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A Layout Vision Fulfilled

Custom-built HO layout features terrific workmanship and ops potential

I always enjoy working with custom model railroad layout builder Rick Fortin. Not only is he a good friend (and practically a neighbor), but he brings exquisite craftsmanship to the projects we work on together.


I recently had the chance to visit one of his completed projects built from my design. It was an amazing experience to see the track plan come to life through Rick's creativity and modeling skills.

The design itself is an adaptation of Dan Murdock's clever Metro Belt & Terminal Railroad track plan from the April 2001 Model Railroader (below). Rick's clients had a slightly different space and needed the plan to be a mirror-image of the original. They also wanted to add more staging and more of a working yard.

Custom-built HO layout control panel

Click image for a larger labeled Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) view in a new window


The resulting plan (below) builds on Dan Murdock's original concept with a climbing branch to a long shelf. This shelf provides space for some heavy industrial switching and the classification yard at Hilyard, along with a bit of engine service. Eight long stub-end staging tracks are tucked below the working yard to handle a large collection of rolling stock.

Custom HO layout

Click image for a larger labeled Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) view in a new window

A double-tracked oval provides access to the staging, the branch junction, and a scenic location for model railfanning through Twin Bridges. It's also great for display and casual fun-running. The connection to staging is via a wye for easy turning of staged consists between sessions.


Overall, the design is somewhat less dense than Dan Murdock's original concept, but with the slightly larger space, there was room to spread things out a bit. One of the things Rick's clients wanted that I was also excited about was the metal fabricator in the center section between the Twin Bridges and the Hilyard sections. I called this area Middleton in my design (OK, a little less than original) and used a number of Walthers models in the plan.


Rick's final product is fantastic. (Click any photo at right or below for a larger view in a new window.)

The view of the Middleton scene with the metal fabricator in the foreground and the town buildings behind (top right) is my favorite (although the completed layout is full of great scenes). 

Rick's structure construction and detailing skills created a layout vision directly from my imagination – to a degree that my own modeling skills just don't match. Every layout designer should be so lucky as to have one of their designs rendered by an expert!


Rick turned one of the sheds in this area into a shop named for his custom model railroad construction business. Inside the HO scale LayoutBuilders™ shop one can see a tiny model layout taking shape – complete with control panel!


All in all, a very rewarding project. I'm grateful to Rick and to his clients for allowing me to contribute. While many of my designs are in varying stages of construction by their owners, it's unique to have the chance to see the track plan vision fulfilled so quickly and completely as in this case.

If I can help you with a custom track plan, please contact me today. And if you'd like to know more about having a complete layout (or any portion) built to your requirements, contact Rick Fortin's LayoutBuilders custom model railroad construction service.

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