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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I had a 4'x8' HO layout when I was a child and have hoped since then to build something better. The pandemic presented an opportunity to get started this summer with my two children, who have been excited to help.

We are modeling southern Montana in fall 1965. I grew up traveling along I-90 to visit my grandparents in Bozeman and seeing BN trains along the route, so I decided to base my layout on the area between Billings, Bozeman, and Butte before the BN merger. This would allow me to have mountains and tunnels and to model the lines I enjoyed seeing. (1965 allows me to have glacier green GN freight cars and first and second generation diesels, though on this layout there are still a few 1940s steamers in service.)

I always liked the Great Northern logo on some of the trains I saw when I was young, and I also viewed old Burlington passenger equipment still in use when I lived in Chicago, so my locomotives are from these two lines. However, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Burlington, and the Milwaukee Road all passed through Billings, so I have freight cars from all four of these lines. I also have CNW and Texas and Pacific (among others) to reflect the time I spent living in Chicago and Texas.

I received some very good advice on this forum regarding installing DCC in my locomotives and getting the most usable space out of my yard, so thanks for that.

We built the layout in modules in the garage this summer and then installed it in the basement.

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The layout is L-shaped to fit in the corner of our basement. It uses backdrops and scene dividers to make it seem larger. There is a yard on the left side and a town (representing Billings or Bozeman) on the right hand side. On the far right is a mountain pass representing the area between Bozeman and Butte.

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In addition to working on the scenery, we will be installing a backdrop.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Nice layout! Those are some good looking mountains!
Thanks!

Watch for an update soon. I was inspired by a recent issue of Model Railroader to include some snow in the mountain pass, so I'm excited to see how it will turn out.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks. I wanted to find a way to fit some water in this area, and when I found that culvert it seemed like a great addition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We did some work on the mountain pass on the right side of the layout. This area of the layout is inspired by the Milwaukee Road's Pipestone Pass Tunnel and Eagle Nest Tunnel, depicted in late spring, with snow.

We started out with light brown paint, then added dark brown, dark gray, and black washes, and finished with red brown, green brown, and dark gray dry brushing, leaving the less steep areas white.

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We then added sand and boulders to the creek bed and added Realistic Water, with a brown tint. We had to pour several times, gradually, as the creek slopes down to the culvert.

Finally, we ballasted the track and added trees, shrubs, brown grass tufts, and Woodland Scenics snow.

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I was worried about how it would turn out, but I'm pleased with the result. Having snow in the mountain pass I think helps to give the illusion of distance and elevation change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
One of my next projects has been installing a turntable.

I purchased a Heljan manual turntable, because I wanted something large enough to accommodate my FT-A/B locomotives without having to spend too much money.

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I didn't mind having a manual turntable, because many of my switches also are manual. I didn't like the look of the pit, however. It definitely seemed too European and potentially difficult to make look realistic.

After some internet research, I decided to have the bottom of the pit made out of dirt. I began with some spackle and a layer of light brown latex paint, which I had used on the styrofoam on the rest of the layout. I covered that with a very thin layer of play sand and then sprinkled two colors of fine turf on top. I also added some tufts of yellow grass.

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Having improved the appearance, I wanted also to improve the functionality. I noted that the auto reverser seemed to be competing with another one on my layout and that sound equipped locomotives sometimes lost power on the turntable bridge.

I realized that because the turntable was attached to a section of the layout with an auto reverser, I did not need to have a second one, so I changed the wiring such that the turntable now is wired directly to the main line that runs nearby. I also realized that no locomotive would lose power if I put pressure on the brushes underneath, so I inserted some stiff foam to hold the brushes tightly in place as the turntable rotates.

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I'm quite pleased with the appearance and functionality now. There is much work yet to do on the yard area, though.

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Wow, many of us (I am the worst) have such trouble sticking to a tightly worked theme, such as time and place and road. Your effort has really paid off. Spectacular layout, if I may say.

The turntable alone is jaw dropping, and the temperature drops 50 degrees just looking at those mountain pass snowscapes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Thanks for the compliments and encouragement.
I am enjoying this project as it continues taking shape.

The snowy mountain pass was a gamble, but if it worked, I knew it would help a lot to create an illusion of distance and elevation. I'm really happy that it came out well.

Next, I will be working on another rocky area and some more water.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I finally got around to installing the custom backdrop that my wife purchased for me from trainjunkies.com. I appreciate the quality of the paper and printing.

The background trees with snow covered mountains in the distance really help add depth to the layout. I look forward to adding scenic elements to blend with this backdrop.

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