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After tearing down my first layout last winter, moving in April, finishing the basement myself, I am finally ready to build this layout. I have been planning this since we were under contract for this new home, because the basement is quite large. After spending my summer finishing the basement I convinced my wife to give me a large portion of real estate for this layout.

My goal for this is to use a MRS 28 inch turntable as the centerpiece of the left section of the layout and a mountain scene/staging yard on the right. I want to be able to run 2 trains at a time on two spate loops. During my design process I drafted up 10 different layout designs, all around the same general shape. This plan is layout #9. The 10th rendering provided me with some ideas on expansion in the future, but right now, this amount of track will be enough to keep me busy for a long time!

After listening to a tip by a fellow forum member (G3750) I've jotted down some stats for this layout.


Vital Statistics of the proposed Layout:

  • Size & Shape:  Dog bone “L”   – Top section 9’ x 35’  bottom section 10’ X 25’. 
  • Track:  GarGraves and Ross with RCS turnouts
  • Yards:  Staging Yard, Menards Grain Mill, Morrison’s Door Factory, Auto Rack Yard, Oil Refinery, Turntable w/ roundhouse
  • Command System: TMCC/Legacy
  • Wiring & Blocking:  Planning for 6 blocks, Bus wiring.
  • Power:  Lionel ZW will be used to power TBD blocks, Lionel 180 bricks will be used for remaining blocks and turnouts. Accessories will be powered with 12v adapters.
  • Signals:  TBD.

Construction Goals:

  • Table will be uniform @ 36’’.
  • ½ plywood will be used as the subroadbed
  • Cork roadbed will be used.
  • Appearance boards will be applied at the conclusion of the build with skirts.


Operational Goals:

  • Operation of at least 2 engines at a time with activity in yards.
  • O72 Min curve
  • Long track plan for extended operation


Scenery Goals:

  • Industrial down feel around the turntable and passenger station
  • Mountains at the lower section of the “L”
  • Tunnels will be used for returning track
  • 48 inch truss bridge will be used



I will keep this thread updated as much as possible during this process. Any tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated!




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Over the past week or so I have added homasote to the tabletop and secured track down. Today I added another 8 feet to the table and worked on the turnouts which will lead to the turntable. I also added a platform for the station, paint to come later. 

Currently, waiting on some more switches from Ross and fellow forum members. I hope to get another piece of plywood up tomorrow and begin the big curve of the L. 

Plan update: since the first post I was examining my plans and decided to add a second reversing loop to counter the upper level reversing loop. I've added this to the center of the layout and it will lead to an autorack yard with 3-way switch. 

Have a great weekend,



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Another week gone by and a little more progress on the top and bottom of the layout. This week cut out a small stream that will run between the auto rack yard and Morrison's Door Factory. I also added another section of ply and homasote to the table and extended the track as far as possible. I also began the incline along the back part of the layout. I've only placed two straight sections down so far, but it's progress. I'm not as focused on the upper level right now, so I don't expect to be working on this too much more between now and the new year. 

The next section will begin the right turn for the lower section of the layout. I hope to finish the table by New Years, we will see if that happens! My daughter's Polar Express may need to find a new home soon! 


Under the layout I began running some wires. Nothing too exciting, just wanted to get that process started.

Have a great Sunday!


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It's been a busy week and it's only Saturday! Having off on Monday and Friday of this week really allowed me to get a large portion of track laid. I've almost completed the two mainline loops, I only have the upper right corner to go which will connect the two. Once this is complete the only track remaining to be installed will be the yard, auto rack facility and the engine facility, which is waiting on the MRS turntable (hoping for a mid January delivery). 

With the holiday coming up I'll only have a few hours today to work on the layout. I'm hoping to finish the curve and begin wiring up some feeders so I can run an engine to set the inclines by the bridge on the outer main. I added this slight elevation change last minute to provide some more depth to the scenery.

Have a Merry Christmas!





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Well, it's been a busy week! With the holiday break I was able to get a good amount of work completed on the layout. I started with finishing the incline to the second level as well as continuing the second level towards the reversing loop area. I was hoping to finish the table work for the entire second level, but after cutting and shaping plywood all day I was pretty shot so decided to move onto something else. I also wired up the two main loops as independent power blocks as well as adding a third block for the passenger siding (seen below with the SD70 and auto rack). I am getting full power on all tracks with my single ZW, which I am impressed with. I did wire each block to its own 8 amp breaker. 


I purchased 5 sheets of 4x8 hardboard (1/8 inch) for the backdrops and ripped them down to 8x2. I looked online for some image backdrops but a few things deterred me from purchasing any. 1. The websites are horrendous. 2. The prices were a little steep. So I decided to make my own backdrops, they turned out okay, however, I think I'll continue to touch them up over time. I do plan to add building flats to the front of the backdrops, so I think that will help break up all the blue!

In the image below, the corner doesn't have a "curved" backdrop due to a pop out which can be seen in the foreground. The retaining wall will be airbrushed and it will be "retaining" a large hillside. This will sit in the back corner hiding the access hole. 


On the second level I began some mountain work, specifically in the corner after the incline. My plan is to use plaster cloth over the weaved cardboard. I will also be making my own rock molds for the steep sections were the mountain was "cut away" for the railroad. 

The large opening below is were the main yard will be. The 4-way switch is in the mail, however, I don't plan to install it until a good portion of the scenery for the upper track is complete. 


As I was working on the upper level I was thinking of different ways to add some more elements to the scenery. Since this layout has a minimum of O72 curves I decided to add a "road to nowhere" with an unused O42 switch. I'll add a mirror inside the tunnel portal once everything is all said and done. 


And the last 'big' item that I was able to get started this week was the auto rack yard. I added 1/4 plywood up to and between the rails. This will all get painted with a concrete woodland scenics paint. 



Currently waiting on a few bags of ballast from Dennis Brennan. Once they arrive I will begin ballast work around the turntable loop and hard to reach track areas. Eventually, I'll get back under the layout and get all the switches wired up. My plan is the have a main control panel at the turntable and have the controls for most of the switches there. However, I think I'm going to wire the switch controller that aren't near the TT area to the facia in close proximity to the switch itself. 


Thanks for tuning in. Until next time...





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A few snow days this week allowed me to spend sometime on the layout. The MRS 28 inch turntable arrived yesterday, which was convenient since I was off for the snow. I was able to get the TT mounted to the table by myself. To do this I built a temporary support out of 2x6's. This made the job pretty simple. Kudos to Alan at Millhouse River Studios for making an great product!


62B50832-B2BD-452C-A99C-96083B340772Once I got got the TT in place I was still waiting on some switches for my lead in tracks to the TT so I spent some time under the layout wiring up turnouts and crossovers. I'm using old CAT5 wire for the DZ1000 machines. I quickly realized that I'm going to need to find an told CAT5 that is pretty long to reach the far end of the layout without multiple solder points. 

Right after my last post I was able to finish installing the plywood for the upper level. I also spent some time working on some cardboard backing for plaster cloth. I also painted the station platform and autorack yard with Woodland Scenics concrete. Nothing too exciting. 


Today, I was off again for snow and the switches that I needed arrived in the morning. I spent my afternoon working on my approach tracks as well as some whisker tracks. I am planning on 10 whisker tracks to start. I'll run power to each whisker track as the track is installed. 



That's all for now. My goal over the next week or so is to continue adding the whisker tracks and wire them up the a control panel board. I ordered a 12x24 sheet of Lexan online and I'm using car pinstriping to mark my tracks. I'll also continue my work on wiring up switches, a process that seems to be endless! 


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Another week in the books! This week I focused my attention on wiring up power to switch machines as well as the whisker tracks around the turntable. I've got 4 whisker tracks wired up at this point. The reason I haven't finished this is because I am waiting on receiving a schematic plan for the Korber roundhouse. Once this is in hand I can properly place the remaining tracks so when I get a roundhouse I won't need to make major adjustments. 


On the topside I have begun to ballast some track in the harder to reach areas, you can see some of this in the image above. I also continued to to add cardboard lattice, plaster cloth, and added sculptamold to certain areas, most notably the grade to the second level. I also began to at a base of brown paint to the sculptamold. 


The image below shows the curve in the layout. This is where the yard will start. I am hoping to start this soon, possibly this weekend, it depends on how much working room I'll still have on the far side of the yard to access the upper level. 


The last part of the layout has little progress, a little lattice and plaster, that's all. I did get the o72 curves for the reversing loop, however, they aren't screwed down yet. I am waiting on some casting resin to arrive this week. Once that comes I will be able to begin rock molds. 



Thanks for checking in. As always feel free to leave a comment or suggestion!



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Well, another snow day here in southeastern PA! Today I began working on some rock molds as well as filming a video blog. Feel free to check it out, this first video shows a general overview of the layout so far and I hope to have more episodes to detail progress in the future. Of course, I will continue to keep updating this thread as time goes on. 

At the end of last week I finally put together a workstation in the storage section of my basement. Previously I had been going out to my woodshop in my garage to do any messy work. With the current temperatures struggling to get out of the twenties and my garage being about 30 degrees, I decided now was the time. My wife and I just installed a new cooktop, so the old hood was quickly repurposed! 



Last weekend I decided to try my hand at making a static grass applicator. I didn't use static grass on my last layout, however, I like the look so figured I'd give it a shot. I found a video online that helped me out. Basically, I bought an electric fly swatter at Harbor Freight for next to nothing and a small strainer at a local store. After some cutting and rewiring I was in business. IMG_0395IMG_0404


Thanks for checking in! 


As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.


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Welcome back! Not too much progress on the top of the layout this week. I have been spending a good amount of time continuing to wire up turnouts and crossovers. This seems to take me about 30 minutes a switch so it's a slow process. Around the turntable I've added some more whisker tracks, I plan to add power to them this weekend and add toggle switches to a separate control panel. This panel will also have the indexing controller for the TT. 

As you may be able to see I've added a little bit of ground cover here and there around the entry tracks to the TT. 


Continuing down the backside of the layout I've ballasted some more track.


Finally over at the upper level tunnels I've added some more rock molds then added sculptamold over the plaster cloth were there will not be exposed rocks. The sculptamold was then painted brown to prepare for ground cover. 


Not having any snow days this week has really hampered my progress! The release of the Lionel catalog slowed me down as well! I hope to get a new video update out sometime this week. I'll be sure to post something on here when that happens. 


Have a great weekend!



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Welcome Back. It's been a few weeks since my last update. I blame the warm spells in PA. No snow days mean no long days working on the layout! 

The first update is around the turntable. This area looks like a bit of a hot mess right now. I've switched my ballast around the yard tracks and TT to Woodland Scenics cinders. I will continue to use Brennan's Better Ballast on the main lines. Because of tis switch I had to do some clean up, and that is ongoing. I have my eyes out for a nice water tower and coaling tower, these will go on the two adjacent yard tracks above the switch tower building (see below).  


Around the whisker tracks I have added some concrete platforms for 4 of the tracks. I've also added a few more tracks here and wired them up. The track ballast change can be seen on these tracks too. 

At the end of the concrete platforms I'll add scuptamold to bring the ground level up and slope it downwards towards the mainline loop. I plan to put a few drainage pipes in this area from the engine servicing area. they will drain into a littered ditch. 




On the far side I've continued rock work. Here the rock molds have been painted with artist Gesso, then brushed with black tempera. Once the tempera is on I take a sponge, soak it, and press it onto the rocks. the water then mixes with the tempera particles and fills in the cracks and crevices. The water runs down the rocks creating a more natural look. I then take diluted earth colors (burnt umber, ect) and use a small brush to add those colors to cracks in the rock face. the colors then run down the rock creating a natural look and some depth to the scene. This is far from over, I will add ground cover later.


In the picture below you can see the fascia board has been painted black. This has been done around the layout except the back section by the upper level and around the control panel. 


Here you can see the rocks around the bridge and waterfall scene have been painted as well. I haven't added the diluted pains to these yet. The bottom of the waterfall will be a pond. This looks messy now. Eventually, I'll add plaster to form the pond. 


Below you can see the mountain in the corner of the layout. I've added some rock molds and that's about it. You can see a few gaps in the molds, these will get filled in with smaller molds. 


I've also started some retaining wall molds were the track goes under the mountain. The open area behind those walls is an access hole for working on the mountain. Eventually this will get covered up with the mountain. The access hole will remain so I can access trains in the tunnel for any reason. 


As we move down the upper level track the mountain evolves a bit. I've added scultamold around the rock molds. I will follow this up with some joint compound to fill in any cracks in the rock molds that I missed with the scultamold, then it will get a coating of artist Gesso. The slope in the image will be a roadway that leads up to the second level. 



That pretty much wraps up this update. I have a z-1000 arriving today which will power the switches on the yard and upper level. Once this arrives I will get those switches wired up. 

Thanks for checking in. Please leave feedback below!





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Welcome back! It's been over a month since my previous update, so I figured it w

as time to get something posted on here! In the last month I've turned my attention to scenery details. I had some family and friends come into town a couple weeks ago and I wanted to make sure that the layout had some realism happening. The video below will take you around the layout so you can see the updates in more detail. The main highlights are:

1. Upper level bridge has been installed and has some detailing completed, no track yet. 

2. The storage yard now has 4 tracks, not all complete.

3. added an Atlas O signal to the outer loop, 1st of at least 4 that will go on that loop of track. 

4. Added an Atlas switch tower and Korber sandhouse. 


I went to York on Friday and had a great day. Bummed that I didn't get to purchase more shelving or ballast, which was really the only thing on my must buy list while I was there. I should have ordered ahead of time since they were sold out by 1 on Friday! 


Thanks for checking in!

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