The Design of Small Model Railways

The Oval

The Oval
[38½×24½ cm²]
To-C103-60WT, gebogen rail straal 103mm, hoek 60°
2×To-S140WT, rechte rail 140mm

Inspired by the model railway of Yoji Tabuchi I thought it would be fun to make a mini layout based on the tram rails of the Japanese Tomix. Tomix’s tram tracks for N scale are actually pieces of street track. This makes it very easy to create ready-to-run street tracks. Without the usual hassle to fill normal rails with imitation stones, asphalt or whatever. A piece of tram track from Tomix snaps simply together and the track is finished. Resulting in a reliable mechanical en electrical layout. Also because Tomix products are precisly manufactured items. I used the smallest oval supplied by the Tomix. The radius of the curves is 103 mm. That's not much. Only short two-axle locomotives and wagons can ride here. These rails are also widely used for narrow gauge on scale H0 (1:87) or 00 (1:76) and with that the idea was born: British narrow gauge in scale 00–9 (1:76).

The oval can be purchased as a set under TomyTEC 910855. The rail pieces are easily to put together and then you can start running around. I attached the oval to a piece of plasticized chipboard, sawed and filed the board to size and made the “invisible” electrical connection.

The theme was also quickly determined: a narrow-gauge train that runs through an urban environment. The surface area is actually too small to model an open landscape. Metcalfe’s cardboard houses are quintessentially British and I always have them found very charming. After I was able to buy a built house second-hand, the realisation of the project accelerated. I added gutters and downpipes from Ratio.Next to the house there would be a small park with a large tree to scale: Busch 3763 “Chestnut tree”. That is actually the whole theme of this small model railway. Because the house is made of cardboard, I also wanted all the other elements in the landscape to be made of cardboard. Cardboard has a different appearance than plastic. It also has its own use of color, contrast and reflection. While you can paint plastic houses to remove the typical gloss, this is not possible with cardboard. By using only cardboard materials for the hard surfaces, everything becomes the same in terms of relief, gloss and perhaps the — what powerful — use of color.

Photo Gallery (Construction 2024)
The Oval: Construction (1) The Oval: Construction (2)
The Oval: Construction (3) The Oval: Construction (4)

With the things I found in my junk box I was able to make the wall around the park with wall plates from Faller. A brass fence has been placed above it. Also left over from decades ago. The street is made of cobblestones made of Noch, also cardboard. I took apart an old street light from Brawa and used the lampshades for the ornaments on the pillars. The rest of the street furniture is made by Peco. Some elements were colored with paint and felt-tip pens to belnd everything together. The layout has no working lights. Perhaps a ppity, but it made the construction considerably easier.

Because I wanted a typical short-mown lawn in the park, I did not want to use the grass mats with fibers. These are now commonly used for lawns, but the length of the fibers is really too long. A 1 mm fiber is actually a 76 mm blade of grass. Too long for a well-maintained park. I made my own grass mat by roughening up a piece of green felt with a steel brush. I sprinkled and glued Slater’s “Scenic Scatter Material” on top of the felt. Scatter material is actually old-fashioned saw-dust based decoration material, but much finer in structure.

The figures are from Preiser and 3Dclever. Be careful to use figures in actual 00 scale. Figures in H0 scale are really small, about 1.5 meters in reality. Unless you want to imitate children with it, which is what I did.


I am quite satisfied with the end result. I think I was able to capture that typical British atmosphere. Maybe not everything is exactly as it should be. For example, I have not yet installed any street lines. Maybe that will happen again. Ultimately, this became a track where two-axle locomotives can reliably make their rounds. Without contact problems or difficult stretches of track. I hope that Yoji’s and my layouts will inspire you to create their own mini-landscape based on the same Tomix track set.

Photo Gallery (Finished 2024)
The Oval: Detail (1) The Oval: Detail (2) The Oval: Detail (3) The Oval: Detail (4) The Oval: Detail (5)
The Oval: Detail (6) The Oval: Detail (7)
Video (2024)

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