Steve’s 5 x 7 N scale

“Al,

I always enjoy your posts – learning quite a bit from more experienced model railroaders. Over the years, I’ve started and stopped several layouts. After our kids grew up, I decided it was time to build a layout to completion in one of the spare bedrooms.

I started building the benchwork in 2014 (after finishing the “Enterprise 1799” sailing ship I had received for Christmas.) It has taken about 2-1/2 years to get to this point, and will probably take another year or two to complete. The majority of the work on the layout has been done during the dreary Midwest winter months – spending the rest of the year flying RC planes & helicopters.

The Ohio Western & Lima Shortline (OWLS) layout is in N Scale and designed to fit into a spare bedroom with about 2-1/2 feet walk-around space – so it came out to 5’ x 7’. It is loosely (OK, very loosely) modelled after my hometown, and set in the late 1940s to early 1950s. Choosing this period allowed me to use early diesel powered and steam powered locomotives.

The layout is centered around the logging industry feeding the large demand for post-WWII housing, in the western Appalachian Mountain area. It is built on insulation foam sheets with plaster cloth covering. The sub-roadbed and risers were also cut from foam sheets on a table saw.

The layout itself is a folded dog bone with sorting/ interchange yard and rises to pass by the small town of “Mt. Healthy.” The main line runs by the logging camp, down to the sawmill and back up to a siding, feeding the lumber yard and a brickyard (also used in many post-war houses in the area.)

The track is Peco Code 55, with Peco Code 55 Electro-rail turnouts. Power to the rails is DCC supplied by a LENZ 100 system.

The turnout frogs and reverse loop section are powered by TAM Valley frog juicers, and turnouts thrown by under-the-table mounted servos controlled by ANE Smart Switches. Using the under-table mounts made it easier to connect the turnout throws at the different elevations – you just make the guide tubes and connecting wires longer.

There are four control panels located around the layout, each controlling a portion of the track with overlapping sections controlled from multiple panels. All wiring (about 1500 feet), electrical switches and panel LEDs were purchased from a Midwest electronics supply company.

The town structures are Woodland Scenic Town and Factory, and houses scratch-built from Scale Model Plans, Tichy Train windows & doors and RS Laser strip shingles. For the town buildings, the signs and storefront windows are ink jet printed decals – many copied from original artwork of those particular businesses.

The logging camp is a JV Models wood kit, complete with dining hall, bunk house, company store and engine/ car service shed. Lighting for the businesses and houses are SMD LEDs powered by a separate 12 volt power supply. Most of the ground cover and foliage -currently being installed- is Woodland Scenic.

Sub Road Bed: All made from pink, ridged insulation foam. The risers and sub-road bed were cut and formed on a table saw.

Roadbed & track: Peco Code 55 flex track & Peco Code 55 turnouts.

Buildings placed: Mountains & terrain are formed with rigid foam, carved and covered with plaster cloth

Logging cars were from N Scale Kits with MicroTrains couplers & trucks

Looking south on “Main Street”. Engine servicing shed is visible in the background. Woodland Scenics Town & Factory buildings. “Hilltop Glass” is scratch built from Scale Model Plans.

Close up showing pharmacy & local theater house

Looks like the local theater is showing “101 Dalmatians” and “Bambi” this week!

Looking east off of “Main Street” showing the local hardware store

Looks like the small town warranted a new United States Post Office branch!

JV Models logging camp loading logs (albeit too large- have to get smaller ones) for the lumber mill.

Lumber mill with stacks of cut lumber. Low spot in foreground will be a pond for receiving logs before cutting into lumber.

Interchange and lumber mill sidings

Brick Company (left) and lumber yard (right).

Dusk is falling on the town, so house porch lights are on.

Main Control Panel. Red buttons control turnouts, yellow LEDs show turnouts that are “open”. Red and green LEDs show which tracks are powered. Bottom 3 switches control building, street and house lights.

Starting to add foliage, trees & ground cover. Most rocks & outcroppings are castings, with some hand carved rock faces.

Regards,

Steve”


My word – what a write up. Really enjoyed reading this one, seeing a layout step by step really adds life to it, especially when the pictures show it taking shape too.

A huge thanks to Steve. And don’t forget, you’re only a one step away from creating your own masterpiece: The Beginner’s Guide is here.

That’s all this time, folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here

31 Responses to Steve’s 5 x 7 N scale

  1. Beautiful scenery and lighting! Cheers! NJ Mark

  2. Looks great…. One big question (because I am facing a similar issue)…How are you accessing the track segments inside the mountains???

  3. Al, Thanks for sharing Steve’s layout. The description and photos are awesome. I really love the lighting around the layout. This encourages me for my future layout in planning stages. Pleas keep the posts coming.

    Cary B

  4. great job.

  5. Superb, hard to believe you’ve managed such a sense of space and different places within the dimensions, great plan.
    Rod

  6. looks super. love the lighted buildings,ect. keep up the excellent work, and above all else keep the info and pictures coming.

  7. GOOD STUFF!! looking real nice.. a good effort!! Thank You for sharing!!

  8. Thank you. People like you keep me motivated. Great job!!

  9. Great layout. How did you create the store signs and window advertising?

  10. Great looking layout, hard work pays off!

  11. It looks pretty awesome to me. I really like the simplicity of the control board. The only question I have is, did you actually cut out each and every notch on the sub floor and risers, and did you do that on a table saw as well?

  12. Looks really nice! Is this powered by DCC, or is it D.C.?

  13. Very nice layout, lot of work.

  14. terrific layout dude…
    goood detail and the ‘rocks’ are supberb
    I still dont see how you guys work with that SMALL scale stuff
    my patience always gets the best of me…
    ‘keep em runnin fellas’
    stjohn in long beach calif

  15. Wow !! You are a artist . This is one of the coolest N scale lay out !! Give yourself a pat on the back.

  16. You humble my work as an N scale builder for many years , I am working a 4’X6″
    two level layout for my grandson and is nothing as good as your work what are your turn rad. in inches guy, My mains are 11″ in the top point to point and 22″+ in some of the lower level curves but I am not building any grade changes in either
    level just a few turnouts in either level so as not to make them over crowded and
    I wanted to give him some room for buildings , grass and trees !
    George

  17. Steve, very cool layout. Makes me want to start the one I’ve been thinking about for about 6 months now. promised the wife a new kitchen so maybe I can start this coming summer or fall. One question, did you use N scale because of space limitations and do you find it hard to work with since it seems quite small? I’m torn between using the HO trains I have from my youth but liking the size of the “world” I can create in N scale. Again, great looking layout.
    John from PA.

  18. Fantastic N scale work you are inspiring me to get back to work on mine.

  19. Hi Steve, I’m working on an outdoor G scale layout, but there’s been so many great N scale posts lately like this one, its really amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. Towns, country side and industry all in a small package…… and superbly done. Thanks for sharing! Cary in Kentucky

  20. grear looking layout

  21. Very nice awesome , I am just a beginner

  22. Steve,

    Really excellent layout, both design and craftsmanship. Could you give a bit more info on how you get the slope in your risers? Really good idea for mass producing risers and sub-roadbed – big sack on the forehead when I saw your photos.

    That trick will save a ton of time as I finally get started on my layout. I had just begun when I suddenly landed in a wheelchair. Hmm… scratch the duck-unders and long reaches now ;=). I found a very adaptable N-scale “walk-in” plan that will fit in my limited space.

    For those in similar circumstances, it’s important to to know that you can’t really maneuver a wheelchair in an aisle narrower than about 4 feet (120cm). Bench legs can be a pain as well. I built a “test aisle” from 2×4’s and sawhorses to determine needed dimensions.

    Thanks again, Steve, for an inspiring layout and photo array!

    Jeff Thompson in Florida.

  23. The logs not to big go to Oregon some cars have one log on them Back in the 50s and 60s. Not today though.
    Great lay out THANKS GREAT INFORMATION.

  24. Hi Alastair, I am constructing an 8×4 N layout based on the Railroad Modeller
    Coalton and Silver Range RR published last year.
    I have used very similar basic methods like Steve’s but was stuck with the scenery construction. Steve’s layout and description is very helpful. It is tempting to add another foot to overall width to open out the structures I have already built.
    Thanks for your steady stream of useful posts.

  25. All- Thanks for the kind words!! To answer a few questions:
    -Track under the mountains is accessed either through cut out in the underside of the foam base, or lift out sections over track work. Makes it a whole lot easier to clean and vacuum track.
    -Store signs and window images were created on either Model Train Software’s “Window Designer” (They already had the Woodland Scenic buildings as templates), Photoshop or even Word for Windows. All worked well for what I was trying to accomplish.
    -Notches on the sub bed and risers were all cut out on table saw. I made a jig on a cross cut fence to index over about 1″ each time. It only took about 1 hour to cut all the notches, plus a bunch of spare pieces for future use.
    -The riser were CARFULLY (I like to keep my fingers) cut with a tapering jig on the table saw. Since all the sub road bed was in 4′ long sections, it made it easy to calculate and cut the tapers.
    -I chose N Scale because I could fit a whole lot in a small space. Since the table is 5′ x 7′, it also allows gentler curves than if I had been in HO. And yes, it can be “challenging” to work with N Scale – especially if you have fat fingers like I do! Often times tweezers were used to hold & place parts!!

  26. Love what you done with the layout! Never gave any thought to pink foam for roadbed.

  27. Fantastic layouts! You’re spending you life with this wonderful event. Don’t stop. Teach us more.
    W.C.

  28. it was a pleasure to read and see the layout. it must be very rewarding to see what you have achieved thank you for sharing.

  29. Very impressive and inspiring work!
    While I don’t think Woodland Scenics would be very pleased by it, I’d love to see a YouTube video of using a table saw to cut out the sub-roadbed.
    Second, could we see some photos of the access points to the under-hill tracks being used?

  30. You’ve done a wonderful N scale layout. I couldn’t help but notice how well you’ve laid your track. Not a wrinkle to be found. The curved sections are also smooth and parallel. Well done. Rob McCrain Farland Howe

  31. Very nice layout. A lot of detail in n scale. Mt. Healthy is a suburb of Cincinnati, OH. I used to go to the movie theater there as a kid. I think it was the Main. “Down Town” also had a Hilltop Glass. There wasn’t any logging going on in the area however. That is the appeal of modeling. Build what you like and incorporate the familiar. Good job.

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