My layout progress


#287849 (In Topic #21663)
Full Member
A few weeks ago I received an email from the channel admins suggesting greater participation in the forum so here goes:

My journey into model railways started in 1984 aged 5 when my Dad gave me and my brother a model railway (probably a glorified train-set by the standards displayed on here).  To us and me especially this was the best Christmas present ever.  And strangely I can remember exactly what locos and rolling stock we had running that Christmas morning.

Throughout the late 80s we added to our collection of locos – Dad was a staunch LMS aficionado – and rolling stock.  And slowly but surely we ballasted the track, built a tunnel added scenery etc. It is interesting to note that the layout itself actually appears in an old Mainline catalogue dating from the 1970s!!

The layout was special to me for several reasons.  First my relationship with my late father was rather difficult in later years and this represented in many ways the focus of his affection (he put a lot of work into it) and secondly I recall a time when I was 11 years old and I suffered a freak eye injury and had to spend a couple of months in the middle of summer inside convalescing.  This was torture to a youngster who just wanted to be outside playing cricket or football, so the railway was a real life saver and I remember running my Black 5 for hours on end.

During my teens I have little recollection of playing trains as life then was focused on playing cricket and football and of course school.  The layout and rolling stock survived several house moves but about 10 years ago my mum got rid of the layout – by which time I had already been living in South Africa for the best part of a decade and a half.

Fast forward to 2021 and my wife and I along with our youngster are visiting the UK and mum is once again wanting to move house and threatening to dump my two packing boxes full of locos and rolling stock at a charity shop.  I showed my boy the trains I used to play with and he instantly fell in love with them and to be honest I engaged again with my inner ten year old!!

So the boxes were shipped to Cape Town and so began the process of layout planning which if you’d ask my wife has become something of a preoccupation of mine for the past 12 months.  And I am pleased to say that I have been able to get a small layout built and operational including several of my old 1980s locos, and I have a very happy 5 year old along with quite a few envious neighbours.

Below I will detail a few notes on the development process along with listing the resources I was able to draw on.

The Prototype

I think the prototype is a bit like a part of the human genome that suddenly wakes up and makes itself known.  For me I have vague recollections of wanting to rebuild a layout that represented the railways around the area that I grew up (Cheadle, Cheshire) at the time when my Dad was a kid (1950s) – I never got around to that due to the distractions of growing up and the inevitable expenses but it was always something that interested me.

As I delved into this and studied the wealth of information that is now available on the internet I realised if I was to replicate the exact arrangement of Cheadle, Cheadle Heath, and Heaton Mersey shed then I would need an aircraft hangar.  That was my first lesson learnt!!

So what I have built is essentially a train-set but I have two mainlines, two stations and plenty of sidings all on a piece of standard size ply wood.

Design and Construction

Here I have to tell you that budget is / was a big constraint for me.  There was no way that I was going be able to spend even a modest amount on this project without being threatened with ex-communication by she who must be obeyed.  So DCC was definitely out of the question.

In short I have used setrack curves (a mixture of new and second hand) and all second hand points as I managed to find a good deal on eBay.  The points were streamline so that meant I needed to be a bit clever with my track spacing as due to the tight radii of the curves (see my piece of plywood limitations).  I pretty much needed to use setrack (67mm) spacing on the curves to assure clearances so my choice was either have a transition curve, which meant shortening my already short straight sections if I was to use 50mm streamline spacing.  So I opted for 67mm spacing all round and then bought some streamline code 100 lengths and used those for the straights and the length between the points and crossing in order to make the streamline points work.

The other thing I did was having gone to all this trouble was I made a decision to build the layout in modules so should we ever move there was at least an option of shipping it.  In retrospect it would probably have been better to have used my time doing other things and just got a couple of the Peco starter packs.

I recycled a few old kitchen cupboard carcasses to make the framing for the layout.  I know melamine is heavy and not the ideal material for the purpose but it was free and on hand so that is what I used.  I had an old extension cable that had been damaged so I stripped that down and used it to wire the layout.  We also had some laminate floor underlay left over from a previous job so that was used for the track underlay thus sang some money on cork.

Plans for the future:

The layout is now operational and I’m running an early Bachmann standard 4 along with a Hornby Compound in BR livery.  I have a small rake of Blood & Custard MK1 coaches and grey mineral wagons and bauxite vans and I’m chuffed with my mid1950s vibe.  The 8F and 9F are staying in their boxes along with my rake of 14t tank wagons until my son is little more competent, however he loves what he has and the effect of seeing me build the layout has taught him some practical skills most 5 year old wont have.  I didn’t let him lose with a soldering iron or a dremel but he has seen me doing it.  He is a dab hand knocking nails with a hammer and is able to tighten and loosen screws.  That was all part of the rationale.

Next steps are making some buffer-stops and platforms.  There is apparently a scale-four tutorial on how to make these from rail so that is a future mini-project.  Platforms will be constructed from polystyrene and plastikard.  I will be using a few Metcalfe kits – their country station is based on CLC design and whilst not identical to Cheadle its close enough for me given all the other compromises.


I’m sure anyone reading this forum will be familiar with the main Youtube channels.  I will list the main ones that I have found useful and inspiring.

Charlie Bishop – Chadwick Model Railway

Charlie is top notch and completely the other end of the market to me but his skills, communication and demonstrations are first class.  Probably the go-to for layout construction and operational matters.

Budget Model Railways

Other end of the market.  What I like about this channel is firstly there is a special relationship with father and son.  That is pretty special to see how they work together, and secondly they provide the necessary motivation to get something done.  I think without their “just do it” type of approach I would still be sitting here planning my layout instead of enjoying my trains in operation

Sam’s Trains

Not really into his unboxing and given that all my locos are probably as old as him what am I including him for?  Well he did a very neat video on servicing Hornby Ringfield motors which gave me the confidence to get the job done.  My compound is running sweetly as well as the 8F.  My Black 5 and the Duchess are next.

OO Bill

Very watchable and his repairs of Mainline locos have given me the confidence to open up my Scot and Jubilee.  I have also got an Airfix 4F which he tears down so a great resource on the technical side of things

That Model Railway Guy

Always prefer him on 1.5x speed but some very useful stuff on there.  In particular he gave me the confidence to build in modules, and to build platforms from foam.

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Site staff
Ed is in the usergroup ‘Super-moderators’

Sounds like you've made great progress Andy, have you got any pictures.


Engineers just love to change things
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Site staff
spurno is in the usergroup ‘Super-moderators’
You can't get much better participation than that Andy. Looking good, as Ed says plenty of pictures please.



Born beside the mighty GWR.
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