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Willow Creek - A UK based Ho Gauge North American Shelf Layout

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  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Devon, UK
  • 5 posts
Willow Creek - A UK based Ho Gauge North American Shelf Layout
Posted by BrynJones79 on Friday, January 8, 2021 10:08 AM

Hi everyone. I have recently started a HO Gauge North American end to end (shelf) layout and wanted to share some of the details with you all.  I am based in the UK, down in the SW corner in Devon.  Have a great interest in North American power and It has been a while since I have made any real attempt at a layout. 


Things are a bit up in the air with numerous things conspiring to make me more of an observer, but I have recently brought a number of laser cut MSF baseboards from Railway Laser Lines and will be doing a small end to end layout (2.1m x 0.375m) for showcasing my US rolling stock.  We’re going through some changes at home, most recently, starting a new job for me, but also the relocation that comes with such moves.  So, rather than be in limbo, I decided that a lightweight layout of manageable size, such as this, would be a way of stopping me watching rubbish on TV in the evenings and allow me to break away from my job for small breaks during the day.   I have sold all of my UK stock and decided to concentrate on US, but more specifically HO Canadian with UP/BNSF thrown in the mix, given I have a love for this part of the world and the rolling stock fascinates me.  The aim of this layout will be to run locos in a small switching area, and allow me to enjoy the hobby.  There will be some US visitors to the layout as well.


The new box of boards as they arrived.

 IMG-20201021-WA0000 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


And the flatpack contents

 IMG-20201021-WA0004 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


After an evening, the baseboards are glued together.


These boards were very easy to build, taking me a few hours one Sunday evening. They are 3mm MDF and, while there are no instructions, these are not really needed. The guys at RLL helpfully numbering the four sets of boards that I had ordered. I had ordered 4 x 575mm x 375mm and one 400mm x 375mm, which gives me around 2.1m, or 7ft of running length and takes up a small part of the room that has become the working office for me.  They took around 5 days to be made and delivered when ordered and were the cheapest I could find such boards, so plumped for them.  I highly recommend them, having no issues, with great communications and fast delivery for a made to order product.


The aim of the layout will be to represent a small shunt to a warehouse, with two diesel stabling lines to the front of the board.  This will feed to the other side for a diesel workshop and some kind of hidden siding for one of two locos.  The working area is quite small, but I feel after absorbing plenty of layouts, it can be done and provide me with fun to move stock around and also with the scenery.


I have made a start on track laying…  I am trying to keep this as simple as possible, and will just have stock out to suit my mood.  At the moment, the idea is that the left of the layout will house a simple single track warehouse, with two diesel storage and laydown areas to the front of the layout.  These tracks are large enough to fit three full sized ES44’s in, so will hopefully provide a useful storage and area of interest for when the locomotives are moving back and forth.  The intention is to have the building shown on the right as part of the central area, where further movement can occur, adding a bit more operational interest. The area to the right where the locos are stored, will be some kind of two to three bay diesel workshop area. I have one of the rather excellent Walthers diesel shop kits, but alas its way too big, so I will have to scratch building something for this area.  There will be a number of hidden tracks to the rear, where the building currently is.


 20201118_122159 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


These two pictures (above and below) show the area in a bit more detail. To make this work, I have had to use a Peco double slip. A substantial investment to say the least, but it makes this area work really well, by condensing the track plan somewhat and allowing operation to different directions via such a small place.

 20201118_122204 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


All track is Peco Code 83 and is ElectroFrog, and is being wired as such. I have a number of Tam Valley Frog Juicers that I will trial and play around with and thing off PM4 point motors for powering the switches. The layout will be controlled by a NCE Powercab and I will look to build a board for controlling the switches.  I am working on less being more with this, limiting to 3 buildings max, but also have a Walthers double track girder bridge that I may use as a scenic break and to provide some vertical relief.  I would like to install some track crossings as well, but need to see how that pans out when the layout starts to fall together!


Rolling stock is a mixture of Canadian from the 1970’s through to the modern day, with some special appearances by BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern Stock.  The area is not specific to East or West at the moment, I just want to run the diverse collection of trains that I have been building for this area.


  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 1,360 posts
Posted by snjroy on Friday, January 8, 2021 4:18 PM

Welcome to the forum! Your first contributions will be moderated, so please be patient. Interesting project with the pre-cut MDF. I can see an entire kit delivered that way, track and all!

Simon (from Canada, like many others on this forum)


  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: A Comfy Cave, New Zealand
  • 4,454 posts
Posted by "JaBear" on Friday, January 8, 2021 7:24 PM
Welcome to the forum.
1/8” MDF, now that’s an interesting concept, though looking at the Railway Laser Lines site the base itself appears to be well braced.
My 2 Cents However, with it being MDF, would it be worth the effort to at least prime all the bare MDF after constructing the base board.
Cheers, the Bear, (not Canadian. Smile, Wink & Grin)

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 1,261 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, January 8, 2021 8:42 PM

Canadian but if BNSF also then must be CPR. 

That's my railroad. 

That thin MDF is great stuff. We make a lot of it but cannot buy it here any longer because it's all exported. I have a very small amount left over from a kitchen reno project. 

70's on CPR is all Action Red and Multi Mark. GP 38-2 and SD 40-2 on up.

I'll be interested to see if you model Eastern or Western Canada. 

Alyth Yard


  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Devon, UK
  • 5 posts
Posted by BrynJones79 on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:23 PM

I have had a delivery from ScaleModelScenery here in the UK for some consumables to allow scenic progression on the layout.  These are predominantly to allow me to get on and add concrete hard standing to the low relief depot area on the top left of the layout and start to lay ground for the diesel maintenance area on the right lower side of the layout.  I have a collection of LX096 for the rail area and then extension kit LX103 to create the larger laydown areas. 


50651997188_d4291fdb48_c.jpg20201126_203243 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


So I have laid the track and extension concrete for the small low relief area and I have yet to decide whether to paint or use the relief sheets that come with the kit.  The sheets are pretty good to be honest, but I feel painting will give a much better depth of realism - depending on how I fair at painting!  The blocks for the extension area are 4mm MDF and break into the sections as you see them.  I really do like the way the track and concrete area have joined together and certainly gives this area an industrial feel. 


50651996548_44ed02b306_c.jpg20201127_122032 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


With building in place 


50652738801_298335507a_c.jpg20201127_122057 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


With a loco and trailers in place 


50651996143_b9cca17f67_c.jpg20201127_122251 by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


There will be a boundary wall/fence separating the two tracks to the bottom of the layout and the industrial yard area.  I appreciate it is small progress, but i was quite pleased with what i got done over the course of an evening.  I just need to work out how to end the concrete at the approach to teh point area - the plan is to assume that access to this area by Vehicles, is from the left (end) of the layout. 


I have decided that I will scratch build the diesel workshop, so will concentrate on laying the track in this area first and then go from there. 

  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Devon, UK
  • 5 posts
Posted by BrynJones79 on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:25 PM

Brief update.  I have now finalized the track plan.  After mulling over, I decided that the building to the center rear and track was a bit too much and didn't really serve a purpose, so i removed the two points from either end, and this has given me a slightly longer, second hidden track for storage.  So the plan now is

  • Left side - will remain as a low relief industrial, with two diesel tracks to the front - I have a number of detailing kits including fuel tanks to populate this area; 
  • Central part - at the back, I have now started to break down the Geo Roberts building I had built and will scratch build this as a lengthened stretch of low relief buildings, to occupy that area at the back of the board; 
  • Right side - the back will have two hidden storage tracks, while I will use the former building from the central area as a diesel shed of sorts. I need to see what I have in the spares box, as this was a low relief structure and may not lend itself to being a two bay building - but I may cut up the Walthers Cornerstone Diesel building I have for this.  I will add further hard standing to this area as well. 

All the track is in and live for DCC, by reducing the points by two, helps to simplify this when I come to wiring for control of these as well. I now only have a total of 3 #6 points and a double slip, but have plenty of playability (I think) from this. 


50671376071_753d3de438_c.jpgTrack work in place. by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


I am mulling over the center front area as well.  I have a Walthers Transformer set that I am thinking I could scratch build to be smaller and cross the track overhead to provide power to the printers over the track.  I want to provide some scenic relief as well, and have brought a number of the Woodland Scenics kits to have a good at making trees and other scenic areas.  One of the kits has a road creating system and I am thinking of a car par in this area as well.  Otherwise, access roads could be another alternative. 


50671409046_46f687ff1d_c.jpgScenic purchases by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


A shot of the Geo Roberts building now broke down.  This has been quite a lengthy paint and prep, it had not place on the layout in its intended by Walthers layout, but with a bit of work, should make a great back scene for the layout.  The door in the center is to be cut out and replaced with some spare parts it came with, to make it more in keeping with the limited space at the back of the track.


50671418066_020db9a3dd_c.jpgGeo Printers by Bryn Jones, on Flickr

ouldn't sleep last night, so I spent a few hours kit bashing the Walthers Geo Roberts and Diesel House kits to make them both fit the layout. 


First picture is the progress I am making on the Geo Roberts structure.  I will need to fill in the area where I have cut the kit to allow use as low relief (either side of the center section), plus I will need to make a new roof to fit the new layout - so need to purchase some plasti-card to allow this.  I will at the same time, add some interior flooring and LED lighting to try and provide some extra relief to the unit.  Then detailing around this can occur.  My wife is working over the weekend, so around chores, this will be a main focus. I have some etched ladders available, so will be using these to finish the fire escape and have ordered some cages to add some more depth. 


50675461603_db974a33af_c.jpgKit bashing by Bryn Jones, on Flickr

50676209426_39a790fa89_c.jpgKit bashing by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


The second cut and shut is the Modern Diesel House kit.  This was originally three bay and I am doing an average job of cutting this to two bay to fit the layout in this area.  I have also had to reduce the length of the structure, because of the curved track from the point I have - and I still need to remove a few more cm's I think!  Again, once it has been filled and painted, I am sure it will look much better.  I need to cut the roof quiet considerably, but that can wait until I have detailed the interior.  I can recover some of the interior detailing from the kit, but wont be using the base in this instance. 


50675460938_2c11d4f229_c.jpgKit bashing by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


50676292522_2569c76cfe_c.jpgKit bashing by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


50676292202_db9909a5f5_c.jpgKit bashing by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


Hard standing in this area is not fixed at the moment and I need to try and see what works best.  This is likely to take a bit of time to get sorted (kit bashing), but i feel the layout has a generally ok feel to it now, given the size! 


I have continued to kit bash the Walthers Diesel House from a 3-Bay to 2-Bay.  Quite a bit of work has been done on the roofing tonight, with these having to be cut down to fit.  The smaller section was much easier, while the longer rear section needed the main section cutting from the center and some plasticard placed to provide support, hide the cut and to allow the vents to be placed.  It looks reasonable to be fair and will be much better once primed and painted (if the rain ever stops!).  Here are a couple of pictures that show the progress made.  A bit rough and ready, but I am quite content with the progress made and once they start being pulled together and painted, with detailing, I am sure it'll look good enough. 


The alterations made

50737545721_9404412049_c.jpgScratch building the 2 lane diesel shed by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


The stuck together part 


50736809518_7122a85905_c.jpgScratch building the 2 lane diesel shed by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


Both parts dry fitted to the shell 


50736809498_8a1111407e_c.jpgScratch building the 2 lane diesel shed by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


The second project for today is the Ratio (530) Oil Tanks kit.  This comes with two tanks available and built as you see on the right side, but it didn't feel right for me, so I have started to build bunding as you would typically see for such structures from Wills concrete block sheets, cut to a height that I feel is appropriate.  It bugged me that it didn't come with this and I feel that it looks much better with the wall installed (structure to the left).  I have doubled skinned the blocks as well, giving it an interior walling to try and make it look better. 


50737546061_1c3a2de715_c.jpgBunding the fuel tanks. by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


Needs some tidying up ahead of painting, and I need to try and find some appropriate coping for the wall top, but hopefully will come on with a bit of filling and scribing over the next few days - I will add to the second one, now that i have seen what it looks like. 


50736809983_aff86a0697_c.jpgBunding the fuel tanks. by Bryn Jones, on Flickr


That's it for now.


  • Member since
    March 2011
  • 861 posts
Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, January 14, 2021 10:03 AM

Interesting to see a European take on US railroading.   It is coming along nicely.     That area in the front middle will be tough.  Having to keep reach in mind for those points.   Any idea at all what might go there?

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Devon, UK
  • 5 posts
Posted by BrynJones79 on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:52 PM

Thanks for the feedback to all who have commented.  Just getting up to speed with all the comments, so thanks for those and the delay in the post being commited to the forum.  


  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Devon, UK
  • 5 posts
Posted by BrynJones79 on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:01 AM

Replyin to some of the comments above.  I haven't committed to east or west Canada yet, but do have half a dozen UP/BNSF engines, which may lean to the west side somewhat.  I have reduced the operating window to mid 90's onwards, with the noughties onwards being a much fairer assessment of where the rolling stock sits. 

MDF precut boards are a big market in the space starved UK.  They are excellent for shelf end layouts such as this and are super light weight compared to similar 9/12mm ply that i have used on larger layouts in the past. The bracing is indeed excellent for support and I will get a picture of underneath in the next few days. 

I intend on using point motors and switches for the handful of points that i have and am in the process of fitting Gaugemaster PM4 point motors and installing Frog Polarity underneath as well.  All track is Peco Code 83, which is made in the UK and much easier to get hold of - pandemic permitting with stocks depleting within days of the original March Lockdown we had over here. 

The area to the front will have a number of grain buildings installed to provide some further relief and i am considering linking to the building at the rear.  Currentluy concentrating on changing the road crossing at the moment.

Since the last post, i have moved the room around and have purchased a further 975mm (3ft) of boards to extend the length of the layout - namely, the area to the right where the engine shed is, will be extended by 575mm (2ft) and the area to teh left where the crossing is, extended by 400mm (1ft).  THis is quite easy to do as there are no points presnet and the units bolt together - but will give me greater capacity in the hidden storage siding, behind the engine shed. These come next week, so will get pictures uploaded in due course. 


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