Kalmbach Media Co. has released Build Your First Layout. It covers many components of layouts including benchwork, tracklaying, scenery, structures, to name a few.


Kalmbach Media Co. publishes many hobby books and magazines.  Build Your First Layout is a recent addition to their library of how-to books in the series Essential Series, part of the Model Railroader Books range.   Authored by Peter Vassallo, the format size is 8.25 x 10.75, containing 96 pages.  It is catalogued by Kalmbach as Item #12829, and as ISBN 978-1627007771.  Kalmbach tells us:

This all-new how-to book is perfect for anyone getting started in model railroading or looking to build a simple, compact layout. Build Your First Layout features the small, easy to build Northspur & Tiburon Railroad from experienced modeler and Model Railroader author Peter Vassallo. You’ll get step-by-step instructions and all the basic techniques needed to build an operating layout including:

  • Benchwork
  • Tracklaying
  • Scenery
  • Structures
  • And more!

Kalmbach updates and enhances their titles to keep up with developments in hobby technology and trends.  This book by Mr. Vassallo shows us how to create a quality layout that we can all afford.  You can view the book here:

Build Your First Layout

As much as many modelers would love to fill a basement with a quadruple main line with curves to prototypically negotiate triple heading Big Boys and full circle roundhouse, those can become a monster nightmare to keep running.   A couple layouts that I have operated on that have been the most fun are relatively small. And simple. My friend that has his entire basement filled with track has commented upon the amount of work it takes to keep everything running properly trying to troubleshoot problems when they arise.


Build Your First Layout is geared towards new modelers and those  that don't need a  large out lay of money.  We are led through the process of building a layout through seven chapters:


    Chapter 1 - The Northspur & Tiburon RR

    Chapter 2 - Benchwork and track

    Chapter 3 - Beginning scenery: making a mountain

    Chapter 4 - Scenery and structures: Part 1

    Chapter 5 - Scenery and structures: Part 2

    Chapter 6 - Scenery and structures: Part 3

    Chapter 7 - Finishing and operating

The author lives in a one-bedroom apartment and he built this layout to fit in it.  He built this layout to also show that you don't have to be a gazillionaire to have a good-looking functional railroad.   While this book is organized and written in a traditional way, the author also demonstrates his progress with several sequential steps.  One page features seven photographs showing the sequence to create a crossover between two turnouts.  Another demonstrates the steps for detailing and finishing stone walls, using multiple colors for different stones.  Want to learn how to make great looking tree trunks from a piece of balsa wood?  He shows you.  He also explains why he prefers to weather his models with paint rather than pastels.  The text includes several call-outs to assist the reader in gathering supplies for a project:

  • Water materials
  • Modeling tools
  • Scenery tools
  • Track laying tools
  • Benchwork building tools

The text continues in detail about important general and specific layout needs:

  • Complete list of lumber and hardware for bench work
  • Tips on selecting quality lumber
  • Basic tools you'll need
  • Detailed track plan
  • Structure kit list
  • Track component list
  • Step-by-step scenery instructions with material list and tools required
  • Highlights on building and finishing the structures on the layout and the tools to use
  • Tips on operation and how to develop an operating plan
  • Prototype information on the layouts inspiration

Whether you want to build your first layout, or want something small to try a new technique, Build Your First Layout has all you need.

Photographs and Graphics

A strength of Kalmbach books is their photographic content. This book is full of professional high quality full-color photographs. They show the reader what can be achieved, and how to achieve it.  Images used in this book illustrate to great effect how even small layouts can look large based on selective viewing angles and the models used for backdrops.  Looking at some of the photos, if I did not know the subject of this book, I would think I was looking at one of those gigantic basement feeling spaghetti Bowl.


Prototype map for the North Spur and Tiburon: making maps can help make decisions to define your railroad, the scenery, the type of railroad, whether it's a short line or a transcontinental giant.

Northspur and Tiburon Railroad is a bird's-eye view of the railroad in detail, showing the track plan and placement of all of the buildings.  It is accompanied by a table showing the schematic, below that is a structure list, detailing 11 structures, the model used, and the email address of the bottle manufacturing companies.

Two-part schematic of The Cutting pattern for the sections of roadbed.

Table: Benchwork Materials, showing the material, the size, quantity, and the purpose.

Table: Track Components, the component, part number, and quantity. This includes Elmer's glue, Kadee magnetic uncouplers, and common hardware store spray paint.

Table: Scenery Materials showing scenery describing the scenery, the material used, the manufacturer supplier, and the quantity required or used in this layout.

Chart: Train Orders, Fort Bragg turn & Tiburon turn showing the arrival actual minutes and departure destinations.


New model railroaders and those with limited room - and even experienced modelers - should find Kalmbach's Build Your First Layout  a very useful and educational book.   Making water and making tree trunks from a piece of balsa are two of my favorite demonstrations.  Kalmbach books rarely give me anything objective to criticize.  I found nothing negative with this book,.  It continues Kalmbach's tradition of quality books full of useful information and instruction.  Recommended.

Please remember to mention to Kalmbach and retailers that you saw this product here - on RailRoad Modeling.



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