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 Additional photos of MRL layout from May 09 MR Mag
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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  04:03:34 AM  Show Profile
I was asked to post some more photos of Ernie Poole's MRL layout. So after our last Thursday operating session I set up my camera and I took bunch of photos. It is as it was left after the operating session except that I pulled the "Boeing train" out of staging to feature it in couple of photos. Instead of just trying to be "artistic" I composed the photos to show not just the scenery but also the fascia and other operational parts of the layout.

All the photos were taken in the room's natural (fluorescent) lighting. I used my Nikon CoolPix 8700 digital camera. Lens was set at its smallest aperture (f8) to get maximum depth of field. That caused the shutter speeds to be over 1 second (8 or more seconds under the layout) so the camera was mounted on a tripod and I used remote shutter release.

All the photos posted here are 800x600. A link to a larger photo is included below each image. Use the Model Railroader article to locate each photo's location on the layout and to get the full story about its construction. I was going to use MR's drawing of the layout to locate each photo but I was afraid of violating some copyright laws.

I made an unexpected discovery during this photo shoot: All the LEDs in the photos show their true colors (there is another current thread about difficulties of taking digital photos of LEDs). Seems that my technique caused all the LEDs to be properly exposed.

This is the first glimpse visitors get when they enter the layout room. Straight ahead is Silver Bow with Missoula in the back.

Turning to the right is Garrison. Ernie uses acrylic (Plexiglas) barriers where the trackage is close to the edges of the layout and in other places to protect delicate models. This is a simple idea which came in very handy several times during operating sessions.

This part of the layout has the tallest scenery. Mountain is called "Twin Peaks" (use your imagination as to the meaning). Bridge and snowshed are scratchbuilt. Retaining walls and rocks are Hydrocal castings using rubber molds.

Details of Garrison Junction. M.E. Smith is a kitbash of DPM modular walls and another kit (which I do not recall). The tower and station are laser cut wooden kits. Eventually I'm planning on fully detailing the tower's interior. The Impala SS parked by the tower is modeled after Ernie's car. It was even painted with the actual touch-up paint for his car. He still owns the real car.
That red LED in the signal simply indicates the switch position for the branch line.

Close up of Garrison's Amtrak Depot.

View of the Garrison Yard. Little Debbie bakery is kitbashed from couple of old Model Power (POLA) kits. Ellis Cement is Walther's Medusa Cement. It was slightly modified and brass railings and ladders replaced the kit parts. Most of the signage on this layout was designed and printed on a home PC using Corel Draw. Also visible is the power plant's unloading shed which hides the fact that the loads-in, empties-out tracks disappear into the mountain.

I scratchbuilt Garrison Power plant after being inspired by HO resin kit of this building I saw on the North Shore Model Railroad Club's layout. I drew the plans in AutoCAD then printed paper templates (this was long before laser cutting service was available). The building is basically a clear acrylic cube with all the walls and windows glued to it from the outside. Concrete peaks around the top were resin-cast using RTV mold from a master. Power plant's interior is detailed and lit using fiber optics.

The power distribution station is a Green Max kit with Gold Medal chain link fence. I also photoetched the girders as the kit's parts were molded from solid plastic.

Close-up of Ellis Cement in Garrison. Blocks making up the gravel storage bins were cast from Hydrocal. Backdrop is painted mostly using stencils for the clouds and mountains. Images of buildings are cut out from some commercial printed backdrop.

Moving onto Hoven Mine in Drummond. It was entirely scratchbuilt by Rand Hoven from a painting. The storage building on the left again hides the fact that the tracks go onto the mountain. Lower level tracks are heading towards Logan ("virtually" located far away from Drummond).

Overall view of Logan. Hoven mine is barely visible in the far left corner. Straight ahead is the Montana Tool Building. Tracks on the right (going down) are heading towards Twin Bridges. The black pull-knob visible on the fascia is a train-brake. When activated a Tortoise switch machine extends a metal rod on the side of the track to Hoven Mine to prevent the coal train from rolling down hill.

Lamb Weston French fry plant in Logan is build using DPM walls. Slightly oversize potatoes are being feed into the building using a screw auger in the bottom of the trough. Lamps over the doorways are illuminated using fiber optics. Many roof details are scratchbuilt. Looking at the rooftop sign I just realized that this model was built in 1993.

Poole Fuels in Logan is kitbashed from Walthers kit and various architectural model tank parts. Tanker truck is kitbashed from a Wiking cab with a scratchbuilt tank. Other vehicles are modified Bachmann vehicles.

Logan Machine is a kitbash of Walthers Brach's Candy buildings.

Twin Bridges harbor. Stone retaining walls are from Chooch. Concrete walls are scratchbuilt. Pilings are stained wooden skewers. Envirotex water. IIRC, the ships and buoys are Sylvan Scale models. I know, I should have moved the tug boat further away from the coast line...

This Twin Bridges seen makes you want to join in and relax! Boats, jet skis and the diner are resin kits. Food stand and boardwalk are scratchbuilt (including the picnic tables).

Eye-level view of one of the ends of the yard in Missoula. Amtrak MHC cars will be picked up at the next scheduled stop of the Amtrak train. This photo would be an ideal candidate for the Helicon Focus program to increase its depth of field.

Overall view of Missoula yard. Simplot building is a kitbash from a Walthers kit (since it is modeled as a "flat" we used the rear walls to extend its front facade). Thomas Earle is made up from 2 Walthers kits.

Diesel shop in Missoula. It is a really old building made of wood (I think it was scratchbuild). The brick building is made from DPM modular wall sections. Tank is Bachmann.

Another Missoula landmark. It is constructed from DPM modular walls. Waterfall is made from clear RTV rubber. One of these days we'll tease and roughen those brushes spotting perfect flat-top haircuts!

This is a logging operation in Silver Bow. Kitbash of Walthers kit.

Several horse-back riders are exploring the hills of Silver Bow. Maybe they are waiting for a train to pass by?

Here is a whimsical scene in Silver Bow. The cord is made from orange-painted brass wire.

View of Butte from the yard's throat. Mi-jack cranes are Walthers kits and so is the paper mill in the distance. The paper mill is named Trout Creek Paper division of International Paper (or TCP/IP for the computer geeks amongst us). Also visible in the lower right corner is the main dispatching panel.

Ernie scratchbuilt this loco shed using plans he found in one of the model magazines several years ago. It is illuminated with overhead white LEDs and the inspection pit is faithfully modeled. Ernie often surprises us with detailed mini-scenes he adds to the layout between Thursday night sessions. The cherry picker crew was one of such surprises.

Here is a view of what we call "Boeing train" traveling through Logan. It is a combination of LBF Skyboxes and kitbash and scratchbuilt items. This view of the fascia also shows the train brake plunger I mentioned earlier.

A closer view of the 737 fuselage. I designed the window decals for the fuselage and printed them on my Alps printer.

Now we move onto more technical aspects of the layout.

All the control panel faces are are totally smooth except for the switches. They were designed using Corel Draw. Then they were back-engraved using a computer controlled engraver. They are made of a special 1/8" acrylic material. The top layer is clear while there is also a thin layer of buff-colored opaque plastic on the bottom. It's a sandwich of those two materials. The track plan and lettering is engraved on the bottom side to cut through the cream colored layer. Thus all the engraving goes through the buff plastic and it ends up clear. Then it is painted from the inside. Since only the engraved lines will expose the paint, one doesn't have to be careful when doing the back painting. For the next steps, switch holes were drilled through then the LED locations were partially drilled out from the back (but not all the way through the plastic). LEDs were then superglued from the back. This gives the control panels a very clean look. Most of the larger panels are hinged from the bottom for ease in wiring and servicing.

Ernie is a retired IBM engineer who spend many years in Big Blue's computer rooms. Neat wiring is in his blood!

Here is the main dispatcher's panel hinged out for servicing. Green circuit boards are stationary DCC decoders for several main line switches. This photo also shows the back-engraved and painted panels.

Here is a "Tortoise farm" under Butte. The picture speaks for itself. One of the switch machines is not directly under a turnout because of lack of clearance. It has an extra linkage connecting it to the turnout.

Another area under the layout. We often joke that Ernie has cornered the cable-ties market.

Final photo of my Thursday night photo shoot. Ernie uses suitcase crimp connector to tap the track power from the layout's main DCC buss.

I hope that everybody enjoyed this unofficial visit to Ernie's wonderful layout and the chance to look "under the skirt"!

Edited by - peteski on 2009 April 05 5:34:55 PM

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  07:25:32 AM  Show Profile  Visit dkruse's Homepage
thanks for the additional photos, although I have not yet seen the originals in MR. my subscription ran out in March. Anyway, very nice layout. I especially like the professional looking fascia and tidy wiring. Question: does he have small children or pets that require Plexiglas protection? Seems a bit unusual for a home layout.
Otherwise, very cool.


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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  08:14:26 AM  Show Profile  Visit train1's Homepage
What a great treat to get the inside scoop on this layout - the photos are excellent !
Thanks for your hard work.

Paris Junction
Mile 30.73 Dundas Sub
Paris, Ontario


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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  08:15:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit wm3798's Homepage
Those plexiglass gaurds help keep stout operators from knocking over rolling stocks with their bellies... Don't ask me how I know this...


Mill Street Studios - Custom N Scale Offerings.

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  08:27:34 AM  Show Profile
Mr.Poole certainly has a super looking layout..

Thanks for sharing more photos of a great layout.

Summerset Ry.

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  08:32:19 AM  Show Profile
Thanks for taking the time to "complete" the already very good article in MR . You did very nice pictures .
Thank you very much .


Edited by - trainforfun on 2009 April 04 08:33:20 AM

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Ken Rice

Posted - 2009 April 04 :  08:34:43 AM  Show Profile  Visit Ken Rice's Homepage
It is indeed a great layout. A year or so ago I got to operate on it, and it operates as nicely as it looks. In fact it's the layout that convinced me to go with N scale for my next switching layout project.


My blog:

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  10:25:46 AM  Show Profile
Thank you for posting these pictures. The MR article didn't have enough pictures in my opinion to show what a great layout it is.

Mark in Arizona

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  10:34:27 AM  Show Profile
Thank you VERY much for more pictures! I always like looking at the layouts in MR, I just wish we could have more pictures and details available elsewhere. Like this! That scratch built bridge and snowshed were barely pictured in the magazine, but we got two or three shots of them, and MY they are nice looking!

Thanks again!


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BCR 570

Posted - 2009 April 04 :  10:35:02 AM  Show Profile  Visit BCR 570's Homepage
Thank for sharing these - a comprehensive layout tour. At the Silver Bow lumber mill there is a lumber carrier parked next to the chip loader - any idea who makes that?


Tim Horton
North Vancouver, B.C. CANADA
BCR Dawson Creek Subdivision in N Scale

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  11:01:47 AM  Show Profile
Incredible layout - thanks for sharing


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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  2:09:16 PM  Show Profile
I especially like the "behind the scenes" and "under the layout" photos. We don't get to see otehr layouts from the under side enough to learn from others very often. Thanks for sharing!!

~Donovan in Dallas

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  2:49:45 PM  Show Profile
Great pics of a "work of art".

Thanks for sharing and "inspiring"

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Gary Hinshaw

Posted - 2009 April 04 :  9:11:55 PM  Show Profile
Pete - thank you for taking the time to document this so nicely - including all the bits we don't normally see. The hi-res shots especially bring it to life. The level of workmanship is uniformly very high and the setting looks quite nice. It must be a blast to operate this pike and be a part of this gang.


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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  9:49:22 PM  Show Profile  Visit B_n_O_Hendo's Homepage
Too bad he didn't have much room to work in. :)

Where's the steam excursion train?

The B&O is the Way to Go!
"America's Railroad- the B&O!"

My RailImages site:

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Posted - 2009 April 04 :  10:29:30 PM  Show Profile
Wow , thank you for sharing , and your photography is as outstanding as that layout is beautiful .

Richie Dost Photos

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