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Active Member
Hello everyone! I've been gone for just about 6 years now. I know this because when my son was born, time just fell into a wasteland and the previous layout was disassembled so we could sell the old house and move. Now that he's old enough to LOVE trains, my wife (of all people) suggested we use the guest room as our dedicated train space. And so it begins again... I figure when he's a teenager and loses interest, I can build my second layout :)

Anyway, here's my layout design so far. It's HO-scale because that's what I have a lot of already (I contemplated doing N-scale to fit more into the space, but the financial investment isn't really feasible right now).The overall rectangle is the maximum outside dimension that I have to work with. The notch in the middle is for reaching the furthest tracks and it's wide enough for a 6 year old to fit inside and watch his (my) trains run. The buildings I put in there are for a small passenger station and maybe a town for some of the old buildings I have. The top left is a coal mine, another model I have that's mostly complete. What does everyone think about the track layout?

Also, I had originally thought about doing open benchwork with foam board on top. I'm thinking for simplicity and to reduce the amount of lumber needed to just do a table top of plywood with the foamboard on top. Any suggestions with reason why?

Thanks everyone!



Firstly, the butterfly shape trackage on the 2 sides of the notch is just, well, too butterflied. Why make the two sections reflections of one another ? Instead, make the whole layout/RR as diversified as the real ones so as to have some drama. Same for the big loop under the rearmost tracks.. Secondly, the, what look to be 2 passing sidings are too short to serve any purpose / to let trains pass one another. Generally sidings are made long enough to hold your longest train within without fouling (blocking) trains from passing each other.. The siding you have closest to the notch should continue around the corner where those buildings are and re-enter the main in the straight track just before the next curve, past the structures. Same story for the other passing siding..
But as I said, the track design is very redundant in nature..And this can become boring after a while..
I'd suggest coming up with a track design that has no areas alike, like the 1:1 scale obviously travels along...
Finally. Why not build the RR you say you'd build as a second one, be your first one ? I'm sure your son will enjoy watching dad build it. And you can always put a shoofly track (temporary track in real) for him, while RR is under construction.. This may possibly attract him more to remaining in the hobbie through his life like so so many of us did. IE. Why assume as a teen, he won't.
Now please keep in mind, you asked. OK?.. M
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Active Member
MH, you make a really good point about the symmetry. I've revised...

I can't really change the symmetry of the two loops simply because of the shape and to keep the tunnel effect (the kids request). So I've made that one siding longer (as suggested) and changed the location of the bottom siding. All changes are shown in yellow in the new picture. I also added an extra staging track underneath. After counting my locomotives, now I can hold pretty much everything on the track.

I thought about adding a siding just before the TO for the town that heads into the tunnel, all the way back out again, then joins back up with the main on the other side. It adds the ability to move in and out of the town staging without spoiling the main. Although I like the idea, I'm not sure it's quite necessary at this stage.

About the whole "losing interest in HS" and "my next layout" - I'm thinking back to when I had my first layout. I spent so much time on that 4x8 sheet of plywood in the basement that I tought myself basic electronics (because more trains = more fun) around the age of 13, added a yard and control panel around the age of 14, ended up going to a vocational HS for electronics, am now an Electronics Engineer, and yet that layout at age 14 is the most recent fully functioning layout I've had. HOWEVER, my dad made me box up all those trains when I moved away to college, and that's what i'm starting with now. That small stint before my son was born - I had gotten a loop of track, but never got any scenery in place and only built a couple of small models. I'm okay with spending the next decade making mistakes on this layout with my son, learning those lessons together, and hopefully later in both of our lives we can do something extravegant together. We'll see. For now, I'm very happy to share this small layout with a small version of myself.




The other siding between the 2 yellows may be better if the lower switch of the two is moved to about 6-8" in from the edge, with a remaining single track right to the edge depicting an 'interchange' with an imagined neighboring RR, as does the 1:1 scale. This would be a great place to stage cars on off layout to introduce cars inbound to, or departing from, your RR.
Having the yellow track at far left underneath as staging hits me as a very hassly situ; bendin/crawling under to reach.. I'd advise to leave it out and stage the way I suggest above..You now have another LH switch (and straight track which you could introduce right past the top switch of the new passing (yellow) siding you made and have yet a 3rd track paralleling this passing with some industries along it ..
That's about all I can suggest...Good luck with the outcome, M


Active Member
Where do the 'tunnels' end? Looks to me the entire left side of the layout is underground o_O

Are there steep grades?
Ha, I can see why it would look like that. The only part in the tunnel is the single track as it comes around the notch. The other track is all raised to go uphill with a 2.1% grade. The yellow staging areas on the far left are hidden under the aforementioned hill.

I can't really move the tracks further from the edge. The minimum radius is 18" (to be able to run everything I have) so the loops can't get smaller. And the table is as large as it can be while not blocking space in the room.


Active Member
sorry guys, had a busy weekend.

The room is about 11 x 13 ft. The layout is 6.5 x 8 ft. Open access to the two sides (right and bottom in the above pictrues) and the notch cutout. The notch give me reach access to the back corner. The layout is only 40" off the ground so that my son can easily see while operating. a small stool for him to see high/far and for me to reach those back corners.

I built the table this morning with him. Pictures are on my phone, so I'll post later from there and include them.

The latest changes are to put a farm in/around the bottom loop with some grain silos on the siding. The siding will change a little bit so that cars can pull in straight to align with the silos. The only other changes are that titles have been assigned to the key players - my wife is CFO (for obvious reasons), my son is COO, and I'm head of the laborer union. They like have the word "Chief" in their titles, but I know the union really has the power ;)

I'm excited for this build. It will be simple, and I'm okay with that. My son is way too excited for running trains, it makes me happy to have anything up and running. I'll enjoy putting the time into the models and building scenes while he runs the trains.


Active Member
Here's the table as it stands now. We placed some sectional track to trace some of the outlines. I've spent most time making sure the table is strong enough to support me leaning on it. Seems pretty sturdy now.

With the current situation regarding COVID19, we'll be home for quite a while with the kids, so maybe some progress will be made. We'll see....



Active Member
As it turns out, the quarantine is helping the progress of this thing. After working from home and taking care of the house, me and my son get a little bit of work done each night.

As you could imagine, working with a 6 year old has a much different pace than working alone or with a buddy. So far, we've gotten the cutouts made and installed. Tomorrow we'll figure out the backside hill situation and hopefully get some mainline corkbed installed. Below are some pictures and explanation to my method. Feel free to comment good or bad - hopefully someone else could learn from this as well.


I laid some brown construction paper down to trace my track work on (only the elevated sections). In this picture, I also traced out 90degrees of turn for a further back section so I didnt have to use more paper.


Didn't get any pictures of the interim step, but I cut those templates out to trace on OSB and used a jig saw to cut out.

Then I cut a 2x4 into small pieces. One side was square, the other had about a 1.5degree angle. This ramp up is around 2 degrees, but my miter saw is not accurate enough for 0.01 degree increments so I can't guarantee that. Also, I think that if theres inconsistencies in slope it would look more realistic. Just so long as those slopes aren't too much for an engine to get the job done.

All glued down! I used Alex window/trim caulking. Mostly because it's crazy cheap, but it does a great job as well.

I got the other side done, I'll make that my next post.


Well-Known Member
I can well understand why you want to be able to do continuous running of trains for your 6-year-old, hence the 18"R curves. A possible suggestion in case you want some blind sidings for later switching and/or storage of a boxcar or tank car or something in plain sight: Depending on what locomotive(s) and rolling stock you have, you might use a piece or two of 15"R sectional track coming off the turnout from the main line. An 0-4-0 or even an 0-6-0 steam locomotive or a boxcab diesel could handle that. Even if you can't get your mainline motive power to negotiate the tighter curve, the real railroads had those kind of problems and just restricted the traffic to those that could. Regardless, have fun!


Active Member
you might use a piece or two of 15"R sectional track coming off the turnout from the main line.
The siding that follows the curve is actually around 16" radius for exactly that reason. And the small spurs inside the loops use a 15" radius too.
There's a few reasons for the "next layout" after he's older, you hit one of those reasons. Some switching action can be done in the coal mine up top and transferring those down to the mainline occasionaly when I want to "drive a train." He'll have plenty of fun watching the loop run continuously, and to be quite honest, so would I. After a long day at work, or when in need of a few minutes to relax, I find a lot of joy in the train just doing it's thing.

I like the modeling aspect a lot. I'm not particularly good at weathering, but I enjoy building the models. Once this layout is ready, I will take my time to work on weathering skills and landscaping. Again, the "next layout."

I'll never actually be done, just working on another project


Staff member
Those steep grades were a concern for me. But then I saw your post about this being for your son and him enjoying watching the trains run. That makes all the difference. It changes it into something more like one of the classic Lionel layouts, and the grades and curves and tunnels all become part of the fun. They'd be more of a challenge if you were all about realistic operation, but for all around fun, this will work really nice.


Active Member
Bob, yes the grade is not ideal, but it's enough to see some trains run. I made some test runs a few nights ago amd there was some trouble getting up the hill when running super slow. A little bit of juice for it going though.


Active Member
I realize that quite a bit has happened since I updated this thread. Here's a quick update. If anyone wants more detail of a certain section just ask and I'll fill in the gaps.

After the caulking sets, we're ready for cork roadbed. Same method, spread some caulk and hold the cork down with pins.

For some reason, I only have one picture of that step, so there's that...

The first priority is getting a train running, so track is the next step. I started by using the same method, caulking. After spreading a thin layer, the track goes down and some weights are applied until dry. I did most of it this way, but then found a bag of track nails. So now, the track that's on the wood gets nailed since the nails are long enough to reach through the cork. For the track on the foam, caulk is still needed because the foam doesn't hold the nails.


Active Member
A picture of the cork roadbed all glued down except for the tunnel entrances.


Once the cork is down, track goes down. I started by using the same method, spreading some caulk and pinning down the track. Shortly after starting I found a bag of track nails so started using them to hold the track down. This made it so I didn't have to go back and pull my pins out, but also the nails are long enough to go through the cork and into the wood.

After doing that for a while, I figured that if the track nails are holding in the wood than there was no need for the caulk. This speeds the process and also makes it easier to reuse the track later. At this point, I expect to apply ballast later so that glue process will hold down the track just fine.
(sorry, the picture is rotated but you get the idea)



Active Member
So, there's some track down and of course the COO is asking when operations can begin. So some alligator clips and a power supply keep him and his partner-in-crime happy. :)

(the weird shaped image is due to the fish-eye effect - my phone can't see the whole layout with normal zoom)

So the mainline loop is not complete. I need to put together the ground where the highest elevation of track will go. I've situated so that 3 layers of the 1" thick foam will give the exact elevation needed. So, I used caulk to put the sheets together and clamped overnight.

All of my previous foam board purchases have been from Menards simply because the prices are much better than Home Depot. However, for this project I stayed close to home because I wouldn't need much and purchased everything at Home Depot. Well, it turns out that Home Depot's foam board is as straight as it's lumber and even caulk with clamps for 12 hours couldn't hold these together.


(upside down, I know, but you get the point)

So that gap will be facing the rear and I'll be hoping that the uneven surface doesn't case me grief later. 🤞


Active Member
So, on each side of that 3" block of foam board, there's a transition to the wood cutouts. One one side, I've decided to short the foam stack for the ability to use some old stuff I have laying around. A while back, I bought a bag of these brick towers, enough to make the figure 8 over/under track. They were in the used section in a plastic bag marked $2, so I picked them up without ever worrying if they're all included. Well, now I will be using 3 of them. In this picture, the three unpainted ones are shown, and the three I plan to use are "aged" with some brown and orange paint. I coated the entire piece and then with a damp rag wiped off the paint. The result is mortar lines and some "dirt" on the bricks.

On the other side, the lower track will go into a tunnel before reaching the foam stack. And so I cut out some tunnel pieces to support the track running overhead. I used some leftover MDF to cut the tunnels and glued them together. They fit nicely, I just have to trim the edges so that they're all the same length. I can use my mitar saw to cut them all at once to ensure same dimension for each.

Anyway, the next step will be putting together the track on the top of this foam board and completing the loop. The continuous run should keep everyone (including myself) while other sections come together.

Happy Hump Day!

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