Bill answers your questions

You all know how much I love an update.

And not long ago, Bill sent in this fab update of his switching layout.

But quite a few questions came up – and Bill has been kind enough to record another video to answer them:

“Hi Al

I had a few questions posed in my post from the other day.

I made a video that shows how everything goes together and answers the questions some of my fellow modelers asked.



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Bill!

There are more Bill’s posts here, in the hall of fame.

That’s all this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing.



Eric’s first layout

“I would like to share my first ever layout!!

I’m finally starting a project in Z scale after years of purchasing track and rolling stock.

This will be the first layout I have ever constructed. Been drawing up various layout plans using CadRail and finally have decided to start with a relatively small plan that I have come up with. The thing is I plan to bring this 4X2.5 foot layout with me in my RV!!!

Since this will be a layout that needs to be moved and stored vertically in the RV I want to keep it simple and clean by painting all the scenery elements such as dirt, grass, pavement, ballast, etc. and not using any form of “sprinkle on and glue” products.

The track will be secured to the board but buildings will be simple placed on the layout when needed and stored in a box with the rolling stock when stored.

The layout is based on the theme of a small Train Museum Village somewhere in scenic Germany sometime in the mid 1970’s. This concept allows me to run my 1970’s period trains along with older steam locomotive compositions of the 1930’s and 40’s as “museum trains”.

Over the years I had purchased rolling stock and locos based on what I though looked cool but I never considered that they came from many different time periods. Now that I’m actually building a layout, the “Train Museum Village” solved the problem of running different eras on the same layout.

The layout has two station areas. A double line “City Station” at the top and a triple line “Village Station” in the middle. It has a side spur on the lower left for parking of the “maintenance train”.

It also has three spurs to display the “museum trains” next to the Train Museum Building in the middle of the layout. It has a wonderful switching yard to move trains around. It also has a double Mainline that can run 2 trains at a time or a single train in a “folded figure 8”.

Below is the layout. Trains run clockwise. This layout allows me to have 9 trains on the board with the ability to run 3 of them at the same time.

In designing the layout there were a few major features that I was looking for:

1. Small, portable, and light weight so it could be brought along in an RV. It only measures 50 inches by 32 inches.
2. Scenery “painted” on and all structures and trees removeable for easy storage.
3. No need for electricity. I use two Ztrack Snail Speed Controllers that run on 9 volt batteries and do switching manually. (Diagram C)
4. A somewhat elaborate switching yard. I love the look of a switching yard. I really enjoy switching trains to different destinations.
5. Switching yard easily accessible. Since I’m switching manually the layout has all the switches right in front of me.
6. Ability to show a lot of engines and compositions from different eras. The layout allows 10 trains to be parked and isolated. (Diagram D)
7. Ability to run more than one train at a time. I can run 3 trains simultaneously. 2 on the mainline and 1 in the inner station circle. (Diagram B)
8. A relatively long Mainline. The design allows me to run 2 trains on the mainline (Diagram B) or one train in a “folded figure 8”. (Diagram A)

I would like to present a quick pictorial of how I constructed my layout.

First I painted the 1 inch foam board with 2 coats white primer:

Next I used Woodland Scenics Earth Undercoat diluted 1 part paint to 2 parts water as per instructions and used a brush to paint on the “earth”. I kept things very thin and uneven and painted in the same direction as the track would be layed to create some strata:

I then laid the track back on the board so that I could trace the track layout and the position of the buildings:

I changed the design of my parking lot so I printed out, full size, the parking and town area to see how it would fit on the layout:

Removed everything off the board and started with the pavement area first using Woodland Scenics Asphalt Top Coat. You can see the track tracing in the photo also:

I then painted the large concrete area adjacent to the parking area with Woodland Scenics Concrete Top Coat. I didn’t like the color as it was a bit too beige so I added some of the Asphalt black color to the bottle till it ended up a nice light concrete gray color:

Now the interesting part, “painting” the track road bed. My first idea was to purchase some of the Krylon Granite spray paint and paint it on using a brush. Problem was that I could not find the “fine” granite. All they had locally was the “coarse” granite which would have been too big and out of scale. And being in Hawaii I couldn’t even purchase any online as it can’t be shipped here. So I reverted to plan “B”. Following the track tracings using a 3/4 inch foam brush I painted on a layer of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic Clear Matte. I then sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast Gray Blend. I let it all dry overnight, swept off the extra ballast, and then applied two more coats of the Polycrylic over the ballast. It has dried very hard and I don’t think it will crumble off. It also gave some “relief” to the roadbed:

I then completed adding the other concrete areas over the pavement. By painting the concrete on top of the pavement it also gave a slight “relief” above the pavement:

Now to painting the grass. I used Woodland Scenics Green Undercoat at full strength using a stencil brush and randomly dabbing the paint on it the areas I wanted grass. Kept things pretty thin in most areas allowing the brown earth to come through in places. Also tried to keep a thin area of earth next to the ballast as I often observe in the real thing:

Next step was laying the track back on. Made sure everything was aligned correctly and used the Marklin track nails to keep the track in place. I wanted to be able to cleanly remove the track if needed in the future and that is why I decided not to ballast and glue directly over the track. It seems like my idea of placing the track on the completed ballasted track bed will work out very well and I’m quite satisfied:

Here is an overhead photo with the buildings, trains, and other items placed on the layout. It is compared to the CadRail drawing. Still waiting for a few electrical parts to complete the build:

What I’ve put together has fulfilled everything I was looking for in a portable layout. I’m still looking at scratch building the “City Station” and there is still a lot of detail scenery painting work that I can work on in the future. It’s great that a lot of the work can be done “on the road” if I so desire. It’s been a real fun project and I look forward to playing with it for some time in the future.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to read them all.


And now on to Kaustav. You’ll remember him from his port layout:

“As my Wrightsville Port layout is coming to a conclusion, I am planning for my next projects.

There are many possibilities and there will be quite a few interesting things that I plan to do in Model Railroading in the coming months and years.

All these new projects will be DCC, unlike my current layout that runs on DC. On top of that I plan to use JMRI and computers to control my future layouts.

As I started planning, I thought why not make a series of videos with the basics of DCC and JMRI for others who are getting started with the hobby. I think DCC and computers expand the horizon of Model Railroading to a great extent, and gives immense opportunities to do a variety of things and have a lot of fun along the way.

However, while doing my own research I found that though there are a lot of resources available out there and many of which are fascinating and advances stuff, there isn’t really a ‘quick guide’ that consolidates all that you need to get started with both DCC and JMRI.

So this series of videos aim at providing that quick start reference for anyone who’s interested.

Here goes the first one in the queue – basics of DCC wiring. Hope you and viewers like it.


Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A big thanks to Eric and Kaustav.

That’s all for today, folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get going on your very own layout.



Bill’s modular switching layout update

“Hi Al

I have been able to spend time in the garage the past several weekends and have made good headway.

Track in glued in place and wiring is done and now I’m adding in ground throws on my turnouts.

This video shows what I’m doing on the new module. Making the modules portable/moveable makes it so easy to work on them.

Tracks are aligned between the sections so when together I enjoy a tremendous amount of switching opportunities.

Once all ground throws are in I’ll make plexiglass stops for each end of the layout but for now on the end opposite I’m working on I’m using long solid craft pins as bumpers in case I get to close to the end of the tracks.

Al thanks for continuing your great work hosting all of us modelers from around the world!


Bill in Virginia”

switching layout

switching layout

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Bill.

If you’ve missed his earlier posts, you can see them here.

That’s all for today folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to take the first step on your masterpiece.