Tom’s layout

“heres a few of mine stage 1 almost finish track is 6.2 mtrs long each side x 3.2 mtrs wide 5 mainlines and 15 branch lines ..all dcc controlled trains,points etc with all trains having dcc sound cards to their own proper sounds…………….thanks


“Hi Al, I have been asked by numerous guys on your page about my track plan.

Here it is as it stands today in a layout room 22 foot by 9 foot in HO scale 3 foot narrow gauge ie: HOn3 drawn in 3D on a program called Autocad Lite.

I am sure than the guys can pick up what goes where from the many photos that have you kindly posted for me. The Red Hook Wharf scene is at the bottom right. The block in the top right is my work desk (a roll top desk that my wife had made for me 25 years ago). In the photo, the Red Hook Wharf is on the left, out of the photo.

I must edit a short video of my two HOn3 Heislers (logging locomotives) numbers 2 and 3 double heading on the layout.
Heisler number 3 can be seen in the photo pulling a log train just off the trestle.

A friend helped me set up the double header on my Lenz DCC system. As soon as it is done, I will forward it to you.
Next for set up are my two Shay locomotives (also logging locomotives) and my two K 27 locomotives. The reason for the double headers when needed, is to push either a wedge snow plow or a Rotary snow plow. Lots of power is needed to clear snow from the track.

I will send photos of the snow clearing equipment as soon as I take them.

Brian – Cape Town”


I love Barry’s scenery and I am working to achieve his quality. But there is an easier way to get the base for the scenery set down.

I use spray insulation in a can. You just spray it in place and let it grow and harden in into a free form shape. I buy the cans when they are on sale. One note is when you start using a can you should finish using the whole can. It is possible but difficult to store and reuse the can. Also protect track and other scenery, the stuff is very sticky and messy. Do not touch it while it is soft.

The basic technique to shape the hardened foam is to use a hack saw blade without a handle, just tape the end to protect your hand. You can adjust the length by just breaking it off. Other tools such as files, Dremel tools, etc can be used to get the shape you want. If you do not like the shape you can spray in more foam.

Now for the big secret, to finish it use a course wire hand brush to go over the shape horizontally to create strata. Be rough and work it hard.

Some of the foam will be smooth where you do not brush but most will be porous from the wire brush. You will fill this in with a base coat of white latex house paint. I let a second coat just dry to the touch yet soft enough to blend in the top color coats.

I do not know about your shop but I have plenty of latex house paint stored from old projects.

For the final touch I use the Leopard Spot Method for painting. Again using different colors of house paint. Watch the last two minutes of this video. Finish with a black ink wash.

Here are photos of my unfinished work in progress while I learn to use this method.


“Hi Alastair

A model train tip that will save a lot of frustration: Leave room around your baseboard so you can reach track and rolling stock on top and wiring underneath. In a confined space make an operator hole in the baseboard to achieve the same object. I recently designed a new baseboard and discovered that I would not be able to reach the wiring.

Best wishes


Big thanks to Barry for sharing his track plan. I’m always pleased when his name pops up in my inbox.

Keep ’em coming!

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.



10 responses to “Tom’s layout”

  1. Brian Messenger says:

    Hi Ed, I have used foam from the spray can with great success. In my photo above, the finished foam scenery is just behind the curved trestle. I used the same method that you use and paint it with acrylic paints. It works for me. As I alway say to my modeler friends – it may work for me but may not work for you, do what works for you.

  2. Nice layout you have there Tom , and a good track plan there Brian …looks to work well

  3. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    As always, great pics and tips. Brian’s wife made him
    a roll-top desk (She’s surely “a keeper”-both wife and
    desk). js

  4. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Hans , and everyone else as well!!!!! DO NOT USE ZONOLITE !!!!! It is vermiculite. It is LOADED with ASBESTOS!!!!!!!!!!! This stuff is so bad that it’s removal is recommended for professionals. It is considered a hazardous waste and cannot be thrown out with your regular trash!!!!!! This stuff is very bad news to be around. PLEASE get rid of this stuff, but do it PROPERLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ………………………………VERY sincerely !!!!!
    ………………………………..Bill Fitzpatrick (from near Philadelphia PA.)

  5. fred says:


    I have used the foam as a base for plaster cloth. It is great for planting trees where some of the forsest floor is visible. I will be trying the wire brush route as well

  6. Jimmy Economou says:

    I am just starting with model trains and I am having a tough time getting started. I am trying to lay as much track as I can on a 4 X 6 layout. It appears to me that I can get more HO track if I use the regular track as opposed to the Bachmann Easy track? Is that true or am I kidding myself?? I think the curves are tighter with the regular track.
    Thank you,

  7. Carl Halgren says:

    For Hans’ Zonolite formula above, try replacing the zonolite with sawdust. For color, mix in latex house paint – brown for soil, grey for rocks, etc. I use a mix of sawdust and white glue diluted with water and paint.

    Still in Training,
    Carl in Kansas

  8. Tim Morrissey - Fargo, ND, USA says:

    Echoing Bill’s advice here to all. Do NOT use Zonolite insulation material for anything! It contains a microscopic hook-shaped fiber that embeds into the lung air sacs, causing scarring of the lungs. (And other ailments.) Zonolite is the root cause of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, which left hundreds of people in Libby, MT, with asbestos related disease. My employer has the federal Medicare contract which serves these people. I worked on that desk for two years, and know the suffering. Do NOT use Zonolite!

  9. Jan says:

    Hi Jimmy,

    Don’t try to cram as much track as possible into a small space with tight curves. You will regret it later.
    Less is more… Try to be inventive when creating a track plan so you can shunt and run some trains but avoid concentric circles in whatever form or shape. It’s boring.

    I’m going to take out as many curves with a radius of 415 mm (16.3″) or less and replace it where possible with 500 mm (19.7″) or in worst case 450 mm (17.7″) to get smoother running trains.

    I’m not the greatest scenery builder and I love running trains 🙂


    (Mr) Jan
    From Ternat in Belgium

  10. nice layout you have built Tom ..Dangerous dave

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