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Lazy Acre RR's Construction

It all began with an LGB passenger starter set in December 1993; the one with the little Stainz locomotive. It was supposed to be a garden railroad, but then my wife got Samantha, an Akita puppy. This variety of dog can be quite stubborn and territorial, so Sammy and I entered into negotiations concerning the backyard.

“Arf, it’s MY yard!”

“OK, Sammy, I’ll take the basement.”

In March 1995 I built a 22 foot switchback along one wall of my basement. The upper part goes to a 21" by 58" future logging camp, while the lower part disappears into a tunnel that, in my mind, connects to the outside world. I thought that this set-up would be enough for me to run my train, but it wasn’t. So I added a figure-8 from the lower part of my switchback the following August.

The idea of a logging railroad in 1911 (the year my Dad was born) in north-central Pennsylvania evolved. Appropriate locomotives and rolling stock (see Roster) were slowly added. The little Stainz still circles our Christmas tree each year.

The switchback is built on 1x8 pine shelving supported with L-brackets that are mounted to the wall. The attached over/under figure-8 is built on two sections (about 6'x 9' and 6'x 6') that form a backwards L. Each section has a 2x3 framework that is supported by 4x4 legs I acquired from a discarded fence. The track is glued and ballasted on homosote covered 1/2" plywood. At first I tried it without the homosote, but it was way too noisy. Many risers attach this roadbed to the 2x3 framework.

The scenery is mostly made of rolled newspapers and masking tape covered with plaster cloth. This was painted an earth color, and grass was added before the paint dried. Larger ground cover was then glued to most of the area, since there would be a lot of it in a clear-cut woods.. My many stumps (thus Stumpy, one of my nicknames) were cut from fallen branches in my backyard. I cut them half way from each side on a band saw, purposely missing by about 1/4 inch. A quick snap produces the rather realistic uneven top, which makes them look like they were cut down by my Lazy Acre lumber crew. I am building my own trees using thin wires as branches. These are covered with a thick coat of paint before Woodland Scenics foliage is added. This is a very time consuming process; with practice I hope I’ll get faster.

I was quite jealous of the many outdoor snow pictures posted in the chat room, so in December 1999 I created a snow storm down in my basement using rolled cotton from Christmas decorations. I liked it so much that the upper camp is now blanketed by an early fall snow. This time frame is important because the men are not wearing winter clothes.

The snow will continue for the entire switchback and well into the area by the connection to Trout Run and the outside world. Camp Merdoc (pictured below) and the neighboring parts of the layout will be “spared” from the early snow. Hopefully these two different weather scenes will make the layout seem larger; they will certainly allow my trains to run through totally different scenes.

Most of the track is LGB with a minimum radius of about 30 inches. The 5% grades are steep, but certainly prototypical for logging railroads of this era. Space is a consideration for indoor large scale layouts. However, I can run my trains year round, and they're big enough that I’ll still be able to see them as my eyesight worsens with age.

The turnout on the upper switchback is operated by a Switchmaster machine; the others are all operated by paper clips, rubber bands, and string. The trains are controlled by the Aristo-Craft TRAIN ENGINEER system. The upper switchback and lower loop can operate independently. The above photo shows my one-spot delivering the water car to Camp Merdoc on the “finished” part of my largescale layout.

And then Bachmann announced their On30 T-boiler Shay ~ the type of Shay locomotive that I’ve always wanted. This got me to thinking about how much more practical 1:48 scale is for an inside layout. It would still be big enough for a person my age to see, but small enough to fit a lot of action on a long shelf layout. You see, I won’t have a big basement with my next move to Medford Leas, a retirement community. All of a sudden On30 began to make a lot of sense. In August 2002 I saw several models and talked with some On30 Conspiracy members at the 4L Log Jam in Tennessee. I was hooked!

So I bought a Bachmann 0-4-0 Porter and a flat car and started to play around. More locos and rolling stock were slowly added, along with a bunch of O scale people. Just for fun I placed a three-foot piece of HO track between my LGB track and ran a short On30 train on it. The difference between 1:20 and 1:48 is readily apparent!

I decided to move the timetable up to the end of the decade, 1919, so I could have more variety, even some motor vehicles, on the “new” Lazy Acre RR. Keep checking back to see how things develop...

Hey ~ anyone interested in buying some 1:20 stuff? I’m serious ~ go to my sale page.