N scale oil refinery

Fred’s been in touch with an update on his N scale oil refinery:

“Hi Al –

While I have more stuff and pictures I could share, the problem with my layout is that parts of it are so inaccessible that I have to disassemble sometimes in order to go further. I won’t bore you… just can’t show what I’ve accomplished yet.

I have made progress with my oil refinery, though, so will share that with the group. Thank heaven for Shapeways – I got lots of N Scale details like condensing stacks, ladders, staircases, that I couldn’t possibly have made in N Scale!

Anyhow….the new frontier I’ve been investigating for my layout is sound. Unwilling to stop at the “sound modules” commercially available, I created my own sound tracks, using commercially available sound effects and “ambience” footage, and edited them in Apple’s “Garageband.”

Each is 8 – 10 minutes long, and loops, so that it starts all over again. I have spent hours, experimenting with the acoustics of my layout and diorama enclosure, and have placed 18 hidden speakers throughout, to give a sense of locus to the appropriate background noise as you wander about my layout. The speakers, (which range from 3” multipurpose to 3/4” electronics speakers the thickness of a coin) in turn, are wired to small stereo amplifiers – (Pyle 120W and Winter MA170).

n scale oil refinery

Oil refinery

n scale rock crusher

Oil refinery and rock crusher

n scale bill board

N scale billboard with a speaker inside it (the size of a coin) for roadside sound effects.

n scale fright

Heavy industry near freight yard

n scale oil refinery

Oil refinery.

For the sound track playback and recording, I used several Sony ICD PX370 hand held voice recorders. They have their own built in USB connecters, and like all Sony equipment are easy to use, reliable, and able to store MP3 files of considerable size. As usual, I went overboard, with almost a dozen soundtracks, both for overall ambience and isolated “event” or “location” sound effects.


(I know the video is very small – but there’s nothing I can do about that – sorry.)

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A big thanks to Fred for sharin his N scale oil refinery – can’t wait to see his full update – what a layout!

(Here’s a load more N scale layouts if you’re after them.)

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here, if you want to stop dreaming, and start doing.



38 Responses to N scale oil refinery

  1. STEVE says:

    wow, all i can say is, long long did it take with lights, bldgs.,
    and scenery ??? great job.

  2. Norman Geuder says:

    That is amazing!! I have never seen an industrial layout.
    The sound is so realistic also.
    I do not have a layout, I had a simple one as a kid. I am an affectionado
    only at this point. This is about the finest example of a city layout I have seen
    And I have the Museum of Science and Industry, here in Chicago!

  3. James Marek says:

    WOW 😃 How nice!

  4. Michael Ilkenhons says:

    Wow… it is impossible to take it all in… but the sounds of the city takes the very realistic looking layout even higher. One shot in particular looked as if you were in New York or Chicago on a busy night. Superb work….

  5. Mark Knowles says:

    I’m blown away, what a superb layout and the sound and lighting really brings it to life. I love the flashing lighthouse in the background giving some perspective.

  6. That is some layout Fred has built there , fantastic the only word …Dangerous dave

  7. Terry, Fleet, Old Hampshire says:

    Now this is an aspect of modelling that I had not considered. The effect is stunning. Very well done.
    The weathering on your structures is well observed and adds so much, locally to me many older buildings (some dating back to the Normans) show a variation in tones due to the prevailing winds, that is from the south west.
    Overall a joy to look at AND hear.

  8. RITA DUCK says:


  9. NJ Mark says:

    What a grand layout. Really wonderful sights and sounds! Cheers! NJ Mark

  10. Beautifully done–one of the best I’ve seen

  11. John Birch says:

    Fantastic detail and sound. Brilliant!

  12. Malcolm hodgson says:


    That is an exceptional layout. The amount of detail is incredible for any gauge let alone N gauge! I love the colour action too. Very lifelike. I think you have out done dangerous Dave!
    Where did you get or how did you make those scrolling signs like the Hotel Neon?

    Must see more.

    North Wales

  13. JOHN ROUSCH says:

    Outstanding detail!
    Thanks for sharing

  14. Jonathan Scott says:

    Fred, thanks for sharing. Simply brilliant. I would love to see another video with the sound on, but please also show your trains running!!!!

  15. Erick says:

    Nice Layout!!

  16. Rob McCrain says:

    I have seen a lot of layouts and built a few myself, but something about this one blows me away. So much detail, well planned, and a great variety of exciting scenes. I award this layout best of the year for 2020. Fred, fabulous effort here. Well done, Rob McCrain – Farland Howe

  17. John Hauser says:

    Fantastic job! Your model of 23rd street in NYC brings back memories. Directly opposite the Flat Iron Bldg ( triangular bldg) was the head quarters of the A.C. Gilbert , American Flyer electric train display , S gauge, and a block over from that was Lionel HQ, where an entire floor of that bldg. was an enormous layout. A youngsters dream, all within a few blocks in the 1950’s.

  18. Bob from MI and AZ says:

    A superb job on a great layout so far, and the sounds you’ve captured sure beats the usual engine sounds of the standard packages! You should patent and go into business!

  19. Tony, Kitty Hawk, NC says:

    Amazing- I hope we get to see a lot more! One of the many details that stands out is that the vehicles have lights- and in N scale! Fantastic.

  20. Roland says:

    One great awesome layout!

  21. george zaky says:

    Outstanding! Top of the charts.
    George from LI NY

  22. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Fred………awesome….the oil refinery and the city scenes are fantastic……..but the one touch I loved and don’t know why we never have seen before was the TRAFFIC ON THE BRIDGE…….what a great touch especially with the sound………we have all been stuck in traffic.

    Great layout…..nice work.

  23. Mike Matejka says:

    The layout itself is incredibly impressive — all the lighting, auto lights, etc in N scale! Sound adds just another incredible dimension. Well done!

  24. Fred – You’ve rendered an amazing accomplishment in N scale. The detailing is impeccable; especially in the industrial settings where weathering and appropriate color and shading balances are critically executed. Did you use fiber optics in the far background of the evening city street scene? The lighting alone would require an immense amount of time and wiring/electronic tedium. Truly a museum quality layout creation. GREAT JOB! — Arnie, Staten Island, NY

  25. Awesome layout!!

  26. DJfromNJ says:

    What a piece of work. This is as close to “real” as any I’ve ever seen. Fred’s sound effects put is over the top. Can’t wait to see more like – as that workmanship raises the bar to all modelers.

  27. Ben says:

    I cannot describe how impressed I am. This is outstanding. One of the finest – maybe the finest – I have ever seen. Wow!

  28. Gary Gonska says:

    Mind bending realism. Would love it if you would do a listing of the lights used (model numbers and where you got them); especially the lights used in the refinery on the stacks. Again I have seen a lot of good layouts and ideas here, but have never been so impressed. Definitely bookmarking this one

  29. What can I say that everyone else hasn’t already said? So real & lifelike. They are right abt one thing, you can’t just watch the video once bc there’s too much to see and take in! The oil refinery lights are off the chart! The placement was perfect! If my layout is only half as good as Fred’s layout, I will be a happy man. I would love to see more of Fred’s layout and maybe even a longer video with the lights on and off! I will be waiting for it, Fred. Does anyone know if Fred has a website or youtube footage of his layout?

  30. Richard Low says:


  31. Victor Koyano says:

    That looks like a big downtown. Typical of American cities. Hmm, are the store windows covered with plywood boards?🤔

  32. Joseph Boyle says:

    AWSOME night time in industry has a lot of lighting. I worked in a steel mill and oil storage place and night time is sort of magical with all the lighting. It is a little tough to model but you have done it right.

  33. Fred Gevalt says:

    Many thanks to all of you for your kind compliments – motivation in a grim pandemic to get back to work with renewed energy!

    For those asking about lighting: almost 90 % of my lights I made myself, with possible exception of street lights on main city street. Backgrounds use mainly fiber optics, modeled light locations use “pico” (or”z”) size LEDs from Evansdesigns.com. They are mostly 2-3 volt, although I have been able to use them with Woodland Scenics “Just Plug” lighting distribution boxes, so that every single light can be adjusted! Having said that, strings of similar lights in subsections of the layout have been wired together for a single connection on the “light hubs” so that they can be dimmed or raised as a group. The urban backdrops that feature buildings and lots of lit fenestration (windows) were fashioned out of plexiglass sheet. I spray painted the front side with metallic silver paint, then a coat of flat black, then painted the buildings on top in acryllic and latex. Using LEDs both on the edge of the sheet, or on backside, where I wanted specific lighting, brighter lighting, etc. I basically turn the whole backdrop into a luminescent sheet. After scraping away the paint on top of the rendered high rise building, window by window, the light shines through. And having connected these all to “Light Hub” dimmers, I can adjust the brightness accordingly, scrape off more paint, or add some back. For street lights or something really bright, sometimes I drilled a hole in the plexi and added an LED in back. A lot of this work had to be done in my shop with the lights off!


  34. Frank Vazquez says:

    That’s very, very cool. I love those store signs flashing and then with the lighting and sound it’s like watching a movie. Oddly I thought of “Blade Runner” with the busy city, full of lights and sounds and people bustling about in the movie.

    I loved the honking sounds breaking through all the industrial noise.

  35. tony foster says:

    Great Layout!!!. Fred your lighting and sound is remarkable. Fantastic work.
    Enjoyed watching your video.

  36. Chris Sylvester says:

    Wow!!! That’s a great job with the sound of the city in the background pullsmthe layout together very cool!!!

  37. Norman Rosen says:

    If I hadn’t watched the video, I would not have believed it. Congratulations, excellent job. Incredibly realistic.

  38. Mike Balog says:

    Hi Fred: Your Layout with it fantastic details, and unbelievable realistic lighting and especially sound effects is one of the best Model Railroad Layout I have ever seen in my 70 yrs, in any scale of gauge. Especially since you model in N Scale, it is mind boggling as to the attention to detail you have done and outdone yourself with the night lights of a Big City, the Sounds of the traffic, the wail of the police or ambulance siren in the background and the traffic on that bridge. Just an outstanding job.. you must have spent countless hours designing and building this layout. Wish you had displayed the track plan so we could understand where that passenger train came from and where it is going. Just Outstanding.. You should work for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C… Am sharing this email with all my buddies to admire too. ~ Mike in N.H. U.S.A.

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