Main Street Junction


A customer in Mississippi ordered a small N-scale layout for one of his shops as an attraction for the children who accompany their parents (or is it vice versa? Innocent). The layout is 6 feet long by 3 feet wide and allows for two trains running simultaneously.

Since kids tend to "race" the trains, the layout will be DCC-controlled and all engines will have a setting with a very moderate maximum speed. To keep hands out of the layout, it will be covered with a polycarbonate hood which also keeps the dust (and other foreign objects) outside.

The layout will sit on two rolling cabinets in order to easily move it around for shop cleaning. Layout height will be at approximately 3 1/2 feet so smaller children can also easily view and operate it.

Please click on the date links below to follow the photo diary.

Track plan
Track plan [Model T]




The layout is one of our Standard Layouts (Model T). As it was intended to sit in a gas station store, it was mounted to two cabinets and sits at about 3 1/2' high so smaller children can operate and view it in comfort.


The first delivery came in today. Most of the digital components are here now. The bulk of materials for this layout is due coming Monday.


More parts for this layout came in today. As I had to open the packages anyway to check the contents, I took some of that stuff out and shot a couple of pictures:




I hope to have the framework and the hood in by next weekend...

Since I don't have the frame and hood at my workplace yet, I started prepping the foam inlay.

First, I marked a 1-foot grid on the foam so I can transfer the track plan 1:1 onto it later on.

I then drew in the 2 1/2" track center line for the outmost through track.

Last, but certainly not least, I marked the position of the first turnout which gives me a reference for all the track that is to come.







In order for the turnouts to function properly, they need a bit of "special" treatment.

Each turnout needs a base applied to it that holds the turnout motor (switch machine). Since the turnout motor is screwed on later, this base needs to be of wood and so I cut out a 1/8" plywood base, marked the turnout's outline and the track center line on it, cut cork subroadbed to size, glued it on, and finally glued the turnout to this base.







To finish the turnout assembly, I needed to cut out the blue foam and add some "flesh" in the form of about 1/2" thick foam to the underside of the base plate. When I mount the turnout motor, I will cut the motor's outline and screw it on. This ensures a tight fit and reliable operation.

One down, only 11 more to go Laughing !

12-05-2011 to 12-06-2011

The frame and the cover kit arrived today!

However, the wooden frame with the plywood top is way too heavy to be handled by one person and so I took the plywood off and added the blue foam base instead. To fit the foam into the frame, I had to cut grooves into the foam to fit the crossmembers of the frame.

Now the foam has a snug fit and could be glued to the frame. I won't do this until the track is down and the wiring is in place, though because the whole assembly is easier to handle and to work on if I can remove the foam from the frame.

The inclines for the "mountain line" are also glued in and need to cure over night before they can be covered with plaster cloth and track.





The inclines are dry now and so I could lay out the track plan 1:1 to see if everything fits the way it should. I also decided to make new, larger baseplates for the switch assemblies as this will speed up the building process. Some things are learned while you go Laughing...

So far, everything looks fine and the next steps will be to lay the track on cork roadbed, fit in the turnouts (switches) and start wiring. This will start in the evening today and take approximateley two days.



Laid out track plan






Well, somehow I attracted a fever attack last week and that put me out of work for a couple of days...  S**t happens, I guess.

Anyway, I'm back on track now and picked up work this morning from where I had to leave it. Laying track is still the primary job although most of it is done by now (around 2 PM). The bridge spanning the valley between the two helixes is also in place.

By tonight, I will start wiring.








Track laying is done, tunnel portals are in place, and rolling tests are under way before I start wiring as this is the last chance to change track positions should need be. So far, everything seems fine. Even the long passenger cars roll freely through the layout and have enough clearance around the tight curves and the tunnel portals. I'll finish testing during this evening and will then start the (daunting) task of wiring.






Wiring went well, so far no major problems and the second rolling test also passed. No derailments to report Smile.

The pictures show the locations of the track feeders which are connected to a power bus underneath the layout. This power bus is then connected to the Digital Command Central unit. I am still not 100% and too tired to work on those images, too. So I will show them tomorrow after I throughly tested the layout with an engine and a train...






My deadline is slowly closing in.... Today I assembled the two cabinets on which the layout will sit. They are equipped with coasters, so the layout can be moved around for cleaning purposes.

The left cabinet (shown without drawers) will house the power equipment and the Digital Command Unit while the right cabinet can be used as storage for spare rolling stock and maintenance materials.

The layout height is at 36 inches, comfortable enough even for smaller children to operate it.





After a horrible week mostly spent in bed - I caught a pretty mean stomach virus - I am back to work; at least "part-time"...

The wiring is almost done; only a couple of turnouts lack their connection the layout. The scenery also takes on a (very) rough shape, and the trains run on electric power with the track performing extremely well.

The church and the first houses have also been built up in the meantime.


Time for a new update.

The rough scenery is in place and coated with a base tan paint. From here on, I will carve the final scenery out of the foam and also might add some plaster to enhance rock strata and other scenic details. Currently, I am preparing the switch panels which go onto the fascia of the layout and enable the operator to lign up the turnouts for his train's route. Building houses is also well under way. The first ones are a bank that definitely has seen better days, and a small church. While the bak is a plastic kit, the church is Laserkit[&reg] kit, made of laser-cut wood.



Track, wiring, and rough scenery finished





01-01-2012 - Happy New Year!!

Today, the switch panels were completed, wired, and installed (and of course tested).

From tomorrow on, I can fully concentrate on the scenery. First task is to define roads and house locations. Then the surrounding landscape will be modeled accordingly.

I think, three or four more days and I will be ready to deliver the layout to the customer in Mississippi.





After the hardshell dried, some green and even trees grew on the layout!

Seriously, I am currently scenicking like a whirl-wind. After all, I want to deliver this layout just after the coming weekend. So the tunnel on the left side already received  ground cover and a small forest. The forest was a bit tricky though, since I have to make sure that I have enough clearance for the layout's cover. Therefore, I decided that the good citizens of the small town just re-forested this area... The bridge for the track crossing over itself still needs some girders to hold the ballast and provide some safety for the model engineers.

Don't be astounded that the tracks are still not ballasted. This last thing to go do. Just like with the "real thing", ballast on a model is spread over the already present scenery.

The church also found it's place on the right hillside. Now the stone masons and landscapers have to come in and carve a path up to the church.

What you can't see in these pictures, is another grade crossing at the front of the layout. This way, the road entering the town from underneath the bridge is no dead end.

The town now has a new customer: a feed and seed mill with own rail access hopes for some good business. They even built their own trackside loading ramp! A hotel, aptly named "Railroad Hotel" also waits for customers coming in. They specialize in railroad enthusiasts; after all, most of their rooms face the tracks!

So far, the roads need to paved, and some backyards also want to be scenicked.

More of this next time!











More green sprung up and a couple of trees have been added. As I mentioned earlier, the trees on the left side of the layout have to be fairly small in order not to obstruct the clear cover which will protect the layout.

The merchants row in town now has a sidewalk. The houses are still to be considered as a test setup as I am not quite content with the composition yet. The hotel has its backyard and the balcony faces the tracks so that guests can take pictures from a high vantage point Laughing.

The church will have a small graveyard by tomorrow when I add the smaller details. The roofs of the buildings will also be a bit more detailed by then and some inhabitants (2- and four legged) will populate the scene.

After that, the ballast will go on and some more trees will be planted.  Another test run and I am ready to deliver! So far, the planned departure for Mississippi is set to 01-12-2012. Keep your fingers crossed!






Almost there!

The main job today was ballasting the track. It is a bit tedious and takes quite some time - the whole day was spent doing just this job. In the end, however, patience pays off with really neat trackwork.

To-do list for tomorrow:

  • - Clean up
  • - Touch up
  • - Produce a lot of trees
  • - Ready details to be added at the customers' site
  • - Attach two control cabs
  • - Paint the wood
  • - Build the cover

That's it.  Once the above list is checked off, I am off for delivery and setup.






We have a working layout!

Watch the video-clip. Please excuse the bad picture quality. My video cam is a lot older than my webcam Laughing and needs plenty of light to deliver crisp pictures. Can't afford a new cam right now, though...

01-12-2012 -- Delivery Day!

Today is delivery day. The layout is ready to be stowed into my van and off it goes to Mississippi by this evening.

It is a trip of roughly 680 miles and I prefer doing most of the driving during the night where there is less traffic on the roads and the risk of a car accident is lower than during daytime.

My guess is that I'll arrive at Philadelphia, MS during the late afternoon tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that not too many trees get "felled" during the trip!

I'll report on the delivery once I find some spare time after setup and having briefed the customer.




01-13-2012 - Delivery Day

I loaded the van yesterday night at about 8:00PM. Had to take out one of the middle seats to fit everything in but it worked out. Since I was still fit, I decided to hit the road and make some miles before I might get stuck in the morning rush hour. So I took I-75 to I-10 West to Mobile, AL where I switched to I-165 North. To make a long story short: I arrived at the customer site at around 2:00 PM on Friday, 13th without any incident. Not bad for a Friday 13th, isn't it Smile?

Unloading and setting the layout up was a matter of about two hours. Upon testing, I discovered that one wire to a turnout was broken, and replaced it. Everything else was completely intact! The only thing left to do was adding a couple of figures and some more trees. I did not add them earlier because I feared they could be damaged or get lost during transport. So, after about four hours, the layout was considered finished, delivered, and taken over by a happy customer.

I decided to stay overnight and have another check on the layout the next morning before leaving for Orlando.

With payment in my hands, I headed out of Philadelphia, MS early Saturday morning and arrived back home shortly after midnight; tired but happy.

This concludes the diary of the project layout. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to the next one!