The Hostler's Layout

This is my hostler's Layout. The idea is to have an engine servicing facility and heavy repair shops. Switching Activities center on moving locomotives from track to track around the shop complex, since different work is performed on locomotives on different tracks.

This shop complex is surrounded by a two track oval that features a pair of crossovers. Every once in a while, the engines will be removed from the train, and sent to the servicing tracks for sand, fuel, and an inspection.

Inspiration And Track Planning

The original inspiration for the layout was provided by an article written by Vernon Hart which appeared in the April,1992 issue of Model Railroader Magazine. Back issues of the Model Railroader are available from Kalmbach as of this writing.

While the layout appears in the magazine without any kind of scale, I believe it could be reproduced in N-scale in a 3'x 10' area. My available space was only 3' x 7.5', so I had to make a few modifications to the plan. The working plan was created with Atlas's Right Track Software.

Working Track plan

There will eventually be a turntable located in the middle of the layout on the right hand side.


I am primarily using Atlas Code 55 flex tracktrack. The minimum radius on the Inside track is 15", and the outside is about 16". Mainline Turnouts are Atlas #7s. These are being controlled by Circuitron Tortoise Switch Machines.

As drawn, the Engine terminal switches are all Atlas #5s, though a few Micro Engineering #6 switches may find thier way onto the layout. I have yet to decide how these switches will be controlled.

Layout Control and Operations

The layout will be operated as a pure DCC layout from the begining. I have chosen to use Lenz systems, and currently have an Atlas Commander to play with.

Eventually, the plan is to automate the mainline trains so I can concentrate on switching. This control is going to be accomplished through use of the tools provided by JMRI (the Java Model Railroad Interface), since I am one of the JMRI developers

The Circuitron Tortoise Switch machines will be controlled with NCE Switch-IT decoders.

Construction Notes and Photographs

The benchwork consists of an L-girder frame, with a box frame toped with Luan Plywood:

Layout Benchwork

Above the Luan Plywood, is a 1.5" layer of construction foam, A new cross brace was added between the legs for stability:

Foam topped benchwork

With the foam in place, the current effort is to get the mainlines in place. The track is being placed on a cork subroadbed. In these photos, the layout has been moved away from the wall to make accessing the back easier. This is certainly an advantage to having a light layout, since I can move it around by myself quite easily.

Cork on the Front of the layout Cork on the back of the layout

The cork has now been laid, and the outside oval is in place!!. The track is insulated at both ends of the straight sections, giving 4 blocks around the oval.

Track on the outside oval

Both Crossovers have been put in place, along with the switch leading to the engine terminal.

Right side crossover and engine terminal lead
switch Left side crossover

One feeder was put in place for each block. I Installed a temporary bus wire so I could perform a test run. I'll at least need to cut the feeders (which are about 12 inches long) so I can install the detection circuts when the time comes.

The next photo shows the test train running on the layout. The test train is powered by a pair of PRR Trainmasters (Atlas). The cars I pulled off of my test track and work bench, most of which were there for repair, or to recieve body mounted couplers and weathering. I followed this up with a Bowser N5 caboose.

test train on layout

I had a couple of problems with two newly converted cars derailing due to truck problems, and one of the Trainmasters kept picking the facing point switches because one truck was out of gauge. Now that those problems have been fixed, there haven't been any problems pushing or pulling the train.

Update: October,2008

After the initial spurt of activity durring the summer of 2003 depicted above, the second mainline was completed and some basic scenery work was finished on the layout, along with the lead to the engine servicing facilities

I was able to equip the layout with a Lenz DCC system, block detectors for 6 of the 8 mainline blocks (4 on each track) and accessory decoder equiped turnouts. This allowed the layout to be used for JMRI testing.

Unfortunatly, the JMRI testing defines most of the useful life of this layout. Graduate school and other modeling interests got in the way, and little else was done to the layout in the intervening years. I did run on the layout, but afte a lot of reflection, I just decided it wasn't the layout I wanted to build. The mainlines were ovals, which I have little interest in running on, and the hostler's area would have been difficult to switch, mainly due to a lack of space to stretch out all the buildings of the diesel shop. Also, my extensive collection of freight cars would have largely sat idle, since the layout was primarilly focused on switching locomotives around the shop area.

Now that I have completed graduate school and moved to a new house and a new city, I have decided to let the Hostler's layout go and concentrate on modeling interests that are of more interest. The hostslers layout will go on, as I have left it in the hands of a friend. Hopefully he will have as many years of enjoyment out if it as I have.

This ends the story of the layout, but not the story on this web page. I believe I have a few photographs to post, and I do have a JMRI panel for the layout that I should describe for those interested in that aspect of the layout.

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