The Mini-Layout

The Mini-Layout is really the original CH&FR Railroad.  It is a simple oval of track with two spurs on a 2′ x 3′ board.  This little gem is helping me maintain my sanity while I design the larger CH&FR layout.

I am using it to practice and experiment with various construction and scenery techniques, to test out the placement of the benchwork with respect to the living arrangement of the room and – perhaps most importantly – to have fun running some trains while I go through endless variations on the planned layout!

The layout is on a 24×36 laminated pine board, and as such is flat as a board.  It is an oval with two turnouts (on the straight parts of the oval).  The turnouts lead to straight sidings.  Control is DC, and there’s only one block (heck, there’s only 8 feet of track!), so it can handle only one locomotive at a time.

Here’s the layout schematic with a sketch of the current version of the scenery:

Mini Layout Schematic

Mini Layout Schematic - Current Version

The water features and the turnout/spur in the upper right corner are planned, not current.

Here’s a nice long shot of the completed scenery. Right now, areas not in the picture are basically bare painted board or hillside.

Long front view of completed tunnel scenery on the mini layout

Watash Creek Tunnel

The tunnel has been named the “Watash Creek Tunnel”, in memory of Wayne “Watash” Wilson, a longtime member and moderator of who passed away recently.  I did not know him well, but he was very well loved by the community, so I thought it a fitting tribute to name the tunnel after him.  The planned creek in the front will be Watash Creek, but before I can build it, I need to add framing beneath the layout and move the controls into a drawer beneath their present location.

The planned new turnout and spur in the back right corner will hopefully provide a link to a future extension / staging on that side.  I am considering moving the spur to the parallel location on the front.  The turnout will be yet another EZ-Track turnout, but the spur itself will be Atlas Code 80 on cork roadbed.  Using the EZ-Track turnout will help keep the curve the same (unlike “real” turnouts which diverge at a straight angle, the EZ-Track turnouts fit the 11″ radius of the curve).  Using the Code 80 for the spur itself will give me a first look at laying track in this fashion.

Somewhere along the track, I plan to add a coal truck dump with an access road.  Somehow this will involve a hill and an elevated road, and possibly an old overpass bridge.  Scenery for the other areas is still undecided, but I plan to use each spot to test or practice a new scenery technique, so stay tuned!

CHFR Mini Layout track

CHFR Mini Layout Track

The above picture shows just the track on the board before we added any scenery.  The layout is built to rest on a tabletop or in its semi-permanent home, on a “fast track” shelving bracket system in my office.

At first, it was going to be a winter scene and Christmas display.  However, I have since decided to practice various modeling techniques on it, so we’ve painted the base “dirt” color, added some hills, and ballasted the track.  Below, you can see the first version of the scenery before the tunnel project was completed.  The hills here are wadded-up newspaper taped down and overlaid with Woodland Scenics Plaster Cloth and finished with joint compound.

CHFR Min-Layout With Scenery

CHFR Min-Layout With Scenery



I have documented a few of the work projects for this layout over at NScale.Net, one of my favorite Model Railroading places to “hang out” on the web:

There are also a few videos that may be of interest:


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