z scale layout that is 37″ x 27″ x 10″. Check it out.

  43. Steve Mittman says:

    this is Very impressive thanks for letting us look at it.

  44. Tom Mulligan says:

    Can you tell me the name of the company that
    Makes the tank trucks in your layout. I have
    Been looking for those type of tank trailer with
    out success.

  45. Tom Mulligan says:

    You have a great concept in your layout.

  46. Jeff Kopp says:

    Patrick – nice job! I am a beginner at this hobby and strongly feel track layout must come first. At least that way you can get your trains rolling and take your time on the scenery. Anyways question. Did you paint the graffiti on the cars or can you buy them like that? If you painted them great job! I never understood why they don’t sell them like that considering more cars in real life have graffiti over not having it. Thanks for sharing look forward to your response.

  47. I like this layout. It looks as if were real. I can put myself in these pictures.

  48. Dave Ober says:

    It is a beautiful layout and one that I would like very much with a town also.
    Great job!

  49. Paul G says:

    I think your layout looks great & I am also starting modelling having collected trains since I was much younger.
    Which comes first the track or the buildings? Conceptually in my head I would be decide on the theme of the railway, draw a track plan with buildings in mind and then lay the track & check it runs. Then do the modelling while enjoying running the trains. I’ve done the drawing!!
    Paul G Reading UK.

  50. Chief Towne ret USN says:

    Lets face most railroads have been installed to service the area that requires it. The Railroad provided jobs for the people that lived in the towns and surrounding area. So as far as I’m concern build your towns and lay your track after but keep in mind that you are planning on laying track around that vicinty.

  51. John Reynolds says:

    Over 50 years I have seen pictures of many layouts. Each is an expression of the vision of the builder. Every one is worthy of commendation because of the manner in which it shows the creative process at work. When a person goes into an art gallery, one sees the work of masters. While each picture or sculpture has the imprint of the master who created it, not every one affects the emotions of the viewer in the same way.
    As one walks through the gallery, one can say “nice” to nearly every exhibit. Some exhibits strike in a way that gets “very nice” or “very good”. Some are worthy of “great”, “excellent”, or “awesome”. Then there are those that connect, the jaw drops, the teeth scatter and you need to go pick them up, the subject or style may not even be your fancy BUT, there is a magic for which there are no words.
    I am not a fan of graffiti for example — BUT, the first picture connected and all I could say was WOW!!!.
    All the photos were excellent in so many ways. The workmanship is top notch in every way. The realism is awesome. — Here is the thing that surprised me as I went back and looked at the first picture for the fourth time… The graffiti covered car in the foreground and elements of the foreground composition drew me into the scene in such a manner that I did not notice the file cabinet, baseboard framing, and clutter in the background until I looked at the picture for the fourth time and began to study the details.

  52. Chip says:

    What a great layout of the Miami Valley Club by Patrick.

    Hey Al, by this note, or by your suggestion, could you please suggest that each contributor identify the gauge or gauges for their RR’s. For those of us who are novices it is a challenge to determine. When it is a challenge to determine the gauge I think that simply means the work is just that good.

    In any case I hope contributors will ID the Gauge of their RR so perspective and comparisons may be made.

    AL! Your work and contributions to share are fantastic. Thank you very much for all you do to keep them coming.

    Houston, Texas

  53. Fantastic layout. I am also in the middle of building a layout. Hope u could send more videos and pictures of your layout.

    Thank you.

    Matthew of Malaysia

  54. Bill Fassett says:

    I really love Patrick’s approach to modeling his prototype. Like Patrick, I’m recently getting re-involved in a hobby I left about 20 years ago. What I’m finding is that the acute “catch up with new technology” portion of the learning curve is pretty short, in part because of the wealth of advice and feedback available from sites like this one! I’ve also found that since I have time and resources, and the patience I didn’t have when I was younger, the long-term project of steadily growing my modeling skills doesn’t seem as daunting, either. Because, like Patrick, I’ve joined a model railroad club, I can run trains on a well-developed layout while I’m being more deliberate about my own.

  55. Lindsay says:

    The Railways have always followed people as transport needs grew,Dire Straits explained in Telegraph Road. He built a home in the wilderness;then came the lawyers and then came the fools.So Buildings 1st I feel,maybe starting with “wilderness” and build your own towns.
    Australian Capital Territory

  56. Tim sagar says:

    No realism in that welding scene not a fire extinguisher in sight for hot works! Lol great layout. Just about to start my first layout after 35 years. I’m definitely track first. Can’t help buying loco’s. Not seen them running yet and then there’s the delights of DCC to experience

  57. William Van Winkle says:

    Outstanding layout Patrick!!
    Would anyone happen to have a copy of layout 14 in PDF format (the one at the top of this page)? I would love to model that in N gauge in a desert setting for a coffee table layout. I’ve emailed Al 2 or 3 times with this request, have never received a reply.
    Thank you,
    William Van Winkle

  58. Orv says:

    Wow. Nice layout. Lots of work in that one. Thanks for sharing

  59. Helmut Eppich says:


  60. Paul says:

    As a former resident of Dayton I can appreciate the layout. Your work is impressive.

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