Wolf’s train layout

“My dear Al,

Thank you SO much for all your work, doing this and your other publications.

I’ve been a reader, since 2005, I think, just before my first hip replacement surgery, and started building structures and vehicles, in preparation for a layout that didn’t materialize, until 2010, after my other hip replacement. That one got interrupted by a move, out of state, that lasted until last year, when we were, finally, able to move back to our family land. Now, the basement is mine, and the layout begins, in earnest.

It’s going to be 20’x10′, with two, hinged, 3×3 holes, centered near each end.


I feel that I need to give a little background, as to what I’m trying to portray. In northern California, the American tectonic plate collided with a mass of granite, a large portion being moved and another, twisting round but remaining fairly stationary. The end resulted in the formation of the High Sierras, Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, and the Cascades Volcanic system, all twisted round and colliding with each other, as well as raising the sea bed to an elevation of over 5,000 feet, in places. It is an incredible place to spend time in. Sacremanto, Ca., lies at one area of foothils, Truckee, is at an elevation of 5,817′, and further east lies Virginia City, Nv, one of the richest silver mining areas in the world.

Perhaps, many of your readers have never seen the High Sierras, so I’m enclosing 2 small pics of them so you get an idea of what I’m attempting.



And now, here’s the first corner of the layout, nowhere near finished, but I think you’ll get the idea. The waterfall, behind the bridge, and river, will actually have running water in it, pumped by a 12 volt DC single faucet RV pump, resisted down for flow properties.


There’ll be 4 lines. Here are the beginnings of the first three.

The tunnel has openings behind it.


The double bridge and waterfall/river.


The beginnings of the town of “Glory”, in the upper right corner. In mining country, there were two kinds of mines – a Poke hole and a Glory hole. I’ll bet you know what they mean.

All 4 lines are analog. I’ll be running the little Baldwin “American” locos, for the V&T Railway, the “Big Boy” for hauling freight over the Sierras, a doodlebug for the local rural-to town line, and I don’t know, yet, about the fourth line.

You folks may notice there’s no constructed portal, at either end of the tunnel. That’s, actually, the way some of them were – just blasted and pick and shoveled out of the granite. Some 1,200 Chinese immigrants died during the 40 mile Sierras leg of the Union Pacific.

Thank you, again, Alastair, and thanks to all the readers who have contributed to this publication. I’ve gleaned a lot from them.

Be well,


“Hi Alistair,

My tip would be ” stop reading and have a go – you can’t but learn from your successes and your failures”.

Kind regards


I loved Wolf’s narrative because it’s something I read time and time again: claim a space for your own! Then make a start…

And I thought Dean’s tip rang true too. If that’s you – the Beginner’s Guide is here.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming, just hit reply to any of my mails.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here – starts to get really busy at this time of year. Some great deals about.

25 Responses to Wolf’s train layout

  1. Harry Gordon says:

    Wow. I never thought I’d see another V&TRR layout on a blog originating in GB. I too am in the finishing stages of a 4×5 N scale V&T layout depicting the iconic town of Virginia City Nv. Thus layout will be far more comprehensive and complex than is mine. An outstanding representation of this beautiful and historic area. Would love to see and hear more from Wolf

  2. John Meehan says:


  3. Cary B says:

    Thank You Al and Wolf, What an inspiration to get my own layout started.

    Cary B

  4. Steven Lee says:

    Finally I see a someone creating a layout that represents a piece of railroad history, the Transcontinental Railroad of 1865 – 1869. Thank you! When I read what you said on how the tunnels were build by the Chinese Railroad Workers I was impressed. You know your stuff. I am currently in the process of having a monument built for the Chinese Railroad Workers at Dutch flats, Gold Run, California. Where the first 500 Chinese were hired to start their way east up the mountain trek. Please check out our website if you need more photos for your layout. There is also a real-time video of a train ride traveling on the same tracks and tunnels built by the Chinese Railroad Workers. Use it for your layout information. I would really like to see your continual progress of your layout. Please email me your progress photos or video. thanks again.

  5. David De Bondi says:

    Looks like a fabulous layout in the making Wolf.
    Cheers, David

  6. Kevin McArdle says:

    The question begs to be asked, how are you feeling after the two hip replacements? Happy modeling.

  7. Don J says:

    Do some more planning while you think of your total track plan.
    Be careful of too much track work in the middle of the table. I see you have lift outs but they are a pain in the ——– to remove and replace. Maybe try another plan for the table. This is given to you to make real sure of what you want on the layout. Just friendly advise.

  8. BullfrogEH, in Ontario says:

    I was immediately motivated to go out to my ‘train cabin’, turn the heat on, and get back into my own layout. Thanks !, Al and Wolf, for the extra ‘push’ I needed, today. – – dave in ‘central Ontario’.


    if you can find a mrr mag from 1988, (forgot month), you will find a n n layout by dave hannah, which we used to present the gospel. it is the most complete v&t rr i have ever seen. i also helped to build it& was main advisor.. try looking at sept. issue. kelly

  10. Bob says:

    I loved reading about your story and how you intend to bring in local history. It’s too bad so few people care. I did not know Chinese workers were in the States too as I am from Canada and Chinese workers did a great amount of work on Canadian railroads. I have a photo of a tent pitched in a blizzard, and a Chinese worker having a bowl of soup after a hard day. Probably all he got for his efforts. Times change slowly. Good luck with the real water as scale does not show the way you would hope. You could make a curve like Niagara Falls but a small version with water going over it would not command the respect..

  11. Randy Hinke says:

    this will be good.

  12. James Kreamer says:

    Good luck on your layout!! I love the Sierras,spending many hours a month doing scooter rides in all directions!! Always looking for trains as an excuse to stop and watch them go by!! VC is the best place to get the history of the silver era and the V&T is a living memory of the past!! My son and I own eight feet of rail for the rebuild of the V&T railway!! SO COOL!!

  13. Darrin says:

    Spot on looks fabulous

  14. Neil feder says:

    Fourth response mentions web site but no address. Very nice article and response

  15. Wow what breath taking pics you posted i think your layout is gong be great and so far looks like you on track so to speak lol
    all the best Paul

  16. Bob says:

    Looks like you are going to have SOME layout. A correction thow. The U.P. Big-boy’s never traveled this route, It was the Southern Pacific Cab Forward’s the used this route. The Cab-Forward’s,were locos.,that looked as thow they were traveling in reverse,cab up front instead of in back . The reason??,because of the many tunnel’s & snow shed’s on this line.It prevented the train crew from getting gassed from the smoke from the loco.,by putting the cab up front. A another point. It was not the U.P. laying track from Sacramento,CA..U.P.,was coming from the east of the Sierra’s. It was the Central Pacific R.R.starting at Sacramento going thru the Sierra’s,to meet up with the U.P. R.R. on the other side of the Sierra’s.A few year’s later,the Central Pacific R.R.,was merged in with Southern Pacific R.R.,thus the line became known as the Southern Pacific R.R. Many year’s later, the U.P. took over the S.P. Now the U.P. owns much of the rail trackage in western U.S. You are going to enjoy building your layout,it will part of railroad history. Bob

  17. dave says:

    Hey there awsome layout Being a RV owner using a RV water system pump is very noisy and a lot of pressure plus they draw about 5 amps 12VDC If you are not raising the water over 6 feet A low cost 120 volt fountain pump would be better and most have a flow control built in them you can hide it under a waterfall Or a aquarium filter pump also will work to about a 2 foot lift I saw one used on a layout it moved a lot of water too have fun Dave

  18. Mark Sharpless says:

    Does Wolf live near Sacramento CA? If so, would like to connect up.

  19. Harry Gordon says:

    Wrote the first blog in the series above. I’m very happy with my V&T 5×4 N scale layout but it is pale in compoarison to Wolfs. Interested in learning more. Have those interested in this iconic RR read Mallory Hope Ferrell’s book Virginia & Truckee The Bonanza Road? Great read, beautiful pictures. Love to hear more from those who love the V&T. Harry.

  20. tom in az says:

    Great layout Mr. Wolf. One question, are you native American? If so what Nation? My grand kids are half and my grandmother is Full Cherokee. You are doing a great Job. Tom in AZ

  21. Wolf Carnahan says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks. Where’d you find that info? I’d like to find out more. I, just, happen to have a brand new cab forward loco,

    Be well,

  22. terry powers says:

    love the photos of what you’re doing. what scale are you in?
    while I think of it. I have a cover(envelope) from the V&T that commemorates the last day of mail service(I’m also a stamp collector and have a few of these now).

  23. Ian Mc Donald says:

    the pictures and the narration really great thanks for sharing.

  24. Dave Fairfull says:

    Greetings Wolf: A friend found a book for me called “Empire Express” written by David Howard Bain about the building of the U.S. Transcontinetal railroad. It is quite an in depth history of the time. It was printed in 2000 ISBN 0-670-80889-x. It was a great read.
    Dave F.
    Elora, Canada

  25. Dennis says:

    Another great narrative and probably the most read account of building the Transcontinental RR is: “Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869” by Steven Ambrose. (I highly recommend it!)

    FYI, I live near Seattle, Washington and am modeling in S Scale, American Flyer – postwar, (my childhood train). I’ve only been into it since May of 2012, got re-acqainted with it when I impulsively purchased two grocery bags filled with a complete AF train set at a local antique shop called Nasty Jacks. I will be sending information and pictures of what has happened since as soon as I figure out how. Love the emails, stories, tips, etc. Keep it coming!
    Vashon Is., Washington

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