Richard’s layout


As long as I can remember, I have always had a model train layout. When I was 4 years old my father built a 8 x 8 foot layout, and at 16 years old it had grown to 10 foot wide by 22 foot long. Then girls, college, marriage got in the way and the trains took a back seat, but not for long. Shortly after moving into my first house I proceeded to build a new layout, but was interrupted when I received a job transfer. These turn of events repeated itself twice over until my retirement in Maryland.

Most train layouts (especially from the north) were mainly situated in the basement, and for 20 years living in Maryland that’s where my Marklin layout was located. In 2005 while visiting my son in Georgia we looked at houses for sale and stumbled on this two story home that had a very large guest room on the second level. I thought to myself, for 50 years I had to settle for my train layouts in the basement, now this is my chance to bring them above ground, and before I knew it, I was a Georgia resident. The layout in Maryland did not fit the configuration of the new train room so a new layout was required. Being retired, putting time in daily it took seven years to complete.

Now for the Layout

The layout is a three (3) rail Marklin HO Digital Format System that has the capacity to simultaneously run 80 motorized units at one time. (That’s only possible is the layout is big enough). There’re 44 turnouts controlled via digital decoders taking their command from a digital signal sent through the track. Uncoupling tracks, signals and most accessories operate on the same premise. There are over 85 structures built from kits manufactured by Faller and Vollmer. Scenery (trees, shrubs, hedges, etc.) by Busch, Heki, and figurines by Preiser.
I hope you enjoy my layout and of course feedback would be appreciated.

Thank you


5 (2)

5 (3)

13 (2)





My my! That’s one tidy room and layout. I’m deeply envious. Thanks for Richard for sharing, and thanks for the mails on the ebay cheat sheet too.

One last thing – not all heroes wear capes – a few of have been answering the questions on the modeltrain forum.

You know who you are, and a big, huge thank you for doing that. I really hope it grows into something really helpful.

That’s all for today peeps.

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.

model train answers

78 Responses to Richard’s layout

  1. john wisnieski says:

    Very nice,extremely neat and orderly. Keep up the great work.

  2. Frank Cortese says:

    Fantastic layout and a very neat and orderly room! Interested in how you made the fires and particularly the smoke. Thank you for sharing.

  3. wow Richard…thats a HUUUGE layout with a LOTTA stuff…and sooo tidy as al says….
    took a lot of time and patience to get alla that detail
    great layout…!!!
    wish I had a room like that to do trains!!

  4. Pete Evangel says:

    Nice layout! Wish I had the room to do that. Of course living in earthquake country (Calif), would make it difficult to have such a great wall display! I have a question. In the track side photo with guys around the fire, how did you do the smoke? Also smoke coming from the stack on the converted caboose? That really struck me,

  5. Cord Reynolds says:

    I am experiencing first hand what it is to have a bunch of Märklin equipment and no room to set it up. I’ve had a layout designed for years, (set in the Alps, skiers and everything), but have lived in one tiny apartment after another since leaving college 30 years ago. The only reason I want to buy a house is for The Layout!

  6. Barry Pearlman says:

    I’m envious!

  7. john says:

    Really nice layout, didn’t know there was a 3 rail HO trains, I’m doing 2 rail S guage.

  8. chris says:

    very nice layout, thanks for sharing

  9. Kerry says:

    Wow Richard, absolutely brilliant, so colourful and neat, great job.

  10. Ross Johnston says:

    Great layout richard and so neat. I hope to retire next year and so I’ll use the gear I’ve got in a 20 x 18 shed which at present looks like a disorganised mess to construct a layout. Well done on yours. Cheers Rossco (Adelaide Australia)

  11. Robert says:

    That is one nice layout for sure, as for me I have American flyer trains that my dad gave me, I own a house but no room to set it up since I have an apartment down stairs which is occupied at the moment. Would not mind seeing a video of this one, thanks for showing..

  12. david howarth says:

    That is some layout you have built with a very nice railway room

  13. Willie Kerr (Glasgow) says:

    Great layout, gives me inspiration to keep going.

  14. BOB STULTS says:


  15. Ian Mc Donald says:

    that is some train room. one thing is i have been told that no layout is ever complete so whats next for you an extension above the layout. the detail is also unbelievable great work. would love to see trains moving around the layout any chance of a video. Thank you for the pictures. also thanks Al for the email get a lot of pleasure from them.

  16. Mark says:

    outstanding job I love it

  17. I love your layout, I only wish I had the time and the money to invest in something this big. especially the round house and turn table. I’m on my third layout now, Working with 3 rail O scale, mainly Lionel and MTH. Soon planning to start up the HO again. Hopefully by the first of the year. Good luck on your future add on to your existing layout.

  18. sundaram says:

    Great layout , lot of space to move around and work. Good height to work on wiring under the layout. Neatly laid out.
    Shelves neatly arranged with rolling stock.
    Have the luxury of pace to do it. But, still well organized.

  19. Chris says:

    A truly amazing layout! I can see why it took 7 years to create, but it was worth every hour. Congratulations!

  20. Paul Cohen says:

    Hi Richard,
    Brilliant layout and rather like mine. I’m another maniac who bought a house to fit the train. Mine’s 2-rail HO, DCC with mixed Trix, Roco and Fleishmann roIling stock. Roco 2.1 line track. That’s the train, not the house! I’ll send details to Al when I’m a bit further into the project. I’m in ‘the old country’ but I’d like to swap notes with you. I hope Al might facilitate that, if you agree.. Meanwhile more congrats! Paul.

  21. Mark says:

    Awesome layout! I’ve been collecting Marklin for a few years too and need some inspiration for a layout.
    Would it be possible to have a look at a layout plan?

  22. Dave Jones says:

    What a great layout

  23. Jeff Keene Sr says:

    I love it! Wish I had the time, patience……AND the space!! Great job!!!

  24. Duncan Galbraith says:

    This is superb. Could you please give us an idea of how you did the crops in the farmyard? A video would be a boon as well. Thanks for sharing this, D/

  25. STEVE says:


  26. Ben Taul says:

    great job I thought I was doing good with 6 trains running at the same time and 1 wall full of trains my room is 12′ x10′ my wife won’t let me tunnel one wall to another room. I am envius

  27. Richard Gould says:

    Just wondering. Is there a reason all the equipment on the layout is from foreign companies? I would think it would be much cheaper to get suppies from US companies.

  28. THOMAS says:


  29. William Stanley says:

    I love photos of the close ups, but I really love the ones where you get to see it all like yours. Really like to see video also.

  30. Kenton says:

    That is awesome!

  31. Very Nice Layout and what a tidy room, you must sweep it after every operatting session as I’ve never seen a layout area tht was so tidy. I hope you are enjoying the trains and your retirement.

    Stemar, (Downunder)

  32. Steve R says:

    Envy doesn’t come into it – What a great railway room, and a great layout. Many congrats, and thanks for sharing


  34. David says:

    I am about halfway to (semi) completion of my layout. EVERY one that I see posted always gives me ideas to incorporate into my layout. THANK YOU FOR A LOT OF GREAT IDEAS HERE. Hope you will give us all the camp smoke idea and how you did it. Thank you so very much. Enjoy, enjoy. David in the upstate area of SC.

  35. Rich says:

    i always enjoy when a layout has a touch of whimsy (bon fire w open outhouse door photo). I enjoy details and you have plenty to eyeball. I think i will steal your idea of a beach chair for working under the platform, great idea, i have always found the underside work most difficult and tiring.
    Fantastic job!!!!

  36. Vitsing says:

    I received my first 800 series Marklin HO 60 years ago when my Dad (USAF) was stationed just outside London. One of my prized possessions from those days is DI 800 in great condition in brown and silver. After we came back to the US in 1957 the only space at available, like the UK, was on the floor in my bedroom.

    After that we stationed in Honolulu and with surfing and chasing girls my Marklin HO was the furthest thing from my mind.

    We returned to the mainland in the summer of 1966 and I didn’t have time or space to set up a layout, before I was drafted into the Army in December 1966. I was trained as infantryman: however, I decided in those days going to signal Corps OCS was a far better idea and after graduation I spent the next six years in Asia where setting up a layout is not practical.

    Anyhow I wound up on a tour to Germany 1976-1979 and created a 4-8 bench work and a layout, since all the Marklin from my youth was in storage in the US I had to start a new with with buying Marklin HO M track wagons and accessories.

    After I came back to the US I went Marklin dormant again for 35 years. I decided to build again with an objective 5 x 12 with a 5 x 8 L. I am still in the design phase:: however; I can hear my 22 locomotives, 200+ wagons and extensive M track and centary system calling me to hurry up and finally build my last HO layout. At 72 I just have hope that I will be able to get it near completion in my remaining lifetime.

    I will send pictures of the building phase and completed layout when I get further along.

  37. Perry Torregano says:

    Great layout I will give you that, but my question is why did you build it on the wall with a leg sticking out? I think that would have given you more space for track.

  38. Craig Burton says:

    Great job RICHARD!! THANKS for sharing,to you also Al. Some day,I need to pack it up to move again,the layout, oh well,next time hope to be the last. Craig

  39. harry young says:

    where in maryland did you live……i live in cumberland i have a flyer lay out…….in my old garage…….10 by25

  40. Susan Cannon says:

    Wow. Just plain wow.

    What is the final size of your layout?

  41. dan hulitt says:

    What a setup, truly marvelous. Notice the lawn chair on wheels for doing the “underground” utility work. I have just the piece of wood with casters that should work for me…..and will someone please close the door to the privy, so the poor soul can have some privacy?

  42. Peter Philips says:

    WOW, what a HUGE Marklin collection and so neat too. You must have every locomotive from the Marklin catalog over the years. So nice to see an actual working Marklin layout with Faller and Volmer kits too. All my favorite brands. I started in 1957 in Amsterdam and now I’m working to revive it all. Most of it has not run for about 22 years. I have exclusively M-track and working on a 11’x7′ new layout in So Cal. All my stuff is still analog but I plan to convert in the future since I have 7 engines and 45 cars to make it run at the same time. If you take care of Marklin trains, it will last almost forever. Needs a bit of TLC now and then and keep your tracks clean.

  43. alan spence says:

    excellant i like the yellow and blue and white unit from pico that run from hamburg in germany i have one of those on my layout
    alan in uk

  44. Wow, that’s all I can say.

  45. Marklin Ed. says:

    Being a Marklin train lover, I’m quite envous of your collection. Three rail Marklin is one of the oldest Ho Systems. Great looking train room.

  46. Sam Miller says:

    Impressive Layout and well detailed! Always appreciate what Faller and Vollmer add to realism. From one Yank to another, welcome to Georgia. Would enjoying talking to you, I live an hour north of Atlanta near the Blue Ridge Mts. All the best, Sam

  47. W. Alan Richardson says:

    I love your layout. I am a little envious but mainly proud that you made such beautiful creation that all of us enjoy seeing. Congratulations.

  48. Very impressed, great layout! ….. who does the dusting? 😊

  49. Anton Bruce says:

    Absolutely fabulous layout, and what a train room!! You must have a very understanding wife!!!

    But I bet she’s on top of you to keep it neat!

  50. Will in NM says:

    Richard, What a great and very organized train room. I didn’t know that Maerklin HO is 3-rail configuration. I presume that eliminates the reverse loop polarity issues we have with 2-rail HO track. I would like to know the actual size of your layout and the train room. It looks like a fabulous collection of Maerklin trains and I love all the Vollmer and Faller buildings and all the details.

    I feel like such a dope. I bought this property 14 years ago where I have a 48 x 32 foot finished shop building with a 10′-6″ high ceiling and I never, until recently, thought of building a model railroad out there. Instead I filled it up with all my woodworking tools, yard maintenance equipment and boxes of “stuff” accumulated over my 72 years. Now I’m working on selling off and donating a lot of the tools and stuff so I can clear out enough space for a good sized model railroad. Your story, Richard, gives me hope that I might someday have a layout as neat as yours.

  51. David Spangenberg says:

    I love the personal story that goes with your layout. Well done. I’ve moved many times too. That’s what has kept me from starting again. Very inspiring.

  52. Erick says:

    I like your layout it is something like i doing. I like to know where you the got steps from the very frist picture of your pixs.

  53. Leo Koziol says:


  54. Ted Martin says:

    Indubitably beautiful! How did you create that smoke?

  55. TJK says:

    Wall space used to the MAX……Nicely done.

  56. Mr. Ron says:

    Fantastic layout! You have a good balance between railroad and non-railroad. So many layouts have an overwhelming amount of trackwork and not enough attention to scenery and buildings. You undoubtedly have a large amount of money tied up in your railroad.

  57. EUGENE LEE BROWN says:

    Great layout, It’s 3 rail Marklin. I have tons of this and I’ just waiting to get a room big enough to set it all up. Looks beautiful

  58. Sid says:

    Very nice, I’m looking for that extra space myself

  59. Larry says:

    I am at a loss for words. Just absolutely FANTASTIC “

  60. Bob Cassidy says:

    Great outstanding job!

  61. Peter Clare says:

    Reminds me of my own layout…Not many HO European layouts being displayed..
    I have a German layout and a Swiss/Austrian layout..
    Nice work:
    Liverpool – England

  62. Rich B. says:

    Isn’t this just amazing, high and dry for the deluge seasons down there. Any criticism can only be on the plus side as it appears so.

    Only thing is hope the in-laws aren’t looking for a place to stay now. 🥶

    And Regards, RB

  63. Joseph Evans says:

    What a layout! I don’t usually comment. In this instance I couldn’t’ not comment

  64. lee brown says:

    Excellent layout. My Marklin has been in boxes for decades. I was only able to set them up for a short time due to being in the military. BUT my 3 tours in Germany helped me to aquire more and more items. Can’t wait to move across to west Georgia and get a room to set it up in. Beautiful layout. Keep up the great work.

  65. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice layout. extreme use of space, i like it. it actually looks a lot like small towns cramped around the rails.

  66. Norm S says:

    A big part of my enjoyment of the photos’well focused clarity

  67. George Zaky says:

    You’re right up there with the greats. Love the design and the wonderful craftsmanship. Of course a large room inside is every train guys dream and is required to library the enormous inventory of yours. Your room is beyond awesome.
    So now that you created a fan club of drooling train nuts it is only right that you feed us with updates, show us Dangerous Dave quality videos, and bring us into your train world. All the best.
    Big Al
    Wow! Caught a big fish this time Eh. Be well.

  68. Mike Mittlebeeler says:

    Amazing layout. I live in Huntsville, AL and am also a “Marklin Guy”. I’m building my first real layout and have made some rookie mistakes; to the point of considering taking it down and starting again. Your layout really shows off your experience and you have access to all the track. Please post some more pictures and maybe the layout plans with dimensions. Great room too. I love how you’ve displayed your engines and rolling stock.

  69. Tony Weisbecker says:

    NOW thats one busy layout . The turn table is overstocked Ha ,Ha .

  70. Ralph Menweg says:

    Fantastic job ! I know how you felt about the basement as I was in the same situation. Now I too have a space for my Lionel post WW2 layout. Take more pictures with video too, and thanks for sharing.

  71. Michael Gibbons says:

    Great job Richard!

    How large is the lay out?

  72. Jeff in Seattle says:

    Inspirational! All Good Things In Time…. Love it!

  73. Mike Balog says:

    Hi AL, Richard and All,,, Fantastic Beautiful Layout with perfect balance of the Railroad serving communities along the right of way,. Impressive details with the buildings, scenery and the little people on the layout. Liked the storage along the walls for your collection, including the track above the top of the window molding. Once I had an apartment which had different size windows in the kitchen. I used that method with a 1/2″ x 4″ x 12 ft clear pine board on top of the Window molding, with decorative wooden shelf brackets screwed to the sides of the window trim. I had painted that board white to match the windows… Then put “Tunnel Portals” on each end as it touched the end walls. I put up my Lionel 027 Gauge Trains up there for Christmas Display. That board gave the illusion all the windows were the same height. I left the shelf in place when I moved. From Mike in Freezing N.H., USA. 1-22-24

  74. Stephen Hill says:

    That is a stunning layout , amazing detail and lots of fun stuff , feel bad for that chap in the outhouse . I’m a resident outside Atlanta , if you already haven’t discovered , there are loads of clubs and event after event . North Carolina also has some great clubs and outlets and who doesn’t enjoy a ride over the mountains to see NC? Great job indeed , mine pales in comparison .

  75. Steve Ruple says:

    WOW !!!!! Richard that’s an awesome layout and plenty of room for expansion, nice job.

  76. Eugene Shaffer says:

    I have never heard of a 3-rail HO track. Now that I think of it, I did see some pictures on this page that had it, but I either missed the description or it was not mentioned. I run 3-rail O gage trains. They have a roller that follows the center rail. It looks like this track must have some kind of shoe that is long enough to contact two three or more of the contacts in the track. Is it noisy? It looks like the contacts are taller on switches so the shoe doesn’t hang up on the track it crosses in the switch. How does that avoid short circuits? MTH trains have electronic controls called DCS which controls multiple trains with a signal in the track as you mentioned. It is the only controller that I understand will run both Lionel and MTH trains together on the same layout. I understand it is supposed to handle the older post-war trains that do not have electronic controllers as well. I have been waiting almost two years for MTH to start producing their new DCS controllers since I did not start my hobby before they quit selling the older units. I got my first Lionel train in 1951 or so and only added more equipment until about 1955. My cousin and I had great fun with our trains in those years but after graduating into High School I did not play with them much. I built a layout for my kids when they were young and that fell into ruin when life took over for me. My equipment stayed in boxes until recently. About three years ago I decided to get back into the hobby for something to keep me busy when I retire. I am turning 82 this year and I think I will have to stop working. My body will not let me run up and down mountains and work all day like it used to. Over the last two to three years I have designed a layout and purchased equipment to build a nice 8 x 24 layout and started building the benches needed. Hopefully this summer I will get the benchwork done and start laying track. I sure hope that the DCS controller finally materializes in May as promised.
    Anyway, I don’t think I can build a layout nearly as nice as yours, but I hope to have fun with it before I get too old to enjoy running trains.

  77. David Schaffner says:

    Wow, stunning layout and I may add, love the somewhat foreign buildings and houses, even the tower looks almost German or Dutch. Assembly is almost impossible for me since I have severe arthritis in my hands and fingers. All my buildings are already fully built but it can become expensive or even hard to find what you need.

  78. Daniel says:

    Great layout room!! I have been basement model railroading in Massachusetts for more than 50 years! My parent’s basement now my own!!

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