The love affair with N
gauge started when my father, Malcolm, retired in 1988.
Having time on his hands meant he could finally indulge in his passion in
model railways. However the flat he
was living in didn’t quite cater for the larger HO scale. Instead he built a tabletop version in N gauge.
The final version having 6 separate circuits and could neatly be put away
behind a dinning room cabinet.
to be out done, I also got infected with the bug.
Living in a 3 bedroom semi meant I too couldn’t scale up to HO.
Nor did I have a large dinning room table the likes of Malcolm. Instead I
would have to find another solution.
much thought and many proposals including versions hanging off ceilings, it was
my disinterested wife who actually came up with the idea of using
the wooden bed frame in the spare bedroom.
If it was the same size as the bed frame, you can put it on top when you
want to use it and store it underneath when you don’t!
did refer to three books as guides, but basically everything else was done by
trial and error. The books included “Peco
Settrack plan book” by Peco which is a good kick off. Then there was “How to plan, build and operate a Minitrix
layout” by Minitrix. This was detailed precision planning, great for the
serious German modeller who follow set procedures!
If anything it was too much, as it left very little to imagination.
Finally there was the “The Scenery Manual” by Woodland Scenics, a modelling
book based on American railways but the style and instructions were very good.
first thing to do was to build a pinewood frame virtually the same dimensions as
the bed’s mattress, in height, width and length. The base within the frame was
raised slightly on two wood cross supports strengthened by steel braces to
prevent sagging. Also a lower and upper inner wood lining was added to prevent
any movement off the base from the framework. Later on I raised the framework
again by adding runners underneath. This
added a further 1” which allowed electrical runways to be constructed and
turnout motors to be concealed. The runners allowed three hardboard service
panels to be inserted so to protect the electric’s and allow access for
maintenance. Access was achieved by
jacking up the frame on side within the bed frame and sliding out the relevant
for the fun part, designing and laying the tracks. The space was restrictive so no possibilities for complex
replicas of existing stations or branch lines. This was going to be pure
imagination based on a German village some where in Bavaria near the Swiss
border. The fact that there is no
coal industry in the region didn’t bother me one bit, it was just one way of
using all the models I built some years back in Germany.
laid cork matting with wood glue, then laid Peco streamline track on top first
lightly securing it with only a few pin nails.
Short, medium and long radius turnouts were all used on the layout. The
track configuration was then stress tested with rolling trains to ensure no
collisions. My son, Stephen, was a
great help here! Once convinced, I
properly secured the track with the pins.
main relief was constructed over the far side tracks using different thickness
of plywood (4mm, 6mm and 12mm). The angle of the track climb proved difficult
and I couldn’t follow the rules exactly (as mentioned in the Minitrix guide,
the Germans will be disappointed). The
angle has since proved too steep as trains have a habit of uncoupling.
Future modifications will be required!
the granite ballast on the track took a long time and had to be completed in
nine inch sections per night. Ballast on the turnouts proved a problem and I
later regretted not having at least painted underneath the turnouts before
securing (in a colour matching the ballast).
a new skill set was required, electric’s!
As the layout is almost as wide as it is long, I didn’t want to
constantly lean over the layout to change points. What I wanted was to completely automate all the turnouts
using Gaugemaster point motors (PM1 with an auxiliary switch for signals).
did this by standing the whole layout on its side against the wall and started
working on the reverse side of the baseboard.
Very soon it became a massive wiring loom of multi coloured wiring.
The wiring of the turnout motors was taken to a control box via an
umbilical cord approx. 6 feet away from the frame. All the tracks were then
wired to a Gaugemaster model Q Four controller.
crossover turnout motors were also wired to synchronise simultaneously. As the
turnouts needed 24V AC, a Gaugemaster T3 transformer was made which was linked
into a Gaugemaster Capacitor discharge unit in the control box. The control box
was constructed to work the all turnouts and all the track isolators.
Different types of switches were used depending on the function.
Resetting switches were used for the turnouts together with coloured
lights to indicate whether the turnouts were in cross over mode or not.
Isolator switches used standard selector switches and were also connected
to lights on the control box to show operation.
The lights on the control box needed a different voltage, 12V DC plus a
resistor so a new Gaugemaster T4 transformer was built.
This time a DC Bridge Adapter was added to allow AC and DC from the same
next milestone of this project was the installation of the signals on top of the
baseboard and wired underneath to the turnout motors.
The signals proved quite delicate and I wished I had installed them after
completing all the scenery (as I kept knocking them over).
Due to the size of the layout it was not possible to make the positioning
of the signals realistic, just pleasing to the eye!
I used 17 British made Berko signal lights, 3 Ecokon signals and 1
Cockrobin signal light. Not exactly
German, but what the hell!
add a bit of amusement I added 5 light circuits for the town needing16V AC.
light circuits were operated by a control panel built into the side of the
frame. It included an additional master on/off switch. To enable this I had to
build a new transformer using a Gaugemaster T1. It was about this time I gave up
on colour co-ordinating the wiring for electric’s! It was proving too
expensive and also a bit of an eye strain!
street lights, spot lights, clocks and the telephone box are from Brawa. On the
other hand, the building lights were mainly from Faller.
wasn’t very sure how to start this and what materials to use.
As an amateur I thought I would be forgiven if I made a few mistakes!
I started high then worked my way down.
The outer track climbed a gradient around the sides, crossing a bridge (a
modified Faller bridge with Peco accessories) on the west side to join together
again at a small hill side station. Positioning was not easy as care had to be
taken to co-ordinate with the tracks underneath. This track passed over the two
inner tracks and was supported by 12mm plywood structural supports along the
whole length of the south side.
the south west side I built arches between the higher track and the two lower
tracks on the base. I made these
out of cardboard strengthened by spreading white glue over the surface (this
really worked). I then covered the arches in 2mm scale brick walling. Over the
south east side I sculptured chicken wire and covered it in plaster to make a
hill and cliff face. I wished I
used plaster cloth instead but I only discovered it after I had finished!
I added side access panels to the framework to allow access to concealed parts
of the track (for maintenance and derailed train retrieval). This also made
great viewing when the trains past in the dark.
was about now that I started to plan the town on paper. Key focus being the
station and coal mine. When I had the basic idea, I fixed the main station and
other periphery buildings permanently to the baseboard.
In all cases I ensured maintenance was still possible for light bulbs by
ensuring the roof came off. All the
cabling for the light bulbs passed through the baseboard to join the cable
for a tricky bit. I didn’t want
to have everything attached to the baseboard as when guests stayed and slept on
the bed, it would become quite dusty underneath! So I wanted to build a
detachable town platform where the main town would reside. This could then be
stored elsewhere in a dust proof environment (a box I built which looks like a
coffin). 6mm Plywood was cut to shape and 7 bolts were permanently added to the
baseboard to allow easy securing. The
other advantage was being able to fix the light fittings to the mother baseboard
so light bulbs and wiring could be maintained when the town platform was
removed. Likewise, it would simplify scenery maintenance of the town which was
so far inland it was proving difficult to reach and add detail.
now added low level relief using papier-mâché, directly on the baseboard, in
order to bring the contour up to the town platform. This also allowed the construction of a small lake by
chiselling out an additional 1/4 of an inch of wood from the baseboard near/
under the bridge.
It was at this time our cat decided to nest itself in the lake
to sleep. In the process she destroyed the bridge and some buildings were also
damaged. So the bridge was rebuilt
and strengthened BUT version 2 only lasted a few weeks as it was damaged again,
this time by myself. I decided to
use Z-E water from Woodland Senics which you have to heat up in a tin before
pouring into the mould. Boy did it
set quick! I was left with a real mess and the only way to remedy it was by
heating the compound itself in the mould. And
the only way to do that was to buy a blow touch with 450 degrees heat!!
In the process the bridge started to melt on one side and 12 trees near
the waters edge received a severe case heat stroke, bending in all directions.
The bridge was strengthened again and the trees were encouraged to
straighten their backs.
tried all sorts of scenic material for scatter and trees.
The best in my opinion is Woodland Scenics with N gauge.
The only trouble is that you need loads of trees before you can make an
impact. I think I have nearly 200
trees yet you still get the feeling it can do with some more.
Watered down wood glue (white glue with a few drops of washing up liquid
to reduce the resistance) does the trick for scatter material.
Mixing materials and not being afraid to “have a go” really helped in
trying to gain that authentic look. Once
I accidentally knocked my coffee cup over the coal yard.
Then I thought, “Hey, it looks even better now!”
the construction at various times, I commissioned my brother Chris Dawson to
paint the backdrops for the lay out. It
was important to get the sense of depth and right scope of scenery.
Lesson learnt here is to use the right grade of canvas.
Medium was to rough and the artist, my brother Chris, would have
preferred fine. The canvas was secured using wood glue.
The last backdrop was painted around a new viewing gallery on the north
side of the layout. I cut a section of the pine frame out and replaced it with
Perspex. This allowed eye level
appreciation of the station. Also,
to add a bit of depth on the north side near the station, I modified some card
kit buildings from Mainstreet Models. One in the northeast corner also hides
amount of debris I was creating was proving havoc for the tracks.
They always needed cleaning to retain electrical contact. So I bought 2
Gaugemaster HF-2 track cleaners and added them to the Controller for all tracks.
It’s difficult to see and appreciate how they work.
If they are working, you should feel a small electrical current, if they
are not, you are probably been ionised yourself!
the layout was certainly the fun part. Using
it proved highly entertaining especially with all the room lights off.
However, the layout only had limited possibilities with regards to train
movements, being in a confined space. So
I built an extension which sits on the side of the layout. The extension can be
added and taken away with ease. As
it is manually operated on the whole, so no additional modifications were
required to the wiring or control box. Its
main entry point is track 1A, a siding which joins the main track.
Delicate modifications had to be made under the covered sections.
Its exit point is either returning through 1A or by rejoining the main
track further down the tunnel. At
this exit point 2 motorised turnouts were added and the switches were concealed
in the tunnel itself. Between the
two entry and exit points I added 6 sidings.
I also laid the track in a certain way which allowed the extension, if
need be, to be connected instead to tracks 4A and 4B. The extension cannot be
viewed facing south, the view seen at the exhibition.
there you have it! If I could get
paid for every hour I made this, I could buy the real thing instead!
If I had to do anymore (and I will probably over this coming winter), it would be to add catenary wiring for electrical
trains, especially for the main tracks.