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Hello out there. I'm Barbara Dunham, Clarke's wife, and a working member of the  Dunham Studios team. Generally at Dunham Studios we design and build complex complete layouts museums, corporations or private clients, mostly model railroaders. The evolution of a projectStraightforward Layout plans on computer 2-11-16Straightforward Layout, Roy, Clarke, Fletch straighten ruggingStraightforward Layout frame being set into placeStraightforward layout base pieces in barnStraightforward Layout basic set up, with Ray Wood starts with a meeting between Clarke (design), Fletcher (graphic development) and the client. Usually the client has a dream that he (and sometimes she) can visualize but not follow through with either because of lack of specific skills or time. (We figured that for one person to build the layouts on our iconic Citicorp Station- minus the 30' station building itself- it would take 25 years of working full time 7 days a week. Who has that much time?) The client whose layout I would like to share here wanted a 'naked' layout, a basic layout. He had built a rather large layout himself but it never got finished and never ran properly. He wanted to scenic the layout himself once it is installed but he wanted Clarke to design the layout and track plan, Fletcher to develop it to fit into his Manhattan brownstone and The Studio to build the basic layout, lay the track and do the wiring. (With us a 'basic' layout included a finished T1-11 skirted base with entry doors for under-the-layout storage.) What I would like to share with you, as this layout is presently evolving at the studio, is photos of it as it grows. We'll start with the plans and take you to where we are now which is the base on the studio floor getting ready for the first level of track.


Images (5)
  • Straightforward Layout plans on computer 2-11-16
  • Straightforward Layout, Roy, Clarke, Fletch straighten rugging
  • Straightforward Layout frame being set into place
  • Straightforward layout base pieces in barn
  • Straightforward Layout basic set up, with Ray Wood
Last edited by Dunham Studios
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I admit (and apologize) that this has been a long time coming, but we've got three complete, all O Gauge, projects from basic (see above) to hugely complex -- and ongoing (see our embedded video post)-- to a fascinating "walk-around" layout built for a father and his seven-year-old son (Currently on our OGR half-page Ad) featuring a layout loop at "seven-year-old height"--about twenty inches above the floor--complete with handheld (LionTech, of course) control.  We're not quite sure whether to do these one at a time or to work them in together, or in three separate OGR Forum posts.  What's your opinion?


I'm very interested to see the layouts and the building process and how the professionals go about doing these things. I have admired some of your completed layouts on the TM videos. 

I would prefer separate threads. I think it would make it much easier for the followers to keep them straight and not get mixed up. So many good threads are posted on the OGR forum, the really long ones on just a single subject are sometimes difficult enough to keep up with all by themselves. With a separate thread for each layout it would be much easier for us to follow along and keep the related questions/comments straight. I think it would be highly unlikely, but some members might not want to follow all of the layouts? If so they could follow just the ones they wanted to.

 Hello REDJIMMY55:  "The Barn", was designed by me (and built by our staff)  in the Adirondack Style with slash-wood siding (siding with the rough edge left on) from a now long-gone local sawmill.  The Barn used to have windows on each end but "progress" involving constant shop expansion over the years (from 2500 to 8000 sq. ft.) closed them off.  But we'd be sealed-in without the front windows.  They actually bring the outside in.  The locals still call it "The Cathedral of St. Barbara of the Adirondacks".  St. Barbara likes it too.

Hello CBQER:  That was our first really-huge HO Scale layout, built for Willie Theisen, the Pizza King in 1990.  750 square feet, I think and in a building built just for it.  Willie soon moved from Omaha to California, donated the layout, and we moved it to the Omaha Western Heritage Museum.  We can always do these things because Dunham Studios layouts are always built to move.  That's always a given.  And you know what?  If you know how, it's simply easier, and cheaper, to do it that way.  It resided at the Museum for many years.  I never knew where it went after that until I received an e-mail with photo attachments from someone in your group.  You've done a great restoration job.  Model Railroader Magazine and I traveled back to Omaha in 1991and did an extensive photo shoot for a story that was never published (the then-new MR Editor Andy Sperandio didn't like the way I typed it, if you can believe that).  You really ought to get with MR and get the story of the layout's travels covered.  You've got a great website, too! 



Last edited by Dunham Studios

I was just looking back over REDJIMMY55 and RATPAK's comments about winning the lottery, and what I noticed was the idea that we're very expensive.  We can be if we're doing a million dollar exhibit, and we have done a couple.  But we also just delivered a 5 x 9 layout for $8500.00 complete with track, scenery and controls.  So, it all depends what expensive is. Or isn't.  See us at York in April for some surprising small and affordable Hi-Rail Displays. 


Last edited by Dunham Studios

I just want to add, on the price issue. If you've spent 5 years, eight years, ten years on your layout do you have any idea of what it actually has cost you? (And your free labor doesn't count.) We've done layouts (and not small ones) for clients who've told us that, aside from the fact that we brought their dreams to fruition, we actually did it for less than they spent on the home layout they had built  themselves that our layout was replacing.

Straightforward Layout, Ray cutting holes in platform framing for electrics passageStraightforward Layout, Ray lifting platform off table in carpentry shopStraightforward Layout, Ray & Bob carrying platform to place on layoutStraightforward Layout,Bob & Ray placing platformStraightforward Layout, Bob & Ray checking out framed base level in placeStraightforward layout, Bob & Ray lifting spreader ready to place it.Straightforward layout, Bob & Ray lowering spreader into placeStraightforward layout spreaders-2Straightforward layout, Roy painting baseStraightforward Layout, Ray cutting holes in platform framing for electrics passageStraightforward Layout with first track level on right endI'll keep things separate (and try to keep Clarke doing the same.) Anyhow, on the basic layout above (way above!) we're at the point of fitting the first track level to the base. It won't stay there for long because Roy is about to mix the paint to get a first coat on the T-111 base. After that we'll proceed to install supports and lay on the rug-covered tops so John can start laying track.

We experimented with attaching the rugging (one step above indoor-outdoor carpet but with some texture) to the plywood and then cutting the platform tops to shape with the rug on it. This allows for creating complex shapes without having to redraw the track plan onto the rug, then cut the rug while worrying about having to patch in odd shapes thereby changing the visible rug texture. The experiment was a success. I'll show you as we go along. Meanwhile let me show you where we are as of today 2-29-16.


Images (10)
  • Straightforward Layout with first track level on right end
  • Straightforward Layout, Ray cutting holes in platform framing for electrics passage
  • Straightforward Layout, Ray lifting platform off table in carpentry shop
  • Straightforward Layout, Ray & Bob carrying platform to place on layout
  • Straightforward Layout,Bob & Ray placing platform
  • Straightforward Layout, Bob & Ray checking out framed base level in place
  • Straightforward layout, Bob & Ray lifting spreader ready to place it.
  • Straightforward layout, Bob & Ray lowering spreader into place
  • Straightforward layout spreaders-2
  • Straightforward layout, Roy painting base
Last edited by Dunham Studios

Hello out there. I can't make heads or tails of how to post so what has happened is that I've just added photos (I seem to be able to do that!) without explanations. Bear with me as I try to play catch-up. Clarke, in conference with the client, designed this Basic Layout: frame faced with painted T-111/rug covered track platforms/track (as per clients needs)/wiring/controls. We went from the design phase to Fletcher Conlon (Clarke's assistant) working out the details on the computer and printing out the plans from which Bob & Ray (our carpentry/comedy team) built the base. When the base was assembled (and note the T-111 facing) an inner framework of spreaders was built and inserted to support the trackboards which are framed and made into 'little platforms' which will be bolted onto the base. (There will be several levels of track so you'll see them growing from the base track board platform). Do note in the photo of the track platform there are 'portholes'. These are to run the wiring through. Since Clarke spent some 40 years designing scenery and lighting for shows and operas many of which had to travel, Dunham Studios layouts are built and wired in segments for easy travel and assembly. (And ironically disassembly as a number of our clients have moved at least once and we've had to disassemble their layouts and reassemble them at their new location. But that's another story.)Anyhow, the photos you see (somewhere) above illustrate the thread we're following on the Straightforward Basic Layout. Do bear with me. A computer whiz, I'm not. Computer semi-literate is closer to it.



We can bear with you learning how to use the forum.  We just had to learn a new way to add photos when the forum was given a new look by Hoopla the software company OGR contracts to host the forum.  We are just appreciative of you taking the time to post.  As one who has moved several times, I can appreciate building a layout in modules that can be moved, and I have already picked up new ideas of how to do it.  Thank you!

Fascinating. I've often wondered if there were people out there wealthy enough (and/or time-constrained enough) to hire out for the building of a layout.  I enjoy the building part of the hobby because, frankly, I don't "work with my hands" for a living and I love the diversion of doing carpentry and electrical work.  My workmanship still sucks, but it sucks less today than it did on my first layout.  If I ever hit the lottery, I'm converting to scale, moving to a place with a bigger basement, and hiring someone like this. 

Our "Basic" Layout is progressing. Yesterday the guys got the first level of track platform established in its proper place. You can see Fletcher (our Graphics guru and plan creator) and Bob, half of our Bob & Ray carpentry team, nudging the platforms millimeter by millimeter into place towards Roy(mold-maker/sculptor/painter), Ray (carpenter), John (track/electronics/controls) & Clarke. After which, Fletcher shows John the track plan. More will follow.Fletcher & John go over Basic Layout track plancrew inching left end 1st level platform into placeFletch & Bob inch right end 1st level into place.


Images (3)
  • crew inching left end 1st level platform into place
  • Fletch & Bob inch right end 1st level into place
  • Fletcher & John go over Basic Layout track plan
Last edited by Dunham Studios

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