Cheap N scale starter – Bill’s

Bill’s been in touch with his cheap N scale starter:

“Hi Al,

Here are a few pics of the B&N Shortline RR.

All structures, except three, were made from business cards, tablet backs, pieces of cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes, etc.

The trees are the top parts of slender pine cones except for those which are obviously commercially made.

The chain link fence at the B&N RR office building and the fence around the little park next to the pipe factory is made from a bag that held fresh garlic.

The layout lacks many details like people, traffic signs, fire escapes on the taller buildings, etc.

It has been fun taking up a hobby which I abandoned 60 years ago.

I am dazzled by the creativity and artistry of the model railroaders which display their work on your site.

Thanks for all that you do to promote the hobby. You have brought this 80 year old much pleasure.


cheap n scale starter

cheap n scale starter

cheap n scale starter

 model railroad

model railroad

Cheap N scale starter:

model railroad

“Al, Have a couple. I use empty spice containers (the ones with the small to medium holes) to spread ground cover (grass,dirt,etc).

These work well to get fairly even coverage shake harder for thicker coverage not so hard for lighter.

Spray your glue mixture where you want grass ,dirt etc then sprinkle to cover the area let dry lightly brush or blow off excess.

I use an old peice of straight track hot glue 1200 grit sand paper to it, let it cool for a couple mins, cut out between rails hook up transformer set engine on track,turn speed control to where engine wheel move at a steady pace between 5&8 should work fine be sure to hold engine to keep if from becoming an airplane . Adjust speed accordingly not to fast.

Let engine sit on paper about 20-30 seconds now your wheel are very clean and ready for hours and hours of use.

Be sure not to put pressure on engine from top hold in front or rear Watch the paper when it get worn peel it off and glue new peice down.

Usually cleans 10-15 engines. Be sure to clean dust off track after each cleaning. Brass track works best

Happy Rails


“I found that when you buy a plastic house or company that some of the long walls maybe warped they say warm water works.

I found that if you take a Iron on low heat with a towel and set on the warped piece and then turn the Iron off let it set til cool it will straighten right out.


That’s all this time folks. A huge thanks to Bill for sharing his cheap N scale starter, and to Greg and Ric.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to jump from thinking about a layout to building a layout.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet here. Thank you for all your comments on it.

29 Responses to Cheap N scale starter – Bill’s

  1. Eric says:

    Fantastic layout Bill amazed at the buildings made of old cards that must have taken a lot of patience and at 80 well what can I say, you’re never too old to enjoy model railways. Keep up the great work.
    Eric ( Leeds) UK

  2. Lee Barry, CEO LZPMRR says:

    very nice. I see your layout is all on one flat level, my first one was like that in “N”scale, kinda wished I’d never went to Z scale. I would probably go back to N if I knew I had that much longer to live but in Jan’Feb 2016 I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer stage IV and only given 6 months to live. I’ve been on chemo since Feb,2016 and don’t think I have the get up and go to build one. The Z was built by a Jim O’Connell of Santee,Ca. back in July-Oct. 2010. If’n I knew how to send pictures of it thru this damned contraption I’d send some to Al to put on the site. Keep up the good work.

  3. James Robertson says:

    What a wonderful layout you do us oldies proud.

    I have just nearly finished an O gauge layout which I would not dare to show anyone but I enjoy it.

    Originally I had a guy from North Wales build me a layout in Lionel but unfortunately not only did he overcharge but also he lied at what he said he had done. I have broken it down and rebuilt it. Be careful people whom you give your hard earned money to.

    This to me at 74 is a fabulous hobby and I so enjoy the hours I spend at it. Like your contributor I am on stage 4 kidney failure so the trains are my ne happiness other than the wife of course. Keep up the good work and this site.

  4. Ron Schultz says:

    I dont have all those little details on my layout either . But its my RR and I run it and enjoy it . That’s what counts . Last winter I took down some OLD buildings that I had made 30-40 years ago . Made new and bigger ones to occupy the space. At 82 I still have a summer PT job so the RR doesn’t move much freight until winter lay off the end of Nov. .

  5. Eric Kiehl the firefighter says:

    Very nice and neat, looks like your on the roll with the layout. Choo Choo.
    Great job.

    Eric the firefighter

  6. JERRY ALTER says:


    Is this HO or O?

    How long did the layout take to complete?

    Really good stuff here.


  7. marklin ed says:

    I just love the many different types of layout seen on this site
    Thanks to everyone who has posted here.
    Thanks bill

  8. david howarth says:

    Nice layout you have built there Bill , comfortable size and managed to fit a lot in there ..Dangerous Dave

  9. Terry Clark says:

    Very nice compact layout with lots of operational interest as well as continuous running. It gives me extra incentive to complete my latest 11′ x 7′ HO layout as well as updating my 4′ x 6.5′ On30 Christmas layout (modular with 20′ dia. center hole so that it can be assembled assembled around the tree.

  10. Richard R Stern says:

    I think you did a wonderful job. Your buildings are as good as or better than kits. We will not see them on any other lay out. You have a lot in a small space. My love for “n” gage started in the 60’s.Wroking in a toy and hobby shop. Could not keep my hands off them .Four years ago I developed neuropathy in both legs and hands. Hand to give up restoring cars. I still had a Bachmann 4-8-4 with Five Atles passenger cars. And now like you I can have a hobby that I can enjoy. Both my wife’s family and mine worker for the RR during the war. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!
    The old TAZ

  11. Mel says:

    I have an O gage 12 x 25 that I have not worked on in 5 years. I have parapaligia and can not move around a lot. I love your layout is it HO, N, or Z gage? If it was O gage I would love to have my sons and grandsons copy it!


  12. Richard R Stern says:

    Take a look at a layout that a friend and I did for our town’s Western day’s celebration. It was setup in the old depo. All the trains are Dick Chapple’s. The teepees were made by school children. The town and all the cars and plans are scratch bilt by me. The cars and trucks are wood. The buildings are made of picture matting. All were designed after buildings that were here 100 years ago some are still standing. They also fold down for storage.
    Hope you enjoy it I enjoyed Sharing with you!!

    The oldTaz
    You will Find this on (youtub)

    Chapple’s Train A Rama with Dick Chapple Sr & Dick Stern

  13. I would like to see more video!s steam engines. Desires are beautiful, but there is
    Pure joy watching watching a steam engine like a big boy hauling a string of freight cars around a Curve coming out of Tunnel. Just watching the rods working on a HO m,oddly is pure enjoyment. I miss my meager lay out and at 94, can’t see too well , but I have no trouble watching. Keep up the good work, and I thank all contributor of videos for their offerings. JFT

  14. Rod Mackay says:

    I’m so touched by the guys still modelling with the serious health problems, it really is the hobby that keeps on giving isn’t it? Good luck both.

    Greg, maybe your mechs in the US are made of sterner stuff than some of ours but surely running your locos on even 1200 sandpaper is wearing the tyres away and roughening the surface, which I find lets the dirt build up quicker. If you just use a couple of bits of spring brass wire set track width apart and connected to your controller, you can run the ends on a wheelset and have the loco run on its back in a cradle, and still have a hand free to use a cotton-bud or a little cloth with a solvent, I usually use a dab of meths. Got to watch to keep the trucks level on diesels or you may drop a cardan shaft out of a flywheel though, but at least you aren’t getting abrasives like sand dust or fibre in where you don’t want it.

  15. Ralph Berry says:

    What a great layout Bill, lots of activity going on there. I like the way the mountain in the corner deals with the “folded sky” problem.

  16. Wallace Daffner says:

    Please do not use sandpaper to clean your wheels. Alcohol on a paper towel works better without putting pits in the locomotive wheels.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Great layout Bill and to all the rest of you,at 74 I was feeling sorry for my self this year (4 heart attacks and now lung cancer set me low for the last couple of years) but I will get back to my layout and work on it again after reading all your responses to Bills layout. Thanks to all and let’s all have fun… Bob Miller

  18. paul Otway says:

    nice one Bill

  19. jim Sulkosky says:

    Neat little layout

  20. Franco428 says:

    This layout brings back a lot of memories. My very first looked a lot like this one, with one small exception. I had 48 star flags to use, which are really hard to find anymore. If I can locate a few, I’ll post them so anyone can print them out. Still, this layout is picture perfect by reminding me of my past builds. I still wish I had one just like this. I’d cover it in glass and use it as my dining room table. Thanks for the memory trip!! Great job.

  21. ALBERT LUPPO says:

    In the military when a job done is lauded by peers it is name “WELL DONE’ Your endeavor has you celebrating= WELL DONE.

  22. Jim Heck says:

    Hardest task at 80 is picking up and attaching my Atlas track
    connectors. Things take a little longer but are we in a hurry?
    Finally got my 3% grades even and 18 in radius curves smooth
    for my GG1 to navigate. Enjoy all the tips and pix

  23. Ted Rothstein says:

    Super fine layout

  24. Robert Brady says:

    RIC : Not only that it takes the warp out it’s now wriggle free .

  25. Mark weiss says:

    To Lee Barry who also responded to this article: I pray for the miracle of healing in your body. Look to Jesus!!!! Be welll

  26. Will in NM says:


    That’s a beautiful layout you’ve created. It has a very whimsical feel to it with all the brightly colored buildings and backdrops. The track plan, while pretty simple, seems to offer plenty of interest and operating possibilities. I am totally amazed by all the structures you’ve managed to create from cardboard scraps. Keep up the great work and thank you for giving this 74-year-old some inspiration to keep working on my layouts.

  27. Erick says:

    Kool layout.!!!!

  28. Brian Olson says:

    I love seeing these examples of great model railroading in small spaces, as I continue work on my new 2×4 switching layout.

    My main layout is a 6×12 so adjusting to the smaller space presents some fun challenges. Including DCC for the first time!

  29. Mr. Ron from South Mississippi says:

    At 88, I’m surprised by the number of senior citizens in model railroading. We all have our ailments as age creeps up on us, but model railroading buys us more time. thanks to Al and to all who make this forum a home place to go to every day.

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