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Good afternoon

We are looking for a designer who would also build our layout. I will do the benchwork but am looking for someone to do the rest. Approximate size is 200 sq ft - no posts , walls or columns in the way. I am in the Catskill Mountain area of New York so I am looking for someone in NY (not the city or Long Island), NJ, PA area that I can meet with to discuss ideas.

Thank you

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Another possibility in New Jersey is Rich Roman's company. I believe they are in the Newark area, judging from the area code, so not ungodly far from the Catskills.

https://www.trainlayouts.com/about/

Believe he built Mandy Patinkin's layout which is featured in one of the TM Video productions and has also been published in one of the magazines, as I recall.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383969/

I've heard pricing closer to $300 per sq. ft.  Second hand from a friend who spoke with TW TrainWorx (located in North Carolina and Texas, thus not in the Northeast, obviously).  Likely it depends on scenery, complexity, etc.

Dunham has a terrific reputation if they are still in the layout construction business, and they are convenient to the Catskills. I had heard they might be retiring but check with them since their website is still active.

Last edited by Landsteiner

First, I have a professionally designed and built layout. I considered Dunham Studios but for certain reasons, mostly it is S scale rather than O, I chose a competitor. Dunham appears to do great work, as does TW Trainworks.

The issue Lou may have is these firms build the layout in their shop, test it, then disassemble it, ship it and reassemble it in the owners layout room. So the owner will not be building the structure.  If the plan is to have the layout built in the layout room on owner supplied benchwork, there may be some people who do that but not the major custom layout builders. As far as the builders location, if the layout is shipped, the cost difference for 100 miles vs 1,000 miles is rounding error in the layout cost.

As far as a likely cost for a professionally built layout, the numbers mentioned above are achievable if the scope is tightly controlled but it is easy to specify a layout that costs a lot more per square foot.

You will want to discuss the plan for you to do the benchwork and others to do the rest.  Particularly since you are located a long way from most professional layout builders.  Working on site for a few weeks away from their families and living in a hotel may not be an attractive proposition or cost effective.  Just raising the issues. Perhaps you could find someone locally if you have a local or regional hobby shop.

An average layout with automatic turnouts, simple structures, more complex scenery, and dual cab wiring costs about $400.00 per sq.ft.

A single plywood sheet layout, 32 sq. ft. = $12,800!

Mark,

Nice to know but where did that figure come from?  Did you compile actual sales?  Did builder's share them with you?  Or, perhaps you interviewed the lucky purchasers ...

Mike

Looking at their pricing page I would say that today's budget number would be more towards the $400-$500 per square foot. So, $100,000 for 200 sq. ft. is where I would start my budget.

If I were a club or business I would want the budget to reflect anticipated costs. I think people have a much lower number in their head and can't seem to wrap their brain around the real numbers.

Last edited by GVDobler

About 12 years ago, I had a professional builder come in and appraise the replacement cost of my layout for insurance purposes.  He took a bunch of photos and shared them with two other custom builders so he could give me a consensus estimate.  It was very close to $400 per square foot at that time.  Obviously it would be more today.

Professional layouts will average $375 per sq ft. all inclusive.   Pure cubic time.  No one is getting wealthy at that number.  Paid but not wealthy.  You will find that different subs will do buildings, mountains, electrical, track work scenery.  No one person is great in all aspects.

I have worked over D.I.Y bench work, but only with time and material billing.  No package pricing on existing problems.  Trust me, in the few dozen jobs where the wood work was already done or partly so it was problematic and  required considerable rework.  Warped pine plywood,  many small  jig saw scrap pieces used, NAILS!!  High fine thread screws that can not be screwed down,  open knot holes, 1/4" plywood, difficult to crawl under, severely unlevel platform with no leg adjusters,  no consideration for curved track on inside openings, access pop ups which would not work with the track plan,  just an unending supply of surprise problems.

IMO, rethink that.  Bench work prices only run about $40 per sq ft.  About 10% of the overall job.

Last edited by Tom Tee

Layout design/build is a tricky business. I have two friends who had done this professionally for 30 years before retiring.  They said people would invite them to there homes and try to pick there brains for ideas without ever planning to use them or pay them a dime.  They began a policy of setting an appointment after receiving a 500 dollar non refundable deposit.  Because there reputation was spotless they were always in demand and never had a complaint about their policy.  
    Another policy they had was never build over someone else’s bench work.  They prefabricated everything in there shop and delivered a complete project.  They made a nice living but did not get rich. When they retired the going rate for a piece of artwork was 450 dollars a square foot.    

Keith, you bring up another important point.  If you have your total layout built off site,  then delivered and set up you stand a better chance that with some effort your layout will be able to relocate with you.

There was an interesting court case several years ago when during a divorce on Long Island there was a  challenge by the soon to be exwife that her NYC attorney husband was hiding cash by claiming he spent 1.35 million on a large model RR.  Something like a 50' X 60' pike.  He simply had estimates from several professional layout builders quote on his plans and photos.  Case was dismissed.

Last edited by Tom Tee

Nope, I just went to the link for Dunham Studios, provided by ADCX Rob, and checked the prices. You could do that too!

I could easily do that, and have.

But it's not me that's interested.  It would most likely a newbie, and the O.P. seems like one.  Let them decide what's too expensive.  All I'm asking is that we give them a reference.

Thanks for providing it Mark, and thanks to @ADCX Rob for leading off with it.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike
@Tom Tee posted:

Keith, you bring up another important point.  If you have your total layout built off site,  then delivered and set up you stand a better chance that with some effort your layout will be able to relocate with you.

There was an interesting court case several years ago when during a divorce on Long Island there was a  challenge by the soon to be exwife that her NYC attorney husband was hiding cash by claiming he spent 1.35 million on a large model RR.  Something like a 50' X 60' pike.  He simply had estimates from several professional layout builders quote on his plans and photos.  Case was dismissed.

Did she look in the boxcars ?

I had gotten an estimate to build a 5x10 layout with me supplying the track switches and buildings.  I had a photo of the proposed layout and would deliver the materials and pick up the finished layout.

The estimate was $2500.  This did not include the benchwork.  That cost was $599 from Mianne  plus shipping.

Last edited by WaynePa
@GVDobler posted:

What's that old sign say in a car repair shop? Labor $30 per hour--(if you help $50.00 per hour)

I wouldn't put two boards together without a finalized track plan price with and without benchwork. I would guess building benchwork the way the layout builder wants it could end up in finger pointing. 2-cents, keep the change.

or updated .......

REPAIR RATES

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@Landsteiner posted:

Another possibility in New Jersey is Rich Roman's company. I believe they are in the Newark area, judging from the area code, so not ungodly far from the Catskills.

https://www.trainlayouts.com/about/

Believe he built Mandy Patinkin's layout which is featured in one of the TM Video productions and has also been published in one of the magazines, as I recall.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383969/

I've heard pricing closer to $300 per sq. ft.  Second hand from a friend who spoke with TW TrainWorx (located in North Carolina and Texas, thus not in the Northeast, obviously).  Likely it depends on scenery, complexity, etc.

Dunham has a terrific reputation if they are still in the layout construction business, and they are convenient to the Catskills. I had heard they might be retiring but check with them since their website is still active.

Forum Sponsor Rich Roman and his company, East Coast Enterprises, are the best in the business. His website, which is listed in the sponsor list above, is trainlayouts.com. While Rich and his team are very strong in all aspects of designing, building and servicing layouts, what really distinguishes Rich, who is a master electrician, and his team, is their expertise in building layouts that operate flawlessly.

Pat 

Some pro-built layouts may be "retired" later on -- perhaps the owner or organization wants to "do it over, but bigger and better." A now-used, retired layout might be purchased at a good price, but take-down, transport, and set-up costs would need to be calculated. The actual cost of a soon-to-be-discarded layout might be attractive. You could do some re-imagining with it and make it your own.

TW Trainworx or Dunham Studios may have a "used layout section" in their warehouse.  Just saying ...

Mike Mottler   LCCA 12394

Now we see why most folks in this hobby are "do it your selfers".  I better get my insurance guy out here to get an estimate and a quote for a rider on my homeowner insurance.

Charlie  -  Designer and Builder and Operator of My Layout

I don’t know if it’s still available, but I think that there was an insurance agent or company affiliated with the TCA, that offered insurance specifically geared toward train collectors. Of course, I didn’t have it when Sandy drowned everything I had. Which brings me to another point. Read your homeowners and flood insurance policies. 20 pages of what’s covered, and 50 pages of why they won’t cover it.

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