Firebaugh Rail Lines
Great Northern Scenic Sub
My new model railroad in planning

California State Railroad Museum


First I'll start by saying that this isn't the last layout I'll ever build, it's to continue learning more about what I like in a model railroad, building on what I've learned from my current layout. I want more practice in building scenery, and I've always been struck by the mountain-style layouts I've seen in the magazines so that's going to be the base for this new layout. For some reason I was drawn to the Great Northern Rwy when I started my current layout, probably seeing pictures of it in the Cascades of Washington or Rocky Mountains of Montana. The GN's Cascade Tunnel in Washington also captured my fancy. As kids we all liked to see trains going through tunnels, didn't we?

My current layout has become too small for me. It's purpose was to see if I could sustain interest in the hobby, and to learn the basics. It's done that well, and there's a lot of scenery that I'd like to complete on it yet, but it's not satisfying operationally for me anymore. Lack of any real staging for variety of trains, no ability to turn a train, no classification yard and insufficient engine servicing facilities are several areas I find lacking. So I figure I have a spare bedroom that's being used only for storage, why not build a bigger layout there?

When I "operate" my current layout, I find that I enjoy building up and breaking down trains, switching the local industries some (just swapping one set of cars for another), build up another train and let it run on the mainline. For fun I'll sometimes run a passenger train in the opposite direction setting up meets in one of the two "passing sidings" available. So I want the new layout to have a reasonable classification yard so I can explore this area of operations more, and I need some local industries to switch.

I haven't yet decided on the industries for the new layout. I've always found tank cars to be visually interesting, probably going back to the first HO train set I had as a kid which came with a Sinclair tank car (I can still see that car in my head pretty clearly). Open hoppers also interest me, so this plus the tank cars lead to my favorite scenes on my current layout: the Rock Eater Gravel Co. (Walthers Glacier Gravel kit) and Firebaugh Fuel and Oil Co. (another Walthers kit). I'd like to move these industries to the new layout. My third industry on the current layout is the Walther's lumber yard, but this scene needs a lot of work yet to look right. It makes a lot of sense to have a lumber yard in this setting, and I'd like to have the timber industry represented on the new layout but I'm not sure this lumber yard is the way to go. Another possibility is an industry to support my favorite adult beverage: a brewery! It would also give me a good excuse to run my GN covered hoppers that I purchased from the Great Northern Railway Historical Society; these cars haven't seen the light of day since I bought them. I also have some GN wheel reports I downloaded off the web somewhere. I haven't studied them closely yet, but when I do I'll probably get inspiration for other industries.

Speaking of the GN Historical Society, I joined it in 2005 I guess. They have lots of good information available and all back issues are available for a small fee to members. I'm loathe to reproduce any of it here, though, I'd rather the Society be supported. All the photos and diagrams on my web page are freely available on the web from other sources.

The Society has track diagrams available for the major routes of the GN. I obtained the ones for the Scenic Sub in Washington and quickly realized I don't have the room to faithfully reproduce any of it, unless I dedicated the entire room to just the Appleyard classification yard.

So I envision my railroad as being centered at Wenatchee, WA, on the Scenic Sub. East is Spokane, and west is Stevens Pass over the Cascades and finally Everett (north of Seattle). From Wenatchee there is also a branch that leads north to Oroville (and previously into Canada). The Scenic Sub is now part of BNSF, while the Oroville branch is still operating as the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad. This branch would probably make for a cool model railroad in its own right, but I've not been able to find much information on it.

Lastly, all of this is just where my inspiration comes from. What I'm actually building will not be an accurate portrayal of Wenatchee, or any physical place. And I'm OK with that.


  • N scale, 10'x12' room
  • Room entry must not be blocked by duck-under / lift-out.
  • Occasional access to closet is required
  • Single builder, single operator
  • Mountain mainline railroading (e.g. Great Northern Scenic Sub)
  • I emphasize visual interest over prototypical accuracy
  • DCC control
  • Continuous running, longish mainline run
  • 50% operation / 50% railfanning
  • Loose timeframe: late transition era (mostly diesel, some steam), up to the merger (1970)
  • Window must be accessible (slides open from right to left)
  • Single deck design (hidden staging below OK)
  • Full scenery
  • This isn't the last layout I'll ever build, it's to learn more about what I like in a model railroad.


  • 15-20 car train length (this was determined from what I can fit in the A/D tracks of the classification yard - the staging yards will support somewhat longer trains for staging-to-staging through runs)
  • Reasonable size classification yard
  • Engine servicing / turntable
  • 15" minimum mainline radius, 11" minimum industrial/yard
  • Train reversal
  • Some industry for switching
  • Some passenger service
  • Avoid switching on curves/grades
  • River crossing, waterfall (the Columbia River needs to be represented somehow!)
  • The prototype has a cool bridge over the Columbia just east of Wenatchee, the orignal bridge was strengthened by building a new bridge structure around the outside of it thus increasing it's load bearing capacity. Unfortunately for me, it's east of Wenatchee at Rock Island, so I can't prototypically fit it in my current design.
  • A representation of the 8-mile long Cascade Tunnel

Other Considerations:

  • Construction in "dominoes" for moving (not exactly "portable")
  • All turnouts will be hand made.
  • Visible Turnouts will mostly be #7 and #10 (yard & mainline) with some #5 & #6 in industrial areas. Turnouts in staging will mostly be #5.
  • Atlas code 55 flex track in staging / hidden areas
  • ME code 55 flex track in visible areas
  • ME code 40 flex track in lesser used industrial areas?


Click small image to enter that gallery.

Prototype Inspiration

Layout Planning

Room Preparation
December 2008