Page 1 of 3

My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 6:04 pm
by deanobeano
Hi All,

If this works then i might just have a small drink with my dinner tonight!!

Imageimage by Dean Halls, on Flickr

The picture above shows the traditional framework (Metric versions of 3" x 1") of one of the two baseboards that represent Denesport, a small port set along the New England coastline during the 1950's. The port is serviced by a single through line which allows product and people in and out as well as those wishing to just pass through. Whilst the concept is formed with the rail plan considered and documented the space around the line needs further work!! The Lesley Falls part of the railway is even further back in the process and requires much more "armchair" consideration!!!

The second board (shown below joined up to the 1st and all topped with 9mm ply) provides a 7' x 2' (with a tad more from the appendages) fully sceniced area with the port elements to the front (sticky out bit edge). The plan is drawn and currently represented on a single roll of paper which will be transferred back to the layout once i've got the foam laid to provide the contours. I will provide a layout plan the next time around.

ImageUntitled by Dean Halls, on Flickr

It must be stated that the overall concept has its basis in a S Scale Narrow Gauge layout named "Wharf Street" artfully crafted (no pun intended) by Art Fahie and his friends and depicted in Model Railroader and more recently in Great Model Railroads 2014. It struck me as a really nice place to be with an added bonus of steam trains running and the modelling looks superb.

Whilst I don't expect to end up with a layout to rival Wharf Street I do mean to give it my best shot - only time will tell if i'm firing blanks ;)

If there is one design element that i want to get right, it is getting the joint between the two boards (and subsequent others) to be as invisible and as durable as possible. The layout needs to be portable (again no pun intended) because it will live in my shed and will only be able to come to play by coming apart and then re-joining elsewhere (the garage probably) so the durability of the joint and the scenery / rail that crosses it has to be the best i can make it - if anyone has got any ideas to help then that would be great. As you can see i've currently got two pieces of hardboard (one on each board end) as a means of creating a permanent flat face which will be contoured to match the landscape from front to back once i've settled on the level.

Thanks for listening - foam next stop, so as they say watch this space.

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 6:59 pm
by deanobeano
Good evening,

And a nice drink it was :D

As promised a very quickly drawn layout using one of the many on line available track planning tools - it was only the demo version hence the limited plan. I have found that "playing" with the actual turnouts onto a solid surface was a really enjoyable process - another challenge to overcome is the cad tool - but which one?

ImageDeneport V1 by Dean Halls, on Flickr

The plan is to have a backboard (2mm thick foam backed sheet) curved around three sides at a height yet to be determined thus the rail lines to top right and top left leave through the backboard to join other "modules" (part of the bigger picture!!) or a simple non scenicked staging yard. The exit top right disappears through a covered bridge whilst the left exit is simply partially hidden by trees. I did consider trying to go fremo or modular but I really like the idea of the layout set in a proscenium style at or around eyelevel - the framework and legs are yet to be designed so all is not lost at this stage but I feel I should choose soon.

I've yet to decide on DC or DCC and if truth be known I would really like to have the option to switch between the two - I have some "stock" in both camps and not all necessarily suitable for New England running!! - Would welcome some advise re the potential / pitfalls of one or t'other (or both).,

Anyway, need to go and put the dinner on otherwise I'l be accused of getting my priorities wrong !! ;)

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:06 pm
by Mike_R
I can't say invisible, but my preferred method of making joins in my modules are 75mm loose butt hinges. I replace the pins with a length of 4mm diameter brass rod bent at 90º for a handle. I find they are very rigid, realign accurately, cheap and easy to fit (just put the screws in slightly off centre to put some tension on the pins).

Two joins can be see on this module. The pins can be put in from underneath to hide them or if at the back of the layout.


Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:28 pm
by deanobeano
Hi Mike,

Nice idea for joining the boards, thank you - I also see from your pic that you have a section which swings over on top for transport? If there's one thing I have learned to date is that there are so many ways of doing things but each seems to have a compromise to go with it! I would have liked to have the base boards the same size so that I could then join them scenery to scenery so as to form a box (for transport / storage) but that would mean a compromise on the rail layout so will have to settle for another solution for transporting and storing them instead.

Its also the top surface of the join that I really want to maintain in good order too (the 7' x 2' door approach would alleviate that problem but what about the sticky out bits!!).

I note that the layout picture i issued yesterday cropped the right hand end - here's another shot that hopefully helps understands the concept.

ImageUntitled by Dean Halls, on Flickr

No work tomorrow so hopefully some progress with the initial contouring using foam board - now where's that vacuum!!

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:00 pm
by Mike_R
Yes the left and middle boards are hinged together. There were several reasons for this, mainly to decrease set up time and reduce the number of connections. There are no connections to make on this join the wires run across the join. The hinges are hidden by a bridge when setup. I've used hinged boards before, making four folding corners for our old double track oval modular layout. Two have now been rebuilt for single track use, one a standalone corner the other goes with 23rd Street. Once again locked in place with loose butt hinges.

You don't need same sized boards to transport them together. Our junction module has a 4' long mated with a pair of triangular "wings" that fit to it's sides, but these are only 26" long when put together, to make up the gap I made a 22" module that bolts on to the wings to make a matching 4'. My 11th Avenue module has a 3' board mated with a 2' and 1' boards. The third board in the photo will have two odd shaped boards, that will fit on to the side of the left board, mated to it. I'm still figuring out the best way to do it.

For strong scenery ends I've used external filler, it dries very strong and sticks to wood really well. I cover the end of one board with cling film or foil, then coat the other with the filler, then fit them together so it squeezes some filler out. Clean off the excess and wait for it to dry. That gives a good matching join, 11th Avenue is well over 10 years old, the joins still match and the hinges still hold them together firmly. It has probably been taken apart at least 200 times! I have used the hinges horizontally under the boards, where the boards have been cut down for scenery, I still have one vertical hinge on each join to keep the join rigid.

Board joins don't have to affect track layout, I've been known to put turnouts across joins. I have a curved turnout with the join between the frog and switch rails.

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:13 am
by deanobeano
Hi Mike,

That's thinking outside the box if you pardon the pun!! - never thought of adding a spacer to help form the box!!

Your a far braver man than I re placing the point ends across joints - I worked hard to make sure the key point ends were both away from the board joint and the cross members (just like it says in the books!!) - that's the difference I guess that experience provides.

Wednesdays day in the shed was spent adding 50mm of foam across both boards to provide the base layer of "land mass". The plan is to lay rail sections (Peco Code 55 streamline) onto cork roadbed at or about this level with the water level some 7 scale feet below bottom ballast level (standard high tide at Denesport!!). I also need to ensure that the keel of the three masted boat (some 15 feet below the boats waterline) sits at or above the ply baseboard level so that I don't need to cut the model kit up or cut a hole in the baseboard.

The railroad is planned to be more or less at grade throughout although there may be some slight rise in gradient heading in and out of scene however its likely to be very slight if at all.

ImageFlat pack motels by Dean Halls, on Flickr

The pic above shows the first "slab" glued to one board and then suitably held down - not exactly n scale plants but certainly weighty!!! - Further sections were added until the whole of the two boards were covered. Care needs to be taken to limit the amount of dust when cutting - the use of a standard face mask certainly prevents breathing it in although you should also move your mug of tea or drink it all first!!

24 hrs later the plants were returned to the garden and the foam was checked for solidity. Next step is to trace out the track onto the foam with a view of then fixing wood blocks into the foam at key points along the "way" to provide a fixing point for the track - again I'm not confident that simply gluing cork to foam and then sleeper to cork (with ballast also providing adherence) will be enough to keep the "permanent way" in place. Belt and brace procedures has been at the heart of signalling systems (real world job) so its hard to break from that mentality.

Still, I'm happy with progress so looking forward to the next shed day and what that brings - can almost hear the whistle blowing ;)

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:56 pm
by Mike_R
It is definitely easier if you can design the boards to miss turnouts and motors, I have a habit of changing things after the boards are built! My North fork Springs layout has had the yard moved from outside the mainline to inside and then extended under some scenery. That put the turnout across the board join.

If you really want a challenge, my logging exhibition layout has real water on it. Well it would have looked silly if logs unloaded from cars bounced across a hard surface!

My aim with portable layouts are:
It fits in the car along with stock controls etc. I know people who have built layouts that don't!
I have to be able to move it in and out of the house and into the exhibition hall by myself.
It is easy to set up, the boards fit together accurately and simply. I try to make all the legs the same so I don't have to hunt around trying to match legs and positions.
All electrics plug in, with no chance of misconnections, different power types have different connectors. I now build transformers, command stations, boosters etc. in plastic tool boxes. Easy to carry, water resistant and cheap.

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 12:38 am
by deanobeano
Real water - now that is a challenge - I had thought about it but after due consideration it seemed a step too far at this point in my budding layout building career!!!

As for adjusting the plan - no harm in that at all (hopefully!)

The first three aims sit quite comfortably with plug in power a must - not quite ready for the build your own though.

Thursday saw me back in the shed with a plan to carve the water level into the two boards - first step was to map out the water section by cutting up my plan for the right hand board.

ImageMap the water line by Dean Halls, on Flickr

Next step was to carve out the area which was accomplished with a kitchen carving knife and a whole lot of debris - Henry the Hoover (other makes are available!!) earned his stripes while i scribed away -

As you can see there was a need to find the right level between boat deck and keel level and the dockside (track level) - as it was i had cut away more than i needed which is fine - a layer (or layers) of plaster will soon bring the waterline - dockside heights back to the required level:

ImageMap the water line by Dean Halls, on Flickr

I used Mike's idea of clingfilm to bed the boat into the hole lined with plaster to create an initial impression that would let me remove the boat without wrecking it - the picture shows the first layer - subsequent layers need to be added once the first has dried out.

Having done one board i started on the second - a slight change in marking out - i simply pushed a felt tip pen through the paper plan along the water edge thus keeping the plan whole - i then joined up the dots and carved away

After some time i ended up with the second board carved and with a layer of plaster covering the bank edge and waterline.

ImageMap the water line by Dean Halls, on Flickr

The bank area around the lighthouse and the inlet needs to be a rocky shoreline as opposed to the rest which is timber piled. I need to figure out what I want to use for the rocky edge - certainly needs to be sloped and shaped some more. I also need to make up my mind with regards to how to create the water finish - perhaps i should reconsider using the real stuff again!!

Not sure if i will get a chance to have another go before the family descends for a few days - it will wait im sure.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Modelling year to all. "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells ........."

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:45 pm
by Mike_R
Looking good!

Do you want rocks that are in situ or rocks that have been placed there? I've used carved foam for both.
This one is a carved rock face. I start with the rough shape of the rock face, then cut across with a knife in the direction of the rock layers, with other faults at around 90º. Followed by a hard nylon brush which breaks off bits, rounds it off and puts some texture on the surface. Try digging bits out and pressing harder with the brush to wear the foam away more.
I practised on some scrap pieces of foam.
Once carved, I paint with artex ceiling type paint, then stain with watered down grey, brown and black acrylic or emulsion paint.


For placed rocks I chop the foam up, often the bits from carving other forms leave suitable bits, smooth off the edges for natural boulders and leave sharper for quarried rock. I paint them the same way as above before placing them on the layout. If you want the rocks to be a similar colour stain them after putting in place.

I'll put up some more pictures when Photobucket or Flickr are working. I managed to get this one and now can't access either site.

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:08 pm
by Mike_R
Ahh back on line

Another set of rocks after staining, there is a lot of white in many rocks, check photos of where you are modelling.

A finished cliff with talus made from the large stones left from sieving ballast from sharp sand.

Placed rocks on my corner module Causeway.

Real water on my logging layout. These are broken plaster rocks. These I stained by putting them in a container of staining paint and stirring up before drawing and drying.

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 10:06 am
by torikoos
deanobeano wrote:Real water - now that is a challenge - I had thought about it but after due consideration it seemed a step too far at this point in my budding layout building career!!!
Have you considered watching the 'how to model water' series by our own Kathy Millatt on youtube?
It will show you that it is not too scary, and you could consider it. make a few small test areas first perhaps to learn to work with the material, before letting it loose on the main layout. Here's her site, but the videos are also on youtube. ... ing-water/


Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:04 pm
by deanobeano
Hi Koos,

Thanks for the advice and direction - all you ever want to now about water features and more!! - I know have a box of Magic Water (other manufacturers stuff available!!) to try out at a convenient point.

So after three days this week "managing" the kitchen fitters and having a crack at the layout i have moved on just a bit:

ImageDenesport - Rail layout by Dean Halls, on Flickr

The layout now suitably joined up with the "seabed" at the correct level to the quayside - one half below shows it better (looks like a posed dog!!)

ImageAnd the sea bed rises! by Dean Halls, on Flickr

I've also been able to decide on the height of the backdrop - a judicial use of a roll of blue wallpaper and some temporary supports has helped me decide that 10" of visible backdrop will provide a reasonable 127 scale feet - allows for the tallest tree on a small rise:

ImageJudging the backdrop size by Dean Halls, on Flickr

A bit more later

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:25 pm
by deanobeano
I really must watch my knows now!!!

So short sharp posts are definitely the way

I know need some good practical advice re the trackwork :

ImageCentre of the Interlocking by Dean Halls, on Flickr

ImageView from the end of the pier (when it's built!) by Dean Halls, on Flickr

I have laid out the railroad using Peco Code 55 Flexitrack and Electrofrog switches and fundamentally the layout suits the planned operation and im reasonably confident of making it work - But, I have this niggle that says that the switches individually don't look prototypical for a mechanically driven USA layout - yes there are facing points (sorry about the british term) and the "lumps" of plastic in the middle could be mistaken for the lock but i have this visage of a clean set of switches with just stretcher bars between.

There is also the issue of tie length (particularly in the switches) and the spacing between - it just seems not quite right.

Having waited 58 years to build a layout does it make sense to try my hand at building point and track work (and get it right, and the extra expense) or am i pushing my luck a bit at this juncture??

Any thoughts anyone?

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:43 am
by BrianMoore
Good work, Dean.

My now-dismantled HO loft layout used "British-style" Peco Code 75 throughout, as it was built before they released the US Code 83. Once ballasted, it looked fine. I took lots of pictures and videos of it and I never had a single comment about "the track looking funny".

Re: My First Layout - N Gauge Denesport & Lesley Falls

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:59 pm
by Mike_R
I think it is more important that the track is well ballasted and painted. That makes the rails and ties merge into the track bed and the type of track is less noticeable. I use HO code 75 tie spacing to make lighter laid track in spurs and yards.
Use fine ballast, a lot of it is too coarse, I sieve out sharp sand, I would think the small sand from a tea strainer, would be ok for N scale, I use it for HO yards.