Construction of a model railroad, whether large or small, requires a multitude of skills. Few of us ever truly master all of those skills.
Don’t have the time or the inclination to build solid benchwork?
Not confident about getting the track kink-free and working reliably?
Do you lack the artistic ability to build good-looking scenery?
Have you been procrastinating any phase of layout construction for so long that all progress has ceased?
Do you have a dream layout in mind without knowing how to start?
Benchwork: a firm foundation
Benchwork is the foundation of any layout, so it must be sturdy, stable and level. It is the one part of the layout that cannot be upgraded later without starting anew. After creating a good plan, it is the next essential to an enjoyable layout. Laying track on flimsy or unsound benchwork will result in nothing but trouble.
Prior to getting into the professional model-building business, I made my living for many years working with wood - whether framing homes, crafting high-end jewelry boxes, or most things in between. The benchwork for your dream layout is in good, safe, experienced hands with me.
Smooth running track
After solid benchwork comes the need for good track. Kinks or uneven track will cause unrealistic train motion at best, and constant frustrating derailments at worst. Although it is possible to replace substandard track on a model railroad, this is a chore and expense best avoided. Whether using commercial prefab track, or building every inch by hand, it is much better to invest the time, effort and funds to get it right the first time.
If you are unhappy with the quality or reliability of commercial ready-to-lay turnouts, or you’re having trouble finding what you need, check out my range of hand-built turnouts.
If you can’t afford professionally laid track, at least allow me to give you this free tip. Even commercial “ready-to-install” turnouts are generally not ready to install. Get a track gauge and an electrical tester. Check every inch of the turnout for correct gauge (especially the unsupported areas of the point blades and around the frog). Make sure all the flangeways conform to both minimum and maximum standards. Ensure that the point blades seat perfectly against the stockrails, and file the ends smooth if necessary. Lastly, check for shorts or dead spots and fix them before installing the turnout. These simple checks may seem like wasted effort on the turnouts that pass the tests, but the time will have been well spent if just one turnout in the entire batch needs a little tweaking. Any adjustment will be exponentially more difficult after it has been installed, and a simple short may take hours to isolate in a complex area of finished trackwork (ask me how I know this).
Scenery for ultimate realism
While scenery generally isn’t required for a great-running layout, it is the part most noticed, so it stands to reason that it is something worth doing well. Crafting some basic scenery to hide the bare benchwork is probably the easiest part of building a layout, yet ironically getting it to look right may be the hardest. There are no scale drawings to follow, nor charts or gauges to ensure good results. For the most part, the builder has to rely on gut feel. In addition to the ability to effectively manipulate many different materials, great scenery requires a certain artistic flair and an eye for capturing the nuances of the real thing – skills that don’t develop overnight.
Just as with other aspects of a model railroad layout, a well thought out design is important to good-looking scenery. I feel it is important to keep in mind what the landscape looked like before the arrival of the railroad. Always remember that the landscape was there first and the railroad was built through it taking the most economical route. I have often been asked if I have a background in geology. No, I don’t – just a keen eye for viewing the real thing and a good memory of what I see (a camera helps too). If you are in the market for professionally built scenery, please take a look at the pictures of my work. Then, if you like what you see, drop me a line.
Whether you are looking for someone to build your dream layout from start to finish, or you just need some help with one phase of layout construction, click on the link below and tell us what you are looking for.