Model Railway in a Pizza Box

The technical details:

  • The Pizza Box was donated by Piacci’s in Fort Bragg. It hold’s a small pizza.
  • The box is 12″ by 12″ by 1¾”.
  • The hills are made of papier-mâché.
  • The trees are from Architrees.
  • The buildings, the track and the diesel engine are from Marklin. The diesel is powered by a 9v battery and controlled by a Radio Shack rheostat.
  • The people, sheep and sheepdog are from Preiser and were painted by me.
  • The cars are also from Preiser. The bulldozers were bought off of eBay.
  • Everything is “weathered” with chalks from Bragdon enterprises.
  • The paints are all acrylics (mostly mis-tints from Norvells Paint Store in Fort Bragg.)
  • There are 5 “scenes”; bulldozer with work crew, bulldozer being fixed, passengers hurrying to the station, sunbathers in the woods, and sheep and shepherd holding up traffic.
  • It took me about 85 hours to build. An expert would take a lot less.

How it came to be …

Hi! My name is Tony Phillips

I was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1968. In 1970 I was sent to Geneva, Switzerland to perform an audit. The main offices of the company I was auditing were across the road from one of Switzerland’s largest model railway stores. For fun, I bought a Z scale Marklin model railway – the track and engine that you see running here. Yes, it is 36 years old.

Over the years I bought G, On30, HO, HOn3, HOe, N, Nn3 and Z kits and rolling stock but never, not once, in the intervening 36 years did I manage to build a layout to completion.

In 2000 my wife and I retired to Fort Bragg on the northern California coast (about 190 miles north of San Francisco). We live at one end of the CWR (California Western Railway). The CWR Skunk train (as it is affectionately known) boasts a working steam engine and runs thirty odd miles through hills and verdant redwood forest to Willits. We bought a 100 year-old house on 1.5 acres of land which has another building with a “mother-in-law” apartment over a very large garage. I was allotted one of the rooms (26 feet by 19 feet) at the back of the garage as my train room. Therein my ill-assorted collection of model trains was deposited and slowly taken from their boxes.

I thought (VERY mistakenly) that I would instantly have a fantastic layout. Wrong. We spent 4 years renovating the house and turning the fields into a passable garden. Last year we decided to run the Ice Cream Stand in the local botanical garden and this accountant became a scooper (of little renown). So … no layout(s) as yet in the train room. Not even close.

Last spring I was “surfing the net” when I found this really neat site, Carl Arendt’s “MICRO LAYOUTS FOR MODEL RAILROADS” ( The site has details of a whole bunch of nutters/geniuses who build model railways in shoe boxes and the like. Fantastic stuff. Mind candy deluxe. I found there are gaps in the scooping action and that a small (pizza) box is easily come by. Instant layout right?

I had a model train (albeit an old one) and a very fertile imagination. So … like everything else in this world it took far longer than I thought. I messed up quite a bit along the way (don’t use papier-mâché in a pizza box – it warps the box). It was a lot trickier than I thought. My fingers are fat and the pieces are very small. My imagination, I now know for certain, is far greater than my abilities. I needed the help of my 88-year-old expert solderer and electrical genius, Hank Simonson.

Bottom line though is … I do have a WORKING, MORE OR LESS FINISHED model railway. And, I got me Warhol 15 minutes of fame when Carl Arendt showed my layout on his sign. Check it out … – it’s about halfway down this page.

Want to see how I did it?

The beginning …Click to see slide show

Just click on the thumbnail photo on left to see all six photos in the slide show of the stages of construction.

Remember, this was built in a 12″ pizza box!