Hello everyone,

I've been pointed toward this forum by an O scaler on another board, and wanted to share the latest project layout myself and my fellow operator - Ford - have been working on.

We've been exhibiting my HO scale layout for a couple of years, which wasn't really planned, it just sort of grew, and now isn't really designed for transportation.

As such, we decided to build a new layout that is designed from the ground up to be taken to shows. We've both been interesting in O scale for a while, so decided that we'd build something for the handful of O scale 2-rail models we already have.


The idea is inspired by the fun we've had working on my HO layout, and yet again the theme will be for a heavily industrialised urban area somewhere in the South East of the USA. My N scale layout is set in Virginia, my HO scale layout in Kentucky, so we figured why not set the O scale layout in Georgia? That's possibly subject to change, but with the name decided as Piedmont Blues (a nod to the naming style of Jon Grant's layouts Sweet Home Alabama and Sweet Home Chicago), I'm thinking Georgia will stick.


As a departure from my usual slapdash approach to layout construction, every aspect of this new layout is going to be planned from the ground up from the start. Ford insisted on it, and I don't blame him, going on my track record!  Most of the work that was needed on my last two exhibition layouts were caused by my terrible planning and mediocre skillset.


This will need to be bulletproof before the first piece of wood is cut.


A trackplan has been settled on, and thrown together in SCARM to check clearances. All track is going to be handbuilt, and will follow the "FUnitMad" approach of tracklaying for that added realism - wedges of packing underneath individual ties at random to give that badly maintained shortline appearance.


The layout will be 12' x 2', with an option to extend it to 16' on the left hand end by the addition of a couple of 4' staging cassettes feeding the spurs there that go underneath the warehouse buildings.


The intention for the layout is to have full lighting, sound, and animated features, and Ford has even been kicking around the idea of an automated (or not) Day/Night cycle to make exhibitions even more interesting.


Whilst the actual construction of the layout is looking to be a while off yet, we've both started working on various other aspects of the build - I've begun work on rolling stock and structure projects, and Ford has been working on the lighting and using Arduino to animate doors, roller shutters, etc.


Further progress will be shown here as and when there's something to show.


Here's the trackplan along with 3D renders of it - courtesy of SCARM.



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The first real progress made on the layout beyond the planning stages has been on a structure build - the Clevermodels kit "Small Brick Machine Shop".  There's a ways to go, and I'm planning on adding in a lot more detail to the structure as it has such huge windows, the interior will be fully visible - so needed to be modelled.


As you can see from the photos I've modified the build somewhat and used a core of 5mm black foamboard, over which the texture papers have been added. I've also added a concrete floor to give the walls some much needed stability due to my construction method, and have begun building some roof supports using basswood strip.


A long ways to go yet though.






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In addition to the above structure build, I've been working on a scratchbuild project for a Southern Railway 50' boxcar. The prototype of the one I'm modelling started life as a 40' Central of Georgia built boxcar that the Southern rebuilt in the 1970's into a 50' car.


As an experiment, I decided to see if the same concept of cardstock structures could be applied to rolling stock. As such, I built a shell out of artists mount board around a balsa wood base, using dimensions taken from the Southern Railway's own car diagrams from a fleet document compiled in 1982.

Converting the measurements down to 1:48 scale, I set about using Photoshop to convert photographs of the real boxcar into printed "skins" for the car. As the layout design means that the car will only ever be viewed from one side at any one time, I used photographs from two different boxcars from the same fleet, so I essentially get two cars for the price of one.

To create the skin for the roof, I took photographs of HO scale cars of the same type, and used those in Photoshop exactly how I did the sides. The car ends were done in the same manner.


For now, the car is just a box with texture papers glued to it, however I fully intend to build up the raised sections - doors, runners, grab rails, ladders, etc, with layers of cardstock, styrene, and wire to get a fully realised model. As such, please do bear in mind that this is a very WIP model - no where near finished.





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The way it turned out, the compression rate of the photographs I think kind of spoils the artwork. I think the only way to truly get a decent quality print would be either to literally photograph the real thing (only really an option for modern modellers actually in the USA!) or to photograph model freight cars and make the skins from those, as I honestly think the roof of the car turned out better than the sides.

Maybe you could explain in detail more about the operational purpose of this layout. Which buildings have places to spot cars? Where does a train come from...is there a way to enter/exit? One track connects to nothing. What is its purpose? Is there a way to run around cars?
Right now, I am seeing absolutely no purpose for the layout other than to be a diorama for buildings with railroad track running through it.

Hi Jim,

Apologies, I sometimes forget that UK layout building practice isn't always universal!!: )

The layout is a modified version of the Box Street Yard trackplan as found on Carl Arendt's site below:



The plans I included probably don't help with the confusion due to the way SCARM renders the grade crossings. The light grey patches on the plan represent roads or concrete hard standing. Otherwise, I'll try to explain the idea behind the layout as best I can.

The top right part of the track plan is a swinging sector plate hidden behind the backscene. It feeds the top most spur on the plan, as well as both legs of the run around loop.

The top most spur has a pair of car spots alongside the backdrop building behind it, crosses the road and heads into a fenced in private spur - possibly a junk yard or team track, not sure yet.

The centre two tracks are the run around loop, heading across the grade crossing and heading upwards for the loop lead, and down to a spur which houses another couple of industries - a tank car unloading spot and a warehouse - with a car spot each.

The kickback spur in the bottom right of the plan feeds into a concrete hard standing area - this will have another pair of car spots and will likely act as a team track and a transload facility.


Hope this helps?


Bill - the UK model railway "scene" lends itself very well to Carl's practices. He did a wonderful job of getting the concept of Micro layouts into the mainstream, and is a constant source of inspiration to me.

I find myself spending more time looking at Micro layouts at shows than I do huge room filling layouts.


Back to the layout - I've not done much over the last couple of days.  I was not too happy with the printout quality of the boxcar sides, I was happy to see that the big laser printer at work has now been fixed and is working again, so I've re-printed the sides and will redo that this weekend.




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Great progress, Daniel. I'm designing another micro right now similar to the Box Street configuration with the plan on integrating it into something larger at some point. Not 100% sure whether I'm going to do a pure 2-rail or a 2-rail/3-rail hybrid.

I'm also a fan of Carl Arendt's work. The trick with North American micro layouts is that the equipment involved is typically close to twice the length of their European counterparts. I usually look at the H.O. micros designed around North American equipment as a basis for O scale designing. I did a build for a Forum micro contest a few years back and put some pretty tight constraints on myself (minimum 48" curve radius) just to see if I could pull it off. Surprising what you can squeeze into 13 square feet (8'x19").

2013-03-12 19.31.362013-04-01 19.03.15

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The brick paper/cardstock material looks quite good.... are you printing this yourself ?  you mentioned that it's "textured" are you purchasing it from a supplier ?  if so, can you let us know who is printing and selling that "textured brick paper"  

Also,  what adhesive are you using to attach it to the Black Foam board ?   


Sorry for the lack of updates to this thread, I've been working on my HO layout so I've not had the time to post my latest work on my O scale projects.

I've progressed the 50' boxcar some more; fitting the door runners, adding definition to the roof and starting work on the ladders. I've also developed the underframe, though that's not yet finished - it needs air tanks and other details.

What I have done is start working on some pallets and oil drums to add to the inside to simulate a load. A lot more work to do there too.


Finally, I started work on a Quality Craft Models kit of a bulkhead flat car. Having never built a freight car kit before, I'm really impressed with these wooden craftsman kits, and I'm enjoying the build so far.


More to come as work progresses.




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Not much of an update today, however I have both a progress report and a bit of news.

Progress report first...

I've spent some time working on the QCM Bulkhead flat kit - now it's actually starting to look like a freight car now!

After I took these photos, I've added some Kadee couplers to the car, and permanently attached the trucks. Hopefully there'll be some updated pictures later this weekend.




Now, thanks to Neil at The Little Layout Company, I've traded a Kato, HO scale U-boat which is surplus to requirements, for 5 freight car kits of various parentage.

They might be bordering on the old considering the layout will be set in the 70's, but I'm thinking of Shortline patching them and seeing what happens. At least one is getting turned into a B&A style woodchip hopper.





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Progress on Piedmont Blues has stalled temporarily, but the layout was always intended to be a slow burner, so we can get it 100% bulletproof from the get go.


I'm currently awaiting arrival of a new 3D printer, so I'm going to be spending my time experimenting on printing detail parts, truck sideframes, etc.


I found a free download to 3D print an EMD SW1500 on GrabCad that I am going to have a go at. I've got a couple of old diesel trucks that could provide the wheels, then it'd just need motorising and away we go.


Lots of cool things on the horizon, for sure. If I can 3D print my own window frames, I'll be doing that too.


The possibilities this opens up for us is simply massive.

It's been a little while since I updated the thread, but I've not been idle.


Firstly, I've built a Weaver boxcar kit, and have begun weathering it. This side of the car is pretty much done. I still need to do the other side, car ends, roof, underframe, and trucks. Plenty to be getting on with then!



I've also built and set up the 3D printer kit I bought, and have tried a test print of an O scale EMD SW1500 switcher cab. Over the next few weeks I'll be trying to get other parts of the loco printed out. It's pretty messy at the moment as I'm still learning how the printer works, but I see it pretty much the same as you would a resin kit - plenty of flash to be filed smooth!



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Good news! There's been some progress on PB over the last couple of weeks.

I've been looking into Dead Rail/Bluetooth control for the layout, and have decided to have a go and test out a BlueRail Trains "BlueHorse" board. I ordered it last week, and it arrived a couple of days ago. I'll have a go at installing it into my Weaver RS3 sometime next week, I think. I also ordered some laser cut structure kits from Kitwood Hill, which should be here sometime next week.

This last week I went to York for a day out, and found a model shop that sells Atlas O scale. It would have been rude not to buy anything, so I came away with this:



With the O scale bug nibbling away at me once more, I decided to get the NYC boxcar out of it's box and carry on with the weathering. I've done some more on the car ends, roof, and the other side of the car which - up until now - had just had the green fade wash applied. It now looks like this:




Finally, I decided to make a start on the trackwork, and - after printing out some Fast Tracks templates, I built a Number 4 turnout. It's a little messy, but it works perfectly.




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Apologies for the lack of updates, I got a new laptop and lost everything from my old one, so I'd totally forgotten I had an account here!

There's been a ton of progress on the layout, and it received an invite to the Mansfield Model Railway Exhibition 2018 last weekend.

Well, Mansfield Show is over for another year, and Piedmont Blues worked out much better than I had anticipated.

The to do list has expanded, as is to be expected after the true test of a two day show, but overall the layout performed fantastically.

During the show, further work was done on the layout, as was always the plan. I worked on the scenery whilst Ford ran trains, and then Ford worked on fine tuning the arduino controlled servos and lighting of buildings whilst I ran trains.

I can't claim to understand how it all works, but Ford used an arduino control board to work both the lights and the servos for the points.

Connected to it was an infra-red sensor, which allowed us to use a TV remote to switch the points - allowing for both switching of the points individually, and route setting - throwing multiple points with one button push to line up set routes for the locomotives to take.

"PeeBee" will be at another show next month - so for the South Nottingham Model Railway Exhibition in Bingham on 14th and 15th of April, we're hoping to have the point frogs wired up to polarity changing switches, so that when the button are pressed to change the routes, it also throws a SPDT switch to change the polarity of the frogs.

This would have been a massive benefit at Mansfield. As it stood, the frogs were dead at the show, which prevented us from using my Atlas Plymouth, and caused the slightly shorter wheelbase GP35 to stall when going one specific route, as it ended up with a truck each on two of the dead frogs at once, meaning it stalled out.

The RS3, having a slightly longer wheelbase, didn't have this issue.

There wasn't much in terms of things to buy on the trade stands for the layout - US O scale isn't exactly all the rage here. That said, I did managed to get a 3-rail K-Line flat car, which will need converting over to 2 rail, as well as a Lionel/Corgi Greyhound bus, which you can see in some of the photographs below.

So here we are. Roll on Bingham show in April!


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Thank you, Dan and Bob!

Bob - the planks on the grade crossings are simply made from coffee stirrers cut up and stained with an alcohol/india ink wash.


I've been busy recently working on various freight car kits and kitbashes for the layout, so I thought I'd show them off when I've got something to show.

Firstly, a roof hatch equipped boxcar.

When the Southern needed a bunch of cars for carrying bulk powder, they again turned to their fleet of excess 40' boxcars.

Doors were secured so there wouldn't be an avalanche when they were opened, and holes were cut in the roof of the cars, with roof hatches being added, turning the boxcar into a mini-PS2 hopper.

The doors on these cars were painted yellow to show crews on the ground which boxcars had been converted - it's hard to see roof hatches from ground level!

Popular cargo for these cars was Georgia Kaolin, and Chalk.

Prototype photographs:



My kitbashed version:




I've since given it a coat of brown paint from a rattle can, and lettered one side for the Southern, though I need some more decals to complete the model.


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Over the last couple of evenings I've started working on weathering the CoG boxcar, using prototype photographs as a guide.

First off, the prototype reference photo for one side of the car:



Next, the progress so far on replicating it. At this stage it's had a base rust colours applied with acrylic paint, then the rust built up with oil paint, and then weathering chalks added to the still wet oil paint.



The next steps for this car is to seal the work so far with dulcote once the oil paint has dried, then hit the whole car with a wash of isopropyl alcohol and india ink to dull down the shine on the car sides.



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Whilst bored at work, I've let my mind wander, and taken the rough shape of the "layout room" in the house I've just put an offer in on - 19'9" x 8'9" - and had a bit of a play in SCARM. A "what might be" flight of fancy, if you will.

Now I've been forced to use the templates for the O scale track already in SCARM, so the dimensions are going to be off, but with handbuilt track I should be able to get it all in a bit better, give or take.

So here's the daydream imagining of what PB could look like in that space.

Whether that happens or not (spoiler alert - probably NOT!), it was a fun little exercise that killed a boring lunch break for me.

Streetrunning. Streetrunning everywhere!

Piedmont Blues full size


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JPV, if you make your layout modular, it would make changing up sections a lot easier! I plan to build the layout in sections.

The first stage of the build is what I have now - the three scenic boards and the (in progress) traversor board.

Stage two would be the Autoparts and TOFC ramp module, and 90 degrees of the curve, which the traversor would then be moved to the end of.

Stage three would add in the other 90 degree curve, and the traversor would move again.

Stage four would be the coal dealer and depot boards, completing the build. The traversor would then move again.


Modular layouts make things much more achievable, I think. And if you don't like how one part turns out, you take it down and build a replacement instead.

Dan, modular or not, I don't know yet but it's a good solution for sure.

For me, the first stage is...to break half of a partition between two rooms before all!!!!!!!  ;after only I could be considering beginning something.........

jpv in France

Excellent inspiration !

Ive been planning , gathering track and buildings to build a layout similar to what you are working on , only , based on John Allen’s TimeSaver layout , or , possibly something from Carendts work , only , more of a Post War Lionel display feel , using operating cars and accessories for the reasons to spot cars ... won’t be as pretty as what you are planning , but m it’ll give purpose to all the operating cars I have .., also designed to drag to shows and display ...

keep up the inspirational work , please !



Today I've been working on the scenery on the centre board. I'd say it's about 75% complete for now. Once the scenery is done, I'll get started on the structures.


The caboose in the photos is a Lionel 3 Rail model which I am in the process of converting to 2 rail. So far I've done the trucks, next I need to do the couplers and the underframe detail. After that it'll need to add a rooftop solar panel and battery box, then the correct paint scheme to represent a "Local" assigned cab.




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