Saturday, August 8, 2009

New White Pass Layout

Join me as I start on another layout design extravaganza!

The White Pass & Yukon in On30!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The End Of The Line

"Hey never finished my hacienda!"
- Peppy

Alas, compadres, the Penoles layout is as done as it will ever be. Thanks to all that furnished comments. There are some minor things that can be tweaked, but overall it is a solid design.

Hopefully one of you seniors will pick it up and build it some day. If you do, please send me pictures to post here and let me know if you need any help.

I'm off to design other railroads. On my docket...

1. Top Secret
2. The B&O Version 2
3. David's Layout

You will be able to see the Blogs for theses soon...except Top Secret may remain that way. Keep up with my other projects on my regular blog:

So long and happy modeling!

Oh, don't forget to keep track of my layout...

Thanks! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finished Track Plan

Finished drawings are listed on the left of the Blog screen. I'm very interested in getting your comments before I call this complete. Thanks!

Final overall track plan.

Benchwork drawing.

Track and Grade detail.


Finished The Track Plan! Ole!

"It is a good thing to finish anything but a bottle."
- Pedro

Alas, Seniors! I have finished the design. She is ready for critique, which basically means that some bozo will tell me that it needs to be built in N scale. No matter, a lot of good ideas come from critiques.

I drew in the El Diablo trestle. This should make for a nice little isolated scene.

The Durango tunnel was changed to tunnel tracks and named.
The compound trestle bridge over Mapimi is now called the Grande Puente (great bridge).

The large suspension bridge is now drawn in, called Puente Colgante.

The electrical blocks for the reversing loop are now marked and noted.

The rest of the structures are now installed at Ojeulo. I've added a cook house, the shacks, the office and the guard house.

The town of Mapimi is now populated with a house for Peppy, the water tower and oil tank, a retaining wall for the steep hill and a fancy adobe engine house. There is also a railroad office.

In East Mapimi we now have the important warehouse, oil distributor, the smelter ored dump with office and Pedro's palace. I've also added the towers for the suspension bridge. Very crowded indeed.
I broke out a separate drawing for the shadow box. It now contains the depot for lime loading, Rose's Cantina, water tower and oil, and homes for the Rojos and Baxters.
Excellent! Now I'll set up the main plans in a separate box on the blog and invite the folks from the LDSIG to take a look. The On30 folks too.

Please post comments or email them to me at Thanks

Friday, June 19, 2009

Not So Quick On The Draw...

"When at first you don't succeed, drown your sorrows in tequila!"
- Pedro

After tremendous outcry from the people, I have been told that I WILL finish the Penoles layout design. They are holding my child as ransom. win. I'll keep working on it.

After messing with the swamp layout ( I decided to go clean up the shop. There was my mess from the last adobe building #2. Yuck
I used a glue stick to hold the drawing template to the wood for cutting. It works well with little mess!

You can see here where I cut out the boards for Adobe #2. I then coated them all with Spackle and let them dry. When I came back they were completely warped! Crap! Project two down the drain.
Adobe #1 still is winning, but I don't like it at all. I'm going to try more ideas.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Moth Balls

"You know the smell of moth balls? Say, how did you get their tiny little legs apart?"
- Peppy

It's official. The Penoles Mining Railroad is being moth balled. I like the way its going, but its not meeting the criteria I need for the raffle layout. Also, another group has bid on the raffle layout, so we most likely won't get the chance to build this one.

Oh well....we'll keep it on ice for a while.

Meantime...more work on the Swamp!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Finish? Shrink? or Discontinue

"The road less traveled should be the one that goes to the Police station."
- Pedro

A puzzlement...

The Penoles Mine layout doesn't meet the raffle layout criteria. She is too big. Too long. Too complicated. Too many scratchbuilt structures. Too bad.

I have some options...

Complete the Penoles and send it in to a magazine to publish for someone else to build.

Shrink it and remove 50% of the structures and make it the raffle layout.

Stop working on it and start something else.

I'll ponder this. You ponder it, too. Post a comment when you can.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raffle Layout Review

"I like perfection! I even married a perfect idiot!"
- Pedro

We discussed the Penoles layout as a raffle layout tonight at the NCI meeting ( see the swamp blog at ) and decided it has a few issues.

One, its a bit larger than it should be.
Two, it is a bit complicated to build.
Three, most of the structures have to be scratch built.
It has fantastic curb appeal, which sells tickets.
Also, it would look fantastic in Mike's store.
Worst case, it winds up in a magazine.

When Do You Get Time?

"Time can slip through your fingers! So can taco sauce."
- Peppy

A friend sent me an email and asked "when do you find time to design layouts like you are doing on the blog?" Good question.

In Atlanta we have this thing called a long commute. I'm on the road about 1.5 hours per day. With an extra half hour on Friday that makes 8 hours per week driving. God blessed me with the ability to draw and design things in my head, in 3D and remember them long enough to write them down. My brother and father can do this as well. Also, I keep a pocket recorder hanging from my rear view mirror and a notebook and pen close by.

I also eat lunch which is about 45 minutes a day. Often I carry my notebook and jot down sketches and notes. Then in the late evening, usually about 9:30 or 10:00, we are very quiet in the house while my 4-year-old sleeps. I'll sit at the computer and draw up the sketches, make notes and write copy for about 30 minutes or so.

So when you look at it...

8 hours on the road
3.5 hours at lunch
2.5 hours in the evenings

Up to 14 hours a week can be spent on trains! You can get a lot done in that amount of time.

Keep in mind, the date the post is issued is seldom the actual day I write it. In fact, many times the stuff you see is two or more weeks old. I just jot this stuff down as I go and when I get to the end of a concept, I send it. Sometimes I'll write two posts on a rainy saturday and schedule them to post at different times.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Time for Structures!

"And just how are you going to build an adobe trailer park?"
- Pedro

It is now time to add the structures as the track plan is pretty much completed and the grades checked. I'm really liking this railroad! Let's start with the mine. I always like to add mandatory structures first, then ancillary ones. That way you make sure your priority buildings get their fair share of real estate. In O scale, you can run out of room fast.
Just some CAD tips here. I draw my drawings in layers. A layer meaning all like components are drawn together and saves as a separate and distinct group, and usually all one similar color. These layers can be turned off and on so that you can either focus on them or move them to work on other areas. Not sure if I really explained that well. So here I'm starting a structures layer and making it brown. I do this with every layout. I'll leave it on as I work with them and turn the Grade layer off.

The mine complex needs several buildings. I'll start with the main power and machinery building. Power is generated from a oil fired boiler. We'll put double doors on it and make it a machine shop. Its the largest mine building at one foot long and six inches wide. This is so that the interior can be detailed if we want it to be.

The powerhouse can move around so I just kind of sat it in the middle. Then I drew the tipple, which is nothing but a two car length trestle over a ramp that dumps the ore into the awaiting hopper. We'll deliver the ore by Bachman's V shaped skip dump ore car. The tied track drawings are starting to get in the way, so we'll convert them to hidden trackage as both are socked away under the scenery. The top mine loop is under the rock of the mine face. The ore car track goes right to the edge of the layout and we'll put about four inches of mine tunnel and a portal there so a person can feel like they are in the mine looking out onto the mine complex. Neat, huh?

Bachman's V Dump Ore Car

The first thing I did was add the timber tunnel portals. These things are huge in On30, so be sure to make room for them. Timber portals are hard to come by in On30, but you can get them from Dr. Ben's website. These will work nicely and we'll need a ton of them. I also drew in the mine cribbing section and the trestle work to get the mine track over to the tipple. Looking good!

That's all for tonight. We'll pick it up from there on the next post. Meanwhile, use the comments section and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ghost Town Pictures

I got this link from the Allen NYT on Ghost Towns - a great reference for structures!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Making the Grade

"Steep grades are a constant, uphill battle."
- Peppy

So I propped my foot up late today and started calculating the grades again. The ruling grade and the average grade for the layout are set at 2%. Basically that means this:

Grade % = Rise/Run

So, for every 1" of grade that I want over 100" of track will give me a 1% grade.
And, for every 1" of grade that I want over 50" of track will give me a 2% grade.

So if you know that you want a 2% grade, use this formula to figure out the run.

Rise / Grade % = Run

The design has afforded me a very long run as it winds around the mountains and makes maximum use of the loops, so keeping at 2% is easy even when one track needs to go over another. So I mapped out each 50" section of track and put in the grade markers.

I've started dressing up the header block a little bit and have added a scale and a legend. Grades are marked in inches from the zero point, which is the top of the open grid benchwork. The layout is actually a three hill layout with each blob being a hill and another hill at the bend. In between there is a canyon where exists the town of Mapimi.

So let's take a ride up the hill. We'll start at the smelter siding in East Mapimi. Heading east at zero elevation we'll go around the bottom loop to Mapimi and pass the town and the enginehouse. Once we pass the town, also at zero elevation we begin the climb. We keep an almost perfect 2% all the way to the station at Agua Caliente. This town is a high plain and grade-wise is perfectly flat. This is so we can leave trains and rolling stock here safely without them rolling to down visit the nice folks in Mapimi.

We then start another 2% climb as we round the Chihuahua Bend which now is 4" off the benchwork and has a nice view of the Chihuahua desert. We continue to climb another inch and then reach the first large bridge going over Mapimi and its valley. This bridge is on a grade.

On the grade to the big bridge it gets just a little bit steeper than 2%, but that is ok. I think I'll call it Durango Grade after the province where the mine is located. By the time we reach the suspension bridge we are eight inches off the benchwork. The suspension bridge is perfectly level at eight inches. We then end our trip at Ojeula which remains at eight inches.

In hind site, I'd like to have a little more clearance between Agua Caliente and the mine, so we may raise the mine to 8.5 inches. Agua is 3.5 inches and the mine will be 8.5 inches, which gives us five inches of clearance. A bit tight, but doable.
I like naming key features of the trackage becuase it makes operations a little easier. Instead of yelling at the dispatcher that you are on the left side of the layout, you can just tell them that you are on the Durango Grade.

I've got a few more track adjustments to make and then I'll input the grades into the CAD system and run a train over the layout. What fun!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Building Adobe House #1

"Hey, what say we go to my new house and get plastered!"
- Pedro

My daughter is quietly sleeping upstairs. My friends from the train club came by to shake hands, pick up 75 trees from our last meeting and and make fun of me staying at home while they head over to Concrete Keith's to discuss the lack of scenery on his layout. With an ice cold Coca-Cola in hand I head to the basement to build Pedro's house.
I printed off two sets of drawings for the house. One will be cut out and fastened to a thin sheet of balsa wood for a cutting pattern. The others are for viewing. When the building is assembled it will be just big enough to fit in your outstretched hand.
I had a sheet of 3/32 balsa laying around so that became the interior wall for the house.

Using a pair of razor sharp scissors that I keep for just this purpose, I cut out one drawing of each elevation of the building.
Grabbing my handle bottle of Ilene's Tacky Glue I tacked the ends of the pattern on to the balsa wood and put a brand new blade in my hobby knife. Sharp is always mandatory when cutting, so don't go stingy on blades.

I cut out the main square of the building side using a straight edge and the hobby knife.
With great care I cut out the door and the window.

Once the four walls are cut out I taped them to a piece of cardboard and sprayed both sides with Testor's Dullcoat. I did this because the plaster we are going to use contains water and I wanted to prevent the balsa wood from soaking in the water and warping.
Using a scrap piece HO scale crosstie (a piece of 3/32 wood will do) I made the window sill and the header beam for the door and window. This will also become the thickness indicator for the adobe coating.

I cut four corner supports out of a piece of scrap wood, approximately 1/4" square and two inches long to be the corner mounts and the roof supports. Why am I using scraps? These will be inside and you won't see them. I don't waste anything and take all my wood scraps and put them in a Glad Zipper bag which I keep close by for just such purposes. Dropped crossties are a frequent visitor to the bag.
Using the corner supports I applied Tacky glue and erected the walls using heavy steel squares to keep it aligned properly. Looking good!
Here you can see the corner supports and a relfection of me and my work light in the glass surface that I use for model building.
Again, using the 3/32 balsa wood I cut out a roof insert and glued it into place using Tacky glue.
Grabbing some more loose crossties (any square wood scrap will do) I reinforced the roof in four places to keep it from sagging.
Using Durham's Water Putty (thanks for the ideas Colin Claxon!) I made a thick mixture of two parts putty with a little less than one part water. I took a pallet knife and spread the compound all over the structure. On hind site it is probably better to do each side flat and then assemble the building and touch it up. This was way harder and messier than it should have been. Once the model dries (overnight) I'll sand down the wood parts and see if I can level out the plaster. If I had done the pieces separately the plaster would have laid down flat. Live and learn.
While the adobe was drying I cut my minature cut off saw and put in a stop block set at 1/4". Then I took a 3/16th dowel and scribed it with a Zona saw blade. Once scribed I began cutting these small pieces of dowel. These will be the vigas, six per side.

Using a brown Sharpie pen and watching Georgia Public Television I colored each of the vigas brown. The white side will be glued to the structure.

Ok, everything is wet, so we'll wait until tomorrow to finish it. So far, a simple model, but it is easy to dress these types of building up. They are very easy to produce in mass quantities.


  • Research: gather picture, surf internet, ask questions on On30 group - 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Drawing: CAD drawing of four sides and print - 45 minutes
  • Prep for construction: gather materials - 10 minutes
  • Cut out walls and roof: - 20 minutes
  • Assemble walls - 15 minutes
  • Adobe coating - 30 minutes
  • Vigas - 20 minutes

Total time so far: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Cost so far: $0 as everything was in my shop. Had I gone to the store $7.15 (enough to build about 4 to 5 structures)

Why do I care about this? Frankly I think scratch building is faster and cheaper than a building a kit. I keep a well stocked shop and buy things either on sale, in bulk or from auctions and just pack them in the work shop. Most times I can walk down there and beging construction. In this case I'm interested in the time and cost because these basic house structures could be mass produced in a fraction of the time a kit can be purchased and assembled. Even faster if I make mold/master castings (which probably would happen if we go into full construction on the layout.)

Hey guys...let me know your thoughts! Write them below in the comments section. We want ideas!

Let's Build an Adobe House

"Senior, this is a REALLY small house you are building for me!"
- Pedro

I'm fired up and can't walk, so let's go down to the basement and build an adobe house. I've drawn the plans and have gotten tips on how to build it from Colin Claxon, so this should be quick. Here are the drawings:

Oops...forgot to put the scale on there. This is o scale, and the grid marks are one foot square.

Update: the font and rear elevations were updated as I dropped the vigas (wood roof supports) down so that they are one foot from the top of the structure.

Ole Adobe!

"Be it every so humble, there's no place like a square box made out of mud bricks in the middle of the hot sun. Wait, is that rain coming?"
- Peppy

I love adobe structures! That's one of the main reasons I wanted to look at modeling the Mexican railroads. While I've never built one I'm thinking they would be fairly simple to construct.

Here are some photos...
The smooth and curving sides...solid wood doors...
Large wooden supports over windows and doors, thick and rugged bricks...
Teh ubiquitous wooden roof supports and the earthen colors...
The broken away stucco and the arches...
Oh...and the bullet holes.

Such character these buildings have! I'm thinking I'll start with a small square house. It can be the jump off place for several structures as the are all cubic in shape for the most part.

Here is a sketch I've made of a simple home using the key features that I find so attractive in adobe buildings. My thought is to cast plaster sides and then assemble and round off the corners by sanding. I'm open for other construction ideas.

Ok, my daughter wanted to draw, so I sat down with her and sketched a few more using her watercolor pens.

I decided that the town of Agua Caliente needed a bar. Why not use Rose's Cantina?Greasy Gonzalez's Oil Depot will need to stand out a bit more than this, but its a start.
The enginehouse needs to be a focal point on the back side, so it may include some interior details. I'm going to use Colin Claxon's fine "garage" model as a design base for this structure.

On30 Group Member Colin Claxon is a fantastic adobe structure builder and I'm learning from his work.

He says...

The "barn" is 3/16 foam core with Durham's water putty over it. Some of the structures are 3/16 balsa. The exposed adobe brick are Fimo modeling clay. It was painted with washes of acrylic craft paint.(painted wet on wet) If you build one, the vigas go over the shortest distance not like I did it.
Thanks for the nice words.. Do check out Tom Yorkes models. They are quite good.
Colin Claxon

To learn about adobe architecture go to: