Narrow Gauge Model Railroad

Bill’s been in touch with his narrow gauge model railroad.

He’s more than made a start – he made a purchase. Still counts! It’s all about having fun:

Some people like the scenery side. Some people like just like running trains. Some like both.

The point is, it’s your layout and your rules…


I am just back from attending the excellent Narrow Gauge Model Railroad Meet held at Harrisburg, PA. This is the second one I have attended and both were instructional and inspirational.

I have been a long time subscriber and reader of your daily blog and have found them to be both entertaining and informative.

Your mantra has always been “Take the first step and get started”. Well, I took my first step albeit a bit larger one than you may have intended, I bought a completed On30 modular railroad at the Meet.

At 75, I have neither the manual dexterity, the eyesight or the ambition to learn the skills necessary to build a layout for myself. This purchase allowed me to have a layout which I can, sooner or later, adapt to my purposes but that I can enjoy and operate in the now.

In the vein of showing pictures, I am enclosing some of mine.

Having this layout has enabled me to take my accumulated On30 equipment off the mantle-piece and put it back onto the track where it belongs.

There are still a couple minor things remaining yet to be completed on the layout like completion of the electric service to the track sections and getting the buildings on the layout to be sceniced into their surroundings but, that will come.

Here are a couple pix taken after I brought my new “baby” home from Harrisburg.

Thanks for being the “Still, Small Voice” that inspires us all every morning.

Bill McCourt
Dover, DE”

on30 turnout shelf layout

Narrow Gauge Model Railroad

Narrow Gauge Model Railroad

on30 shelf layout

Narrow Gauge Model Railroad

And now on to George (who always puts a smile on my face with his post comments)

“Big Al

This is the start of the big guy in the garage and I thought I’d offer a few nuggets for the gallery of train fans to ponder.

I am creating (2) spiral helixes on the left half of an approx. 10 x14 donut shaped layout that will have S scale on the bottom & ON30 on the 2 mountains with the helixes. I am constructing the helixes first on the left half of the donut and see how they run.

The space in the middle is access/operational space and the top of the baseboard will 4 ft off the floor. This is a CAD drawing that is tough to read but I know what’s in it.

While creating the helix, I experimented with a roadbed for HO and S scale that I like and it is Armaflex, 2” wide, 1/8” thick, black, insulating tape at approx. $.60/ ft instead of $1.00/ ft cork.

It has an adhesive back, you stretch it to make the curve, and you’re done. I don’t like cork for some reason. The yellow roll is the tape and is available at Home Depot in the States. If you look carefully the helix track is on it with no thought of how it looks since most of it will be in the mountain.

on30 helix

I made a spiral helix in order to keep the distance between levels the smallest and be able to have a high smokestack loco.

Starting with a 4 ft dia helix and 4” height between tracks you get 2.65 % slope which is more than I like but I cant change the parameters.

You make a spiral by using a spool of thread nailed to the center, a loop at the end of the tread to hold your pencil, and that’s your unwinding compass.

The sketch below- not to scale- exaggerates why I did it that way.

helix diagram

The ON30 theme will be lumber, freight, and ore cars so there will be short and light consists.

We start at elevation 0” and the first crossing must be more than 4” clear for the stack then we keep a steady helix height of 4” between levels to the upper level of 7” elevation.

This old coot with a bum back is taking forever but God willing I’ll send updates.


A big thanks to George and Bill with their narrow gauge model railroads.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing George’s layout unfold over the months (years?), he’s got off to a fab start with a well researched track plan.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

7 Responses to Narrow Gauge Model Railroad

  1. robert dale tiemann says:

    nice layout.

  2. George Zaky says:

    Totally get what you did with your new purchase. I like the layout.
    Looking at the turn outs I think they are electro-frog with switch motors underneath. Are these wired and is the layout DCC? Everything working well?
    Big Al

  3. John Tumolo says:

    Bill-Nice find at the Al Judy On30 Harrisburg meet. It doesn’t matter how big or small, as long as you can run trains, it’s perfect! The On30 meet just gets better and better each year-and Harrisburg is a lot easier to get to than the old show all the way up in Lycoming. The dates for next year’s show are June 7 & 8, 2024.

  4. Rob McCrain says:

    Bill, I applaud you for buying a layout so you can customize it in your own time. It is a win-win. The person who built it gets to enjoy what they do well and then turn it over to someone who just wants to run trains. I build an n scale layout not too long ago and sold it to someone who did not have the time to build one himself. I enjoy building things and he wanted an instant layout. It worked out perfectly. It is a great-looking layout too.
    Rob McCrain

  5. Mike Balog says:

    Hi Bill:
    Nice Idea to start with a Small Pre Built Layout then expand it to what you wish to do afterwards… Are you also an Amateur Radio Operator? Or Shortwave Radio Listener? Looks like either a Hallicrafters or a Collins Radio Receiver in the 5th photo in the right rear of the photo? Am a Model Railroader in HO Scale for 55 yrs and a HAM Radio Operator for over 20 yrs. Started with my Dad in Lionel 027 Gauge and American Flyer S Scale when I was 8 yrs old. Then in High School switched to HO Scale…along with some HOn2-1/2 AHM engines and mine cars,,,,Life Member of the NHRHTA. ~ 73 ~ Mike KB1ELY, in N.H. USA.

  6. Andrew Aves says:

    Hi Bill, I hope your layout lives up to your expectations. I have a friend who did the same as you 9in fact his wife bought it for him) and he now has a load of enjoyment working out different operating sequences.

    One word of warning, there does not appear to be any buffer or protection to stop a locomotive travelling off the end of the track. If not, may I suggest you erect some form of stop to prevent one of your beautiful models rearranging it appearance by impacting with the floor.

    In my experience any loco/train can become jet propelled with one accidental toggle of a switch.

    Best wishes from Down Under
    Andrew in Oz

  7. Tony Cherrington says:

    Some very good ideas and comments. Keep up the good work. Greetings from the U.K.

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