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"Partially Complete" Custom Model Railroads

Updated: Nov 11, 2023


Custom Model Railroad

Example of a partially complete layout based on a midwestern branch line theme. The customer will complete the rest himself.


"Partially complete" custom layouts account for well over half of the projects I work on. As the name implies, I build a portion of the model railroad, deliver it, and the customer finishes it themselves. As a minimum, all of them are "mechanically complete" meaning all of the track, wiring, and control systems are supplied and the layout is fully operational. Customers will add scenery and structures or just the structures themselves. Why would somebody go this route?


Lower Cost. They take less time to build so they cost less.


Quick Launch. Many of my customers are experienced modelers in their own right. They either don't have a lot of time, or simply feel the novelty of bench work and wiring has worn off, and don't want to do it themselves anymore. They write a check and I roll up in a truck and set it up.


I Do the "Dirty Work". If I took a poll, I'm fairly confident that wiring would rank at the top as far as most modelers least favorite aspect of the hobby with bench work second, and track laying third. I do the stuff you don't enjoy or don't have the experience to do.


No mess. All of the sawdust is in my shop, not your house!


Bullet-proof reliability. I do track and wiring all day, everyday. As a result, I know the nuances and subtleties required to create a solid, operationally sound, foundation.


Access to Sophisticated Tools. I have access to CNC machines, engraving services, and paint shops that the average hobbyist does not.


Moveable. Because I build my custom model railroads in sections, if you move, you could in theory, dismantle and move it. This is often not the case when people build the layouts themselves. (I need to be clear though, moving layouts is NOT a service I provide).


There is no set degree of finish and, as a customer, you can design the project scope any way you want. Shown below are the most common cases.



Mechanical, electrical, and track only. No scenery. No structures. This is the least expensive. The example shown is modern era, N scale, Harpers Ferry theme.



Custom Model Railroad

Some scenery, but not the entire layout. I build a section of the scenery so the customer can copy it or maybe to give them a quick start on a signature scene. The example shown is transition era, N scale, NC&St.L.


Custom Model Railroad

All scenery but no structures. The bare areas are where the customer will add his own buildings later. This example is HO, freelance, transition era.


Would a partially built custom model railroad get you over the hump? Drop me a line! email: lmindheim@shelflayouts.com

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