Jun 20, 2016

Brian introduces his S scale adventure

Brian Nicholson is one of the newest members of the S Scale Workshop - but membership comes at a price. When we met Brian, he was happily working on an HO scale layout - but the lure of 1:64 was strong. He picks up the story...


An S Scale Adventure
Building a switching layout in a small space

Inspired by my participation at frequent shows with the S Scale Workshop, I decided that I would like to attempt to build a small switching layout in S scale in my spare bedroom - a space that was already occupied by an HO scale layout, which has been in operation in two places for over 20 years.

I still enjoyed switching the HO layout and didn't want to lose all the work (mostly hand laid track work). So the decision was made to build a simple 'L' shape layout over the existing HO!

The new, modular, S scale layout is located above the existing HO empire.
This ALCo S2 will eventually be repainted into ERIE RR colours

At first the idea of building to a larger scale in a small room seemed futile. But after laying out some plans I decided I would forge ahead anyway.

I layed out the complete layout full scale on my living room floor, using full size templates printed from the "Track Template Library" on the Fast Tracks website.

Planning with paper and templates

When I had a plan I was happy with, construction began in earnest.

There were some criteria I wanted to employ during construction. A few of those are listed here:
  1. The layout had to be light (the result was too light, which created some issues later)
  2. The layout had to be modular to allow trackwork and wiring to be done away from the layout room, as the height would make it difficult to work on otherwise
  3. The layout would have a scenic backdrop to enhance the feeling of distance on a very small layout
  4. The layout would have to be well lit as the single central light fixture just wouldn't be enough with the backdrop
With these rules established, construction continued. I started in January of 2016, and by the end of May the basic track work, wiring, and basic ground cover were completed.

Adding cork sheet under the tracks in the yard
Bullfrog manual switch machines (Fast Tracks) control the turnouts
Modular construction makes wiring a treat!
There's more to do, but basic ground cover
gives the modules a finished look
Static grass adds to the realism

The biggest issue was the backdrop - and how to mount it and attach it. The Backdrop Junction backdrop was mounted to plastic sheet using double sided sticky 'dots' purchased from a local art supply store. It worked great!

HDPE plastic sheet supports the backdrop. It's easy to work with.
The backdrop (Backdrop Junction) adds lots of depth to the scene.

Track lighting is the most recent addition.
With good lighting, the next steps include more scenery and more details

The layout is now at a stage where I can switch a small yard and service a few industry sidings.

Operating fun in a modest space, in 1:64

Now I can relax a bit and get to structures, painting a couple of engines, and adding trees and shrubs.

I would encourage anyone interested in getting started in S scale to take the plunge! I learned a lot. I continue to learn and enjoy the hobby and I'm inspired by the larger size. Give it a try!


(We're glad you joined us, Brian!)


  1. Brian:

    I enjoyed reading about your new S scale layout. Tremendous progress in a short period of time!

    A couple of questions: What are the dimensions of your S scale layout?

    And, how would you describe an operating session on the layout?

    Dan Vandermause
    Ellicott City, Maryland

  2. Gotta ask....Is there a trackplan?


Your comment will be visible after approval from the moderators. Thanks for your patience.