Tasha Oates updated November 23, 2010


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    by Paul Templar
    Photos by the author

    A general view of the main switchbacks, showing the five bridges. The one in front is a rather long and deep trestle; it measures 2’ 2” long and 2’ 2” deep.

    Oh...I know what you’re thinking, “He’s back into HO.” Well, yes, but I still have my On30 Cooncreek & Tumbleweed Springs in another room. How come I have two rooms for railroads? Well I live in a four-bedroom house, and my three grown children have left home. So now you see, I am the proud father of two railroads. It’s great fun; when I get fed up working on one, I just walk about 8' into the other little world. Ah, what a life!

    Timber Wolf is a standard gauge HO logging layout and is an end-to-end railroad without any continuous running. The room itself isn’t big enough to do this, and besides I fancied an end-to-end track plan for a change.

    For me, and probably most logging modelers, it’s the “whimsical wilderness” part of logging that fascinates me. Being able to create just about any kind of locomotive, or rolling stock, for that matter, is what provides so much interest to so many modelers, myself included.

    As with all logging railroads, operations will be different to some degree, but the main principle stays the same. Its process runs from felling the tall timbers, to transporting the trees out of the woods, down to the sawmill where they will be processed into finished products, and later delivered to various consumers.

    Okay, so what trackwork did I use for this HO layout? Well, as with every railroad I have ever built, whether it be N, HO or On30, I used code 100 Peco track and points (turnouts). Their products have always been near to my heart as I have never ever had any trouble using them. Peco PL10 point motors were used because they are never seen once they are fitted to the point and buried in a hole in the roadbed. Once buried, a small piece of masking tape was placed over the hole on either side of the point and painted the same color as the roadbed.

    A Bachman Shay transports a new bunk car to the campsite. The bunk car is one of the new kits from RSlaserKits.


    The main framework was built with 1x3 lumber and 1⁄2" chipboard and 1⁄2" insulation board for the main track support. Some cookie cutting was also done on the switchback area using 1/8" plywood with the 1⁄2" insulation on top. I used 2x2 hardwood for the legs. The first level of this railroad is a mere 30" off the floor, but rises to 58" at the top of the switchbacks. It looks quite steep, but it really isn’t a problem for any of my locos to pull or push four skeleton cars or three boxcars.

    After the camp workers spend time looking at this newfangled loco, the “Shay-Garrett,” she will haul lumber out of the forest.

    Bridges and Things

    The main attraction of this railroad when you walk into the room is the huge trestle bridge which almost makes it down to floor level; it is 2' 3" long and 2' 2" deep. This bridge took me ages to complete and was expensive as well due to all the timber it took to make it. Still, it was worth the effort. There are four other kinds of timber bridges on the layout. One is a logged cribbed bridge; the other three are trestle types. In fact two of these trestles are on an 8% grade that climbs to the top level.

    The backdrop this time around is not painted sky board and trees but rather was done with Faller background scenes. Although they started life as mountain scenes with alpine chalets all over the place, I was able to disguise the chalets with foliage/lichen, leaving just the mountains as a backdrop to the railroad. I think it looks okay, and have used these in the past.


    All structures except for one Pola kit were scratchbuilt; I do like scratchbuilding as it brings a sense of achievement after it is placed on the layout. I should mention that I had built all of these structures before, but had sold them so I had to rely on memory and photographs I had taken before to help me rebuild them. I scratchbuilt all of the camp cars except for one, which is a kit from a new manufacturer called RSlaserKits. The person making these and other laser kits is really only just starting out in the model world but makes some really nice looking kits, his website is http://www.rslaserkits. com. (There you go Rich; I said I would give you a plug, and why not, you do good work.)


    I have used a product called Modroc (this is a UK name for a plaster-impregnated bandage) in the past, but I prefer using undercoat plaster now. This, in my view, is cheap and equally effective and involves strips of cardboard, interwoven and stapled to the baseboard. Rolled-up newspaper can be attached with masking tape to form rock formations. For large expanses I support the area with chipboard off cuts. I plug any holes with more masking tape before covering with undercoat plaster. This plaster is ideal, as it does not tend to crack so readily, provided you do not apply it too thickly. Before it hardens I carve my cliff and rock formations with an old knife. When all is dry the scenery is painted with emulsion paint to seal the plaster. I tend to use a gray brown color, followed by drybrushing in various shades to represent the desired effect.

    When all the paint is dry, overspray the rock faces with a small spray bottle (no, not your wife’s perfume spray!) filled with India ink diluted with water and a drop of liquid dishwashing detergent. The ink and water soaks into the cracks and hollows and emphasizes them. If the mixture is not strong enough merely spray again. Woodland Scenics scatter materials were used in numerous colors, in large quantities, glued down with white glue watered down 50%.

    Another method I use for ground cover and bushes is to mix dark brown acrylic paint with white glue. I apply the glue to the baseboard and press pieces of polyfiber into it. Over this I sprinkle green and brown Woodland Scenics foliage and clean off any excess.

    Trees are made from different types of dried ferns and lichen, sprayed with glue and sprinkled with, you guessed it, Woodland Scenics. The best-dried fern I have found is called “Ming” fern. This stuff is fantastically realistic looking, much better than asparagus fern, which to my way of thinking is far too brittle, but does make good-looking trees. Don’t get me wrong, asparagus fern is fine; I just like the look of Ming fern better. From the bottom of my garden (part of it looks like a quarry) I have dug down to get some really nice looking soil. I take it inside and dry it in the oven. When dried I use a sieve to get the best fine soil possible to use on the layout. This dirt is really neat as the color and texture are perfect for ground cover. During the winter I also gather dead leaves and store them until needed. Once they have dried out, I put them into a blender and grind them up so I can sprinkle proper leaves onto the layout. Some of these look really nice with the colors; others are most like the soil in appearance...a dirty brown color, but they are all used somewhere on the layout.

    Loads of dead branches from trees are brought home and sifted through to find the most suitable ones to use. (I must admit that I get many strange looks from members of the family when I walk in with dead branches tucked under my arm.) Once I have a few I like, I tend to spray them with hair spray and sprinkle on some light and dark greens (Woodland Scenics) plus a little dark sand as well to make them look as if they have been on the ground for years. I also use some leftover Ming fern from tree making as this, along with some Woodland Scenics foliage, covers small areas well.

    The “Shay-Garrett” works its way downhill with a load of logs on its way to the mill.

    The Climax pushes a pair of empty skeleton cars past the scratchbuilt local freight depot.

    The two-truck Shay eases off the turntable and heads for the loco shed.

    Locos & Rolling Stock

    The locos to date are a Climax, a three-truck Shay, a three-truck Heisler and a “Shay-Garrett.” The Climax and Shay are Bachmann products and are very nice runners. The Heisler is a Rivarossi product and is also a good runner although a little on the noisy side, but I expect it to quiet down when run in. Now for the fun loco... the “Shay-Garrett.” “A what?” I here you shout. Well, I did say it was a fun loco. It is in fact two MDC Shay chassis with a Model Power cab and boiler in the middle. I know that none were ever produced, but I saw that a photograph of one produced by Karen Parker of “Magic Pixel” fame and just had to make one in HO. It’s a fun looking creature and actually runs well and can really haul heavy loads. I made the chassis for both Shays from kits I had. One has NorthWest Short Line gears and shafts while the other one just has standard Shay stuff. The Shay that got NWSL brass replacements received gears for the gearbox and the bull gear, axle gears and what I call the prop shafts and Universal joints. When all was complete, I removed all but one of the line-shaft gears, leaving just one on each shaft, so I could get the timing right. I don’t think there is a need for four of these gears on these line shafts at all. I know it is possible to play around with it for hours on end trying to get the timing right, but as these line shafts are just in effect cosmetic and are driven by the main wheels only, I think just one is perfect to make it revolve and drive the pistons up and down. I also have a couple of MDC Shays and one MDC Climax that I scratchbuilt a new body for, as I was not keen on the original Climax body.

    As for the rolling stock, I currently only have four skeleton cars and four disconnects plus a few boxcars and a caboose. I expect to increase the skeletons over time to around ten. I do have plans to scratchbuild a water tank car, plus a wheel car at some later date, but I also want to create sound effects similar to those I use on the On30 layout, which uses speakers at various points underneath the layout that are switched on and off as the loco passes the point where the speaker is. I know I could go DCC and use all kinds of weird and wonderful chips inside locos, but that expense can be better justified on buying another loco instead. Besides, my layout is an “O.M.O.” (one man operated), and I can only run two locos at a time. Even then I have to concentrate with this end-to-end design, otherwise my vacuum cleaner would be picking small bits up off the carpet.

    Lighting for the railroad is once again daylight fluorescent tubes, which are near perfect lighting for model photography. There are only three 5' tubes on this layout, one for each leg of the layout. When I photographed the layout, I used a large mirror to reflect light back. Even so, exposure times were quite long with my new Canon 350D Rebel (XT)...around ten to 15 seconds per photo at f22 to f32. All photos were taken using a tripod with exposures of this length. Funny how the more expensive the camera gets, the longer the exposure times. Well it seems that way for me anyway.

    Have fun.

    A Bachmann three-truck Shay rounds the curve and heads into the sawmill log pond area with a couple of empty skeleton cars.

    A view of the inside of the sawmill. The sawmill was scratchbuilt, but the machinery is available from Grandt Line products.

    A Shay heads for the forest with a new donkey engine, which will soon be put in use.

    The scratchbuilt loco shed is nearly ready for a major overhaul on this two-truck Bachmann Shay. All the tools are ready for the job.

    The campsite was placed on stilts because of the muddy ground in the area. The families of these loggers are happy that they can all be together.

    The three-truck Shay works its way past the log pond area by the sawmill.

    A Climax, with a load of logs for the mill works its way over one of the four trestle bridges on the switchback. This one is a log-cribbed bridge.

    The repair shop has some problems keeping the rain out, so workers are on the roof doing some shingling.



    Article Details

    • Original Author Paul Templar
    • Source Model Railroading

    Article Album (15 photos)

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