After almost a thity year hiatus, I recently got back into model railroads. My last model railroad started with a HO-scale Tyco Rock Island train set which seesm to still be around after all these years. I thought it may be fun to share the excitment with my daughters now that they’re almost the age I was when I was into trains.
Model railroading has changed a lot since then. The most noticeable change to me is the invention of DCC which allow multiple trains to be controlled without the use of insulators to electrically isolate different sections of the tracks. The other major change is all the widely available track layout design software which replaced the paper and templates from the old days.
I don’t have a lot of space available, so I decided to use N scale trains this time around. I also did some research on the different brands, and it seems that the Kato Unitracks are the easiest to work with, so I went with a Kato Amtrak train set. The passenger cars are incredibly detailed and look just like the cars that we took from San Jose to Seattle on Coastal Starlight a few years back.
I bought a widely available 30″ x 72″ folding table from Home Depot which became my new tabletop. And dusted off my dormant eBay account to hunt for other bargains. I set up the canonical beginner oval from the set, added a few switches for spurs, and ran the train around the loop, over and over. This was fun for a few days…
As fun as it was to recreate my childhood hobbies, I realized that, perhaps it’s due to old age, that I now enjoy watching the trains do their thing (what’s referred to in the hobby as continuous operations) more than actually operating them (switching). I also wanted something more sophisticated than an oval on a bare table.
I looked around for layout designs and the Scenic Ridge preformed layout from Woodland Scenics looks attractive. But after reading this very well written narrative by someone who took months to build the scene, there is no way I have the time right now to do anything like this at this point in my life.
I used the very excellent SCARM track design software to duplicate the Scenic Ridge track layout for Unitrack on the Kato USA website, and modified it slightly to get the layout to fit on my surface which is only 30 inches across. I folded the spur at the bottom of the layout into the oval and changed it into a siding, and added a new branch at the top of the layout.
I’ll continue to update this page as I continue to make progress on this project.