A reader asks:
I am looking to purchase a complete set up for a large scale display in a very large dining room/mess hall for the [company name withheld] staff canteen out here in [country name withheld].
I am able to ship items here myself via our US suppliers so would like to know if you can provide a set up suggestion, including scenery and two large scale trains, with additional track.
I have no experience with train sets or their set up.
This display will form the centre piece of our dining hall and will be viewed by over 4000 people.
This will be for Christmas 2014.
I look forward to hearing from you.
It's great to hear from you. Do you have approximate measurements?
The train sets will be the easy part - I'd recommend Bachmann Large Scale trains like the ones I usually advertise on the BigTrainStore.com page or BigChristmasTrains.com
Maybe a passenger train, plus a freight train with three or four extra cars.
What will make it "pop" would be a realistic varied landscape with mountains, waterfalls, etc. and communities for the trains to serve. The landscape is the hard part for a temporary indoor railroad, I'm sure.
The track needs to be level to avoid speeding up and slowing down when going up and down even minor slopes, but the landscape should rise and fall around it. Is there any chance you could build multiple tables or platforms for the trains to run across? And have the tables different heights?
Town-wise would you be interested in replicating North American communities? If you have someone local willing to assemble, paint, and detail a bunch of kits, that would be one way to get what you need. Or pay someone here to assemble some building kits and ship them to you built-up. Or find local craftspersons and give them pictures of buildings you'd like them to create out of locally-available materials. My friend Paul Busse used to build with natural materials, including regionally-obtained ones where he could all over the US. He is too ill to do this himself now, but his company carries on. Google Paul Busse Railroad for some examples.
People to populate your village wouldn't be too hard - you could order name-brand figures from AristoCraft or LGB or Priesser for the foreground and cheapy chinese bulk 1:24 painted characters for the background. The bulk characters don't have bases - I glue them to scrap transparent HDPE pieces.
Trees is another issue - do you have a local source for evergreen branches similar to North American cedars or arborvitaes or the like?
Hope this doesn't overwhelm you. There's a lot of difference between setting up and running a few trains and setting up someething that catches and holds people's attention for a long period of time, and gives them soem great memories.
At least you're not contacting me Thanksgiving weekend, which is when most people contact me with questions like this.
Let me know how I can help,