Chairmans ramblings about Layout Considerations based on past speakers to the club.

John de Frayssimet came along to the Borders Model Railway Club Meeting on the 19th of September 2012.

John is a very experienced modeller and some of his layouts can be seen on, as well as "County Gate" and "Cliff Hanger" John will have no less than 3 layouts on show at next months Warley Model Railway Show.

Rather than give a report on the evening it might be better if I listed some of the Bullet Points that he raised during his talk.

Make a Model of the model, ie check out how the design looks when portrayed in 3D.

Aim to build a Exhibition Layout when BMRC plans its 00 Layout.

When designing the layout consider the angle of view that the public will get.

Think about the height of the viewer.

Always remember that model railways live in a landscape, as did the real thing. The landscape was there before the railway was built.

Avoid straight lines and never lay the track running perfectly parallel to the front of the layout boards

Try to avoid base board joints, and think carefully about the length of the base boards.

Plan carefully how you will store the layout and how you will transport it to Shows. Consider the size of the car or van. Sometimes a purpose built car trailer might be the way forward.

The height of the backscene will go some way to shielding the middle age spread of the operators when at shows.

Consider using a photographic backscene. Many photocopy shops can print a roll, thus allowing a continuous backscene. Take to the print shop examples of the scatter material you will be using on the layout. This is in  order that backscene hues are consistent with the forground scatter material actually used on the baseboard.  He seeks a consistent approach to colouration where model and backscene merge.

The backscene must not have 90 degree corners, arrange the backscene so it continues around in a curve when reaching the end of the layout.

John uses thin alloy sheet on alloy angle uprights for his layouts.

Model your layout from reality; do not base your model on a model.

Decide what time of the year you are modelling, so as to make sure that all the layout and back scene are appropriate for the same date. To check on this aspect John takes many photos of plants, trees and grasses all on a particular day so as to make sure there are no anomalies.

When arranging lighting be consistent with the direction of the light. He suggested using fluorescent tubes at the front of the layout as they gave few shadows. At the rear of the layout he uses tungsten lighting to give a warmer colour.

John spoke of the loss of detail and of loss of strong colours in distant scenery. All designed to give a feeling of depth to the layout.

Consider that at the front of the layout rolling stock and buildings will be at the scale modelled. In 00 its 4mm to the foot. At the back of the layout it is worth reducing the scale to give the feeling of perspective; perhaps modelling buildings at 3mm to the foot.

To give a better look to the layout always try to use large radius curved track and pointwork.

Less he said was usually more, do not cover every square inch of the baseboards with track.


John went on to give us his thoughts on baseboard construction, and the methods he employs.

He suggested a birch ply perimeter frame of 6 and 9mm mm ply, this to secure and protect a inner baseboard made of Kingspan. This is a dense foam insulation board readily available locally. Even seconds will be sufficient for layout purposes.

He suggested a three layer approach. The bottom most layer being the bed of rivers and canals and other low lying features.

The middle layer being the track formation. Here he used a thin 4mm birch ply base to actually lay the track onto.

The top layer being the hills and other high ground. All 3 or more layers being glued together with suitable adhesives.

To model and reduce heights he suggested using a flat woodwork spade type drill with the point ground off.

Used in an electric drill it soon reduced the foam height to the designed level - quickly.

For electrical continuity he uses a dropper wire from each and every length of track. These droppers joined to a "busbar"

To ensure boards remain together Wicklow brand toggles are used along with pattern makers dowels.

Finally John recommended the use of dcc for all layouts and he recommended Digitrax equipment.


Kevin Whittle