Large Scale Central

The Path Valley Railway

A little explanation…

I’ve always said that if I were to get involved in indoor railroading again, it would be in On30. Alas, a lack of space has heretofore prevented me from doing so, so I’ve been perfectly content to focus on my outdoor 1:20 stuff. (And goodness knows I’ve got enough projects to keep me going on that for a few lifetimes.)

However, as John Lennon famously said, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I blame two things for this–Caboose Hobbies closing, and my mother. You see, mom has always gotten me a Caboose Hobbies gift card for Christmas. Well, she and I went up to Maine to the Narrow Gauge Convention. We were wandering around the dealer hall, and I spied an On30 mogul and some passenger cars for a price that was a pretty good deal. I pointed it out to mom, but followed with “but I need to behave.” Mom mentioned that she would not be able to get me a Caboose Hobbies gift card for Christmas this year (this was before the business had “officially” closed and was subsequently sold to a new owner) and this might look neat in the Christmas garden. In other words, “Merry Christmas.” So, I left Maine with an On30 mogul and three passenger cars.

Now, what to do with them? I’ve got an oval of Bachmann “E-Z Track,” and could very easily just set it up at Christmas. However, where’s the fun in that? Compound that by the fact that my kids were both quite excited with the trains, and I knew I’d probably have to find someplace to set up a permanent indoor railroad.

But where???

With no spare bedrooms and no room in the “finished” part of the basement, the only real available space was in my workshop. I already have a shelf railroad in there for the large scale stuff, though it’s just track on a shelf, no scenery. My intention was to use it as a winter switching railroad and for product testing, but I’ve found the tracks are usually jammed with various projects so the “switching” part of that equation has been frightfully limited. It is handy for testing. I thought about removing the large scale tracks and replacing it with the On30, but it’s built 5’ off the ground, so the kids can’t see it. Besides, I do use the track for testing. Instead, I opted to build a new shelf below it. Because of the way the workbench is built, this couldn’t be the full 15’, but I could fit 10’ of shelf. That sounded reasonable.

Here’s the shelf, underneath the large scale shelf (which is jam-packed with trains to the point where I can’t actually run anything on it at the moment. In fairness, many of these will be moved to the two shelves beneath the On30.) The shelf itself is built from hollow-core doors which I bought on Craigslist for $5 each. I split one open to create the backdrop panels, which still need to be smoothed and sanded before I can put a backdrop on it.

Then, I set about sketching a railroad to fit the space. Early iterations resembled the large scale trackplan, but I wanted to do a little bit more than just move 6 cars around a small handful of spurs. That’s when I started looking to see if there was more space I could create, which led me to the storage space under the stairs. This has largely been wasted space; storing stuff I really don’t need or don’t use. I decided I could move some stuff around and create another 6’ long shelf in that space. With two “towns” for the railroad to serve, a much more interesting track plan could be drawn up.

The railroad is designed to use 12 freight cars, serving a half dozen industries. (Lumber, quarry, mill, oil, creamery, and team tracks). There’s a storage siding for the passenger cars as well, so the daily passenger run can make its appearance. The notes in the sketch are thoughts on how to set up operating sessions and car movements. I did some “dry runs” with pieces of paper representing the cars, but once I get the track down, I’ll be able to refine things a lot more.

One advantage of moving part of the railroad under the stairs is that it opened that space up for a “Harry Potter” cupboard under the stairs room which Allison has wanted to do for the kids for some time. (It also helped to sell her on the idea of getting into another scale.)

It did not take long for my daughter to start painting her new space.

Here’s a panorama showing the two areas kinda-sorta in relation to each other. The next step was to take a good look at the space, take the track plan, and go from “theory” to “practice.” (Which isn’t exactly easy without actual track to work with, mind you.) I downloaded some Peco track templates to give me a rough idea, but then someone pointed me to “AnyRail,” which is free track planning software. (Well, the “trial version” is free, but was sufficient for my needs.) It has track libraries for many different scales and manufacturers (including large scale). I played around with some things, going back and forth between drawing it on the computer and laying out the printed Peco templates, some HO track I had, and some cars to get a sense of real-world space. After a few days of tweaking, this is what I’ve come up with:

If you compare this to the original sketch, the two biggest changes are that I’ve eliminated the small runaround on the left end of the long shelf (it was just too short to be of any use), and I moved the connecting line from the middle of the long shelf to being able to run off the end. I did this after I discovered that I could fit a 24" radius curve off the end to make the connection. This gives me a longer “mainline” which should help improve the visual sense of space.

The railroad…

The Path Valley Railway draws its name from the Path Valley Railroad, which was a graded-but-never-operated extension of the Newport & Sherman’s Valley Railroad. The Path Valley was two valleys east of the East Broad Top. Geographically, you had the Aughwick Valley (East Broad Top), Tuscarora Valley (Tuscarora Valley RR/Tuscarora RR) and the Path Valley (Newport & Sherman’s Valley/Path Valley RR). There was talk of all of these railroads joining together to create a regional narrow gauge network, but nothing ever happened. The Path Valley Railroad’s biggest problem was a tunnel they had to build. One side of the tunnel was rock so hard they could barely blast through it, and the other side was rock so loose it fell in on itself as soon as they tried digging. This became insurmountable, and the idea for the railroad was dropped.

Unlike my 1:20.3 Tuscarora Railroad, where I’ve put a physical railroad in the space where one was proposed, I’m making no attempt to model what “could have been” with this railroad. This is purely a generic rural narrow gauge railroad. That’s partly why I changed “railroad” to “railway” in the name. I just liked the name, and figured I’d pay homage to another narrow gauge line in my favorite narrow gauge region. The logo for the railroad draws from the fact that one end of the railroad is in our “Harry Potter” cupboard under the stairs. It is one of many subtle references to the Harry Potter series planned for this railroad.

Operation on the PVRy will be deadrail. I thought about going with traditional track-powered DCC, but let’s face it–I know battery power, and the required parts are small enough to easily fit in On30 trains. Why not? It’s not like I’m going to have a large fleet of locos. I’ve managed to acquire a 2-8-0 in addition to my 2-6-0, and unless I get a bug to turn one of my HO dismals into an On30 dismal, I don’t know that I see my fleet expanding much more beyond that. (I say that, but I also know what’s happened with my TRR loco fleet. Did I mention I just finished another diesel for that? Photos to follow once it’s lettered.)

That’s where we’re at right now. Foam next, then track, then scenery. Simple, right?




Awesome use of space. You may benefit from using a “space saver” turnout in your under the stairs shelf. The concept is to overlap two turnouts by placing the 2 frogs directly adjacent to each other thus shortening the length of both turnouts. You can see mine on the Finescale Forum at http: // Look in the General Topics on the second page, or do a search for “space saver turnout” to find it. It will end up saving you about 2 feet of length vice placing the turnouts end-to-end.


Great idea of track plan! So what is the “Operational Idea?” The outbound trains of one module being the inbound of the other and then visa versa? Might be difficult to do in one train. You’d have to figure out how to simply recognize what goes where. Our maybe, car cards and waybills for this layout.

Jim Kottkamp said:


Awesome use of space. You may benefit from using a “space saver” turnout in your under the stairs shelf. The concept is to overlap two turnouts by placing the 2 frogs directly adjacent to each other thus shortening the length of both turnouts. You can see mine on the Finescale Forum at http: // Look in the General Topics on the second page, or do a search for “space saver turnout” to find it. It will end up saving you about 2 feet of length vice placing the turnouts end-to-end.


I second all the comments on Finescalerr about your track - handmade, custom shapes always look better than off-the-shelf turnouts.

I did have one comment - with that design the two tracks end up quite close, so you can’t store a train on one track and pass on the other without risking tearing off the handrails?

Can’t wait to see how this will come along.

I’ll tell a story. One morning my daughter looks up at me and says, “You know what? I think I’m tired of pink!” I said, “That’s okay sweetheart,” and smiled, but INSIDE I was jumping up and down for joy and screaming Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!

…and by the way my friend, don’t think I didn’t freaking notice the Deathly Hallows symbol for the elder wand, the cloak of invisibility, and the resurrection (let’s not get started on that again guys!) stone in your railroad herald. You got to get up a lot earlier in the morning to slip a Harry Potter reference by this dad!

John Passaro said:

…and by the way my friend, don’t think I didn’t freaking notice the Deathly Hallows symbol…

My son walked in the room when I was designing the artwork and immediately picked up on that, too. Mission accomplished, says I. The premise for the details on the railroad will be that there’s magic all around us, but we just don’t recognize it. To the muggle, it’ll be your ordinary rural narrow gauge line. But if you know what to look for, you’ll see it. I’ve got an idea for how to do a newspaper where the pictures move, but I don’t know if you’d notice it in O scale.

(BTW, AMC theaters is showing the Harry Potter movies this month in IMAX, as precursor to Fantastic Beasts’ release. I took the kids to see Sorcerer’s Stone last night.)



Is Perry Lumber gonna fit in there somewhere?

He is a link I had with a map showing the projected path.

I don’t blame Mom or Caboose Hobbies for having numerous links on these old RR’s in my area …I blame Kevin!

So if my Live Steam and EBT mentor/instigator builds in On30 does that mean I can too?!?

I had to look up what Muggle meant. If my 2 year old granddaughter discovers Harry Potter (her father is steering her toward Star Wars) I’d better learn some more.

At least I know what dead rail is.

Better get moving Kevin, the NG convention is less than a year away!

Have fun,


Jim Kottkamp said:

You may benefit from using a “space saver” turnout in your under the stairs shelf.

Jim, where were you thinking this might help? If it’s the two turnouts way under the landing, those need to be separated for clearances on the passing siding. “Track 2” will be where the freight depot is, so I don’t mind that track being a little long. That, and I can reach the switch machine without having to duck–something I can’t do on the farthest one, but that needs to be where it is so I can run around a 5-car train (4 cars plus caboose).

There are places where I’m going to have the switches a little closer together than what they show in the drawing. The Micro Engineering switches have a lot of “extra” track on them, especially on the diverging ends. They’re built that way (so far as I can tell) so that if you put two back to back to form a crossover, you get a 3" track spacing. The Peco switches are the same geometry, but lack the extra track on the ends of the switch. I can probably go in and re-design various parts using the Peco switch templates instead to see where I can change some things a bit for more space, but I figure I’ll just wing that once the actual track shows up.

Switches were the one “shocker” I encountered when I built my Tuscarora RR. On my previous railroads, I hand-laid all my switches to fit the space and needs. When I did the TRR, I didn’t have the time to do that, and–for the purposes of the article I was writing–I needed to use off-the-shelf components. When I set the #6 switches out in the garden, I wasn’t quite prepared for how much space they actually took up, and my siding lengths took a hit as a result. That’s why I liked test-fitting things with the software, then approximating things on the shelfs with the few pieces of HO track I have. It gave me a much more realistic view of what I can actually fit. (And was the cause for the demise of the runaround on the left end of the long shelf.

I can’t say I’m adverse to hand-laying turnouts in On30, but it’s definitely not on my “sounds like fun” list. I did one in HO years ago with mediocre results. I’m going to see what I can do with the ME switches, and if there are ways I can customize them a bit if need be. I can think of a couple of places I’d rather have a wye geometry as opposed to a standard left-right geometry. That should hopefully be easy enough to tweak without having to resort to drastic measures.



Ric Golding said:

So what is the “Operational Idea?” The outbound trains of one module being the inbound of the other and then visa versa?

For the most part, yes. The “back track” on the small shelf is an interchange track for lack of better description. Ore from the quarry/mine will get sent there, as will products from the mill. The tank farm will receive oil from there and return empty cars. The lumber siding will ship to either the mill (large shelf) or the interchange track (small shelf). On the small shelf, the creamery will receive milk from either the depot on the large shelf or from the interchange track. Same for the freight depot; it would receive from the team track on the large shelf (location TBD) or the interchange track.

The catch is that I’m limited to 4 cars plus a caboose on my trains. While more than 4 cars may move from spot to spot on any given session, only 4 cars can “trade shelves” as it were. So if I’ve got 6 cars on the interchange track, the first step is to determine which of them move. If it moves, then where does it go? It’s possible that all 6 cars on the interchange could move, if two of them move to the creamery and freight depot. Then, if there’s a car spotted at the freight depot, would it stay, go back to the interchange track, or perhaps to the team track or mill on the large shelf? Once the train of 4 cars arrives on the large shelf, which cars go back to the interchange? A similar process would unfold for those cars.

I don’t know if I’ll use car cards or some kind of tab-on-car system like I use outdoors.

(And Rooster, not Perry Lumber Co. It will be the Dark Forrest Lumber Co.–another Harry Potter reference. The Perry Lumber Co. is represented on the TRR.



Boy, what a fantastic story and reason to start building another scaled layout. I’ll be watching you with great anticipation. I’m just now being able to create and move back into my new train room in the house. A couple of the guys in our club have started building On30 railroads to give them something to do during the rainy and snowy months in the Pacific Northwest and I’m looking at doing the same thing.

Ok …I remember the short discussion on that unit !

I just love her name even though it was discussed on LSC and seems to come from the early American Indian’s!

Chuck Inlow said:

Boy, what a fantastic story and reason to start building another scaled layout. I’ll be watching you with great anticipation. I’m just now being able to create and move back into my new train room in the house. A couple of the guys in our club have started building On30 railroads to give them something to do during the rainy and snowy months in the Pacific Northwest and I’m looking at doing the same thing.

But the whole reason I started playing outside was because I have no room inside to play in HO. I surely cannot play in On30. But there are some cool locomotives out in On30 that I would really like to have in gauge 1.

I saw a set in Nicholas Smith’s one day and the price was right.

I didn’t get all that elaborate with a story or a reason to buy it. I just picked a name for it and laid down some track.

10 years later, still “in progress”.

Then Bart got into it and turned me on to a website with 0 scale buildings you could print out on poster board.

That’s what the Ice House is made from.

and I’ll be damned if I can remember the name of it.

First, clearances on space saver turnouts after passing through the frog are no different than on a normal turnout. The tracks diverge at the same rate (the tracks in the Finescale photos were curved intentionally with reduced clearance to fit a specific situation).

I see two possible locations for space saver turnouts on your second drawing. The first location is on the top module - the first two turnouts to the left could be combined (one is a siding and the other a passing track). This would result in both a longer siding and a bit longer passing track. The second location is on the module under the stairs - the two turnouts shown back-to-back that both lead to siding (one with a crossing). Doing a space saver here would result in both sidings being about one car longer.

There are no “special parts” on a space save turnout set. You could purchase two prefab turnouts (as with Llagas creek in F Scale) and adapt them as needed - that way you don’t have to get involved with scratch building frogs and point rails.

Hope this is helpful.

Thanks, Jim. In the first area you mention, I want a bit of single track through there so to visually give some separation between the two areas (timber spur and depot siding). I’ll likely put a grade crossing across the track there so the road can reach the depot. Switch placement on the shelf under the stairs will be dictated by how far I can reach more than anything else. As I have things drawn, I can (theoretically) reach all the points except the bottom-most set without having to squat and crawl under the stair landing. Moving the points further towards the bottom may put them out of reach. (I’m not planning on having power to the railroad, so motorized switch throws aren’t an option.)

Truthfully, my bigger concern in terms of clearances on that part of the railroad involves uncoupling from the train. I’ve got a Kadee uncoupling magnet that I think I’ll try, so I can just stop, uncouple, then pull forward to the runaround lead. If I can rig some kind of mechanical linkage to that far switch (choke cable or something) then I should be able to run that “untouchable” part of the railroad without needing to stoop and risk banging my head. (I can definitely foresee padding being wrapped around the stair joists, though…)



Track arrived! (Thanks, Warrior Run Loco Works!) First step, a little bit of weathering before I put it down. I can’t stand shiny rails.

Believe it or not, that’s all the track, save for 6 switches which I was still removing from the packaging. I may end up being a stick of flex track short (I measured total length needed, forgetting that I’d have to make cuts here and there, leaving me 4" cut-offs here and there), but two of my storage sidings are, well, not exactly “hidden,” but in the back and under the stairs, so I can cheat and use HO flex track there if need be. I’ll just ballast it so you can’t see the ties. It’s a lot easier to source a single piece of code 83 flex locally.

I used Krylon’s camouflage flat brown to weather the track. This will give me a good base to work from, knowing some of the paint will come off during the track-laying process. I can also use paint markers on the rails once it’s down to give the rails a little bit more of a rusty look in areas. One thing I had forgotten from my HO days–this stuff is friggin’ fragile compared to large scale track. Didn’t take me long to figure that out, but I sheared the spike detail off of about 6" of track in the process. Ugh! Looks good, though.

And the first rails begin to be put in place. The track where the loco is sitting is actually the “key” to the railroad. It has to be long enough to hold the loco and two cars, so I can switch the rock tipple which will be located further down where the empty route on the switch leads to. (If that makes sense.) If I’m only switching out one car on that spur and there’s only one car sitting at the mill which will be next to where the loco is sitting, then I can just switch the rock spur and not have to move anything. If there are two cars, then I’ll have to move the cars at the mill, but chances are good that one or both of them will be leaving anyway.

Here’s the track laid out on this section. You can see the spur leading to the rock tipple (rock, coal, ore… I haven’t quite made up my mind what’s being loaded there yet.) The spur at the bottom is lumber. There’s a box car at the mill siding, and the tank car at the oil siding in the upper right corner of the picture. Cars can also be spotted in front of the depot, which will be located in the clearing in the middle of the picture. The depot I wanted to put in there (SR&RL’s “Strong” depot) is just a bit too large to fit and still have room around it for a road and access, so I’ll have to go with a different station.

The view from the other end. The “mountain” in the back is my current project. I had originally not planned on having a mountain back there, just having the train run off through the tall trees. However, I needed some elevation to support the tipple, so the idea of putting a mountain in there was born. I’m a bit worried that it will look like an out-of-place boulder (think Ayres Rock in Australia) but I think I can blend it in easy enough. The lumber siding may have to move a little bit, though, which is why I haven’t removed the foam with all the blue X’s yet.

The track hasn’t been glued down yet. I’m just getting a feel for how things run before I get going with that. The rails are soldered together, though I’m not running any wires for track power. It will all be battery. I may run wires to the rails just so I have the ability to run track power at least on this section if the need arises, but I’m not planning on running feeders or anything like that. I still may “just in case,” but it will just be to this section. I’d have to run jumpers and connectors to get power to the section under the stairs, and that’s just too much work.



this post has been edited by: Rooster


Just stumbled in to this this AM. Very imaginative and great use of space. I am very interested in the dead rail/battery powered locos you are planning…another look in to the future of our great hobby. I will be following along. Doc Tom