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Could we modernise a layout build?

Could we modernise a layout build?

My random thoughts……

I have just been watching the great Ken Patterson on YouTube. He is building an entire layout held together by magnets. Seems like an idea with potential. However, it was less this innovation and more at the point when he applied the obligatory dark oak stain to the wooden frame, when I started thinking about how we all pretty much finish our layouts with black or oak edges.

We use pelmets to hide lights and we build at about waist height. Now, admittedly these all vary to some degree. LEDs as lights, cookie cutter decks, chest height layouts etc…… Small individual diversions from the norm.

It may well be, we still do this way because it’s the best way? It may be that we are all dealing with history and replication so maybe it’s natural. It may well be their is no better way?

Ive seen a layout built into a glass wall, another built into a glass coffee table and one super idea where it’s built into a drinking bar. All really played well with their respective environments.

My house is a Georgian village house with large rooms, extended by the Victorians and then again badly in the 1970s! I ripped most of the seventies out and rebuilt most of the house with origional features, big fireplaces, Minton floors, deep skirting boards, ornate plasterwork etc etc..

However, most of my furniture, lighting, decoration etc. Are very modern. I quite like that contrast.

Am I deluding myself or is there a way to continue this approach on my (ironically) seventies based layout!?

First things first, I am DCC, and using railmaster has allowed me to hide most of the control away, the main operation is via a touchscreen and I’m installing two tablets that can be removed from the wall to use. The whole power system is accessed by a remote that can turn on or off some or all of the elements, system, lighting above, area lights on layout, blue tooth speakers for back ground etc.

Built in its own 26ft by 14ft room it runs around on two levels with a centre board cutting right through the middle.  I built it all from timber frame with 9mm MDF so nothing very inspiring there!

I am playing with twin LED strings, one white and one colour changing. I plan to mount these in upturned square silver guttering hung by wires above the layout. I want some sort of power up setting to model under when needed.

I still haven’t thought about the curtain idea? Or the Perspex or black wood bumpers…..

I have been playing with projected backscenes but only on one wall so far…. Early results are disappointing as the image is not sharp enough and shadows seem much worse.

i guess what I’m looking for is any ideas or indeed views, good bad? Should, shouldn’t etc?  Can I ask for the collective wisdom please?


Thank you



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About The Author


I started my interest in model railways and then the real thing when I was 10. It was Christmas 1975! Yes I'm still alive! My parents bought me a GWR pannier tank frieght set, with smoke! I was hooked. Then I discovered girls, beer, motorcycles and that was that from 17 until I got married in 1988. My wonderful wife was encouraging and we had the attic converted. Career, money and children interrupted things and despite a brave attempt about 13 years ago I only really returned about 5 years ago. Having been forced into early retirement with severe health problems, the railway became my saviour. It challenges, engages, entertains and most important for me takes you to a different world and time. I have met some truly wonderful friends through this hobby. I am working on my "layout of a lifetime" it's called Snow Hill and is in its own upstairs room, 24ft X 14ft, built on two levels with a centre board cutting right along the length. Its DCC, mainly with sound and set in 1976-79 Midlands. So far including the fiddle yards (piddle yard as Steve calls it, due to being in the ensuite) I have laid a true half a kilometre of track! I will populate the site with some articles and galleries and things move on.

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