Taggart Transcontinental Layout Progress Pictures and Notes


The newest pictures are first, oldest at the end.

Updated 2018-11-04 Jeff Witt


Next tasks:


March 2018 through October 2018



Some excerpts from “The Dispatcher”, the newsletter of the Philadelphia Division of the NMRA.

Dave Messer and Earl Paine visited to review my work for my AP certificates.



Next, some shots of “Mrs. O’Malley’s Place” and environs:






The “West End Shack” and environs:




The east-side scenery and backdrop additions (work in progress):




The livestock pen improvements:



Various west-side scenery work:
Note the crane added to the supply shed in the background.


An overview of the west side:


Note the “rail rack” and tie stacks:


Some of the matte-medium is still wet in this photo:


Another view with the crane in evidence:



March 2017 through March 2018


A year since I last updated this? Where does the time go…


Progress has slowed, but continues:


First, the finished Bulline supply shed:


A night shot, showing the lighting and some of the interior details:


The caboose maintenance facility:


The handcar shed:


Some views of the south-east corner. The module is installed, track ballasted, foliage, rock castings, and grass added.

The wood strips cover the electro-magnetic uncoupling ramp:


Rock castings along the east side:


The station at Allenton; figures and lighting added. Static grass at the right, various weed tufts around:


A night shot:


The water tank and coaling platform:


An overview of the Allenton area:


The mirror on the road to the coal dump:


The sanding facility, at the base of the branch line grade:


And a night shot showing the pole light:


The watchman’s shanty, built many years ago and refurbished:


Added a log load to one of my log cars; these are rhododendron branches:


A LaBelle box car, repaired and weathered:


Labelle gondola, repaired with weight added:


And two LaBelle flat cars


The Overland observation with interior seating, passengers, and lighting:


December 2016 through March 2017


A variety of things were accomplished:


First, the re-worked Bulline stock car:


Some shots of the water tank:



This shows the rooftop water tank, the figures on the loading dock, and the re-work G&D box car:


Here’s the truck dump (not where it will eventually be); needs weathering and lots of coal laying around.


The cattle pens, temporarily placed:


The handcar shed in place:



Mid-July 2016 through November 2016


Not as much progress as I would like, but some:




First, the turntable and roundhouse tracks:


Next, some views of the east-side branch line module (the white cardstock covers the uncoupling ramps):





The wiring and connectors:



The passenger yard is in use:


The updated tower area:


The newly ballasted section:


April 2016 through Mid-July 2016


I thought I didn’t do much in the last few months, but it adds up. Progress:




First, just a nice picture:


The passenger yard:


The 0-6-0:



The turntable control panel – the left knob is “fast” speed adjustment, the left switch is fast/slow speed select, the middle knob
is the slow speed adjustment, the right switch is the direction, and the push-button runs it. It is easy to nudge the turntable into


The unfinished Overland cars, and the new 4-4-0:


The interior and lighting underway on one car:




The roundhouse base:


The guard rails are code 83 rail layed sideways inside the code 70 rail. This will allow me to pour a plaster floor and
keep the flange-ways clear:



Mid-January 2016 through March 2016






Easter operations, Steve’s Heisler and Emma:


Some shots of the (partially finished) passenger car yard:



Some views of the future branch line, on cardboard with cardboard structure mock-ups:



The (mostly) ballasted west-side main line:


The handcar shed:



And now some shots of the ore cars, S&S reefer, the tank-car Steve gave me:





December 2015 through Mid-January 2016






Some shots of the supply shed (note the interior details):

The wires to the electric service are not in their final place yet. The windows are real glass.



Here it is “in context”:



Here’s the loading crane – I don’t like the way the cables are hanging, and will re-do them.
Otherwise, I like it and it will go on the supply shed platform.


Here’s the new engine service facility tracks (the three to the left of the main line), looking east:


Here’s the track looking west. Obviously, some ties are still missing and the track needs painting.
The piece in the middle (with minimal ties) is removable, so I can build the coaling tower
and ash pit (Both Scale Structures Ltd. Kits) on the bench. Notice the cutout sections for the coal and ash dumps.

The spur on the left will eventually service the Fine Scale Miniature “John Allen” icing platform.



A close-up of the turntable tracks. PC board ties are wonderful things.That turntable pit needs some weathering!


All those turnouts were just “tied off”, but now needed real controls. So I built a new control panel to handle all the
turnouts in this area. I know, some kind of diagram would help…but (for now, at least) I know what they do.



Mid-May 2015 through November 2015


The PEX install/office remodeling project (plus general summer activities) put a real drag on my progress – it’s been over six months since the last update.


Here’s the progress:


Now for some pictures!


An overview of the turntable area, with future roundhouse tracks in the background.
The lights on the turntable bridge work:



Close-up of the turntable:



From the other side:



Signal Tower installation and scenery, switch rodding, track ballasted, and privy:



A close up of the privy:



Now, showing the switch-rodding installations:


Where the road crosses, and the supply shed mock-up in place (final coloring/grading here is NOT finished):



Crossover and branch-line rodding and dwarf signals:


Looking down the mains at the tower area:



Finally, some of the south-end scenery and track ballasting (the rocks need more stain, still too bright):


Looking southwest:


Station mock-up:



Mid- January 2015 to Mid-May 2015


Here’s the progress:


Much of my time has been turntable work (yes, I finally started it! The pictures will prove it.)

·         installed the pit rail, painted the pit and the base

·         installed and aligned the shaft bushings

·         built most of the bridge (handrails and control cab to be finished)

·         cut the foam out where the turntable will go, installed adjustable risers to adjust and level it

·         built the bridge arch (still needs paint and lights installed)


Fireproof Storage (to be re-named later):


The crossover and dwarf signals:


Turntable Construction Pix:

Lots of cutting, drilling, filing, and soldering are involved in this kit. It will be motorized.


The bridge with unpainted arch temporarily in place. The wires will power the rails,
one rail from the pit rail wires and one from the arch wire.
Also, the control cab and walkways/railing is yet to be installed.


Another view (I straightened the arch after this picture was taken, it bends easily).
I have two tiny lights made with surface-mount LEDs that I plan to install at the top of the arch:


And another:


Here it is in the pit. It is cast plaster (Hydrocal, I think) on a piece of MDF.
I sealed the whole base with latex paint. Lots of weathering and detailing to come, once it is functional:




Mid- November 2014 to Mid-January 2015


Got a good amount done:


Signal Tower Pix:


Here’s where it sits on the layout:


Here’s the flour mill and the completed scenery along the west side backdrop:


From the other direction:


The south end “removable” section (with the wood retaining wall) – I need to hide the seam a little better:


The south end, looking west; you can see the switch rodding between the mainline tracks,
and one of the dwarf signals in the lower left corner. Ballast and weeds have not yet been added.


A close-up of the “removable” scenery:


The south-east corner, with the additional backgrounds in place. Note the new dwarf signals in the lower-right corner:



An overview of the south-west corner; it’s starting to look like a model railroad!


Mid-September to Mid-November 2014


I though I wasn’t getting much done, but after updating this blog I guess I got a good amount done in the last two months after all.



A shot of the branch line with Steve’s #23, showing the addition of many trees:


Another shot, showing the grass tufts and static grass to good effect:


An overview of the area (almost ready to commit to pouring the “water”!!):


Here’s the IR detectors and panel. I wanted to get these in before I did any more scenery work in this area.
Even so, the whole detector can be unplugged and easily slid out if maintenance is needed.
The top two LEDs are for the back track, the bottom two for the front track.
The IR transmitter LEDs are to the far left and right, they basically aim right down the track from the ground to up over the trains:


Here are a couple shots of the tunnel entrance with the dwarf signals installed.
These are very inexpensive Chinese items I got on EBay. I had to “build them up” with matte medium to hide the nasty wiring job.
The first shot has “all clear”:


Now, the left train is exiting the tunnel (and still triggering the detector), the right is entering and hasn’t been detected yet:


Here’s what they look like up close (they still need some weathering):


Now for the signal tower. First, a couple of overview shots. Resin 1st floor, laser cut second floor and shingles:


I used real glass for the second floor windows. The second floor has a full interior and is lighted.


Here’s the interior. The figures are Revell, Weston, and Atlas. The furniture is Scale Structures Limited.
The levers are from American Model Builders. The bulletin boards are printed from internet pictures.


This is it lit up. Since it will be close to the front of the layout, I figured I better do it up good:



August – Mid-September 2014



A shot of the branch line with Steve’s Heisler climbing the grade.


Steve’s 0-6-0 coming down the branch line. Note the static grass next to the track. Lots of foliage added (next, more trees!).



An overview of the branch line.



A view of the retaining wall and weeds. More static grass.



A view of the south-end, ground goop added. The section with the retaining walls is removable at the arrows to access the window.



Steve’s Climax logging train on the east-side branch line.



Mid-July – Early August 2014



A panoramic shot of the installed backgrounds (the string hanging down is the ceiling fan control, I need to shorten it):


A view of the west side branch line. Note the green “pond” area:



A view of the southwest corner. The girder bridge is still wrapped in protective plastic wrap:



A wider shot of the south side branch line:



My home-made static grass applicator. The wire has a pin on the end to stick in the “ground”.
Press the button and about 14KV is generated on the strainer. Now I just need some static grass!!



Mid-March – Mid-July 2014


The small section that has been “scenicked”:


The SW corner “mountain”. Steve’s Sculptamold hillside with path is to the left. This area will get lots of ground cover and vegetation.
The area under the girder bridge will have “water” in it.



Moving east, the eventual rock castings are temporarily placed in their approximate locations. They need more stain/paint, of course.
The green foam hill section to the left, behind the branch line, is removable for access to the window latch behind it.



The SE corner rock castings, with Sculptamold blending into each other and the tunnel portal.
The “roof” of the tunnel area is removable for access to the tracks in the tunnel. The stone retaining wall to the right is mounted on foam-core.



A close-up of the tunnel portal. It is not fastened in place yet, but the fit is evident. Note the painted rail. The ballast will be weathered once the ground cover is in place.



The initial east-side hill between the yard and the branch line; this whole section is removable for tunnel track access.
Made from foam, it (currently) weighs only a couple of ounces. It will be covered with “ground goop” and/or Sculptamold and/or latex paint.



The overall view looking south-west. The icing platform mock-up is in the foreground.



The overall view looking south-east. The little station will eventually go on the branch line (almost directly above it in the back corner).
It is, believe it or not, made of white metal (from Woodland Scenics).




January – Mid-March 2014



The scissors crossover (needs a few adjustments still). This took ~two weekends of hobby time to build:


The scissors crossover control panel – selects one of three routings (frog power NOT included yet):


South-east corner of the room, showing the new branch line extension and short trestle bridge:


The north end, with the Mantua Mikado pulling a freight of mostly Gorre & Daphetid cars

Scenery here will need cliffs and/or retaining walls, and a tunnel portal at the left:


The icing platform siding (with a cardboard mockup standing in).

It is removable to allow the kit to be built/attached on the bench:


The yard feeder and icing platform siding turnouts:


Steve’s G&D 0-6-0 on the branch line with two LaBelle flats and a scratch-built G&D bobber Steve gifted me:


Overview of the east side:


Overview of the west side. Note the scenery forms behind the branch line.

Final contours will be made with florist’s foam, which is easier to carve and will take and hold trees easily:


The tall trestle, removed from the old layout. Hopefully Steve can use it, I probably can’t:



October 2013 – Mid-January 2014



Here is the completed south-end trackwork, with the Mantua Mikado parked in the caboose track:



Here is a close-up. Lighter ties, wider spaced, code 70 rail on the siding.



Here’s the yard ladder. The back track will pass through to the north-end main.
The PC ties have not yet been painted, and the uncoupler needs to be centered/glued and ties added.
Note the plywood stiffeners under the sandply.


Here are the yard tracks looking south. With the code 70, you can get some wobbles (vertical and horizontal),
but I think it is appropriate for the yard, where slow speeds and spotty maintenance prevail. Perfect track here would look unrealistic.



Late September – Early October 2013



Loconet jack plate in north-west corner


Loconet jack plate and uncoupler push-button under south end fascia


West side backdrop


South side backdrop


East side backdrop


Stub track (feeds a siding), with uncoupler


Here is the roadbed for the south end sidings – may be a good place for cattle pens…


I had to throw in a picture of a train running…



September 2013


South End trackwork, looking east



South end trackwork, looking west


August 2013


Here’s the SE corner branch line trackwork; code 70, siding with hidden uncoupling magnet (the cove spackle needs another coat).


All the wiring has connectors so this section can be lifted out for maintenance and detailing.


The south end roadbed is being laid in here (yard lead sandply roadbed has yet to be trimmed).


Gluing ties down (the gallon paint can makes a great weight). Turnouts are all fitted and ready to place after the ties are down.
This will take some time. Then the Tortoise switch machines will need to be added, and the foam cut to fit them.




July/August 2103


The bulbs (automotive 12v  1156 type) are effectively 0 ohms until they heat up, like when a track short occurs.

Then they light up, and the resistance increases and limits the current to prevent the DCC supply from auto-tripping. We’ll see how well it works.

The point-point wiring includes resistors (current limiting for the red indicator LEDs) and reverse polarity clamping diodes (to prevent high LED reverse voltages).



Here’s the panel, wired with DPDT/center off switches to allow DCC, off, and DCC programming or DC operation in each district.
The red LEDS will light when there is voltage across the 1156 lamps (when there is a track short).



Here’s the whole thing wired up. The terminal strip will be used to connect the male Molex connectors that will connect to the track busses.

The connector at the left goes to the DCC supply.



Finally, here it is installed on the layout. It’s easily remover with four screws if maintenance is needed. When operations begin, a schematic will be kept nearby.


June/July 2013


SE Corner backdrop coving and branch line ties



Branch Line SE switch, future Kadee uncoupling ramp, backdrop seam caulked/taped



Branch Line rail (code 70), SW corner coving (note temporary trackwork on main line)




East side branch line risers (main line will be in tunnel)



PC ties painted with acrylic paint, now virtually invisible



SW corner backdrop cove



May 2013


The west side:



The north side (and my thumb):



The east side, with a running train (this will eventually be a tunnel, hence the backdrop up 6 inches):





April 2013


NW corner main line (SW corner ties being glued):


NW corner main line:


NE Corner roadbed:



March and Early April 2013



West side main line and temporary branch line connector (note that the final track will be curved to match the roadbed):


Branch line with “test train”:


Turnout control switches with LED indicators below fascia:


South-east corner main line tracks:


East side main line, will be in a tunnel, so only a few ties are used:


North-west main line curves:



February and March 2013





January – February 2013




December 2012