Model train mountain layouts – Joseph’s

Joseph has been in touch. He’s added to the collection of model train mountain layouts on the blog:

“Hi Al; it has been quite some time since I sent any pix.

As a reminder, this is a freelanced late steam era HO railroad (12’ x 8’) set roughly in Northern New Mexico.

The town is “San Juan Creek”. The main industries are logging/lumber, coal mining and oil distribution.

The local short line is the “San Juan & Central”. Short line locomotives are: 0-6-0 saddle tank switcher and a 2-8-0 freight engine.

The coal mining operation has a 4-6-0 “San Juan Coal” #34. The logging operation has an 0-6-0 with a slope back tender “San Juan Lumber Co.” # 0687.

Back when I began the layout in 2011 I looked at lots of model train mountain layouts. I built it as a modular design because I knew we would be moving at some point. I didn’t think that would be 6 years later.

The layout was built in 4 modules and carefully taken apart for the move in April. Here are some pix of the layout during the process of reassembly of the four modules.

HO scale layout bench

Thankfully, I put leveling screw feet on all the legs as the new shop floor is angled. The former owner was smart to do this as he used to hose out the shop. I won’t be doing that but it was quite a job lining up the 4 modules and getting them all leveled.

I started with the rear 4×8 module leveling it out first. Then I brought in aligned and leveled the two side modules and finally the front module.

model train mountain layouts

Here they are reassembled.

model train mountain layouts


model train mountain layouts

And here is the new backdrop. It was my first try and I really like it!

After I went to all the work of assembly and leveling, I took it all apart so I had better access to parts of the rear of the layout. I started with the rear center module.

model train mountain layouts

Some of the prep work and tools.

model train mountain layouts

This is the west end of the rear center module. I thought I was going to use 1/2″ foam board until I realized it would take forever!

HO scale 12x8

So I switched to the ‘old school’ hard shell construction. I placed printouts of actual pictures I had taken along the “Cumbres & Toltec” in New Mexico and Colorado as “mock-ups”.

Model train mountain layouts:

HO scale 12x8

The pink foam board, however was a good base color for the exposed rock, it came out perfect with a little painting.

HO scale 12x8

Plaster cloth applied and I am checking clearances with the 2-8-4 loco.

model train mountain layouts

Other end (east end) of the center section.

model train mountain layouts

Plaster cloth applied.

DONE with this module. I accidentally discovered a technique for making these sculptamold rocks. As the sculptamold dried, i noticed it looked like an outcropping of rocks so I scrapped it out of the mixing bowl and just “slapped” it on the plaster cloth! With some paint and shading, they look real.

I then moved this module back against the wall and attached the two side modules and front center module.

Landscaping in the next installment.


Next, on to Dave:

“Hi Al, started ( the main thing) about 12 months ago by cutting my garage in half and giving myself a work station then built a baseboard approx 14×9. All was well till I rediscovered some American N gauge I bought on various trips to the US.

Ahh I thought can make a layout for my young grandson. My layout has now been idle for 5 months but the video shows it was all worthwhile and I can’t wait to see his face Christmas Day. It’s 4 ft by 2 ft 6 Ins and a double loop.

Keep up the blog. Will post some pics of my layout when I get it back to reasonably tidy.

Take care

Dave W”

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here – still updated everyday.

A huge thanks to Joseph adding to the model train mountain layouts collection – and to Dave too.

Loved the way Joseph is building that layout – great pics and narrative. His next insallment will be with you next time!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

model train answers

16 Responses to Model train mountain layouts – Joseph’s

  1. Wm althaus says:

    Both layouts are fantastic. Can see both of you really enjoy our hobby and the results show!!

  2. Greg Schaefer says:

    Rain on the backdrop. I love it!

  3. Ronald Arrick says:

    Do you have anything in G scale to view? Like all your articles but left small scale years ago.

  4. Kevin McArdle says:

    Great planning and execution. Wishing you many hours of enjoyment with your layout.

  5. Dangerous Dave says:

    Great show of 2 layouts

  6. Craig Burton says:

    Dave, you are a GREAT Grampa!!! Grandson will Love the layout! Good luck and thanks for sharing! Craig

  7. Great work Joe and Dan! Inspiring me to get back to work.

  8. I have only “O” gauge sets and like to see some layout in this gauge as I am getting ready to build all over again and would like to see some different idea’s . I am looking at an 8 X 12 or 8 x 20 layout. Thank you. Your layouts are great to look at. and the idea’s are great

  9. GT Mills says:

    I am really keyed in to Joseph’s work as I am in the early stages of building a similarly sized, modular, moveable, layout based on 3 each 4×8 tables much as he has successfully done here. My sectional build is to be in 6 modules, including the 3 each 4’x8′ main sections, a drop-in roundhouse & turntable measuring 3’x4′, a front yard and a rear yard. Like Joseph, this is timber, mining and petro transport, with passenger service. Rolling stock collected to date: 0-4-0T shop loco for roundhouse ops; 0-4-0 camel switcher; a pair of 2-6-2 switchers, one for each yard; 2-8-0 Pere Marquette (PM) Consolidated branch liner; PM “Ten Wheeler” (brass); 2-8-4 PM Berkshire flat lands mainliner; 4-8-4 N&W “J” & 5 coaches with a rare, very good replica of the prototype Pocahontas rear observation car w/ interior; 2-6-6-2 C&O; a couple of “Chesapeakes”, one a 2-8-8-2 N&W Y2 I customized from a Rivarossi Y6b, and a very rare, low-flange (can you believe it) “Silver Edition” Rivarossi 2-8-8-2 N&W Y6b; 2-6-6-4 N&W “A”; 4-6-6-4 Clinchfield “Challenger”; 2-8-8-4 (brass) B&0 “Yellowstone”; 2-6-6-6 C&O “Allegheny”, 4-8-8-4 Big Boy; 4-8-8-2 Cab Forward; 4-4-0 “American” with period civil war cars; 3-truck Shay logger; 3 industrial 2-axle gas/diesels for private industrial sidings, a steam HOn30 and a gas HOn30, with various kit bashed and stock mining cars; and last, but not least, a Main Street Trolley. The track plan allows isolated yard ops at both yards, isolated engine house ops including a constant-running loop for the 0-4-0 shunter, or a constant running trolley around the same loop or back-and forth typical trolley ops from town to the passenger station; Constant, seperate running passenger service, logging, narrow-gauge mining, and heavy freight. The mining ops can be converted from coal to ore by changing out the load types and rolling stock. The layout is designed to run a total of 5 constant-running, independent trains including the trolley, as well as the two yard mules making/ breaking car strings, to keep multiple operators busy for a while. A 17′ return loop is hidden on a lower level, no helix. Passenger runs on 30″ minimum radius, while the mountain freights run on 26-30″ min rad. The mining HOn30 runs on gradual 12-into-8″ radii, tested and working great without problems, The Shay will run on a mountainous overlapping double loop interconnected to the main, on 13′ – 18″ radii. The locomotive works oval for the shop engine or trolley is on 15″ rad. I started with the roundhouse & turntable module, and it is 90% complete, just adding finishing touches at this point. It is built on 3/4″ plywood, 3′ x 4′, as I wanted a very heavy, stable, thick platform on which to support the 130′ Walthers remote electric turntable to handle the big articulated locos. This is why it is a seperate drop-in mod which goes within another, much lighter, 4 x 8′ sectional. Since I plan to move in the next couple of years, I need the larger sections to be as light as possible. These will all be made up of 1/4″ sub flooring, a very fine-finished, strong, stable plywood great for cookie-cutting inclines and base which can easily be made rigid with properly spaced, clear 1×3″. I rip down the best 2×4’s I can find for the into 2×2 legs. I am keeping the height down for easier access, and figure if I want to view it from a lower vantage point I can always just take a seat and enjoy. I’d be happy happy to post up a photo of the roundhouse module and track plan if anyone cares to see it.

  10. Robert Brady says:

    dave seems you have a dead spot in your turnout,u might need a jumper on the inside or check rail connection.

  11. JW Snyder says:

    I especially like your foam ribbing reinforcement. Very nice idea!

  12. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Both articles today are terrific and inspiring.
    Dave’s layout for his grandson will have his imagination really fired up. Very nice, I too noticed that the turnout may need some looking into as the train really hops over it. Super job Dave.
    and Joseph thank you so much for sharing, I like it all. The rain cloud caught my attention as well.
    As mentioned already, both layouts are inspiring.
    These keep me “at it”.
    Dick from Hardin Mt USA

  13. Brian Olson says:

    Nice work, appreciate your visually documenting progress as your layout evolves.

  14. Steve Ruple says:

    Both layouts look great, well done.

  15. Don says:

    prefect size layout & well done

  16. robert dale tiemann says:

    2 for the price of one, nice layouts.

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