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Author Topic Next Topic: The D&RGW in 1/300 Scale
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Crew Chief

Posted - 11/04/2018 :  10:08:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Welcome to the beginning of my Wild Horse Island RR. thread. I’ll be posting on the construction and the progress of my new venture. I’m experienced in N scale (please see my “Eastern Shore in N scale thread on this site,”) however, this will be a bit of different path. In the past I’ve hand laid all of my track using Code 40 rail, Fast Track products and wood ties. For me, realistic looking track is key which is why I’ve surprised even myself by using Kato sectional track for this new layout.

I ‘ve made this decision for a number of reasons. Although I had no issues with derailments and I feel my track looked good, the super-detailing wasn’t really apparent without looking very close and the fragility of Code 40 rail required a lot of work to ensure smooth running. Additionally, I never found a good way to throw the switches as drilling a hole in an N scale tie frequently resulted in the tie breaking under the stress of Tortoise switch machines. Finally, I didn’t feel like building hand laid switches this time.

I also felt it would be a fun challenge to make the Kato track look as realistic as possible. In creating the track plan, I thought that a combination of paint, concrete pads that decreased the appearance of rail height, and good scenic work might provide the realism I required.

My track plan started as a variation on Iaian Rice’s Chesapeake Harbor RR (picture attached). I found his river entrances as a bit small and not realistic so I began by widening the overall size of the waterway. I also reduced some of the track as his plan would’ve required custom track work. My goals were to have a layout that interested me for operations and, unlike my previous layouts, provided constant running - a big reason for my tearing down my previous layout.

I wanted to hide the oval layout look by widening the river and using some scenic modifications, and by having the river divide the two areas of concentrated track, providing a natural reason for connecting the two sides with an oval.

The overall dimensions and track requirements are:
60” x 30”
12 turnouts
Kato Unitrack to include Kato electrical connectors
Foam base on plywood with plywood frame
Digitrax DCC system

The theme is a small harbor, again on the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Virginia. The name, “Wild Horse Island RR” comes from the island of Chincoteague in Virginia, a national wildlife reserve which is home to a herd of wild horses.

The railroad will serve a small harbor that has survived because of seafood trade, the handling of containers and hazardous cargo that can’t pass through certain areas in the region and because of the local grain industry. The railroad connects with CSX to the north and NS to the south and I originally included an interchange track for both. My initial track plan is below. One of the major advantages of Kato track (as opposed to handlaying) is the ability to easily move track around and experiment with track placement. As you’ll see, my final track plan is very different than my original and the benefits of easily configurable track helped significantly.

To increase my motivation, I purchased a Scale Trains NS GEVo ET44AC. This will be one of the engines used to take harbor traffic south and I intend to eventually buy, super-detail and weather an older Geep as my main engine for switching the harbor. It will probably be lettered for the Eastern Shore RR as I still have that railroad in my heart.

#8232;In the next post I'll show my final track plan and explain why I made the changes.

Country: USA | Posts: 630


Premium Member

Posted - 11/04/2018 :  10:20:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Looks really interesting Dave.

Will follow along to see how you do with the track.


"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

Country: USA | Posts: 13376 Go to Top of Page

Michael Hohn

Posted - 11/04/2018 :  11:19:16 PM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote
That should keep a couple people busy operating.


Country: USA | Posts: 7459 Go to Top of Page

Tyson Rayles

Premium Member

Posted - 11/05/2018 :  07:41:08 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As someone who can't stand the looks of sectional track in general and Kato's in particular I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

Country: USA | Posts: 13456 Go to Top of Page

Frank Palmer

Posted - 11/05/2018 :  11:00:10 AM  Show Profile  Visit Frank Palmer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I really like Iaian's design, maybe because it's more finished in detail. IMHO I would make the top run-around shorter. The group I'm with just completed an O-Scale switching layout and we added a second run-around that's almost not practical to use.

How do you super detail an N scale loco? Microscope.


Edited by - Frank Palmer on 11/06/2018 10:15:38 AM

Country: USA | Posts: 6159 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 11/05/2018 :  1:20:00 PM  Show Profile  Send mark_dalrymple an AOL message  Reply with Quote
Iain Rice is the master of curves. This plan is a gem. He uses curves to accentuate the natural curving shape of the river, both with internal and external track-work, and with the front of the bench-work. He sets the industries up at angles to further enhance this. He manages to cleverly disguise the roundy, roundy shape of the layout by using these leading lines to take your attention away from it. Depending on your goals - I would investigate this further, because your plan has undone some of this design work. Not meaning to sound harsh - but now is the time to make changes.

Cheers, Mark.

Edited by - mark_dalrymple on 11/05/2018 5:51:46 PM

Country: New Zealand | Posts: 1279 Go to Top of Page

David J Buchholz
Crew Chief

Posted - 11/05/2018 :  9:16:52 PM  Show Profile  Send David J Buchholz an AOL message  Reply with Quote
Lots of interesting curved lines that do not follow or parallel edges in the first plan.

The second plan seems more rigid.

Maybe following the flow of a curved river instead might break it up? Maybe set the river at an angle, instead of straight down the middle?

Edited by - David J Buchholz on 11/05/2018 9:19:31 PM

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Posted - 11/05/2018 :  9:42:18 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
its gotta be tough trying for those curves with unitrack. is it even possible?

Country: USA | Posts: 1733 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 11/05/2018 :  9:55:45 PM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Ian Rice uses curved turnouts in several key spots to accommodate curves and longer tracks in the HO Chesapeake Harbor Belt. Without knowing the radii,
I can't say if it can be built in HO without some hand-laying. Dave has paid his dues as a Code 40 track layer, but is working within Kato's N-scale
sectional track limitations here. I don't see any simple ways to shift it closer to the original without at least flextrack of some kind.


Country: USA | Posts: 6901 Go to Top of Page

Tyson Rayles

Premium Member

Posted - 11/06/2018 :  08:05:29 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
"How do you super detail an N scale loco?"

The short answer Frank is VERY carefully! They do make things like hood lift rings, grab irons, windshield wipers, sun shades etc. The problem is trying to handle the loco after you have done all that and not have those things start breaking off.Don't ask me how I know that.......................

Country: USA | Posts: 13456 Go to Top of Page

Crew Chief

Posted - 11/10/2018 :  12:53:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks to all for viewing and commenting on my first post. Have to confess the interest surprised me.

Some thoughts based on the comments.

Regarding the track plan, I've always loved looking at Iaian Rice's work. I think his coloring and surrounding a basic plan with buildings and scenery in his drawings are attractive. Sometimes the size of the buildings and lengths of track are a bit deceiving without an anchor of a to scale train or person. That said, how he presents an atmosphere is what I admire most.

Using Kato track, I'm limited in my ability to provide curving rails and, because I'm planning to operate a switching layout using magnetic uncouplers, I require straight sections to operate hands free. I get enjoyment from throwing switches, running the trains and coupling/uncoupling without touching the layout. I'll have more in future writings as I've learned JMRI, have tied the layout to my computer and plan to add signals.

I know that my track tends to follow the edges and my reasoning is that I'm trying to maximize the end curves and provide a lot of room in the middle to divide the top and bottom halves of the layout. I agree with David that it does provide a rigid look and hope to diminish this appearance with angled streets and with my modified track plan below.

The modification removes the end-to-end river and replaces it with a harbor and town area. This was for two reasons. As I mentioned in my first post, I didn't feel that the river openings in Iaian's plan were wide enough. If you look at the picture, it would be difficult to see how the freighter could make it through the bridge and turn around to exit. In a confined area the move would require tugs and I don't see the water area being wide enough (guess it's the former Navy in me.) The second reason for the mod was that I've had a lot of scratchbuilt structures that I really like but have never had room for on my previous layouts. My town of Nassawadox (main street below) is built to scale and the buildings are exactly as they appeared when I first discovered the town. I wanted to display them. If you've read any of my previous threads, these buildings may look familiar. It's also satisfying to have 90pct of the major structures completed at the start of the build.

Where I stand now. I'm happy with the operational capability of the revised plan and have moved some cars around to see how things work. I realize I'll have to use scenery and other tricks to, "detract from the track." I've added a picture of a turnout that I've painted. I'll be adding longer ties around the throw bar and switch machines/indicators. I'll also be filing down the Kato plastic switch throws on the side of switch and then hiding those with scenery. The ties of the track will be painted and weathered.

I have installed a lot of electronics that I'll describe on my next post and have also received all the parts to build a crossing gate/light/ringer system. The JMRI interface works and I can control the switches from my computer and also run the loco if I want. The electronics have intimidated me in the past but I'm having fun with this aspect of the hobby.

The key goals of this layout are to create a flawlessly working model with advanced electronics, interesting operations and creation of an atmosphere. I have a long way to go, but it's exciting to think of the opportunities.

The top runaround probably won't be used as a runaround, it's more of an alternative route for interest. and a lead to the industry. By the way Frank, in response to how you super detail an N scale engine....... you tell everyone you did without doing anything and because it's so small they'll never realize it. (Actually Mike's answer is more accurate.) the last pic is the Scale Trains N scale GEVO on Kato track.

Thanks again to all for your comments

Country: USA | Posts: 630 Go to Top of Page

Michael Hohn

Posted - 11/10/2018 :  6:44:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote

I like that block of businesses.

The Iain Rice plans are always very interesting and motivating. From what I’ve read they are about 95% doable; no plan is perfect. I think you’ve made good modifications and a very fine job utilizing your track of choice.

Enjoying watching your progress.


Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

Country: USA | Posts: 7459 Go to Top of Page

robert goslin

Premium Member

Posted - 11/10/2018 :  7:36:44 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Dave. You're off to a good start. Looking forward to following your progress. Using sectional track instead of flex may have some limitations, but so far it's looking good.

And the Ian Rice plans are always a good starting point.

Regards Rob

My current build.

Country: Australia | Posts: 2945 Go to Top of Page

David J Buchholz
Crew Chief

Posted - 11/10/2018 :  8:48:12 PM  Show Profile  Send David J Buchholz an AOL message  Reply with Quote
My motto is "No good deed or good track plan goes unpunished". My own, for the North Coast Railroad in HOn3 has had to have several "wing it" changes as a drawing never seems to quite work out as planned. I can appreciate the need for straight sections for uncoupling. I would also agree that the original river is undersized for a full size freighter. The fishing village concept will allow both smaller boats and smaller industries elements. I considered the Mystic Seaport as inspiration.

Bayford Oyster Co. is not far from Nassawadox. Are you considering it for one of your industries on the water?

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Posted - 11/11/2018 :  1:13:03 PM  Show Profile  Send mark_dalrymple an AOL message  Reply with Quote
Hi Dave.

It will be interesting to see this one come together.

I'm keen to see the shape of your new harbour. Maybe you could mock it up with some coloured paper? You could also mock up the angled roads in this way. Its a quick easy method of seeing how things might work and is very easy to make changes. I usually start with a sketched plan on paper, then do coloured paper on the layout table, then move into 3-D mock-ups, and then start on the actual building. I live with different ideas for a day or two, making tweaks - and photograph as a reference. I can then try something completely different without loosing previous ideas. I've just moved into the colour paper stage on the extension of my layout at the moment. It lets you see strong lines, the shapes of the roads and water, and the spaces in-between.

We all have to make sacrifices. I would imagine that Iain Rice's sacrifice was to have the river narrower than he would have liked in order to obtain the desired curves in the trackwork. Your goals are somewhat different and I do understand.

Looking forward to your progress,

Cheers, Mark.

Country: New Zealand | Posts: 1279 Go to Top of Page

Crew Chief

Posted - 11/17/2018 :  12:16:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've finalized the track plan. Having most of the buildings already built aided in the visualization. The harbor now occupies about 1/3 of the space. Although not evident from the overhead, the buildings serve as view blocks at eye level and there are about 4 different sub-scenes:

1. The harbor
2. The container area
3. The granary/team track (upper right on the overhead)
4. The town with the lumber yard spur behind

At the lower right side you can see the a road crossing a single track. I'm in the process of putting together a working crossing signal with flashing lights, sound and moving crossing gates. Waiting for a few more electrical parts.

One thing I'm trying to accomplish is installation of all wiring before I begin the scenery. I will add signals along with lights to the buildings and harbor and want to complete all of this prior to plaster and ground cover.

I get enjoyment with the high tech aspects of the hobby and although it's a small harbor and probably doesn't need a signal system I know I'll like having the visual.

I also have a major project planned of a lift bridge over the harbor entrance that I'd like to make operational. Dreaming about this one and the animation scares me a bit right now. The bridge will be scratch-built and I've never before tackled the mechanics required to make this work.

In my next post I'll go over my experience as a novice with JMRI. Even someone like me without any knowledge of the program made it work.


Country: USA | Posts: 630 Go to Top of Page
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