Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Regular Layout By A Regular Modeller

A regular train crosses a regular bridge over a
regular river on the CP Rail M & M Sub.
After I posted a note on a forum about my layout being featured in the December issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, someone wrote: "Excellent article and some nice modeling too. I'm glad to see RMC do some articles on ‘regular guy’ layouts.”

“Regular guy . . .” That phrase is interesting—and true. When it comes to life and model railroading, I think I’m about as regular as they come.

For starters, I’m not rich. I do have a fair-size layout and collection of locomotives, rolling stock and accessories, but none of it was bought all at once. It was carefully and frugally obtained over a period of 22 years; much of it was purchased used at flea markets or private sales. (The original ready-to-run.)

I’m also not particularly skilled, especially when it comes to carpentry or wiring. I just followed how-to books, and solicited the advice of friends. If the layout works at all, it’s through trial and error (lots and lots of errors).

The layout itself is pretty regular, too. For one thing, it’s DC (Dinosaur Control). For another, most of my locomotives are Athearn Blue Box. Rolling stock is regular, too; only about a third of my cars have metal wheels, and I happily run cars made by Athearn Blue Box, MDC, Tyco and LifeLike alongside cars made by InterMountain, Atlas, Proto 1000 and Walthers.

My track is all Atlas Code 100. None of the switches on the visible portion of the layout are electfied. I use Caboose switch throws or homemade springs to hold the switches in place. (Read about how I make and use them at

When it comes to operation, once again, nothing fancy. I use conventional cab control and blocks; rotary switches affixed to two panels (mainline dispatcher and yardmaster) are used to direct power.

None of my locomotives are superdetailed, although I have lightly “Canadianized” a few by moving the headlights to the nose and the bell to above the cab windows. Ditto for rolling stock: No contest quality items here!

The "water" on the layout? Paint, covered with gloss medium. Nothing special..

I am kind of proud of my scenery, but it's pretty basic, too—no elaborate or highly-detailed town or city scenes. I stuck with mostly rural scenery, since that is what I thought I could pull off most convincingly.

In other words, the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision is a regular layout built by a regular modeler using regular skills with a regular amount of dollars. Or, as I like to tell others, the CP Rail M & M Sub. proves that if I can build a layout, anyone can.


  1. It's still a pretty impressive layout for a "regular" modeller - I would definitely like to see more of the layout (in particular a video of an operating session on your layout would be a real spectacle for me to take in). I know you normally run solo but if you could convince a few folks to jump in it would be interesting to see how you pull it all together into an operating session.

  2. Thanks. It might be interesting to do that some day . . . in the meantime, there are a lot of videos of my layout on YouTube at