The latest from Ken

I’m starting with a subject I’m very fond of today: making a start!

“Hi Al….Started this year…Hollow core door and will have a 4ft extension off the back left…


Mike’s made a great start. And it doesn’t matter how small your start is – just make one. That’s how the fun begins.

Now on to Gregory.

He made his start here, if you want to get up to speed.

“Well I am happy to see the positive response from my project, so let’s keep going:

First of all, I ended up using XtrkCad for a number of reasons. It is very hard for me to understand the underlying principles of CAD. Somehow, I was able to understand XtrkCad. (I tried SCARM, Anytrack, 3rdPlanit, CadRail. Ugh. I almost gave up!)

XtrkCad let me do two things that the others could not.

Create curves with 7” radius in HO scale.

Remember, some of these tracks are running in urban streets and this is common for street running.

Secondly, it allowed me to create a custom turnout, to match the Richard Orr single point turnouts. This was the biggest issue for me.

Downside is that there is no 3D. But I will address that later.

So I started:

The right side is the Howard Street area and the elevation is 0”

The dark line in the middle is a two sided backdrop and the left side is the run to Waukegan and is at elevation 4”. So the backdrop will have tall flats on the Chicago side and shorter flats on the Waukegan side.

The High Speed line to Milwaukee will disappear under a viaduct and remain hidden.

On the Chicago side, the topmost track will disappear behind some industrial low relief buildings. (Actually, I have some from Al that should work out just fine.) I didn’t put any industrial switching in just yet.

Then reality started to rear its ugly head. On the right side, I have 10 tracks running parallel and only 4 feet to fit them in.

The easiest one to get rid of was the center track running through the station. So I removed that and put a double crossover on the Waukegan side. The siding behind the buildings at the top had to go too. They were the least useful in this plan.

All of those tight turns and switches in an inaccessible area under Waukegan had to go too. That would never be a reliable situation.

So I made it a simple loop that would run along the edges of the railroad. It gave me pretty much access to those tracks (and overhead wire).

This is the loop that the Electroliner would run on. I have a brass model from Nickle Plate.

There are a few others available, but none of them are real reliable runners. So simplicity wins out. And if I want to run in the other direction, I just have to
switch the trolley poles.

They were articulated trains (one truck supported the ends of two cars). They had a top speed of 110mph, but the highway crossing gates could not come down fast enough, so they were restricted to 90 mph.

The North Shore also had freight operations. So the Steeple cab locomotive will pick up cars from the Railroad interchange (right next to the 2 sided backdrop) and drop them off at the Merchandise
Dispatch warehouse (double track spur on the Chicago side) and to various industries north of the city.

I put in a few spurs, just to reserve the space. This will be refined later on.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Electroliners, here are some pictures.

They were articulated trains (one truck supported the ends of two cars). They had a top speed of 110 mph, but the highway crossing gates could not come down fast enough, so they were restricted to 90 mph.

The North Shore also had freight operations. So the Steeple cab locomotive will pick up cars from the Railroad interchange (right next to the 2 sided backdrop) and drop them off at the Merchandise Dispatch warehouse (double track spur on the Chicago side) and to various industries north of the city.

I put in a few spurs, just to reserve the space. This will be refined later on.

The interchange tracks curve a bit at the far end. I anticipate that they will go under a bridge or something and butt up against a mirror.

This should create the image that they continue to go on, past the edge of the table. The mirror has to be set at an angle, so the viewer won’t see himself/herself when looking at it.

That’s it for today. There are still a lot of adjustments to be made.


“Al, the way I see it.

Do your homework. Set reasonable goals relative to:

What layout do I want to build?

How much space do I actually have to work with?

What trade offs will I have to make between wants and practicality?

Where are my skills and expertise?

What outside help might I need?

What outside help is actually available to me and at what cost?

What family time and relationships will be affected by this hobby?

What financial impact and hardships might this hobby impose?

Can I keep it from getting out of control?

Do I have physical limitations to consider?

These are just some considerations. There will be others because we are all different in our own way.


“Hi Al hope all is well and i trust you and your followers have had a great summer modeling! Have a new vid that shows the layout running and the real water spouts are up and flowing. Take a look and I ask you all what kind off vid you would like to see the workings off the layout or the finished .. Maybe a start to finish vid what do you guys think?


(Ken’s latest takes a while to get going – but stay with it. It’s worth it).

A huge thanks to Ken – have a look at the comments below!

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.

71 Responses to The latest from Ken

  1. Mike Trenary says:

    Ken’s video is very very good.The bus driver needs to have a talk with the safety crew about running the RED stop light. The water scenes are out of this world

  2. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    Ken’s layout is over the top. It reminds me of that incredible one in Germany that has planes taking off and landing, autobahn, as well as an incredible train layout.
    Very well done, a real stunner.

  3. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Ken .
    Your layout is absolutely amazing!!!!!!!

  4. Wilma Montgomery says:

    On a par with Miniatur Wonderland, Hamburg, Germany. I spent an enchanted afternoon there.

  5. luke becker says:

    hello I would like to know how ken makes the cars and trucks move on the bridge I can see a belt or a cord that is attached to the vehicles it is disguised very well .it is really nice I would like to make it, plus the figures, I have figured out I think ? it would be nice if ken had a video of how he animated al of his animation a real excellent layout with extreme detail in and out of the buildings. keep your site going al it is great I am 75 years old and still playing with trains

  6. Bruce says:

    It would be nice to see or read from plans, the chronological sequence of the building of this sight and possible websites to visit or to place orders for the electronics, the buildings and the powered cars, trucks and monorail systems.

  7. Bullfrog in Ontario says:

    Ken ! Your modelling is super. And the animation of the entire layout is fantastic. I especially enjoyed the strategically placed mirror to double the underground activity, and the community roller-blading event. A real ‘wowser’ of a layout. Thanks for sharing. – ‘Dave’ in Ontario

  8. Bruce says:

    That is quite a layout and very impressive. Lots of hours work in that. Awesome.

  9. WoW!
    What a great layout, I can only imagine how many years this awesome layout has taken you to build, not to mention the hours spent building the buildings. It’s an amazing project. You must be so proud of your end result, Thank You for sharing.

    Stemar, (Downunder)

  10. Joe Gray says:

    This video is great… The layout is world class… Got to have more please.

  11. Cord says:

    Uitstekend! Dat heeft me terug naar Amsterdam gebracht. Beautiful job, Ken!

  12. a great layout right out of my league the scenery is amazing.

  13. Raymond Bove says:

    There are so many remarkable aspects in Amsterken, such as the buildings, the overall detailing, the lighting. Great sklls combined with investments well beyond the reach of the average modeller.
    But my feeling is that I am looking at a model of a city, not at a railway layout.
    And the water is too clean and therefore unrealistic. Nothing looks less like real water than real water out of its element.. Also the mountainous area is just ludicrous considering this is actually Amsterdam in what is, after all a country, named The Netherlands for some reason,, part of the Low Countries, and where the highest areas around Valkenburg I believe, getting close to Germany, have the topographical size of a molehill. I suppose it is what is known as poetic licence. But congratulations anyway on the quality of many elements.

  14. Lawrence Phipps says:

    Now that’s what I call a Layout !!!!!!

  15. Jeff Keene Sr says:

    SUPERLATIVE work!! Godzilla really cracked me up!!! Thanks!!

  16. sundaram says:

    That was truly professional job Ken. Detailing was superb. Was the system of running cars , trucks and buses similar to those used for guided vehicles in a factory shop floor. It was as if it was a part of Miniature Wunderaland, Hamburg. Was it your own effort Ken or did you have people to assist you?
    It would be huge task to maintain this, how do you do this? How long did it take to build this ?
    Once again a fantastic effort and mind boggling.

  17. Bill says:

    Uber Railway ! Just blown away ! More……..

  18. Cameron says:

    Fantastic video and layout. I have been looking forward to this next instalment. You hever disappoint Ken. Keep it up.

  19. Brian Messenger says:

    Ken, what a fantastic layout, loads of hard work has paid off. Keep it up. Brian – RSA

  20. Aaron says:

    This layout is absolutely amazing. I love the way the cars move and the modeling is some of the best I have ever seen. I love Godzilla!! That is a great touch.

  21. Orv says:


  22. Adam Labaziewicz says:

    WOW Ken,
    Awesome layout!!! Great use of mirrors, fantastic use of water (hope you can get the other canals going) and great choice of music (PJ). Love it, love it, love it!!!
    Keep up the good work
    Adam from Jersey
    Godzilla Rules.

  23. Chris says:

    An incredible layout! I can’t imagine how many hundreds of hours it took to put it together. How do the cars, trucks and busses work? Are they all remote-controlled vehicles? I’d love to to know the secret!

  24. Jon Irwin says:

    great stuff, with some good ideas. Are you locked up in the train room because
    I don’t know where you get the time to achieve all this. Thanks for sharing.
    Jon Canberra Australia.

  25. Archie Yarbrough says:

    Ken, that is an absolutely awesome layout. I’ve got to go back and watch again because somehow I missed Godzilla???? How did you keep the water contained? I love the movement of the water!

    And Zip, I agree there should be goals but I get stumped on your first one.. I just don’t know what layout I want. I think I have plenty of room. Time is another problem. I would love to have outside advice but sure can’t afford to pay for it.

  26. harry says:

    love that bus, never seen one like it, where ya buy it? layout is so great, water and all!

  27. Chris says:

    Well done Ken, you make it look so easy in place’s, by the way just asking along the canal that thats not the house that was built with one door you have modeled is. Chris Melbourne Australia.

  28. Ray says:

    amazing layout please post more….

  29. Roy says:

    Fantastic and love the skating figures. Where did they come from and can you get them in 00/H0.
    Roy. Shrewsbury UK

  30. Richard Mowatt says:

    Great layout Ken I am only starting and your layout gives me so much inspiration. I love the water scenes. Good to see that someone else has Godzilla in their layout.

    Cheers Richard Australia

  31. Eppi Santiago says:


    I love the water scenes. Your layout was so inspiring and incredible.

  32. Frank Goessler says:

    Ken,. I have no idea where to begin. Talk about a jaw dropping layout. I’m so glad there are gentleman out there like yourself who set the bar so high that second tier modelers like myself.can just sit back and enjoy the show. Believe me, I love my o gauge trains and wouldn’t trade them for anything. (Thanks Dad). But I am stunned at what you have there. You will not get a negative comment out of me. Like I said, cudos to gentleman like yourself who are the benchmark of modeling. Please keep sending posts and pictures. I for one can’t get enough. O gauge Frank in St.Charles, Mo. ( And a huge thank you to Al for providing an outlet for such brilliance.)

  33. Dennis says:

    Fantastic !!!

  34. I don’t comment often, but Ken’s layout is totally amazing. How he gets into it to do the immense work needed is beyond me

  35. Rick Hane says:

    OMG Ken! Complex Faller system, trolleys, trains, main station, flying bridge, red light district, working street lights and working drainage with real water running. and the inside of the church wow. What can one say, it’s wonderful. I can’t begin to imagine the time and money invested. I real labor of love I am sure.
    Love it, Rick

  36. Warren Ferguson says:

    Marvelous, Ken, just marvelous!
    By far, the most amazing layout I’ve ever seen. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us. Warren, AL, USA

  37. Bill Holt says:

    amazing !!! what a superb layout

  38. Gary O'Connor says:

    Ken your modelling is out of this world. Wonderful stuff.
    My one criticism would be that the trams and trucks seem to be travelling far too fast, I would hate to try to walk across the road there 🙂
    I envy your talent.

    Gary – Australia

  39. Antony says:

    Always a pleasure to watcgh Amsterken – wonderful modelling.

    Zip poses a set of very relevant questions. There is one that I can certainly answer – Can I keep it from getting out of control? – NO!

    All The Best,

  40. Benjamin Wright says:

    What an amazing layout! Wow! Well done!

  41. Frank Costello says:

    Good Morning from Connecticut,
    We will be moving and will not have room for my layout.
    I want to build a new N guage layout at the new condo.
    I will disconnect and pack all items.
    I have still and videos I will send to anyone who requests them.
    I am unsure about pricing the layout but have been told to start at 3k plus shipping costs.
    My number is 862502937.
    I am 77 so I guess it is time to downsize.

  42. daniel gwizdak says:

    There are 2 mistakes on this beautiful layout, The first is the speed
    of the train going around the building and the second is in the same
    area with a Bus pushing a truck. Also I will ad that the water needs
    to be improved. I loved the background wall scenery and how was
    that acquired


    I read the critique’s comment. His layout must be the most breath taking in the world!

  44. Richard Graham says:

    Wow! This was so spooky and brought me back to my beloved Amsterdam! So many times I travelled to Amsterdam Centraal and overnighted, there was Damrak and so many other places to bring back memories. You have captured the details so well, Dank u wel!!

  45. george zaky says:

    Please disregard the Nay sayers. Nothing is impossible for people who do nothing. Nobody appreciates your work more than I because my philosophy is that its not just the trains that run in life-everything else does, the cars & buses, people, boats, planes do. You accomplished what I have not been able to create and I salute you. The time, effort, expense and most important the creativity of your masterful work is so beyond even the most accomplished modeler.
    So you ask what would we like to see? The list is too long so I beg you to please keep up the dialogue, explain to us mortals what you are up too. Its like asking DaVinci how do you paint the Mona Lisa?

  46. that layout was fantastic.How do the cars and trucks move? The details are amazing, I have to see more of his layout. WOW!

  47. Alan Sakalas says:

    Outstanding video of an outstanding layout. Amazing details including cars, boats and trucks moving in sync with the trains and trolleys. Superb modeling!

  48. Jerry in New Mexico says:

    Ah! Gojira! Yoi! Taihenyoi! Wonderfully detailed and complex layout, Ken! The outdoor concert venue is striking and it’s not every day that you find someone who understands that Godzilla is a necessary force of nature, key to driving revisions of your work!

  49. Alan says:

    Amazing the monorail looks like a Disney one where are you living in wish I could visit

  50. Bob says:

    Great effort and amazing animation. If I may say, tongue in cheek, it would be more authentic if there were thousands of bicycles everywhere. I met a man once who told me he lived on the mountains of Holland – 50 metres above sea level; but it’s your layout for your pleasure, if you want a mountain you can jolly well have one.
    Regards from New Zealand. Keep safe, and happy modelling.

  51. Jimsan says:

    All I can say is WOW!!!!! This is one of the best layouts I have ever seen!

  52. Lou says:

    I really appreciated your video.
    Would be interested to know its size, length of tracks and whatever details you’d be willing to share.
    The video only shows the finished product but only modelers can appreciate the time, effort, $$’s and talent that has gone into it.
    Super work.

  53. Jim Kennedy says:

    All of the above comments. Double WOW. Ingenuity at its finest.

  54. Tim Shirk says:

    As beginning modeler i can only grasp part of the meaning in the questions layed out by Zip. It is difficult to know what you want when just starting. I guess everyone new should just anticipate starting over at some point.

  55. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    I think I was at Amsterken. My wife and a friend asked me to take their bags back to the car and sent me up this street with all of the friendly folks in the windows. Your video had a street just like it. Lots of colorful lights. Your use of water has given me the inspiration to try it myself.

  56. Will in NM says:

    Ken, I am flabbergasted by your layout and your modeling skills. I can’t even imagine how one goes about planning a layout like yours — the details and all the complexity would overwhelm my brain I think. I salute you for your incredible efforts and thank you for sharing the fruits of your labors with us mere mortals. I would welcome any thoughts or information you would care to share with us about how you came up with the design of your layout.

  57. Ron Edwards says:

    It takes a brave fellow to mix live water with trains and electricity! My wife and I think that you have a great layout with exceptionally captivating details.


  58. John Bigglestone says:

    That is a fantastic layout and a superb video, and is excellent on a number of levels.
    The quality of the layout animations is incredible, with all the traffic, the skaters, the trains, the water and many more.
    The scenery is very lifelike and captures the atmosphere of Amsterdam with its tall houses, canals, construction activities, red light district, the church interior and the station to name but a few.
    The video is brilliantly directed and depicts the subject almost from within.
    Only one word for it – Brilliant! I envy your patience and skill
    If anyone dare criticize let them post something better!

  59. Patti in Curdsville, VA says:

    Ken, that was incredible! So much movement and life! Keep rockin’ Dude!

  60. Rod Mackay says:

    An inspiration as ever, Ken. As a tram buff may I just say I think that unit you have flying round the tramway loop is a main line suburban unit, not really suitable for street running. Lovely to see somebody modelling the little known Dutch Alps, where would we be without a bit of imagination?


  61. r c morris says:

    how did you do the road

  62. Warner says:

    Wow. I’m speechless. Looks like you model for a living. Certainly gives us all things to aspire to.Totally over the top for a home hobbyist. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  63. Pappy Price says:

    For the people that talk bad about ones work,please send in pics or video of your layout.I’d love to see perfect. Pappy in TN. USA

  64. Wow! Fantastic layout.
    And the critics come out.”It looks like Amsterdam but there is no mountain in the low country”. “The (real) water doesn’t look like real water”
    First of all, this is modeling. Modelers use what they see and their imagination for what they would like to see. Strive for accuracy with whimsy thrown in.
    Water. I suspect we all started with blue paint on our board for water. We evolved to more complex composures with combinations of materials and epoxies to get a more accurate look for water. The logical next step would be to use real water.
    How many of you critics are running water pumps in your layouts?
    I think this layout is an amazing piece of work that will advance the technics for all of us.
    Next step, brown water and boats controlled with DCC moving about in a large harbor, interacting with moving (DCC) cars and DCC trains. Maybe a train ferry that actually moves trains across a harbor.

  65. John says:

    Very clever use of mirrors inside the underground section to add “depth”. And of course a million other details make this an incredible layout!

  66. Stingray says:

    Magnificent work….love the moving traffic

  67. Mr. Ron from S. Mississippi says:

    An amazing amount of action in a relatively small space as far as I can tell. There is a good compromise between scenery and trains. Some layouts actually have too much trains and not enough background. Maybe some texturing under the water would give the water a more realistic look. The water needs a “current” to see it flow. I am not being negative, just trying to help a fellow modeler. Even the water in “miniature wunderaland” doesn’t appear too real. Water just doesn’t behave in miniature as it does in nature.

  68. Mr. Ron from S. Mississippi says:

    P.S. Aside from my comments, the layout is one of the best I have ever seen.

  69. Terry Miller/IDAHO USA says:

    Ken’s layout is terrific and the addition of actual water is amazing. I haven’t seen any articles on how exactly he contained the water etc., and hope that he will post something on that subject.
    I’ve always read that the problem with water (despite the obvous) is that it evaporates. Does he refill his canal before each running?
    Please fill us in.

  70. David says:

    It would be great to see how ken wired that huge layout. Also doesn’t running water cause problems?

  71. John Philip Ruetz says:

    Looks like someone put in a lot of time and work into it. Great job.

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