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If you had the opportunity to design your own train room, what would it include?  A second floor room with stairs in the center of the room to allow an "around the walls" layout with no duck under?  A drop ceiling with can lighting?  What kind of flooring?  HVAC?  Windows?  I may have the opportunity to do this.  What would you include/exclude?

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Restroom.  Separate area for workbench.  Spray painting area with exhaust.  Seating area.  Wall switch to turn off all layout power.  Lights on a separate circuit (blow a fuse and the lights stay on).  Consider how your physical capabilities will change in the future and design accordingly, and consider the physical limitations of your visitors.

Last edited by Mallard4468

Width and length to support the largest diameter curves suitable for your planned fleet of locomotives and equipment.

Whether walk-around or around-the-walls plan for comfortable aisles: two feet is absolute minimum for one-way traffic, and three feet allows two people to squeeze pass each other.

Display space to show off your collection. Space for storage of boxes.

Variable color lighting to simulate day-to-night transition.

Access to house equipment if present:  power panel, WH, HVAC, etc.


A basement with access stairs in the middle with an outside entrance (and associated duck under/drop leaf).

Good lighting, no finished ceiling.  No carpeting; layout room floors get gnarly.  Bare floors are easy to clean.  Just sweep and mop.

An alcove for a workshop with associated duck under/drop leaf.  Alcove shared with furnace and water heater.  Bathroom is a nice to have.  Refrigerator and a way to make tea are a nice to have - must haves for tea drinkers.

Lots of storage space that allows for rolling carts with shelves.  That makes it easier to get under the layout.

Lots of accessible display space.  I have wall display shelves and suspended display shelves.  Remember that you'll need two hands to put locomotives onto the shelves.

Convenient electrical outlets for corded tools like soldering irons and chargers.

I am intentionally leaving the "Dream Button" OFF. If one genuinely has the opportunity to have layout space, then I think one truly needs to preface ANY action with a LOT of thought. Such as...

The first priority: Where are you at in life?

IF you're in the winter of your life (i.e. past 60), then the following general health issues need to be considered:

* How is your overall health? Do you have heart issues, joint issues, back problems, are you significantly overweight? Etc? Not talking about the little aches and pains that happen with natural aging and happens to all, but talking existing health issues that may make mobility additionally difficult as the years pass. IF you have health issues, you need to factor that in and temper your "go big or go home" approach. (If you have any such thoughts in regard to your future layout.) Instead, you need to consider that steep flights of stairs will eventually become a deterrent, as will duck-unders and other contortion requiring ploys. You will also need the mobility to be under the bench work stringing wire/whatever. If you already have some existing health challenges, consider scaling back you scope and plan ways to accommodate your challenges. Retirement age (i.e. 65+ is NOT a good time to start from scratch and start a huge layout by yourself. A huge layout requires years in the making, years.

* Are the factors that determine where you live currently within your control? If you have a job that may fold out from under you, or transfer you, etc, that will need to be considered before you sink what will eventually be 5 figure values into creating/finishing the space, materials for the layout, wiring, the train equipment, etc, etc. An individual building a model railroad on a larger scope (500+ square feet) takes a good deal of money AND work (which equates to time.)

* Where are you at with model trains? Do you currently have the needed skills to design, then build, a significant sized layout? Even with the skills, it will be a LOT of work and meaningful time investment to get from an empty room to a functioning layout.

* Lastly, consider asking yourself: What do I want to do within the hobby? Is your interest found in reflecting traditional toy train type layouts? (Which can simplify the bench worked needed and such.) Are you wanting to take the "Hi-Rail" approach and plan your track to have more prototype "feel" along with the desire undulating "sincere" scenery? Do like to just watch the trains go? Do you know if you like switching challenges? These aspects and more will need to be factored into what type of layout would best suit where you want to go with your model railroading.

IF there will be period of time before circumstances allow commencing construction, I encourage you to thoughtfully consider the above points and do your absolute best to learn and understand what you're going to be getting into BEFORE any money is laid out. IF you do so, you may discover your "Givens n' Druthers" will favor a simpler and smaller approach.

Best of luck to you!


I did design my present layout room and I am happy with it.  It's a basement room that I finished before I started the layout.  I have a half bath, a separate workshop, a computer desk, and a sitting area with a large screen TV and a large table.  Also important was two stairways, one from the inside hallway inside and the other from the garage to use for guests and things that make a mess.  Both were designed straight down with no bends or corners so as to better carry plywood and etc. down.  Ended up with about a 6 ft by 20 ft layout space.  Built a 16 ft display shelving into a wall with glass doors to keep out dust. 

Layout has no duck-unders, minimum of 3 ft wide aisles, and is 42 inches off the floor.

Didn't think of everything (does anyone?) but am very happy with the way it turned out.


My layout room was designed by me online and built by Tuff Shed. I have LED lights (with a dimmer switch) on the ceiling, a few train-related decorations on the walls, a custom backdrop from Trainjunkies (designed with my input), and of course, my 11' 4" X 15' 4.5" layout that I'm slowly working on.

Of course, I would love to have a large basement or separate shed, garage, etc. that I could build a much larger layout, but I make do with the space I have. At least I have O72 and larger curves (O84 max) on my layout. That's important to me.

Some of the most important things to consider: Heating, cooling, and moisture. I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it is really hot in the summer and cool in the winter. It's pretty dry here, but for someone in, say, Florida, where it rains more often, moisture is a major problem.

A huge layout requires years in the making, years.

A huge or even large layout is also not unlike a small child that never grows up and moves out -- it's a source of endless maintenance and care taking.  Some may find joy in that, but not unlike the owner, it gets old.  Setting and accepting realistic limits and objectives can be be more rewarding than a endless and frustrating journey.

BTW, my layout is in the back corner of the basement, rather small, no windows, no plumbing or H/VAC to consider, quite dry and perhaps something of a rarity, it's finished.  I on rare occasions tweak some details in the scenery, but that sense of completion accomplishment satisfaction is hard to discount.

The 'train room" at Mottler Station is a make-over of an L-shaped addition to the rear of the house built by the former owner (a draftsman) who used it as a home office. That addition was made with two levels to conform to the slope of the land, which became an challenge when installing a 15x19-feet layout. The addition included a workshop - very convenient.

The layout platform was made from hollow-core doors - widened to four feet, supported by SKIL plastic sawhorses, and covered with green patio carpeting. It was placed in the room with minimum-width aisles on all but one side.

With 20/20 hindsight, what I'd do differently and recommend to others ...

1)  Remove ceiling florescent fixtures, and install dimmable track lighting fixtures instead.

2)  In this case, raise the section of floor so that the entire room has ONE level.

3)  Change the walk-around layout to an against-the-wall layout; give up aisle space on two sides of the "L" in favor
     of creating more layout platform space for O72 curves. I'm limited to O42 curves at present; some of my best trains can't
      be run  on the layout and instead rest as shelf queens on display.

4)  Because I couldn't "build out," I "built up" instead and installed a L-shaped upper level as a Christmas area with 36 Dept
     56 lighted porcelain buildings with three short trolley lines. Regretfully, I didn't have rise-to-run space for train access
     to/from the upper levels.

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394


Images (4)
  • MHM Layout, Level 1 as JPG
  • MHM Layout, Level 2 as JPG
  • E-W Platform
  • N-S Platform
Last edited by Mike H Mottler

hmm my dream layout room would a large carpeted well ventalated space probably the size of half my current house.

the layout itself would be an around the room layout featuring traditional o gauge, modern european / american tinplate and japanese large scale / ogauge  and battery powered toys

in the center of the room connected by custom tinplate style bridges will be a large city island with a custom "World Union Station" inspired by the old marklin stations where all the trains of different countries and sizes meet and load and unload . it will be a TOY train layout a more modern version of what is seen in Toccata For Toy trains

that is if i ever have plenty of time and help and funds to accomplish it

Andre has said it all.
It was fortunate that I was able to have built a train room at the back of the garage. It has an awkward building line because of the county building codes and set backs. But it’s 18’ across the top and 22’ down the left side. The right side comes in at 12’ feet. Many of my insights came from reading the adventures of others on the Forum. But we went with mini-splits, extra outlets in the walls and outlets in the floor. The lighting is LEDs with dimmers. Outside rail is 54 degree curves and 42 on the inner. There are two independent trolley lines.
Used up a lot of paper and then multiple renditions on AnyRail.

In retrospect I would have designed it from the backdrop out. But, the bench work was built and I had laid, and removed, rails numerous times before having my eyes opened in Run 327 and the article authored by Ronnie Tong, Jr. I. the same edition there is an excellent article by forumite “Trumptrain”. Both very inspirational.

So the reality is something that I could not have envisioned. My suggestion would be; be patient and do your research. When you think you’re done, read some more.



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I'm in the planning stage, I intend to utilize the space which I have available, keeping in mind that I don't have enough years left,  the discretionary funds, or available space, to build an  a "train empire" sort of layout.

I intend to recreate my childhood layout, but on a larger scale. That way, I will be able to actually build a layout that will allow me to run the stuff I have acquired over the years. More importantly, I will be able to simply enjoy running my trains.

It may not be my dream layout, but it will a feasible and realistic alternative. That's good enough for me!

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