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Kyuhae's desktop layout


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In this thread i'll be posting about progress on my layout. Feel free to comment, ask questions, suggest things...


A few words about what I aim to achieve:

  • Modular design:

My available space is on my desk, about 60x180cm. Occasionally, I may also have a larger space (on the double bed!🤣).

I have decided to use modules, somewhat similar to the T-Track standards. Some modules will be exactly to T-track spec, just in case I ever meet anyone near me who also does T-Track. Others will be custom sizes to accommodate different track configurations, or to fit into the available space.


  • Setting / Era

I will be mostly modelling steam-period Japan, as well as the UK, Germany, and basically any other locations that I think would be nice (I am not excluding the possibility of doing scenery based on fantasy novels, games, books, or artistic / abstract scenery made from origami paper for example).

A given module would be set in a given period/country, but I will be connecting modules representing different periods/countries to form a full circuit. (if I had the space, time and money for a full fleet and layout for each era and country, that's what i would do! But for now we'll have to imagine that the layout depicts some kind of crazy worldwide railway, architecture and landscape museum with full-sized models 😁. Either that, or some mad scientist installed teleporting gateways on railways across the world...)


  • Computer-assisted or Computer-automated control

I have an Arduino Uno, which uses the arduino motor shield to power the track. This allows me to write a program to control the power supply to the tracks.

By computer-assisted, I mean that I will develop a program on the pc (and hopefully for smartphones at a later date) to be able to perform actions such as a progressive start from a standstill, or a progressive halt, simply by pressing a button or key.

By computer-automated I mean an alternate mode, where operation is fully automated, no intervention needed. This might be done at a later date once I decide how to go about building my own point motors and controlling them via the arduino. (as well as acquiring other sensors, either hall effect, ultrasound, or a camera.


  • Sound (from external loud speakers)

I'd love to have some sounds to help bring the trains and scenes to life. I plan on achieving this by playing sound files from a laptop which will communicate with the arduino. Whistles could be controlled similarly to the computer-assisted control mentioned above, and exhaust beat / coasting / brake squeels could be played automatically depending on the power supplied to the track by the arduino.

It would also be nice to have some ambient sounds, such as wildlife, station announcements, and so on, either automated and random, or manually played.



Progress so far:

First image shows the join between the peco code 55 flex track, with woodland scenics foam underlay, to kato unitrack. There is a slight difference in height, both due to the underlay, and at the actual rail join, but it does not seem to be big enough to have a huge impact on running.

Second image shows the module construction. Minimal tools required: base is a sheet of extruded polystyrene cut with a bread knife, onto which the track is glued with PVA / Wood glue. R249 curves on these two 180° end modules.







Edited by Kyuhae
adding image captions
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Progress report n°1

Two straight modules (100x25cm) were built. One module will become a station, and has a passing loop. The other will act as a hidden siding, which will look like a junction (hidden siding will go into a tunnel portal). The modules are resting on two U-shaped support pieces on the desk, allowing the layout to high enough that I can still use my laptop, especially if the outermost straight module is removed.




I've also started playing around with editing some audio files pulled from youtube videos of various locos. Here is an example:





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Progress report n°2

Well it has been a while and there has been quite some progress!

  • Arduino-based DC PWM control
  • User Interface on the PC
  • Basic scenery for 3 out of 4 modules
  • scratch-built coaches
  • more sound samples prepared

Now some more detail:

Scenery: One of the 180° corner modules

This module depicts the railway passing trough a cutting into a low hillside, somewhere in scandinavia...

Very green grass / moss will hopefully soon be complemented by some connifers to get a nice forest look. I will probably attempt to make some granite-slab representations emerging from the ground, and find a way to replicate fallen needles with some ground foliage...

Extruded polystyrene for the rocks, and papier maché for the hills.

Maybe i'll even get lucky one day and find some scandinavian steam-locos in N-scale...    🙂  Or be very brave and try to build one...




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Scenery: Straight module with junction / hidden siding

This hillside might end up being an attempt at a somewhat japanese landscape.

Once again, rocks are made by leaving the polystyrene bare + paint. hills are built up with recycled cardboard and papier maché.

The plan is to have a torrent running down the hill and under the tracks where the rock has been left bare. A japanese -style girder bridge will be put in place instead of the magical levitating track which currently exists...



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Progress report n°3


This video shows the current state of the whole layout, and fleet of locos.

The Station module has had some basic scenery done. Rails have been painted simply using some brown and orange gouache paint. Ballasting has been done on the two straight modules and has yet to be done on the "scandinavian" curve.


Locomotives and rolling stock:

The loco fleet has expanded, and can be seen here on the passing loop:

  • Japanese locos: D51, C11
  • UK locos: LSWR Terrier, GWR Large Prairie
  • Continental locos: Prussian T18, SNCF 231 Nord

The rolling stock has also had an addition in the form of a rake of two scratch-built coaches. They are not finished yet, but will probably remain in their original "wooden" colour.

I might detail the coach construction in a later post once they are truly "finished". For a first ever attempt at building rolling stock i'm quite happy with the result! even if they are a bit wonky and out of scale.


Computer / Arduino Control:

A simple User interface allows me to control the trains from my laptop, via the arduino. For now, the only functionality I have implemented is basic dc control: speed and direction, as well as a few quick experiments with running the train automatically for a set amount of time, decelerating, stopping, and starting again.

For now, the points are not motorised, and I have no sensors on the track. I plan to change that quite soon, and start experimenting with some actual automation.

I'll also try to see if I can figure out a prmitive uncoupling system that works with standard n gauge couplers. The dream would be to have a loco run-around its train at the station automatically...


Even without the sensors, I should be able to experiment with programming pre-set sequences for the trains, which i could synchronize with a sound file. For example if I have a sound file for a station start, I can write some code for the train to accelerate, and fine-tune it by trial and error to match the sound file. This would require me to add a way of telling my program which train i'm running since the required current for each loco is VERY different (Kato D51 needs very little and runs very smoothly and at slow speeds, whereas the old minitrix SNCF 231 needs loads more and starts moving very suddenly unfortunately.


PWM frequencies and DC voltage:

Since i'm using the arduino I can control the frequency of the PWM. Lower frequencies tend to allow locos to run more slowly, but also cause a lot of vibration of the motor/armature/chassis. I'm also using a power supply that can supply 12, 13.5 or 15 volts. I've experimented with all my locomotives with various frequencies and voltages.

For now I have settled on using a very high frequency (32KHz) to avoid audible whine or growling from the locomotives. 32Hz gave great slow speed abilities for the older more stubborn locos, but induced a lot of vibration. The next lowest frequency I can use with my current method is around 250, which gives almost no slow-speed benefit, but produces an audible whine.

For voltage, I am using 13.5V, and am limiting the maximum power to the rails which should avoid burning out the motors. Although I may switch back to 12V since there doesn't seem to be much of an improvement in performance.


Lots more work to be done in terms of scenery and automation, and rolling stock, so lots more fun to be had!


Scenery: Tunnel 180° corner

The second corner will have the trains disappear into a tunnel / mountainside.

I'm not sure what i'll be doing here, but probably will aim to have quite a tall hill / mountain side. Ill wait until I spot a nice picture of a layout or real place, either in japan or switzerland...

I'm open to suggestions for scenery too!

And if you have any comments or questions, fire away!





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Hello again!
It's been a while, but I've made some more progress on my layout!


Progress report n°4 (part 1):


Scenery: Tunnel 180° corner

I have finally decided on the basic scenery for the tunnel 180° turn module!

Below are some pictures of the testing and construction. The basic idea was to get a kind of mountain scene, which may end up representing somewhere like switzerland, especially given a certain recent locomotive purchase...  😉

We have a road traversing the scene, and disappearing into a tunnel at one end. It passes by what I am using as a kind of hotel (which is actually a station building, and is in z scale since it was acquired as part of a building job-lot where some were Z scale instead of N. Oh well! It's high up in the mountain, I'll just say its meant to be like that for forced perspective...).

Below the lovely hotel, we have a mountain lake, fed by the torrent running down the rock face behind the hotel. This is still an ongoing effort, especially since the clear varnish has gone a bit brown in the lake for some reason, so might have to re-do the water effect!

The surrounding hills and grassy slopes are a bit bare for now, but will be decorated with various types of bushes, maybe something to represent wild flowers too. The rock faces will also be a bit more detailed, and weathered in.


So, it's nowhere near done, but still a nice first milestone to have all four modules with at least their basic scenery done!













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Part 2:

Locomotives and Rolling stock:


A new locomotive has joined the fleet!

It is a Swiss Crocodile locomotive!



I was lucky to spot this on a popular social media marketplace, of all places! It is in good cosmetic condition, just a bit of the yellow handrails snapped off, and runs ok despite being an old Arnold loco. But I need to try and give it a good service, and try to determine if some part of the mechanism needs adjusting, since it is noisy and a bit jerky at slower speeds.


In terms of rolling stock, I tried my hand at scratch-building again. The only thing I bought are some Dapol N gauge bogies, and the rest is DIY with anything I can find.

The wagons are meant to somewhat resemble the british GWR "Macaw" wagons, which I felt would be a relatively simple type of wagon to build.


Base of the wagons, made from some "popsicle sticks", with bogie mounts. The grey strip is just some pizza box, double thickness, to make the sides of the wagon.



The underframe detailing is made by gluing small bits of paperclips.



Underframe detailing done (unless i decide to add the brake rigging later, but this will do for now).




I've had some OO gauge "track pins" lying around forever, and found some more uses for them! The longer type with large heads are just about the right fit to secure the bogies to the frame (track pin is glued into the frame). And even better, the smaller type of track pins have a rounded head...  and if you cut them to the right length, and aren't too worried about 100% scale accuracy, they make pretty convincing buffers!



Painted, and sides added.



Voilà! done!



Going round the bend on the forest module, pulled by a GWR large prairie.



The middle sections are actually some sleepers from the peco flex track I use, and they were the exact width and correct height I needed! The spikes are once again made from bits of paperclips.


I might try to mimick the white lettering and numbering on the side of the wagons, but i'm not sure how accurate i can get it without having any fine paintbrushes. Maybe just dabbing minuscule amounts of paint with a needle?  😅


Either way, I think they're already a big improvement over my attempt at coaches, and I really like the effect the underframe detailing gives!


Edited by Kyuhae
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