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Isawe Valley Railroad


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Hi, long time visitor, first time poster.

I thought you may be interested in seeing my first model train project since my childhood Hornby type layouts back in the 80's. The name is courtesy of my wife who was forever asking how much longer she would have to look at this 'eye-sore'. The name has stuck.


I've always wanted to have a go at an N-scale layout and finally found the courage (and cash) to have a go. Since I have no real experience in model layout building the entire process has been an enormous learning curve. Many mistakes were made. Many.

For a few years now I have been a contributing content creator for N3V's Trainz PC game and a couple of my creations were included in their "Model Trains" release version. I've also created hundreds of other non-released layouts. Because of this I knew from the start pretty much what I wanted to create and how it should all fit together. Queue the initial shopping spree (mistake #1)! The first parts purchased were the track which I wanted as code 55 so I ordered enough Micro Engineering track and peco points for my plan along with a loco and some freight cars. 

Once everything turned up I grabbed some timber and foam board and laid out the underlay making sure everything was going to fit, pinned the first piece of track, went to install the first point and... apparently Peco and Micro Engineering have different sizes of Code 55 rail. Plan binned, tantrum successful.

Back to the drawing board (see: bank account), research done, atlas code 55 points and some set track curves ordered, arrives and test fit successful. Tantrum avoided. From here I decided to change the scope a little and increase the board size. Working in the building trade I have access to some sales reps and one hooked me up with a freebie hollow core door leaf as well as several sheets of foam board that looked 'damaged'. I relaid all the track, did a quick crash course on soldering (which has become quite addictive) and hooked everything up to a borrowed power pack.

Here's a video of the test run which also shows the basic track plan: 



Once I knew it was working I decided to motorise the points, ordered the parts, realised I had nowhere to mount them, had a cry, tried some manual method, failed, cried a bit more, consoled myself with alcohol. I had a scrap sheet of plywood and used that to create a backscene divider splitting the layout into a rural side and a commercial side. Scenery form was a mix of foam board (very time consuming) and masking tape weave (very time consuming...er) with plaster cloth and plaster of paris details:












Roads were laid out in cardboard strips then roads formed with foam strip edges and poured plaster of paris. So much sanding (mistake #3, i think, probably higher).






Then it was time to paint (mistakes #4 thru #3256). I went with a dark brown shade to begin with, decided i hated it, went over it with green, hated it more and ended up with a combination almost dry brushed effect which actually didn't look too bad.






Ballast and woodland scenics basic ground cover were added and the roads painted a mottled grey colour. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed ballasting, almost every video I have watched went on about how painful the process is, I found it rather cathartic. 




Rather than make trees I ordered them in bulk from Aliexpress, 100 (ish) trees cost me about $30 (kiwi). I also bought a static grass applicator and put another shade on the hillsides.



For the commercial side I had two Micro Engineering buildings and kitbashed one into a backscene building. I also weathered the track on this side with pastels.






Finally I scratchbuilt a roadbridge, added some fencing, guardrails, clump foliage, Blair Line signage and more trees and it was pretty much done. Just one final (and sizeable) mistake (#???) installing badly fitting fascias which I still need to fix somehow. 










So after all my mistakes what did I learn?


1) This is an expensive hobby.

2) I'm rubbish at photography.

3) N scale is really fun.

4) HO scale next (order is on the way)

5) I want DCC (what could go wrong!)

6) This hobby is REALLY addictive expensive.

7) Carpentry is hard, I should treat my builders better.

8) My kids were a lot less interested than I expected

9) My wife still hates it.

10) It actually works.





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Great work and your list of 10 learning points is very interesting.


I think most of us can sympathise with your conclusions although your photography in not bad at all.


I can certainly recommend HO and DCC as the way forward.



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Cheers, I've actually decided to sell off this layout. I'll be keeping the stock and I've got the track ready for a more complex track plan. Just need to find a buyer now :)


I've also started a small HO collection and weathered up the first bit of rolling stock this week. Local train show here this weekend so might end up with a few more goodies!






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