I have been thinking about (another!!) layout. I haven't narrowed down anything too much, though I do lean towards mining or logging though lately the seaside has attraction as well.  My next South Pacific will probably be an 1890's take on an alternative railroad for Monterey, California. Fairly short equipment, but not crazy short like the YSL along with higher/larger couplers. Probably no radius smaller than 26" for esthetic reasons and I can do that on a shelf. I'm seriously thinking of at least being electrically compatible with OCMODS even if the ends aren't. My problem is I want to do some forced perspective, which looks REALLY funky when viewed from the wrong side. On YSL we have some S scale stuff kicking around near the back.

I'm currently drawing on 2x4 chunks of paper (4' is about what fits in the car well!) an On30 version of Iain Rice's Roque Bluffs from Model Railroader. Instead of an East Coast railway, which would be nice for the 2' crowd, I'm going to pattern loosely on Monterey before Cannery Row starts up (1906). I've been thinking about it for a while, I was just about to start when I got involved with the YSL which sucked a fair amount of modelling time.

At one On30 meet, I was really impressed by the Payless Mining modules. They had a lot of details and views all in 18" of width! Since I'm still living an unsettled existence modular is a requirement. I don't know at what height the Payless is normally displayed, at our meet it was on standard tables and I thought it was a bit low. It really makes me think that a layout should be at least 48" of the floor, my shelf layout is even higher! Another thing is lighting, I think a module should be self contained and not depend on room lighting.

Why the South Pacific Railroad? Everyone knows that a real railroad has to have the word Pacific in it. The current South Pacific is a little 1' x 8' timesaver without much scenery and it lacks space for it as well. After seeing all of the great modules on the web and at the Pacific Coast Conspiracy, I was inspired to build another simple switching module of some kind.


These have been changing since I also now like the idea of a waterfront scene as well.

  1. It must fit in the back of my Saturn! This limits the maximum size per the plan and gives me a maximum height of 27" or so.
  2. I want self contained lighting for the modules.
  3. I want a mine head.
  4. I'd like some miner's shacks and possibly a few shops.
  5. A small trestle.
  6. Some simple facilities, water tanks, wood pile etc.
  7. Integral backdrops and possibly fascia.

I will use Porters but I haven't finalized equipment. I probably will not use the stock Bachmann cars, they look too big for the Porters, I'm thinking of the 17-22' range will be good. An option would be to allow the 2-6-0 to pass through, but I'm not really sure of that yet. A dogbone is possible in this space. I could possibly do a dogbone with 9-11" radiuses, I've heard that the Porters can negotiate that fairly well. Dave Grandt showed a nice little On30 layout at our Pacific Coast meet with 8-9" curves and some fairly steep grades. Check out the pictures in the PC conspiracy files, I believe they are public.

"Guv" Rick Perry - For what it's worth, I have a Bachmann Porter modified into a Glover that happily trundles around 4.5" curves (guard rails, etc.) on the briefcase layout. It PULLS a carload of passengers but don't try to PUSH anything around on those curves!

All I can say is whoa! Those little Porters are cool.

Here's a concept for a spur off in the woods that serves a few older mines that have a low output but justify their continued operations. No mining would be seen except for maybe a peek of the shaft head.
Joker Mine

Here's a bit more sophisticated version.
First pass, Joker Mine module

I received some very good feedback on this plan from the various newsgroups I belong to, I have to thank everyone on the On30conspiracy, PacificCoastConspiracy and the small-layout-design groups for their help. There are several very good links for small layouts:
Apple Bottom & Hemlock Acres Rail Road - On30 portable Too many popups!
Australian Narrow Gauge Web-Exhibition Be sure to check this out, especially Old Ophir!

Module Construction for Pacific Coast Conspiracy

Whatever I do is going to be two piece and foam to ease movement! I'm thinking of using hinges for alignment ala Barry Normon/Iain Rice. The current thought for the Joker mine is a simple Inglenook siding. This seems to give me enough space to stuff all the goodies in without compromising the actual appearance.

Just for curiosity, when you lay out your module, how well does the 6" from the front work for you?

Doug - At this time...I'm not too sure. It seems okay, but I ponder  whether I'll have sufficient room in the foreground to infer a   "close to the beach" type of scenery. Track: the run-through will be Peco On30, but the balance, isolated  from the main, will be Peco HO, with every other tie cut out, and  respaced to nearly the same as the Peco On30.

Somebody does this with Atlas track, they remove every other tie and then add on to the end of each tie the leftover bits. Can Peco be glued successfully to itself?

Doug - I don't know; I've not tried that. And, I'm not too sure I have the patience to endure doing that for about 12 feet of track!

BruceMcGarvey - The feed back on the proposed modular standards Rick Ludlow posted have been great -- good ideals and worthy of consideration. Might we be considered the Rogue Valley Branch of the Pacific Coast Conspiracy? Table height - At RVMRR we use a 40 inch height.

Just have different size legs ;) I plan on putting my modules on the wall between meets.

BruceMcGarvey - The six inch setback from table front - that gives some safety from the edges, would be in the middle if one were to build a twelve inch wide "transition module", and is not totally cast in concrete.

I think I have some sneaky ways around that, see some of the samples below.

BruceMcGarvey - If we build a point-to-point layout that could be viewed from either side.

That does bring up the question of backdrops and such. I would prefer them since I'm thinking of doing some forced compression that would
look horrible from the back side. I'm easy though.

BruceMcGarvey - As to the rail setback from frame ends, good comments were presented as to the need to have protection from handling and the damage that can happen if the tracks run to the end of the framework. If you have a different setback, be prepared to cut the bridge tracks to fit.

The reasoning is sound, I say use those setbacks.

Thinking about it, for those of us who need more than 6" in front of our tracks, we can make bumpouts to allow us a little extra space. The track
would still be 6" from the front, but only at the ends. This also could be used to keep the track from paralleling the edge, which is said to make the track look longer. I'm not sure about the later. Also you could have a bumpin, possibly for a dramatic bridge or the like.
Bump outs and bump ins

On the other hand, fixing the track a fixed distance from the backdrop (if we have them) has the advantage that all the backdrops will then line up. It also make it easier to disappear the trains behind the scenery as required. It would be difficult to bump the backs in and out unless you used a giant mountain or redwoods to hide the transition.
Module with fixed backdrop

Of course there are always adaptor modules:
Adaptor module

Notes on Equipment

Some typical On30 equipment:
Porter in light snow
The missing...
Holiday train

Of course you need to know the car sizes before you can complete anything more than a general plan. Some rules of thumb from Model Railroader;

  • Minimum radius should be greater than 3 times your longest piece of rolling stock.
  • Minimum radius should be greater than 10 times the longest rigid locomotive frame.
  • From personal experience if you are bashing critters on cheap diesel mechs, keep the grades under 3%.
  • Don't use any superelevation.
  • Get a NMRA track gauge and use it.

Now on the slightly sick side, we all know that many layouts selectively compress the buildings on them. I see no reason you can't do this with the rolling stock as well. So pick a size that you like and go with it if your freelancing. Some equipment sizes for available On30 equipment:

Equipment: Length: Width: Height:
Bachmann Porter 0-4-0T 4 1/2" 1 3/4"  
Bachmann Porter 0-4-2T 5" 1 3/4"  
Bachmann Porter 2-6-0 12" 2 3/8"  
BVM Dunkirk 6 1/2" 1 7/8"  
BVM 1 truck shorties 2 1/4" 1 1/2"  
Ore car bash 3 1/2" (shortest 2 truck) 1 1/2"  
Bachmann flat/tank 7" 2"  

As mentioned on by someone on the On30 list, the Bachmann cars are about 7 1/2 feet. Most early cars were about 6' wide or so, increasing over the years to almost 9' depending on the road. 5' is a bit narrow except for a very small industrial prototype, though this is On30, do what looks good to you! Note, somebody mentioned the Gilpin Tram at 5'! You should have most of your rolling stock the same width, but that could range from under 6' to 10. Like long and lean? 32'x6', I hear Maine calling! Short and fat? 25'x8' Bachmann OR&W/Dinky/??? clones, Foothill Models, et. al. Really tiny stuff? Buy BVM, Chivers, etc.

I guess if you are running the same size cars on your layout it doesn't matter but it would look kind of funny with a "small" car and a "big" car in the same train.  The pictures I have seen - regardless of gauge - all the cars seem to be the same width and height on the same train.

While I would agree that this is the norm for many railroads, I've seen pictures where the box car heights and lengths were different. Some of the lines seemed to run with a pretty mixed bag of purchased cars from other railroads. I haven't seen any pictures with widely varying widths however. I would recommend if you're freelancing to get information on an assortment of lines and periods. If nothing else, its fun to read about these things. There's an introductory booklet I picked up that gave a brief overview of West Coast, Colorado, Eastern 2ft and Midwest
equipment. There were quite a few similarities, but some of the railroads in the West tended towards MUCH bigger equipment than some of the East Coast and Midwest lines. These mixtures might not look the best.

On the other hand the bash it and have fun approach isn't bad either!

Hi guys - I have looked at several pictures that the guys on the list have done and then got to thinking (always a bad idea) - do NG cars that operate strictly on their own track with no interchange need all the lettering you have on standard gauge cars?

No they don't, some prototypes basically numbered their cars and that was that. They are only required to have it if they go across state lines, then they run afoul of federal regulations of the period. I'm not sure what year this kicks in.  Look at prototypes and models that you like and copy them or do your own thing ;)


I'm thinking of those little 12V halogens, the larger ones need too much clearance! I don't plan on lots of long running sessions, florescent have bad color temperature and many of the older ballast's are toxic waste. The little halogens are 20W, I think I will need 3-4 given appropriate fixtures. Somebody was kind enough to tell me that the stock under cabinet fixtures don't work well for this, so my search continues for the perfect light. I think overhead florescent are extremely poor lighting for models, IMHO. That's what many places have, so I'm still looking.

Overhead fluorescent lighting is horrible for layouts and doesn't do anything to help bring out true colors.

leftcoaster2002  - Of course, they don't. That's not what they're designed for. Please note, however, that there ARE fluorescent tubes designed and built that do shine in the sunlight Kelvin range. They're a bit more pricey than regular tubes...but the first time you start perspiring under the glare of ordinary incandescents, you'll wish you had gone with flourescents, and saved the incandescents and halogens for spotlighting the areas of your modules you want onlookers to pay particular attention to.

That's a good idea, a true color fluorescent, preferably with a high frequency electronic balance would be good as a fill light. I'm not as worried about heat as this will be a small module, I doubt I'll wind up with more than 100 Watts worth of lighting.

Jim Ellis - I have tried the small halogen under counter lights from Home Depot and have decided not to use them on my new layout. Not only are they hot but they also throw a concentrated uneven narrow light beam down on the layout. Instead I have just installed 120v. EXIT sign light bulbs mounted in little sockets on sheet metal "L" brackets about 18" apart and wired through a dimmer switch. The result is much less heat and nice even adjustable lighting. All the materials are available at Home Depot.

Gary Vejmola -  I've seen and heard some pretty good things about fluorescent, also! A friend of mine uses fluorescent exclusively, and researched the heck out of the tubes that you referred to,Doug!! Really nice results!! He used a bit of a blue coloring in his terrain and the light brings it out very nicely!! He models based on the West Side Lumber Co., and that area does indeed have some blue crushed "whatever-it-is" on the ground. Very impressive, and as you mentioned, a "no sweat" arrangement!! Hah!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - For the florescent lights you are looking for  try Panavison in your area or try Matthews Studio Supply or any pro cine or video house near you just tell them the Kelvin range you want they should have a good selection or will have "gels" to change temperature range....... been awhile since I worked grip or electric but we used  florescent all the time that are color corrected.

I haven't decided on lighting yet, I've found a source of 5 and 10 Watt halogens in small reflectors,  they are not the same style as the under counter ones that Jim has cautioned me about. I'm going to test them to see if they cast a reasonable light. A normal halogen at 50 Watts is way too powerful, I don't want to cook my layout. Several people who use the 50W fixtures say they need about 5' overhead, not going to happen in my case!

I'm still investigating lighting options, but here's a quick guideline to flourescents:
CRI is Color Rendition Index
Warm White   53
Cool White     62
C-50                 85
CWX               89
Daylight       100
The closer to 100, the closer to a daylight color temperature. Finding some of these in the smaller sizes could be extremely challenging though!


I've a Burnt River Mine kit from JV Models that I'm planning to use for the mine structure. Its about 18-19" tall when built, this restricts the fascia size a bit, I may have to play some tricks here! For the worker's shacks, I've created a CAD drawing of a typical Western workers house that had a tendency to be made in multiples. I've played around a bit with the false back ideas and I haven't yet decided what other buildings will exist on the new module.

I've started working on some false backs for my next module, I'll probably do some entire buildings in CAD as well. This was inspired by a couple of excellent picture books that I checked out of my local library.
Here's an example of a back: Old time mining town structure, rear view
and some workers housing: Miners shacks

I had several good suggestions on how to make the layout 'flatter' so that it would be easy to transport.

Paul van Herwegen -  I built several modular layouts. There are several high industrial buildings on them. To overcome the problem for stacking the modules I  just put the ground floor of the building on the layout; so I can work it nicely in the scenery. The rest of the building can be removed when moving the modules and when the modules are set up at a show then I put the rest of the building on the ground floor.

That might work well on some of my buildings, but I think I'll be stuck with one piece for the mine! Keep this one in mind if you have buildings with natural horizontal breaks. Since I'm building wild west style buildings, elaborate fronts, plain wood backs, they don't have as many concealable break points as a brick building would.

Keeping a layout clean

OK.  Once I finish PART of my layout, how do I keep the dust from turning my lovely verdant greenery all gray in a few months? How do you keep dust from settling all over everything after a few years, given that our scenery doesn't usually like being dusted with a stiff brush, and is full of all kinds of nooks and crannies? Electrostatic dust collectors? There's some widget that filters air that will help keep your layout clean. Otherwise the matt media and more ground cover path may work for you.