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N-scale model trains aren't my life, but they do absorb a fair chunk of my spare time and funds. I presently own around 100 engines and cars, heavy on grain hoppers. I consider myself an intermediate-level modeler, with little interest in achieving perfection down to the last rivet. My greatest joy in the hobby is watching people's faces light up as they watch the trains, especially children.

The Little Layout

Yes, I actually do have a layout. This is Plan #1 from my trackplanning page, slightly altered — I used a three-way turnout on the upper level. The photo isn't the best quality, but it does show what even rudimentary scenery can do to improve a simple 2x4' layout. I'm using "glueshell" scenery, as described by Leon Honings in the Sept 1995 issue of Model Railroader, with Woodland Scenics turf and ballast. The factory with the smokestack is a Model Power kit, the brick building (a feed mill) on the top level is made from DPM wall sections, and the silver grain elevator is scratchbuilt.

The Door Layout

I'm beginning to build a door layout, as a way of getting something bigger than my 2x4' plan without sacrificing portability. My goals are as follows:

Givens (non-negotiable):

Druthers (preferences):

This is the plan I'm currently building. It's built on my 78x30" door, with quarter-round molding nailed onto each long side (not shown on the plan) to add about 1-1/2" in width without adding much to the table's weight or footprint.

Door layout plan

The trouble with two levels is that the upgrades and downgrades eat up huge amounts of space that can't be used for much of anything else. I've eliminated that problem in this plan by doing away with the grades altogether. The plan consists of two separate loops that are not connected to each other.

The lower-level track (gray) features a busy chemical works (Green Max kits and Kibri tank-car loading facility), a grain elevator, an interchange track (at lower left), and staging for three trains. The upper track (cyan) is basically a display loop; it has my long bridge, two short bridges, and staging for four more trains, one of which has to be very short. On the right, both loops disappear into tunnels, just because it made a good scenic divider there.

I originally got the entire upper loop to fit on the table, which is usually considered a good thing. But when I test-assembled the track, I found that the bridges crossed the lower tracks at too shallow an angle, whichl left the bridge piers far too close to those tracks. To avoid collisions, I altered the angles of the upper loop, which took part of it off the table. A small trapezoidal addition to the table, screwed and glued in place, will support the upper loop quite nicely.

Minimum radii are 9-3/4" and 11". I've run all my equipment on them, and everything works without binding or derailing; a larger radius would shorten the main line and reduce the number of staging tracks, so the tight curves are worth it to me. The turnouts are #4.

December 20,2019: the first train takes its laps on the lower level.

This is my pride & joy, ATSF #100, my best modeling work to date.

It's a JnJ F45 shell on a Kato SD45 mechanism. Both needed extensive modifications to fit each other. The end handrails were formed from wire. Polly Scale paints and Micro Scale decals finished the job.

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