Model Railway Planning and Design Handbook

The Model Railway Planning and Design Handbook  brings together advice, hints and ideas from a number of respected model railway authors to help plan and design a model railway layout. Paul A. Lunn; Neil A Ripley; Ken Gibbons; and Jack Burnard have collaborated together with overall editor Steve Flint in this Santona publication. Each author has written a section of the book on his specialist subject, and each section is therefore pretty much stand alone by itself. There is a very definite focus on compact schemes so this book is ideal for the modeller with limited space, although the final chapter concentrates on O gauge, and even compact O needs a lot of room!

Steve Flint opens the book with an informative chapter on the design process. Steve splits this into 3 key stages:

  • Key Stage 1 – Initial Decisions(Time & budget; aims & objectives; which prototype; availability of models)
  • Key Stage 2 – Developing the concept (Track layout basics; generating ideas; prototype research; concept sketches, scale drawings)
  • Key Stage 3 – Practical checks (Using templates, full size mockups, layout design software)

Paul A. Lunn then looks at easy to build layouts for beginners and gives four schemes the biggest of which is only 6′ by 4′.

  • Scheme 1 Circular branch – Creating a railwaylike scene from a circle of track
  • Scheme 2 British Oak – A back to back diorama portraying a Yorkshire coal disposal point
  • Scheme 3  Amongst the hills – Making the most of the traditional 6′ by 4′ using a double sided backscene
  • Scheme 4 South East and Urban – Realistic main line modelling in a small space (A real Paul Lunn classic!)

Neil A Ripley provides chapter 3 looking at Industrial, Dockland and Light Railway Themes. This is nicely illustrated with examples from Neil’s own Walker Marine and Carlton Metals layouts and a number of schemes are provided for further inspiration around the Micro Layout concept.

  • Scheme 5 Yarmouth Union provides an interesting design for a backstreet light railway in 4’6″ x 2′
  • Scheme 6 Hospital grounds is a design based on an edwardian light railway branch
  • Scheme 7 Leven Lock is a compact canal quayside
  • Scheme 8 Pirates Wharf extends the quay theme into industrial docklands
  • Scheme 9 Capital Yard is a much bigger shunting scheme in 16’x3′ providing a city goods and parcels terminus and a main line loco refuelling point
  • Scheme10 BMC Shortbridge takes its inspiration from the industrial car manufacturing area in Birmingham and is a spare room sized continuous run.
  • Scheme 11 Designing an Extension is one of the best in the book, exploring how an initial micro scheme can be extended into something bigger.
  • Scheme 12 Foss Island Branch, featuring Rowntrees factory in York. A scheme similar to this featuring the factory is out on the exhibition circuit and features a very impressive photo backscene of the real factory.

Ken Gibbons is responsible for chapter 4, which covers contemporary designs for the british railway scen. Ken is a fan of the rail blue era and most of the designs in this chapter are set in this period.

  • Scheme 13 Enigmatic Variations looks at branch line solutions for the space starved modeller
  • Scheme 14 is much bigger and is based on recreating West Coast Main Line Crewe in a single garage
  • Scheme 15 Lodscross is an L shaped Southern through station featuring EMU operation
  • Scheme 16 Overclough looks at ideas for a main line around a room perimeter
  • Scheme 17 Bowling Green is Scottish Region West Highland line but incorporating dockside and oil terminal for added interest
  • Scheme 18 Craven Lines is designed for N gauge and is a large Settle & Carlisle based scheme.
  • Scheme 19 North Lincs Junction is another intended for N gauge, and is a very extensive multi level main line with extensive operating potential.

Jack Burnard provides chapter 5, Exhibition Schemes for the Larger Scales and draws on his extensive experience of working in O gauge. Jacks own layouts “Runswick Bay”; “Ravensbeck”; and “Rainton Colliery” are featured to illustrate design concepts along with some excellent plans and photos of the layouts. The three schemes in this section all exten Jacks’s interest in the North Eastern Railway and reflect various aspect of the coal industry.

Scheme 20 North Hetton Colliery features variations around a pit head

Scheme 21 Houghton Staithe lloks at coal loading and unloading with the classic North Eastern coal Staithe

Scheme 22 Houghton Coal Loop extends the concepts of Jack’s own Runswick Bay layout.


With plans to suit all levels of skill from beginner to advanced it is quite amazing what can be fitted in to a small space and look ‘right’. this book shows that you don’t need an lot of space or rolling stock so won’t cost an arm and leg.

About the authors:

  • Steve Flint has been an active modeller for over 40 years and currently works as editor and photographer of RAILWAY MODELLER, the UK market leading model railway magazine. He has compiled this book and has contributed much of the photography and finished graphic artwork.
  • Paul A Lunn is a regular contributor to the model press and a serial layout designer. Paul Lunn is noted for his model railway plan books, inspirational layout designs and 3D sketches. He has recently concentrated on the design of layouts which use sectional clip-together track and proprietary rolling stock and presents a fascinating and previously unpublished selection in this book
  • Neil A Ripley is the designer behind the award winning layouts Walker Marine, Carlton Metals and Hospital Gates. He is attracted to unusual and off the beaten track prototypes. He presents a selection of his ideas based on industrial, dockland and light railway themes, with each one supported by a superb watercolour illustration of how the final layout might appear.
  • Ken Gibbons is a prolific designer and builder of layouts in 4mm scale and is best known for his small space British Rail ‘Blue Era’ schemes. Here he proposes a selection of contrasting designs as a means of representing the mainstream British Railway scene which make use of many of the recent state-of-the-art model releases.
  • Jack Burnard models in Gauge 1 and O Gauge and is well known as the designer of larger scale classics as Ravensbeck, Runswick Bay and Houghton Colliery. His liking is for busy entertaining layouts that are easily transportable.