Category Archives: General

Planning the layout – Realizations and Revalations

Even as I tearing down the old layout I was measuring the total space for the new layout. So as not to run into the same problems I ran into with the old one, I measured everything twice and started to draw it to a scale of 1″=1′. If I ran into anything that didn’t seem right I would go back and double check it again. Once I had it right, I took it to a copy shop that could do a large format copy and had a half dozen copies made.

I then marked off the space that was off limits, the stairway, access to the utility room and access to a storage closet. I also marked off space around what be the end of the peninsula and workbench area. I know, this would seem to be common sense, but it’s an area I “cheated” on before. I then started to sketch various ideas and when nothing worked out, that’s when I came to the realization that no matter how many track planning books, model railroad operations books or software apps, for some reason planning a railroad was beyond me. That’s not to say I don’t understand how they work, I can look at other drawn track plans and I get how the flow on those work. What goes where and why. I just couldn’t do it.

So now I had this beautiful drawing of my basement, but no idea on how to plan a model railroad for it. But as I was looking at the drawing of the space I realized that I had seen this space before with a very successful railroad in it. The answer was Jim Hediger’s Ohio Southern Railroad ( version two ). I found the article in MR and started comparing his space and mine, I found that they were very close. Now, I’m not copying the Ohio Southern, rather I’m using it as a template. I drew the footprint with just the mainline drawn in to make sure that things would work like I wanted it too.  I had a layout plan with mainline but without the individual towns, I figured I would work those out as I went along.

Then I had revelation number two. While looking through a back issue of MR, I came across an article about the Kirkland and DeKalb. The author had drawn an actual town and scaled it for a layout. It was an island layout with a staging yard on side and the town of Kirkland on the other. Looking at the town side of the layout I realized it would drop right into one side of the peninsula ( almost dimensionally perfect ). Tony Koester calls this a Layout Design Element. It’s then I realized that I could design the rest of the smaller towns in the same way, by finding pieces of other layout plans that could be adapted to my footprint

Now I had a working plan, now I could start construction.CN construction 4 024                                                          Drawing of the basement

The basement with the off limits area drawn in.
The basement with the off limits area drawn in.
The basic layout drawn in
The basic layout drawn in
The peninsula with the Kirkland and DeKalb plan next to it
The peninsula with the Kirkland and DeKalb plan next to it


First I finished the train room

“First I finished the train room” or some variation of this always seems to lead an article in the model railroad press. Other times there might be a short paragraph of what was done. It makes it sound like the guy was sitting around on Saturday afternoon and thought “gee, I have my layout sketched out and I would like to start the bench work tomorrow . I guess I’ll go down and finish the train room.” Now before you say something, I realize that yes, it is a model railroad magazine article and not a home improvement article, but they make it sound like it’s nothing to get this done. It wasn’t till I started reading blogs that I found others were going through the same lengthy process it takes to make an environment that makes it a pleasure to build and operate a layout in.

Two people who have done a great job at chronicling this are Jason Shron, owner of Rapido trains ( ) and Alan who blogs about his LK&O Railroad ( ). Alan has done a beautiful job of writing about and recording in pictures what it takes to finish a basement. If your just starting out, I would recommend reading through his blog to see what to expect.

As I said in a previous post, I finished my layout room and then partially gutted it to rebuild it. When I first finished the basement I had wanted a dedicated shop as well as the train room. The support columns more or less divided the basement into thirds, so using those as a guide I ended up with a shop that was approximately 10 x 16 and a train room that was 19 x 21. I finished the shop with a dropped ceiling, second hand fluorescent lighting, sheet rock walls and berber carpeting. The train room got sheet rock, a stapled tile ceiling and what I thought were enough light fixtures. No flooring. While the shop was to roomy,  well lit and a pleasure to be in, the train room with the layout in it was dark, cramped and kind of sucked.

So I tore the layout down (  to the horror of my nephew ) and then took out the wall to the shop opening up a space that now measures out to approximately 19 x 31. I put in a dropped ceiling  throughout , added new drop in fluorescent lighting and put in a laminate wood flooring. I know the conventional wisdom is to go with carpeting as it easier on the feet, but my reasoning was that I’m pretty sloppy and it’s easier to clean up a hard surface than carpeting  ( plaster, paint, saw dust, etc. )

Side note: if your building a home, as we did, and you have the option of truss flooring or a joist flooring, go with the trusses, I wish I had . No support posts, no framing around pipes and duct work, just a nice flat ceiling and wide open space.

The remodel took about a 12 months, those bothersome work and family commitments getting in the way. When I finished, I stepped back and was amazed at the difference.

So now it’s finished, on to planning and construction.002001


Hello and welcome

Hello and welcome.                                                                                                            I would like to thank you for visiting this site and hope you continue to stop by as I embark on my journey to build and model the Continental Northern railroad. If you had visited this site in the past (one of very few I suspect) and then found the site gone, I apologize. Life happens, work, family and other time commitments made it impossible to continue what I started at that time. I’m now on the other side of the things that would keep me from maintaining this site and progress on the railroad. Granted there will be times when other projects around the house or work will take precedence over the model railroad, there always is as everyone knows, I feel that I will always be able to offer a little insight about the railroad, progress or the modeling world whether I’m at home with no progress to report on or on the road for work with no ability to make progress on the railroad to report on.

As I become more adept at this I will be adding more content to the site, mainly my thoughts on the modeling world in general, pictures of my progress, the techniques which I am using for construction ( which I am very excited about ) , thoughts on planning a layout and projects on the workbench and the techniques used for these projects.

So again, hello and thank you for joining me.

Michael Bromander