Welcome to the N Scale Notes blog

Are you looking for inspiration for your next N scale model railway?

I blog about railway locations in Europe and North America that could make interesting model railways, particularly those that could be the basis of a small modular layout or cameo.

You can use the menus above to read the blog, start viewing locations by country or keep scrolling to find out a little more about modular model railways and cameos.

Modular Layouts

What are modular layouts?

Modular layouts are model railways composed of a number of free-standing modules built to a modular standard. A module can be a self-contained scene or part of a larger scene spanning many modules; both types are designed to be joined to other independently developed modules.

Modules tend to be double-ended so they can be brought together to form huge layouts at modular events but it’s possible to create and operate a small collection of modules independently. You could operate a group of modules with add-on fiddle yards at either end and I have always thought something like Lance Mindheim’s excellent industrial switching layouts could be built as a series of modules.

Modules are normally built according to clearly defined standards that prescribe key dimensions to enable easy and reliable connections between modules of the same standard. There are even ways to join modules of differing standards if you ever need to.
Modular standards vary considerably with some like Bend Track focused on running as many trains as possible on multiple tracks and others like Free-MoN and FremoN-RE focusing on creating a sense of space and realistic operations.

You can see a list of modular standards on the Links page.


What are cameos layouts?

Cameos are small layouts, usually up to about 2m/6ft long, that present a realistic, self-contained scene. They can be single-ended with an integrated or add-on fiddleyard or through scenes with access to a fiddleyard at each end.

If you’re struggling to picture what I mean, a brilliant example of an N-scale cameo layout is Cross Street by David Lund.

To truly meet the definition of a cameo the layout should:

  • put the ‘horizon line’ of the scene as close to eye level as possible, typically 63in for the average person standing;
  • feature high levels of detail and ideally, fine-scale wheel and track standards;
  • be as self-contained as possible, with an integrated display and support structure to ease transport, set-up and storage.

In many ways a cameo is similar to a module and a series of cameos built to a modular standard would allow cameos to be inter-connected. Modular standards tend to put an emphasis on standardised edge-of-module scenery to ensure independently built modules look consistent when brought together. Inter-connected cameos could be used to create very different scenes from a particular region or stretch of railway (the Lötschberg Line/Rhine Valley) or a large urban area (passenger services in Berlin/Toronto industrial switching) but being self-contained scenes they could still operate as stand-alone models when needed.

Click here for more ideas for cameos and modules.