Building a N scale train layout

Mel’s been in touch – he’s been building a N scale train layout:

“Hi Al,

I’ve been following your posts for quite some time and have enjoyed the brilliant idea contributions from you and your horde of followers.

I’ve been modeling in N gauge on and off from 1970.

My current layout began seven years ago when I retired to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania across the pond.

I’m seeking any responses to the pictures of my layout to confirm/deny my “good work.”

Thanks for keeping a hobby alive in this age of I-phones, I-pods and other wastes of one’s time.


Building a N scale train layout

Building a N scale train layout

Building a N scale train layout

Building a N scale train layout

Building a N scale train layout

Building a N scale train layout:

model railroad

model railroad

“Hi Al,
There are so many well built layouts thru out the world it seams, both here in the U.S. and overseas, that the builder or builders have put in so much time building and making the scenes so real and literly an exact copy of the area or towns that it was built to represent, yet the one thing that it seems the builders neglect to do to really make the layout look real, is to weather the cars, scenery, buildings, tressels, streets, etc.!.

The buildings look like they were just painted or built—-the streets look like the cement was just layed, the rail cars look like they just came from the factory that had built them, the same way w/th autos, trucks, construction equipt. etc.etc. ..

I do not have the skill to begin to build a good layout, and sure haven’t the talent to weather everything on the layout, so I give them credit where is due, but everything would look so much real w/weathering !

Just my 2-cents worth.

Jack in Tn”

And Hall of Fame member Dave has been in touch again:

“Hi Al ..had a good day upon the Moors to day ..some great steam Loco`s running …



A big thanks to Dave and Mel for his take on building a N scale train layout.

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.

53 Responses to Building a N scale train layout

  1. Brian Messenger says:

    In reply to Jacks comment about “new” and “weathered” layouts. I totally agree with him BUT there are a lot of very well done layouts that are nicely weathered in all aspects. If Jack were to look back at some of the posts here, (mine included) he would see this. I am a great believer of every thing must be weathered (except for showroom vehicles of course).
    My 5 cents worth (inflation)😄
    Brian, HOn3 🚂 modeler – Knysna, South Africa

  2. Eric says:

    Great scenery Mel the hills almost look real, look forward to seeing the completed layout.

    Eric (Leeds) UK

  3. Roy Perkin says:

    Hi Mel
    It’s looking like you are doing great work, but without these “wastes of times” probably most of the members would not be viewing this fantastic web site.
    Regards and keep up the great modelling.
    HO Ontario CANADA

  4. Rod Mackay says:

    Although I do weather my British stock, I haven’t done so with the Italian stock as this is relatively high resale value stuff and I’m less sure that people are willing to pay more for such “improvements” in the continental market and, since no-one locally is into Italian modelling, it might leave my executors with a problem trying to find a home for it via e-Bay or whatever. Italian stock, being mostly electric-hauled, is in any case cleaner than our steam-era stock was, but they do have a serious grafitti problem over there, I’ve put a bit on buildings but not on the trains.

  5. Simon says:

    Hi mel, the first photo is fantastic and looks…. well…… real. A very convincing build.

  6. ted grimm says:

    Also adding people doing things as well would look more real

  7. steve says:

    Well Done Mel ,
    keep up the good work
    Steve , Sarver Pa

  8. Ismail Farid says:

    I envy the time you have to spend on such a great project. Love your sceneries. I have both N and HO scale trains, but when scratch building structures, my eyes just go “wonky” when working on N scale. Keep up the great work.
    Ish from Kansas

  9. Mike Pettruzzelli says:

    Right on Mel….Looking good…Like the SW desert rock formations…Keep up the good work…Mike

  10. Randy Hinke says:

    nice lay out. Got my train fever going again. Randy from Oregon

  11. Bill says:

    Mel, NICE JOB!, and geologically well detailed. You’ve given me some ideas for landscaping my layout.

  12. Richard Chapple Sr says:

    I really like the first photo Mel and the other photos as well. A look of spaciousness. Very well done Mel

  13. Keith - USA says:

    Weathering is a must for reality, but I can understand the thought of preserving the value of a car or engine. I find that using artist’s chalk works well as there are a multitude of colors, and if after you have used it and don’t like it, it can easily be wiped off.

  14. Great video. Thanks

  15. Lewis Gaiser says:

    very nice N scale layout
    Loved the vidio at the end!

  16. Darrin Peterson says:

    nice job like the videos

  17. mark st john says:

    excellent layout
    really nice detail
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  18. Dave Fairfull says:

    Your layout is coming along very well Mel!
    Dave you have made another very good video. Beautiful, and the colours too.
    Dave F
    Elora, Canada

  19. Steve Iredale says:

    I think what you have going is very nice. It takes hours and hours of time and money.
    Will post some updated pics of my lay out. Weathering is great I think the color
    chalk is the best, like somebody wrote. Some people have better skills time and money imagination. This is why this site is up and running THANKS AL !! Keep it up Mel. Stay safe while working on the lay out. Best Steve S. Cal

  20. Joseph Lurker says:

    Looking good Mel!

  21. dave says:

    NICE !!! One day I will get time to build/finish my G out door garden RR TOO many big construction jobs now !! but will help finance it !!

  22. Ray Suckling says:

    Hi Mel, the layout does look good and I do like the way you have done the overhead bridge but could you please include a track plan to give some idea of how all the pictures fit together. Ray………..

  23. Dan says:

    I like your layout. I am working in N scale myself and, first, just want to get up and running, which it is, then landscape it, and, lastly, after everythingis OK. weather everything, which is what I think you have in mind.
    My layout is the Salt Lake Route featured in MRR mag with a lot of expansion of area and track. I plan on beginning landscaping soon. Weathering is later. I also plan on having 2 eras, early diesel and steam, modern diesel by changing the buildings and running stock with the engines as needed for different periods. I just want to have fun and enjoy. I will make it up as I go.

  24. walt emerson says:

    Mel, you did a great job on your layout, wish i had that talent! walt

  25. Larry Cowden says:

    I agree, weathering is a key element in creating believable cars, engines and scenery. Go take some pictures of local engines, cars, trestles, and such. Study them and see how weather has affected them. Take some old worn out cars and try to imitate the effects with paint and sprays.
    On the photos, high angle shots do little to impress a viewer unless the angle can portray depth and a sense of a story. Lower angle works better. Play with shutter aperture, speed and lighting more. Take a basic course locally on it and practice, practice, practice! If using a DSLR, invest in a good macro lens!

  26. Ronald says:

    Enjoyed seeing the great work. My feeling is to do what you like and if you are happy with it, than that is all that matters. Also was pleasantly surprised when I read that you retired to Bethlehem Pa because I was born and reared there. Thank you for posting the pics, it is always great to see others imagination at work.

  27. allan says:

    hi all I know there are those among us modellers who must have everything just so but my 5cents worth says hey that’s ok but as for me I am not interested in building a layout that is true to life merely one that my kids will be happy to enjoy so my only goal is a layout that follows one theme and one railway line eg great northern set around a rural depot with grain bins and a freezing works and so all good to those going after an authentic look but hey all good to those that just want to run trains too and too not all of us are good at landscaping
    thanks allan

  28. Marcus Reynoso says:

    Love it

  29. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great layout in progress weathering is a craft on its own and I am not in to it keep the trains rolling. nice video Dave thanks for sharing what you like outside your loft layout.

  30. NJ Mark says:

    Mel, The scenery is fantastic. I love seeing everyone’s stuff. It all inspires me. I just need the time. Cheers! NJ Mark

  31. Clint H. says:

    I loved the video Dave, thanks.
    I think you are doing a great job on your layout. I really appreciate you sharing it with all of us.
    Thanks for this site. I enjoy all of the pics and comments. It has renewed my obsession. I have a HO layout and I am just starting a z scale layout. I have collected trains since I was 7 years old and I am 57 now. I have G, O, HO, N and I got started with Z scale when I was stationed in Germany. I have been more of a collector than modeller, now I want to be a modeller so this site with everyone’s imput is very important to me, so thanks again Al and the rest of you.
    Crazy collector Clint
    Wilmington Ohio

  32. Martin J. Payne says:

    Like what is see. Keep doing what you are doing. Take care.

  33. Good work. Nice to see you have “talent” what we do for the “love of railroading”.

  34. Nice work. Keep doing what you are doing on your layout.

  35. idris dixon says:

    Hi Mel, I love your tunnel approach into the hill side, one can just imaging a train bursting into view as it comes out of the tunnel, just like the real thing
    Keep up the good work
    Idris, Pencoed S.Wales

  36. Ron Hart says:

    Layouts looking great.

  37. Chuck Beardsley says:

    you have done a great job on your layout. Thanks for sharing it to us..
    as far has I am concern, every thing was new at one time. keep it up on your hobby.

  38. Rich B. says:

    No kidding, for the first micro-second I thought 1st picture was an actual outdoor scene. Then wait- it’s the railroad; early in the morning here too. Good to spray ballast, grass etc with Elmers glue watered down and will keep those isolated boulders in place.

    Regards, Rich

  39. Ed 'Zook' says:

    Your work is very good and I compliment you on your neatness! I, too, model in N-Scale (was an avid builder in HO dioramas). I hope to display some images soon for those that might wish to replicate parts of. Keep up the good work!

  40. ANDY FL, USA says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for the excellent video, especially the sounds. I haven’t heard a steam loco in a few years and the sounds of the wheels over the track joints remind me of many years ago, before welded rail.

  41. Mike Childs says:

    Mel – Good looking layout. Hopefully we’ll see the finished product some time in the future. Jack – you’re right about the weathering although it seems there are more weathered layouts/cars than unweathered. And last but not least – Dave does it again. Those are beautiful videos of the various trains. You can always be counted on to provide the entertainment. Thanks.

  42. Mel;
    Very nice layout, indeed, even if you are from Bethlehem…LOL, great towns up there, Allentown, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. So where are those tractor-trailers going as they take the curve? Well done.

    To Dave, thanks for the trip. We were at the Moors last night, digitally in a Hercule Poirot mystery and I sware I saw him tip his hat as one of your engines went by. Enjoyable stuff.

    MN Dan

  43. Robert Brady says:

    MEL: Great ballasting job, love it.
    The Critic

  44. Ruud de Sterke says:

    Hi Mel,

    I understand you are looking for approval. I can say it is a nice layout. But in the end it is you who decides whether you like it or not, whether you enjoy working on it and playing with it or not.
    Every person his his/her own goals with a layout. Mine would be different than yours. That does not make one better than the other. I just make other choises and set other priorities.

    Keep on the joy.

    Kind regards,

    Ruud (DRGbaan)

  45. Marklin ed says:

    Reading the comments today shows the wide wide world of model railroading like to see where everyone is from. Great stuff, firm believer of weathering.
    Ed Cairo NY

  46. Will in NM says:

    You’ve made a great start on your N scale layout. I especially like the terraced mountain landforms that look like the mesas of southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Your tunnel and mountain are also well done: the mountain is substantial enough to justify the tunnel (unlike some tunnels that look like they’re going through a gumdrop mountain barely larger than the tunnel.) I’d love to see your track-plan so I’d have a better idea of where each photo fits into the overall scheme.

    What a beautiful video of the moors area. The flowers are so lovely and all the better for a goodly showing of steamers. My wife and I have discussed making a trip to the UK but both of our passports are expired and it’s taking a very long time these days to acquire new ones. Your videos are the next best thing to being there. Thanks for sharing!

    Thank you for all the work that goes into making this website possible. It must truly be a labor of love. Keep up the great work!

    Will in New Mexico

  47. Erick says:

    Good workmanship; But would like to see more. I hope mine turns out that good.

  48. Tony Kitty Hawk, NC says:


    Great work-keep us updated on your progress!

    As far as Jack’s comment on weathering- it is an age old question. The problem with weathering is that it isn’t that easy, and once you start, your entire layout needs to be weathered, and that involves a lot of time-and skill. Personally, I have chosen not to weather, but I do use a technique that I picked up from a model train club I used to belong to. Every item on the layout, buildings, rolling stock, people etc. is given a coat of dull coat. Although not exactly weathering, this takes away the brand-new looking glossy finish. The result is subtle, but effective.

  49. Ken of Lakewood Shores says:

    Very nice. Looking great. Time and effort well spent.

  50. Charles Eyster says:

    As always, a pleasure to open your morning email Al!
    Mel, you have done a super “good job” in you scenery attempts. It’s obvious that there will be more to come. I do have a question of you and the group.
    I noticed that your rails are nicely done with uniform gravel. Did you consider “rusting” the rails with weathering? And maybe to the group, is this done after ballasting is done or before? Before laying the track permanently (nailed or tacked down)?

    As usual, a great video in the moor! 👍

    Have a great evening all!

  51. Steve Ruple says:

    I just love to see Dave’s videos on the live steam railway in the U.K. I wish that I had the money to travel to the U.K. to see them in person. Dave please keep sending the videos of the live steam railway. Thank you for sharing these awesome videos.

  52. robert dale tiemann says:

    very realistic. good job.

  53. bill palmer says:


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