B&P
South-Western Railroad

Work is continuing on the California side of the layout. With the turntable bridge in place, the engine servicing yard is laid out, below photo.

Again, using techniques demonstrated by Rick Battista on his DVDs, we started to add color to our terrain and background, below photo. Some of our initial color work has not been satisfactory, so the final outcome differs from what is below.

L-Girders were preassembled in 6', 8' and 10' lengths using glue and deck screws below photo. With an outline drawn on what would become each module’s plywood top, the preassembled L-Girders were attached using glue and deck screws on the reverse side at locations that would not interfere with future cutting along the module’s outermost edge, below photo.

Once the initial layer of paper towels dry, you then apply additional layers of Plaster of Paris with a brush to achieve a satisfactory level of strength, below photo.

The next step was to add wood framework to support the layouts partially elevated mainline. These elevated portions vary from 6" - 7" high and connect to six of the seven modules. With all of the modules aligned, these elevated sections were secured in place with glue and wood screws, following two photos.

In the above photo you can see three wood knobs (lower center right) used to control three Blue Point Manual Turnout Controllers, and five toggle switches to the left, which control block wiring in the Las Vegas yard.


With the completion and testing of the turntable, with its bridge removed, it was installed into Module 2. The entire turntable pit and drive mechanism is suspended 2 3/8" below the module top through the use of PVC pipe spacers and four carriage bolts. This distance allows enough of the pit to extend above the module top, so that when track is laid atop the one inch foam sheets, bridge track elevation will match the rest of the layout.


Although difficult to see, the following photo indicates that the turntable and its bridge are level. 

The following photo shows one and two inches of foam panel covering most of the California side of the layout. Also visible is the initial work with the Woodland Scenics Subterranean System.

Our next step was to remove each module from Bob’s Depot and add legs made from 35 3/4" lengths of 1" X 4" pine L-Girders. These are the same L-Girders we used to construct the seven module tops, following photo.

Prior to ballasting, both sides of the outer rails were painted with a diluted mixture of brown acrylic paint to simulate "rusted" rails, above photo.


Because of how difficult it would be to reach particular areas of the layout if all of the modules were bolted together, track is being laid and wired a module at a time. Modules 4 and 5 have had their track and wiring completed. Once the wiring and TMCC were tested, Modules 4 and 5 were ballasted, following photo.

Fourteen gauge electrical track wiring is being soldered at intervals of approximately every five feet, or more often if necessary to maintain electrical continuity through switches. This wiring is feed through holes in the module tops and soldered to 12 gauge wires running under each track path back to a "home run" wiring junction, following three photos.

Another clearance problem was discovered on track that was laid, ballasted, tested and thought to be finished. However, a final test of this curve with a 20 inch (80 foot) long car on each track disclosed a serious problem. Approximately three feet of the outer curve was removed, lengthened by approximately .75 inch, and replaced. This now allows sufficient clearance if two trains with similar consists should pass. Most of this change was made inside the tunnel (repair area = lack of new ballast), following two photos.

The only place where foam board is not applied to the plywood module tops is where the track roadbed elevation will go to “0" inches. This is indicated with blue on the following diagram.

We are finalizing the four modules on the Nevada side of the layout, before moving forward with the three modules on the California side of the room.


We have started to lay and wire track on the Nevada side of the layout. Track laying and wiring is slow, exacting work.


Laying Track, Wiring & Ballast 


As previously noted, we are using Atlas Nickel Silver track products and Ross Custom Switches. Our use of Atlas track is a carry over from our now dismantled B&P Garden Railroad. Approximately 50 percent of the track being used on the B&P South-Western is salvaged from the garden railroad.


Every track joint, Atlas to Atlas, and Atlas to Ross is first prepped with a Dremel tool, fitted with an Atlas Rail Joiner, and then soldered, below photo.

Again, using techniques demonstrated by Rick Battista on his DVDs, we started to add color to our terrain and background, below photo. Some of our initial color work has not been satisfactory, so the final outcome differs from what is below.

Woodland Scenics Subterranean System is finished and we are applying paper towels dipped in Plaster of Paris.

Continue at the top of "Middle Column."

Using techniques we discovered by watching Rick Battista’s Black Diamond Railroad DVDs we started to model terrain to accommodate our changes in elevation and add mountains to some of our background. Instead of buying plaster cloth, Rick uses regular paper towels dipped into a thin Plaster of Paris solution, and draped over the feature.


As seen in following two photos, we used a variety of materials to fill the voids under the Plaster of Paris paper towels.

After the glue joints cured, the elevated sections were cut along module lines to allow the modules to again be separated, below photo.

Track and TMCC testing is reflected in the below two photos (photo below before recent repair for clearance). 

Using techniques we discovered by watching Rick Battista’s Black Diamond Railroad DVDs we started to model terrain to accommodate our changes in elevation and add mountains to some of our background. Instead of buying plaster cloth, Rick uses regular paper towels dipped into a thin Plaster of Paris solution, and draped over the feature.


As seen in following two photos, we used a variety of materials to fill the voids under the Plaster of Paris paper towels.

As can be seen in the above photos, we are now laying track on Modules 6 and 7.


All of the "dirt, ballast, and larger rock" used on the layout was purchased from a local rock landscaping company. Bob was able to buy three five-gallon pales of "Chat" size rock (.25 inch or smaller pieces) in three colors, red, brown, and grey for approximately $10.00.


Once he had it home, he spent a couple of days sifting the Chat through crude arrangements of screen to separate each of the three colors into three grades, dirt/gravel, ballast, and one-foot scale boulders.


Dirt/gravel, ballast and boulders are placed and then sprayed with a solution of white glue (Elmer's) and water. Most of this solution was mixed at a ratio of one part glue and two parts water, and applied with a common household spray bottle.


The scale 80 foot MetroLink passenger car, longest car in our fleet (seen in several photos), is being used during track testing to ensure clearance at various switches and curves. We have identified several places where we have had to make modifications to accommodate the car's overhang around curves.


One Example was the vertical support for the double steel-plate girder bridge. The original vertical support, located at a point between the two parallel lower tracks did not allow sufficient clearance for the MetroLink car. A new design has been installed that simulates a horizontal pre-stressed concrete beam supported by two vertical concrete supports (following photo).

The seven modules were returned to Bob’s Depot, aligned and bolted together, following two photos.

Building our O Gauge Train Layout - Part 1

B&P South-Western Railroad Facts


Layout Room Size: 21.5" X 16.5" 
Layout Size: 21.5' X 15.5' Folded Dog-Bone
Layout Surface Area: 270 Square Feet
Track Type: Atlas O Nickel Silver
Track Running Length: 389 Feet
Upper Mainline Length: 51 Feet
Perimeter Mainline Length: 64 Feet
Folded Dog-Bone Mainline Length: 100 Feet
Track Curves: Three Mainlines 072 - 099 
Track Curves: Sidings/Yards 054 - 072 
Turnouts: 23, Ross-Custom (16), Atlas (7)
Turnout Control: Blue Point Switch Machines - Manually Operated
Turntable: Scratch-Built 120' Scale (30")
Track Power: Lionel TMCC, MTH DCS, 720 watts
Motive Power: Lionel, K-Line, MTH
Rolling Stock: Lionel, K-Line, MTH, Weaver, Menards
Structures: Ameri-Towne, Plasticville, Scratch-Built
Vehicles: Lionel, Historic Rail, MTH, Match Box
Figures: Woodland Scenics, Model Power, WeHonest


The B&P South-Western’s model railroading philosophy is that we are builders and operators, not collectors. We try to stay reasonably close to O Gauge’s 1:48 scale, without being obsessive with every minute detail.

Our layout design philosophy is to maximize the amount of track devoted to railroad mainlines, sidings and rail yards within the given space we have available. While we use Lionel TMCC and MTH DCS to control all of our locomotives, our 23 turnouts (switches) are manually controlled. This requires train operators to move about the layout as they operate their locomotives.

Additionally, we cut off or rounded layout corners to facilitate movement around the layout. These priorities limit the space available for buildings, street scenes, etc. 

Finally, where we can, we try to scratch-build and/or kitbash layout features.


Layout Planning (2010)


We live in Southern Nevada, a dry region of the Southwestern United States.  Many believe that it is very hot here. However, we have approximately six months of the year that are cool to cold, with overnight freezing, opposite three months with an average daytime high temperature of 100-plus degrees.  The remaining three months are divided between a short spring and fall.


With the sale of our previous home in 2010, we had to completely demolish our outdoor O Gauge Model Railroad, the B&P Garden Railroad. At our new home, we have a separate structure that includes one 21.5 X 17.5 foot room, with an adjoining bath and closet. We call it Bob’s Depot, following photo.

Once this was done, additional L- and/or T- Girders were added to ensure the structural integrity of each module top, below photo.

Using foam pieces from the Woodland Scenics Subterranean System (WholesaleTrains.com) we finalized the layout’s various grades. No grade is greater than 2 percent, below photo.

We have now finished adding the rough terrain features to Modules One, Two and Three. The following photos show how Module Three was done.

Module sides adjacent to the interior walls of Bob’s Depot, were fitted with 24" high backs made from 3/8" X 2' X 8" sheets of plywood. These plywood surfaces will provide a secure base on which to later add layout scenery, following photo.

We reinforced each modules’ L-Girder legs with the addition of various 1" X 4" pine as illustrated in the below photo.

Next we covered significant portions of the layout’s plywood top with 1" construction grade foam board. This foam board is available at Home Depot, etc., and comes in various thickness. Where used, our minimum foam board elevation is 1". In some cases we used a double layer to have a 2" foam base, below photo.

Each module was constructed with L- and T-Girders made from 1" X 4" pine, and 4' X 8' X .5" plywood sheets.


First, the plywood sheets were laid flat on the floor in Bob’s Depot in their respective location. Using the layout’s RR-Track diagram, track was laid on the plywood to determine its location in closest proximity to the outer edge of each module. This was done to allow an outline to be drawn on each sheet of plywood approximating the location of each module’s outermost edge, following photo.

While laying track on Modules One, Two and Three, we found that we had room to add an additional siding that loops around the engine servicing and turntable area. This new loop of track serves as both a siding and reversing loop.


Also added after we began our initial work was an elevated siding that leads into a mine tunnel on Module Three. Both are highlighted in yellow on the following image.

Last Update - November 16, 2015

A slide show of all photos in this article is available at the end of the column.


BPSouthwestern.com is a noncommercial model railroading project dedicated to promoting the enjoyment of toy trains by sharing lessons-learned as we build and operate the B&P South-Western O Gauge Model Railroad. 

To see Videos of the B&P South-Western Model Train Layout in action and information about recent activities, go to our YouTube and Facebook pages.

To preview the B&P South-Western Railroad click on this photo.

This process was used on our garden railroad with excellent TMCC results. Thus far, our B&P South-Western track testing has resulted in excellent TMCC performance.


Also visible in the above photo are three Blue Point Manual Turnout Controllers from Micro-Mark.com. All B&P South-Western turnouts will be manually controlled with either Blue Point Controllers or Caboose Industries Ground Throw Levers.


Where turnouts cannot conveniently be reached by hand from the side of the layout, Blue Point Controllers will be activated with Flex-Link connections at the side of the layout. Where turnouts can easily be reached (eight of the turnouts), Caboose Ground Throws will be used.


We utilized manual turnout control with our garden railroad. We found it to be very rewarding to have to move about with the trains and manually throw switches as necessary.


Where appropriate, all curves are banked. This is accomplished by placing a length of 16 gauge wire under the ties on the outer edge of the curve prior to securing the ties to the roadbed and ballasting, following photo.

While Bob is not afraid of complicated construction, as evidenced by B&P Garden Railroad - Parts 2 and 3, he is getting older. Additionally, based on our recent experience of having to abandon and demolish the B&P Garden Railroad, we wanted to build something that could be disassembled and moved, if necessary.


We decided that having two movable bridge structures across the North wall's five-foot door opening would be acceptable. Consequently, we have now focused on a layout design that uses more of the room's area, while allowing easier access through the room. The bridges can be removed when the layout is not in use. When in place, with a clearance of 38 inches, the bridges can be walked under by kneeling.


The B&P South-Western will be more than 21 feet wide and approximately 16 feet deep. The new o gauge layout will have two mainlines, two reversing loops, sidings, a yard area, a turntable (See B&P O Gauge Turntable), and an engine maintenance/storage area. One of the two removable bridges across the North wall opening will be a single track Steel Truss-Type Bridge with a track elevation approximately six inches above the second bridge’s three parallel tracks.


The lower bridge will be modeled after the recently completed Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge connecting Nevada and Arizona 840 feet above the Colorado River. This is the longest concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and the second-highest bridge in the United States, following photo.

Building the B&P South-Western continues on the next page, B&P 2.

To follow our most recent building efforts, go to B&P Scenes, which highlights various layout details along the B&P South-Western Toy Train Railroad. These details reflect the fond memories of the B&P's builders.


We hope our experience gives you some useful ideas and helps you plan your project more effectively. 


If you have any comments, or questions, please e-mail us at info@bpsouthwestern.com

Good luck, and Happy Model Railroading. 

Go to Building the B&P Part 2

Go to Building the B&P O Gauge Turntable

Go to You Tube to see a video of our turntable in action


Go to Home Page

The white areas on either side of the rail yard will be filled in with scenes of old Las Vegas after the entire layout is operational.

The seven modules were returned to Bob’s Depot, aligned and bolted together, following two photos.

As a final check of our RR-Track plan, the appropriate track and switches were laid atop the assembled module tops, below photo.

No discussion of Southern Nevada during the 1950s would be complete without noting the impact of the Nevada Test Site where the United States conducted atmospheric nuclear tests for more than a decade less than 100 miles North of Las Vegas.


The test depicted in the twilight of early morning in the following photo, North of the B&P's Las Vegas junction, is "Easy," part of Operation Buster, November 5, 1951.

Its three parallel tracks will be at the layout’s lowest level, 40 inches, below diagram.

All track elevation changes will be achieved with a two (2) percent, or less grade.


Layout bench work will be in seven separate modules. The West side of the room will have two 4 X 8 foot, and one 5 X 8.5 foot modules. The East side of the room will have one 4 X 8.5 foot, one 4 X 12 foot, one 4 X 8 foot, and one 4.5 X 8 foot modules. When assembled, the seven modules will bolt together on their respective sides of the room, with the four mainline tracks connected by the two aforementioned bridges.


The interior edges of each of the seven module tops will be trimmed of excess plywood to conform to the curved shaped of the layout’s folded dog-bone design. This will allow for easier movement through the room, improved ability to physically reach various layout locations, and more floor space for future users of the layout.


The B&P South-Western’s two mainlines will have 072, 081, 090, and 099 curves. Some of the layout’s sidings will use 054, 063 and 072 curves. The entire layout will encompass 389 feet of track.


Bench Work


We constructed the bench work in seven modules. The seven modules are depicted on the following diagram.

The following photo indicates that track elevations will match. 

Continue at the top of "Right Column."

As a young guy growing up in Los Angeles in the 1940s and `50s, Bob often would get up early to witness the flash of light visible from the Nevada Test Site Nuclear Tests approximately 300 miles away.


It's now October 2011. We've been working on the layout for 13 months. All four modules of the Nevada side of the layout are complete, with track, wiring, turnout control and ballasting, following photos.

Using a jig saw, the edges of each of the seven module tops were trimmed of excess plywood to conform to the curved shape of the layout’s folded dog-bone design, following photo.

As time has permitted, Bob has been working with RR-Track software to develop a new Indoor o gauge train layout, the B&P South-Western Railroad. This too will be an O Gauge Model Train Layout. We will use our salvaged Atlas Nickel Silver Track and ultimately have 22 new Ross Custom, and Atlas Switches, and 720 Watts of Lionel TMCC for power.

Our layout design philosophy was to maximize the amount of track devoted to railroad mainlines, sidings and rail yards within the given space we had available. Additionally, we cut off, rounded layout corners to facilitate movement around the layout. Both of these priorities limited space for buildings, street scenes, etc. 

The design challenge has been how to best use the room's 21.5 X 17.5 foot interior space. The exterior entrance is through French Doors on the South wall.  However, to access the bath and closet, you have to walk diagonally across the room's interior to a five-foot wide opening in the middle of the room's North wall. In effect, you have to be able to walk through the layout space, and exit the other side.


Inspired by Jamie Haislip’s O Gauge layout (State of Virginia), featured in the October 2009 issue of Classic Toy Trains Magazine, we thought we had a design concept that allowed us to operate three mainlines and provide other fun railroad action and still walk through the room.


This design also involved three levels of track operation, with few if any straight lines in its bench work. Its primary advantage was that it did not require any type of removable track or bridge across the five-foot door opening leading to the bath and closet (North Wall). Its principal disadvantage was that the bench work was going to be very complicated to precisely construct, following diagram.