N scale harbor scene

Fred’s been back in touch with his stunning N scale harbor scene.

You’ll remember his stunning layout as soon as you see it.

He hasn’t sent in a narrative, but if you want to get up to speed, his last post is here.

N scale harbor

N scale harbor

N scale harbor

A big thank to Fred for sharing his N scale harbor pics. I can’t wait to see more!

Now on to Robert, who has sent in a good piece on something I’m always going on about: making a start.

“I have been working on a humble N gauge layout that serves two purposes.

It puts a train around our little Christmas tree, and the rest of the year there’s a mountain in the center with a lighthouse on top for the grandkids to amuse themselves with when they visit.

The whole thing sits atop my stereo cabinet. The layout had to be compact and lightweight.

N gauge

1. I started with Styrofoam insulation sheets. I used low-temperature hot melt along the edges to fuse the sheets. The finished foam base is about 2.5 by 5 feet. I outlined where the tracks would fall and sketched the position of the mountain. The inside track is a figure eight, and the outside is an oval with a trestle in front.

N gauge

2. I braced the Styrofoam with furring strips and added squares of furring strips as standoffs to provide space for wiring.

N gauge

3. Next, I laid the track down, proved it with the trains, made adjustments, then glued it down using Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive. The three blocks in the center serve to hold the Christmas tree legs. They also serve to define the outside shape of the mountain.

4. I outlined the shape of the walls of the mountain on cardstock, then broke up chunks of Styrofoam and used them like building blocks, gluing them with hotmelt on top of the cardstock outline. Notice the shoe I made from cardstock to hold the foot of the tree. I did this for two of the three legs.

5. Here you can see a partially completed wall. I numbered each of the wall outlines so I would not confuse where each one went. I then sculpted the wall with a razor blade and covered it with tissue and diluted white glue to make it appear more like rock.

6. After outlining the locations of the walls, I used diluted white glue and toilet paper to add texture to the tunnel floor.

7. Here is a shot of the painted cave floor with the mountain walls glued in place.

8. Next, I cut foam for the tops of the entrances and a center piece for the top of the tunnels or cave. The entrance tops will be glued in place while the center piece is a friction fit.

9. I used tissue to trace the outline of the mountain walls and then cut a sheet of foam to match the tracing.

10. The piece that fits inside the mountain is then glued to the piece that serves as a base for the top of the mountain.

11. Turn the piece over and it fits snugly into the mountain base.

12. I built up the mountain top and prepared it for the lighthouse. The village to the left is Sunnydale, and the village on the right is Forest Falls. Pete’s dragon Elliott is sitting in his cave, anxiously awaiting his apples and a cocktail by the beach. Sunnydale, a happy little cul-de-sac, will have a gondola ride to the top of the mountain.

Much more to do…


A big thanks to Robert and Fred.

Today’s post really does show both sides of a model railroad.

It’s hard to think that at some point, Fred’s layout looked something like Robert’s.

Nothing happens without making that start.

And if today’s the day you start yours, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

29 Responses to N scale harbor scene

  1. Brian Rockey says:

    Absolutely stunning Fred – the achieved depth and detail is just amazing. Premier league!
    Always great to involve the kids at an early age Robert.
    Best to all from Brian, Wokingham UK

  2. john homer says:

    very inprest one of the best ive seen in a long time ,credit to you, and with the sound afects,

  3. Robert Brady says:

    Fred; you are the Man. beautiful scenery Day and Night. One would never know this was N scale. Realistic as heck. BRAVO !
    The Critic

  4. Carl Smith says:

    Thanks, Al, for posting Fred’s stunning layout! He has captured a difficult scene: a big city layout!

  5. Pete Jurofcik says:

    This was truly amazing. This is the first time I’ve ever replied to a display I’ve seen on here. It is so realistic. Great job!!!

  6. John Bullock says:

    Fred… great video showing your animated electric signs. Simply stunning.

    Robert… love the step by step explanations. Some great tips and ideas.


  7. Greg says:

    WOW! These are two amazing posts, Al!! I was the one who was down this week and these two gems just perked me right up. Since I am in the “acquiring” and planning stages of my layout, this gives me hope! Thanks for the service you provide to us out here! Blessings.

  8. James Richards says:

    The MOST amazing layout i have ever seen. So real… your attention to detail is phenomenal. At night and even works in daylight…. fabulous. A keeper for sure.

  9. Charlie Muller says:

    That night-time video is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. the flashing lights and signs, the variety of colors, wow!

  10. Alva Clyde Good says:


  11. James Marek says:

    I have seen many model train videos. Some good, some great, some not so good and some just plain crap. However, I have never seen any better than the night video posted here.

  12. Mike Balog says:

    This is one of two posts from Alastair Lee, that is more than worth your while viewing and Listening to! The modelier’s name is “Fred” here in the USA. He built one of the Best Model RR Layouts I have even seen in my life. Due to the fantastic super details, the lighting and over the top mind blowing sound effects of a Big East Coast City and Harbor Scene… think is 23st Street area in NYC.. In N Scale.. This is truly amazing detailed workmanship and he said in one of the two posts, he built this during the Lockdown of the Pandemic! Click on the “Have a Look, it’s Right Here” in blue. This will take you to the correct page. It also has a link to take you to the original link posted of his layout that was posted prior to this one. You have to see and Hear this to believe it is ONLY an N Scale Model Railroad… he should work for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C. He gets the “Best Model Railroad Layout of All Time Award” if there ever was one! Wonder where Fred bought that Merchant Ship and the Fishing Vessel in the Harbor? And those High Rise Buildings in the City area… just fantastic detail… The main RR Station looks like the Walther’s Union Station N Scale Kit as well as the turntable and roundhouse in the yard trackage below the station area. Wish he also included a layout trackage drawing so we knew where that passenger train came from and where it was headed.. Just Astounding Detail and Sound Effects… Dangerous Dave is even Impressed!!! From Mike in N.H., U.S.A.

  13. Bill Butler says:

    Right down to the runway approach lights and the lighthouse!

  14. Mike schulze says:

    I would generally recommend using insulation board rather than that white foam.
    The insulation board comes in 1″ pink Corning brand and the 2″ blue board.
    Insulation board cuts like butter, stays smooth and you don’t have all those white bubbles all over the place.

  15. Erick says:

    Nice Layout.!!!!

  16. RenSpur says:


  17. George says:

    Fred’s layout reminds me why I would never live in the city. Background effects really add to the atmosphere. Great job . So many light bulbs the mind boggles!

  18. Calvin Kaufmann says:

    That is truly SPECTACULAR!

  19. Glenn Dean Holden says:

    Fantastic- what a piece of art!

  20. Dewey Reinhard says:

    Fred, sets the bar very high with his fantastic layout. I would like to see some details on the lighting in his high rise buildings and in his railroad cars.

  21. Warner Smith says:

    Your layout is out of this world. Wow. The best realistic video I have ever seen. Great inspiration and thank you for sharing.

  22. Fred,

    Let me get in line to tell you what a terrific layout you have. Your imagination and craftsmanship is outstanding. And your cityscape is the best I’ve ever seen.
    You should contact Model Railroad magazine, but most important, tell them that Al sent you and give them his e-address. His dedication to showing layouts of all shapes and sizes should cast in, well, at least RR modeling plaster.


  23. Allan J Jelinek says:

    ONE Word…. WOW !

  24. Jim Vragel says:

    I’m really blown away by the lighting. I didn’t know that was possible in N scale. Well done!

  25. Douglas Palmeri says:

    Really incredible layout – Inspirational

  26. Jim Logue says:

    Wow, spectacular video. I’d only hope my T-Trak layout would look half as good.
    I really like the interchangeable mountain top too tree top.
    Thanks for sharing and inspiring!
    Jim L. now from Fla.

  27. Dennis Koppo says:

    Really like Fred’s addition of ambient sound. Would like to talk with him about that. Is there a way to put us in touch?

  28. George Niosi says:

    Absolutely amazing!

  29. Alistair, could you please ask Fred for more details of his layout. I think we all want to see and know more about it,

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