Last Update - June 16, 2016

A slide show of all photos in this article is available at the end of the column. 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: Building Our O Gauge Roundhouse
Please see "Building our O Gauge Roundhouse," top of Right Column.

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 the following photo.

Wiring three dwarf signals per turnout adds extensively to the amount of under layout wiring. However, the Blue Point switch machine's built-in double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) electrical switch greatly simplifies the wiring process, following two photos.

The following three photos show the Roundhouse structure in place on the layout, with the simulated concrete floor sections installed.

The following photo shows the arches and deck after assembly. The three arches are centered under each of the lower bridge's three parallel tracks.

The above photo shows the two bridges in their final positions. Although not visible, each bridge has been fitted with aluminum brackets and hardware that secures them in place with "machine screws." Using machine screws and fittings will ensure consistent placement of the bridges.

The following photo shows the initial foam work that will serve as a base for sculpting the "rock" outcropping supporting each end of the Steel Truss Bridge.  

In an effort to improve signal reliability, Bob decided to replace the grain of wheat bulbs with 3 mm LED bulbs. Having never used LEDs, Bob did some research and thought he understood how to do his wiring. The green, green, red; and yellow, red, yellow LEDs for each group of three signals are wired in "series" and fitted with an appropriate resistor based on the power source.

Where Bob goofed was in trying to use 18 volts of AC track voltage. While the signals initially worked, many of the LEDs became unstable and shorted out.

To make a long story short, of the 21 signals installed, eight had to be removed and replaced. Now each turnout's three illuminated LEDs are powered by a separate AC/DC transformer. These are the types of transformers used to charge and power many devices we all use. Most of us have extra transformers from devices that we no longer use. So far Bob has found 13 extra transformers around the garage.

You cannot trust the output voltage to be what is stated on the device. We found some to have actual output voltage double what was stated. We fitted each transformer with resistors linked in series, not parallel, to provide the proper "Ohm" rating based on its exact voltage.

The result has been perfect. The LEDs now have a more natural level of brightness and thus far they all seem to be very stable in operation.

The following photo shows the newly wired LED signals in operation. Two railroad workers are looking North in awe shortly after the detonation of a nuclear device less than 100 miles from Las Vegas' North Rail Yard. 

After almost four months of not working on the California side of the layout, last week we finalized all of the roadbed and Plaster of Paris background terrain. We have applied an initial coat of beige water-based paint to all terrain features in preparation for adding the final paint, gravel and foliage features, below photo.

The lower bridge is being made entirely from scratch using various types of wood. Red Oak strips approximately 3/16" X 3/4" X 72" have been shaped and laminated into arches using a jig, following two photos.

Instead of the usual swinging wood doors, simulated roll-up steel doors will be placed over each stall opening. In the same issue of O Scale Trains referenced above, there's an article about building the "Acme Steel Fabricating Company" that devotes two pages on how to model such doors.

The following photo shows the added roll-up steel door detail in place.

The next photo shows Module Two mated to Module Three and some of the initial track work completed. The most critical track alignment here was ensuring a proper approach to the turntable.

The following photo shows the three "concrete" bridge supports after auto spotting putty was added to the laminated Red Oak strips. Once the arches are sanded and painted, all evidence of the laminated wood will disappear. 

The track visible on the right, under the coaling tower is a ninth track accessible from the turntable. It was added to provide greater detail to the coaling tower operation. Four of the nine tracks lead into the roundhouse, four more are adjacent to the roundhouse, while the ninth is across the turntable, opposite the roundhouse.

To follow our progress as we add additional detail to the B&P South-Western Railroad, go to B&P Scenes.

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

Good luck, and Happy Model Railroading.

Go to Building the B&P South-Western - Part 1

Go to Building the B&P O Gauge Turntable

To see Videos of the B&P South-Western Model Railroad in action, visit our YouTube page

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The four Caboose Industries' Ground Throws on the Nevada side of the layout have been removed. Activation of all of the layout's 19 turnouts will be controlled via Blue Point switch machines. This will make wiring for the dwarf signals much easier.

Seven Blue Point switch machines have now been installed on the Nevada side of the layout. Three dwarf signals have been installed for each of these seven turnouts, 21 in all, following photo.

It is August 2012 and we are in our 24th month of layout building. As depicted in the following two photos, we now have all track in place, wired and operational. We still have to add ballast and basic terrain detail to Module One. After that we will begin to add as much additional detail as we can, e.g., buildings, street scenes, trees and other foliage, etc.

Yes, that is the Hollywood Sign atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills in the background.

The following three photos show 24 of the California side of the layout's 36 dwarf signal installed, wired and tested. The dwarf signal wiring is very tedious work.

With both the interior and exterior walls formed, foam board was used to make the four solid back wall sections. All the pieces were put in place to check size and alignment, following photo. 

The following two photos depict some of the detail we are adding to the engine maintenance/storage area.

Continued, top of Right Column. 

With the three Red Oak arches "cured," we have added horizontal and vertical pieces of pine to provide structural support for the 56.5" X 13" bridge deck, following two photos.

The above photo also shows the initial window frame and side door detail. Window glazing will be added to each of the structure's 15 wall windows, and the clerestory area between the two roof sections.

The following photo shows two of the four stall floor sets. After the initial patterns were laid out with poster board, they were fabricated with"display-type" cardboard, and painted to replicate concrete. A total of eight sections like this have been fabricated.

Recent work has been on building the two bridges necessary to connect the Nevada and California sides of the layout. When completed, each bridge has to be removable.
The upper bridge is a single track Steel Truss-Type Bridge that we have assembled by using parts we salvaged from a double-wide Steel Truss Bridge we had on our last layout, the B&P Garden Railroad, following photo.

Building our O Gauge Train Layout - Part 2

The following two photos show our latest terrain painting efforts on the California side. We are using the same techniques we used on the Nevada side, however we are trying different color combinations and adding two shades of green turf. The second photo shows the detailing of the "rock" outcroppings supporting the Steel Truss Bridge.

We are now ready to address the final details of fitting the bridges with the two sides of the layout so that they can consistently and precisely be placed, or removed.

The following photo shows Modules Two and Three essentially complete. All of the track, except those on Module One connecting to the turntable, is wired, tested and ballasted. The final work on these two modules will be to install the Blue Point switch machines and wire the dwarf signals. This work will be completed prior to completion of Module One.

Click You Tube to see a video of our turntable in action, following photo. 

Each arch will be 3/4" square. Three arches will simulate the "concrete arches" supporting the three-track lower bridge replicating the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge connecting Nevada and Arizona 840 feet above the Colorado River.

The "concrete arches" have been painted prior to assembly to ensure that all angles are properly finished, following photo.

We are now using a small HO (DC) Transformer to power the turntable's two DC motors. To make it easier to control direction and duration of power being applied, we have installed a DPDT / (On) - Off - (On) Momentary Toggle Switch between the transformer and the two motors. We have found two transformer power settings that work very well. One is approximately 80% power for higher speed rotation. The second is approximately 20% power which allows for very slight adjustments and final track alignment.

Building our O Gauge Roundhouse

Until recently, we were not completely sure how we were going to finish what we described two years ago as an engine maintenance/storage area for our locomotives on the California side of the layout. Even after completing and installing the turntable, Bob was not sure he was going to try and build a Roundhouse.

After a recent Google search for building a roundhouse we found an article entitled Scratch-Build A Roundhouse by Charlie Flichman in the July/August 2004 issue of O Scale Trains.

Although Bob deviates greatly in his construction methodology, the design concept of Mr. Flichman was very adaptable to what Bob wanted to build.

Our roundhouse is a work in progress, but it has progressed far enough that we can share what we've accomplished and how we plan to complete the project.

Our Roundhouse has four (4) stalls. Instead of simulating brick or stone as is commonly done by modelers, Bob's basic structure simulates a steel frame and precast concrete wall sections.

Our construction materials are basswood, balsa wood, foam board, 1/8" PVC sheets for roof panels, glue and paint. If you review Mr. Flichman's article and look at the following photos of our work, you'll see some similarities.

Using the process described in the Flichman article, Bob figured out the overall dimensions of the roundhouse by drawing it on the layout, following photo.

We had two issues with using this bridge, one was to make it into a single track bridge approximately five inches wide, second was that we needed to span a distance of approximately 58" with a 47" bridge.

We were working with a steel o gauge bridge originally purchased from the 100 Year Bridge Company. Bob was able to disassemble all of the bridge's steel components, cut and reshape them as necessary, and fit them to a new wood deck 5" X 58.5" long. Terrain will be fashioned under each end of the wood deck to simulate a rock out-cropping, on which the 47" bridge is resting, following photo.

The Steel Truss-Type Bridge and deck have been detailed and finished in a textured Aged-Iron paint finish, following photo.

South-Western Railroad

The following photo shows an essentially complete Roundhouse.

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.

Building the B&P South-Western - Part 2

As we approached the end of 2011, Bob decided he needed to develop some type of visual signalling system to let train operators know the position of the layout's 24 turnouts. He first considered color coding the various ground throws and Blue Point Switch Machine knobs.
However, to add a little more detail to the right-of-way we decided to add up to three dwarf signals for each turn out. The approximately 50 dwarf signals will each have two grain of wheat (1/8") size bulbs. We purchased 100 from Micro-Mark for $50.00. This bunch of bulbs is packaged with 25 each, red, green, amber and white. The dwarf signals will have either green and amber, or red and amber bulbs.
Bob is making the signal structure using brass stock purchased at a local hobby shop. The following three photos show the type of materials being used and how they are being cut, shaped, assembled and painted. Brass is easy to work with and solder. Each signal will be 7/8" (3.5 scale feet) tall.

Each brass signal will cost approximately $2.00 in materials. Brass materials and paint per signal are approximately $1.00. Two bulbs per signal adds another $1.00.

Where the turnouts are controlled by Blue Point switch machines, wiring will be relatively simple. Each Blue Point Switch Controller contains a double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) electrical switch. On the turnouts controlled by a Caboose Industries ground throw, wiring will be another engineering/modeling project.

The following photo illustrates how three dwarf signals will be configured for traveling straight or for switching to another track. Signal One is on the lower left, Signal Two is on the far right, and Signal Three is in the middle. When the three dwarf signals are wired to the switch, only one of each signal's lights will be illuminated at any given time, per the notes (Center Left).

With initial painting done on the the interior frames and exterior walls, all of the pieces were connected using Basswood that will be painted to replicate steel, below photo.

The bridge deck was assembled and pre-drilled to facilitate mating to the arches, following photo.

Using Basswood and Balsa Bob first built five walls. Three replicate interior steel frames, while the two outside walls will replicate cast concrete.

The following photo shows the structure's current condition. We've already purchased a large sheet of 1/8 inch PVC material that will be used for the roof sections. Also on order are some cast metal roof and wall vents that will be added for detail.  

The two exterior wood frames were filled in with foam board as shown and then glued. The exterior walls were clamped to a straight edge during the gluing process and allowed to dry to ensure proper alignment, following photo. 

The following photo shows Module Three's track work completed and tested with power and command operation. Basic scenery and ballasting are complete, as well as dwarf signal installation.

In the above photo, just to the left of the "rock" outcropping, you can see one of two machine screws holding the Steel Truss Bridge in place. With the removal of the two screws, this bridge and its rock outcroppings, tilt up and separate from the California and Nevada layout modules.

Also visible in the above photo is one of four machine screws holding the lower, three-track Concrete Arch Bridge in place (small red arrow, at end of bridge between the parallel roadbed).

For now we have done all of the bridge/terrain detailing we will do until after all of the track is laid. 

The following two photos show some of the most difficult track work on the California side of the layout. These five switches require the installation of seven Blue Point switch machines (two are double-slip) and 20 dwarf signals.

Continued, top of Center Column. 

Eight roof sections (four each for the upper and lower roof areas) have been fabricated using 1/8 inch PVC sheets. They will not be put into place until the LED ceiling lights have been installed.  

The following photo shows the three overhead LED lights we installed. The light reflectors were made with poster paper circles, cut and made into cones. The LEDs were mounted on the concave side of each cone. The three LEDs are wired in "series" with appropriate resistors in the same manner as the Dwarf Signals discussed earlier.