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Discussion Boards => General Discussion => Topic started by: Michael T. on April 04, 2010, 10:54:44 AM

Title: Building a layout
Post by: Michael T. on April 04, 2010, 10:54:44 AM
Can someone give me some general tips on building a layout?

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: OldTimer on April 04, 2010, 11:41:33 AM
First, you have to make some basic decisions such as scale, time period and size before you can even begin to think about building a layout.

It seems like I am always telling people to go to their local hobby shop or book store or library, but you really do need to read up on the subject and get some general knowledge about the hobby which will help you make those basic decisions.  Kalmbach (Model Railroader) and Carstens (Railroad Model Craftsman) both have books that would be helpful to beginners.  Bachmann has a very nice book that explains how to build a layout using EZ Track products. 

Please do not start out thinking you are going to build the "Greatest Model Railroad Ever!" on your first try.  You aren't, and if you try, you will become discouraged and probably leave the hobby.  Plan on spending maybe a year or two building and scenicing a small layout.  It should be flat, have provision for continuous running (be an oval, in other words), have several sidings for industries, a run around track, and an interchange track.  If you can hang a 2X2 foot extension off one corner, you can have a wye to turn your engine around.  That's plenty to get your feet wet.   Hope this helps.

Old Timer

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: WoundedBear on April 04, 2010, 12:11:38 PM
Have a read through the pages at this link.......... (


Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: Michael T. on April 04, 2010, 12:27:08 PM
Thanks guys.

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: CNE Runner on April 04, 2010, 06:47:22 PM
Mike - I don't know what kind of layout you have in mind - nor your space/financial constraints. For some time now I have been 'involved' with mini/small layouts. My personal constraint was space, rather than financial. I have posted three threads on this very topic and suggest you browse through them. Hopefully they will be of some interest to you in your layout quest:,9353.0.html (,9353.0.html),10410.0.html (,10410.0.html)
and,12615.0.html (,12615.0.html)

I hope these are of use...all my best,

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: jonathan on April 04, 2010, 08:41:11 PM

Welcome! Always glad to have new members of the greatest hobby in the world! These guys know what they are talking about. Just to amplify:  read and learn all you can before you begin. There are many beginner books available to help get you started, and the internet is free. Lots of great info, if you read this forum... all of it.  I have.

My experience has been that space and time are the big obstacles to overcome. The hobby can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. The normal business of life makes it a challenge.  

My advice would be to block a routine time, each day, to read, learn, dream, plan and build. Don't get frustrated if something doesn't work the first time. Trial and error is a wonderful way to learn. We've all been there.  I will always be learning, trying, failing, and trying again, until my dreams are realized.  

Enjoy, and always feel free to ask... there are no stupid questions.



Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: buzz on April 05, 2010, 02:15:36 AM
You have some basic decisions to make first
period of interest, nationality of interest
Then look at your space constraints.
and choose a scale best suited to the space available
N 1/160  HO 1/87 these are I believe the two most common scales
the next thing is to start reading checking the net to gain information for
building the first layout keep that small and simple if you can have a point of expansion for later.
Avoid the temptation to try and build one of the grand empires the magazines tend to publish, that will doom the first layout to abject failure
and the frustration that might be enough for you to walk away from the hobby.
Don't be afraid to experiment with the first layout you will need to learn which of the many techniques for various things that work for you.
The first layout will throw up challenges and curly problems you will have to ask questions and solve these problems to progress.
regards John

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: CNE Runner on April 05, 2010, 10:26:19 AM
This is an interesting thread...forcing some of us that have been in the hobby for years to stop and think about the process rather than the results. Mike, John's (buzz) post seems to summarize the progression from 'armchair dreamer' to layout operator quite well.

I think his advice on not building an empire immediately has tremendous value. Sure, I wish I had the space, and resources (talent would be nice as well), to construct one of the elaborate 'creations' featured in Model Railroader magazine...unfortunately I don't. Too many of us get bogged down in the details and reach way beyond our means. I suggest following Mike's (and the others) advice: do the research, decided upon a scale; but start small. All the skills that will be needed in model railroading can be learned on a small shelf layout as well as a basement-sized creation...only cheaper. You will make mistakes (that's why there is a claw on one end of a hammer)...that's OK as long as you learn from them.

In my progression, through the hobby, I started (as a teenager - yes, we had electricity back then) with the 4'x 8' "The HO Railroad that Grows" by Linn H. Westcott ['still have the original book]. Over the years I 'progressed' to several layouts - one of which filled a one-car garage. Now I am downsizing and micro/mini/small layouts (in the 5'x 11" range) meets my needs. In every layout I built I learned a little more - and put a sharper edge on my skill level.

So start having fun! Take a 4'x 1' piece of plywood and begin building something that runs. Glue down some track. Don't like it? it up and try again. Build some structures (sell your early attempts at a future train show...there's a sucker born every minute...I know as I was able to sell my early attempts), try your hand at scenery (there are some good videos regarding the subject on YouTube), and most of all run trains! Once you start running your train, it doesn't matter if you are using tissue boxes for buildings, your interest level will soar.

We are fortunate to have you join our ranks...welcome!


Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: Michael T. on April 05, 2010, 04:53:43 PM
Thanks guys this will REALLY help my train hobby that I just started.

Title: Re: Building a layout
Post by: jsmvmd on April 05, 2010, 06:31:35 PM
Thanks a million ! Sid,

That link is worth its weight in gold !  Like you !

Best Wishes,