Starting a model train layout


Hello Al,

I have been watching and reading your posts for a while now. They are really cool and educational. So thankful for your site. As I am now planning to build the the layout of my dreams. (Now that i have a house with a basement big enough to do something special) I would like to get your input or your readers input on what the top 3 or 5 things i should do before going down this journey.

I built a really neat 4×8 HO set when i was a kid on the old ping pong table and still remember all the enjoyment learning how to wire, sculpture, light, and all the other challenges.

I have a lot of train stuff i have been acquiring for 45 years but admit there is a lot of newer technology i need to use. As i have a cornucopia of stuff from O, S, 027 and HO. I am going to settle in on HO and a little surprise with an N circle in the mountains. I will end up selling most the other stuff to help pay for the new set up.

Anyway, i look forward to hearing from you.

THank you. RObert. (Port Washington, Wisconsin.)

Answers ( 2 )


    Robert-Prt Wash, Wisc.
    IMHO, if I were to start all over again and stick to HO, I would do the following:
    1. Study the masters in this group. The Hall has a bunch & my personal favorites are Bill in Va, Rob- Farland Howe, Brian- SA, Santa Fe Dan, & Fred, the Architect. Study carefully their approach to spacing, view, perspective, and how they created their stuff.
    2. With all that in your head take a program like AnyRail or SCARM-buy one- and play with a layout until your head explodes. Study as many layouts as you can stand. Santa Fe Dan has a monster one but it is brilliantly laid out and you should take notes.
    3. Have a theme. Things get into place when there is a direction. Write it all down and refer to it when going astray.
    4. Now that you have a plan- You may have to rethink a lot because of the following no exception rules: Minimum Radius- freight-20″, passenger- 24-26″. Max slope incline- 2-1/2%- If you want long consists-2% or lower-Period! You want grief then disobey the rules!
    5. Track laying, joints and turn outs. Spend the money here! This MUST be perfect. Turnouts must be long -minimum 6. Track must be top draw. No junk. All the same code– say 83 is your choice then ALL other devices must be code 83-Period! Motorized, packaged turnouts dont work. Plan on manual switching or strong motors underneath like Tortoise or strong servo motors. Rail joints must be perfect. Use flex track with soldered joints and make those joints perfect. Making turns will be the hardest and study the internet to get it down right. Buy a good soldering station. Transition to a turn or change in slope – this will take room and affect your plan- because your cars may decouple especially on a slope change. Track must be level ( level means the same consistent level perpendicular to the track) and to gauge! Design the track base securely when its turning or climbing.

    All the rest is your recipe and I hope you have fun. Keep it simple and embellish it in years to come. This is from someone who is a tinkerer & not a good modeler but is consumed by this Hobby.
    Please keep us posted.


    PS- I just assumed you were using Al’s Beginners Guide as the Bible but that is a first.

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