Revision, exhibition layout

With the baseboard construction and track laid down, I’ve had a chance to plan some of the detail of the layout and typically this highlighted a problem.

The original plan for the layout looked like this:

Track plan

This gave the simple layout, shunting puzzle on the left and scenery area on the right with a few over buildings dotted around for good measure and all fitting within the constraints of a modular baseboard build and small physical dimensions.

However with the track plan worked out and the track laid, it became obvious there wasn’t going to be space in the front left hand corner for the mill house.

While the space would have been sufficient for a normal OO gauge building, my mill house will have a DC motor and axel in it powering the water wheel and this necessitated a larger floor plan and it’s this that didn’t quite fit.

As such, I’ve had a rethink. The result is that the mill house has moved to the rear, changing the course of the river to reflect its new home.

The plan is now more like this:

This gives the needed space for the mill house electrics.

The mill race has now gone. Instead the mill will now sit on the bank of the river with a stone wall supporting the wheel axel.

One downside of this new arrangement however is that whereas the river previously curved around and behind trees to disguise its exit off the layout, in the new form it runs straight and its exit will be very visible. Rivers of course don’t just end and I needed a way to hide where it meets the backscene.

The answer to this problem came from two of my favourite local restaurants.

My local river, the River Wey and its tributaries were once home to more mills per mile than any else in Great Britain and thankfully many of these still survive, complete with their old structure and wheels.

A number live on as restaurants and before Covid came along we frequently visited two in particular for both the tasty food and to have a sneak around looking at architectural details that I can borrow when making my models.

Thinking about my challenge of how to disguise the river ending at the edge of the layout, these two mill restaurants sprung to mind.

The Gomshall Mill, which is a wonderful timber framed building dating to the 17th Century, and the Elstead Mill – also dating back to the 17th Century – both sit not just on the bank of the river but most importantly, for my current conundrum, both have part of their structure running across the water.

gomshall mill

The lovely Gomshall mill restaurant; complete with waterwheel and structure over the water. (Picture, credit Gomshall Mill).

It’s fun to eat lunch or maybe stop for a G&T and listen to the sound to the river flowing almost below you!

My model mill will sit on the bank of the river at the rear of the layout, so why not also have section of the structure run across the river just like these and neatly disguise the rivers abrupt ending.

This is what I’ve decided on, as can be seen in the plan above.  I’ll be using the Wills Kits mill house for the main part of the building and this should be easy to extend and adapt using plasti-card sheets.

Forging interest

Along with changing the left-handside, I’ve also adding a building to the centre area.

One of the key factors in the design of this layout is that it should be have little scenes to keep visitors at shows entertained or interested. And to this end, things need to be going on along the length of the layout.

The mill provides this attraction on the left while a loading area/office yard will provide entertainment on the right and although I have an engine shed in the middle I felt something else was needed.

To plug this attention gap, I’ve decided to have a forge/blacksmith in the middle of the layout at the front.

Like the other two buildings this will have an animation although exactly what form this will take is yet to be decided.

With the plan now hopefully finalised, I can start on landscape and buildings and this will be the focus on the next few updates.

> This post is part of a series on the construction of a lifelike model railway for exhibitions. To read other posts in the series covering its development, track work, scenery and model building making, see building an exhibition model railway.

Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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