All the Model Rail Layouts

While showing layouts as part of free-mo, I am often asked about my home layout. My response is often “which one?” At any given time I have at least four layouts in process (six right now). These layouts are always at various stages of completion and represent several scales, gauges and time periods. Here is a list of my current layout projects and the status of each:

Free-mo Modules

HO Std Gauge, 1970s NW Boat Yard, CSX Novi and Gypsum Supply modules – 90% complete, needs detail and fine tuning.

Free-mo is a module standard which promotes realistic module design, operation, unique layouts and promotes fun by sharing the hobby with others. Free-mo is NOT A CLUB. The standard is used in the USA and the rest of the world (there are minor variations, see the web site for additional info). Anyone can host a Free-mo setup anytime. Invitations to a setup are posted on the internet and anyone with a compliant module can ask to attend. There are NO DUES in Free-mo.

My Free-mo modules are the only modern (post steam era) modeling that I do. Although the theme is the Detroit area and suburbs in the late 1970s, I am far from being strict on the time and will run some 21st century equipment for fun on the layout. With the large radius curves of Free-mo I am able to run longer cars and even a passenger train without them looking toy like. Free-mo is the fix I need when I want to run modern or long equipment.

Future modules in the plans but not started include:

  • End Modules
  • Passenger Station(s)
  • Curved Modules

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Mound City

HO Std Gauge 1862 Civil War Layout – 40% complete, needs structures, scenery and better locomotives and rolling stock.

Modeled Area of Map
Modeled Area of Map

This is a display layout meant to be shown at train shows. Modeling the 1860s has become a real challenge. This is the first layout that I hand built the turnouts and hand laid all the track. This was out of necessity since code 55 flex track and stub turnouts in HO are not available. After the track was laid, the layout sat idle for a couple years while I tried to figure out what to do about locomotives and structures. The only HO locomotives close to the Rogers 1850s locomotives I need to model are the very old Mantua/Tyco 4-4-0 General. These are not good runners and the old wheels will not work on code 55 rail. This will require me to build a locomotive and find new drivers. I have never re-built a locomotive to this extent, so this will be a challenge. My plan is to follow Alan Mueller’s book on rebuilding the Mantua General.

Cannon/Battery Close Up
Cannon/Battery Close Up

Beyond locomotive issues, the slow progress has also been lack of kits for 1850-60 era structures. This will require me to scratch build all the structures on the layout. Scratch building is another item I am new at. I have completed a couple generic structures to get my hands wet and need to move on to more specific structures to capture the essence of the area and time frame. The hospital in Mound City is a centerpiece and needs to be visually very close to the prototype. This will be a real challenge.

Stock Mantua General added just for scale
Stock Mantua General added just for scale

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Peshekee River Railroad

HO Std Gauge Circa 1900 Mining Railroad – Phase II planning, first layout went to 20% completion before abandonment

This railroad is my only large permanent railroad (not intended to travel and be shown). Originally started as an around the room shelf layout in my basement workshop, the initial design was a point to point for prototype operations. There was also the option for continuous running when i just felt like running a train or breaking in a locomotive. unfortunately the limitations of my basement and sharing space in my workshop has not worked out.

Iron Range and Huron Bay 4-8-0
One of two Iron Range and Huron Bay 4-8-0 Locomotives. They were sold to the Algoma Central after the line went bankrupt.

I began planning a Phase II of the railroad where I would use former storage space in another part of the basement. This area has so many limitations I am perplexed with the design. The basement of my house is barely six foot high. In many parts I must duck to get to different areas of the basement. My goal when completed would be to have small operating sessions and share the layout with others. As the space is, this is not going to happen. This layout, although one of my favorite themes will be on hold until a better location is acquired.

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Dolly Varden Inspired Micro

On30 Circa 1920 Mining Company – 10% complete, Base board started, testing track plans

I have been fascinated by On30 for a long time and the Dolly Varden in British Columbia is a great subject. I have owned several pieces of equipment and have been looking for just the right situation to create a layout. The theme for this layout will be a very small mining railroad which hauls rock from the mine to an ore bin and dock. This will be a very short railroad with a single 0-4-0 locomotive and little bobber ore cars. It will be very tight curves and more vertical scenery than depth.

I have not decided on a name for the layout yet. The Dolly Varden in British Columbia was the inspiration but since I am not trying to model it exactly, I do not want to use that name. This layout will be featured in future articles as the plan comes together. Anyone want to suggest a name?

Detailed information specifically for the Dolly Varden is available from

Brewery Tramway

O9 Circa 1930ish – 10% complete, built to test small helix, needs scenic design finalized

Track and Roadbed Placed in Struts
Track and Roadbed Placed in Struts

The Brewery Tramway was an experiment to see if a helix could work on a very small layout. The concept was a success but since building the base board and helix the layout has languished. I would like to finish it but I am not happy with my concepts for the scenery. The vertical space between the levels has me perplexed and in a design block (kind of like writers block). I am sure, someday this layout will make a comeback but for now it sits in the corner with it’s future in doubt.

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WWI Trench Railway

OO9/HOn30) – Locomotive and rolling stock on order, plan in process

Bachmann WDR 4-6-0
Minitrains USA 2-6-2

I have wanted to do a trench railroad for a very long time. The issue has been the locomotives and the rolling stock. As with Mound City there was not much out there for the WWI modeler. That has recently changed with the new locomotives by Minitrains and Bachmann. I have placed orders for the Minitrains locomotive and rolling stock. I am checking options for ordering the Bachmann locomotive. The Minitrains locomotive is HOn30 1/87 while the Bachmann is OO9 1/76. I will need to evaluate the sizes and what figures, vehicles and so on look best.

Ypres 1917
Ypres 1917

On the scenery side, I want to model a supply depot and then progress to the edge of the front where the mud is deep and the trees are mostly gone. The idea is to have a 2-sided scene where one is the depot and the other is the beginning of the trenches. As the rails move around to the opposite side the scenery will shift to more and more desolation. The train will be supplying artillery and infantry supplies to a couple sidings in the trench area.

Cook steam locomotive 1917
Cook steam locomotive 1917

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Why so many layouts?

I like variety! I like all aspects of the hobby and do not feel I should be relegated to a single subject. This is another reason I like small railroads. I can work on what appeals to me at the moment. This allows freedom to be artistic on what appeals the most at the moment. The trade off is that project (layouts) take longer to complete. This OK with me after all, this is a hobby!

Author: Marshall Stull

2 thoughts on “All the Model Rail Layouts

  1. The Dolly Varden was the source of inspiration of Alexander Zelkine’s Degulbeef and Cradding, in Sn3. Not a small layout, but a remarkable one.

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