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MacLeod Central N Scale Model Railroad

MacLeod Central

A Quick, Inexpensive, Stowable N Scale Layout

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Country Town
Layout Type: Portable Layout
Size: 24"x70"
Scale: N Scale
Era: Any
Track: Code 55
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 10"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: February 22, 2016

A few months ago, one of my good friends in my model railroad club was diagnosed with ALS.  Everyone in the club was devastated to hear the news. As a group, we wanted to do something for him and his young grandson.  He enjoys N scale so the group decided to take up a collection to build him a layout.  My task was to figure out how to build a quick, inexpensive, and stowable N scale layout.

The layout would have a few specific design requirements:

1. Simple Setup and Take Down: Most likely, this layout would need to be moved by non-model railroaders.  This means, even normally simple ideas, like attached legs, wouldn't be ideal.  The better design, would be something that would sit on top of a table or counter.

2. Low Layout Height: One of the effects of ALS is that the person eventually becomes wheelchair bound.  In the future, the layout would need to be viewed when seated.  In addition, since the layout was also going to be used by a child, a lower height would also be better.

3. Easy Maintenance: Having everything, in particular trackwork, easily accessible so that it can be cleaned with minimal effort is important.  Again, it most likely will be left to non-model railroaders to help keep the layout running so making the tasks to keep the layout operating simple is very important.

4. Resilient Scenery: Since the layout is designed to be moved and also used by a younger child, building scenery which can take some abuse it important.

Overview of the MacLeod Central N Scale layout track plan

An overview of the MacLeod Central N Scale Layout. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


As can be seen in the final trackplan above, the layout consists of a basic loop with a passing siding and a pair of industries.  The loop of track is disguised by  running through a pair of tunnel portals behind a ridge line.  The mainline, behind the ridge, is completely open and accessible for easy maintenance.   The scenery was kept fairly simple with clump foliage used to represent trees and bushes.  While not as good looking as other methods, the effect works in N scale and the overall layout will be able to survive a lot of wear and tear.

The layout was designed to sit on top of a folding table so it would be easy to run while seated.  In addition, the wiring was kept very simple, with just one block and a pair of leads which can be hooked up to a DC power pack or DCC system.  No turnout motors were installed - Peco turnouts, with their built in spring - were all that was needed to keep the switches aligned.

With all of this simplicity built in to the design, the layout actually went together very quickly.  Overall, it took about 5 days, working about 6 to 8 hours a day, to complete everything you see in the photos.  The cost was about $400.  Adding in a control system and trains would add to the overall costs of a similar layout but, really, this isn't too bad for a completed - working layout.  Obviously, much more detail could be added over time if the desire was to take the layout up another level.

Last weekend, several club members delivered the layout to my friend and he was very excited to see it.  We spent a couple of hours just hanging out and watching trains run around in circles.  I'm very happy the members of the club wanted to contribute to this project and I'm looking forward to hearing about how much enjoyment my friend and his grandson get from the layout.

Overview of the MacLeod Central N Scale layout

An overview of the MacLeod Central N Scale Layout. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


A view of the back of the MacLeod Central layout

A view of the back of the MacLeod Central layout. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


For Track Plan Tuesday's, I am digitizing all of my old track planning notebooks and sharing the designs here on the website.  To see all the plans, visit the track plan home page at: jimspavins.com/jimstrackplans.