N scale town mountain layouts – Rob’s

Rob’s added to the collection of N scale town mountain layouts on the blog:

“Hi Al,

As you may remember you have posted a number of my works on your site under the Farland Howe title.

In addition to Farland, I have also been working on an N scale project.

I only had a tiny area I could work in so I settled for a 2 foot by 16 foot layout.

I ended up extending the the 180 degree curves at both ends beyond the width of the table, however.

It turned out the 11 inch radius curves I bought at my local hobby store were not big enough to accommodate longer locomotives or rolling stock as they climbed up a 3/4 inch incline and made the 180 degree curve.

It was not a real problem and I solved it. Larger locomotives run around the layout with ease now. They do this only on the outside track with it’s big curves.

The inner track was originally supposed to be a trolley line or interurban line. I had two problems with that concept.

One, I could never find Interurban electric cars to my liking and the ones I did buy were not very reliable.

I had hopes of making new bodies that were more to my liking but with undercarriages being unreliable I decided to punt and made it my steam line and have a little Baldwin 4-6-0 making merry loops around the layout pulling some freight cars while I run the bigger trains on the outer loop.

Very early on I decided I wanted the track to return around behind the backdrop or back scene instead of having two visible loops in front of it.

That way you could always be surprised when a train showed up out of nowhere. I built scenery at both ends to hide the end of the table and to help with the mystery of “where did the train go.”

The intent was to show trains running along parallel to and in front of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and out 15 miles or so from the actual mountains.

I wanted the fore ground to represent a somewhat barren and partly desert landscape with a little higher elevation and greener areas as well.

I pretty much wanted to show everything I know about Colorado on the layout at the same time.

Learning to work in N scale was quite difficult at first.

My instincts for the relative size of things was well developed for Farland, but this N scale stuff was a different beast entirely.

It is also difficult to see things like fish plates/rail connectors at this scale and found myself using magnifying glasses quite a bit, but eventually I learned the skills needed for N scale pretty well.

I guess my greatest victory was when I cut into the already ballasted mainline track to insert a turnout without destroying the track I wanted to keep.

It worked well and I was able to add a siding for a newly acquired grain elevator.

Finally I had great fun and enjoyment painting mountains on my backdrop/back scene, that’s the fun part of N scale town mountain layouts.

N scale town mountain layouts
Here it is seen from the right end.

N scale town mountain layouts

Here is the grain elevator.

N scale town mountain layouts
My narrow cut.

N scale town mountain layouts:

N scale town mountain layouts river

The inner and outer loop share a bridge over the river.

main station
My main station.

Here is a little video showing some painting and running of the trains.

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Rob for adding to the N scale town mountain layouts – you can see more of him in the Hall of Fame.

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.

31 Responses to N scale town mountain layouts – Rob’s

  1. James Malins says:

    Very Good. I particularly admire the river; you can almost hear the water rushing through.

  2. Ken C says:

    Rob, I could not tell that you haven’t been an n scaler for years. Very well done and an exacting eye for scaling scenery details. Welcome to n scale!

  3. Pete says:

    While I will be modeling ho scale, this layout is very nicely done!

  4. Joe Howe says:

    Alastair — This fellow Rob McCrain is a four-dimensional artist! He makes the layout in three dimensions then somehow creates a fourth dimension of ambience of another time and another place! Amazing! I had no idea (well, I have no ideas about most of this!) that N-Gauge could afford so much opportunity! Thanks, especially, for the excellent video! The article put me in mind of Gulliver’s Travels, with Rob’s 1940s Burlington Silver Bullet and 1920s Baldwin 4-6-0 freight consist having driven out from behind his mountain into the Land of Lilliput! First time I’ve thought of Gulliver in probably 70 years! Thanks, Rob and thanks, Alistair! Joe

  5. KR says:

    Terrific scenery! I envy your painting skills. I’ve had problems finding mid 20th century vehicles in N scale… Can anyone recommend a source?

  6. Harvey Kahler says:

    Beautiful work, especially the grain elevator scene.

    The tracks coming together at the bridge brought to mind the parallel WP and SP mains in Utah, albeit with separate bridges and tunnels. The WP painted everything a funky light blue,

  7. Chuck Bartunek says:

    I really like this layout,simple and neat,easy to detail.

  8. ted grimm says:

    I had same problem with turns being to tight some years back. Found 19″ radius is good for most trains in n scale. I am getting ready to create a layout with 2′ by 4′ sections in a L 10′ long and 4′ long leg.

  9. d j howarth says:

    Good work Robv , been watching you with the progress on the Colorado layout , it sure has progressed good …Dangerous Dave

  10. Cornell Carr says:

    Just wanted to say “thank you” for this web site and to all my model railroading brothers for all their tips, ideas, and insights. I learn so much from people like Rob and have used the concepts I get on my layout.

  11. being an N scale modeler my self , I would say fantastic work of art Rob !
    Although I do not yet have DCC plans for my tinny layout I am still trying to
    talk the wife (oops) Boss into allowing a space for it and an expansion on both ends that will come later ? I might have to empty my shed out and put in some form of heating system for winter time to relies the expansion idea I hope to be able to do things before I pass on !
    I am loving the work every one is doing with their trains here !

  12. mark st john says:

    yeeeow Rob wotta kooool layout….
    I look at alla your McFarland vids and you are a master train layout builder
    you have the best detail ever water rocks especially ‘scenes’… all of it
    that N gauge stuff is really cool but waaay too small for my old eyes and hands
    great layout again Rob
    keep ’em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  13. Ian Mc Donald says:

    enjoyed the how to on painting the back drop. the video very nice .certainly a pleasure to watch plenty of tips, great craftsman. thanks for sharing.

  14. John Reynolds says:

    Very nice and makes me want to consider N-scale…

  15. Clay Short says:

    Rob, to have a fraction of your artistic expertise and craftsmanship. I am working
    on it. Great layout. It was fun to watch. Will keep the video for a little while.

  16. A great job well done. I believe I can use some of your ideas for my layout. I’m using the middle to late 1860’s to 1900.

  17. Jim AZ says:

    Nice. Simple but with great realism. One can certainly appreciate how much more can be modeled with N scale. Great job and thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  18. Chet says:

    Love the layout and the passenger cars, I’m hoping to try and build something like this for my grandkids for Christmas

  19. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    This is wonderful Rob. If I could somehow overlay your layout on mine, it is so close to what I am working to achieve with the California Zephyr Route. Definitely an inspiration. After being in G scale for over 20 years, it has been a challenge to reset scale visuals in my head from G to N. I wear a magnifying visor for close work. My minumum radius is 12/34″ or 315mm using all Kato Unitrack. Some curves are transitioned. Again, thank you for this huge inspiration to keep at it.

  20. Dan Hulitt says:

    Rob, takes me back to my days living in Colorado. Two of your peaks look like Grays and Torreys, both 14’ers that I have climbed a couple of times.

    Wonderful work and the idea of sitting on it a bit is sage advice.

    MN Dan

  21. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Rob…..I love your work……

  22. Jim says:

    Nice photos, but I wish people would take photos showing the entire layout at once, in addition to closeups. It’s impossible to get a feel for the layout from just closeups.

  23. Dwight in Toronto says:

    Rob, very nicely done – welcome to N scale. I hope you are seeing these commentary posts, because I would very much like to implore you to do a google search on ‘southern alberta railway’. This is an N scale modeling masterpiece by Grant Eastman, and I think you will find that his reproduction of the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta closely captures the scenic Colorado-like look and feel that you are striving for. The SAR is perhaps the nicest N scale layout I have ever seen, and Grant has many professional instructional pics and videos in which he shares his techniques. PLEASE give it a look!

  24. Jim Robinson says:

    You are an artist; therefore, modeling comes more or less natural to you. I never would have guessed this is your first attempt. Almost hidden is what may be your best feature, which is your river. from the one angle it’s shown, its colors are realistic, and the white water is very believable! Kudos!

  25. Will in NM says:

    Rob, Very nice new layout and kudos for your adapting to N scale. The layout and video are super! Just one observation: I think the diesel would have honked their horns twice before departing each station stop. I think those are RR rules: twice for forward movements and three times for reverse movement.

    Dwight in Toronto: Thanks for the Southern Alberta Railway link. Fantastic N scale layout and realistic operations!

  26. Erick says:

    Pretty kool. I hope mine turns out that good

  27. Wayne says:

    Question: You indicated that 11″ curves didnt work, so what curve radius did you use?

  28. robert dale tiemann says:

    i have always liked the smaller scale trains. yours is very nicely done. the river reminds me of the terrain my friend and i used to use for wargaming.

  29. JIMMY ROBINSON says:

    I’d love to see a long shot or diagram of the whole layout, but based on the first photo, you’ve proven once again that it doesn’t take a lot of room to create a good layout. I especially like the water effects in the stream that runs under the bridge shared by the inner and outer loops. Nice work.

  30. Don says:

    nicely done

  31. Gerald Edgar says:

    Superb landscaping/detailing AND yet in N scale; wow!

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