In December 2014 I decided that I’d have a go at building a scale model railroad. I started in January 2015 with a vision and a budget, and 12 months later, my efforts have yielded the result above. I’m happy with the results so far.
I’ve never built a scale model railroad, but have had a long-time interest in trains. I brought to the (literal) table some trade skills and a background in figuring things out. And then there is the superlative resource that is the Internet. My library of a dozen years of Model Railroader magazine has also been very useful. Prior to starting construction, I went through the issues and indexed issues that had relevant articles on various aspects of building a layout. This makes finding specific information easy. If I need tips on, say, weathering, I can often find a half-dozen articles on the subject.
The layout is about 60% complete. Infrastructure (benchwork, track, wiring) were completed by April. As is usual with any hobby project, there were weeks of hiatus for work or experimenting with techniques before applying them to the layout. I’m glad I started with a small layout. No one aspect is overwhelming, and the layout should be done in a reasonable amount of time. In this case, about two years. I can see the end of the project, and the more that gets done, the more I want to do.
As hobbyists practice the craft, they find out what kind of modeler they are. I’m more of a builder than an operator, but the point of building is to operate. The track plan consists of three Inglenook switching puzzles, so the layout was built with operation in mind. Of course, the prettier the game board, the more fun it is to play.
Upcoming projects, roughly in order:
- I’ve started standardizing and weathering the rolling stock. In batches of five or six I’m installing metal wheels, ensuring that couplers are at the right height and wheels are in gauge, and weathering the car. Any cars on the RIP track will be returned to service or scrapped.
- Laying out and installing streets. Like water, this is an area I’m going to experiment with different techniques and materials before committing to the layout.
- Installing a car forwarding system. While I’m aware there are a number of products available, I like building things. I’ve outlined an app that I’d like to use on my old phone (the same one that will be a wireless throttle) so an operator can switch between throttle and waybills/switchlists on the same device.
- Installing the remaining industries. A scrapyard and a couple of warehouses will complete the industry allotment on the urban side, while a lumberyard/sawmill and a couple of industries TBD will take care of the other side.
- Power/telephone lines and poles. This bit of detailing, especially in an urban setting, adds a lot to the look.
- Backdrop. The layout was designed to have a backdrop/viewblock installed down the center. The structures have to be in place before this can go in. I’d rather not have to reach over installed structures if I can avoid it.
- Small details. The dozens of things like lineside equipment, vehicles, people, mailboxes, etc., that add believability.
By December this year I expect the layout to be more-or-less finished. Not that there will be a lack of projects. I’m looking to try my hand at building a credible version of Northern Pacific’s S-4 Ten Wheeler. This was the motive power originally envisioned for the layout, but none are available in N-scale. I may need Lasik surgery before attempting that.
I’ve enjoyed the Northern Pacific Project so far. It’s relaxing to put a ballgame on the radio, and spend a couple of hours working on a project. And it’s fun to put some cars on the interchange and ferry tracks, then get them to their destination in the most efficient manner. I’m looking forward to many more hours of working on the railroad.