Starting to build a model railway layout from scratch is quite a daunting task! Decisions have to be made which will shape the model railway forever. Events from your life and favourite full size railways can all play a part in shaping the final layout. Here’s how I made my decisions:
Beginning my model railway layout
Let me introduce you to my model railway. When I was a child, my father bought a couple of Triang Hornby wagons and a small blue 0-4-0 steam locomotive called ‘Nellie’. You can still find examples of this loco on ebay today! We had a small section of track on which we ran this train. I also spent my childhood building Airfix kits of locomotives including the 9F ‘Evening Star’, a schools class locomotive called ‘Harrow’ and Battle of Britain ‘Winston Churchill’. We also had a four wheel diesel Rail Bus. I managed to get a model of this recently from ebay.
Despite this early introduction to model railways, my main interest was 12inches to the foot gauge ie the big railway. Fast forward 30 years and I am a father with young children. We were walking along the seafront at Lyme Regis when I noticed an emporium selling all sorts of different things. I found a model of a Triang Hornby buffet car no 1805 in the corporate BR blue and grey livery. This renewed my interest in model railways. I started reading model railway magazines and quickly realised how far the hobby had advanced since those early days of Nellie.
Finding the space
Manufacturers put in an incredible effort into models, track, building and infrastructure and this is to be applauded. Models are so realistic these days that some can appear almost lifelike. I was keen to build my own model railway but had no-where to put it. Then I struck lucky! We were having an extension built on the house. The builder was supplied with an incorrect roof truss. he ended building a cut roof above the garage where there had previously been a flat roof. This gave me a great space to house a model railway.
What to build?
My next decision was what to feature. I am a big Somerset and Dorset fan so my first attempt was to build Bath Green Park shed. Can you guess what everyday item I used as a building material for this shed? This is the finished result:
I wanted to feature a small yard and selected Midford North Goods. Of course I had to have a station or two (!) and decided to feature Sidmouth. Next I needed to pick an era. It is possible to buy locomotives across many eras. I picked the 1950’s and 1960’s so that I could feature lots of steam locomotives and green diesels. The other thing I had to decide, and this had put me off previously, was whether to go for analogue control or plump for the more modern DCC. Digital Command Control means that the track is live all the time but the locomotives have chips so that they can be controlled independently. I decided DCC was the best option and I find it very flexible to use.
My steam locomotives come from all the four grouping companies: Southern Railway, LNER, London Midland and Scottish, Great Western and latterly BR Standard Locomotives. Diesels feature from the lowly shunters to the deltics. I also have a sprinkling of prototypes like the Brush HS4000 Kestrel, Falcon and Lion. Carriage wise, I’m very keen on maroon British Rail Mark 1s or Gresley coaches in the same livery given the era that I’m modelling. I remember blue and grey Gresley buffet cars and the Cambridge buffet so I’ve included an example. There’s always an exception to every rule!
The great thing about model railways for me is that I can marshal together locos and vehicles into trains of yesteryear. Some I remember and others I wish I had had the opportunity to see at the time. Interestingly, I don’t feature much of the blue and grey or BR sectorisation or Privatisation. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my railway career which covered all three of these eras, featuring these models would remind me too much of work. I rarely used to mix my railway interests with work.
Now I can retire to my railway room and enjoy the sights of historical trains from the comfort of home. If you have a model railway, I’d love to know what you have done and I hope you enjoy yours too.
You might like to read: 5 key areas to address to make your model railway realistic
STANLEY FELDMAN says
It’s a beautiful layout. Would love to see more pictures.
Thank you for your kind comments. I will be posting more pictures soon!
The Opening Sentence says
I love looking at other people’s model trains, they’re so evocative of a lost era. I can just remember travelling by steam to Flookbrugh for a holiday when I was about five or six years old.
I had a Hornby set when I was young, but never had a permanent space to create anything like the layout you have. (Eventually went down the Subbuteo route instead.) I also made a lot of Airfix train models as a kid. The only one I can remember was a steam train called City of Truro. It might still be in a box in the attic somewhere.
I wrote a blog post about my Airfix days. If you type Airfix into the search box on the blog you’ll find it.
Kelvin Butlin says
I restarted building my model railway in my garage because I couldn’t fit my car in there, but my wife wanted to extend the kitchen so I built a 16’×12′ shed at the far end of my garden, connected electricity to it. Half is for my layout& half for my woodworking tools. So I’ve got 16’×6’for my layout which I’ve altered twice to give me more siding, it’s 50/60’s era. I’ve amassed several steam & green diesels in LMS/Early BR & Late BR with 3 rakes of coaches in LMS crimson/ blood & custard/ BR maroon & various wagons for the goods side of it, some I’ve filled with foam.& a sprinkling of iron ore on top or coal.I’ve built a Metcalfe station & platforms & a row of half relief cottages in card. I’ve also made a row of half relief cottages in the embossed plastic sheets of Wills Craftsman kits & a Dairy Cottage that is a model of a house in my village; the row of cottages is also in my village which is where my grandad was born. I’ve also built the goods shed & engine shed that Ratio make & signal box.
Hi Kelvin, what a fascinating account of your layout which I have enjoyed reading. It sounds like the approach to your layout is similar to mine. Could you post some pictures please? I would be very interested to see how it looks. Thank you.
Raymond Milton says
I found your comments very interesting and those of other readers, the nearest I got to seeing a model railway on a slightly larger scale was Beaconscot near Beaconsfield bit I admire anyone who has the expertise to create a setting designed on a particular place of railway heritage. As a child I cherished a two I believe they where bothHornby clockwork locos one being so 0-4-0 side tank I think the other a 4-6-0 side tank had many happy hours playing with them. I hope you get lots of pleasure from your own set up.
Jim Seltzer says
A great blog and an inspiring model railway. I hope mine is half as good when I start in next year. Thanks for sharing the pictures and information.
Thank you Jim for your kind comment.
Found this blog while I was looking for model rail blogs. Maybe you should check some model trains of Sri Lanka Railways: https://slrailwayforum.com/model-railway-rolling-stock-of-sri-lanka-railways