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Hello all. I've decided to start a thread documenting the progress of the new layout I've been constructing since September 2020. It's situated along two walls of my basement, and takes up a traditional "L" shape design. The approximate dimensions are 33' x 25', with a 5' x 9' inner peninsula (eventually to be 5' x 15') that holds a modest engine servicing facility and stub end yard (still to be fully designed).

The layout is completely freelanced, although I'm trying to capture the general feel of Southwestern Pennsylvania scenery and scenes in the late 1950s. The Pennsylvania Railroad is the main inspiration with the majority of the locomotives and rolling stock sporting PRR livery, but I like to have a little bit of everything (mostly eastern roads) on the layout as well.

A double track main is present for the entirety of the design with the outer loop being O-72 minimum. The track plan was designed to maximize the length of the run while trying to reduce the hi-rail issue of having too much track; this wasn't entirely achieved as space limitations meant that there had to be areas where more track is present than I'd like, but it should look decent enough when scenery is completed. Still, at about speed step 50 on the Legacy remote, it takes a train exactly 5 minutes to complete a full circuit. The main "room" of the layout is a twice around over/under design that sees the train snake its way along the edge of a hillside somewhat reminiscent of the approach and departure of the Horseshoe Curve, although again the key theme being inspired and not replicated, and a 25 foot tunnel. Some areas of the layout are more whimsical than prototypical such as the multi-level 4 bridge scene and relatively steep grades that were made as gradual as possible. The smaller portion of the layout will be home to a medium sized town and other scenery yet to be decided. Fastrack will be ballasted and weathered to improve the look.

100% of the equipment is scale and command control with either Legacy or Protosound 2/3. Roughly 80% of the motive power right now is steam, but I have recently been acquiring early diesel and plan to add more so the layout resembles the transition era from steam to diesel.

The pictures you'll first see below were take within the first month or two of construction, and the last few taken just days ago. I'll be updating this post as things progress. If you have any questions or suggestions let me know! Hope you all enjoy!

Nick

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Last edited by Nick's Tracks
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Thank you everyone for the kind words, it means a lot!

To address some of the above comments:

I tried my best to avoid areas that would be problematic to easily reach. For the mainline table, there is nowhere that exceeds 3' in depth. The only areas that are tricky to reach are in the corners of the wall where the current hillside is built, but once scenery is completed I should have little reason to need to access that area again. For the tunnel underneath the mountain the benchwork is all open with only the surface directly under the track covered in plywood. If there should be a derailment, I can easily go under the table and pop up inside the tunnel.

I sadly don't have a real track plan of the layout, not quite sure how to use those fancy programs haha. But I can draw up a rough sketch on a piece of paper later this evening.

And the tentative plan is to cover that long back wall where the eventual town will be with building flats from PTF designs. I'm also contemplating adding a sky backdrop in that area as well.

Again thank you all for the comments!

Nick

@BillYo414 posted:

I'd be interested to see what you decide to do about a sky backdrop. I'm in between on if I want to add one or not.

Yeah it's something I've been going back and forth on. If I do it It'll only be for the long back wall where my buildings are (I'll try to get some pictures tonight). But for the rest of the walls I don't think I'll add the backdrop since the mountains are mostly covering the wall anyway. We shall see though.

Nick

Yeah it's something I've been going back and forth on. If I do it It'll only be for the long back wall where my buildings are (I'll try to get some pictures tonight). But for the rest of the walls I don't think I'll add the backdrop since the mountains are mostly covering the wall anyway. We shall see though.

Nick

My layout will be 48" tall and there is a ton of commotion on the layout that I think would draw the eye away from the lack of sky. I just wonder if putting blue on the ceiling and wall would help immerse you better. It's hard to tell without prior experience.

@BillYo414 posted:

My layout will be 48" tall and there is a ton of commotion on the layout that I think would draw the eye away from the lack of sky. I just wonder if putting blue on the ceiling and wall would help immerse you better. It's hard to tell without prior experience.

I think painting the walls blue would be an improvement for sure. The electrical panel will also be covered up with an access door which will improve the look. Being in the heavy construction phase right now the room is a bit of a cluttered mess but once things are tidied up it should be more immersive. Black skirting will also be added hopefully soon. Thanks for the suggestion!

Nick

Last edited by Nick's Tracks

Nice job!  Looking forward to more pics.   Southwestern PA was also my 1st choice when putting together my layout.  There are a lot of older small towns that gave me ideas.  For the clouds and backdrop I hung 4x8 sheets of Masonite.  It was easy to put up and paint and looks good with the flats I built.20200518_205231

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Nick:

Your L-shaped layout platform provides opportunities for a track plan that transcends traditional rectangular layouts that are typically dominated by loops of track around the perimeter with some sidings.  Many OGR FORUM-ites wish for the space your have dedicated to your Pennsy-inspired layout.

My two-level L-shaped layout is much smaller (15x19 feet) and rendered in a plainer style than your empire with elegantly crafted scenery. You are making full use of Lionel's TMCC and Legacy technologies - a great control system. Cardboard strips and plaster cloth create a lightweight yet strong foundation to support added-on scenic magic. Carry on valiantly!

Some pix of my two-level L-shaped layout are attached -- although modest by comparison.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394

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Thank you again everyone for all the compliments! It makes me want to go down in the basement and work away

PRR Joe, I really like your backdrop and elevated flats. I'd like to accomplish something similar.

Mike, all of the buildings on your layout look really great! I especially like the MTH drive-in restaurant in the first picture.

Hi Nick,

On the subject of sky backdrops, I recently had a conversation with an gifted HO modeler who models the Lehigh and New England. His approach was to paint the backdrop using two shades of blue. The upper half was painted a brighter sky blue and the lower horizon with in what was called Ice Blue (almost white) at the same time, in short sections,  using rollers and then, while still wet, blending them with a broad  brush. It looked like a typical sky in Pennsylvania, no clouds to distract the eye away from the layout, but adding great color to it.   I believe the paints were from Glidden. The look is exactly what I was looking for for my  soon-to-be layout.  Earl     

@wb47 posted:

I would go to great lengths to make sure both loops are a minimum O-72.  If you ever want 21 inch passenger cars.

Due to space limitations there are a few spots on the inner loop that had to be O-60, but it works enough for me. Luckily, the majority of the layout is O-72, O-84, and O-96 with the outer loop being O-72 minimum. The PRR Broadway cars in one of the pictures are the 21 inch variant from Lionel. They're a real pleasure to run

Nick,
Here is the conversation about backdrops I mentioned.

The backdrops are .060 sheet styrene painted with two shades of blue flat latex paint from Home Depot that I blend together. I use a typical sky blue on the upper two-thirds. I no longer know which Glidden color I used originally, but Glidden's "Wild Blue Yonder" is close, though a shade lighter. On the bottom third, I use a very light blue (almost white) from Glidden called "Ice Age." I apply both to 4 or 5 foot section of backdrop with rollers and then I blend them together with a wide brush while they are still wet to create that hazy transition.

The Glidden website is great for comparing shades.

Here's a quick video of one lap around the mainline. I apologize for the messy layout and rather amateur video, but hopefully it gives a good general view of the track plan.



Awesome video and awesome layout! Nothing worse than waiting for someone to quit yabbering on for 5 minutes when you just want to see the layout.

Could you/did you go into detail about the mountains you did along the basement wall? I'm more or less trying to accomplish the same exact thing on my layout. It looks like cardboard lattice and plaster cloth?

@BillYo414 posted:

Awesome video and awesome layout! Nothing worse than waiting for someone to quit yabbering on for 5 minutes when you just want to see the layout.

Could you/did you go into detail about the mountains you did along the basement wall? I'm more or less trying to accomplish the same exact thing on my layout. It looks like cardboard lattice and plaster cloth?

Yep, that's exactly what I did. The below image shows basically every step from beginning to end. Starts with simple cardboard strip lattice. I then covered the entire thing with plaster cloth and on top of the plaster cloth I smoothed on joint compound; sculptamold or plaster would work just as well. Once it dries I decide where I want to add and carve some rocks made of plaster. I throw on some brown paint and add various colors of turfs, bushes, and trees. I still have to go back and add some more coloring to the rocks, add more trees and small details and such.



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Yep, that's exactly what I did. The below image shows basically every step from beginning to end. Starts with simple cardboard strip lattice. I then covered the entire thing with plaster cloth and on top of the plaster cloth I smoothed on joint compound; sculptamold or plaster would work just as well. Once it dries I decide where I want to add and carve some rocks made of plaster. I throw on some brown paint and add various colors of turfs, bushes, and trees. I still have to go back and add some more coloring to the rocks, add more trees and small details and such.



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Nick, Perfect !

I need to begin in my layout but I don't know the first step !!

Nick,

I just discovered your layout build.  I am super impressed!  You have made a ton of progress in a short amount of time.  I love your theme and your scenery is already making the PRR  come alive and feel real.  Your horseshoe curve section reminded me of the real thing as I have been there several times. Western PA is my old stomping ground.  My layout build, the Allegheny Crossing is along the same lines as yours, loosely modeling the look and feel of the PRR and Western Maryland RR in the 40's to 50's with a few other things mixed in there.  Although, I am nowhere near as far along as you are.  I will be following your build closely and if you don't mind, I'm sure I will be grabbing some inspiration for my layout.  Keep up the great work!  Looking forward to seeing your progress.

Michael

2/9/21

I was really anxious to start putting together my Horseshoe Curve inspired scene. So, today I put the base layer of scenery down around the tracks and hillside. I also added in a sidewalk that will eventually have a fence on the track side (I don't believe the fence was present in the steam era, but I like the look if it) and will have a staircase leading down to the small flat area below. Many more layers of details will be added in the coming days along with a good vacuuming of the track.

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@pennsynut posted:

From what I see, you have nice viewing angles of trains approaching, traveling through and exiting your horseshoe curve. I especially like your view of the train on a curve exiting the main curve area. The elongated "s" adds a lot of interesting drama to train traffic.

That was something I was really trying to incorporate on this layout wherever I could. There are some areas where I was forced to have the tracks run parallel to the edge of the table but in places I had more space, I tried to create as interesting yet realistic trackage as I could.

2/9/21

I was really anxious to start putting together my Horseshoe Curve inspired scene. So, today I put the base layer of scenery down around the tracks and hillside. I also added in a sidewalk that will eventually have a fence on the track side (I don't believe the fence was present in the steam era, but I like the look if it) and will have a staircase leading down to the small flat area below. Many more layers of details will be added in the coming days along with a good vacuuming of the track.

The fence was installed in 1952.

Nick,

I just discovered your layout build.  I am super impressed!  You have made a ton of progress in a short amount of time.  I love your theme and your scenery is already making the PRR  come alive and feel real.  Your horseshoe curve section reminded me of the real thing as I have been there several times. Western PA is my old stomping ground.  My layout build, the Allegheny Crossing is along the same lines as yours, loosely modeling the look and feel of the PRR and Western Maryland RR in the 40's to 50's with a few other things mixed in there.  Although, I am nowhere near as far along as you are.  I will be following your build closely and if you don't mind, I'm sure I will be grabbing some inspiration for my layout.  Keep up the great work!  Looking forward to seeing your progress.

Michael

Thank you for the kind words, Michael! I finally had a chance to look at your layout thread and I really like what you're creating. I really wish I went with Gargraves track like you did, but sadly I had too much Fastrack to justify getting rid of it. 40s and 50s era is exactly what I am modeling, too; perfect choice haha. I'd really like to get some backdrops in similar to yours.

Thank you for the kind words, Michael! I finally had a chance to look at your layout thread and I really like what you're creating. I really wish I went with Gargraves track like you did, but sadly I had too much Fastrack to justify getting rid of it. 40s and 50s era is exactly what I am modeling, too; perfect choice haha. I'd really like to get some backdrops in similar to yours.

Nick, thank you!  When I was starting to plan the Allegheny Crossing layout along with my dad, we both decided that we wanted to lay a good foundation, which is why we decided to go with Gargraves and Ross switches.  All I had from previous layouts was a lot of Lionel tubular track and Lionel 031 switches.  So, that made the decision a little easier for us.  I'm sure if I had a stockpile of "better" track and switches I would have considered using what I had.  I have never used fastrack, but I'm sure it is great to work with and it looks great on your layout.  The Gargraves track, Ross switches and Midwest cork roadbed is all new to me, so I'm definitely going to be learning as I go with the trackwork.  The good folks here have already given me lot's of good tips, tricks and advice.

For my backdrops I used Backdropwarehouse.com.  They make a nice product that looks super realistic.  The only downside is their website is a little clunky and it takes a bit of planning and effort to get what you want, but the end result is very nice.  Mine is actually 4 different sections.  2 bottoms half's and 2 upper sky extension half's.  I rubber cemented it to a Masonite backing wall that was built on top of a grid of furing strips attached to the block wall.  You can see some of the construction on my thread.  It is not perfect, (especially if you look at it close up, haha) but overall I'm happy with how it turned out for our first time.  With all your beautiful mountain scenery you might just need some sky backdrops to finish it off.

I was going to tell you, a neat project for your layout at some point, would be to build an operational incline plane (funicular) at your horseshoe curve scene like the one they have there.  But then after thinking about it, I don't think that was there in the 50's.  I believe they built that later on.

Michael                   

Nick, thank you!  When I was starting to plan the Allegheny Crossing layout along with my dad, we both decided that we wanted to lay a good foundation, which is why we decided to go with Gargraves and Ross switches.  All I had from previous layouts was a lot of Lionel tubular track and Lionel 031 switches.  So, that made the decision a little easier for us.  I'm sure if I had a stockpile of "better" track and switches I would have considered using what I had.  I have never used fastrack, but I'm sure it is great to work with and it looks great on your layout.  The Gargraves track, Ross switches and Midwest cork roadbed is all new to me, so I'm definitely going to be learning as I go with the trackwork.  The good folks here have already given me lot's of good tips, tricks and advice.

For my backdrops I used Backdropwarehouse.com.  They make a nice product that looks super realistic.  The only downside is their website is a little clunky and it takes a bit of planning and effort to get what you want, but the end result is very nice.  Mine is actually 4 different sections.  2 bottoms half's and 2 upper sky extension half's.  I rubber cemented it to a Masonite backing wall that was built on top of a grid of furing strips attached to the block wall.  You can see some of the construction on my thread.  It is not perfect, (especially if you look at it close up, haha) but overall I'm happy with how it turned out for our first time.  With all your beautiful mountain scenery you might just need some sky backdrops to finish it off.

I was going to tell you, a neat project for your layout at some point, would be to build an operational incline plane (funicular) at your horseshoe curve scene like the one they have there.  But then after thinking about it, I don't think that was there in the 50's.  I believe they built that later on.

Michael                   

The next layout I build, whenever that may be, will definitely use Gargraves track and Ross switches. They have such a superior look to other track systems in my opinion. Fastrack is decent, but not really the best for a larger layout. It can be a real pain. One thing I that I do with my Fastrack that helps with the look is putting my own ballast on, which I have yet to do on this layout. I've also decided to start painting the rails a nice dull brown to make it look more realistic; much more tedious to paint compared to other track systems. Oh well. Your photo realistic backdrops are really incredible. Had I had the foresight, I would have done similar, but I'll have to stick to hand painting them for this layout haha.

2/18/21

Today saw the addition of bushes, trees and other shrubbery along the top of the rockface. Still need to go back a few more times and add more, and some greenery on the rocks themselves in some areas. The Curve scene got some new train watchers added to the sidewalk, and a parking lot down below. Need to start making the staircase connecting the parking lot to the viewing area soon.

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Looking at the new pics, I was wondering if you are going to put a fence up to keep the railfans separated from the tracks.  Not sure if they had fencing back in the transition era, but there is wrought iron fence there now.  Looks a lot like the fence that originally came with an old Lionel passenger station and is currently manufactured by Hennings.

Henning's Parts 156-5 2 Section Black Fence, 2 pieces - HENNING'S TRAINS (shoplightspeed.com)

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@Lehigh74 posted:

Just looked at a railfan guide for the curve from the Penn Central era.  The wrought iron fence was there.

I was wondering myself if a fence was present in the transition era, but forum user Bob commented that it was installed in 1952, so I will be adding in a fence. I was planning on picking some up last time I was at the train store, but they didn't have what I was looking for. I'm going to try to order some online here soon. Should create a neat look.

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