New Layout build: Quick Update – 08 August 2019

Wanted to share some photos of the new layout build. I’ve been preparing, and where I needed to, buying wiring materials to complete the major wiring. More…

The layout – as built

Here are some more images of the layout build as it stands at the moment. You’ll note that the layout is freestanding, resting on trestles (hand built with simple woodworking tools in my garage – more on that later in another post).

I’ve included the final trackplan; it’s important for me to point out that you can plan forever on screen, but while ever you don’t take the plan to the baseboard I really cannot see what I have and what I need to do to make the layout visually appealing (well at least that’s how it is for me).

Track laying

When I begin to lay out the track I print out the track plan, and using a grid marked out on the plan and layout board, begin to match up the plan to the layout.

Then I mark up the top of the layout surface (in this case 2″ blue foam) using a pencil to mark the outside of the ties. This enables me to positively place the cork where I need it to be once the track is removed, drill holes for feeds and frogs, and although not shown in these photos mark out the sub-terrain ‘rod in tube’ locations from the tie bar to the front fascia of the layout.

These markings allow me to dig out the foam before installing the cork, drill the holes in the fascia and install the tubes in place using hot glue. There’ll be a post on that too in the not too distant future for those that may not know about this switch operating method.


Wrap up

That’s it for this post.

I’m finding that time to write posts is really short at the moment – work is an all consuming animal as we live 120 Km from where I work – so I’m adding 4 travel hours a day to what is an already 9-10 hour day. Looking forward to moving back into Melbourne later in the year which will give me a lot of time back in my life.

I have three weeks of holiday coming up in 1 week batches over the next 6 weeks – looking forward to that and to getting more photos and posts out to you all.

Next week I’ll be working broken shifts and will be working on posts covering these topics:

  1. Layout Build Part 3 post on building Trestles,
  2. Track laying,
  3. Switching infrastructure (rod in tube), and
  4. Wiring.

I hope that you’ll ask any questions that you have either here through the comments, or on the facebook page.


Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas? Connect with us on the

Andrew’s Trains page on Facebook

Posted in Layout Design, Modelling, Site Updates, Small, Switching, This Site | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

New Layout Build – Part 2: The challenges of a new type of baseboard

In Part 1 of this series I covered the design decisions made and how I expected them to work with the planned operations methods. This time we’ll look at the baseboard used along with building a set of trestles for the layout to rest upon.

What is a hollow-core door?

OK – so that door to your bedroom, or really any interior door, is a hollow-core door (HCD). That is, it is not a solid wood door made of stiles, rails and panels. The face is usually MDF, or something equally as smooth for a nice finish. There’s a solid wood frame around the periphery of the door (for attaching hinges, handles and locks) and a honeycomb interior which the facers glue to providing the stiffening for the whole thing. Take a look at image 1 below.

Image 1: The interior (hollow-core) door used for the new layout

This is a narrow door (the narrowest in stock at my local builders centre – Mitre10 in regional Victoria if you’re wondering) and are often used for closet doors and other narrow access applications which just happens to be perfect for those of us wanting to build a shelf layout.

At 2040 mm (80.3 inches) long, 420 mm (16.5 inches) wide and 35 mm (1.4 inches) deep they are not too big to be carried by the average person through the house without issue.

Issues I’ve discovered

I’ve read that over time that without stiffening hollow-core doors can droop. If you are using these on some sort of shelving system I doubt this would be an issue. I intend this to be a freestanding layout so to ensure that droop doesn’t become a drag I have provided outer stiffening along the length of the board (and across the ends for another reason discussed later).

As I wanted to keep the costs down on this build I used what I had in stock from my wood pile and so 90mm x 19mm clear pine for the stiffening was used. This allowed me to provide:

  • the required stiffening,
  • coverage for the outside of the foam board, and
  • a small lip below the baseboard to assist in locating the trestle legs

All the components are shown in image 2 below.

Image 2: The baseboard components – door, 50mm foam, and 90 x 19mm clear pine

What I’d do different next time

Should I build another layout on a hollow-core door I’d:

  • replace the clear pine with 6mm AA Grade Mixed Hardwood Marine Plywood, ripped down to 100mm strips and glued and screwed to the edges of the door.

You could go thicker than this but I think the 6 mm would be good enough for adding the stiffness you need over the length of the door. The ply would be quite a bit lighter than the 19 mm clear pine, yet would be just as stiff and as easy to finish.

A Hollow-core door as a baseboard?

So now that we all understand what a HCD is, here’s why I’ve wanted to try a hollow-core door baseboard for a long time:

  • Cost – they are not expensive (even here in Oz with the Australia Tax where everything from overseas costs more) at the $32.00 price point they meet my time and labour cheapness test – that is I could not make a similar baseboard for the money in the time it takes to go to the hardware store, pick it up and get back home
  • Simplicity – they come in standard sizes and are the same each time as they are machine manufactured
  • appear simple to set up and get ready for use (Lance Mindheim and others use them regularly), and finally
  • To see what challenges there are to overcome – to get them to work for me – considering I come from the handmade, open grid benchwork style of baseboard and I intend to wire electrofrog points (turnouts) using double-pole, double throw miniature switches to throw the points using the wire in tube.

Let me say from the outset that there are serious challenges if you’re used to working with open grid baseboards as I am. For a start there’s a lot more planning that needs to go into the wiring and switch operation if you’re using powered (in my case Peco electrofrog) switches. Regardless whether you are using DC or DCC – the issues still exist to power the frogs.

Issues I’ve discovered

Among the things you’ll need to think about are:

  • how you’ll route the wiring both for track feeds and getting power to live frogs if you use them, and
  • what and how you’ll move the tie-rod

These are the deal breakers. I’ll share with you what I’ve come up with.

What I’m doing to overcome these issues

Routing the wiring

Thanks go out to Lance Mindheim for helping me understand how does his wiring on his layout using HCDs.

Like miners everywhere, I’m going to drill. Down that is. I’ll be drilling 3mm holes through the foam, and the HCD so that wires can go through the foam and the HCD. All wiring will be worked on underneath the baseboard for simplicity’s sake and allow easy replacement. I bought an extra long bit specifically for this specific purpose.

Neatness will be maintained by the use of self-adhesive 19 mm square sticky cable tie mounts. Cable ties will hold everything in place and if I need to I can cut a cable tie and replace a wire if needed.

Switching frog polarity and actuating the switch

After a lot of thinking and playing around with multiple ideas I’ve decided to use a Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) miniature slide switch linked to the switch’s tie-bar via a wire in a tube (the wire in tube method). this allows me to set everything up to go under the scenery, but be replaceable if something breaks or a switch breaks down during use. While the tube will be buried in the scenery after the layout is complete, I can if need be replace the actuating wire over time should it snap, or fail in whatever way.

Since the wire will come through the fascia via the tube it is simple a matter to disengage one end from the tie-bar, the other end from DPDT switch, remove the broken part put in a new one and then join it all up again. Simple.

What I’d do differently next time

I’m not sure yet, but as I find things out I’ll let you know. Update will follow in the out of sequence posts on this build topic.

Wrap Up

I was aiming to get the trestles covered in this post, however, since I’ve been writing this in fits and starts since my holidays ended two weeks ago on my limited time off I figured we’d save that for part 3. Shift work and tram driving – ain’t life grand!

Further thoughts – Switch Control Options

I prefer to use manually thrown points. When using open grid framework baseboards for US layouts I prefer to use ground throws driving under surface mounted DPDT switches to control the frog polarity. In this case I find that using the wire-in-tube method is the better option.  There are two reasons for this:

Firstly – the distance between the bottom of the board (door at 35mm, plus foam at 50mm for a total of 85mm, plus about 5mm between the top of the foam, cork and track height). This means that to throw the switch from below the door level will require a very stiff metal to ensure proper operation of the switch due to there being little sweep movement over the long length of the actuating arm, and that my friends concerns me.

Secondly – fixing a problem is simpler and easier.

There is always the option of using switch machines in this case too. However as mentioned above I think there are major mechanical issues that would need to be worked around.  As I don’t have any experience here I’m interested in hearing from you if you have used switch machines in these situations (we can talk about this through the comments, or on the Facebook page). I would like to hear how you’ve solved that problem.

Posted in HO Scale, Inglenook, Layout Design, Layouts, Modelling, Scales, Small, Switching, Web | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Layout Build: Quick Update – August 11, 2019 – A name finally

It’s nice to have the time to allow ideas to form in their own way, and in their own time. Deciding on a name with the new layout has been one of those journeys…

Finding a name

Tonight after dinner the family and I caught the end of my favourite movie ‘Field of Dreams’. I believe this movie is the ultimate Dad and son movie. The constant refrain in the movie is: ‘If you build it, he will come’. I’m under no illusion that my Dad will walk out of the corn field any time soon to spend time to operate with me. (I don’t have a cornfield, and I’m avert to cornfield meets in any case.) On the odd chance that he does walk out of the corn he’ll have a great time working the layout. So you know – there’ll be a complete post covering everything you’ll want to know about operating the layout in a future post – never fear.

I doubt that I would have my love of trains and transportation if it were not for my Dad. We were not a well to do family but my father made sure that I had a train set or two, including a Triang 00 scale Dock shunter set. We had our issues he and I, but then which father and son do not? Without his early influence I doubt I’d have had my life long passion of railway modelling and transportation.

My Dad (Evan Louis Martin) was a World War 2 veteran, suffering silently all of his life after service with PTSD. Passing through the veil in 1993 I will be celebrating him in October 2021 on his 100th birthday.

It’s fitting then that the man who started it all for me should have this layout named after him. After my ‘Field of Dreams’ moment last night I’ve decided instead on celebrating the man who bought me to my passion. So I’d like to welcome you to the Evans Hollow Industrial.

There’ll be another post on the layout soon, Part 3 covering the building of the trestles. All the best until then.

Posted in HO Scale, Layout Design, Modelling, Operations, Scales, Small, Switching, TOMA | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Layout build: Quick Update – 17 July 2019

Just a quick update on the new layout build. The woodwork was completed before I went back to work on Sunday this week. And the layout was set up in its temporary location until we move back to the big smoke later in the year. Where it will again live on the trestles I’ve built for it.

Between now and then my goal is to get the layout up to operating standards (track laid, wired, tested, trains running etc.). Once we move back to Melbourne I’ll complete the basic scenery such as ballasting and landforms. Then there’ll be the large industrial buildings to build, the junk yard fence and the junk to complete. From there I’ll be detailing the layout.

Today however I want to look at the track plan, and setting that up on the layout board. I’ve been a big fan of working things out on the board now for several years. And today’s exercise has reinforced that.

Here’s a reminder of the version I was working to when I began setting down track today:

Image 1: The original track plan (version 4)

The basic layout design and the track layout are very close. I was happy with the original design on paper (and screen). In the flesh however, it was ‘off’, just not quite right (NQR). So out came some cars, and a couple of extra switches and away we went. I like the more organic look of the track formation now. It is pleasing to the eye, and the camera (see Image 2 below).

Image 2: An overview of the layout design modifications

There’s enough straight lines about this layout (baseboard and the two warehouses – the two spurs at back left). To ensure that the viewer would not be overwhelmed by that I decided to change the 4th turnout from the straight in the plan to a curved turnout. That change to the geometry has created what is now a serpentine look to the layout. By ensuring that the trackwork is ‘going in all directions’ provides a ‘real’ feel to it all. And that pleases me very much.

Image 3: A lower shot showing the organic flow of the track arrangement

So much for a short update! I’ll be posting over the weekend in regard to the layout board and legs; as both are a new way to work for me. All the best. You thoughts and comments are most welcome here and on Facebook. Please share and let me know your thoughts.

Posted in Layouts | 2 Comments

Site Seeing – 16 July 2019 – The Little Critter that could edition

It’s not often that you get to see internal (in-plant) company railway operations today. Thankfully “Saginaw Terminal Docks” (Facebook and YouTube) posted a video from Reid Machinery in Lansing, Mi showing how they use old freight cars to store valuable machinery on their site prior to sale.

Reid Machinery’s internal railroad

Reid Machinery Inc of Lansing Michigan have specialised in moving machinery, primarily in the forging industry, throughout North America since 1992. And while that may not seem like the most worthy thing to write about on the third Tuesday in July – I urge you to hang around a moment longer. You see they also hold their large (as in big – not lots of) inventory on and in their own railroad assets.

Yes – they have their own switching layout.

Thanks to Saginaw Terminal Docks we have a front row seat, and a cab ride on one of these switching moves. I asked him about connections to the rest of the world. He tells me that the in-plant line connects to the JAIL/Adrian & Blissfield on over a mile of old track through Lansing’s south side.

And this is so modellable…

YouTube video

Some of the things to watch out for in the video are:

  • The three person crew (Engineer, conductor, and digger – and yes it’s a guy with  a shovel)
  • Slow switching speeds
  • At around the 18 minute mark – opening the boxcar door with the forklift forks (we often model the result but the actual operation is rarely filmed)

So sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the show.


Posted in Boxcars, Layout Design, Loads, Operations, Prototype, Site seeing, Sites of interest, Small, Switching, Switching, Web, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Layout Build – Part 1: Design, Decisions, Ops Method and Track Plan

New techniques, a new baseboard type, and a small footprint are coming together for a simple, yet very operational, small layout.

Design – Decisions and purpose

First off let’s take a look at the decisions affecting the design.

There are several layouts that keep popping up on various feeds of mine including Cleveland Flats (in 1:48 scale O gauge) and the Fort Smith RR layout (also in O gauge) both by Kurt. Along with these layouts and many more like them came a recent post by Lance Mindheim regarding the The “Thirty Minute/Three Hour” operating session guideline.

Lance writes: “When it comes to model railroad operations, I’ve noticed what I call the “thirty minute/three hour rule”. It has to do with how long the average person can run before burnout, boredom, or both sets in and they’ve had enough.

Lance’s 30 minute Op session applies to the single operator, while the longer time period applies to the group operator on a larger layout. Most of my layouts (including this one for which I’ve not yet come up with a name) assume that most people will tire of operating within the 30-45 minute range and thus can be operated in as little as 15 minutes or as long as 45 minutes by a single person or a two person crew – working as engineer and conductor. An Op session includes arriving at, switching in before clearing up and leaving the modelled scene.

Design – Operation flexibility

I wanted a layout design which allowed varying lengths of work. That work length  depending on how much time I had available. I’ve come up with three scenarios that fit within three session lengths of 15, 30 and 45 minutes as follows:

  1. A single customer with one or more cars  to switch for those times when you just want to switch something – let’s call it the 15 minute session,
  2. One or more customers with one or more car(s) at each location, for those times when you want to spend a little more time switching, but not have a full operating session – let’s call it the 30 minute session, and
  3. Two or more customers with one or more cars at each location for those times when you have between 45 minutes and an hour and two operators. There is added complexity where cars being held at the customer’s site may require re-spotting during the switching activity- let’s call it the 45 minute session.

I wanted operational flexibility since the time I have available may change in the middle of a session. So what may start out as a 45 minute session may end after only 15 minutes (perhaps something has come up to which I need to attend – the washing or ironing for example).

Design – Operating Method

To allow for operations flexibility I’ll be using switchlists as the operating method on the layout.

Switchlists allow for a series of moves that can be ticked off by crews as they complete the work. Meaning that should someone else decide to continue an interrupted Op session they mark off their moves as they’re completed, before shutting down the layout, ready for the next operator to come along and continue the Op Session, and so on.

My switchlist will mimic the prototype in their look, but will have an activity column to let operators know what they are to do at each industry (for simplicity’s sake) and a checkbox column to allow crews to mark completed switch moves.

The activity column will provide for three activities:

  1. SETOUT – where a car is set out a named location and spot (where applicable) which for example may be “Industry 1, spot 3”,
  2. PICKUP – where a car is picked up from a named location and spot (where applicable) which for example may be “Industry1, spot 1”, and finally
  3. HOLD – where a car is still being unloaded at the named location and spot (where applicable) which will require the car to be respotted after any switching moves that require the car to be moved. For example at “Industry1, spot 2” the car is not finished unloading. We need to setout a car at the same named location spot 3, which is further down the spur for a specific commodity. So we would pull the car from spot 2, setout the incoming car at spot 3 and then respot the partially unloaded car at spot 2 before finishing switching.

Since I intend to use blue flag protection at each location where we are switching into customer premises. I’ll eventually build a bill box for each location to contain details of car/spot assignments. Initially though I’ll be using A5 clipboards with the customer’s spotting requirements.

I’ll delve more deeply into the operating method in a later post during the build. Suffice to say that switchlists as I envisage them allow simple, easy to understand instructions to crews who may be operating for the first time. They also allow start/stop short operating sessions by many operators over different days (so long as crews mark cars off as they go).

My goal for an operating session of any length is to focus on switching action, not on the paperwork. That can happen in the background during the Ops setup session.

Design – Track Plan

Right now I’ve completed up to version 4 of the track plan – the first one that I’m really happy with. The next step is to play with the thing for real on the layout surface to check for fit and to see how things will look.

I’m trying something new in the design as there is no runaround on the scenic area of the layout. I’ve moved the runaround outside the scenic area by using a fiddle-stick to contain the runaround/rest of the world. By doing so I get more switching on the scenic area while still allowing the train to be turned (the loco running around the train).

Also by varying the length of the fiddle stick you add flexibility to train lengths and thus the scope of the operating session – such as how many cars you can switch in a complete session. Version four’s plan is below:

I’ve recently begun using SCARM and find it to be refreshingly simple and easy to get used to. I had my first layout up and running in 10 minutes from installing the software. For a free piece of software (for small and simple layouts – if you want to build larger more complex layouts you can purchase a license to unlock more features) it works very well. It get’s the Andrew’s Trains tick of approval.

The state of play

I’ve completed the layout board, glued down the foam and built the supports. Most of the wood was what I had on hand. There were a couple of purchases, along with wood, screws, and other bits and pieces I had on-hand. There’ll be a post next week on that process. I’m about $110 Aussie in so far on the build process. I have all the track I’ll need (including turnouts) but have to complete the work to get them ready for DCC. We’ll discuss that in the next couple of posts.

For now I’ll sign off. If you would like to see more of these types of posts on the blog and on Facebook make sure to like and subscribe as appropriate. I’m looking forward to reading your comments and keeping you up to date on the build process.


If this is the first time you’ve come across operating methods as mentioned above there’s a great primer available at Freight Train Operation and Model Car Forwarding Methods by Dave Clemens.

Available as a PDF download it covers many operating schemes with short explanations of each. (If you head to the Pacific Coast Region NMRA’s clinic page you’ll find a bunch of other useful clinics and handouts for your reading pleasure too).

Don’t forget that I’ll be covering the paperwork to be used for this layout in a future post.

All the best and look forward to hearing from you soon.


Posted in Layout Design, Layouts, Modelling, Small, Switching | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Site Seeing – 10 June, 2019 – the Realistic Rust edition

I’m always looking for better techniques to model rust weathering. This video comes courtesy of a post I found on the MRH website by YouTuber MarklinofSweden. He shows how to create a realistic corrosion effect very simply. Take a look at the video I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

Modelling realistic rust

Got another technique that works for you? Please share it with me and if you found this post useful please like and comment. I’m really interested in what you’re up to with your weathering journey.

Posted in Acrylics, Liked off site, Modelling, Paints & Painting, Pastel Powder, Powders, Site seeing, Sites of interest, video, Weathering, Web, YouTube, Youtube | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Site seeing – June 6, 2019 – the ‘Barmouth Junction’ edition

This video came to my notice thanks to a post on the Australian Model Railway Magazine’s (AMRM) Facebook account. And while not Australian in any way shape or form, Geoff Taylor’s Barmouth Junction layout is a visually stunning model.

Barmouth Junction

Well worth the time to travel over the line and listen to it’s creator tell you about the layout. It’s a masterpiece and while not a small layout it is so well modelled and I imagine it is just as good to operate on that I wanted  to share it with you.

Well done Geoff and the thanks also to British Railway Modelling (BRM) magazine for showing us the layout.

Posted in Large, Layout Design, Layouts, Liked off site, Modelling, Motive Power, OO Scale (4mm:Foot), Scenery, Site seeing, Sites of interest, steam, video, YouTube, Youtube | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Site Update – New Gallery – Pyke Brush Cutter

A new gallery has been posted covering a very unique piece of UP M.O.W equipment I found back in 2000 on Austin’s Bergstrom Lead. This comes about because of a post on the MRH website where member cr9617 is modelling one in HO scale.

Not something that you see every day

Maintenance of Way equipment is a fascinating field of study and I was very pleased, as well as lucky, to have caught this piece of equipment on the Bergstrom Lead back in 2000.  (It is hard to believe that these digital images are almost 20 years old as I write this – where has the time gone?)

To view the gallery click here, or use the menu and hover on the Galleries > USA > Austin, Texas, Pyke Brush Cutter and click the last pop-out. Enjoy and leave a comment if you can.

Posted in Class 1, MOW, Prototype, Site seeing, Sites of interest, This Site, Web | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jack ‘Shortliner’ Trollope – RIP – April 27, 2019

For those of you reading, who did not know Jack “Shortliner” Trollope, AKA Shortliner Jack, you really missed out on an experience. Jack was a courteous and caring man, modeller and mentor. Always giving of his ideas, and time, with many across the world of model railways.

His passion for small space railroad modelling ignited my passion. It wasn’t until today that I realised I have been in touch with him regularly for most of the last 20 years online, in forums and through the Model Trains International magazine and website. He was the person who first took an interest in my designs and got me to write several articles for MTI over the years.

His most enduring design (I think) was Box Street yard. A timeless design along the lines of Cyril Freezer’s ‘Minories’, Alan Wright’s ‘Inglenook’ and John Allen’s ‘Timesaver’. To have a layout design spoken about in that august company should by anyone’s model railroading standard be considered an honour. I’ve included an image of Box Street below (image courtesy of . Click on the image to get taken to the site for a full review of Jack’s layout design. A fitting tribute to the man and the modeller.

To his wife and family you have my deepest sympathies. I’ve shed a tear, and to his memory I’ll raise a beer shortly. RIP Jack. You’ll be greatly missed. You’ll not be forgotten.


Posted in About, Classic Designs, Information, Layout Design, Modelling, Small | Tagged , , | Leave a comment