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Anyone "Finish" their layout? What are you doing now?

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  • Member since
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  • From: Cresskill, NJ USA
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Anyone "Finish" their layout? What are you doing now?
Posted by gdelmoro on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 6:36 PM

Hi all, I know "finish" is a relative term but if you have completed your intended plan, all track laid and wired and scenery complete, what are you doing now?

If you operate, do you have regulag sessions with other MR operators, do it yourself?

Are you planning on ripping something up or extending your layout?

I'm about 75% done but I'm already thinking of changing some things.


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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 8:22 PM

I seriously doubt if a model railroad is ever finished.  Museum and show place layouts could be called finished but a personal layout?  I finished laying my track in the very early 90s and I have my scenery down to about 15% after almost 30 years.  Electrical changes are almost daily on my layout since I got hooked on Arduinos.
My middle name should have been “Mod”, every time I go near my layout I see things that either “need” or are “must do modifications”.  I’ve overhauled my control panel three times in the last four years.
If I ever “finish” my layout I can keep myself occupied at my hobby workbench, truthfully I’ll probably be pushing up grass before my layout is “finished”.  I’m a loner so operating sessions is out of the picture, other model railroaders wouldn’t put up with me and my crazy ideas.
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
My Model Railroad   
Bakersfield, California
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
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Posted by Alexander on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 9:03 PM

I agree with the post above. A layout may never be finished. However I did design my layout for small coal drags and short line operations, so it's nice to sit down in the evenings and only need 2 engines. I have not finished it at all yet; but I plan to have an operating coal rotary dumper and coal flood loader, so sometimes I might not even use waybills and just load and unload coal. I had to dig around A TON to find rotary dumper plans for my walthers kit, so if you want one I'll spare you the time:

have a great day/night! (It's night for me)

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Posted by DSchmitt on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 9:40 PM

Some people who "finish" their layouts tear them down and start over.

Some reasons:

They perfer building to running/operating.

There are things about the layout that only a major rebuilding or replacement can fix.

Interests changed, - scale, guage era.

And of course moving. 


I tried to sell my two cents worth, but no one would give me a plug nickel for it.

I don't have a leg to stand on.

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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 10:45 PM

For me, a layout is rather the journey than the destination, although I do enjoy running trains (I couldn´t call it operating - my layout is just a simple loop with a dead end siding).

I started my current layout 18 months ago and although it is only a 3 by 5ft. affair and is starting to look the way I wanted, it is far from being finished. There are lots of details still missing, the most obvious one the catenary. There is layout lighting to be installed, and not to forget the sound system for ambient sounds. It will at minimum take another two years to complete the layout to a stage I could call it finished. This is partly due to my waning dexterity, but also due to the lack of funds, as i have only a tiny budgert for my hobby.

What will happen, once the layout is finished? I guess I will sell it, like I did with my previous layouts, all of which were small, portable layouts. There is a market for small, well made layouts, but don´t expect riches coming from the sale. The usual rate is 30 to 40% of what you have paid, the hours of work not counting.

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Posted by rogerhensley on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 5:35 AM

I have pretty much "finished" my layout. I've been at it since 1983. Oh, and I guess that I've built 6 more at the local Historical Society for display. Oh, well.

Roger Hensley
= ECI Railroad - =
= Railroads of Madison County -

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Posted by mobilman44 on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 5:43 AM


"Finished" is a subjective term when it comes to layouts.  IMO, they are never finished as there are always details to add, upgrades to make, various improvements, and of course maintenance. 

Right now, I am working on the last three (relatively small) areas to scenic, basically setting structures and applying trees, shrubs, and groundcover.  Once that is done, one could say it was "finished" - but I could think of many, many things that need to be done to even approach that point.

Isn't that one of the beauties of the hobby "layoutwise"?  There is always something you can do to the layout, and yet it is in a state where you can run trains and let your imagination run on overdrive.

Some of us need to keep in mind, the real fun is in the building - be it the basic layout or details or improvements.





Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by gdelmoro on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 9:20 AM

Thanks for all the replies. I don't think I will ever "Finish" but I thought I would try to see what everyone else is doing.  Interesting that so far no one is primarialy just operating.  I've seen some MR operations that are very complex and I guess that process itself is also never finished. Geeked


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Posted by mlehman on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 11:06 AM

The layout was basically finished, then I started on an extension in the utility room...Stick out tongue  I've made a number of small changes of industrial and yard tracks as operating experience better informed some design choices made long ago. I rebuilt some of my RTR track hacks with handlaid trackwork. I added more than 5,000 bumpy chennille trees to bulk up my forests. I plan on more emphasis on rebuilding stand-in structures, adding details, and upgrading rolling stock details and weathering.

That said, I have been putting a lot of effort into trying to get operations going the last cuple of years. Getting to 4 operators is where things get intereating on my layout and has proven difficult to achieve consistenty.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 4:03 PM

I was working on the last section of my layout a year and a half ago.  Then, my LHS closed (greedy landlord, and the owner wanted to retire anyway) and it took the wind out of my sails.  I have done some work over the past 6 months, but not much, and now I'm facing moving out of the house, so my currrent project is packing up the layout to move it.  I don't know if it will ever be rebuilt, or in what form, but I'm dismantling and storing carefully with the assumption that it will rise again.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, August 03, 2017 9:20 AM

Hasn't the OP read the long repeated mantra in MR magazine over the years: "A layout is never finished"???

I'd imagine with the mobility of society that it's a challenge for anyone to finish a layout to a point resembling "completion".  Yes, there are a few folks in forums who can brag about having the same good sized basement for 20, 30 or 40 years, but it's not so common anymore.

I've moved around a good deal and managed to build 3 sizable layouts in a grarage and two basements, and only two completed to the point I could run trains around the whole thing, and one was nearly to that point. The first two were plywood Pacifics when they came down, the third and latest was getting some scenery started.

Now the wife wants to move so the current and third layout is truly "finished", finito, done and going going gone ...

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by nycmodel on Thursday, August 03, 2017 10:43 AM

I would agree that "finished" is a relative term. While my HO shelf layout is pretty much in a finished state I started to build a garden railroad outside when I retired 5 years ago. The garden RR is probably finished as far as track is concerned but the garden part will never be finished. Having said that, this winter I got involved with an Arduino microcontroller and finally animated my two road crossings on the HO layout.

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, August 06, 2017 10:34 AM

I compleatly finished mine except for a few buildings and more weathering for a 30x15' layout but am moving so get to start again. This layout took about 3 years off and on to build but could have been done in 6 months or less (not a throw together type either), I just got it down to a system and can do a 2'x4' module in less than 40hr (not counting dry time). However we will not go into how much time it would take to plan it!!!!!!!

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:57 AM

Once I finish a ISL then I fine detail the layout and operate it.

The reason is simple with thousands of dollars in cars and locomotives I want a return of my investment by using them.I didn't invest that money for those models to look pretty in their boxes while being stored in totes while I keep building and ripping out layouts.




“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 11:49 AM

Being somewhat impatient, I also don't think being "finished" is really possible.  Tastes and preferences change and so does the financial situation, which can enhance the layout.

One way to try something new in a layout is look at MR articles and find something completely new to try.  I love reading how some can stratchbuild or kitbash a structure or industry. Sometimes, I look at the layout with the eye of changing things.

Who hasn't ripped out part of their layout to add something new?  If you haven't yet, why not try?  I did in a few ways and don't regret the results.  This is  my first layout and the improvements really work for me--going to DCC from DC, broadening a curve in the front to 30", adding a 30 deg crossover track, redesigning a few turnouts, and making the layout a true point-to-point.  These weren't minor fixes on a small layout but so worth it!

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Posted by gdelmoro on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 2:08 PM


Once I finish a ISL then I fine detail the layout and operate it.

The reason is simple with thousands of dollars in cars and locomotives I want a return of my investment by using them.I didn't invest that money for those models to look pretty in their boxes while being stored in totes while I keep building and ripping out layouts.


Yes Yes Yes


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Posted by Lonnie Utah on Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:42 AM

I'd say we're coming down the home stretch on our little 4x8' (80-90% finished).

We have the ability to run trains (and have for a long time), and most folks outside of the hobby wouldn't recognize the layout as not being "finished". 

I here's the list a few weeks ago (in no particular order): 

Build fascia

Glue down signs and light poles

Light City

Fill in scenery bare spots.  (Worked hard on this last weekend. I must have made and planted close to 100 deciduous trees. I'm going to add about the same number of conifers and should be done.  

Stripe Road

Build pond (wetland)

Finish Bulkhead

 Finish the truss bridge upper (My current project and the biggest and most complicated thing I have left to do. My first real scratch build, and it's a curved bridge.  These things are not working in my favor. It's one of the last things I have to do because I couldn't really figure out how to make it work until recently.  Was inspired at the train show last week.)  


And after last weekend, we can add "repair concrete road bridge" as they youngest member of the team crashed it into Bridge Canyon... Hmm Smile



I've also resolved finish one project on the layout before starting any others. 

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Posted by joe323 on Friday, August 11, 2017 6:29 AM

This weekend I am going to declare the new SIW complete because I expect to have to take it down in the next year or so in order to move downstairs which is a mixed blessing as it will give me a chance to correct sone mistakes.

However before that happens ( which is inevitable at this point) I want to operate the layout in its current state.

Planning for the third SIW is underway.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, August 11, 2017 11:25 AM

Well, I guess the question is what's finished? 

My 6 x 12 Lionel layout had all the track down and wired.  Scenery was Indoor/Outdoor green carpet on the table with  prebuilt structures.  It was finished in the sense that I wasn't doing anything more with it except running trains.  It's being dismantled for my upcoming move.

My 12 x 31 S scale layout only has a partially completed yard and only temporary wiring.  Clearly not finished.  It too will be dismantled for the move.

I don't really worry too much about finishing a layout, I just try to get to running some trains on at least part of it.


If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Friday, August 11, 2017 1:06 PM

My favorite part of the hobby is operations.  And I know a fair number of operators who have finished their layouts.

What they do then is OPERATE.  That's the whole point to building the layout in the first place!


Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

Michael Mornard

Bringing the North Woods to South Dakota!

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Posted by Medina1128 on Thursday, August 17, 2017 1:29 PM

I THOUGHT my layout was finished. That was until I expanded it with a 20x30 foot section. The layout, overall, always need details; people, cars with people in them ( as opposed to the empty ones on the streets), "trash", etc. I'm 62 now, and I doubt that it'll ever get "finished". There's room for more sidings and industries, even if they are background buildings. 

Now that I mention it, I think I'll go check out some of those areas for possible additions. Big Smile

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