Model train scenes

Mark’s been in touch with some excellent advice on model train scenes.

Please don’t just read today’s missive – please, please post your comments on this one.

I say this because Mark’s words below really are words of wisdom: doing a little of something is infinitely better than doing a lot of nothing – especially when it comes to layouts.

It’s no surprise Mark was one of the first in the Hall of Fame.

“Hi Al.

We recently had a discussion in our model railroad group about why frustration can set in with building a layout.

Among many reasons, the one that stood out the most was “being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the project”.

Everyone agreed that having a good track plan is a must, but everything doesn’t have to be built immediately.

The Tip here is that you can actually complete a “small scenic vignette” with a great sense of accomplishment and, with proper planning, incorporate it in the main layout at a later date.

This allows one to really enjoy (and learn) the entire hobby without the “analysis to paralysis” that ends up with literally nothing being accomplished.

Attached is a link to a very short video of a model train scenes afternoon project that filled in a section of bare plywood leading into a tunnel. (I didn’t know paparazzi were rail fans!)



model train scenes

A big thanks to Mark for sharing his model train scenes advice.

And to prove the point, here’s what John says:

“That resonates with me. I was overly ambitious with a small N guage layout I started as a learning tool and it caused immense frustration because I bit off more than I could chew.

I wanted IR sensors, auto reverse polarity, electrified switching, signal lights, etc and in the end I couldn’t get the trains to run.

Ended up ripping out everything and am now restarting (after a year of staring at it) on a very simple oval track plan and will do nothing but get it running first. Then install some IR sensors (above ground) controlling signals, no tortoise switches, and scenery.

I learned that I need to do it in stages first, and rule 1 is get the track working first!


Don’t forget, please post your comments on this one. And if it’s given you the gumption you need to get going, start here.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

146 Responses to Model train scenes

  1. Mark J says:

    Truly genius. Link it to a reed switch and it does it’s thing automatically as well. I’m assuming that was done with the aid of fibre optic strands. Got to have a go at that myself. There really should be a Transport Police officer fining them for being on the railway though 🙂

  2. Cameron says:

    Wow!!!. I would love to know how you wired up the camera flashes. Great scene.

  3. Keith Coyle says:

    Now that was pretty cool. I wonder how he got them to flash like that. Good job

  4. Patrick HANLON says:

    I feel the same way. I have been working on my small 4×8 in my unconditioned garage for about 4 hrs now. With the hot and humid summers and cold winters in Maryland USA, I work on my layout only if the days are going to be enjoyable for me to work. Still enjoyable. Just waiting for my kids to grow up and the basement is no longer the rec room. Then I move there.
    Love the detail on your video. Would love to see your layout video when you are done.

  5. Mike says:

    Can you givce us a rundown on how you got the lights to flash please?

  6. James Hillcoat says:

    Love the railfans’ flashes, very clever!

  7. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    That is one of the most inventive realistic setups I have ever seen. Kudo’s on the creativeness and ingenuity.

  8. david howarth says:

    A good piece of advice there Mark , love the flashing camera lights ….Dave

  9. Bob Cassidy says:

    Very nicely done !!

  10. Martin Gliddon says:

    Superb slow and prototypical running. Now Dave’s layout is great, but the speed of his trains is very toy town. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration and regards for Dave who is a great modeller, but in his last video, the speed that some trains started from the platform would have caused whiplash to all the passengers on his trains. The last coach must have been doing 60mph by the time it cleared the platform. As I said, this is just constructive criticism.
    By comparison, Mark’s little scene is also well modelled, but the speed of the train is just about right. It also goes to show that keeping the camera focussed on a small area and leaving it filming that scene is much more realistic than videos that pan around the scene. I also agree with what Mark is saying, but I’m not following his principle as a railway layout is never finished as far as I’m concerned, and I just love the challenge of almost completing a scene, but always finding that little something extra that makes it so special.

  11. James Ruggiero says:

    I have to sections to my layout. One is 8×12′ and the other is 4×24′
    I’ve built, and building, everything in small 2×3′ sections making it very easy to build detailed sections. Piecing them together and getting track laid finishes very easily for me.

    If you plan accordingly, it’s works very well.

    Al, I will be sending you an update soon.


  12. Dave Whatley says:

    Getting started is half the battle. Make a plan and see how big you can go. Think about what kind of train and land you want and just start at one end and do a little at a time. Look for help like places like this, this web site has open dee my eyes a lot of times. Your train lay out is looking real good. Keep up your good work. Dave in Savannah, G. USA

  13. Ken says:

    It always amazes me what can be done. It is overwelming for a newby like me to just get started.

  14. David V. Corbin says:

    I believe much depends on what you are most interested in. For me it is coordinated operations of continually running trains. Having multiple tracks (including reversing loops, locals, mainlines) is my first priority. IF it runs on “bare wood” for a while, that it ok for me. Of course, others take the opposite view, and that is perfectly fine – in fact the diversity of focus across the hobby is what makes it so special to me.

  15. Jim Moran says:

    Love the “Flash Cameras”. Great scene, would sure like to know how you made the lights flash.
    Jim, Fl., USA

  16. Herbert Sussman says:

    Mark is right in his approach. I’m working on my first layout, have a track plan and am just about finished with the bench work. But my goal right now is to get the first dogbone loop laid and get some trains running so I can enjoy that. Other items, like the remote switching, lights, tunnels and other scenery will come in time, but I’m not rushing any of it in order to enjoy the progress as I go along. Al, thanks for keeping this site going and giving us newbies continued inspiration.
    Herb in N. Carolina

  17. John wisnieski says:

    Very creative indeed!

  18. Steve from New Jersey says:

    It all depends on what you are interested in. If you want to run trains or build your own world. It is fun to run trains but I enjoy the building. When I am out I am always looking at how things look and how I can use them on my layout. I can spent a month on one small section. Don’t be in a hurry. (I am retired so time is on my side). If I spend three or four hours a day or miss a day or two to just think about an area than so what. I don’t have a boss looking over my sholder a I don’t have a time table get your track plan set and the train running properly that is the most important thing. Then just fill in the spaces one at a time but have fun.
    Steve from NJ

  19. Jon Rutkowske says:

    Wow, that’s really cool. What a wonderful visual!

  20. mark Conner says:

    Im so impressed!

  21. ian impett says:

    new slant on trackside !

  22. albert holmes says:

    Fantastic (how did you do the flash photography) I am still interested in the railways I have an 8×4 layout with the english steam years. I have another hobby, I am secretary & treasurer of a bird club which takes a lot of my time plus my Daughter & Grandaughter etc emigrated to Canada five years ago.
    Its all go but keep me informed anyway.
    Regards Albert.

  23. Dave G says:

    In the UK we rarely have the chance to make really large layouts we often see coming from the USA but the advice still holds true here.

    My ‘medium’ size plane is an L shape 36″ wide, 6′ 6″ by 8′ long when complete. I’ve spend 3 months working gently on the smaller board. Using new materials, I now have the confidence to start the larger more complex part of the plan.

    Great little Vid!

  24. Appookta says:

    No room for a centralized setup, so that’s my plan – just vignettes around the wall with tracks leading to and from each, all around the room, working one at a time to completion. I can still run the train through the entire process, since the track is completed first.

  25. jas0n says:


  26. Mike Pace says:

    That is very nice and very different, I really like it !!! Thanks for sharing it.

  27. Tom Ponsonby says:

    WOW!! I am one of those flashing.
    Great advice! one hour, one day, one week, one month at a time and you won’t believe the results.

  28. Richard Carlson says:

    Great innovation with the cameras flashing.
    I have planned out my HO layout. Already making changes to the drawings. The Idea of starting small and building as time and money (and wife) permit, is a great concept. I was originally thinking of building the complete layout at one time.
    I still have time to plan as the grandchildren are coming and will take up the “train room” for awhile.
    Meanwhile I have some car modifications and some kits to assemble and paint.

  29. Roy Tibbles says:

    I think you do a great job like Dave does, do watch both of you as for videos, but more on the British line as for railways. Sorry I haven’t comment on yours. Roy

  30. william norris says:

    thanks for all your model railroad information

  31. Doug says:

    Thanks for bringing to mind rome wasn’t built in a day….. this is a nice picture with idea giving thoughts

  32. Carl Kinzinger says:

    Great little video Mark and your comments are bang on. Here in my hometown, my N scale group (part of a larger club) is just embarking on a new layout in an 8′ by 30′ room. We are at the start of building the base tables which will be followed by track laying and DCC wiring, Once we are satisfied with that, sometime out in the future we will then add scenery, buildings, people.
    On another issue, I agree with the comment about speed Dave runs his trains around his superb layout. A little momentum for starting and stopping trains would go a long way to realiism.
    Cheers – Carl, Port Hope, Ontario Canada

  33. John says:

    Hey Mark had those train spotters specially come down to take pictures of the pickles van!! LOL! What an absolute brilliant idea mate n never seen that done before!…….Reckon` Dangerous Dave` should have a few on his platform for when his Royal Train passes through!

    All the best.

    JohnE UK

  34. larry says:

    great stuff

  35. Steve Roberts says:

    Very clever little scene, well done – SteveR UK

  36. larry wilhite says:

    great stuff how did you come up with that?

  37. Pete Evangel says:

    When building my father in-laws O-Gauge “toy Lionel” layout, we started with sort of a mental track plan. Should have put it to paper as we kept changing it mid stream. Since we didnt know what we were doing, we were able to learn as we go. Like Mark said, take it a little at a time doing it in sections. I guess we did that part right! For me the wiring was the most difficult part. I called in some help to get that done. We know have three sections all joined together. The first is 20 ft by 3.5 feet, joined to a 15 feet by 4 feet leg and then a 6 feet by 4 feet “yard”. It’s been quite the process doing it in sections.

    Like everyone else wants to know, how did you get the camera’s wired in? Since my layout is O-gauge, I need to find figures with cameras too. Where did you get those?

    Pete, Sunny Northern Calif.

  38. Bill says:

    Wow, what will the great ones think of next. WHAT SCALE, I could not tell detail was so good.

  39. yeeeow pretty impressive scene w the photo flash and how ingenious is that???
    not to mention the time it took to figure out WHERE exactly to put the reed switch…how inovative!!
    never seen that before
    keep em runnin fellas

  40. bob says:

    now that’s modeling at its best **************

  41. Harry Clark says:

    Excellent layout. Love the idea of small section development

  42. Deon says:

    Wow! I keep learning and seeing things that I would never have thought of myself.

  43. JD Robinson says:

    loved the camera flashes are the lights led?

  44. very clever

  45. WILL FARR says:


  46. scott renshaw says:

    Good idea Mark I have been thinking about starting another layout for a year now this is a good way to start. just one section at a time then put them together as I go.
    Thanks Scott

  47. John Douglas says:

    Very clever indeed!
    A few well known sayings come to mind:
    The journey is half the fun.
    “Festina Lente” (Latin) hurry slowly, basically take your time and get it right first time.
    And finally, have fun, if you don’t your doing it all wrong!

  48. Mike Manenica says:

    I like the emails, keep them coming!

  49. Mark Loos says:

    WOW! Just switched on the computer and am amazed at the response on this simple little project. And it truly is simple and did take only several hours from start to finish. Frist of all, to answer all the inquiring minds, I have no more special skill or abilities then anyone else – including, yes, YOU. The photographers are commercially available from NOCH GmbH Part #1752. If you simply connect it to 12v everything you see in the video happens automatically – except for the trains running. 😉 Now to have it operate ONLY when trains pass, just use a simple photo sensor. I have mine hidden in a small drain pipe about 15 inches away from the “scene”. Adjust the distance depending on how fast you run your trains. If this seems a little to daunting for you, just install a simple on-off switch near the scene and as a train approaches flip it on. A little pricy at around $79 US list but I’ve seen prices on line for under $50 US. For me, just your comments have made the entire project worth it! Or, as my beautiful bride saws, he spends 90% of his money on trains, and the rest he just wastes. Keep your rails shiny! Mark <

  50. Mark Loos says:

    Quick P.S. the NOCH part number is actually 17520 Mark <

  51. mark loos says:

    Another quick note – scale is HO. Mark <

  52. Jasper Herbst says:

    Truly genius and brillant. Congratulations.

  53. Tom says:

    Amazing Trackside! Model railroading advise motivational!
    Back in the groove … thanks Mark and Al for sharing.

    All the best,
    Tom Maryland, USA

  54. Nathan Perreira says:

    What a great idea having photographer taking picture’s of the train passing by love it. Nathan

  55. john says:

    Marks right i have been that overwhelmed ive missed all of Al’s posts busy in the loft wiring

  56. john says:

    fantastic idea Mark i will give it a go when ive finished the other projects thanks

  57. Adam MacPherson says:

    That was cool as hell. What a great idea. Opens up the mind to other ideas. Great Job!!!!!

  58. Darrell says:

    And just when you think you’ve seen everything, that is amazing!

  59. George CSS says:

    half of them but all I do is dream about Half of the time about thin. Present;y I live with my Younger Brother and it’s getting so that we cannot get into the rooms with all the trains that we own. even in to the house We have a lot of the European G Gage, all the O Gage and some of the HO Gage.

    Please keep them coming.


  60. Ken says:

    I love how you have done the flashes looks really great

  61. Carl in Kansas says:

    Step by step is the best way to build a layout. Start with a plan, or at least your basic plan. If you want a big layout, you might start with a loop or a double loop, get the track powered up and run your trains. Want a super yard? Include a turnout on your loop now which will eventually lead to your yard – it is easier to add some turnouts in the initial stage than to add them later. Next, plan a section of scenery. Before you start that, paint the rest of the layout tan and call it desert. It is easy to do, and it sorta looks finished. Now hit the computer, make a sign (billboard) “Under Construction, enter at your own risk”. Your layout is now complete – for now. More to come at your own pace.

  62. Simon Holmes says:

    That’s brilliant! Given me a few ideas now!!

  63. Joseph Wright says:

    Sorry All for not posting, haven’t been able to do much with starting up on a layout. Just now getting things together. Finally freed up a small bedroom the wife is turning over to me. Lol I want to get everything I need before I do anything. So I guess it will be my winter project , what with vacations and all.
    I’ll never be able to do what people like Mark do , but I’ll have fun doing what I’m capable of. One thing I have going for me is that I have been collecting Macklin model trains (HO Gauge) for years, so I have a large amount of rolling stock and engines. Mostly steam,but I have quite a few F7 diesels and about 6 or 7.electric loco’s as well a beautiful PRR GG1. SO NOW I need to get moving on a place for them to rides the rails. BTW that little video was quite impressive it shows Marks talents off. Am this a great site for model railroaders, keep it going.

  64. Joseph R. McGeady says:

    No body could be unexcited enough be taking a swig while the consist roared by!

  65. Robert says:

    super cool….I don’t have that kind of imagination or patience

  66. Ron Harris says:

    I agree with the philosopy of small bites at a time. Mountain climbers did not go to mount Everest for their first climb. They learned the basics,bought their gear, and worked on their skills as time permitted. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just work on some small aspect of your layout and enjoy that bit of progress.

  67. paul Otway says:

    I like it Mark, How did you get the cameras to work ?

  68. deon barden says:

    it absolutely amazes me the detail that some folks put into their layouts that short video was terrific well done

  69. Brian Foster says:

    Mark what can I say to do It justice. Good game & 12 out of 10. Good work & very well done……. 🙂 ……

  70. Darrel Wilkerson says:

    Very interesting ideas. I started out with an ho scale and one track and I ended up with a triple track main line and you have to do it little by little.

    My whole family got involved in and so did my oldest son’s friend, our layout was really a club size layout. I have a complete fair rides with operating motors that move all the rides.. you can’t do this all at once it takes time.

    Just be patience when you work and I suggest that you contact your public library or look in your phone book under community organizations and see if there is a model railroad club to go to and ask questions that how you will learn more. you can meet real railroaders who are working on the life size trains you enjoy it and they can answer a lot of questions. be there when they have the operate the trains and they will be more that glad to answer questions and don’t forget about the retired personnel they are more that willing to tell you how it was when they were working.

    Just remember Modeling Railroading is fun hobby you do a little bit at a time when you have it days off weekends evenings etc. The person who was living in Maryland you said that it was hot in summer and cold in winter. I live in North Dakota and still do.

    Use flex track for you tracks as you have some flexableably in curves, you might need to have a small heater in the room. Don’t forget to use a humidifer and a dehumidifer to help to take the mostiure out the layout as that much moisture can cause your motors to rust and to look up little tips. Do a round robin sessions – people you meet at model railroad clubs, who have experience, and you go to their house one week, go to someone’s house the following week to help them. The next thing you know they will be comming over to your house to help you out with your questions and answers, and a work session, and then you will have an operation session. Once you have that operating session you will always remember that you made new friends and you have something in common.

    The man who said that his wife says that he spends 90% on trains and 10% wasted best soultion to that problem is to get you wife involved in trains as well and let her help to run the trains than she won’t be so mad at you for you spending 90% on trains ok. get sone traing an road name that she likes you will have more color on your layout. thanks for reading this .

    darrel in north dakota

  71. Neil says:

    So cool!!

  72. Kim B says:


    Couldn’t agree more about the daunting task of actually starting, even having a plan setup. I wish that “Just do It” was as easy you say.

  73. Kim B says:

    Couldn’t agree more about the daunting task of actually starting even having a plan setup. I wish that “Just do It” was as easy to do as say.

  74. Dan Bourcy says:

    Please keep me listed, I have not yet had the time to scope out your site , what I have seen ,is a lot to take in at once, give Me time . Thank You . DJB

  75. Bob virnig says:

    Interesting concept. Did the idea come to him in a FLASH?

  76. Robert Mocko says:

    Pretty cool idea.

  77. Yann Simon says:

    Great concept must have took a lot of thought and work ,wish I had the skill to do something as creative

  78. Bruce says:

    I am mostly an HO beginner/reader/learner. However I do enjoy the tips and ideas from the more experienced modelers that you post. Your site is very informative. Thank you for your hard work.

  79. Joe N. says:

    super cool, love the attention to detail. My own layout started off well, built plywood platform 52″ high…28’x9′ and had put down 1″ foam board all the way around and started shaping hills and valleys…now we are selling the house and the tear down was disheartening, oh well

  80. Kenneth Kitch says:

    Always enjoy your comments and what others are doing

  81. Dennis says:

    really great. I continue to be amazed at what some do with thier electronics.

  82. Stan says:

    Built a nice layout for my HO a few years ago but had to box it up as I didnt have much time to spend on expansion.. Now Im 70 yrs old and retiring in October. Your Website and tips are great. Its giving me the itch again to rebuild. Thank you.

  83. John says:

    To Pete in California, Artista Figures makes a couple of O scale photographers. Also check Scenic Express.

  84. Ken Robso says:

    Nice,creative,something diiifferent out of the ordinary

  85. Keith says:

    Very realistic idea using LED’s made to flash using NE555 timer triggered by a movement sensor.

  86. Andy Whitford says:

    Mark, This just goes to show what it is all about to me. Seeing a need. Planning a remedy, and fulfilling these ideas. Brilliant and eye-catching. My layout is in its first stages, it is my second effort (the first died of suffocation / starvation, caused by my blundering). I have been heeding advice on this website. I have planned carefully, designed a track plan to English practice and made baseboards. The track is laid loosely to see that it fits, and above all, I am heeding the best bit of advice to be repeated by most people in this wonderful hobby…….”Take your time, and above all ENJOY”. Thanks Al for a fantastic website.

  87. Brian Hull Yorks says:

    Oops! In my earlier message I referred to the dcc as dc. Sorry for the confusion. To allow separate train movements the analogue is divided into eleven separate sections each with an on – off switch. The eleven sections are divided into two separate controllers. Sounds complicated but not difficult to operate. Unlike the safety first route this is what gives me my pleasure. I have an overhead track plan and illuminate any “dead” track.

  88. Bob Lee says:

    I started really late building my Railway layout, yes-I’m 73 and are there many who would do the same. I have discovered the tracks to be the easy part, then I have to fill the country side with whatever. THAT is for me the hard part, figuring what should go where and does it look real. I get different magazines and see some layouts that look exactly like the real thing, I am struggling to get that perfection. I will persevere because the end product will not be just a miniature railway, but that is for me to know. If I ever finish this PROJECT, I will for sure let the world know. Typical stumbling blocks are-where to place the (SPEED LIMITS) SIGNS. and other important real life objects which have to be of the correct period. I.E The correct cars or trucks in the 30-40s. Or am I being too fiddly?

  89. Michael Smallbones says:

    Excellent idea.Guess it’s just a case of having a good imagination.
    10 out of 10.

  90. Richard Wilson says:

    Very good tip mark, though I have set everything up and fasten it all down but still only do one little section of the scenery at once but in situe on the layout.

  91. Christian Barabé says:

    Great work Mark. I am also very much interested in the vignette you posted and would appreciate tips on how to wire for the fanflashes. Great idea extremely well delivered. Christian.

  92. art jones says:

    I started modeling about 5 years ago and am currently working on my third layout. When I started I knew nothing about modeling but was looking for something to do because it was too cold to play golf. Since then I have found a group guys who have been into railroading for many years. We meet every Thursday nite at each others homes and work on their model. I enjoy reading your posting and have learned from them Please continue to send them. Thanks for all your help and knowledge!!!! Art

  93. David De Bondi says:

    Hi Al,
    I open all the emails I get from you and think they’re wonderful with great tips.
    I ‘m a novice just starting out, so have nothing to contribute at this stage, it’s all learning.
    Because I don’t comment doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them.
    Regards, David

  94. Mervyn Watling says:

    Hi. I love getting these emails. althopugh I haven’t been reading them all – very few recently, as my wife has been poorly. I have been too busy to really get on with the N gauge layout I was planning before I retired (2 years ago!), but I do intend to get cracking on it one day!
    Meanwhile, please keep me posted with all these inspirational tips and pieces!

  95. Austin Wilson says:

    That was super cool how the cameras were flashing when the train was coming. We have a rail fan in our local area and is is always filming the CN trains going by and puts them on You Tube for everyone to enjoy. Awesome video, love it.

  96. Alann says:

    Nice video!

  97. Theo says:

    Great work, sorry I can’t comment on many posts as I’m in the middle of moving house and having to travel 200Km at a time it is a busy period.

  98. Bill Parker says:

    Many thanks Al , for the extraordinary effort you put in to the formation and implementation of this site. Your quality of integrity shows !

    Bill Parker

  99. Bill Kimbro says:

    I really appreciate the emails, especially the tips that will save me money. I have not been reading them for awhile now, but I still have them and hope to go back here soon and read the ones that still are valid and get caught up. I have been very busy dealing with multiple things in my life this year that has left me not much time to do anything. Most of it started the end of January when my house burned and I lost everything. I have insurance, but I can not get reimbursed for all of my train stuff and a fair amount of other stuff as some different items are lumped into a list of items that they cap reimbursement at $2500. So my 30+ years of being in what I had always called my accumulation phase of preparing to make a layout went up in smoke literally. I am going to recuperate but it will take some time. Just keep sending emails for me to read.

  100. Jeff Gates says:

    Love the cameras!
    Have to file the ideas in my head until I can get started on my layout – just gathering ideas/materials until my outdoor summer projects are done. Looking forward to the indoor winter months.

  101. I open your emails a lot & enjoy the comments from your other railroaders.

  102. Gavin Dewar says:

    I love the flash photography – very clever – well done.

    I agree, for me finish ( or nearly finish – I don’t think they are ever finished !!) one bit at a time is the way to go.
    Howver I can see why some want to just get all the rail routes running first; my worry is that I would then get dihearted ant the slog of doing scenery in one long slog.

    But DO PLAN ALL the layout first – it can save a lot of hair tearing later !!!


  103. Robert George says:

    Very sound advice. I enjoy reading about all the other layouts. I’m still here. I’ve had no e-mail since June 14 on my birthday. Now I’m back so keep on keepin’ on.


  104. Jeff says:

    Mark hit it right on the head. I am building a 3×9 N-Scale layout. It has a view block down the middle and three tunnels, an inter modal yard and a factory and an engine house. Along with all the roads to get to all these things and the mountains on the other side, I could have gotten paralyzed by the sheer number of things to do. So I decided to start on one corner and build a mountain with a tunnel portal to see where that led me. I have now completed that tunnel and the only decision I have to make is to decide which tunnel to tackle next. Breaking the layout into discreet sub-projects was key to keeping me moving forward.

  105. Brian says:

    great work, very realistic. I have been buying trains, track, and buildings for three different scale projects over the years and now have enough to try out my first two layouts, one in G scale outdoors. and the other n scale to display year round and be able to change out the entire layout to correspond with the seasons. my third will be ho that i,ve been collecting since a child..

  106. Rod Mackay says:

    If the prospect of all that benchwork or all that tracklaying or all that wiring is getting you down, remember you can have a few “distraction” projects on the bench such as rolling stock kits or buildings, which can be made up and detailed on sub-bases of, say, thin ply, which can be easily stored and fitted to the layout later. Your beloved might also be more forgiving of the heavy construction phase if she/he can see the sort of finishing touches that will grace it. How about a model of your favourite pizzeria or honeymoon hotel?

  107. Robin Hallam says:

    love the scene, how did you do the camera flashes, how many times have you been asked that question.

  108. Walter Laramie says:

    Very nice. I have seen many layouts with rail fans along the right of way but never one with camera flashes. The synchronization with the approach of the train really tops it off. Great work.

  109. sam valdez says:

    thats awsome scene i will i had 10 % of the ideas i see on layouts i have a 10 x 24 room that just sits there ready for a b scale layout lol

  110. robert leach says:

    amazing now i have time off work its givin me the kick to make a start

  111. Shaun says:

    Very cool

  112. Pete Schmidt says:

    Please continue sending me the emails. I have been pretty busy the past couple months I just haven’t had much time.
    I enjoy reading the articles and feed back.
    Thank you!

  113. Frank Sandstrum says:

    Loved this it was a needed shot in the arm. I am in a modular club in MA USA and have two modules set around the Ames Shovel Works in North Easton, MA I have done some looking at the history of the Co. So there is more to the hobby then just running trains.
    Keep up the good work.

  114. Mike says:

    Nice job,
    really like the photographers I want some people in my layout . I found a 6 pack of photographers at my hobby store and will use them. I really like that you made the cameras flash.

  115. Mike says:

    I really like the idea of the cameras flashing. I bought a set of photographers at my hobby store and will use them on my HO layout. Thanks for sharing , I am finding lots of ideas here.


  116. John Battaglia says:

    Hi Al. I have learned rails of knowledge you have published, however, I cannot
    download your videos, so what do I do? Help. Thank you.

  117. Mark has hit on an important topic, because most of us do this not “to accomplish something” but to have fun. Satisfaction at a job well done is fun, but so is the process of doing the job. (Sometimes) So the goal is to achieve a healthy balance, tailored to your own tempermant , which in my own case is obsessive.

    With big projects like a 30 foot N scale layout, I find myself operating at different speeds and at varying intensity. I worked hard physically to build the diorama structure, clean out the basement, build the table, etc. I worked quickly to get the track plan designed and laid out.

    But after all that,, it was more satisfying to slow down and enjoy the backdrop painting, scenery, etc. And while not classically “more efficient,” what I’ve discovered is that working much more slowly, section by section has enabled me to evaluate and design as I go. And the more thought you put into a layout, the better the eventual product. You may not know, for instance, that the container port you had in mind when you started is not exactly complementary to the rest of the layout until you start mocking it up. Perhaps a rocky pier would allow a better distant perspective into the backdrop.

    And the resultant creative work is more fun. You’ve tried options A and B, then you work into option C, and discover that the appearance of the whole layout begins to “sing,” because you’ve finally hit the right notes, and without a context you might not have been able to envision them.

    I’m into the third year on my project, and having abandoned it for the last six months entirely to do different things, I’m now doing what Mark suggested – working on detailed scenes within scenes, pulling out a building, weathering it, adding interiors, lights, etc. in sessions that allow you to do them in a day or two. really great fun at this point,

    A friend asked me the other day when I thought the layout would be complete. After thinking for a second I told him (I’m 73) that I was timing it so that when the first responders and my wife lift my tired remains from the basement in a body bag, they will be the first audience to see “Fred’s world” as originally intended, and eventually executed!”

    Fred Gevalt

  118. Cary E Price says:

    Mark, great job on the flash bulbs, truly unique! I’ve been working on an outdoor layout for about 7 years now. in the summer months i work on the site, in the winter months make building, figures, vehicles etc… It has taken patience, patience, patience. But each small project is enjoyable and rewarding with the idea it will become part of a larger display down the road. I’ve got buildings in my basement workshop built in 2013 still waiting to go on the layout. maybe this summer, or next… So true, build it in small projects and have fun doing it….. over time it comes together. Cary in KY

  119. Doug says:

    When it comes to layout and train work – I coach myself to “Just do Something”
    This is helpful when building a complex model (currently a trestle) that is slow in progress. To change it up a bit – I work on scenery or an engine – or track performance or ballasting. This is helpful when small amounts of time like a half hour before we have to leave for something or other, to go down to the layout – and either run trains – or imagine what would work in the blank space -etc. I even move buildings around quite a bit before I make them permanent. Another thing to do is to simply take pictures at track level. You can then see what your background looks like and see small details the detract from the scene – or places where you can make improvements….There is always something to do.

  120. Gerald says:

    Genius. Something one doesn’t see on a lot of layouts. Love it.

  121. Charlie Hagerty says:

    The scenery is great and the photographers are a very nice feature. Great job!

  122. Benjamin Wright says:

    That is so cool! I’ve never seen model rr figures with flashes like that! Great job!

  123. Paul Case says:

    Sorry Mark but I could not find any indication of the flash photographers #17520 or any # on the Noch website. Please clarify this.

  124. Bob Amling says:

    Mark, Great idea and creativity to make it look so real! As to the comments about getting something done. Sometimes I just relax with a beverage and scan the layout and thinking about next steps. Then I’ll take some notes which will include a list of supplies. Later I’ll
    think about the list and how to accomplish particular tasks. It always helps to look here to see how others may have done it.
    Bob in Colts Neck Crossing NJ

  125. John Douglas says:

    Love the video, very neat and cleverly done.
    That said, the best way in my humble opinion is to take small bites. Start with a plan as well. Unless to are an extremely experienced modeller, there is no point in going for a room sized empire with multi tracks and full blown wireless DCC. Rather go for a small traditional loop or linear layout or a module and learn the tricks and techniques.
    Keep up the good work, Al!

  126. Macbear says:

    I’m in agreement with Steve from NJ. I treated myself to a layout that runs around the walls of what was my office before I retired. Not massive, but potentially daunting for a first layout. I took a lot of advice on track and wiring before starting and opted for DC.
    I’m more into scratch building scenery and lineside interest than running trains – but they bring it to life. At the rate I work there’s always plenty to do, and after 3 years I’m only 1/4 of the way through. I learn from my mistakes – so aim to make any errors just once and try to make something of those monuments to ignorance.
    Amongst other places, I’ve appreciated this site, particularly inspired by Dangerous Dave to put a bit of humour in. So my commercial outlets include: Dawn Hobbs – ironmonger; Hazel Nutt – greengrocer; Berryman & Ashe – funeral directors; The Lee-King pipe company and so on.
    Many thanks to a wonderful community on this site, especially Alastair.

  127. Marklin ed says:

    all i can say is ditto ditto

  128. Anton Bruce says:

    I concur with the “taking things in stages” attitude. Not only will it make you feel less like a fish out of water, but as you go along, your skill level increases as well. Even on a small 4×8 HO layout, you can always add to it and/or rip parts up and redo them another way. Also, it allows you to extend the time factor, which alone will cause less stress.

    And yes – I learned that the hard way…

  129. Robert D. Bouskill says:

    In 1997 I got a book called “Steam Steel & Stars” which is a book highlighting the work of O. Winston Link who photographed trains at night. Later in his life his wife locked him in the basement for years while she sold his work for a lot of money. The book is a great way to sit down and relive the days of steam in USA.

  130. Mark T. Pianka says:

    What can one say but OUTSTANDING!!! Great Job!!

  131. Ron Edwards says:


    Your comments are spot on. It is the “do something” or you will do nothing mentality that can set in. 30+ years with an unfinished 4′ x 12′ HO layout (and now hard to image being finished since I have moved to an O gauge basement layout) attests to my procrastination and work interferences. O gauge getting much more love since I am now retired/retired.

    Have never seen flash photography modeled on a layout and have been to hundreds of show and seen as many or more layouts. That is a great idea for a small space.


  132. Milton r Parson says:

    The flashing lights (camera lights) were awesome! one “thataboy”!!!!

  133. MILTON PARSON says:

    good job. flashing lights were awesome

  134. David says:

    Lovely work, and I totally agree with the idea of small dioramas, some really good detail can be added and its easier to work on the workbench/kitchen table. I have three sections done like that. The challenge is to connect the dioramas afterwards though.

  135. Thomas Meleck says:

    Terrific idea. Beautiful effect, well timed with the movement of the train. Would still like to know if you used fibre optic cables or LED’a for the photo flashes. They look great. Thanks for posting.–T.

  136. Erick says:

    Keep the good work. Neat and Kool.

  137. Ruben Simon says:

    I have a dream – I want to build “my” lake with my imaginary family enjoying a day together. Years ago, I bought Al’s offer, but that still hasn’t helped me get started. I maintain my dream vignette in my head, and hope to start it someday. But this 27 second video is exactly the type of scene that I expect to start with, whenever it happens.

  138. Carl says:

    Wow thanks for that that’s a good idea I’m surprised I didn’t think of it but then life can be overwhelming with other things and so you tend to put off the things that please you more or will bring you enjoyment I thank you for that again

  139. Warner says:

    You’re right on the money Mark. Love your inspiration, your views, layout and beautifully planned videos. Have viewed many and subscribed. Keep it up the great work inspiring others. From a newbie.

  140. George says:

    I read once that a modeler, after carefully laying down his track (the most important thing), scenicked one square foot at a time rather than rushing through the whole ptocess. This approach can be seen on the Internet. Search for Mark Towan. He makes it look easy.

  141. Brian Olson says:

    LOVE THIS! I’ve been thinking of getting some n-scale photographers for a section of my layout, never cross my mind to have flash cameras! Small scenes do indeed make a difference in our layout’s “big picture”

  142. John says:

    Simply awesome!

  143. Ripper says:

    Nicely done! As a modeler I know that I have to push myself to go and do what needs to be done on the layout. Yes, these small projects help with one’s long range plan for THE LAYOUT! Keep at it!

  144. Dan Willams says:

    Very nice. Good advise. Aside from a plan, which I have, my next phase is cleaning out the space to put it. I’m 71 and starting over for the 8th time in a new house. Wife has a lot of stuff in the space I want to use. I’ve had HO Race Track and trains since I was 10 years old. Love both and even have an at grade crossing piece of race track. Makes things interesting. Taking longer than planned but I’ll get there.

    Dan W in Richmond Va.

  145. Michael Dowling says:

    Thanks Mark,
    That’s excellent advise. While I’m slowly getting my RR room ready for a layout, I keep the interest up by assembling freight car kits..
    It’s encouraging to hear another modeler does the same kind of thing with positive results.

    Happy modeling!
    Michael from California

  146. Arthur Williamson says:

    That was great with the camera flashes, I’ve done same thing on my indoor G cauge layout, by usiing LEDs from Even Designs I used thereThunder storm LED kit in a sky scene, Also used afew of thier Z LEDS in lantrensthat a brakeman holds, even in lighting on cabooses. Keep up the good work. Your right just work on little areas at a time. And make little scenes.
    Art NEW York

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