Category Archives: Shout out

For looking and displaying, not operating…

My very good friend Mike Cougill is currently musing on how little “layout” one needs over on his blog.

Another very good friend, Chris Mears, has commented:
“Reading this and thinking about staging and backdrops made me think about a social construct the hobby perpetuates: that of inadequacy. We never have enough space in length of run for our trains, depth to model the whole scene, so sometimes these aids aren’t as much theatrical but concessions making up for what we want but can’t have.”

This reminded me of something I threw together more years ago than I care to remember in 1:32 scale. One of the magazines had a “100 square inches” competition. I didn’t enter, but a piece of particle board 12” long and 8½” wide was sorted out from the pile of bits of wood, and another piece screwed to the back of it. To this latter piece was affixed some vacuum-formed brick sheet (SEFinecast) with capping bricks from styrene strip. Painting was a base coat of a brick-like reddish colour with ultramarine blue for the capping, some additional dry brushing and once it had dried, thinned-down off-white applied wet at an angle (see Martyn Welch’s book on weathering) created the mortar lines. A bit of home-built track – lime wood sleepers, plastic chairs and rail, the latter two components from Cliff Barker’s range of code 180 rail, rounded off with some Woodland’s Scenics fine cinders ballast as ground cover. I spent longer waiting for glue and paint to dry than I did making it.

It served as a display track for a mineral wagon I had upgraded from an RTR model. I still have it somewhere…

Don’t exclude your family from your hobby…

…even if they don’t share it!

The latest issue of Model Railroad Planning came out a couple of days ago. I always enjoy reading it, even if I don’t agree with everything in it, as it gets a bit more behind the scenes and addresses some of the issues that typical monthly periodicals are less inclined to give editorial space to. I have found 3 articles particularly interesting, amongst a good sprinkling of great pieces, including one from England!

There is an interesting piece from Malcolm West about moving up from N to H0, but which is really about how little one really needs for a satisfying model railway layout, as he is discovering.

Lance Mindheim is is his usual thought-provoking self, too, when addressing complexity and differentiating between planning (your strategic objectives) and design (curves, track arrangements, etc). As he says, “putting planning… …ahead of design greatly increases the odds of ending up with a [layout].” No answers, but plenty of questions for you to answers, with a handful of pointers and observations: vintage Lance!

But the clear leader of the pack for me is René Gourley’s article about making his railway-room a family-friendly room. If you follow his blog, you may have seen my comments already, but he brought home some lessons I have learned, but he has provided an eloquent exposition of how to make sure you aren’t excluding your family from yourself.

You see, I have had over the years experience of various spaces for my hobby: my bedroom, an attic (via a fold-down ladder), just the corner of a room, a spare room big enough to store a modelling bench and books, store, etc, but not a layout, a garage which although built into the house, had no internal door, and latterly a log cabin, which I began building in September 2021 and finished about a year later. The attic, garage and log cabin were (and are) all big enough to house a layout, books, parts, machine tools and a modelling bench, but I will be completely honest here: they all failed. In the case of the log cabin, this is still failing. For two simple reasons. Firstly, it’s remote: not part of the house. Secondly, no one else visits me. Why would they: it’s remote, and designated as my hobby space? The attic (when I was a teenager) meant scrambling up an aluminium ladder, to experience restricted head room, and extremes of whatever the weather had going on outside, the garage meant leaving the house via the front door, opening the garage door and then opening the internal partition door I had installed. And the log cabin requires leaving via the back door, crossing the yard, and going half way down the garden. Hardly encouraging!

René talks about making his basement space accommodating to family, as well as serving as his railway room, modelling bench, modelling storage, desk for working from home, and also as a guest room for visitors. Progress on his layout was halted whilst doing this, but it was worth it. Very worth it. I am likely to be moving house this summer: I am would consider space for building another cabin, or an attic, or a garage, for housing a layout and the lathe, but an absolute must is to be able to do basic modelling in the house, in a room where other members of the family are welcome to visit. Ideally, it would house a layout, too, but that’s not so important, as it turns out.


I do not normally comment on model railway magazines: very few maintain consistently good output, but the latest issue of Model Railway Journal, number 284, contains a very nice piece of writing with lovely pictures by John Duffy concerning his 0 gauge layout, “Rosehearty”. Aside from the delightful and much neglected prototype railway (the Great North of Scotland Railway) as subject, the author goes to considerable effort to explain why he built the layout – something which the guest editor, Barry Norman, is always keen to explore.

You can see some photos on John’s thread on RMWeb, but to me the message was, understand why, and you will get much, much closer to personal satisfaction.

Dealing with reality

Mike Cougill has made a more than usually thought-provoking post on his blog, on the need to persevere through the learning process.

Finding something not as easy as you thought it would be? Finding that you need to improve your skill as they are not as good as you thought they were? Don’t give up or lower your standards: keep going.

We learn through repetition. We get more skilled by regular practice.

Festina lente!