Elmswood & Elmswood Central

Track Plan

Overall size = 14'4" x 7'9"

'Elmswood Central'…..


I have, for various reasons scrapped my original portable layout.  A description of the former layouts called 'Betterford' and 'Ridgley Vale' can be found by using this link to view them  Former Layouts  


I have now decided to build a permanent layout in one half of my double integral garage. The car can stay outside. It’s weather proof!


I had to chose the main method of supporting the new layout. After much reading I have opted for the American ‘L’ girder system of supporting the layout.  This allows multi level track formation similar to ‘Open Top’ construction with less timber usage.


The basic construction is made, in my case from 69 x 18mm longitudinal timbers and topped with 12 x 44mm timber, all of which is PSE. These form the ‘L’. Then on top of these are screwed 44 x 21mm PSE joist timbers. It is these joist that carry all the track and scenic items and keep the two ‘L’ girders parallel.  Risers are screwed to the joist and these support the track bed, which I have chosen to be 9mm Ply.  Risers are from any scrap timber available.


The sketches and photos show construction techniques and how the risers support the track bed.  Other than assembly of the ‘L’ girders no glue is used anywhere in the construction of the joists risers. or track bed. Only suitable wood screws are used.  It is vitally important to ensure that a screwdriver can fit between adjacent joists. To this end I have spaced all my joists at 300mm centres. These joists can overlap the ‘L’ girders by more than as 300mm if need be.

Below are a few pictures taken during the basic construction.        


Photo 1 shows the L girders with the joists and ply track bed being laid.   Photo 2  shows how the risers work.   Photo's 3 & 4 show basic track laying commencing.    Photo 5 above shows droppers waiting solder tinning and then they are finally soldered as in Photo 6 to the rail sides of the underneath (hidden) loop section of tracks.  Those on the main line areas, once ballasted and the rail sides are painted a rusty colour they will become virtually invisible.  Photos 7 to 8 shows further track laying in progress.

In the background of Photo 9 a trusty H & M controller is used to electrically test a section of track.  Photo 10 shows the track starting to be laid on the terminus stations approach. Photos 11 and 12 show the non DCC bare copper continuous 'Bus ring' that runs all around the layout. This is discussed in detail in the Electrical sections pages, but provides a common return path for all non DCC electrics.

The track is pinned into position with the aid of the very fine Peco track pins, which once the track is ballasted and glued they can be removed or if preferred left in place. The Ply top does mean a fine pilot hole has to be drilled at every pins location, but this isn’t to hard to undertake and I use either an Archimedean or electric mini drill with a fine drill bit – about 0.4mm. You will break many drill bits unfortunately, but as the Peco sleepers are fairly soft even a broken drill bit will pass through and into the ply tops.  Insulated rail joiners are installed where necessary as the track laying progresses. Using electro frog points offers much better slow running, but does involve a lot more thought on electrical track feeds and increases the number of insulated rail joints ten fold, but this has to be the price paid to allow slow speed smooth running.

Photo 13 above show the track laying commencing for the through station. Here the down main, down loop and down relief siding are starting to take shape. The space between the two down lines will eventually form the down platform.  I aim to be able to accommodate up to a six coach train and tender loco.  Photo 14 shows track laying almost complete.    Photo 15 show the northern approaches under construction, while Photo 16  shows test coaches on the main through station area.


Next the electrical feeds to the rails are installed. I prefer in non accessible areas to use copper wire droppers bent into a off set “L” shape and soldered to the rails web.  However, these could be equally soldered to the rails underside before laying the track and these then pass through a pre drilled hole in the boards top to the underside where the appropriate feed wire is soldered to the protruding copper wire and then the surplus copper dropper wire is cut off, as in Photo 17 below.     I use pieces of old 1.0mm2 T & E mains electric lighting cable which has been stripped and the bare copper wire used as solid droppers.  Track feed wires could be directly fed up through the baseboard and soldered onto the rails sides or underneath, but I like solid droppers, as these give a suitable underside termination point to test onto, should you ever be fault finding under the layout.  You can easily remove them if alterations are being made at anytime. Where as, underneath fitted droppers are likely to be buried in place by the ballast making it that much harder to access and if they break away for any reason at any time you're unable to replace them!  Always clean both the rail’s side (or bottom) and the copper dropper before soldering. It’s amazing the amount of oxidisation that occurs on nickel silver rail over a short time and this can prevent the smooth flow of solder! I prefer to use a fibreglass pencil style cleaner, which really removes everything likely to cause a high resistance soldered joint.  Ensure no solder forms on the top surface of the rail or derailments will occur.

Photo 17 Left & Right handed copper dropper wires bent up from 1.0mm2 cable conductor.

Electrical feeds on my hidden track sections are more frequent than is normally needed. I have installed many additional feeds along the tracks. All this really does is to ensure good electrical conductivity to each (or as many as practicable) sections of track and doesn't rely on the metal fishplate being a good conductor.  I have run 16/0.2mm2 flexible track feed wires from the DCC bus and these connect to their appropriate droppers. The idea is shown in drawings 18 and 19 above.

With all of the main boards DCC wiring complete 'Test Trains' of various rolling stock combinations are run over all routes to ensure track and electrical quality is correct. Fine adjustment can be made to the track alignment at this stage, as no ballast is laid as yet.

Above in Photo 20 & Photo 21 test trains of various passenger and goods stock are run to check track alignment and electrical connections. The next stage is to build the two through platforms.  Photo 22 shows the bare basics of the first platform under construction.  15 x 25mm planed timber form the base and cardboard ramp ends abut them.  Next the brick faced sides will be added then the platform surface.  Photo 23 shows the station over bridge and station building under construction. The construction is mainly from mounting card. Once all the main detail is moulded in card, the structure will receive  a covering of brick paper and other detailing such as girders under each archway added.

In Photo 24 the over bridge and booking hall is starting to come together and the two platforms are now in place.  While Photo 25 shows the passenger walk way and steps leading to both platforms. Heavy weathering (dirtying) of the structures has still to be undertaken at this stage.  Photo 26 shows the booking hall, lock up shops and road traffic. Photo 27 shows some weathering add with a few people walking the streets, but there's still plenty more detailing to undertake - more figures and lampposts etc all to be added yet. Finally in Photo 28 the scene is all but completed.


After a brief lull in modelling I have restarted again. My choice now was - what platform buildings and canopy would I have for the through station at Elmswood? Normal card kits, such as the Superquick or Metcalfe version were ok, but failed to give me a long enough canopy roof, as I need around 33 inches per platform. So I opted to make my own roofs from mounting card and use three Superquick 'A4' Island platform kits for the actual platform buildings. Therefore each platform will have three separate buildings and a Gents toilet block too all under a long canopy roof supported as necessary in the non building areas on home made or ready made white metal canopy pillars (These still have to be resolved!).

In Photo 29 the construction of the two canopies can be seen. The tabs sticking out from the unpainted left-hand canopy will be cut off flush with the roofs edge once all the PVA glue has dried. Still to do are cut holes for the three chimneys, make up the chimney stacks and paint the roof a dark grey/black colour and finally weather both roofs.   Photo 30 The through station canopy and buildings are in place, still more to do though.  Photo 31 looks as though snow has fallen! But its just plaster bandage being used to create the embankment to the under bridge. The retaining wall has been installed too and now track ballasting can commence.  Photo 32  The same scene as in Photo 31 but now the scenic detailing has begun, but still plenty more to do!

Photo 33 above the initial stages of building the five retaining walls for the ' changing levels' section of the railway commences and basic scenery is starting to be added.  Photo 34 shows loco 70037 'Hereward the Wake' breaking cover from the Elmswood single line tunnel. There is still plenty of landscape work to be completed at this stage!  Photo 35 shows how I model and mould the terrain by using thin card strips, hot melt glued to the profile former (back board) and the baseboard, in a lattice style. This is held in place with the aid of some crumpled up newspaper. In Photo 36 the same area as in P35 is shown, but now the card lattice has been covered with plaster bandage. Note the masking tape covering the track and colour light signal in the distance, this is prevent the wet plaster getting onto the already ballast track and painted signal.

In Photo 37 above the same area is again shown, now the bare plaster has been given a coat of Burnt Umber acrylic paint. The white plaster area will remain until the next section of the back scene is added then more plaster hill side will be added and joined into the section already moulded.   Photo 38 is again the same scene as in P37 but now with scatter laid and chalk face cutting sides finished. The area is still waiting rail edge rusting and a few other finishing touches. The loco just coming into view is A1  60168 'Aberdonian'.   Photo 39 shows the cutting and tunnel leading under Elmswood's loco depot.  Photo 40 shows the difference between ballast that has been glued in place and that which has just been laid pending gluing. The glued area is in the background on both the lower and upper lines and has a darker almost shadowy tone.

Photo 41 shows prototype Deltic (NRM model) waiting for the down advanced starter signal to clear.  Photo 42 shows a corner of the layout now almost scenically complete. Prototype loco 'Falcon'  heads north, passing farm hand Fred Gates in the field attempting to mend his tractor while Mr Broad the farm owner has just arrived to lead a hand or a few words!  Photo 43 A rack of fish vans heads south hauled by A1A-A1A loco D5531, a very early Airfix GMR loco converted to DCC.  Photo 44 taken from Elmswood's flying school helicopter, shows Elmswood tunnel points and tunnel mouth, but no sign of the P.Way staff, who may be in the hut?   Photo 45 shows the new gantry and signalling. Fitted with four colour light signals and is pending final wiring back to the control mimic panel, the gantry signals having been pre wired from the gantry to the underside of the baseboard. The gantry is made of part brass and part plastic construction. Photo P46 shows the opposite side of the gantry.

I had a little corner to fill and though I would try and make an  S&T (Signal & Telegraph) Depot.

I started off by painting the bare baseboard with a coat of PVA. Photo P47 below. Then once dried I mixed plaster filler into a creamy constancy and towelled the plaster over the area to rail height. I used the trowel, well wetted, to smooth off the plaster. Photo P48.  Once dried, a base coat of grey matt paint was applied to the area where I needed the flagstones and the rest was painted a dark brown colour. Photos P49 & P50. 24 hours was allowed to pass before a watchmakers style flat bladed 1.0mm wide screwdriver and a 12 inch rule was used to carefully scribe the plaster into semi random flagstone effect. Photo P51. The area was then hoovered to remove the plaster dust and then an cheap black Ink Jet printer refill kit was used to highlight the flagstone joints and some flagstones too. Several applications of the ink were necessary and each one was wiped off after a few seconds with a dampened cloth to remove the surplus ink (Use rubber disposable type gloves when undertaking this) Photo P52. After a further 24 hours had passed the whole area was sealed with a coating of spray matt varnish. Buildings were constructed and weathered then placed on the flagstones. Photos P53 & P54  I have a depot managers brick built office, a dual staff workshop and mess room and a grounded van body as a stores area. Then outside a couple of flood lights, stacks of new concrete cable troughing ducts, cable drums, telegraph poles and various other bits of general clutter. The area was fenced off with spear point fencing and gates added to allow both vehicle, foot and railway access. A small scene of four railway S & T staff are moving a huge cable drum ready for a lorry to collect later in the day! Photos P55 & P56 and the final effect is as above.

Just to the right of the above S & T depot was a somewhat awkwardly shaped area with the ends of three carriage sidings terminating there. I added a  new point to the first siding this introduced another small siding leading off the first. I made the decision to construct a small coal and coke merchants depot to the rear of the signal box (which will sit over a Peco point motor) fed by the newly laid short siding. I also reduced the length of the three carriage sidings by about 2 ½" inches (63mm). This gave me room for the fence, path and road section before the baseboard end.


Firstly, I coated the ply baseboard with PVA glue to seal the whole area. Then, as I was given some years ago, a Hornby Thomas signal box. I set about repainting it and adding a few extra details to bring it more in line with a model railway rather than a Thomas train set one! Whether or not it remains is yet to be decided upon?  I next glued some Wills feather edge fencing along the front of the area with a suitable break to make a gated entrance and then the fencing angled back towards the signal box side wall. This was to be the area of the coal yard. Paving and a road surface were added between the fencing and the baseboards edge. I then constructed a Wills Coal Office kit plus an extra set of coal staithes. A visit to a local coal merchants and I obtained a few small lumps of real coal (free!). This is to be crushed up and used to represent the coal both in the staithes and surrounding areas. Coal dust (if I can crush it finely enough?) is to be spread and glued around the ground areas once all the buildings etc are all finally in place. Real coal when crushed up into small fragments and glued in place looks just right! I use a 50/50 PVA glue/Water mix dribbled over the coal once its all in the correct place (much like ballasting) and this both retains and seals it.  


Some photos below show progress stage by stage.…

In the above series of pictures, Photos P57 & P58 show the area to be made into a coal merchants depot.  The above baseboard Peco PL10 point motor and its PL13 switch assembly can be seen, I was unable to mount this below baseboard due to the configuration of the underside timber sections!  Photo P59  shows the beginnings of the yard. The signal box has been fitted over the point motor and fencing, pavements and a road surface added. Photos P60 & P61 show a Hornby Skaledale stone cottage and a Wills garden shed plus some perimeter fencing is now stating to make up the coal merchants home. A retaining wall has been fitted along the back edge. Some street furniture has been added to the pavements - bus stop and a couple of working gas lamps, but now there is a mother and her two children who are train spotting! In Photo P62 the coal merchants house and garden are taking shape. Next the coal unloading area has to be dealt with..

Real coal has been crushed and placed in the staithes and a fine coal dust add in front of them. Then dilute PVA/Water glue mix was flooded over the coal to retain it and prevent it dirtying anything. In Photo 63 the yard and street lighting has been added and wired. Photos 64, 65 & 66 shown the yard as its being built up scenically. Photo 67 is a picture taken at night. A Coalman and several bags of filled coal have been added. Photos 68 & 69 show the coalman's new Standard Vanguard car and his lorry being loaded for the days deliveries. Photo 70 is an aerial views of the now near complete coal yard.


Below Photo 71 the carriage sidings and coal yard can be seen. Carriage cleaner access walk ways have been added but only the access steps can be seen as the actual walkway is hidden from view by the stabled carriages.  Photo 72 is a general view of the carriage sidings and coal yard. Photo 73 Lion passes under the stations over bridge while to class 20 shunts a container wagon. Photo 74 The train spotters have a real treat as prototype loco 'Lion' D0280 passes steam loco 'L1' 67722 pulling a local train.

The right-hand rear side area of the layout has the engine shed and coaling stage plus a small Building departments depot facility. Below these run the main lines, before they reach the tunnel portal to allow then to pass underneath, these lines are protected each side by retaining walls.  The following series of pictures below will show how this area is created.

In the above pictures show the area to be worked on can be seen in its basic form. The engine shed is a Townstreet kit, the coaling stage a Bachmann Scenecraft item are in their final places while the signal box which is from the Hornby Skaledale range and the 'L' shaped workshops from Bachmann Scenecraft are both temporarily in place and the all the tracks are installed. The coaling stage has a home made ramped access track.  A tunnel portal has been produced from card and brick papers from the excellent Scalescenes range.  The two retaining walls are placed temporarily in position which are again made from the Scalescene range. Once the retaining walls are fully fitted a wall mounted three aspect colour light shows a red aspect to protect the line into the tunnel.

The area to the left of the engine shed which will become the roadway entrance/exit to both the shed and the yard of the Building Dept now covered in plaster pending colouring with acrylic paints.  Then the  commencement of the “scratching through” of the grey paint into the plaster underneath. The tip of a Jewellers style screwdriver is used run along the edge of a 12" steel rule.  The flagstone area is now inked and pending a spray coat of matt varnish.  The main building is temporarily positioned to check all is correct.  The rough ground to the left of the depot and above the tunnel is starting to be scenic treated.  The tunnel and ground above is all but completed. More scenic work has taken place and three trees planted.  General views taken of the tunnel and land above and the Building Department, clutter is starting to be put in place.  A view across the yet to be ballasted main lines towards the engine shed and coaling stage can be seen.   Dusk falls and we are looking across the main lines to the right of the signal box and towards the side of the engine shed, with the loco crew office on the right and the end of the Building Dept workshops on the left.  In front of the engine shed is the access road.



The area behind the through station on the up side of Elmswood still has to have its scenic work carried out, and this is my next area to work on. Here three long sidings run parallel to the up loop line and the platforms, these sidings leading eventually at one end to the carriage sidings and coal yard with the engine shed and coaling area at the other end. Access to these the main lines is available from both ends of of the long siding nearest to the platform and the other two (middle and wall siding) from the engine shed end only. Having painted all the rails sides a rusty brown colour using my trusty 'Rusty Rails' painting tool. I need to add cosmetic sleepers where the rail joints occur.   The general area can be seen in Photos below. Note the station platform buildings and access stairs etc have all been temporarily removed while the scenic work progresses.

An arched retaining wall is to be constructed to run along most of the rear back scene from the stations over bridge towards the engine shed.  The final photo shows the five feet long arched wall now built and positioned temporarily in place. All the missing sleepers have been added to the tracks in readiness for ballasting, which on the siding will be mainly a cinders/ash/earth mix.

Above the first two photos show the area to be treated with earth and cinders scatters plus all the tracks ballasted. The last two show the station buildings have been replaced and locos are again running and scatters have been laid. The Mail train heads North via the Down loop line while a fish train waits in the platform for the mail to clear section.   The platforms will now need populating!

The last section of baseboard has been added to the railway. This is some 8ft by 2 ft wide and will carry the terminus station Elmswood Central.

The pictures below will show the construction of this area.


In the below photos are shown  the basic terminus area baseboard in position.   The basic pointwork laid in place for size. positioning and alignment checking.  Final tracks laid. Note: The three left-hand and one short right hand outer most sidings have not had their tracks pinned, pending the final position of platforms and buildings.  The station building has been temporarily position to allow final track alignment. More platform length plus a goods shed are still to be built.  Below are seen the approach lines to the terminus viewed form both sides of the layout,. A general view of the terminus platforms.

September 2017… I have decided that due to space constraints and easier access to do away with the central terminal station.  This will be removed over the next few months and the main tracks around the approach slope to the terminus remodelled.  A record of the work will be published here as I proceed.

November 2018…. Due to increasing demands of storage space, Elmswood has fallen to the layout builders axe!  I will over the next few months be carefully dismantled and stored. A new layout is to be built though!   RIP Elmswood. Arise High Hopes.


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