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Cascade Southern in N Scale

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Freelanced Pacific Northwest scenes on a large layout

I usually recommend against building benchwork first and then beginning layout planning. All too often, this process constrains the eventual design in ways that inhibit creativity and lead to a less-satisfying layout.

There are rare exceptions to this general rule, however. For this large N scale layout, the client had already laid out and built extensive benchwork in his generous (550 square foot +) space.

But fortunately he had chosen a benchwork footprint consisting of an around-the-room shelf with a spiral peninsula into the center of the room. As John Armstrong noted, this is often an excellent way to optimize efficiency in a larger space.

The inspiration for the layout design is a freelanced Pacific Northwest US locale that could plausibly support the Burlington Northern (and predecessors such as the Great Northern and Northern Pacific), the Southern Pacific and Rio Grande. Drawing from Mark Lestico's spectacular N scale Cascade Subdivison, a long mainline was desired, with elevation changes suggested by scenery rather than actual track grades.

Large N scale model railroad layout track plan

Click image for a larger labeled view

The resulting design suggests the movement of trains from a relatively level urban area through the suburbs and a farming area into the mountains. Even though most of the benchwork edges are relatively straight and parallel, the track begins to curve as the railroad moves through the more mountainous areas, suggesting grades and geographic obstacles.

The freelanced Cascade Southern offers a good combination of industrial switching and some distance between "towns" for more-realistic mainline running. A variety of jobs are supported, from dedicated switch crews in the large classification yard to mainline drags, hotshots, and passenger runs.

A large visible staging yard suggesting an inland mountain interchange point (Mountain Home) and a number of interchange tracks allow for plausible interaction between different railroads. The interchange tracks also provide optional reversing connections for display- and fun-running.


You can read much more detail on the layout in the June 2011 issue of Model-Railroad-Hobbyist media-zine, always free for download on the web! The article includes prototype photos, under-construction views, and more details of the planning process.


Whether your layout space is large or compact, we can develop an engaging plan to fit. Contact me and let's get started on a design that best suits your interests and space.

Copyright 2011 by Byron Henderson

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