Layouts we love: ‘O’, what an amazing sight!

To see 30 full-length model trains running together at full line speed is remarkable by any standard – but when you consider that Roy James’s immense O-scale urban layout ‘Dream City’ covers 2000 square feet, features 3000ft of track (equating to 25 scale miles), has interconnecting lines on five levels and no fewer than 17 stations, the result is truly breathtaking. This is his story. 

A model of one of the three-cylinder Stanier 2-6-4 tank locomotives stands at Lauren Hill station with a ‘Southend’ destination board atop the buffer beam. To emphasise the busy non-stop nature of the layout, crossing the viaduct are trains hauled by a ‘Britannia’ Pacific and a ‘Castle’ 4-6-0.  

If you want to watch something truly incredible, make yourself comfortable with a nice cup of tea or coffee, open the video link at the end of this feature, and then just sit back and enjoy Roy James’s action-packed video of his vast, sprawling London-based O-scale layout.

Samuel Johnson once famously said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – and how true those words are of this highly imaginative, restless and truly magical creation, which exudes fun, enjoyment and an unstoppable love of life from every nook and cranny.  

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With the trains made up from a pool of no fewer than 200 locomotives, and enough rolling stock to put 30 full-length trains together, there’s a carefree ‘anything goes’ element to it all when it comes to eras and train consists – but boy, do they go, with some close-ups of trains rattling by at scale speeds of 60 or 70mph almost seeming to blow you off your feet!

Fully realising that this ‘mix and match’ element might not appeal to every modeller, the video begins with the warning: “To my critics, perfectionists and jealous guys, turn
off now!” 

Twenty years in the making so far, ‘Dream City’ remains an ongoing project with every station named after Roy’s grandchildren, including Richard Street, Victoria Street, Vale Junction, Rebecca Vale, Ryan Grove, Hannah Park and Clairetown Victoria.  

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Wires, knobs, switches, diagrams and TV link apparatus are crammed inside the central control room from which the entire layout is operated.

The trains speed by on several levels, passing over and under each other in non-stop action. One minute it’s the ‘Coronation Scot’, another the ‘Golden Arrow’. A long freight train rumbles by as Sarah Siddons-type electric locomotives come into overground stations of the Metropolitan Railway with their white destination boards clearly visible, and sometimes even station announcements can be heard.

‘Duchesses’ of every hue, streamlined and non-streamlined alike, streak along with rakes of carriages of all kinds – including LNER teak, Pullman and even Wagons-Lits, and the numerous sheds are cram-packed with locomotives: A3, A4, ‘Merchant Navy’, ‘West Country’, ‘Princess Royal’ and ‘Britannia’ Pacifics sidle up to ‘Castle’ and ‘Royal Scot’ 4-6-0s, V2 2-6-2s and anything else you might imagine.

For the full article and to view more images, see the February 2019 edition of Modelling – available now!

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For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit:

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About the Author

Sam Hewitt