Introduction: LooVille ModelRailroad

About: I live in South Africa. Married and son is 3 now. Work in the Retail Industry in IT. N Scale Model Trains is my past time hobby and passion. Fix and Service Locomotives and I have my own layout I'm busy buildi…

The Making of LooVille...


I used AutoCad to draw and design my layout. I wanted to run my grandfather’s trains so I had to design it in such a way that I could operate both DC and DCC (computer chip trains). I decided on an oval for the DC, and inside that another oval for the DCC. To make it a bit more interesting, I added a figure eight on the inside of that. With a bit of thinking, I linked everything together to make it work well.

I wanted it to be portable so decided to keep the layout to the size of a single door (2000mmx820mm) 78.74x32.2inch.


The frame of the bench work I built with 92mm x 22mm (3.6x0.86inch) Pine and added 22mm x 22mm (0.86x0.86inch) battens on the inside to make it stronger, but still fairly light.

On top of that I glued 20mm (0.78inch) sheet foam (Styrofoam) so that I had a base to work on.

I then cut out the footprint of the track in sections using 20mm (0.78inch) sheet foam (Styrofoam). I used Woodland Scenics 2% inclines from the subterrain layout system to get to the heights I required for the two bridges.

Once all the base work was done, I could start with the track work. I used the flex Code 80 track from Peco. All the points are also from Peco with SEEP point motors. I also did all the wiring so that I could operate a train. I was quite impressed; it was starting to come together nicely.

Landscaping Design & Build:

I knew from the start that I wanted a mountain on the one side, my town would go in the loop of the eight. The Station would be in the middle front. Now I need to make this all work.

I once again used 20mm (0.78inch) sheet foam (Styrofoam) and cut out the profile of the mountain. I build it as ribs which I connected to each other with small flat sections of foam. To give it a strong base I saw that Woodland Scenics has a plaster cloth so I decided to make my own. I bought a roll of cloth bandage at the pharmacy and cut it in about 200mm (7.8inch) lengths. Then in place of plaster or hydrocal, I used cretestone. I made up a very watery mixture of cretestone and soaked the pieces of cloth bandage in it. Then I laid the pieces of cloth randomly over the foam structure.

I also made my own rocks, I bought the Woodland Scenics rubber moulds and with the cretestone mixture I cast my own. As for painting, I mixed three different colour browns to my liking and the darkest (very runny) I painted as the base colour. I let the excess of paint run down to create darker parts. I dry brushed the two lighter browns over that to create a realistic look. For the field or grass sections I painted a thick layer of earthy coloured paint, and while it was still wet, I sprinkled the Woodland Scenics grass over it. I then used the Woodland Scenics cement in a spray can to glue the grass onto the layout and give it a realistic matt finish. The waterfall and river was also created with the Woodland Scenics Water Effects and Realistic Water. All the trees and bushes are from the Woodland Scenics range.

Buildings Town and Other:

I bought the station first (kit from Faller). Then I started to look for houses and other buildings to create the town. I tried to stay around Era III. I did not want to recreate a specific place, so I bought whatever I liked. The layout of the houses is similar to that on the box. I liked it so I tried to replicate it on my layout. I also wanted to add a windmill as both my parents were born in Holland. The cars and people are mostly also all from the Woodland Scenics range. Houses are fitted with LED lights and the street lights are from the Viesmann range.

Extra Detail and Maintenance:

I like to do detail, so there are lots of small little details on the layout that make it interesting to look at. Even I can sit for hours and just watch while my trains pass through my layout. Currently I’m busy finishing the catenary from Vollmer and I’m still busy adding the powerlines to the houses. Then there is always a tree or a bush somewhere or just a little bit of paint that can be added to just finish it off better, or to make it look a little bit more realistic.

Step 1: Building the BaseBoard

I used 92mm x 22mm Pine for the frame and 22mm x 22mm Pine for the bracing. Everything is glued and screwed together.
Then on top of that I glued 20mm Styrofoam sheets. The shape of where all the track will go I have cut out with a hot wire cutter which I made myself. This I glued on top of the full sheet and it gave me a easy way to lay the track in the correct place.

Step 2: Laying the Track and Adding the Power

Once I had the shape for the tack it was time to lay the track.
Track was glued to the styrofoam and all wiring done and properly tested before any mountains and tunnels were built.

I installed a heavy gauge wire to carry the Main Power and thin feeder wires from the track to a connector block and on to the Main Power

I soldered the wire (red and black) on to the out side of the track.

I wired the layout in such a way so that I can run DC and DCC at the same time or everything the one or the other.

DC = +- power with transformer, so, more power faster the train, switch the polarity and train will reverse.

DCC = 12-16V on the track permanently. Locomotives have a Computer chip (decoder) inside and is given a number. The controller talks to the number and control the train that way.

Step 3: Starting With the Landscape

Decided to start with the mountain.

Used the same Styrofoam as I used for the base to cut "ribs" for the mountain. I roughly drew a shape and then cut it out. Used some off cuts pieces to connect everything.

Plaster cloth is quite expensive, so I decided to make my own. I bought a few rolls of cloth band-aid and I bought some Creatstone (same idea as plaster of paris, just half the price). I mixed the Creatstone to a sloppy consistency and wet the cloth. Then I soaked the cloth in the mixture and layed it randomly over the mountain structure.

I bought some rockmolds from WoodlandScenics and casted my own rocks and build them onto the layout.

I think this is the part of building I like the most :)

I decided to finish all the building before I paint or do any detail.

Step 4: Building the Houses and Other Buildings Fir the Town.

I finally received the bridge for the last piece of track. Then I also built all the buildings, mostly Faller kits, I had for the layout. I placed the buildings where I wanted them and cut footprints for each building out of cardboard. This I glued on to the Styrofoam and I filled all the open areas with expansion foam. Then I cut and sanded everything till I was happy with the look of everything.

Step 5: Painting and Adding of Scenery

I decided to finish all the building of the landscape before I started with the painting of the rocks and other details.

I used 3 colours for the rocks. Dark grey (wash), Redish brown and a Musterdy brown. I started with the wash, very thin watery paint. This will run in all the crevices and will give a nice textured look. I did 2 layers of this where needed. Then I lightly brushed the Redish brown and finally just for highlights I did the Musterdy brown. For ground cover, earth I used a medium brown paint. This I just liberally painted over everything where grass, weeds, trees and anything else will go. For grass I used the WoodlandScenics Ground Cover. I used a few different ones, Earth Blend (brownish), Green Blend, Burnt Grass Blend and Weeds Blend. This give quite a nice realistic effect.

Step 6: Adding the River and a Waterfall....

I wanted to have a river on my layout, then my dad suggested that I build a small little spring and have a Waterfall from there into the River. Easier said than done..... So I build it all and bought the realistic water from WoodlandScenics. Painted the river and poured in the water. Disaster, the water reacted with the Styrofoam so I had to demolish everything and start over. Layered the river again with Creatstone and then sealed it with resin. Then I paint again and then water. Success !!!!! I built the Waterfall from the Water effects also from WoodlandScenics. Quite happy with the outcome.

Step 7: Ballasting the Track.

I use the Medium Balast from Woodland Scenics.
I poured the balast dry on to the center of the track, then with a 9mm soft brush I brushed the balast with the track so that the excess spill over to the outside. This gives quite a natural look and the stones fall naturally.
Then I test some trains just to make sure it is still OK.
To fix the balast, I mixed a mixture of water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid and used a eye dropper to apply it over the balast. This helps to pull the glue to all the stones and fix it properly.
To glue the balast permanently I used the senic cement from WoodlandScenics. You can also use a 50/50% mix of water and white cold glue.

Step 8: Control Panel for the Layout and All Accessories

I started to add lights to the buildings and I also decided to add solenoids under the layout to switch the points. Now all this need to live some ware on the layout and it must be easy accessible, so a control panel is needed.

I took some wood and built a frame with two sides, a shelve and a place to fit all the switches. Fitted it under the layout on a slider so I can hide it away if not in use. This worked well for a while. As things progressed it became impossible to manage everything so I decided to dump the panel and design something properly.

New and Improved Panel

I saw at a friends house what he did with Plexiglass and it really look awesome so I took it to the next level.

I designed a panel with the help of CorelDraw that will fit on the frame I already have.

Then I found a guy that can engrave all the labels for the different switches for me and he drilled all the holes for me too. Came out awesome. I then took black paint and painted all the text and polished the panel afterwards.

At the bottom of the panel I wanted to have the section of the layout where all the points are situated, so I masked the back and sprayed the panel black. I used the milky white Plexiglass for the panel.

Then I built a small light box and fitted all the wiring back, but much neater this time and I also thought about everything for maintenance and accessibility if something had to go wrong.

Much nicer and works 100% better.

Step 9: Adding the BackDrop

This was quite a challenge.....

I'm not a painter and it was really a task I did not look forward in doing. I asked a few people to help, but nothing :(.....

So, I went to Google and found a picture I liked. I modified it a bit with CorelDraw and printed it out the size I need. Then I glued the picture to 3mm hardboard (Masonite) Then I mixed some paint and re-painted over the picture. I wanted it to look like a actual painting and I think I pulled it off. Once the paint was dry I built a frame on the back and fitted it to the layout.

Step 10: Video of the LooVille Layout

I made loads of changes to the layout after I shot this video.

I'll upload some more at a later stage. It always changing :)

Step 11: Some Awesome Shots of the Layout As It Is Now ...

Here is some close-up shots to show some of the final details on my layout.

Step 12: Access Tunnel for Traffic to and From the Town

Lots of people have asked me how does traffic and people come and go in the little town of LooVille.

Hmmm, very good question and magic does not work. HeHeHe...

I'm busy building a train yard extension - switching yard with all the steam locomotive facilities (roundhouse, ash pit, sand pit, coal inspection pit), complete with boiler house and a water tower.

In one corner I have hills with a Castle on the top with a road leading to it.

This means that I have to think about how to connect the town with all of these new facilities. At the market side of the town I have created a bit of a hill; this is also the closest place to the edge of the layout. I decided to remove the market and create a tunnel underneath the three tracks between the town and the edge of the layout. I did not feel like lifting the track as it is working well and I did not want to disrupt me running trains (almost like in the real world). I measured the biggest truck I have and determined that it can easily clear 30mm in height and I have about 40mm to play with. It should work out very nicely.

Step 13: Pre-Design and Planning

I did all the pre-design and planning and then it was time to put my "scared" or "cautious" nature aside and start working. I first had to dismantle the market and remove two of the trees and one of the lamp poles.

I then measured 40mm on the fascia of the layout and drew a rough profile of where to cut. I also carefully measured where the tunnel would be placed.

This all went well and there was now a space in/on the layout where I can start to cut the arch for the tunnel.

I took a 50mm PVC pipe (plastic) and cut it to length and the correct angle. I also trimmed a 10mm section off the bottom of the pipe. This caused the pipe to have a “C” shape. The open section faces down and becomes the road surface.

I placed the PVC pipe in the correct place and at the correct angle, I then drew the profile on the foam layout base so that I could see what must be cut away.

With the hole cut and the tunnel fitted nicely I could finish the tunnel and the road.

Step 14: Building the Tunnel

My dad suggested that I build the tunnel and paint the road surface separately from the layout and then fit it. Awesome idea, as it will be much easier to build.

I drilled 3 holes to fit 3mm LED's and painted the inside grey to represent concrete.

For the road I used the Wall card, Cobbles from Faller and I made my own pavement out of 1.5mm cardboard. Once it was all done it was easy to just slide it in position.

Step 15: Tunnel Portals

I bought a set of Concrete Tunnel Portals from WoodlandScenics, but I needed to cut this to fit, so I desided to make castings of the original. I used liquid Laytex to make the mold and Creatstone to make the Portal. Then it was just cut them to fit and paint. I'm very happy with the final look when I added all the paint and bushes back. Also added a car to finish the scene.

Step 16: Adding the Name to My Model Railroad

Friend and his family came to visit and we were running trains the whole afternoon.

Then his wife turn to me and told me there is something missing on my layout. Mmmmmm.....

The Name !!!!!

What a awesome idea...... I have a mountain so I could do something like the Hollywood name.

My Surname is Loo (Dutch) and everybody know my layout as LooVille,

So I designed the Logo on Sketchup and we lasercut it out of 2.5mm Plywood which I painted.

I then build a structure using square styrene from Evergreen.

I have also bought the Painters from WoodlandScenics to complete the scene.

Step 17: EXTENSION Intro

Right, so, the hobby never stop and there is always room to extend. Bigger Town, Industries, Forests, Mountains... What ever you want.....

So I decided I would like to add a Yard to my Town. I already collected quite a lot of things, track, points, buildings.... I just need the basics to get started.....

I found a awesome layout for a Yard that had a turntable with all the facilities needed. I was given a Fleischmann full Automatic Turntable as a gift so I want to use it and it really looks good on any layout. So I modified the layout slightly and made it work.

Another Journey Starting...

I'm still busy building this part of the layout and I will post as I go along.

Step 18: The Bench-work for the Yard

Once again I used the 92mm x 20mm Pine. It worked very well and staining it really make it look good.

Yards are very flat, so I decided to glue the Styrofoam on to the bench-work and draw the layout on to the foam.

Building this was much easier as the Town.

Step 19: Start to Lay the Track

Laying the track and the points went very well and it was quick. Really happy with this.

Fitting the Turntable proved to be a challenge. I first cut the hole to big, so had to glue it back and try again. Then there was the track. It is a Fleischmann Turntable, so naturally it had Fleischmann track. I am using Peco code 80. Very different and the two is not compatible. So I chatted to a friend and he told me, pull the track off the turntable and replace it with the Peco. AWESOME idea, loads of work, but well worth it. Turntable fitted and is working well. So now the track laying is carried on....

Step 20: Lying Some More Track....

It is a good idea to finish laying all the track and test it before scenery work start. To do this I had to finish and fit a few extra things to the layout.

Roundhouse floor:

I bought a second hand Roundhouse ans took it apart..... I fitted the floor and filled in all the space between the ties with Creatstone. This was sanded down and painted grey to look like concrete.

Inspection Pit:

The Peco Inspection pit was way to difficult to find and to import it become a bit expensive, so I decided to built my own. I used cardboard and painted and weathered it. Think it worked quite well. Very happy with the results.

Ash Pit:

I do not know now this works so I had to do quite a bit of reading up.

I found a awesome example on the internet so I decided to build it myself. I also used cardboard to build this one.


I bought a kit from Vollmer N 7800 Girder Bridge. Very nice kit to build and the details is awesome. I painted and weathered it also, using the dry-brushing method. I do have a airbrush, but have never used it so rather stick with what I know. I need to learn someday....

Then once all the parts was fitted I could finish the track.

Step 21: Building the Mountain.

I like mountains and tunnels so I built another mountain and it create some nice scenery and interest on a layout. Because the space was a bit limited, carfull planning had to be done and it was built it in such a way that it would look like the mountain was blasted away to make space for the roundhouse. I like the idea and to model it would look interesting. I built the frame from Styrofoam and covered it with my home made plaster cloth. Then rocks was casted and fitted and painted. With this part of the layout I decided to finish scenes as far as possible. and then move on to the next one. I also had to manage the cash-flow a bit better as I'm married now and a little one is on it's way. When I built this section, we also had to move, so my layout was stored, it was only temporary, but for a year is was quit difficult.

Step 22: Making Some Track Shanges

  • One of my friends told me that a "S" bend on any layout and in real life can cause quite a few problems, so he suggested that I change the point and move to track out. This worked well and it also look so much better.

  • Then while I was playing around with the placement of some buildings I realized that it will be better to have a 4th track going underneath the Coaling Crane towards the Turn Table. This will also allow me to move the loco to the front of the train once they are busy loading or offloading Coal.

Two small changes that will make such a BIG difference to my layout.

Step 23: First Buildings in the Yard.

Some of the buildings on my Yard I bought through eBay or secondhand here in SA. Unfortunately I had to do this, but my skills have improved quite a bit so I can rebuild or fix and paint to my own standards. One of this buildings was the Round-house: Heljan B643-Roundhouse 6 Track. I received about 20 stalls from a friend, but there was lots of parts missing, including the side walls. So I bought a OK looking one off eBay, dismantled it and rebuild it to the space I had. Then I re-painted and weathered the building and fitted lights. I bought the Watertower: Kibri N7303 I bought new, so I had lots of fun building and painting this one. I did change the colour scheme of the building slightly also to fit in with the architecture I chose.

I chose WoodlandScenics grey Fine Ballast as ground covering and the Medium Ballast I carried on using to ballast the track. I gave the Yard a nice look.

I have also fitted a second inspection pit outside the Roundhouse.

Across the two track I fitted the Faller Gantry Crane 222199. This I also bought new as a kit.

At the end of the second track I added the Boiler Maintenance Platform from Faller 222138

This scene is still far from complete, but I'm happy with it for now.

Step 24: Addition of a 5 Rail Road Crossing

I needed to get access to the factory and other facilities in the yard.

It will be a bit unrealistic if there is no road access to any place on the layout.

So I decided to attempt a road crossing myself. I have seen this way of dong it on a video from Ken Patterson (Model Railway Hobbiest Magazine).

I mixed so creatstone and added so me grey paint, so that it looks like concrete.

I made the mixture fairly watery, so that it will flow nicely and level itself out.

Once it was dry, it took loads of sanding to get it to track level. I used my dremel with a 0.6mm cutting disk to cut the space for the wheels of the locomotives. This was quite a challenge, but I took my time to do it properly and it really works well.

Then to finish it off I added pebble paper from Faller and worked everything together with bits of creatstone and a brush. Once dry, I painted everything and added the greenery, bushes and a few other details.

I'm leaving trees and all the other fine details off for now as I do not want to damage anything while I'm still making changes to the layout.

Step 25: New Updates Coming Soon.

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