DCC layout

Jim’s been in touch with his 6×4 DCC layout:

“Hi Al,

I have always had an interest in local history and I like working with my hands. The result was the creation of the Holland Odessa Rail Road. A mythical short line set in September 1908. Half of the line is located in NW Ohio and the other half is west central Florida (where our two homes are located).

In 1908 NW Ohio was in the grip of the industrial revolution. The two canals in the state still operated (both destroyed in a massive flood during 1913) but trains were definitely the primary movers of goods, opening the country up from the east coast to the west.

Ohio at that time was amazingly the primary supplier of oil for the country. The glass industry became centered in Toledo because it was able to get low cost ‘waste’ natural gas from oil producers trying to get rid it to run the glass furnaces!

A train ‘flag’ stop called Holland located 8 miles west of Toledo was a center for canals built to drain a massive swamp called the Great Black Swamp. It had been over 1,000,000 acres at one time. By 1908 it was mostly drained. Holland, named due to the canals (now deep ditches) is where our summer home is located.

Florida was at least a century behind Ohio. Every disease you can think of existed. Malaria, yellow fever, small pox and on and on. Moreover between the swamps and man killing critters, humans had a hard time just existing yet alone developing. Then in 1880 the trains arrived in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area (St. Petersburg was named by the man who’s railroad first arrived in the area).

In 1900 Tampa had 800 people huddled around an army fort put there to protect against the Seminole Indians and a base for the Spanish American war. By 1910 it had over 15,000 people, by 1920, 34,000 and ever upward. Today the Tampa – St. Petersburg area has over 4 million and still growing.

However, in 1908 a little town called Odessa, (which is were our Florida home is) located12 miles northeast of Tampa was bigger with 2,000 people, being a center of logging for Cypress trees as well as Pine trees. One Cypress tree was reported to have produced a board 56 feet wide!

So that is the basis of the Holland Odessa Short Line and here is what it looked like at first, yep it is 6 feet by 4 feet. I added a second sheet of foam after this picture which you will see why below.

bench for model train

DCC model train track plan

And here is the design (an Atlas plan I followed, buying their 83 code kit for track work). The control panel is hinged and folds down for ease of working on layout.

It is DCC operated by a NCE Pro Cab. Castors allow moving completely around the layout while working on it or showing the layout from the other side.

dcc layout laying track

Below you see the reason for the double foam. I’ve modeled part of the Miami-Erie canal which went from Toledo to Cincinnati Ohio. The double foam sheets allow me to make canals, shape the land down from the tracks as well as putting additional foam on top in areas to create more dramatic hills given the size of the layout. The use of Atlas electric turnouts allows doing this without any control problems.

dcc layout laying track

So here we are today:

dcc layout adding scenery

dcc layout bridge

model railroad embankment

model train scenery

Hope you like it. The advice and instruction help in your blog is really helpful. In addition there are great video’s on YouTube as well as the model kit suppliers web sites such as Bar Mills and Campbell. I am really enjoying put this project together.

To complete it I am including family and friends into the time period. I started a three ring binder that holds all the history notes, period pictures and layout design notes developed to make the various parts of the layout. It has a narrative I am writing as I go about the ‘The People of the Holland Odessa R.R.’

In it I transport my family members and friends back in time and write what they might have been if they lived in 1908 and worked either on or around the Holland Odessa Railroad.

So far several people have gone back in time. For example my son and daughter-in-law have been transported back as the caretakers of the Florida Station. There they meet Thomas Edison, get into the power generation business and in time move to another small town called Denver. Their daughter goes on to be a world class skier.

On the Holland Odessa R.R. everyone transported back has an great adventure, fun and enjoys being remembered for making a difference! What more can you ask?


A huge big thanks to Jim for sharing his DCC layout.

I don’t know what I enjoyed more, his pics or his narrative – love that he’s having fun with the backstory and including his family.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

26 Responses to DCC layout

  1. Don says:

    the trees look so real & so does the river with the sandbars. the setup is great.

  2. Bill in Virginia says:

    A wonderful narrative and great looking layout!

  3. Pete from Michigan says:

    A three ring binder that contains the generation notes and written history of the railroad. What a fascinating and unique idea. And, the first time I have read of anyone documenting their work like that.
    What a great idea.

  4. Stephen Hill says:

    Jim you are off to a fantastic start , looks very keen and detailed , very nicely done. Look forward to seeing your progress

  5. george zaky says:

    Scale Please.
    Wow! Great narrative. The layout is very well done and now after the book is done now what. I dont know where the layout resides but if it were me I’d make a new Florida station and keep it in Ohio and a new Ohio version to keep in Florida. A vivd mind like yours cant be idle and you can include all the other ideas you thought about but didnt do.
    Big Al
    How did you like the insidious plan to keep this guy making new stuff and more submissions. He’s good! Gotta reel in the fish you know.😁

  6. TJK says:

    Marvelous transition from foam to landscape.
    Great job Jim!

  7. Robert Brady says:

    Excellent job on the river You gave the affect it was a title estuary with the high tide marks especially where the fellas were sitting. Good overall job.
    The Critic

  8. Brian Olson says:

    Real alt appreciate post here showing progress from “day one” as the layout evolves. Shows us that patience can equal progress.

  9. Tony Weisbecker says:

    A simple and sweet over the top layout . It looks so good I’d probably copy a similar layout someday . Fine job thanks for the pictures .

  10. Mr. Ron from South Mississippi says:

    Ingenius the use of double thickness foam.+

  11. Larry Schweitzer says:

    Beautifully done scenery, plants & water especially!

  12. Rich says:

    Jim, this is amazing!!!! Great plan and even better theme. I have been a follower of bigger is better, you just proved me wrong!!!!

  13. Malcolm says:

    Jim, Very nicely done. Is it HO?

  14. Tom says:

    Nice!! Be sure to send more–can’t wait to see the Florida section!

  15. Lyle Branagan says:

    Thank you for sharing the pictures as well as the story, involving your family engaged in the histories.

  16. Rich B. says:

    This is excellent, not huge making very manageable. As I see it that muddy, murky stream is one of the focal points. Little Androscoggin River, think raw sewage still gets dumped into that sometimes…. Maine, the way life should be, big sign coming into state lol…


  17. Paul B says:

    I like your approach to capturing separate parts of the country on one layout.

  18. Andy Hartley says:

    Great narrative about Toledo. I work in Stanley and Walbridge yard in Toledo and I will say the only thing left from the swampy land are the hordes of mosquitos. They will suck you dry while switching cars. It only takes one time of forgetting bug spray and you will never forget again .

  19. Ken Holbrook says:

    Great looking river! I’m curious if you had the foresight to add some dead trees to the river bottom with some sticking up out of the water. I added two ponds to my layout but didn’t think about deadfall’s until after the fact. Yours looks great!!!

  20. robert dale tiemann says:

    like this layout. not too big, just about the right size.

  21. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. The water and bridge scene is amazing. Good stuff. I would hope your future photos would be a bit clearer and in focus. Just say’n.

    Jim AZ

  22. Steve Ruple says:

    Excellent layout and great scenery. Awesome job !!!!!

  23. John Philip Ruetz says:

    Jim, That river wouldn’t be the muddy Maumee River would it ? It kind of looks like the color. I originally come from a few miles west of there ( Wauseon ) . I remember the D.T.& I and the New York Central . I remember the old steam engines and waving at the hoboes that rode the trains. Another thing I remember of those days that you won’t see anymore are the cattle cars. I too enjoy the history of the area having several books on it. Enjoy your layout and add as much of the history that you can. John

  24. Daniel says:

    Looks fantastic!!!

  25. Jimmy L Robinson says:

    Demonstrating once again that one doesn’t need a big space to create and outstanding layout.

  26. roger turner says:

    Great layout, great narrative, great backstory and i learned some history. My wife and i have visited some of the old forts in the Tampa area and i have watched stories on the history channel about the canals in Ohio, but never knew all the facts of how they came to be.
    Keep up the great work and keep on keeping on. Thanks for sharing.

    Roger in Kansas

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