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In 2013 I posted a detailed description of the rebuilding my Pennsylvania & Pacific RR. This over 10 year saga covers all the details of building this railroad since that time. You can go back to the beginning with constructing the L-girder platform, laying over 300 feet of Ross track, building and wiring the control panel at this location on the Track Planning and Layout Design Forum.

This railroad is on its third life. It was first constructed in Germany and was 21 X 13. It was built with the goal of disassembling and shipping back to the USA to our house in Bucks County, PA. I put it back together with an added 6 ft in length so it became 27 X 13 ft. After my early retirement from the housing industry in 2009, and our subsequent move to Louisville, KY, I modified it, and rebuilt it as a much larger, 39 X 15 ft railroad. I worked to eliminate all of the operational problems I had in the first two versions. The railroad is star-wired with 38 separately controlled blocks. It does not have digital control yet, but I wired it using home-run wiring throughout with high-capacity twisted pair wiring so it can get DCS whenever I'm ready to buy it. Meanwhile, it is a "Cab-control" layout run from both sides of a single-Z-4000 transformer. It has a separate DC power supply running the LED indicators for the block toggles and an interlock circuit that protects a swing-out door that permits access to the entire inside of the layout. In fact there are many DC power supplies running all the lighting. I'm using 100% LEDs now and find all of the old AC adapters laying around are a good source of DC power. I just bought my first purpose-built LED power supply to run all the lights in the new engine house. The age of the railroad, from its inception in Germany in 1999, speaks to the longevity of modern O'gauge equipment including 16 locomotives (MTH, Sunset 3rd Rail and one Atlas), Ross Custom Switches with Z-stuff for Trains machines, and the hefty MTH Z-4000 transformer, the newest of which is from 2002.

I noted when starting this thread that the layout was going to be fully scenicked, and it will be a big job that would stretch over years. Boy was I right! I've now been steadily working on it for over 10 years and have had some wonderful sub-projects that are defined in detail in this massive on-going thread. I had hoped that my eyes, hands and back would make it that far, and so far, with a couple of physical challenges creeping in, I'm hanging in there. Whatever you use most wears out first, and since I've been building models since I was 8, the hands are experiencing the most wear and tear. I am grateful for having most of the under-the-platform work finished since the back hasn't been happy either. When I built the layout the first time I was 24 years younger. My wife actually asked me if I was physically capable of the rebuild. I'm happy to report that I am and most of the injuries are temporary... I hope. At the time of this edit, I'm 78, and happily, I'm still building and still learning.

The layout has a large mountain with tunnels on one end and a the small town of Woodbourne on the other. In between are industries, yards and an engine service facility. I really don't have the room so there's no roundhouse or turntable, but there is a large engine house. The middle is open giving me complete access to almost all trackage without resorting to pop-ups (and more work under the table).

Here was my early rendition of the mountain region.

New Mountain Detail

Here's a picture of the layout as it in Dec 2023. Included are the new engine house in the far background all illuminated with LED fixtures, the Hopper House, Heritage Park, the Bourbon rick house under construction and the Woodbourne Hardware House.

P&PRR Status 2023 5P&PRR 2023-5P&PRR 2023-6

The bridges in the foreground-left are customized Plastruct Deck Truss Bridges and the third is a Deck Plate Bridge and they too, and all the beautiful ravine scenery is described here.

Lastly, throughout this massive undertaking there have been some signature projects that have found their way to the model railroad press with a substation described in the November 2015 Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, and a three-part article in the 2018 October, November and December issues of Railroad Model Craftsman on the design and building of a Victorian Bourbon Distillery that existed in Louisville, KY until Prohibition when it was razed. More buildings and articles are coming out of this very comprehensive thread. The Engine House is slated for publication and several articles have been submitted to OGRR.

So, if you're so inclined and have a couple of years to read about the trials and tribulations of big railroad building, please come along for the ride. I don't have all the answers. In fact, I have very few answers, so I expect my readers to be willing to give. And give you do. I get as much from my readers as I give, and many ideas, thoughts and plans came from them. I can point to many critical things that wouldn't have happened if it weren't for all the patient and attentive folks that read and commented on this forum. The articles wouldn't have happened. In fact, the buildings themselves may not have turned out as they did were it not for the support I constantly receive. Some folks that have been following this thread for years give me more credit than I deserve. You become a master of things by doing them a lot and practice. You have to start somewhere. The thought of starting is always worse than the actual journey.

I am now fully engulfed in the world of 3D resin printing with the advent of the newest LCD Mask machines that have dropped the price on these amazing machines so normal modelers can have them in their shop. I've had some 3D printed parts done commercially, but now my capabilities have been greatly enhanced. I'm describing all the trials and tribulations going up this learning curve of a very new technology. A recent project is my rendition of Edward Hopper's "House by the RR" that has many, many 3D printed parts from my design.

The Hopper Original

House by the Railroad

The Hopper rendition "House by the Railroad" as complete, installed on the layout and the lights are on.

House Final Frt Rt

Hopper necessitated relocating the Idaho Hotel which required a new base and parking lot. Since then, I sold the Idaho Hotel to Mark Boyce where he's given it a nice home on his growing layout. I needed urban space for more of my custom projects. Then comes Heritage Park to fill the last oddly-shaped open lot on the layout. Heritage Park features 3D printed columns, lanterns, signs and entry arch. This starts on page 92.

Heritage Park Comp 3Heritage Park Comp 7

And the railroad is undergoing a municipal improvement project with new street lighting and signage as seen in this night photo.

IP12Pro Night Test 4

One last bit of downtown real estate is being filled with a bourbon warehouse (rick house) as it appears under construction. I chose to show it this way since, when finished, they're just a box with a bunch of windows in it. Under-construction is a whole different animal. You can view this build thread starting on page 95.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 10.22.55 AM

The Rick House is done and on the layout.

RH Ground Cover Fin 1

The next up is a model of the extant hardware store in Newtown, Bucks County, PA. Built in 1869, it's been a continuously operating hardware store since. In 1899 it burned down, but was rebuilt in almost original shape. Sometime in that period the owners bought the right side store and combined them into a larger hardware store. I'm doing it with some interior. The upstairs are apartments so I will not model them. All I did was compress the length a bit to fit in my layout space. This it the SketchUp drawing used to both create 3D models for the architectural details which I 3D printed, and the flat design drawings used to laser cut the flat parts. Construction has started and can be found on page 103.


The O'scale Hardware Store is in place, but there's still interior work to be done. None of my buildings are permanently attached to the layout. They're all on bases that are removable to facilitate repair, updates, or if required, sold.

Took a small side trip. With the success of the Hardware Store, the owner of the real store in Newtown, PA commissioned me to make an n-gauge layout to be used as a holiday store window display. I built such a RR with my grandkids when they were MUCH younger and commandeered it to be used to fulfill this job. I was able 3D print an n-scale version of the Hardware House and three other actual replicas of Newtown, PA buildings. It took some work to get the track into shape so it would run unattended, and I'm in process of finishing it up. Story starts on Page 107. The n-scale version looks just like it big brother...

NHH160 Lights On 4

So So sit back, grab a cuppa Jo, and start reading. The Saga begins with ballasting 350 feet of track...


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  • New Mountain Detail
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  • House by the Railroad
  • House Final Frt Rt
  • Heritage Park Comp 3
  • Heritage Park Comp 7
  • IP12Pro Night Test 4
  • Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 10.22.55 AM
  • RH Ground Cover Fin 1
  • NHH160 Lights On 4
  • P&PRR Status 2023 5
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Last edited by Trainman2001
Original Post

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I appreciate comments like that. I'd probably write this day-by-day history even if no one was reading it, but when people tell me it's making a difference for them, that really works for me!


Today I started rail painting. I have buildings to build, but nothing can happen until ballasting is done, and that can't happen until the rails are painted. I have a chunk of track where I experimented with the ballast, so I used it to test the painting. I'm using rail brown from Joe's Model Trains. I bought the paint and one of his rollers at  York a number of years ago. The roller was too skinny to handle O'gauge rails. Now I see on his website that he has a much wider roller to paint O'gauge. I first tried brush painting, but it was not successful. I then tried the air brush and the results were passable. I wiped the rails off when the paint was wet. Here's what it looked like. Pretty realistic looking rail...


Rail Paint Test 2

Rail Paint Test 1


One of the things I like about Ross rail is that it ends at the ties. Gargraves on the other hand, extends below the tie level and you can often see shiny tin plate showing. With Ross, that doesn't happen.


So with this good result, I went at the railroad, realizing that once I started, I would have to paint the WHOLE THING. Some of the track work will be in tunnels so I will mark off those areas and not waste the paint. As it is, I emptied a 2 oz. bottle after painting about 1/8 of the railroad (or less). With the exclusion of the tunnel tracks. I just ordered another 5 bottles of paint on line so rail painting will be stopped until the new paint arrives.


This is one of switches I painted and shows the place I stopped. I think the switches look terrific with the brown rails. 

Rail Paint 4


 Here's a bunch of track painted. To me, it immediately looks like RR track with the polished running surface and the dark rails.

Rail Paint 1


Here's the other end of the painted/unpainted line. That unpainted track will be in tunnel under the city so I'm glad I didn't start painting in that direction.

Rail Paint 2


The airbrush worked well unless it didn't. It was plugging a lot and I spent a lot of time cleaning and recleaning it. I cut the paint with isopropyl alcohol at 2:1, paint to thinner. I don't know if that's the best thinner to use. I also have some Vallejo acrylic diluting agent that I could use. When it worked, it went very fast. When it didn't... well... it didn't. In most cases, it took two or more passes to properly cover the steel. When I first started, I was wiping the rails down with alcohol. After a while I realized this didn't make much of difference and just painted the rails.


Just wait until the ballast goes down...


For the yard tracks, I'm gong to fill in the areas between the tracks with inverted roadbed beveled on both sides. Yard tracks don't have nicely shaped ballast fields. Their tracks are buried in the dirt to the ties or higher. It also reduces the amount of ballast I'll need for that track and there's a lot of it.


It goes without saying I'm not building a Proto:48 railroad, but I am trying to make it as realistic as possible given that I'm using 3-rail track with a fairly high profile with ties that are not really scale-sized and are spiked with staples not spikes and without spike plates. It's a shame that Ross can't paint the track before they ship it. Even if it were an extra cost, it would be worth it since this is a pretty big job. As I'm constantly being reminded, over 300 feet of track makes every task a BIG JOB.


Images (6)
  • Rail Paint Test 2
  • Rail Paint Test 1
  • Rail Paint 4
  • Rail Paint 2
  • Rail Paint 1
  • Rail Paint 2

Trainman 2001....

glad to hear you can run trains at last so how about a video of a train going across that roll out area?

I have really enjoyed reading how the new layout came from a thought onto a computer and into the real world.

I retired almost a year ago and am now starting to work on our layout.

the rail brown tweaked my interest so today am going to get some and have a go at it myself so thanks for the insight to a possible color to use as railroad trackage is really a hard one to capture correctly.


hope to read more and please don't be a stranger as I enjoy reading what you have accomplished keep up the good work and I'll bet the grandsons will be staying over more now that summer is around the bend plus grampa has trains running enjoy both.



The other videos I did were on an iPhone. I don't like them so I'm going to use a more formal method for the next series. I'm going to use my daughter's camera. I now have four complete trains on the rails. Two can run at a time with the others parked in passing sidings.


Here's a picture I took of Norfolk-Southern's track running through Louisville. It is a highly used main line, and the rail is clearly brown. It's not an orange rusty color. The darker the rail the better I like it. This picture was shot in bright sunlight directly on it.


Real Raill Color


Also note that this color extends to the ballast below the rail/ The ballast is a mixture of white and bunch of grays. I'm going with straight gray, but will selectively stain some of it darker for more variety.


Images (1)
  • Real Raill Color

Trainman 2001....

I don't remember who posted a thread here but it dealt with creating a two toned ballast effect and if I remember correctly he used black spray paint on grey ballast so it was a gray and a mixture of light and darker black.


you could do same using a brown spray paint and accomplish two items at same time.

all he did I believe is hold spray can 12" above ballast and misted it slightly until he acieived his desired effect might be worth trying.



While waiting for the rest of the rail paint to arrive from Joe's Model Trains, the grandsons and I decided to try our hand at ballasting some track that was already painted. It worked pretty well although its going to take a looooonnnnng time. We did about 8 feet and it took an hour. There will be a learning curve, so I expect it will go a bit faster. But still, there's a lot of track to do even with discounting the area under the mountains and city.


Several things immediately became evident that I hadn't considered. First was the amount of stone that would be going overboard onto the floor. So we took a largish cardboard box and sealed the inside with masking tape so the tiny stones wouldn't get stuck in the flaps. Then, with my able assistants, we were able to follow the pouring operation with the box to catch the overflow. The second challenge was removing the excess that piles up between tracks. For that I made a little scoop out of cardboard, but we also realized that this excess could be pushed towards the other track and used to ballast that track.


As many of you know, the process is pour, shape, spray with alcohol and then, using a pipette, drip thinned Artist's Matte Medium as an adhesive. Many folks use thinned white glue. I made a shaping template based on a post from another forum member. I described this tool in the layout build thread on the Design forum, so I won't bore anyone with that detail.


One of the concerns I have after seeing the finished product is the ballast is a little to high up on the ties. We brushed it off level with the tie tops, but I'd like it a bit lower. 


I didn't attempt at this time to mix in any different colors, but I'm thinking about ways to do it. Grandson #1 suggested going back with the airbrush and adding some more rail brown/rust to the ballast near the rails which is very prototypical. The rust runs down into the rock as soon as it rains.


Here's our result so far. It's not yet cured as of these pictures.



Ballasting 04jpg


Ballasting 03\


Ballasting 02


Ballasting 01


This last picture can't seem to realize that I wanted to rotate it 90º. I rotate it, but it keeps loading in it's original orientation. 


 Ballasting 05

When the paint arrives next week, I'll stop ballasting and get back to painting. I may use some tinted alcohol/India Ink washes and/or weathering powers to kill that pristine "white" look. Also there should be some darkening in between as well since lots of dirt, lube, etc., bathes that area.


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  • Ballasting 03
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Trainman2001, I know these are not original ideas, but what I did was to spray both the track and ties with Floquil rail brown before putting down  ballast.  As you show in your photo, both rails and ties on the prototype get that "brown" look.  I then use roofing granules for the ballast.  As you can see they can come in mixed colors (I use two different ones - a brown for the main lines and a grey for the yards, secondary lines).




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  • IMG_5193

It's great fun tracking your progress, Myles!  Keep in mind that many of the "learning experiences" you're going through as you build your layout would make fine how-to articles for the magazine, particularly if you come across something new and different that seems to work well.  The $ for published articles can help defray P&P construction costs. 

That's some nice looking trackwork. Whose truss bridge is that? It looks like the Plastruct bridges that I bought which I'm going to turn upside down. I chose not to use solvent based paint since the basement is not well-ventilated and the smell gets into the house and is not appreciated by my supportive spouse.


Allan, I'd love to publish in the magazine. I've written enough text in this blog alone to produce several articles. I do feel that most of what I'm doing are well-known techniques. Once in a while I do something out of the ordinary, but often I'm implementing things of which I've read or have been told by folks who are reading the build thread. A perfect example is the swing gate which was inspired by Clem K. While I chose to incorporate L-girder construction using lighter members, it closely follows his gate in that it is hinged on one side with a piano hinge and supported by two, in-line, fixed casters set on the radius of the hinge line. The interlocking switch is my own design, but the timing circuit it controls was offered by another reader. And so it goes.


Perhaps you can give me some guidelines about what I should be watching out for.


I was hoping to write an article about scratch-building the Victorian NYO&W station, but I won't get back to that project until some of the landscaping is done.


Meanwhile, the grandkids and I did some more serious ballasting today. The older one tried his hand at using some weathering powders to add some character to the ballast. At first he was a little heavy-handed, but got the hang of it and produced some interesting results. Meanwhile, the 8 year-old did some serious production. He fully understands what we're trying to do here and was able to be on the platform working on the track obscured by the control panel. I spent time ballasting two switches. 2 down and 24 to go. I was very careful to get no ballast in the area of the moving points. I'd rather have no ballast there then to have a stone foul the mechanism and cause a problem. I think the switches look terrific with ballast. It takes a good day for the Matte Medium to set up. We ran out of it and will be making a run tomorrow to replenish my supply. The paint should arrive early next week and we'll be back in the painting business.


Here are images of today's progress. The right-hand track is the weathering experiment.


Ballasting 09


Any suggestions on what type of landscaping should go in the between-track areas?


Ballasting 08



Ballasting 07


Both boys commented that the ballasting makes it no longer look like a toy train setup, rather it looks like you took real railroad track and hit it with a 1:48 shrink ray. That's just the reaction I'm looking for. Both these kids "Get it".


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  • Ballasting 09
  • Ballasting 08
  • Ballasting 07

That's some nice looking trackwork. Whose truss bridge is that? It looks like the Plastruct bridges that I bought which I'm going to turn upside down. I chose not to use solvent based paint since the basement is not well-ventilated and the smell gets into the house and is not appreciated by my supportive spouse.

Yes, that is a Plastruct bridge. I had to replace two of the Lionel truss bridges there when I discovered they would not clear a double stack car (the hard way!)

Peter, did you add rivet detail to the gusset plates? Since I don't have a sensi-press (something I'll probably get in the future), I bought those rivet decal sheets from Micro-Mark to see if they'll work. I used them a bit on a school project with my grandson, but haven't tried on any serious model making yet. If they work, they should be easier than impressing rivets with a ponce wheel. 


Since we ran out of adhesive yesterday, we went to the hobby shop this afternoon for some Woodlands Scenic scenery glue, but the hobby shop was closed. They now have Summer Season hours with closed on Sundays. Bummer!


Went to The Home Depot and they didn't have any white glue! Everything they had was a more specialized wood glue and they all didn't dry clear. 


Tomorrow I'll go back to the LHS and get want I need.


Here's the modified plans for the Plastruct Truss to turn it into a Deck Truss. After reviewing the literature, it was clear that the deck bridge didn't have to be as wide as a through truss since nothing had to pass inside it. Most of the structure sits directly under the rail loading area. When the bridge got narrower, it also didn't have to be as high for the same reason, so I reduced both the width and height of the re-design. Now all I have to do is build two of them. There's no rush since the temporary planks are serving as perfectly adequate bridges. I need to add another florescent light at that end of the layout. It's too dark there and it will be a feature that should be well lit.



Last edited by Trainman2001

No,  I tried using a variety of punches and found that without a rivet press, the thickness of the plastic prevented anything I was using to make an impression. I miss the look of the rivets but have to admit that unless I am thinking of that when I am looking at the bridge, I don't notice they are not there.

Thank you very much!


Peter, just imagine that it's a more modern all-welded construction. I don't think that this kind of construction uses as many rivets today. I may end up going the same route as you if the rivet decals don't work out. When I used them on the school project. I used water-based paint over top and the decals started breaking down. Now, I'll over coat them with Dull Coat to provide a water barrier before I apply the acrylic top colors and weathering.


I bought Woodland Scenics liquid scenery glue. It's pre-thinned for use with an eyedropper or spraying. It's not cheap either, but it's easy to use. I also found out that the area between the two tracks is also gravel so I filled in some of it to see how it looks. It looks fine. I also bought the Woodland Scenics Scenery paint starter set. I mixed some slate gray into the glue and then eyedroppered some down the middle of the inter track area. Since this would be a drainage area it would be a bit more weathered than the surrounding gravel. One of the pictures I saw even showed some vegetation growing in this area. It will be fun to add these details and bring the RR alive.

Boy! It's been a while since I posted. My last post was on the second page...


Track painting and ballasting continues. I lost a week due to a persistent sinus infection and cold, but got back to the RR this week. I'm going through ballast at an alarming rate I have less than 1/4 left of that pail, but only have 1/3 (or less) of the layout ballasted.


Ballast Test 14


When full that pail weighs almost 50 pounds and I don't look forward to dragging another one out of the car and down to the basement since I pulled my back out getting this one there.


Here's a shot looking down the front main line showing all those stones. It's hard to tell by this picture, but the ballast covering between the tracks is just one stone thick, versus the piles that are covering the track and roadbed. I noticed that areas between double tracks are ballasted, but in the wider areas there will be ground cover, cinders, and some grasses.


Ballast Progress


Please note: once again, I was able to get all 30 feet in focus using CombineZP photo stitching software. It combined 7 exposures each focused further into the distance.


I got the swing gate ballasted today. I put masking tape on the ends to trap the ballast until it cures. I've also been very careful about ballasting around the Ross switches. No stones under the moving parts.


Ballast Test 13


Ballasting 12


I've learned some things moving along. I solved the terrible air brush problem. The gun was just working awfully, stopping and starting and blocking up constantly. Apparently it was pulling thick paint off the bottom of the 1 oz. paint bottle which was gumming up the works. So I tried using the larger 2 oz. bottle, but still with the shorter pickup tube. In this way the paint was being pulled a 1/4" from the bottom. Besides being a bigger reservoir, the air brush worked perfectly letting me blast away at foot after foot of track. 


I also found that Artist's Matte Medium mixed 50/50 with water works better than the pre-mixed Woodlands Scenics Scenery Cement. It's not cheap, running at $20+ per bottle, but it's holds like crazy once dry.


I've tried it both ways; pre-cleaning the rails before painting, or just blasting away. The jury's still out so I'm just blasting away. 


I stopped using the template to shape the stones and just carefully spread and position it with a brush. The template was springy and just splattered stones all over the place. I can control it much better and it reduces the cleanup chores.


Ross track ties are pretty tall and it takes a lot of ballast to do each foot of track, but the results are worth it. The painted and ballasted track looks much better than bare.


I painted the track around the right-hand back curve and then woke up this morning remembering that there's supposed to be a mountain and tunnels in that area, ergo, no ballast or paint. So I made sure I marked the OSB where the tunnel will be so I knew where to stop ballasting. No use in wasting precious time or resources putting detail that will never be seen.


With all the trains on the tracks, I'm having to jockey them around so they don't get sprayed or stoned. Notice that I've been ballasting the "easy" to reach tracks first. There are some areas, that are going to more challenging.


I'm also getting teased by my wife about the size of the railroad and the quantity of materials it's going to consume to finish it. She's right!


Images (4)
  • Ballast Test 14
  • Ballast Progress
  • Ballast Test 13
  • Ballasting 12

As before, this ballasting project is a slow mover thereby creating dead spots in my daily reporting schedule. Have no fear... progress is being made albeit slowly.


Before I give today's report, I want to give a shout out to the Cincinnati History Museum housed in the fabulously restored Art Deco masterpiece... the Cincinnati Union Terminal. This museum/Working Amtrak Station houses three museums; Science, History and Duke Energy Children's Museum. Plus there is an IMAX and the station structure itself. I've driven by this edifice many times in my trips to Cincy while working for Henkel and always wanted to see the insides. It exceeded my wife's and my expectations... by a lot. There's even a perfectly executed model of an NYC Niagara in 3/4" to foot scale; an oil-fired, live steam model. It was hidden in the lower-level elevator lobby. If we had chosen to take the stairs we would have missed it. The interactive model of the entire Cincy downtown is wonderful...sorry it's in HO. If it was O... well, they'd need a bigger station. Next, I want to get my grandkids there. 


As of yesterday I've almost finished air brushing all of the exposed trackage. All that's left now is the main yard tracks. I'm continuing to ballast the rear portion of the layout working from right to left. I find everything works better if I give the acrylic track paint a full day to dry. When I rush it, the alcohol/water wetting agent tends to negatively affect the paint. I purchased another tub of roofing granules and may have to buy another. I also bought another two bottles of Woodland Scenics Scenery Cement and will definitely have to buy more of those too, I'm afraid. Lastly I added another shop light at the dark end of the layout and bought lumber to make some train shelves so I can get the remaining trains out of their boxes.


In order to do the entire back portion, I had to get all the trains and rolling stock to the front. This was facilitated by having cab control where I could move one train while keeping another quiet regardless of where they were on the layout. Here's a pile of rolling stock. I'm glad I put that intermediate passing siding in the front. This will help shunt trains past the passenger station that's going into this area.


Ballast Switch Moves


Here's the extent of the track painting. As I noted in the last post, once I changed my bottle on the air brush from the one ounce to the two ounce with the siphon tube off the bottom I had no problems. I air brushed for a half hour without a single hiccup. It was actually fun!


Ballasting 15


I'm also spraying the light tan urethane Ross Bed switch bases so they're more hidden when the ballast goes on. Man! I really like those rusty rails! It also tones down the stark "fresh creosote" look of the Ross ties.


Ballasting 14


The ballast itself is about a quarter way across the back now. If I only could get those section gangs moving a little faster I could be building mountains now...


Ballasting 16


And finally, here's the new light fixture. There's still some darkness in that corner, but it's much better. It also provides much needed lighting to the chop saw. By mounting it a little beyond the layout edge, it helps illuminate the sides of the trains on the outer loop.


Ballasting 17


I spray-painted the rails on the tracks at the "future-bridges", but I'm not going to ballast them. Once tracks are ballasted, they really don't like being removed and these tracks are temporary. I also did not paint the tracks on the curves in the foreground in this picture since they are going to run under the city. You may see their edges or not. I'm not sure how I'm going to approach this.


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  • Ballast Switch Moves
  • Ballasting 15
  • Ballasting 14
  • Ballasting 16
  • Ballasting 17



I just wish I could do it a bit faster, but if I do, all I get are lots of little stones all over the place.


A note about Roofing granules: they appear to be a manufactured product rather than crushed rock. I'm going to figure a way to darken them for the yard tracks. I'm going to try using a heavy alcohol/India Ink wash as the wetting agent. On my trial piece it did darken it a bit. They make black granules, but the roofing supply place where I purchased this didn't stock it.

Originally Posted by Trainman2001:

I'm going to figure a way to darken them for the yard tracks. I'm going to try using a heavy alcohol/India Ink wash as the wetting agent. On my trial piece it did darken it a bit. They make black granules, but the roofing supply place where I purchased this didn't stock it.

Put them in a jar with the I/A, shake, and strain. That will darken them up nicely.

I like your progress and you are building a fine layout, but I am curious as to why you chose to ballast before scenery was complete? I have always been in the camp that ballast comes last. It seems to me that once you put scenery down you will have to go back and touch up the ballast. At least that has been my experience. I'm not trying to be negative, just wondering what your thought process was.  Either way it looks like you have a very nice layout going there! Thanks for sharing.

To ballast before or after scenic treatment? Hmmmm.


I thought about this a lot and then Gayl Rotsching pushed me over the edge by saying that ballasting before is much easier. I tend to agree.


My thinking was based on concern for getting the switches carefully ballasted so nothing would be binding and having ground cover all laid down first would just get in the way. And when I'm ballasting tracks that are a bit out of reach I'm standing on a step-stool and supporting my weight with one of my arms with my hand pressing firmly on OSB, not ground cover.


As to aesthetics, in looking at the Southern and CSX tracks here in Louisville, the ballast encroaches on ground cover and vice versa, so whichever goes on first wouldn't matter much. New ballast lies on top of the grass and weeds, older ballast has weeds and grass on top. But it will be a lot easier laying in imprecise ground cover than it is shaping the ballast bed.


I ran out of scenery cement again today. Instead of running to the hobby shop again (I'll do that tomorrow) I took two jars of Aleen's Tacky glue and mixed it 1:1 with water. It filled one of the empty Woodlands Scenics bottles so I bought some time. It seems a bit more viscous than Woodlands Scenics glue, but it worked. I'll see how it dries tomorrow.


It still astounds me how much material a pike of this size consumes. Whether it's screws, ballast, scenery glue, whatever... it takes at least 3X more than I estimate. But it looks so good when the trains go on long journeys and get really small as they move to the other end of the room...

I intend to keep writing as long as folks, like yourself, are reading. This post is going to go on for years.


There is a terrific RC aircraft forum called Some of the finest RC aircraft modelers in the world document their builds in great detail—which is where I got encouraged to do the same thing. One build I'm following is almost 10 years long and the model's not done yet. It's a 1/6th scale AH-1 Skyraider that even has wings that fold and lock under servo control. Good things take a long time.

Ballasting is about 3/4 complete. I finished the back side of the railroad and the left side. All that's left is one mainline track coming off the reverse loop and all of the foreground yard tracks. I finished spraying rust brown on almost all the remaining track and will finish it all in the next work session. I'll ballast the mainline tracks as before, but can't do the yard tracks until I do one thing first.


I have to raise the ground level all around the yard tracks 1/2" so the ground level is just below the tops of the ties. Yard tracks are buried; they're not elevated and groomed like mainline tracks. Often you can't even find the ballast. It's often a mixture of dirt, cinders, and maybe some ballast. I'm hoping that I can find some 1/2" pink foam board. I don't want to use plywood, and I have some bead board scraps that could be used in a pinch, but they're slightly thicker. Once this filler is fitted, then I'll be able to do the ballast/ground cover.


Here's an overhead shot of a typical switch showing "NO BALLAST" in the moving parts, and the car that it takes to get the ballast shaped right and not fouling anything up. Doing the switches is finicky and takes time. I exercise their motors to make sure that nothing is blocking them. 


Ballasting 21


I one instance I accidentally got some stones down the slot where the manual controls is. It immediately jammed up the works. I had to remove the switch machine, turn it upside down and knock the stones out. Once cleared, everything worked okay.


I may have mentioned this before, but I've stopped using the ballast template that I made and just carefully distribute the stones from a plastic sour cream container. The template was springy and sprayed stones all over the place that had to be corralled back into place.


The actual steps I use are:

1. Do about 3 feet at a time. This seems the right amount so the wetting agent doesn't start drying before you get the glue down.

2. Pour a moderate amount of ballast down both sides of the power rail for the center ballasting.

3. Using an 1-1/2" cheap paint brush, sweep the stones towards one end until the ties are clear of stones and all the spaces between the ties are full and flush with the tie tops. It takes a couple of passes to get this right.

4. Pour a modest amount of stones towards the ties on the outside of track. Let the ballast fall naturally down the slope of the roadbed. Use enough so you don't see any roadbed showing through. This was very challenging especially in those areas that had very little subroadbed sticking out of the side. In a couple of places I used pieces of styrofoam bead board as extensions do the ballast had someplace to fall.

5. Use the brush and lightly sweep the stones of the tie ends. Go back and clean the center track area again.

6. With the brush, lightly push all the loose stones that are spread out from the track towards the ballast bed until no stray stones are seen. Make any final adjustments to the pile necessary to make a good-looking slope.

7. Repeat this for the other side of the track.

8. Liberally spray the ballast area with 50/50 alcohol/water mix until it's wet.

9. Dribble/pour/drip the glue onto the wet stones starting with the center track area. Go down one side of the power rail then back up the other. Try to keep glue off the rail tops, but it really doesn't matter since you're going to clean all the track running surfaces after gluing.

10. Dribble/pour/drip glue on the outside rail area working in and out of the tie ends and all the way to the bottom of the pile. It needs to be saturated. Stones that don't get wet by glue don't get stuck and will end up being loose.

11. With a rag wrapped around a finger, clean off the the rail running surface to prevent any power transmission problems. If it dries, use some alcohol to remove it.


I didn't ballast the temporary track where the bridges are going to go. It will hard enough extricating those pieces without having them glued in place with ballast.


Ballasting 20


Ballasting 19


I think engines look much better on ballasted track, don't you?


J1-a on Ballast


The ballast looks awfully white in this picture. It's really light gray. I think I'm going to do some weathering on it, especially some grime running down the center. I may also go back and airbrush some rust on the ballast under the rails. My gun doesn't have pressure control and if it's too strong it can blow the ballast out... ugh!


Here's the yard tracks that are now painted.


Ballasting 18


Through careful juggling and a flew low speed collisions, I was able to get all engines and rolling stock away from the layout front so I could spray the yard tracks with impunity. I also let many of them stay under power since they were suffering from low battery problems.


Heavy Traffic\


It's going to be a lot fun getting them all back where they came from.


Images (6)
  • Ballasting 21
  • Ballasting 20
  • Ballasting 19
  • J1-a on Ballast
  • Ballasting 18
  • Heavy Traffic

The painting is finished (other than doing some weathering on ballasted areas). I even tried to go back over with some rust brown on rails with ballast under them. It worked....sort of. I quickly found areas that weren't glued well when the ballast blew all over the place. It didn't happen often, but when it did it made a mess.


I also bought a nice 1/2" piece of Owens Corning pink foam board at THD. It will be easy to cut and build up the yard areas. I had them chunk it into three pieces so I could get it into the back seat of my car. The pieces don't have to be continuous so dividing it up won't matter.


I'll be able to insert my structures into the foam to raise them at ground level. An example of this is the control tower (Model Tech Inc.) that I built on a piece of foam core.


What should I use to coat the foam before putting on ground cover?


I bought more Woodlands Scenics Scenery Cement (2 bottles), and a container of black ballast to mix with the other to start concocting the ground cover for the yard.


Since I've been running through the Woodlands Scenics Scenery Cement like it was water — water that cost over 8 bucks a bottle that is — I decided to ask my local hobby shop owner if there was a better deal if I ordered in bulk. Too bad that Costco doesn't sell Woodland Scenics products. He came in in the mid 6s which worked for me and I bought 10 bottles. Even after the ballasting is done, I will still need lots of this stuff for general ground cover gluing, and there's a lot of ground to cover.


When all is said and done, ballasting alone will run well over $200. Most people never mention how much it actually costs to build a big railroad. It's probably like owning a yacht. "If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford it." But, I am interested in understanding what kind of investment is necessary to bring a big pike to completion. It costs a LOT! The big costs: lumber, track, roadbed, wiring, are understandable, but the scenery stuff nickels and dimes you to death and will probably match the cost of the major chunks. Hopefully, it's spread over many months so it's easier to budget.

I so totally agree with your comment on costs.

And I see you went with cookie cutter benchwork. I didn't understand your comment about losing ballast to the floor until I saw the pictures and realized that.


I really like your painting the rails and have decided to do that on my new layout now.

I noticed the rust color on the ballast under the rails in your picture and may do one coat, then ballast, then a light second coat to get that effect.


I really appreciate the time you spend documenting how it is going, this is very helpful.

Glad to help!


As I noted in the last post, when you airbrush after ballasting, you'll quickly find which is glued and which ain't. I had my youngest grandson go around and test areas to see if there were any loose stones and then fix them. Both boys left for a month of sleepover camp so I'm on my own until sometime in July.


On Saturday, young grandson and I started laying down the foam to build up the areas around the yard tracks. This went sort of okay. I was using low-temp Woodland Scenics (hereon being noted as WS since I'm tired of typing out the full name) foam hot glue. It works except on the big sheets it was already setting before I got the foam in position and it didn't stick. We resorted to putting the glue on one end, getting it fit and then lifting the remainder and stuffing glue under it and moving towards the other end. Then I'd go back and lift the panels in any loose spots and shoot some glue underneath. It's all adhered now.


Before setting in the sheets I beveled the edges so they'd nestle down into the bevel on the Flexibed rubber roadbed. 


The foam is a bit higher than the ties, so it's going to be a bit strange as I start laying down ground cover. 


Then we found out that cutting thin strips to lay down between the 3.5" spaced yard tracks was next to impossible. Grandson suggested filling the space with melted plastic like the hot glue gun. I explained that it would be difficult to do, but I could use plaster. So I located a distributor in Louisville who sells Hydrocal or Hydrostone in large quantities (Jefferson Lumber).  I was going to get plaster soon anyway so it just pushed up the schedule a bit. I bought a mixing head at Harbor Freight Tools and an inexpensive kitchen scale so I can accurately measure the water/plastic proportions. I'm buying the plaster tomorrow. The water to plaster ratio is pretty specific based on USG's spec sheet. For Hydrostone, it's 32 parts water to 100 parts plaster by weight, ergo the scale. You're also required to soak the plaster in the water for a few minutes before actually mixing. This lets the water remove the air that naturally surrounds the plaster particles when shipped.


So the plaster won't leak out thought the wire holes and various other joints I filled them with hot glue melt. Hydrostone is self-leveling and should be good stuff to fill the area between the tracks so I don't have to bury them with ground cover. Plasters is much cheaper than ground cover. I'll probably tint the plaster for whatever I'm making so it's less obvious and doesn't show "white" when it's chipped.


Here's the foam laid down to build up the yard topography.


 Yard Prep 7


 Yard Prep 6


I'm going to taper the transitions between higher ground and table level so you won't set that 1/2" ledge. I'm thinking about elevating the ground a bit between the mainline tracks and the yard to give a visual break, but I'm concerned about obscuring the switch position indicating lights. I don't have the control panel marked yet regarding which light position on the switch controller corresponds to track position on the actual switch so I'm still doing it visually.


Today, I'll finish the normal ballasting of the last mainline track shown by the track branching off from the mainline track in the above picture. I'm also going to buy the plaster. That should be fun!


I used scraps of foam and the glue gun to close up any remaining gaps in subroadbed panels.


Images (2)
  • Yard Prep 7
  • Yard Prep 6
Last edited by Trainman2001

Jan, that's true, but my slopes are bi-directional since all the trains have access to both reversing loops. I'm going to do some light airbrushing down the center with some weathered black on all of the tracks... eventually so the break dust will be coming.


Today I started the plaster operation. First I off-loaded the 50 pound bag of USG Hydrostone into sealable paint buckets. Working out of the paper sack seemed a major mess waiting to happen. I bought the plaster at Jefferson Lumber for $22. That's seems like a fair price and is much less expensive than buying those one quart containers of WS scenery plaster. I also bought a bottle of the WS Raw Umber Tinting liquid to kill some of the high-whiteness of the plaster.


The digital scale worked great, but I didn't use the mixing head. It's just too big to stir the quantities of plaster I'm creating. Here's all the stuff.


 Plastering 01


For several years now I've been saving all the poly containers from cottage cheese and sour cream just for this moment. Here's the routine: I take a cottage cheese container, put it on the scale and tare the weight. I then add 64 grams of water and a couple grams of tinting.


In a separate smaller container, I put in 200 grams of Hydrostone (after re-taring for the smaller container). I then pour the plaster into the container with the pre-measured water and mix until thoroughly homogenized and has a consistency of pancake batter.


Using these containers lets me make manageable lots sizes where I can carefully control the pour.


After I use the container, I set it aside and take another one, add the water and so on. I'm using about 8 containers. Once I get to number 8, the plaster in number 1 is hardened sufficiently where I can flex the container and break out all the plaster which doesn't stick to the polyethylene. I then re-use that one and keep going. I'm able to measure, mix and pour pretty quickly doing it this way and clean up is easy.


Here's some pictures of the plaster filling the spaces between the yard tracks.


Plastering 05


While it looks pretty lumpy, the yard ballast mix is going to bury everything right to the tops of the ties. If I go higher than that, I'll have to make allowances for flangeways and I don't want to do that.


Plastering 04


I could have probably tinted it much darker, but I don't have much tinting material. I may paint it earth color before ballasting.

Plastering 03


Just before I quit and was going up for dinner, I looked over it from the front side and saw to my horror that I plastered over one of the throw rods of a switch. The plaster was pretty hard already. I immediately got a hobby knife and dug it out until it moved easily. That would have been a disaster if I couldn't free up that switch. Removing track from this layout now is next to impossible.


This shows the corrected error. I will be more careful on the other end!


Plastering Problem


I'm going to go back and re-shoot the rail brown before ballasting since some plaster got onto the track's sides and looks awful.


Images (5)
  • Plastering 01
  • Plastering 05
  • Plastering 04
  • Plastering 03
  • Plastering Problem

Another problem solved...


I was ballasting the last remaining mainline track and got a little over-zealous ballasting around a switch and again got stones into the manual mechanism. So I removed the switch machine and turned it upside down to successfully shake out the stones. When I went to re-install the machine, the ballast had invaded the space where it sat and kept it from seating properly. So I got the shop vac and removed all the loose stones. When I went to re-install the machine again, I noticed that the little spring wire that connects the machine to the moving point arm was missing. 


Uh oh! I vacuumed it up! I now had to find it in a proverbial haystack of yuck. What to do? The spring wire would be invisible in the vacuum's tank. It's spring steel, therefore it's magnetic.


I've been collecting the old Soni-care brush heads because they have very strong rare-earth magnets on them. I took one of them, swished it around through the muck and Voila! Out of the muck was the spring wire. Problem solved!


Interestingly, the roofing gravel that was vacuumed up was also sticking to the magnet. Something in it is mildly magnetic. This may be something to consider if folks that run post-war Lionel trains with magna-traction want to use this inexpensive material to ballast their pikes. It may be attracted to the axles and therefore the gear train.

I took a look at that product... I'm not sure I like it, but it may be worth a try.


Today I officially finished all the mainline ballasting. Meanwhile the sculptamold is still drying. Unlike the Hydrostone which sets up chemically, this product seems to need to dry as well as set-up plaster-like. I took a look at my ballast inventory, and much to my disappointment, I'm afraid I'm going to have to buy another bucket. I won't be consuming the whole thing and have no idea what I'm going to do with the surplus. Perhaps another O'gauger will see an ad on Craig's list for 20 pounds of white roofing granules and think it's a good deal.


I'm going to mix the yard ballast with black, and earth tones to make it look more yard-like. In fact, it should probably be more mud and cinder-looking and show no ballast at all. It's a big surface area and I don't want to have to buy bottle after bottle of WS colored ballasts for this last part of the job.


Here's the last area of mainline trackage with ballast. This one piece of track is the most difficult to get to the layout and I had to sit on the layout to get to it. I use a couple pieces of heavy cardboard to spread my load and keep me from sitting directly on the tracks. The layout—all L-girder—doesn't even creak when I get on top. It's a very strong way to build.


Ballasting 23


Those white wedges you see are pieces of beaded Styrofoam that I used to extend areas where there wasn't enough subroadbed sticking out to hold the ballast. The remainder of those open areas will have to be covered up with something on which to landscape going forward.


Ballasting 22


Here's the bit of Sculptamold that still damp after almost 48 hours of drying time. I'm not particularly happy about that, but I had something else to do in finishing the last bit of mainline. When discussing the ballast consumption with my wife, she asked if I put it on too heavy. I said I didn't think so. To back up my opinion, there's that interesting GE add with the talking car from the old TV show. Knight Rider, discussing how smart the new GE locos and then it paces the engine. It's a N-S engine GE44EVO and then there's a nice overhead shot that shows how wide the ballast pile really is, and I didn't overdo it, not by a long shot.


Plastering Problem 2


Sculptamold has a nice organic texture that will look good when painted and covered with vegetation.


Images (3)
  • Ballasting 23
  • Ballasting 22
  • Plastering Problem 2

I bought some more tan paint from THD and painted all the foam and Sculptamold so it would provide a more "realistic" base for the all the yard ballast. I then finished up the feeder track into the yard with the regular ballast and alcohol/water mix, but then converted the tail end to the mixed yard ballast and the weathered wetting agent. 


I'm using a mixture of alcohol/water and a couple droppers of India ink for the yard wetting agent. It dulls it down a bit.


Here's the painted areas. It already looks better without the pink foam showing.

Yard Ballasting 07


The yard ballast mix is the white roofing granules, W-S coarse cinders and W-S coarse brown ballast mixed in relatively equal proportions. I'm just filling up the track areas to start. The foam is slightly higher than the track ties so the very outside ballasting is a little fuller than the between-tracks ballasting. Again, it's a hassle to keep the stones out of the switches. I finally resorted to putting some masking tape over the manual control opening.


It's still a bit bright so I may go back and do some more air brushing and weathering of the tracks. 


This first picture shows the ballast piled up before spreading. Notice how much brighter it is than the glued area to the left. That area has been treated to the India ink treatment.


Yard Ballasting 01


And here's the track after spreading, wetting and applying glue.


Yard Ballasting 02a


I have to leave a cavity surrounding the elongated ties that protect the moving points slide. I use a small brush and a tweezer to pull out any errant stones. The ballast on the edges is now level with the foam. I have to decide what kind of ground cover I'm going to use for the rest of the yard. 


I have a problem with my Gloor Craft coaling tower. It has the wrong track spacing to cover the two tracks for which it's designed. The outside track would be under the coal chutes, but the track running inside should be where coal is brought to the station. When I put it on the track it's just too tight. I can put it on the outside, but then there's no track to bring coal. I'm not going to spend the money for another Ross switch to create a spur to feed it, plus I don't have the room for that track if I want to have space for the water tower and sanding station.


Coal Station Problem


It's the catwalk that's causing most of the problem, but you can see here that this station is design for at least a 5" track separation. As it is now, the chutes will dump their coal into the inter-track area next to the tender. I can make due if I remove the catwalk or raise it above the height of the tallest locomotive (4" or 16 scale feet). Or I could design and scratch-build my own to accommodate the 3.5" track spacing created by laddering the Ross #4s. Or I could use this tower as a basis and kit bash one with the correct spacing. Any suggestions?


Images (4)
  • Yard Ballasting 07
  • Yard Ballasting 01
  • Yard Ballasting 02a
  • Coal Station Problem

Jim, that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm also going to revise the chutes to something like you did that's both more prototypically correct and will drop coal over the center of the tender instead of 6 scale feet to the outside. I also have to add concrete feet (again like you did). This will raise the building a bit higher which would be a good thing. I built this model in 1997 in a furnished rental apartment in Cincy, while working on a SAP project with Henkel.  I bought it from Golf Manor Hobbies which is no longer in business. I also bought the Tudlow's Confectionary Steam Era Structures kit. I didn't have a running railroad until 2000 while in Germany, but had no landscaping on it. It wasn't until now that I'm actually reaching a point to start adding the buildings and structures that make model trains really interesting, (IMHO).


Today, I finished all the ballasting (hooray!) with the completion of all the yard ballast. I still have to do ground cover for this huge area (among other huge areas), but this was a major step. When it's nice and dry, I'll go back and check for loose areas, and after drying again, re-air brush rust on the rails and shoot some weathered black down the centers of all the tracks.


Yard Ballasting finished


It took about 125 lbs of "white" roofing granules for the whole layout, plus an additional of 2 jugs of W-S black Coarse Cinders, 2 Jugs of Dark Brown and anything else I could find.


Now I have a decision to make... I have several directions I need to move, but not at once. There are two river valleys and three bridges to build. There's a nice sized mountain that will consume 4 tunnel portals, and then there's about 8 square feet of elevated portion over the return loop circle that will be the base for the town. Each of these areas represents a significant amount of work. Then there's the general contouring of land and ground cover as a result of using "cookie cutter" construction that leaves some open areas around track. 


Like everything else on this large layout, everything is costing $$$. I'm thinking about building a master and making my own portals since 8 of them will cost about $160, an I still would have a mountain to build.


I already had the Plastruct bridge kits so I think that should be next. I was hoping to buy a NWSL rivet press setup, but I don't think that's going to happen soon.



Images (1)
  • Yard Ballasting finished

Based on Jim's good advice, I've been working these last weeks on modifying my Gloor Craft Coaling Tower which was the first structure I built in 1997 and has never been on a layout. In addition to scrapping the catwalk that was blocking access to the tower with tracks at my 3.5 inch spacing, I also went much further. I've redesigned the chutes and their suspensions, added lighting, replaced broken ladders, and added "concrete" footings under all the timbers. I've been writing about this whole process to submit as an article to O'Gauge RR magazine. This is based on a comment made by Alan that I should considering writing some of my learnings into an article. If the story isn't accepted, I'll publish it as a build thread in this forum. Here's a teaser...


Complete Chute Install


The chutes now drop their load directly over the center of a tender sitting below them. The pulleys are home made and the right hand chute is able to raise and lower correctly. The left hand one is not movable due to a pulley that has a slightly undersized upper clearance so the chain doesn't pass through smoothly. All redesigns were done on the computer scaling them directly on the picture I took of the problem. The chutes are made of styrene sheet.


Images (1)
  • Complete Chute Install
Last edited by Trainman2001

More on the Guard Tower. 


Some of the rails had a nice chance to dry overnight so it was much easier to handle them to set up for gluing. I finished putting up all the rails and let it all dry a bit before painting.


 Guard Tower 5


Guard Tower 4


Only the stairs, platforms and one pole remain from the original model.


Guard Tower 3


Instead of painting just the rails, I decided to repaint the entire structure. I wanted to match the brown previously used so I mixed Tamiya flat brown with black until it had the correct value. I did all the painting by brush since it would have been very difficult to mask for the air brush. I used Model Tech concrete grey for the pedestal and base and again mixed Tamiya flat yellow with brown to get that mustard yellow. I haven't weathered it yet and I'm still deciding on what to do there. It really depends on where I want to put it. If it's near the engine service area, it should be pretty grimy, but if it's protecting a crossing near town, it could be much less worn.


 Guard Tower Finished 2


Guard Tower Finished 1


As noted in yesterday's post, I inserted a grain-of-rice bulb into the bottom of the house, twisted the wires and then CA'd them to the pedestal. After I painted the wires they're very unobtrusive.


This reconstruction was a nice two-day project. I was actually thinking about throwing this structure out when it started falling apart. I'm glad I didn't and took some time instead to rebuild it.


I located my copy of Great Model Railroads 2005 and found the article about Frank Miller's layout in Yardley, PA where this little building was installed. I bought in 2006. Here's what it looked like when situated on Frank's layout. Frank was a home builder before retiring and did some great structures. Unfortunately, I got to his house at the end of the sale of all the stuff and there wasn't much left.


 Frank Miller's Guard Tower


I think I have enough latex layers on the footings master so tomorrow's work will be to see if I can actually get it off of the plate glass I use as a support base and pour some footings.


Images (6)
  • Guard Tower 5
  • Guard Tower 4
  • Guard Tower 3
  • Guard Tower Finished 2
  • Guard Tower Finished 1
  • Frank Miller's Guard Tower
Last edited by Trainman2001

I've started putting some buildings into the layout starting with the engine service area. It includes a Model Tech Sanding Tower, the Gloor Craft Coaling Tower now modified for my track spacing and a (I think) Gloor Craft 50k gallon water tank. The tank was one of the three buildings I purchased from Frank Miller. Since all three were on the elevated foam section, I use three different means to attach them to the layout. The sanding tower was built on foam core that was about an 1/8" lower than the surrounding foam so I spaced it up a bit with some cardboard. 


After positioning and marking the location on the foam, I used a utility knife to cut the foam down to the OSB. It meant disturbing some of the ballast, but that's okay since it will be replaced up and over the sanding tower's base. I then used regular hot glue to hold both the cardboard spacer and the model. After gluing the model's base was just a little proud of the surrounding foam so I went back and used some light spackling compound to level the area. When it was dry I lightly sanded the area and then used another light coat to finish the job.


This picture shows the cardboard already in place.


First Building in Place 1


 First Building in Place 2


Engine Service 3



For the Coaling Tower, I first glued the plaster footings to the legs of the tower, and then glue them to the foam using hot glue, but it didn't work in this case. I then went back and used Titebond wood glue on the plaster to foam and CA for the legs to the plaster. I then when back and filled all the gaps with DAP filler in a tube. This product is very fine grained and goes on pink and turns white when dry enough to sand. After it dried I cleaned it up with a sanding stick and then went back and added a second coat. This should that coat drying.


Coal tower Installed 2



I'm going to go back and paint the footings and then ground cover and coal debris with clean it up. Of course I'll post pictures of the finished product.


For the water tank, I used adhesive caulk to hold the footings to the foam. I went this route since I wanted something that was flexible so if it got bumped it wouldn't break free. I made sure it was paintable before using it.


With these in place and their plaster drying I added one more building, the Model Tech Inc, signal tower. This fell in an area that was half foam, sculptamold and then OSB. Again, I cleaned the area, marked out the location by tracing, and then start cutting. In this case, I again used hot melt to hold the model to the table, and the Sculptamold to contour the area into the surrounding terrain. I'm going to have a drive leading up to this building as well as some form of roadway/gravel to the yard buildings.


Here it is in place:


 Signal Tower Install 1


Here's the contouring putty in place and drying. Sculptamold takes days to dry enough for painting and recoating with skin coat. It will need another coat to make it more "driveable."

Signal Tower Install 2



While all this is drying, I was redesigning the truss bridges for the last time before beginning construction. I'm glad I did since my first attempt have way too many errors which would have been disastrous. Since the bridge will be a deck truss instead of through truss, it can be much narrower and have less truss depth since trains don't have to fit inside of it. Here's the design in elevation and plan. There will be two of these bridges at slightly different elevations. One will be on a 2º slope.


The bridges will be 30 long. These were drawn in 1:1 scale in CorelDraw. The bridge will be built directly over the plans, model RC plane style. I find the Plastruct's instructions to be awful since no full-size diagrams are shown in O'Scale and therefore you must use the cutting table to measure and cut all the members. It's much easier to put the parts directly over the plan, mark them, cut them and then hold them to the plan during gluing. Since I can't print a 30+ inch paper on my printer, I print it as "tiles" and then tape them together. Not elegant, but it works. I suppose I could take it to Kinko's and have them print it out on large paper...


Side Elevation

 Truss Bridge Elevation Final


Bottom (top is similar, but has only four bays

 Truss Bridge Plan Final


End Elevations, True projection. Not, you can use full cross-bracing on a deck truss since nothing must pass inside, unlike a through truss.

 Truss Bridge End Elevation - true


Changing the height and width of the truss changed every gusset plate in the model and required the most redesign effort. 



I still have to figure out what kind and how I'm going to install a catwalk on the side, but this is not necessarily required.


I'm also starting to think about building a 36", 3-bay engine house. It will be scratchbuilt since nothing like this exists on the market. While I'd love a roundhouse and turntable, the layout (as it stands now) can't handle one, nor can the budget handle the cost of a turntable. I probably can swing a cool engine house.



Images (9)
  • Engine Service 3
  • First Building in Place 2
  • First Building in Place 1
  • Coal tower Installed 2
  • Signal Tower Install 2
  • Signal Tower Install 1
  • Truss Bridge End Elevation - true
  • Truss Bridge Plan Final
  • Truss Bridge Elevation Final

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