For the past several years I’ve enjoyed building a small toy train Christmas layout for the holiday season. I challenge myself to develop a new track plan every year. By using O-27 tubular track, I’ve been able to come up with a variety of interesting track plans that fit nicely under my Christmas tree.
This design includes an asymmetrical twice-around loop, a passing siding, and plenty of space for a full-size Christmas tree – all within a 4 x 6-foot space!
A folding foundation
I began construction by building a portable, folding foundation from a 4 x 8-foot sheet of 3/16-inch-thick hardboard that’s painted white on one side. Transporting the large board could pose a challenge, so you might consider borrowing a friend’s truck or paying for delivery.
After getting the board home in one piece, I cut it down in size. I had designed my plan to accommodate a Christmas tree in the corner of the room, so I decided a pie shape with a curved front edge would look attractive.
I used a saber saw to cut the hardboard into the pieces specified in the diagram shown above. I then used duct tape to join the two pie-shaped pieces along one edge. The tape acts as a “hinge” that allows the two sections to fold into a single pie-shaped piece. When folded, the layout foundation is easier to carry and more compact for storage.
Small toy train Christmas layout track plan
After establishing the footprint for my display, I developed the track plan to suit the size and shape of the space. By using tight O-27 curves (27-inch diameter), I was able to fit a fairly long mainline run and a passing siding into a space that’s often used for a basic oval configuration.
A Lionel 45-degree crossing is the key to making all of this fit.
After installing the track pieces on the foundation, I tested a locomotive to confirm the layout functioned without issue. Next, I placed the Christmas tree stand in position and determined an approximate placement for my Christmas-themed structures and accessories.
Some assembly required
After determining the ideal placement for the structures, I made note of each location and removed everything, including the track, from the board. Over the bare hardboard I added 60-inch-wide lengths of inexpensive fleece fabric to represent snow cover.
To secure the fleece, I simply tucked the ends under the edges of the board. I used two pieces of fleece with a slight overlap.
Though it wasn’t essential, I used an additional sheet of fleece help disguise the tree stand. I recommend that you completely install and decorate your tree before working on the train display.
After installing the tree, I re-installed the track, returned the structures and accessories to their specified locations, and then wired everything for operation. I prefer to use white-colored wire for all the electrical connections. Wires in a more visible color can be hidden by tucking them under the edges of the hardboard or by laying fleece over them.
I also like to add a product called “buffalo snow” to highlight certain areas of the layout. This artificial snow is fluffy and has long loose fibers, so be sure to keep it at least 2 inches away from the tracks.
To make the roads, I cut pieces of mat board (heavy cardboard) 3½ inches wide. You can purchase mat board at artist supply stores, where it’s sold in a variety of colors and sizes. To join two road sections and keep them in place, I added strips of tape to the underside.
With everything in place, I can sit back and run my trains and enjoy the holiday season.
Once the holidays pass, I store the track and structures, stuff the fleece in large trash bags, fold up the hardboard, and start dreaming about how I can improve on next year’s display!
Watch a video of this layout.