Monday, August 18, 2014

No Room For a Layout?

Well I thought I was going to post every couple weeks so I would encourage myself to progress on my layout.  I keep getting side-tracked and have done it again.

Last Saturday we had a meeting of the Daylight Division of the NMRA Pacific Coast Region.  I was organizing the meet and came up short one clinic, so I threw one together.  I will share here the thoughts presented at the clinic as well as the layout I built in a few hours to demonstrate the concepts.

I have often heard people say they do not have room for a layout so the clinic was a presentation on small layouts.  These are some of the considerations for small and simple layouts.

Advantages of small layouts
  • Complete in a reasonable time
  • Limits cost
  • Permits ultra-detailing
  • Easy transport
  • Easy to store
Some guidelines include:
  • Focus on a single scene. 
  • Include some ‘hidden’ or cassette track, or try a sector plate
  • Good candidates are Narrow gauge, traction or industrial railroads 
  • Pick a locale and era to suit your taste in scenery and operations
  • Limit your setting and make sure it has operating potential
  • Pick an appropriate scale and gauge to the space 
  • Plan the details
Different ideas for a layout include a book shelf, puzzles [timesaver and inglenook], ‘Pizza’,  fit inside of a suitcase or inside a shoebox.

I was intrigued last year by Lance Mindheim's One-Turnout Layout article in the May 2013 Model Railroad Hobbyist. http//
In the article Lance asks How much layout do you need to accomplish what’s important to you and how much do you really need to be satisfied?”

What is wonderful about this simple layout is that lance also considers operations.  He manages to get lots of play value out of the layout.

Before I talk about the layout I put together for the meet, let me put in a plug for micro layouts popularized by Carl Arendt.  While Carl passed away in 2011, his ideas live on at

A whole group of enthusiasts discuss small layouts on the Small Layout Design Yahoo! Group which has 5133 members.  The group started October 2000 and can be accessed at

I decided to put the layout in a shoe box.  

I had a few so I then went to find a base.  We do not have easy access to the blue or pink extruded foam so I ended up using some pieces of homosote and plywood.

As most of you know I model in HO scale.  My son used to model in N scale so I looked in the N scale supplies and found some track and rolling stock.  I did not have a small locomotive so I went on ebay and got a little plymouth switcher that I think is the wrong scale [I think this may be an HOn2 loco.] but fits on N scale track.

Thinking about what I wanted to do, I looked at Lance's article and thought about a paint plant I had seen out in Fernley,Nevada in the desert east of Reno.  Here is a photo of the Sherwin Williams Plant.

There are three tracks instead of two so I reduced it to two.  Notice the covered hoppers and the tank cars.  The tank cars bring in latex, solvents, and sometimes titanium dioxide and kaolin in a slurry.  The covered hoppers bring in pigments and sometimes the TiO2 and Kaolin dry.

As I said, I decided to use homasote and plywood for the base.  I placed the tracks on the homasote and marked where the feeders would go.  Then I removed the tracks, drilled the holes, fed the wires and soldered the wires to the bottom of the tracks.

On the bottom, I had cut in a channel lengthwise and drilled a large space to keep the wires off the bottom surface of the base.

After soldering the wires to the track and nailing the track in place, the wires were fed through the holes.  The two pairs of feeders were combined into one feeder and fed down the channel.   The wires were then covered over with blue painters tape to keep it in the channel.

Once all that was complete the base was put back into the shoe box.  Here is a photo from above.

Here is a photo down the track from the cut out on the side of the shoebox.

I needed to put some structures on the layout, so I pulled out some file folders and did some cutting and gluing.  The main building is just a big box.  I did several silos of different heights and used a penny as a tool to make the circles for the tops.  All of it was glued together with Aleen's tacky glue.  I also used the Aleen's to secure the structures to the layout.  All in all, nothing special but it gives the layout a reflection of the prototype. 

Here are two more shots one from above ...

and here is a track-level view of the inside of the shoe box from the side.  

What is missing is a photo of the 'casette' which is an 18" long single track that connects to the end of the shoebox and makes it possible to stage and switch the plant.

And finally, a view of the entire assembly.

Altogether, the shoebox layout only took about 3 hours including a lot of thinking about how I was going to proceed.  Not a lot of time and the layout is operational.  I can spend more time replacing the paper structures, applying scenery to the base, and otherwise ultra detailing the layout, but I should really get back to work on the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision.

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