N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

John’s been in touch – he’s shared pics of his N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars:


Like many things in life, my interest in model railroading started at a very young age. I built 14 different layouts over the years; this is number 14.

As I got further in life after college and getting settled in a career (Industrial Arts teacher) with a steady income, I began building more.

Problem was that after I got a layout built, I’d get transferred or changed jobs, it was a curse. It happened 13 time from my very first HO layout while in middle school.

The current layout was built with my planned retirement in mind. We had a hot tub on our back deck that quit working and it was not worth replacing so we took it out. That left a large open space to the side of the extended deck I built when the hot tub was there.

AS I looked at all the open space now, the extended deck had a three sided five-foot-high privacy fence. I saw if I extended the fence up another 3 feet, close off the front, put a roof on it, instant railroad room!

That’s what I did, closed it in, wired it, insulated it and added air-conditioning (a must have in Florida).

The inspiration came when my wife and I were in Colorado chasing trains and we found ourselves at the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel. We heard a roar in the valley and soon a 110-car coal drag with 3 Denver and Rio Grade SD50s on the front three in the middle, and two at the rear.

Soon the doors to the tunnel opened and the train roared by us at about 8 MPH. It was inspiring, so years later I decided to model the D&RG.

The layout is N-scale and free lanced, with an interchange with the Northern Pacific, no specific years modeled.

I have added a card system (Not in the pictures) for planned scheduled operation and car forwarding.

I use Digitrax DCC. It cost more in the beginning but it is the only way to go. Most of the engines have sound. I have been modeling N-scale since 1970, and some very early Micro-Trains cars are still in service.

I have 6 staging tracks behind the backdrops. I use mirrors in the corners to view the hidden tracks.

Scenery is carved foam with plaster cloth over the forms with rock castings.

I made many of the castings by pouring plaster into crumpled aluminum foil.

The mass of trees was done by taking fiber-fill material, rolling small balls, soaking in diluted white glue, then rolling in different shades of ground foam. A very fast way to cover large areas.

Edges of the forest was accomplished by taking strips of lichen and soaking and applying ground foam.

Still lots to do, but one step at a time.

I tried not to make the layout a bowl of spaghetti tracks and separate the scenes so you focus on one part at a time. The concept of less is more.

As it turns out, I retired but came back as a contractor with the school district to direct an Aerospace/Aviation program. I am a pilot and started a high school program 20 years ago.

The school district wanted to expand the program and wanted me to head it up. So, my railroading time is limited.

What is nice is that the room is tight and sealed, so I can close the door, run the dehumidifier and not worry about anything. It stays dry and clean.

Build sequence:

building N scale room

building N scale room

building N scale room

building N scale room

n scale track

n scale turntable

n scale bridge

model railroad trees

N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

N scale coal factory

N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

N scale hobo camp

n scale track layout

N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

n scale bridge

n scale track

N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

I have enjoyed monitoring your e-mail ideas.


Sebring, Florida, USA”

A huge thanks to John for sharing his N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars, they are fabulous pics.

There is something very satisfying about seeing a layout right from the very start – and what a train room too.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And please don’t forget the The Beginner’s Guide if you are tired of dreaming and want to start doing.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More N scale layouts here if that’s your thing.

38 Responses to N Scale Northern Pacific Freight cars

  1. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Really nice layout. Well done.

  2. James Marek says:

    Excellent job! Enjoyed looking through your photos.

  3. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Some good ideas in this script that look great on the layout.

  4. NJ Mark says:

    Nice train room and layout. I’ll bet you spend more time with your model railroading than you did in the hot tub. Cheers! NJ Mark

  5. Macbear says:

    Loved the 7th image. Never seen bears on a layout before. Overall, a great layout, not overdone.

  6. Dwight in Markham says:

    One of the nicest layouts seen to date on this sight. It looks like a professional club construction, and I couldn’t agree more about the “less is more” design constraint. Had to smile at the turntable and roundhouse … how often that Atlas kit shows up on our N scale pikes, because it’s pretty much the only offering out there! Very nicely done.

  7. Cary B says:

    Beautiful layout, love the way it flows into the curves. Very well done indeed

  8. george zaky says:

    Great man cave. Awesome creativity and execution. Thanks for the tips
    George from NY

  9. TJK says:

    Great job…..
    Jealous of that room….

  10. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Very Nice layout!!! Way to go!! Trains before a HotTub!

  11. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Very nice Layout wat to go!! Well Done!

  12. Thanks, everyone for the kind comments, there was a typo in the text, 11 layouts, not 111, lol
    The next step is to put the skirting around the layout. Becky my wife is working on that.
    One of the things I did, that is not shown is all the control panels are hinged at the bottom so they fold down to access the wiring. The Digitrax controls are wireless so I can walk around and follow the trains.

  13. dewaine says:

    cool great job

  14. Great job! I’m working on a small n scale layout. I’m a retired Industrial Arts Teacher. Heuvelton, NY/Umatilla, FL

  15. John says:

    Beautiful John,
    Is the ballast color prototypical to the SP? I just tried a material called Aragonite on a small section of track, which is used for fish tanks. (I think it is basically crushed Florida coral). Looks similar to your color. My scale is HO, and this material looks great due to the multiple sizes of granules, right out of the bag. Has anyone ever seen or tried this material? Thanks

  16. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. You certainly are a dedicated modeler with a well thought through plan and great scenes. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  17. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Great layout……. love the detail scenery, especially the campers……..

  18. Doug says:

    Terrific layout. And, a great idea on how to use space.

  19. dondh says:

    Great layout! Good job! Lots of nice variety!

  20. Kevin McArdle says:

    John, wonderful job, great layout. Could you explain how you mounted the fascia around the layout, and what material you used. It looks great, and adds a great finished look

  21. DJfromNJ says:

    Great job, well done! Very few peeps get an opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper (no constraints). Keep up the good work.

  22. Wow what a great layout you’ve got a lot of hard into
    It,and it shows

  23. Robert Brady says:

    I like your idea ,love your mountain tunnel the shame is it isn’t HO.nice construction job on your he shed though.
    The Critic

  24. Jim Snoke says:

    This is an excellent example of a balance between realistic trackwork, scenery, buildings, and benchwork construction. John is a true craftsman. I hope to do as well with my final layout.

  25. Hi John – and kudos to you for your long time commitment to the hobby and the no-holds-barred drive to see a project to its finish. You did not just commit to making a layout, you had to first envision a place to house it and then erect it. That reflects a passion for model railroading. The layout design is well thought out and well executed. Good luck with it. – Arnie, Staten Island, NY

  26. Will in NM says:


    Your industrial arts background is very evident in the quality of your train room and the construction of the actual layout. Everything is neat and organized. I really appreciated seeing the steps from hot tub deck to finished train room. Two things would make the photos more meaningful for me: the size of the train room and a track plan of the layout. I will look forward to seeing your future progress, since a layout in never really finished, right? 🙂 I also wouldn’t mind seeing a video of some trains running on your layout if you have the capability to make one.

  27. Herman Crauwels says:

    I agree with Jim Snoke butt i like to now wat ar de dimensions of de shed and of dar is a plan fromde layout with dimensions?
    HC Treintje Belgium Herman C.

  28. Rob McCrain says:

    A very wonderful well planned and executed layout. You are a skilled carpenter as well.

  29. Michael Day says:

    John, a splendid layout, beautifully executed!. I note reference to doors of the tunnel opening and I’ve never seen doors on a tunnel except during World War 2 when London’s Northern Line tube under the River Thames had doors which closed on either side of the river when German bombers were in the vicinity, and during the blitz when people would sleep on the tracks and platforms as air raid shelters. Because of Covid-19 we’re in a lake cottage (without my 00 layout) and am busy with a very fine 1000-piece History of Trains (actually locomotives) jigsaw puzzle which includes the thundering Union Pacific Big Boy and other massive US locos, contrasting with the LNER and LMS locos which used to take me to school!

  30. Chris Sylvester says:

    Great job that’s an awesome job !!! Thanks for sharing Chris

  31. Harold Payne says:

    Nice layout John.
    However, from a prototype perspective the NP did not link up with the
    D&RG. The Western Pacific did.
    The NP linked with the Great Northern, Spokane,Portland & Seattle and the Southern Pacific and the Milwaukee Road.
    I have just started working on a layout that includes these plus the Seattle
    North Coast..
    Hope this info helps.

  32. Rich B. says:

    Like this, reminds me of the Pennsy layouts the lobsterman (can’t think of name now) built and featured in MR from 1990’s. Good work on building, haven’t seen fire stops in walls for ages. Not sure if that is 2×4 framing or less dimensions with addition, wiring- another topic. I’m horrible at carpentry but all else involved piece of cake you might say.

    Regards, Rich

  33. zatara says:


  34. MITCH says:

    When you get a chance, could you supply the dimensions of your layout and a track plan? I enjoy getting pictures of layouts but would really enjoy seeing the layout diagram so I can place the pictures.

  35. Bill Holt says:

    Fabulous John, good job !

  36. Dennis C Fresch says:

    I live in Sebring/Lake Placid. I’d love to see this in person. My ‘N’ scale has been in boxes for about 10 years. Been racing with SCCA instead.

  37. robert dale tiemann says:

    really nice layout. love the train house/ turnarouund. thats a big one, nicely done.

  38. Greg Marples says:

    I want to move my 20’ x10’ “L” shaped layout from my shop which is in a large basement room in a commercial building I own to my house now that I have retired, but I don’t have any rooms it will fit in (unless my wife moves out, then the living room or dining room would work for me😉). Your separate little train room might be the perfect answer. Just build the building to fit the layout! Mines due east of yours on the UP in Kansas. Love the open design, adds so much realism.

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