Has anyone ever finished their dream layout before retirement? Don't say a layout is never finished because people do get them done...though some may go back and re-do areas, add this or that, etc. Obviously, people who pay a professional builder(s) to complete it for them "get them done" but this is not what I am asking. I see and read about layout builders who've accomplished this now and again the press, but most of the time they're retired - or so it seems. I've completed a couple of small layouts in my life. I consider < 100 sq. ft small; < 200 sq. ft. medium; and > 200 sq. ft. large.

My current dream layout is 8-years in the making, and four-years ago I thought I'd have it done by now. It's actually less than 200 sq. ft, so its doable from the size standpoint. The mainlines were finished in 2015 so I can run trains when I get tired of working on it. However, realistically it'll be another 5-years before I can say "done." Also, I get slower in doing just about everything in life as I get older, so that 5-years may be optimistic. I really do look forward to completing it so I can devote my hobby time to just running and taking care of the trains. That's kind of what I am asking about...getting to that point where the layout is finished and you can just run trains. To me that is a nirvana-like state.

Last edited by Paul Kallus
Original Post

Designing and building a layout as a pre-retirement project makes sense for enjoying/sharing trains during your upcoming retirement years; however, there's generally  more time available during actual retirement years. The project might move forward faster. I designed and built my L-shaped layout (19x14 feet - about 165 sq. feet) during retirement and enjoyed the process and the outcome.  During a time span of about 2-1/2 years of part-time effort, my two great grandson were at an age where they could see the work in progress and be helpers and go-fers. Now they can run the trains and operate the action accessories.

Like most elder hobbyists, I enjoyed the designing and installing phase just as much as operating the trains. And I tinkered with add-ons too.  Now I consider the layout finished. Pix attached.

20/20 hindsight provides insights to what could have or should have been done. In my case, I should have installed wider radius curves and switches; the existing O42 radius tracks & switches can't accommodate recently purchased larger, longer locomotives. Maybe that's the excuse I need to build another layout with O72 curves!

 

Mike Mottler      LCCA 12394
mottlerm@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Very nice, Mike.

I also found the designing phase very enriching...and in fact the initial design (oval shaped island) and subsequent construction was altered, after I had tested the mainlines, to account for an around the basement type layout which allowed larger diameter tracks. I must have spent the better part of two years in that re-design phase...it was great fun for me even though I wasn't running trains.

It seems the scenery aspects are the main time-consumer...takes forever to get anything done...I spent 2-weeks last December painting 3-Railking buildings. Of course, it was during the holidays and I was doing other things in life, yet that was all I could get done for the layout.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

I haven't even started yet. Waiting to get the new house built. Hopefully in the next couple years.  While I enjoy working on stuff, I think I'm going to enlist a bit of professional help. There is certainly many things I plan to do, but I also want to get some time running and enjoying them.  If I count on me to do it all, it will never get done. There's still a lot of other things in life to tend to.  I hate wiring and I don't want to force myself to do things I don't like and am not good at, just to say I did it all.  I'll have plenty to do just going through my massive pile of postwar trains  repairing and servicing them. I'm a better mechanic than carpenter and electrician. I hear so many stories on the forum of burnt out builders that are unhappy. I don't want to put myself in those shoes.

 

Good thread.

 

 

    I've been trying to get a layout built off and on for the last 25 years, since I disposed of an N-scale layout I built while in my 30s.  I hadn't planned on being retired at 63, but here I am!!  By following the topic in my signature line, one can quickly see what happens to me.  Once I get started, I get thrown a curve ball.  I never could hit a curve ball...nor any kind of pitch for that matter.    I am going back to an 11 x 11 room where I am working on a walk in layout, so it is small.  Hopefully I will be able to get back to the larger room someday with a build that would be about 150 sq ft.  No, even that isn't a dream layout, but as most of us, I have learned to settle for less than we would hope.

Excellent topic, Paul!  I find it good to compare notes on all aspects of the hobby!

Certainly keeping things manageable is a key to success.

As I kept many older OGRs I've read articles on some grand layouts and their builders, and while some layouts were finished (the builders were in their golden years) some were in mid-construction, and I don't think they were ever finished for one reason or another, including that the layout builder passed away.

I was almost able to do what you describe.  The layout is large by most measures: it takes up an entire 1950 sq. ft. basement, overall dimensions at the extreme points is 40' x 70', actual layout surface area approximately 1200 sq. ft.

I started construction of benchwork in October of 1996 and allocated an hour a day to layout work.  It was pretty easy to find an hour every evening to work on the layout instead of watching TV.  My son was in high school when I started so there were no young children in the home.  An uninterrupted hour a day might not be possible with little kids around.  By the time I retired in March of 2008, the layout was completely operational (regular monthly operating sessions began in September of 2004) with at least basic scenery on 90% of it.  Of course there were times when a few weekends and vacation days were spent on layout work, so the hour a day was exceeded in those cases.

Since retirement, the remaining scenery has been completed, more equipment has been weathered, several structures have been scratchbuilt, etc.  Note that an hour a day between 10/96 and 3/08 equates to over 4100 hours or almost exactly 2 years of 40 hour work weeks.  You can do a lot of layout building in that amount of time! 

I saw a sign in someone's basement during a layout tour some years ago that read, "I did all this while you were watching television."

 

Many years ago I made the comment to my wife’s aunt who was full of wisdom and a great career mentor for me about waiting for retirement to build a layout. Her comment was “don’t wait for a retirement you may not get”! Well, at 61 I’ve seen plenty of my friends and colleagues depart this world and I’m glad I followed her advice. I can retire at the end of this year and spend more time on completing my current layout which is probably half way to the ‘never quite complete state’ we all know about. Most of the bull work is behind me now and I’m glad of that. If we decide to downsize in the future, I’ll probably sell off a lot of my stuff and build a dealer display layout in the 8x8 size category. By the way, when people ask where do you find the time, I tell them “I built this while most people were watching TV”. Just like the sign said!

Jim Z "Torn between the New York Central and todays great railroads"!

Bob and Jim, good stories and sage advice. Thus far, the bulk of the work I've done has been in the evening...TV stinks anyway...but the last couple of years I've just been pooped after work, and I am already maxed out on Java by evening.

I am reminded of the late John Armstrong...interviewed by Allen Keller along with his layout tour. John's layout was 50+ years in the making, having started it when he was younger, working on it through the years, and it still wasn't done when he passed away. But, in John's case, he admitted he never would finish a scene since scenery wasn't his thing. Someone once commented that his basement was like walking through a maze...it was a fantastic layout from the video tour despite not being finished.

Hopefully, I'll make it to retirement, but waiting to then to build a layout is kind of like hoping to win the lottery big-time; from the standpoint of still being alive and from the hope/expectation that savings/pension/401 haven't been pilfered by the financial institutions that we trust. There's no time like the present, and busy people are usually the ones who get things done. Now, for my 2nd cup of Joe for the day. 

Last edited by Paul Kallus

Paul, another thing to consider is your physical ability.  Over the last few years, I've spent time helping several guys (who waited until retirement) build their layouts.  It was a LOT easier crawling around under my own layout when I was in my late 40's to early 50's than it is crawling around under thiers now that I'm in my late 60's.  Other guys I know have had things like arthritis, knee replacements and such put a crimp in their layout building.  A large layout is a 10 year project. 

Bob posted:

Paul, another thing to consider is your physical ability.  Over the last few years, I've spent time helping several guys (who waited until retirement) build their layouts.  It was a LOT easier crawling around under my own layout when I was in my late 40's to early 50's than it is crawling around under thiers now that I'm in my late 60's.  Other guys I know have had things like arthritis, knee replacements and such put a crimp in their layout building.  A large layout is a 10 year project. 

Another very important factor often not factored in the long term plan.....until it has arrived.

I am not"finishing" so to speak but making it moveable.  Most people build these empires that can not be moved.  I was involved a  moduler group years ago and liked the idea of build curvemodules and straights, then if we move take out a few straights and make it smaller. 

I finished my dream layout after I retired 1 1/2 years ago. It's 4'x12', mostly Postwar, all conventional. All the wiring is on the tabletop, going from accessory to button so I don't have to kneel or crawl under it, and I built it on casters so I can shift it around if I need to, which I considered a good idea several layouts ago. 

"You have to grow old. You don't have to grow up". Ray Bradbury

Paul,

  Good topic...I had actually started a long running "retirement" topic years ago on this very subject. I think at least one of your responders posted on my topic too, Mark Boyce. 

  I think I've been saying "I am 3 years from retirement" for the last 5 years now, but now I think it is accurate. I am probably in the minority here, I am trying to hold off building a layout in the hopes that we will move further upstate in New York to save on the high property taxes we currently pay in the Hudson Valley. We are not warm weather folks, before anyone asks about moving south. 

 I have plywood and some prewar T-Rail track and O-27 track that I have been slowly stockpiling. 

Good luck on your project. 

Tom 

I built my layout when I was in my 50's thinking I could enjoy it into my retirement age.  Turns out I moved when I was 59 and sold everything for a song because I had to get everything out rather quickly.  I kept a few items.  So you take a chance when you build a layout too early... so to speak.

Chessie

Part of the forum since 2000.

Paul Kallus posted:

Has anyone ever finished their dream layout before retirement?

I did it both ways. I finished a 12'-by-8' layout ten years before I retired and built a 10'-by-5' layout after I retired. So, the basement now has two functional layouts. Each one took about five years to complete. The newer one was built to be transportable should a house move ever occur. It was a great retirement project. I kept myself occupied by building all the structures and scenery on both railroads.

MELGAR

Last edited by MELGAR
Chessie posted:

I built my layout when I was in my 50's thinking I could enjoy it into my retirement age.  Turns out I moved when I was 59 and sold everything for a song because I had to get everything out rather quickly.  I kept a few items.  So you take a chance when you build a layout too early... so to speak.

Chessie,

If you built it, say when you were 52, you would have gotten 7 years of enjoyment from it. Plus the fun of the build itself. 

One never knows what tomorrow will bring, so enjoy your time while you can. Just sayin'

MNCW posted:

Paul,

  Good topic...I had actually started a long running "retirement" topic years ago on this very subject. I think at least one of your responders posted on my topic too, Mark Boyce. 

  I think I've been saying "I am 3 years from retirement" for the last 5 years now, but now I think it is accurate. I am probably in the minority here, I am trying to hold off building a layout in the hopes that we will move further upstate in New York to save on the high property taxes we currently pay in the Hudson Valley. We are not warm weather folks, before anyone asks about moving south. 

 I have plywood and some prewar T-Rail track and O-27 track that I have been slowly stockpiling. 

Good luck on your project. 

Tom 

Paul:

 

Come join us in Central PA, no state or local tax on retirement lots of railroading and only about one hour from East Broad Top. I will even help you build that layout.

 

That being said I am working on my dream layout not to big about 800 sq ft give or take little. I can retire now but having much fun still working besides have to pay for all the layout stuff I want. Millhouse 36 TT, Ross Crossovers(Several) lots more Ross Turnouts. Beside I work from home 4 out of 5 days a week. It is like practicing for retirement. Now all that being said, once I have trains running the layout is finished everything else is just adding ice cream to the pie, the more the merrier!!! 

Rick

PRRT&HS #8473

N&W HS  #5825

State College, PA

"And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers

   Ride their father's magic carpet made of steel"

    "This train got the disappearing railroad blues"

 

MNCW posted:

Paul,

  Good topic...I had actually started a long running "retirement" topic years ago on this very subject. I think at least one of your responders posted on my topic too, Mark Boyce. 

  I think I've been saying "I am 3 years from retirement" for the last 5 years now, but now I think it is accurate. I am probably in the minority here, I am trying to hold off building a layout in the hopes that we will move further upstate in New York to save on the high property taxes we currently pay in the Hudson Valley. We are not warm weather folks, before anyone asks about moving south. 

 I have plywood and some prewar T-Rail track and O-27 track that I have been slowly stockpiling. 

Good luck on your project. 

Tom 

I recall that topic, Tom.  There was a lot of value in that conversation as with this one. 

As to the idea of moving to a different house, I am taking that into consideration.  We are now in a split entry house, a style we do not like, but the price was right when my mother-in-law wanted to unload it.  We will stay there as long as Kim's mom is still living or at least not in a care home.  Right now, she lives across the road.  I'm building the layout in modules I can move with me.  I don't have the modules specifically designed on the track plan, but am taking it into consideration.  Since Kim's mom is only 84, we could still be in this house for a while.  It has been a long process for this layout.  First carpal tunnel surgery in both hands for the second time in 2015, slipped disks in 2018 which damaged the sciatic nerve in the right leg.  Next it was left knee replacement this past November.  So I'm working on ways to build the layout without having to crawl, duckunder, or lay on a creeper.  I guess it's better than starting a traditional build a few years earlier and not taking those things into consideration.

I built my layout in the mid 1990s when I was in my mid 40s, and my kids were about 8 (son) and 10 (daughter) years old. 

I did it in a fever figuratively (very intensely and passionately) like a mad scientist, working on it when I got home from my law office until the wee hours of the morning when I was on a roll.  I built most of it in about 6 months.

As I reflect back on it, I think I was out of my mind when I did it. LOL.

I had great fun with my son and daughter when I built it. I think it helped them grow mentally to be involved. It became the family art project when we did the scenery together, our crowning achievement being our Popsicle Stick Yankee Stadium.

Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

I have been retired 13 years and had a good start on it before that. It's open grid  and still haven't started scenery. I work on it but it's now become sort of a job, I admit I'm loosing enthusiasm. I'm also getting old and take a lot of newspaper reading  breaks.

I do run trains some.

San Fernando Valley CA. Joined August 2009

Last edited by Dennis Rempel

This is a great thread.

Coming from someone (me ) who in the 10 years since returning to the hobby has only had temporary layouts that never got anywhere because I kept changing my mind, along with changing and adding scales (G-HO-N-O)  and never built a permanent layout.

Building the layout is part of the fun they say.

You will have a great ride Paul.

 

I have never finished a layout. I see the mistakes and start it over. I like model building the best, more so than actually building the layout.

Dick

Dick Donaway

VietNam Veteran

I've been building my dream layout for 15 years now. I hope I never finish because I enjoy the building process more than running trains. When I first started I worked quickly to get the layout finished, but I made many mistakes and spent quite a bit of time redoing my work.

I am encouraged by others who seem or have been "in the same boat." Misery loves company Just kidding, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, and it can be, minus some of the headaches from the lack of QC in our new trains, "operator errors", and "great expectations" that we sometimes put on ourselves in getting the dream layout underway and finished.

Rick: I'd love to move out to Central PA and join you and others in that beautiful part of our great state. It would take a financial upswing however, such as finding a pot of gold or buried treasure. Like others, I am locked into a mortgage and job, and my equity in the home is not very much, and a recent divorce knocked me down some more.

Some of you mentioned one of life's variables: moving. That is certainly a hinderance in starting/building the dream layout. I strongly considered that when I moved into my present home in 2011; in fact I didn't think I'd be here in Amish country this long, and accordingly, shortly after moving in, built a display-type layout (island-style 15' x 9') with the very idea I'd be moving at some point. And, like some of you, I didn't want to endeavor on a dream layout that would have to be torn down - been there done that in 2009 over job-change...still makes me cringe thinking about tearing down my former dream layout of 11-years.

But, as pointed out by someone, there is no time like the present because you just don't know what tomorrow holds. And, so for me, that display-type layout I started in 2012 is now the new dream layout -- facilitated by minor modification (installing 4-45 degree crossovers and looping the mainlines around the perimeter of the basement.

John, I use to be like you...enjoyed working more than running trains, but I think I am crossing over into the desire to run trains more than anything else. There will always be something to do with regards to working on our layouts, though.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

My purpose in sharing what follows is to help others that might benefit from it.

I'm glad I did the heavy work building my medium-sized around the walls layout (35 feet long and 4 feet wide) in my mid 40s long before retirement, which still has not happened at age 68. I do not have the motivation or energy that I had in my 40s, when I had young children who were excited about helping their dad with the layout. 

I still enjoy doing smaller projects on the layout that keep the creative juices flowing, but take much less time and energy than building the whole layout. For instance, this past few months I used parts of a kitbashed engine house to create a front wall to my Yankee Stadium, I scratch built my Polo Grounds, and hung a backdrop behind the Polo Grounds. 

We are all different, but I suspect that my experience is not uncommon. Arnold

 

 

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

Arnold - that is a very good point.

Assuming, and this is a big assumption, that we're still around, and in the same house AND able to retire, having the hard work already done, enables more enjoyment of finishing the layout and running trains. That is what I will try to focus on...a glass half-full kind of philosophy.

In a more graphic description - OLD = just don’t get up and go like we useta. 

Arnold you are right on. Thanks. 

Bill

Bill Webb

 

Old Hokie 70

The heavy lifting was done on sleepless nights or when I was on crutches for most of a year. Glad that happened then. Now small stuff that does not have major expense. Still working at 72 to keep my juices going. Now I can buy a few trains when I see something interesting. 

Presently well past average retirement age here with 741 sq ft of multi level bench work bolted and glued around the wall with a half dozen peninsulas and  just starting to hack at the scenery. 

A realistic goal for me would be to get a neighbor interested to help run the trains.  Plywood is made from trees so forests are well represented.

Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

A scene from a famous movie just occurred to me, which is related to this topic.

The movie is Field of Dreams and the scene is when Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) at the end of the movie sees his dad (as a young man wearing catcher's equipment) approaching him. Ray says to himself that he wasn't even a gleam in his father's eye when his father was that age. Then, when father and son meet on the baseball field to have a catch, the young catcher asks Ray: "Is this heaven?"

What I wish for all of you, who have built, or are planning to build, a layout before or after retirement, is to be able to look at your layout now, or someday in the future, and answer that same question in the affirmative: "yes, this is heaven." Arnold

 

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Arnold, Perfect.

Indeed, if my father, who died in 1955 when I was 10, and he 41, were to come into my trainroom, lean over my shoulder, and say, "Frankie, A job well-done," I would be in heaven.

FrankM

Last edited by Moonson

I do have difficulties reducing Heaven to the comparison of a finely completed model layout, however I have spent some Walter Mitty time wishing my father could share in my present RR which transcends anything we ever had when he was alive. 

The last train thing we shared was him checking out a new Sunset Big Boy I had snuck in on a visit to his nursing home.  Wow, I really miss him!!

Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

Tom, the model railroad can provide a connection for, and enhance, precious relationships: father and son, father and daughter, siblings, grandparent and grandchild, friends, etc. IMO, its those connections and relationships, and memories of them (like yours with your father), more than anything else, that can make the model railroad like heaven. 

Of course, there are other things besides a model railroad the can give us similar connections, relationships and memories. An example is having a catch again with one's father, now deceased, as happened in the movie Field of Dreams. Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

I also have lamented the passing of my father while chilling-out in the train room, and have tried to imagine what it would've been like building the layout together, as well as with my late father-in-law, who was a very nice and respectable man. Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and I think they would've enjoyed "working on the railroad" and running trains, though they would likely be flabbergasted at the amount of money I've spent on "toy trains."

After completing the stand-alone "island" oval-shaped platform (9' x 15') of my layout in 2013 or so, I envisioned it as a "postwar" paradise type-layout that folks back in the day would've thought a grand layout. It certainly was a step-up from my boyhood 4' x 6' platform. Now, it is expanded around the basement perimeter via cantilevered shelves and although far from finished, it does indeed invoke good feelings.

 

Last edited by Paul Kallus

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