Where do I start when making a model train layout

Jon’s been in touch with a theme that keeps on popping up for good reason: Where do i start when making a model train layout?


You can over-plan, over-think, and over-engineer a layout. I tried one of the layout programs and did not like it. I tried a similar program years ago for a garden shed and found it to be overly complex and cumbersome.

My solution: I had two nice folding plastic 6’ tables and bought a third one ($40).

I took all the track I had from two sets and just started laying the track out, jigsaw-puzzle style.

My first complete layout is the “tri-oval” shown here. Not dramatic but it’s a start. Just getting the turnouts wired today.

I have room for another table (to make a 6 x 12 overall) and leftover track. I’ll continue to experiment until I find a layout I like and get it operating properly. Then move on to the landscape, the scenery, and the accessories.

Yours is a wonderful resource for this hobby. Keep up the good work.


start train layout

Now on to Barry:

“Hi Al,

Thought you might be interested in my modelling skills, I started on my latest layout after my Daughter left us to go and live in Australia.

I already had layout 6’x2’ in a small room upstairs so I moved into her room which was some 18’ longer and decided to add to it.

So I bought two 6’x3’ boards and started to build.

The layout of old was called Meadow Falls and is a small end of line station and surrounding countryside.

I decide to join it to the larger layout I was building so that it would run to a small station at the other end of the layout with a small station and turntable, the gauge for both being N Gauge.

making a model train layout

making a model train layout

making a model train layout tunnel

Then I when on to my main board which I am still working on but have at present got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my Right hand so it is making the job very difficult

making a model train layout house

model railway canal

model railway house

model railway canal bridge

model railway canal

The Mill is based on the one in Battlesbridge, Essex but the remainder of the layout is form my imagination and with the help of input from my Daughters, hence the riding stables.

I still have a lot of work to do as the far end at the left has scenery and a stone etc to build. But until I have had and operation on my wrist it will all have to wait a while.

I run mainly Graham Farish and Dapol on a DCC unit by GaugeMaster on the extension , but Meadow Falls is DC. The track and points are all Kato.

Hope you have enjoyed my pics if the want to see more please contact me.

Keep up the good work it really helps us to get so enthusiasm to continue with our work.

Yours Sincerely


A big thanks to Barry and Jon.

I did like Jon’s approach – making a start doesn’t have to be fancy.

David’s post is also a good example if this:

Starting a train layout.

In fact, thinking about it, if you ever find yourself wondering ‘Where do I start when making a model train layout’ the answer is usually with the track plan.

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.

9 Responses to Where do I start when making a model train layout

  1. Stephen Hill says:

    Barry , very nicely done, top notch indeed . Great detail and great job on your bsckdrop scenes . Must be relaxing to run the trains through your villas . Very nicely done .
    Your modeling skills are excellent, most impressive .
    Absolutely a magnificent layout .

  2. Brian Olson says:

    I did something similar just using left over track and buildings for a small 2×4 switching layout. My main layout is 6×12 and lots of fun, but it’s amazing what you can do by just… experimenting.

  3. Mike Balog says:

    Wishing Al, and all our Fellow Modelers a very Happy Passover and Very Happy Easter Too. From Across the Pond in New Hampshire, U.S.A.

    ~ Mike ~
    Sat. April 8, 2023
    10:22 AM, EDT.

  4. Hugo Budzien says:

    Love the canal!!!!
    Keep us posted as you extend your empire.
    I pray your operation goes well.

  5. Fred Gevalt says:

    Barry –

    Nice job. The Goldilocks solution on detail: not too much, not too little – just right. Nicely integrated with backdrop, nice colors, very clean.

    A jewel of a layout!

    Fred Gevalt

  6. Jack Bury says:

    Barry, wonderful layout. Particularly the attention to detail and the structures. Are they kits, ready made or did you scratch build them?

    Jack in Pa.

  7. Malcolm says:

    Barry, Very nicely done and a real bummer to develop tunnel carpal syndrome. Good luck with the operation. I have one comment in general to people who say, “I model in _ gauge” instead of “_ scale”. I always have to suppress the urge to ask them, “Which one? Narrow, standard or broad?” For example, there are communities of modelers who model in Nn3, HOn3, or Zm and in Europe there are probably people who model dual broad/standard gauge which is prototypically common where interchange with the eastern bloc occurs. Of course, in the eastern bloc the most popular gauge is probably broad.

  8. Tim Armstrong says:

    Hi Barry,
    Your love of railroading and artistic mastery are a perfect blend. Thanks very
    much for sharing. I’ve been a rail fan since a child when a steam train passed
    slowly out of the station in a cloud of steam whistles and bell. You have
    captured that magic beautifully. Please keep up the good work and heal safely.
    Thanks again,

  9. william janmes palmer says:

    very nice

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