Like most kids, I had a Lionel 027 gauge train set that was set up in my bedroom on a 4x8 piece of plywood. It was kept under my bed and was pulled out only when I wanted to run trains. Out of sight, out of mind. I didn't have a lot of equipment and would get bored very quickly watching the trains run in circles. As I got older, those trains went by the wayside (wish I still had them as a collector’s item). I can remember putting the smoke pills in the smoke stack of my steam engine and watch the puffing smoke.
I was introduced to HO gauge trains through a neighbor that had an extensive layout in his garage. I am talking a huge layout that ran several very long trains at one time. This was long before DCC and wiring was done in blocks using toggle switches to control each of the many blocks. The layout was built on an open wood framework. Wooden roadbed was used and he laid his track by hand along with custom built turnouts. He ran brass steam locomotives only and spent a lot of time building the rolling stock from kits made of wood. This guy spared no expense. I was allowed to run the trains under strict supervision. He had only a few buildings and had not really started adding the scenic details.
My own HO train layout didn't grow very fast as a kid because I would have to use my allowance or money I earned cutting lawns to purchase items for my 4x8 layout. Funds were limited. I lost interest in the trains and cannot tell you what happened to my HO trains. In my years after college, as a joke one Christmas, my family gave me an N-scale train set. It sparked my interest once again.
I did enjoy watching the trains run and I have always liked to putter around with models. Many years after receiving the train set, while still living in the El Paso, Texas area, I was going through boxes in the garage when I came across a box of my old N-scale model railroading equipment that had been packed away for some time. Not having a lot of spare time between working a full time job and running a non-profit theatre company, I only had time for a small 3x4 layout. Although I preferred steam, I had two Burlington Northern GPs, very few pieces of rolling stock running on a double oval mainline with a small rail yard in the middle. These trains ran fine on the small 3x4 DC layout but I would get bored running them not having time to really spend on constructing a full size layout.
Making a career change, we packed up everything and relocated to Dallas, Texas where I finally had the time and space for a layout. I started with a 3x12 layout in the garage and began to experiment with different track plans. I was introduced to DCC and fell in love with model railroading all over again. I had time to experiment and play around with DCC and really liked the realistic way the trains operated. I had the layout for about 4 years and had started detail work of laying down ballast, spending a lot of time putting building kits together and starting on the actual landscaping of the layout.
One more move and we landed up in Uptown Dallas in a Townhome with a room that I could devote to my layout. Having built the previous layout in 3x4 sections, thinking that if we moved again it could be easily moved, I was sure it would fit in the new place. Turned out the room would double as an office and the layout didn’t fit. This gave me a perfect excuse to start a new layout from scratch. The above photo is my current layout. It has gone through many changes from the first layout in the townhouse. I started with just a flat dogbone configuration. It did not give me enought room for storage of all my rolling stock and motive power. I installed a helix to store rolling stock on a lower level but it gave me more grief than it was worth. I have now refineded the layout by adding an upper leverl loop which allows me to add mountains to the layout and gives me more storage. Please click here to see the the changes made to the old camp ground pictured above into the current configuration.
After having worked with using Atlas flex track and Peco switches, I was becoming very discouraged with derailments and not having smooth running trains. My first N-scale steam locomotive, a Consolidation 2-8-0 pictured at the left, did not run well over the numerous turnouts that I had installed on the layout. I had purchased a Peco Double Crossover and became so frustrated with trying to wire it for DCC and having to install under the layout switch machines, I thought to myself, there had to be an easier way to get what I wanted out of my layout which was to run trains, have a working yard and not to have to work so hard installing track, switch machines and wiring. I had subscribed to several railroading magazines and had been reading a lot about the Kato Unitrack. One afternoon, I saw a Kato Double Crossover in a local hobby shop and talked to one of the employees about Kato Unitrack. He told me how sold he was on it and how it was eliminating derailments and down time when trying to run trains. I purchased four converter tracks and headed home to give it a try.
I have to admit I was very skeptical at first on how it would work and if I would like it, appearance and all. But I kept thinking, easier DCC wiring and all the switch machines concealed right in the roadbed were all worth a try. I got it installed in a very short time and was amazed how easy, no more spending hours installing and lining up under the layout switch machines and my steam engine had no problem navigating the turnouts. This is what led me to replacing all my Peco switches and replacing them with the Kato Unitrack.
I currently run 8 assorted steam engines and 11 diesels, all DCC equipped, some with sound. Having a background in theatre, I have always enjoyed lighting and set design for musical productions. Adding the structures, roadways, backdrops and landscaping seemed like a natural for me. I enjoy creating a realistic setting for the trains to run in. This is what I intend to share on this website, my complete switch over to all Kato Unitrack, the step by step building of scenery on my layout, along with sharing images of finished sections.
I am tackling the downtown district currently. As you can see from the picture below, I am really spending time and attention to detail. You can see the Ringling Bros. train, most of which was scratch built before the introduction of the Ringling Bros. cars by Micro Trains, passing downtown on the mainline while looking down the street between the tall buildings. There is a cut of reefers visible down the street, some on the mainline and some on sidings in the warehouse district.
Since this picture on the right was taken, many changes have taken place. The two new eight story buildings from Custom Model Railroads have change position. They have been turned to show more detail with the building fronts facing the front of the layout by adding an additional street behind the Budweiser Building. While the street is not the full width of the other streets, (narrow due to lack of space) it gave me the opportunity to show more of the buildings. Other buildings have been added along with working traffic lights at the intersection. You can see more about this on the Working on the Downtown District page.
I would like to hear any suggestions or questions about my layout. I have provided a place below if you wish to leave feedback or contact me. Be sure to include your email address so I can address any questions you may have. I will respond ASAP.