“Al: I have been enjoying your daily emails for a number of years.
Many of your contributors have much better train layouts and more realistic landscapes than I do and they certainly have nothing to learn from me. Nevertheless I think that there are a group of model train enthusiasts who might benefit from my story.
In 1950 when I was 11 years old I received a much sought after Lionel 027 starter train set. Our family had no space for a permanent layout so I assembled and disassembled it many times. After I was married I sometimes set up a layout around the Christmas tree to entertain our children, but I took it down after the Holidays.
When my grandchildren were young I set up the train set at Christmas again. The second Christmas with grandchildren I put the layout on a couple of 4×8 sheets of plywood supported by saw horses in a spare room in the basement and added some rudimentary scenery.
For Christmas in 2007 my children (who always find it difficult to buy me presents) recognized my interest and bought me a new Lionel Polar Express set with Fastrack. For a while I had a mixed layout with part tubular track and part Fastrack. But the trains ran a lot better on the Fastrack and over time I replaced all of the tubular track.
The layout expanded until it filled the 15 x 17 foot basement room. I sometimes regret not taking the opportunity to switch to HO gauge so that I would have room for more train equipment.
Above is a SCARM diagram of my current Fastrack layout. I run two LionChief trains and occasionally a third conventional Lionel train. The layout is not meant to represent any particular time or place. The scenery however is typical of the sandstone cliffs in the Yellowstone Valley, where I live.
Although it is not clear from the diagram there are three tunnels, indicated with blue track, and the bottom left section is a level above the rest. The tunnel on the right is actually in a closet. (The closet door is open in Figure 02.)
I have wired the sidings in the closet with Azatrax’s D2X Exhibit controller with infrared sensors so that without human input two trains can run alternately in opposite directions around the upper loop.
Most of the scenery is carved from 2 inch sheets of insulating foam. The sheets of foam are supported by a simple framework as shown in Figure 05. No attempt has been made to conceal the line between layers of foam in many places, as it is meant to represent the layers of sediment in the sandstone cliffs. I found the best tool to carve the foam is a drywall saw, with a Shop-Vac handy to control the mess. (See the saw in Figure 06, next to the waterfall). The carved foam is painted and sprinkled with Woodland Scenics turf.
On the mountain side, the left side of the track diagram, the trees are mostly pine. They were meant to be table decorations. I purchased them in an after Christmas sale at Hobby Lobby. The deciduous trees are home-made … twigs from sage brush with bits of foam glued on (also from Woodland Scenics).
A few of the structures are Plasticville kits but most are scratch-built from 3/16 inch foam poster board covered with printouts from Evans Model Builder computer software. Most of the structures are lighted. I cut up strings of battery powered Christmas lights and use 3 AA batteries to power the lights. The asphalt roadway is cut from asphalt shingles left over from my recently repaired house roof.
In order to provide more track power than the Lionel CW80 transformers I acquired with my LionChief train sets, I recently purchased an MTH Z1000 transformer from a local hobby shop. When I was in the hobby shop the other day I mentioned that the Z1000 was working fine. The salesman said “Model trains make you feel like a kid again, don’t they?” I think it was a rhetorical question, but I answered, ‘Yes!’
A huge thank you to Bill!
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. Not only is it a wonderful layout, the narrative behind it makes this hobby what it is.
That’s all this time folks. Please do leave a comment below, and keep ’em coming.
I leave you with this thought – if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here