N scale logging

Steve’s been in touch with his N scale logging layout:


I always enjoy your posts – learning quite a bit from more experienced model railroaders.

Over the years, I’ve started and stopped several layouts. After our kids grew up, I decided it was time to build a layout to completion in one of the spare bedrooms.

I started building the benchwork after finishing the “Enterprise 1799” sailing ship I had received for Christmas. It has taken about 2-1/2 years to get to this point, and will probably take another year or two to complete.

The majority of the work on the layout has been done during the dreary Midwest winter months – spending the rest of the year flying RC planes & helicopters.

The Ohio Western & Lima Shortline (OWLS) layout is a N Scale logging layout and designed to fit into a spare bedroom with about 2-1/2 feet walk-around space – so it came out to 5’ x 7’. It is loosely (OK, very loosely) modelled after my hometown, and set in the late 1940s to early 1950s. Choosing this period allowed me to use early diesel powered and steam powered locomotives.

The layout is centered around the logging industry feeding the large demand for post-WWII housing, in the western Appalachian Mountain area. It is built on insulation foam sheets with plaster cloth covering. The sub-roadbed and risers were also cut from foam sheets on a table saw.

The layout itself is a folded dog bone with sorting/ interchange yard and rises to pass by the small town of “Mt. Healthy.” The main line runs by the logging camp, down to the sawmill and back up to a siding, feeding the lumber yard and a brickyard (also used in many post-war houses in the area.)

The track is Peco Code 55, with Peco Code 55 Electro-rail turnouts. Power to the rails is DCC supplied by a LENZ 100 system.

The turnout frogs and reverse loop section are powered by TAM Valley frog juicers, and turnouts thrown by under-the-table mounted servos controlled by ANE Smart Switches. Using the under-table mounts made it easier to connect the turnout throws at the different elevations – you just make the guide tubes and connecting wires longer.

There are four control panels located around the N scale logging layout, each controlling a portion of the track with overlapping sections controlled from multiple panels. All wiring (about 1500 feet), electrical switches and panel LEDs were purchased from a Midwest electronics supply company.

The town structures are Woodland Scenic Town and Factory, and houses scratch-built from Scale Model Plans, Tichy Train windows & doors and RS Laser strip shingles. For the town buildings, the signs and storefront windows are ink jet printed decals – many copied from original artwork of those particular businesses.

The N scale logging camp is a JV Models wood kit, complete with dining hall, bunk house, company store and engine/ car service shed. Lighting for the businesses and houses are SMD LEDs powered by a separate 12 volt power supply. Most of the ground cover and foliage -currently being installed- is Woodland Scenic.

risers for model train

Sub Road Bed: All made from pink, ridged insulation foam. The risers and sub-road bed were cut and formed on a table saw.

model train laying track

Roadbed & track: Peco Code 55 flex track & Peco Code 55 turnouts.

model train plaster mountains

Buildings placed: Mountains & terrain are formed with rigid foam, carved and covered with plaster cloth

n scale logging

N scale logging cars were from N Scale Kits with MicroTrains couplers & trucks

N scale logging:

n scale logging town

Looking south on “Main Street”. Engine servicing shed is visible in the background. Woodland Scenics Town & Factory buildings. “Hilltop Glass” is scratch built from Scale Model Plans.

n scale logging town

Close up showing pharmacy & local theater house

n scale logging town

Looks like the local theater is showing “101 Dalmatians” and “Bambi” this week!

n scale logging town

Looking east off of “Main Street” showing the local hardware store

model train town

Looks like the small town warranted a new United States Post Office branch!

model train town

JV Models N scale logging camp loading logs (albeit too large- have to get smaller ones) for the lumber mill.

n scale logging

N scale logging Lumber mill with stacks of cut lumber. Low spot in foreground will be a pond for receiving logs before cutting into lumber.

n scale logging

Interchange and N scale logging lumber mill sidings

n scale logging

Brick Company (left) and lumber yard (right).

n scale town

Dusk is falling on the town, so house porch lights are on.

n scale control panel

Main Control Panel. Red buttons control turnouts, yellow LEDs show turnouts that are “open”. Red and green LEDs show which tracks are powered. Bottom 3 switches control building, street and house lights.

n scale mountains

Starting to add foliage, trees & ground cover. Most rocks & outcroppings are castings, with some hand carved rock faces.



My word – what a write up. Really enjoyed reading this one, seeing a layout step by step really adds life to it, especially when the pictures show it taking shape too.

A huge thanks to Steve for sharing his N scale logging layout.

There are quite a few logging themed layouts on the blog now:

HO scale logging camp

HO scale logging railroad

HO logging railroad

HO logging railroad layout

HOn3 logging railroad

HO scale scenery

And don’t forget, you’re only a one step away from creating your own masterpiece: The Beginner’s Guide and track plans are here.

Just so you know though, last day today at this price.

That’s all this time, folks. Please do keep ’em coming.



142 track plans PDF

47 Responses to N scale logging

  1. NJ Mark says:

    Beautiful scenery and lighting! Cheers! NJ Mark

  2. David V. Corbin says:

    Looks great…. One big question (because I am facing a similar issue)…How are you accessing the track segments inside the mountains???

  3. Cary B says:

    Al, Thanks for sharing Steve’s layout. The description and photos are awesome. I really love the lighting around the layout. This encourages me for my future layout in planning stages. Pleas keep the posts coming.

    Cary B

  4. len says:

    great job.

  5. Rod Mackay says:

    Superb, hard to believe you’ve managed such a sense of space and different places within the dimensions, great plan.

  6. Lee Barry, CEO LZPMRR says:

    looks super. love the lighted buildings,ect. keep up the excellent work, and above all else keep the info and pictures coming.

  7. Brad Squires says:

    GOOD STUFF!! looking real nice.. a good effort!! Thank You for sharing!!

  8. marvin w ketchem says:

    Thank you. People like you keep me motivated. Great job!!

  9. Steve S says:

    Great layout. How did you create the store signs and window advertising?

  10. Greg smolinski says:

    Great looking layout, hard work pays off!

  11. Gerry says:

    It looks pretty awesome to me. I really like the simplicity of the control board. The only question I have is, did you actually cut out each and every notch on the sub floor and risers, and did you do that on a table saw as well?

  12. Dan Bertram says:

    Looks really nice! Is this powered by DCC, or is it D.C.?

  13. christine says:

    Very nice layout, lot of work.

  14. terrific layout dude…
    goood detail and the ‘rocks’ are supberb
    I still dont see how you guys work with that SMALL scale stuff
    my patience always gets the best of me…
    ‘keep em runnin fellas’
    stjohn in long beach calif

  15. Marty says:

    Wow !! You are a artist . This is one of the coolest N scale lay out !! Give yourself a pat on the back.

  16. George says:

    You humble my work as an N scale builder for many years , I am working a 4’X6″
    two level layout for my grandson and is nothing as good as your work what are your turn rad. in inches guy, My mains are 11″ in the top point to point and 22″+ in some of the lower level curves but I am not building any grade changes in either
    level just a few turnouts in either level so as not to make them over crowded and
    I wanted to give him some room for buildings , grass and trees !

  17. John Hoertz says:

    Steve, very cool layout. Makes me want to start the one I’ve been thinking about for about 6 months now. promised the wife a new kitchen so maybe I can start this coming summer or fall. One question, did you use N scale because of space limitations and do you find it hard to work with since it seems quite small? I’m torn between using the HO trains I have from my youth but liking the size of the “world” I can create in N scale. Again, great looking layout.
    John from PA.

  18. Fred Richards says:

    Fantastic N scale work you are inspiring me to get back to work on mine.

  19. Cary says:

    Hi Steve, I’m working on an outdoor G scale layout, but there’s been so many great N scale posts lately like this one, its really amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. Towns, country side and industry all in a small package…… and superbly done. Thanks for sharing! Cary in Kentucky

  20. Paul Selwyn Otway says:

    grear looking layout

  21. Louis Kaminski says:

    Very nice awesome , I am just a beginner

  22. Jeff Thompson says:


    Really excellent layout, both design and craftsmanship. Could you give a bit more info on how you get the slope in your risers? Really good idea for mass producing risers and sub-roadbed – big sack on the forehead when I saw your photos.

    That trick will save a ton of time as I finally get started on my layout. I had just begun when I suddenly landed in a wheelchair. Hmm… scratch the duck-unders and long reaches now ;=). I found a very adaptable N-scale “walk-in” plan that will fit in my limited space.

    For those in similar circumstances, it’s important to to know that you can’t really maneuver a wheelchair in an aisle narrower than about 4 feet (120cm). Bench legs can be a pain as well. I built a “test aisle” from 2×4’s and sawhorses to determine needed dimensions.

    Thanks again, Steve, for an inspiring layout and photo array!

    Jeff Thompson in Florida.

  23. Marklin ed says:

    The logs not to big go to Oregon some cars have one log on them Back in the 50s and 60s. Not today though.

  24. Andrew Scott says:

    Hi Alastair, I am constructing an 8×4 N layout based on the Railroad Modeller
    Coalton and Silver Range RR published last year.
    I have used very similar basic methods like Steve’s but was stuck with the scenery construction. Steve’s layout and description is very helpful. It is tempting to add another foot to overall width to open out the structures I have already built.
    Thanks for your steady stream of useful posts.

  25. Steve H. says:

    All- Thanks for the kind words!! To answer a few questions:
    -Track under the mountains is accessed either through cut out in the underside of the foam base, or lift out sections over track work. Makes it a whole lot easier to clean and vacuum track.
    -Store signs and window images were created on either Model Train Software’s “Window Designer” (They already had the Woodland Scenic buildings as templates), Photoshop or even Word for Windows. All worked well for what I was trying to accomplish.
    -Notches on the sub bed and risers were all cut out on table saw. I made a jig on a cross cut fence to index over about 1″ each time. It only took about 1 hour to cut all the notches, plus a bunch of spare pieces for future use.
    -The riser were CARFULLY (I like to keep my fingers) cut with a tapering jig on the table saw. Since all the sub road bed was in 4′ long sections, it made it easy to calculate and cut the tapers.
    -I chose N Scale because I could fit a whole lot in a small space. Since the table is 5′ x 7′, it also allows gentler curves than if I had been in HO. And yes, it can be “challenging” to work with N Scale – especially if you have fat fingers like I do! Often times tweezers were used to hold & place parts!!

  26. Dr. Bob says:

    Love what you done with the layout! Never gave any thought to pink foam for roadbed.

  27. Willis Carmichael says:

    Fantastic layouts! You’re spending you life with this wonderful event. Don’t stop. Teach us more.

  28. Ian Mc Donald says:

    it was a pleasure to read and see the layout. it must be very rewarding to see what you have achieved thank you for sharing.

  29. Ron says:

    Very impressive and inspiring work!
    While I don’t think Woodland Scenics would be very pleased by it, I’d love to see a YouTube video of using a table saw to cut out the sub-roadbed.
    Second, could we see some photos of the access points to the under-hill tracks being used?

  30. Rob McCrain says:

    You’ve done a wonderful N scale layout. I couldn’t help but notice how well you’ve laid your track. Not a wrinkle to be found. The curved sections are also smooth and parallel. Well done. Rob McCrain Farland Howe

  31. Richard Long says:

    Very nice layout. A lot of detail in n scale. Mt. Healthy is a suburb of Cincinnati, OH. I used to go to the movie theater there as a kid. I think it was the Main. “Down Town” also had a Hilltop Glass. There wasn’t any logging going on in the area however. That is the appeal of modeling. Build what you like and incorporate the familiar. Good job.

  32. Ken Attwood says:

    Now that’s what I call a ‘start’: fantastic scenery and a very good overal balance!

  33. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Thank for this fantastic write up and presentation.
    Truly this is inspiring.

  34. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Steve….great job……..it really looks good…..great scenery and detail and fabulous structures.

  35. John Meyer says:

    I could never do what you have done in N scale. I’m investigating how far I would have to expand my table in order to do it in HO scale. If Rob McCrain says he likes it that says it all!

  36. Bill in Virginia says:

    Beautiful layout Steve. Well done!

  37. Jim says:

    I LOVE what you have done, you should be proud of your achievement. I would like to see a track plan please. I have been buying n scale stuff off e-bay for a while, and right now don’t have much space, so 4 x 8 is perfect, can always expand later. I wasn’t going to landscape, just lacquered wood, but now you have me thinking,……… Jim

  38. Robert Bouskill says:

    nice job

  39. Will in NM says:

    Steve: That is a fabulous layout you have created in just 2-1/2 years! Your workmanship on all aspects of model railroading is excellent. One minor observation: the bulbs in the street lights and on some buildings look rather large for N scale. I would think Woodland Scenics or Walthers would have some of a more appropriate size, but maybe it’s hard to find LEDs that small. I really like your control panel design too.

    Look out Arnie! You’ve got some new competition for best N-scale layout. 🙂

  40. Erick says:

    Pretty neat. I hope mine turns out that good.

  41. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Steve, thanks for the additional information on jigs etc that made it an even more enjoyable latyout to work through. Cheers.

  42. Brian Olson says:

    Very well done, especially the switch operation module, something I’ve never tried. Ultimately a great use of space and obviously well planned out each step of the way.

  43. JOHN BULLOCK says:

    Steve, what a wonderful story and layout. Congratulations on getting on with it after all the years!

  44. robert dale tiemann says:

    very good job. really nice lighting.

  45. welder dave says:

    Did not see any motive power .Do you have a N scale Shay ?? I do not know if they even make them I have several HO ones and a Cimax and a Hiesler .

  46. william james palmer says:


  47. Jon Webb says:

    Outstanding design and execution. The trees look very natural, unlike the forests of identical trees I see on so many layouts.

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