Large n scale layouts

Dick’s been in touch – he’s added to the collection of large N scale layouts on the blog. Looks amazing too:

“I am nearly 79 years old now. My first train layout was a Marx train set on a 4 x 8 board in 1947.

Through the years I have built layouts in N, HO, O27, G, and 1.5″ scale 7.5″ gauge.

Now the ‘ol bod can’t do the Limbo Rock anymore and is supposed to adhere to a maximum weight lifting of 15 pounds, (a mug of coffee and a big cinnamon roll, hahahaha).

So I am downsizing my huge hoard of G scale trains and have started a new N scale layout in our garage.

I read 3 mystery novels written by Janet Dawson which all take place on the California Zephyr. Her descriptions of the Zephyr, and the route are terrific. I decided to build this layout to feature the California Zephyr.

For 9 months I gathered Kato unitrack, and Kato Ca Zephyr train sets and in September I put together tables and started.

After drawing and trying out different track arrangements I finally settled on one that would give a 2 track mainline that is approximately 145 feet long.

There is freight running available also.

Two main ideas I needed to use to accomodate a very bad back was NO duck unders, no lift or drop bridges though I could possibly add a lift bridge later, and all my wiring will be on top as I simply can’t wire underneath anymore.

All the tables have a 1″ foam top layed on plywood tops The layout consists of 5 tables and one long vinyl fence board, so the layout can be dismantled later when it becomes necessary.

This is a DCC operation. I was able to put 3 towns on the layout so it consists of Chicago Illinois, Denver Colorado, Salt Lake City Utah, and finally to San Francisco California, which is also Chicago for now. Later I may figure a way for an expansion to add a seperate space for San Francisco.

Currently I have severa; track feeder wires to a 12 AWG bus line that runs along the edge of the tables. There will be removable fascia added to cover the wiring. Trenches are dug for the feeder wires to go from the track to the bus line. A seperate bus line will be run for the Kato turnouts. Copper tape will be used for led lighting of buildings etc.

More pictures to follow Al.

Thanks much and happy new Year.


N scale track plan

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

large n scale layouts

“Hi Al

Hope the new year finds you and your legion of followers doing well 😀

I’ve been making progress on my switching layout and have sent you a link to a video showing it in operation.

I followed what Dangerous Dave and others have been doing and am using a Polaroid Cube camera to get engineer level views of the layout.

Still a work in progress learning how to use it and then splice scenes together but I’m having fun on all things with the layout.


Bill in Virginia”

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Dick for adding to the large N scale layouts, and to Bill too.

I thought Dick was very clever to design his layout to suit his mobility – very smart!

One last thing – I think some of you didn’t get Monday’s mailing for some reason. If that’s you, you can see it here.

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

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to stop dreaming and start doing.



30 Responses to Large n scale layouts

  1. Alan says:

    Bill that’s a great layout it looks like Kato which I use here in the uk

  2. Bill in Virginia says:

    Dick that is a great layout you have going there! Cheers to you for going smaller and N Scale as well. You are having fun for sure 😀

  3. Jim Eaton says:

    Dick, to go from G to N scale is quite a leap. Wrote down the author you mentioned and will check her out – thank you. Looks like your layout will be way above my capabilities. The smaller scales do not peak my interest except to admire. I do not have a layout. I am a year older than you. Just waiting till life slows down to consider one.
    Thank you for sharing, Jim
    Limbo Rock, showing your age there guy.

  4. Bob in BC, Canada says:

    Dick, love the layout so far. I have been working on a track plan with some similarities but still a ways to go. I recommend that you mud, tape and paint the walls before you go any further though. Maybe a sky blue?

  5. Gary Manganiello says:

    Love those long runs…….

  6. Dick I like your layout it looks good. Just giving you some advice on the California Zephyr. Most all of the line was single mainline trackage. Having grown up in Colorado I model the D&RGW part of the line. Going through the mountains of Colorado it is all single line with passing siding’s added where they can be.
    Like I said I’m just giving you some information to use.
    The three lines that operate the California Zephyr are: From Chicago to Denver was the C.B.&Q.. From Denver to Salt Lake City was the D.&R.G.W.. From Salt Lake City to San Francisco was the W.P..
    Keep up the good work.

  7. Gary Manganiello says:

    Bill in Virginia…….. nice layout and glad to see a layout that is a working model with the trains.

    Gary M

  8. Eric Bosch says:

    Could use some advice. I am building/planning an HO layout approximately 4×12. Looking to elevate some track. On the layout which you sent there is a blue material before the trestles. What is it and where can I get it?
    Thanks in advance. Ericbosch

  9. Mike Matejka says:

    Well thought out track plan & prep; great idea to use styrofoam and “funnel” your wiring through it, rather than laying under the table.

  10. Great layout and I hope you update us!
    I rode the CA Zephyr as a kid from the Bay Area to Chicago in the mid-1960’s and still have fond memories of it. Years later (about 2004) I went up with my wife to see her parents in Portola CA where they have the Western Pacific Railroad Museum and actually drove (piloted?) one of the original WP engines around a loop track. Disneyland’s California Adventure had sort of a tribute to the WP CA Zephyr during the first few years before they redid much of the park. They had a WP F7 engine attached to several passenger cars that were really entrances to shops. When it was removed the engine (the only part of the “train” that was once a real working part) was then given to the WP museum in Portola.

  11. joe coco from mass says:

    Good for you 79 is just a number and a Great looking layout hope to see more as you progress

  12. John Molloy says:

    Great looking track plan! How do you get the track feeders into the large gauge power bus. I use suitcase clips with a smaller bus (18 gauge).

  13. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Hi JIm, glad to hear from you and that you are doing well too. I went from N to G and back to N and it has messed with my mind scale visualizing alright.
    Bob in B.C. yes you are correct, Mudding and paint is forth coming. It would have been easier of course to do that first, just one area will require a longer arm to do now though.
    Hey Brian thanks for the info, my original plan was all single track with passing sidings but I chose to do all double track for times of continual running for show.
    We live next to the schools and over the years I have had art classes come over to tour my layouts and do scavenger hunts etc. When running more realistically, I have the correct motive power for each portion of the run from CB&Q to D&RG to WP and the reverse.
    Yup Gary…me too on long runs, and this layout should showcase freight trains nicely too.
    I see the layout plan is not clear, I will try for a better drawing.
    I used Kato unitrack and am totally impressed with it. I made my feeder wires by soldering feeders to the bottom of the rail joiners and located a set of feeders about every 8 sections of track.
    Thanks everyone for all your notes and help. Just being able to share in good company on Al’s site means so much.
    Updates will follow.
    Happy New Year.

  14. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Bill, your switching layout is tops. It exemplifies the importance of good track work.
    The video was fun and watching the layout grow from the beginning helps to keep pushing me along.

  15. Joe Gennari says:


  16. Richard Guhl says:


    My late father-in-law was an Engineer on the DRGW (Seniority #18). He was honored to take the last west-bound California Zephyr pulled by that company from Grand Junction to Salt Lake.

  17. Jim Hendricks says:

    Thanks for sharing your Layout! I’m 74 & have been acquiring N scale items, for nearly 1 year… I plan to move into a much less expensive apartment, sometime this year. I don’t want to start my intended Steam Logging Camp & Lumber Yard, until after the move. I will be using a “44 diameter ceramic table top. So, I appreciate seeing how your wiring was done, without going underneath! Good work on your ground cover too! Thanks again!

  18. markus muetschard says:

    Dick, a very nice and thoughtful layout. Nice track lines… Did you ever think of having to levels for the long back and forth double lines along the long wall? Would give you some extra space for moving.You could even think of a third level as a yard extension… perfect to store complete trains away when adding a down foldable cover to protect from dust….

    I have two free floating 13×4 and 8×4 boards in the room with a strong electrical inch in the attic to pull all up to the ceiling when not in use I have to make ‘walls’ on thee sides to reduce the dust collection, and I have no place to store the train composition. I was thinking to put multiple levels – one track deep with a removable access from the boars on the wall with sliding doors to have both at the same time: yard and exhibition! – m

  19. I need to see the G Scale layout he gave up on. Any photos?

  20. Some very good ideas. I am 81 and have an n scale layout. Wiring is a bit of a problem. I have a duck under situation and some surface mounts. While I still can bend a little I think I should rewire. This gives me some good ideas.

  21. Chris Warr says:

    That looks like a really fun layout, all the best with it and Happy New Year to everyone

  22. Paul V says:

    Great idea to run all wiring on top and under a little scenery.

  23. Phil Gray says:

    Good for you in not quitting.
    Your layout is interesting and we can tell that you are having fun.
    Look forward to some video in the future with it running.
    I am 82 and last year I started an HO layout to enjoy. When in my teens I had O ga. and had more room.. Now I am limited to 4′-0″ x 8′-0″ It is running now but have a lot of scenery to add. Not as efficient with my time as I once was..
    Hope to send photos one day.
    Enjoy your project and Best wishes.
    Phil Gray

  24. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Some replies to a few questions that popped up.
    Eric B. The blue material is 2″ styrofoam insulation board, I bought it at Lowes Hardware store.
    John M. I soldered the 22awg feeder wires to the 12awg bus wire. Using flux paste makes it a snap to do.
    Richard G. What an honor & great memories your late Father-In-Law had. I had a Granddad who was an engineer on the SP&S RR, he ran along the Columbia River between Wishram Washington and Portland/Vancouver.
    Markus M. Thanks for the kind words. I am thinking a lot about taking advantage of that 18′ run some way or another.
    Robert D. I still have the G scale layout in our basement. Hopefully Al will let me send info and pictures of it on here. Over the years I stashed several hundred pieces of rolling stock in G, so now selling down to a “normal” level gives me the cash to afford the N scale layout,
    I also have a very scarce TT layout I’d like to send info and pictures to Al about.
    Later friends.

  25. Jim Logue says:

    Awesome looking layout! Can’t wait to see more progress. I also can’t get under the tables anymore so I’ve gone to the N scale T-Trak modules. Good luck with your fantastic layout and enjoy. Jim from NJS but now in Fla.

  26. Andrew Aves says:

    Awesome switching Bill, I enjoyed you video, wonderful shunting. Andrew

  27. Wonderful work by both. I’m 67 and still playing with Lionel from the 50’s to the modern ones. The layout is 120 square feet and has become daunting due to a lack of time. Often by the time the next chance comes along I forget what I was doing last time (weeks go bye).

  28. Clay S says:

    Great use of a garage!

  29. Len Rizzo says:

    Really inspiring and absolutely super layout – keep us posted on the development. Love the concept as like I’m one of the old timers that rode the Zephyr out of the Windy many times. Still remember the sights, sounds and smells of the times.

  30. Joseph R Ellis says:

    Dick, I’m about a year older than you and I know about the physical limitations we face! Your N scale layout of the Zephyr looks awesome! I’m half way through my layout which features a mountain with a tunnel through it. The mountain is called “Spike’s Peak” named after my Wonder Dog, Spike. Pictures later perhaps….damn this coffee mug is too heavy! Joe

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