Tom’s N gauge takes shape

“Here’s a few of our S & L garden RR in Keller, Texas 15 miles northwest of the DFW airport.


And this in from Tom:

“Very early stages of a small N gauge layout.

Having to down size from a large N gauge layout with it’s realistic sweeping curves and long straights I decided, not being a lover of end to end layouts, the best compromise was to make a very comprehensive continuous circuit with an elevated section and a large yard area for shunting operations and steam/diesel loco servicing.

With the space available and to avoid a wiring nightmare with DC it was only possible with DCC and full computer control.
The 6ft X 3ft base board is constructed of 6mm exterior grade plywood including the legs, to keep the weight to a minimum and give some portability.

The elevated circuit will traverse a valley between 2 hill areas with a viaduct, to a height of 12cms, to allow under board fitting of cobalt point motors. With the restricted space a spiral is used under the larger right side hill giving a reasonable gradient of 1 in 36.

The hill area will have a level top for a farm and rural landscape harking back to my childhood days.

The track, ( laid todate 15 metres) is Peco 80 streamline mainly flexible, laid on Track Bed. I find this easier to lay than code 55 used previously and find the points are more robust, which will total 26. I have found the recently available Peco ready wired rail joiners making the job of wiring the large number of drop wires to N track, an easier task, especially for us of advanced years.

The elevated circuit is accessed from the inner main line and requires reverse loops and auto reverse to enable the train to return on the spiral forward and join the main line again in the same direction as leaving. This makes for some very interesting action in the fiddle yard and under the two hills.

The steam servicing yard area is accessed by a turntable, again because of the small space and to leave an area for goods, coal and weighbridge facilities.

The Diesels will have a single shed behind the carriage sidings adjacent to the station.

DCC control is by NCE( I consider the best), with DCC Concepts Cobalt

Point motors with decoders.

A monitoring panel for all points and track installed in front of the back scenery will be mounted behind the back panel having LED indication and manual override only.

All points installed behind the back scenery will have override pushbuttons and indicator LEDs mounted in the track.

This still involves a large wiring job, having used todate over 20 metres of 6 core signal cable to the monitoring panel.

Still requiring the bus, track position, signals, building lighting, etc wiring to be installed. Who says DCC makes wiring simple, just 2 wires to the track is all that is required. They forget the frog switching, the reverse polarity modules, the drop wiring, the extra power areas, the track and point isolations, etc. all very necessary outside a simple circuit with a few sidings.

As the photos show it is very much in the early stages and will certainly provide an interesting task to landscape.
Most people will probably think it is too much in such a small space, but I am enjoying the logic,electronic and planning challenge and is certainly keeping my aging brain active.


And lastly, it looks like Dave has been on the sherry again:

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

Please keep ’em coming.

Just hit reply to any of my emails and send in your videos, pics and tips.

And if today is the day you decide to get busy on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



38 Responses to Tom’s N gauge takes shape

  1. Dave G says:

    That Dave’s a genius and I always enjoy his movies.



    Dave G

  2. Dave C says:

    Re the Dave’s latest video… So, where is the model Astin or DB9? 🙂 Fun video, and that’s what the hobby is about. Keep up the good work!
    – the other Dave

  3. Willie Kerr (Glasgow) says:

    Dave G, you are right that Dave is a genius!! I can’t even work my wife’s movie camera.
    Keep them coming Tom and Dave

  4. william says:

    great stuff ,keep it coming

  5. seth says:

    Love the garden train ive seriously thought of selling my ho trains and buying a garden train but everything is so exspensive. i wish i could put my ho outside

  6. Ron says:

    Nice garden railroad…its about time us G Scale guys were represented…Keep up the great work!

  7. John says:

    Dave is starting to be a real moviemaker… Great intro for a movie Dave. Now the action in the rest hihihi


  8. Andrew says:

    Dave’s deffo on the sherry; or anything stronger; marvelous piece of work.

  9. Andrew says:

    Looking at the helix to nowhere; does John McLain drive your trains ? It’s a great N gauge system.

  10. Lee Barry says:

    loved the movie, video but where is the popcorn and drinks or the pastel colored Jordan almonds. I wish someone would make a Z scale sized camera I could put on a flat car to either “push or pull around my layout”. By the term affordable I mean something in the $50-$100 range with all components to allow recoding and simplified instructions for idiots like me to understand the workings and hook ups. Oh well I guess there I go being a “Daydream Believer”. I have a qiuestion, “Why do they always sing the song “Take me out to the ballgame” in the 7th inning when you are already there ??

  11. Roland Burch says:

    Tom, great job. I agree with you about using curves.

    Speaking of curves (the layout), Dave is at it again. Another great video.

  12. Dan Griffin says:

    I believe that there is o e made small enough to use on your layout. Hot Wheels has one in one of their cars for viewing the layout from a front bumper view. I am not sure of the cost, but mine was cheap.

    Good luck,

  13. paul Otway says:


  14. John M says:

    What a hoot! I was expecting to see the Thunderbirds puppets emerge from a secret underground location and zoom into the sky! Good one Dave!

    And being a N guy right now, (ho next), i was grateful to see the layout and control panel. Thanks for sharing Tom!

    Well done fellahs!


  15. Hi Tom,

    The best thing about this hobby is that nomatter what you build, wether it’s a huge club layout, or a 1′ x 12′ straight fiddle yard. It all comes down to one thing, “do you like it and does it give you enjoyment” if the answer is “yes,” then who cares what others may say, or thing. I’m damm sure I wouldn’t, So go for it and Enjoy it while your able to.

    Steve, (Downunder)

  16. Francis says:

    Tom, would like to see your layout design because I don’t think you need the reverse loop with helix off the mainline.

  17. Arnie Steiner says:

    Hey Tom – quite a serious undertaking in N scale. Very nice track plan, but as you said, may become too congested. The wiring and control systems can really become a challenge; had many, many hours myself designing circuitry on my N scale SV&GS in standard DC, which is only 8′ x 5′ and which has appeared here on Al’s website several times in the past.

    Best of luck with your ambitious ‘small’ project.

  18. Tom says:

    Thank you for your kind assistance.
    Believe I will need 2 reverse loops one on each level.
    The Train from the inner main line will run up the Helix in a forward direction to the elevated circuit.
    To return to the lower level in a forward direction will need to use a reverse loop on this level. When reaching the lower level will be approaching the main line in the wrong direction for it’s normal running so will need to use a lower reverse loop to achieve this. With the small space to access this loop it will initially have to reverse in an adjacent siding which will have auto reverse function and macro point control and then approach forwards to the loop.
    If you can suggest a simpler method I would be very grateful but the space available really makes this very difficult, mainly the access track area requirement of the reverse loops .As I said most people think it is too ambitious on such a small layout.

  19. THOMAS says:


  20. Toni Olivar says:

    Dave, You done it again with your movie making. You have made a GREAT Preview clip. Better then I could have done. And your train videos clips was worked in on cue with the music. An A1 job.


  21. 'nother grandpa says:

    Dave is becoming as accomplished at video making as he is at train building– no small deal, there. Bravo!!! I think I will give up the tele and just hang around the computer waiting for more Dave-produced entertainment!!!!

  22. Max Dosser says:

    Dave is certainly the undisputed ‘king of the model railways’.
    My ‘wish list’ would be a DVD of Dave’s many programmes. I have wireless broadband and a You Tube clip can take up to 3 times as long to view with all the stops and starts.

    Max D (Australia)

  23. Paul says:

    Was the copyright date wrong or was the Bond movie made in 2013?. Anyways as always it’s great stuff.
    That N guage makes my proposed OO look like child’s play (even though I’m 67). I was interested in his remark about controller preference – I thought DCC was the only option. I am starting up with my old Zero One for cost reasons.

  24. litacats says:

    Tom your layout is looking good, thanks for sharing.
    Dave you never cease to amaze me with you mini movies.

  25. John Reynolds says:

    Another smashing good video by Dave.
    Had not intended the Pun on one of Bond’s early villains… But…

  26. Fred Pohl says:

    When I get a few greenbacks ahead I prefer the Bachmann E-Z Track Its a lot more practical and you don’t have to worry about bad connections and its compatable with anything I like it for that reason as far as who manufactures scale model train whats in a name as long as long as it gets the job done . I ahve to give Con-Cor a lot of credit when It comes to makeing scale models of Stuff They don’t mess around

  27. Richard Shaw says:

    I have been back in the hobby after being away for over 20 years now that I have a place to put a real layout.

    For the last year and a half I have been watching Dave’s videos. The guy does everything right and he does everything. And what a sense of humor.

    He is my hero. Hope to meet him some day.


  28. Jim says:

    Great stuff. Thank you all for sharing. Love the video Dave.

    Jim AZ

  29. Perry says:

    Why do your trains all have to run in a particular direction, trains ran in both directions all the time.

  30. ANDREW SCHYHOL says:

    Dave, amazing accomplishments, how do you manage? Do you have a time machine? ANDY FL USA

  31. Mark Gilbert says:


    I noticed a couple of comments that seem to beg a reply. Number one was about ‘G’ scale modelling. Correct me if I am wrong, this blog is not about ‘N’ scale, ‘O’ scale, ‘Z’ scale, ‘OO’ scale, ‘HO’ scale or really ‘ANY’ scale. You are about modelling. So if you get ‘G’ scale modelers sharing postings, you will post them. So come on ‘G’ scale modelers, send in your pictures and videos. While I might be OO and HO, I admire and appreciate the smaller and larger scale stuff.

    Number two was about the 7th Inning revelries at a ball game. This event is known as the 7th inning stretch. I’ve have always understood that time in the game to be the time that we all stand up and stretch our legs and arms. (at least that is what I do) Singing “Take Me Out (to the ball game)” is a song that is often sung. Its lyrics say, “Feed me some Popcorn and Cracker Jacks, I don’t care if we ever get back.” The song is not so much about going to the ball game as it is to what you are going to do when you get there and how long you want to stay once you are there. heehaw.

    It’s kind-a like model railroading; whether stuck in a loft, a basement, a garden shed or garage, once you get there, you might not be seen for a while. And around my house, listen carefully, you might hear me humming and/or singing, “I’ve been working on the Railroad, all the live-long day.”

    Fun aside, thanks to everyone who has shared tips, pics and vids. I admire all the talent, even the fun videos (like Dave sent in).

    Mark G. USA

  32. Allen says:


    looks like it will be an exciting railroad when you are done. Please post the track plan the next time.


  33. george zaky says:

    what a great post! Outdoor G, an N scale great layout, and the infamous Dave video. And then some clever replies. I can go over this all day.
    You will have a chore dreaming up scenery and theme. I have an S scale layout with loops and find it difficult to have a focal point when one can only view from one side. Please expand on the DCC controls for us mortals.
    The best
    George from NY

  34. Will in NM says:

    Louis, What a great looking garden railroad you’ve built. I have s few G scale engines and cars but have never thought of trying to build a garden railroad out here in the New Mexico desert. It’s hard enough just keeping the dust out of my train room.

    Tom, I was at first confused by the layout photos and the helix that seemed to go nowhere, but after reading the additional comments I got the idea that the top of the helix will eventually connect to another reverse loop. That’s an ambitious project you’ve undertaken and I wish you the best of luck in realizing your N scale layout goals. Keep us posted on your progress please.

    Dave, What can I say that hasn’t already been said? You’re an inspiration to all us old model railroaders. Thank you for sharing your wonderful videos.

  35. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    Great start to an N gauge layout Looks like lots of track work. Keep it up. Interesting that the first 2 photos in this post were obviously outdoors, and quite sure not N gauge.

  36. Thomas Danieli says:

    Wonderful, as always.

    Tom D — in Michigan

  37. Mark Hawk says:

    Just a quick note to Dave’s video…. Great work my friend. I have always loved your videos you have posted on YouTube and the sherry is great what would happens if you drink whiskey or bourbon???
    As for Tom’s N Scale layout it looks very interesting and intriguing at the same time. I used to know how to do electrical wiring and circuits back in the day but after getting out of my one MOS and going into transportation I have lost all of my knowledge of doing all of that.
    DCC intriguing answers a lot of powering questions but I am just too old to get into it. And I have never found anyone that would even come in to and wire it up and make it functional on my layout.
    And I agree with Lee Barry
    having the ability to have a small camera mounted on a flat car would also give you and idea of any problems on or around the track that you may have missed on your walk-around before operating your train.
    Have fun everyone and continue to love and enjoy your hobby.

  38. matiSon says:

    Tom, with the outdoor G layout, now that you have run it a bit, would you recommend staying with a ground-level layout, or would you consider raising lit off of the ground?

    I am starting an outdoor G layout, and have not made up my mind as to whether I will raise all of it, or do some ground-level track laying. I live in NC, and we can get some very heavy rainfall in the warmer months, and I am worried about the track washing away or ending up with everything drenched in mud.

    By the way, good job with your layouts. They look good.

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