N scale shelf layout – Peter’s

Peter’s been in touch with his N scale shelf layout:

“Hey Al . . .

For what it’s worth, here’s a small layout (narrow gauge) I built some years ago to show:

(a) You don’t have to have much space
(b) you don’t have to spent heaps on the hobby to have fun
(c) you don’t have to have a huge skill(s) base

to get something that works – and to enjoy yourself as a modeller.

Another thing most modellers – or those contemplating modelling a working layout – shd think about is building a small diorama to test their skills and ideas.

And, if nothing else, such a diorama can act as a photo ‘stage’ for models. This one is a little over 300mm (1ft) long.

This is a small one I built several years ago . . . I wanted to see how Woodland Scenics rock moulds wd work if I used plaster (very heavy results I would not attempt again on a portable layout!).

I also wanted to see how:

(a) realistic Micro Engineering N scale track could be made to look
(b) local (to my area) ballast could be made to look in such a small scale
(c) teased green carpet fibres could be used to model realistic railside undergrowth (I mixed this with the usual Woodland Scenics materials


(d) my models stacked up under the glare of close-up camera work (some are fully finished, and I was also testing some simple air-brushed weathering techniques).

Some of these models are Micro Trains, some are NSW rolling stock kits, some – like the tank cars – are scrap-box hand-me-downs I bought for a pence at second-hand stalls), and many are fitted with Intermountain trucks. The tank cars are designed to be extra fuel carriers for the locos.

Hope these help.



N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout

N scale shelf layout



What a fantastic little project! Thanks to Peter for sharing his N scale shelf layout.

Just goes to show that you don’t need a lot of space to enjoy making a 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 N scale layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

41 Responses to N scale shelf layout – Peter’s

  1. Anthony Morris says:

    Sheer ART… Well Done.

  2. Ron Schultz says:

    wow He can be proud of the work he put into this little scene so real . Just a super job. I dont have any scenery on this lates lay out I made other than the buildings and the backdrops in some areas Well I did keep and reuse the “mountain “coal mine from the last 2 layouts . gives me a lot of switch moves and car movement – empties in loads out .

  3. Dave DeCarlo says:

    I keep trying, I hope to make rocks look as good(great) as yours. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Dave Luber says:

    Beautiful rock races. Some of the most realistic looking that I have ever seen. Great job!.

  5. David Scott says:

    Oh it is N gauge, I couldn’t tell so that shows just how good it is.

    David and Katie.

  6. Mike D says:

    Just brilliant, a great job well done!
    You said that you used Woodlands Scenic rock moulds and plaster and wouldn’t do it again because it’s too heavy; those rocks look pretty darn real to me, no wonder its heavy!
    Mike D

  7. nice little diorama…and a great way to enjoy making layout stuff without time space and limited funds..
    the rock faces are priceless…Im ordering my own set of Woodlands Scenic rock moulds today, myself…

  8. Bill says:

    Very nice scenery work, your rock formations look real!

  9. Martin Wood says:

    Well that makes my rock faces look very mediocre. Well done!

  10. C.J. May says:

    This will help me, on my modular layout I have about the same size modules and have to be creative and this is going to help.

  11. Paul Brady says:

    Excellent rock faces, very inspirational

  12. Ralph says:

    Excellent work Peter especially difficult to achieve in N scale. To reduce the weight of rock moulds you can press Styrofoam fillers into the mould to reduce the volume of plaster. The foam will preserve the structural strength but reduce the weight.

  13. paul Otway says:

    hey Pete you have done a great job.

  14. Chris says:

    Excellent rock faces. I’m working on a small mountain, myself, so I’m anxious to see good examples to help my work along. Yours is definitely well-done. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Tom says:

    Liked the detail work on the coal cars and the rock formation is fantastic well done!

    thanks Al

  16. bob says:

    great work, do you have a picture of the layout all together with the trains running?thanks, bob,

  17. great rock work. you need to do a how to now . well done. nice job.

  18. Rick says says:

    I also model n-scale and I’m amazed at the amount of detail you have packed into a one foot space. I’d like to see more/

  19. Roland Burch says:

    Well done!!!!

  20. Steve R says:

    Brilliant job, probably the most realistic ‘n’ gauge scenery I have ever seen. I hope I will be able to be close to it on my layout when I statrt doing the scenery

  21. Ishvara says:

    I was wondering about engie repair, I have three that have quite working does any one out there know of some one who is reliable?
    I have been enjoying all the layouts I am just a beginner 😉

  22. Joe Wright says:

    Excellent depiction of rocks along the side of the tracks

  23. Al says:

    Excellent, but please don’t call this a “layout”. Diorama or modular scene is more appropriate.

  24. John Birch says:

    Fantastic. Beautiful

  25. james says:

    The August issue of Model RailRoader magazine has an excellent article on building a practice diorama on a 1×8 piece of select grade pine. It’s written by Lance Mindheim. The article covers six basic skills you can learn. I’m building a 4×6 foot HO layout to hone my skills before I can hopefully build an around the walls type layout in my basement rec room. I think it pays to keep a log of what works and what doesn’t that you can reference when you’re ready to build a more permanent layout.

  26. Will in NM says:

    Great photos Peter! Your practice diorama provides an excellent backdrop for your equipment photos. Your airbrush weathering looks good too. I built one of the Woodland Scenics HO diorama kits too many years ago with the same idea that it would make a good setting for photos of my trains, especially those that I might want to sell on eBay, besides being a good way to become familiar with scenery building techniques. I like the way your foliage turned out. It looks very realistic.

  27. Brad Bourne says:

    Love the learning layout. One item that’s new to me, how did you put the dents into the top and sides of the gondolas? That’s something I have always thought was missing, but didn’t know how to model. Brad in Michigan

  28. Ken says:

    Man did he ever get er done…..Ken from Wilmington Il.

  29. Gary Thornton says:

    Excellent rock work. If you are worried about the weight, try lightweight spackling compound in lieu of plaster.

  30. Albert Wright says:

    Awesome job. Hope mine looks that good when I’m done with it.

  31. Malcolm says:

    Why is it so much more difficult to model realistically in N scale than HO, as some of the commenters have said? Scale Trains sells “rivet counter” N scale models (as do a number of companies) that look as good as super detailed HO models. In fact, some years ago the NMRA magazine published a very nice photo of a David George Z scale layout at the National Train Show and the caption said it was “HO scale”! Finally someone emailed them and said “David George doesn’t model in HO, he models in Z scale.” Oops! A correction was printed in a subsequent issue. The point is, with care very realistic models can be made in any scale. Of course, you may not be able to count rivets on a Z scale (1:220) model. Measure a rivet and divide the dimensions by 220 and I think you’ll see what I mean.

  32. James says:

    This is a diorama with one piece of track. Hardly a layout!

  33. Rich B. says:

    A+ if this is a beginning. Right texture mountains, track right height, freight weathered and real outdoors, plenty of greenery. Only thing is the teased rug fibre, looks a bit too much like green lint balls, tumbleweed. Lichen the age old standby but looks like lichen, always has. The static grass application looks pretty amazing, might go that route. Stuff stands more vertical rather than balled up and flattened.

    Not criticizing, might look into that more myself. Could high voltage furnace transformer polarize grass blades if applied??? They work perfect for bug zapping, yes made mine half century ago lmao. Like brand new still (another time)…

  34. robert dale tiemann says:

    i like it really nice.

  35. Rob says:

    Wonderful job with the fascia detail. Blends right in with the scene. Fascia treatment is my pet peeve. Should be painted or detailed to blend in and enhance the scenery instead of a stark contrast to it as so many have done. Jus’ Sayin’

  36. Greg (Missouri, USA) says:

    Very nice. Such fine details in such a small scale take a sharp eye and a steady hand. And to my eye the ballast looks spot on!

  37. Foola Sheet says:

    a) You don’t have to have much space [Yes you do]
    (b) you don’t have to spent heaps on the hobby to have fun [Yes you do]
    (c) you don’t have to have a huge skill(s) base [Yes you do]
    If you want your layout to look pristine Yes you do.

  38. Louis Frederick Caputo says:

    As others here have stated: the rock faces are flawless! In my own attempts towards achieving realism, I try to show dead/dying weeds & grasses along the tracks. Also, ties are invariably stained, rotting or otherwise —“uglified”!

  39. Steve Ruple says:

    Peter, that is a AWESOME job you have done on your layout. I like the scenery effects and your rock designs. The rocks look very realistic, AWESOME job and you should be proud of what you did.

  40. Dave Karper says:

    Foola Sheet, yes, you are!!!

  41. Thomas Meleck says:

    Very nice work. Congratulations on your mini layout concept and execution. I liked your photos too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *