News & Reviews News Meet James Royal

Meet James Royal

By James Royal | October 3, 2022

Involving his grandchildren in the hobby is his biggest hobby success

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Meet James Royal

How did you get started in the hobby?

I got started with my Dad back in the 1950s. He had a modular Lionel O scale layout in our attic with a Santa Fe Super Chief AB set with freight cars that was about 8 x 24 feet and included several operating accessories such as the milk can platform.

I started in HO scale in 1960 with a 4 x 8 plywood layout in our garage which grew to about 8 x 16. I built several other HO layouts over the years, including one for my two boys for Christmas in 1979.

small layout on an oval table
This is my Lunar Glow Distillery Railroad. All of the structures are scratchbuilt including the Quonsent hut copied from an HO article in Model Railroader. The track is HO gauge and the locomotives are scratchbuilt to fit on HO engine mechanisms. I placed animals all around the layout and made up a scavenger hunt checklist. I took the layout to three of our local train shows and let the children look for the animals. If they found most of them I would give them a “Safe Tracks” sticker as their prize. The layout is now at my home in South Carolina for me to play with when I am up there. Photo by James Royal

What was your first large scale locomotive?

In 1996 I attended the Orlando National Garden Railway Convention. One of the dealers had the Bachmann Big Hauler battery powered sets for $99.00. I bought two of them with the intention of building an outdoor layout.

What’s your favorite part of the hobby?

My favorite part of the hobby is building different structures from garage and thrift store finds or to scratchbuild them from materials I find in the craft and big box lumber stores.

garden railroad farmhouse front
This farmhouse was made from drawings in a 1992 issue of Model Railroader, scaled up to 1:25.5. The author used a scale ruler to easily make the conversions. Photo by James Royal

Read structure projects by the author:

Build a rural farmhouse
Kitbash a bunkhouse
Make a structure from a craft birdhouse

What’s your least favorite part?

My least favorite part of the hobby is probably building an outdoor layout now. I haven’t had one in at least 10 years and my aches and pains from age makes another layout iffy. I still enjoy seeing what others have done, hence my attendance at the national conventions.

What has been your biggest modeling success?

2022 National Garden Railway Convention grandfather and grandson
The author and his grandson Matthew pose with their contest prizes, both PIKO America items.

My biggest modeling success has been involving my grandchildren in the hobby. Today’s youth have phones and iPads they would rather use than sit down and create something from materials. My grandson and I recently entered models in this year’s National Garden Railway Convention. He’s already asking me if we’ll enter again next year.

What was your biggest modeling mistake?

toy shipping container on a stool
The author couldn’t resist this $3 thrift store find. Photo by James Royal

I can’t think of a biggest modeling mistake unless it is impulse buying without keeping with the 1950s theme of my modeling. For instance, I recently bought this play house made from “shipping containers” from a thrift store for $3. I don’t see how I can use it on my railway, since shipping containers weren’t used in the 1950s. I’ll find a way to use the pieces in other projects or give it away.

What advice would you give to a new hobbyist?

Take advantage of sites such as and the online forums to see what everyone else is doing. That will keep your interests alive in the hobby and give you a ton of information and ideas to use.

3 thoughts on “Meet James Royal

  1. Hi, James Royal,

    Your building look fantastic !
    It’s great you have your Grandson involved ! You’re right about one thing, kids today spend too much time with electronics and are not very involved in creative hobbies like model Railroading. Getting kids involved in the hobby is the best way to get them interested in it.

    If you’re interested in selling those containers,I would be very interested in purchasing them.
    You can reach me at

    Thank you

    Thomas R Juchniewicz Sr

You must login to submit a comment