Jim’s 6×4 DCC layout

Got another 6×4 dcc layout for you today.

Jim’s pics are a tad small – but I loved what he’s done here:

“Hi Al;

I read the post today from Chis and was surprised at the similarities to a layout I started in August.

My wife and I have a summer home in Ohio. This year due to medical issues my wife encountered (surgery, now chemo, but all will be well when treatment completed!!), it will be April before we can go back to our Florida home.

With winter closing in I wanted a hobby to keep busy. 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.

6x4 dcc layout bench

And here is the design (an Atlas plan I followed, buying their 83 code kit for track work). Looks a lot like Chris’s doesn’t it? 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.

model railroad layout atlas 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.

So here we are today:

bench for atas trac 6x4 dcc layout

girder bridge for train

rural scene for model steam train

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?


“HI Alistair… part 2 of the accident from last week , I have also taken note from one of your member who suggested taking a picture of a bridge , then downsizing and adding it to my Bridge ..it came out very well , just needs a bit more work on it , but a great idea , also a tip when buying on line , make sure you know what you are ordering… As said before , a bit of fun , never does any harm , and well maybe I sniffed the sherry bottle again LOL

All the Best


Brand spanking new ebay cheat sheet here – page loads much quicker now.

A huge thanks to Jim and Dangerous Dave.

Jim shows just how much you can pack in to a 6×4 dcc layout.

And if you’ve picked up lots of good stuff over the years from the blog, you’ll love the Beginner’s Guide – it’s jam packed with all the best stuff.

That’s all today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.



32 Responses to Jim’s 6×4 DCC layout

  1. Chris Arnold says:

    Hi Jim,
    What a great set up, pictures and narrative, I love the idea of going back in time. As you say our layouts are very similar BUT you have had the bright idea of creating different levels by going down as well of up, well done. Wish I had thought of that however I think I can feel version 2 coming on…..

  2. Robert Brady says:

    the title of Daves movie ( Rail Runners ) a weekly show about a day and a life of a rail runner. The story begins in a quint old town in the UK…..

    can’t wait to see next episode!

  3. Mike Adams says:

    The Miami Erie Canal is very cool. Wouldn’t a working model of a lock be interesting. There is a restored lock in Huber Heights Ohio which is just north of Dayton. The Canal went right through Dayton and was a big part of history here.


    Who could possibly have more fun than DAVE? 👌
    What gage are your trains?

  5. Ken in Dundee, Michigan says:

    Totally awesome Dave. You can sure tell your love of what you do. It keeps me excited about working on my train.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. Bob Walker says:

    Hey Dave… absolutely fantastic (I love a happy ending)… your layout is magnificent! Thanx for sharing this w/ us & have a nip of the Sherry for me, OK? (although I do favor an occasional wee dram of the Scot’s broth, myself – grin)… -Bob W, NH, USA

  7. Bob Walker says:

    Hey there, Jim… very nicely done… your modeling skills are impressive! -Bob W, NH, USA

  8. Lynn says:

    What type of foam are you using for the base? I want to do the same thing so I can have some water features.

  9. Bob Compton says:

    I always enjoy the pics and videos posted here. I am intrigued with the photo on the far end of the tunnel. Wonder if Dave tried different angles for the photo? If there is room, setting the photo back into the tunnel an inch or two would give it more of a 3D look.

  10. Jim Donovan says:

    First, thank you all for the kind comments. Made my day. As for the foam board used, it is 1 inch extruded styrofoam made for insulation. Mine came from Lowe’s here in the US but I understand it is made pretty much anywhere for buildings. I could of bought 2 inch thick but did not complete the canal idea until I already had a one inch board glued in place. Two inches gave me 16 scale feet to work with so by using the right style bridges I am on scale for the height needed for the tow boat that will be built eventually. One caution, how thick you go can causes other problems, especially if you decide to use tortoise style electric turnouts. I’m using Atlas quick throw solenoid so avoided that problem but they don’t look as real, or work as well, as he tortoise switches I have seen.

  11. Jim Donovan says:

    I definitely like the lock idea suggested. We have a house in Florida with a dusty workout room (we look at it each week and say, yep we need to work out more and close the door). Could be a southern version of the Holland Odessa Railroad in the future.

  12. Mike Cutino says:

    That was excellent.. where do you get all the time to build this

  13. Susan Cannon says:

    Jim, I was born in Cleveland and spent ~25 years in Tampa! We’re now in Houston. What a wonderful way to join your two homes, and history as well. I greatly appreciated your writeup and pics. Best wishes to you, and good health to your wife. Take care, and keep modeling!

  14. NJ Mark says:

    Great scenery, Jim! And to Dave, thanks for making me smile! Cheers! NJ Mark

  15. Ross Johnston says:

    Thanks Jim for your report. I liked your canal effect. Dave! I really enjoyed your video and I “loved” your special effects. Reminded me of a 1950s era Sci-Fi. Well done! Cheers Rossco, Adelaide, South austral;ia

  16. Rod Mackay says:

    Brilliant Jim, very rare to see such a sense of space in a small board, well done.

  17. Steve Roberts says:

    What a great little layout. Nice one.

  18. dangerous dave says:

    Thank you all for your kind comments , the tunnel unfortunately will not allow me to take the picture back 1″ or so , but I am going to take another few pictures from a better angle ..so watch this space …? …the fire trucks and sounds are from wrong era , but had to use what I could find …and as the title says …A BIT OF FUN….. and the query on my layout gauge its 00 Gauge ..Thanks again, . Dangerous Dave

  19. Kenneth Doll says:

    Nice Dave let you mind wander and you can think of many ways to use your rolling stock and track equiptment

  20. Claly says:

    Great as usual, Dave. Just wonder how you get those
    motor critters to roll to designation without using hands. On the
    layout or was that trick video. The best clay

  21. marvin says:

    thank you I’m renew to model trains. enjoyed your submission. now i know it can be done. especially in a smaller space

  22. Bob Horn says:

    My great uncle ran a canal boat on the Miami Erie canal. I also lived 200 yards from its reminants. Explored the area as a child endlessly. Even found an old trunk that fell of a boat. Great modeling and terriffic detail. The railroad often followed the canal as the land was fairly flat and had very few elevation changes.
    Bob H.

  23. larry tuttle says:

    thrilled vto see such realism/detail/ACTION IN SUCH A small space. care to share how you handeled thev pyrotechnics, and most of all, the rain on an belewctrically active layout w/no damage. KUDOS. I WOULD LIKE TO DO TRHE SAME FOR MY LAYOUT of the great trian race during the civ il war. like to burn a bridge. I am 82+ w/onbly the left side functioning, but still want toptry. I have the “GENERAL”, THE “TEXAS'” .FOLLOW YOU CLOSELY. GOD BLESS.

  24. Hi Jim! What a nice job on the layout! I like the idea of basing your layout on historical settings you are familiar with. There are a set of locks on the Miami-Erie Canal at Lockington, Ohio, about 30 miles north of Dayton. I have visited them many times. I also like the idea of somehow modeling a working set of locks. I’m modeling my hometown of Jackson Center, Ohio in the era I grew up in…the 50’s. Also, the logging era of the early 20th century in the great northwest. BTW, I solve a lot of modeling problems after I go to bed. Great job!
    Dale, Las Vegas, NV

  25. Marvin says:

    love the cut out for the river.

  26. JoeS - inME says:

    Jim’s photos raise a question that others might have since we have seen other photos that can’t be enlarged — if we take our photos with a cellphone, how do we send them to you, Alastair, so when you attach them to your daily post they can be enlarged for viewing?

  27. Jerry Artale says:

    Great layout I wish you could send a quick video on how you wired the DCC
    I am new to all this.

  28. George Zaky says:

    Great theme and layout.
    First a master modeler now a master film producer. Awesome.

  29. Robert Burke says:

    To save time and words, I simply say brilliant, and well done, to both Jim and Dave. Just will add, stand back James Cameron, Dangerous Dave is here. The double thickness foam, and under-bridge perspectives both give me ideas for the layout I plan to start soon.

    Regarding the photos, I often ‘right click’ on each photo and “Open Image in New Tab’ so that the tabs all line up along the top of the desktop. Then I can click on each one consecutively without going back to this page. If, as happens from time to time, the pictures are a bit small I can then use CTRL + to expand the image. A little loss of definition but I see more details.

    Greetings to all from New Zealand.
    Bob NZ

  30. Will in NM says:

    I liked your 4×6 layout so much that I downloaded all the photos so I could blow them up to a larger view in my picture viewer. I really love the idea of creating a notebook with the back story of the railroad and including your family and friends into the story. It definitely makes the layout seem more interesting. You did a smart thing by keeping the track plan simple and developing your modeling skills on this first layout. It looks like you’re on your way to being a master model railroader! Thanks for sharing your photos and story. Please
    send more as you continue improving the layout.

    I made the same mistake on my 66-inch x 78-inch Christmas layout where I used a single layer on 1-inch foam board, and I also used the white beaded foam board instead of the blue or pink extruded stuff. Bad idea! My cat loved to scratch her claws into the foam shredding it into tiny white beads.

    I enjoyed your crash video, part 2 and the multi-scale fire trucks! I’ve made the same mistake and bought vehicles on ebay that were way too big for HO scale.

  31. Erick says:

    Looks pretty good? I hope mine turns that good.

  32. JOHN BULLOCK says:

    Jim, nice layout… just the right size for fun. I do like your idea of going back in time. For my layout I have placed individual family members running the various businesses located on the layout. It is surprising to see how seriously children take their new roles in the business world.

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