Category Archives: Test Layout

PC&N Mini Layout Benchwork Structure

This is the proposed structure of the PC&N Mini layout benchwork.  View is from the top.


The benchwork will be a sandwich made up of a pine or spruce frame with Homasote serving as the surface.  The top image is for the right 10′ of the layout.  The bottom image is for the left 10′ of the layout.

This structure will be hinged to the wall using piano hinges, so it can be rotated down into vertical position to enable the full width of the hallway to be used when needed.  When in horizontal position, the shelf will be supported with diagonal braces that run from close to the front end of the layout to the wall.  These braces have not been designed at this stage.

The support boards that are displayed as 3″ wide boards that run from the front edge to the rear edge of the layout serve four functions:

  • Structural support for the benchwork.
  • Support under the Homasote surface.
  • Places to mount support brackets.
  • A place to mount barrier strips that implement the track bus and connections to tracks and other items requiring electrical connections on the layout.

It is anticipated that the wood portion of the structure will be finished to match the knotty pine car siding serving as wainscoting along the wall to which this layout will be mounted.  Materials needed include:

  • 1 – 4’x8′ sheet of Homasote
  • 4 – 10′ 1″x2″ Pine or Fir
  • 2 – 10′ 1″x4″ Pine or Fir
  • Kreg Screws
  • Carpenter glue

PC&N Mini Layout Switch Throws

I had originally planned on powering the operation of the switch machines directly with Tortoise switch machines with an appropriate DCC decoder sending signals to the machine.  Then practicality reared its ugly head.

The PC&N Mini Layout needs to fold down into vertical position in order to provide adequate clearance for moving objects through the 4 foot wide hallway in which it is installed.  The Tortoise machines have the potential of sticking out below the edges of the shelves on which they are mounted.   This would mean they would prevent the shelf from rotating to full vertical position.

This problem could be solved by making the shelf sides sufficiently tall to prevent the switch machines from protruding.  An additional problem is that I’m not sure Tortoise machines can be mounted directly to Homasote.  A plywood layer below the Homasote would solve that problem.  But these modifications add to the weight of the shelf.  Ideally the shelf will be kept as light as possible to prevent it from being ripped off the small piece of trim to which it will be attached.  Then there is the matter of the Tortoise and stationary decoder combined cost which could easily be $350.

To be perfectly honest it is a bit extravagant to power switches when they are all within 10″ of the edge of the layout.  So I began to consider manually thrown switches.  Of course that puts me with the NCE Power Cab stuck in the middle of a 20 foot long layout with the need throw switches at the ends.  That is not as big a deal as it seems as it is unlikely a switch will be less than 3′ from the end of the layout and the Cab can be parked while the switches are being thrown.  If that becomes too big a hassle, for less than the $350 I would have spent automating switches, I can upgrade to the NCE 5 amp booster with power supply and implement full walk around capability in the test layout.  That may seem like overkill but the Booster and Power supply might be installed as a portable unit that could be used on multiple layouts.

I chose to go with the Caboose Industries 220S HO throw as it has the contacts to power the frogs of my Micro Engineering turnouts.  I may also be able to wire a switch status panel with LEDs using that throw.


Implementing the PC&N Mini layout in this way will allow me to experiment with how to handle turnouts that are easily reached on the PC&N layout.  A combination of manual and DCC controlled switches may be the way to go.  At this point 10 of the Caboose 220S manual switch controls are on order.

PC&N Mini Layout Track Laying Order

Well, I pulled the trigger on a track order for the PC&N Mini Layout today, following the track laying guidelines for both the Mini and PC&N layout.  The order included.

  • 24 3′ sections of Micro Engineering Code 83 ON30 track.
  • Four left hand Code 83 ON30 turnouts.
  • Four right hand Code 83 ON30 turnouts.
  • Code 83 track joiners
  • Code 83 insulated track joiners
  • Track nails
  • A three pliers set including Zircon cut off pliers, Nail insertion pliers, and nail removal pliers.

The track and turnouts should cover the majority of my needs for the Mini layout.  I guess I need to get working on the track plan.

PC&N Mini Layout – DCC Control

This thread documents the installation of DCC control on my PC&N Mini Layout.  As indicated on the PC&N controls page, I elected to go with the NCE Power Cab System which I ordered from Power Hobby for just under $150 including shipping.



In this series of posts I will document installation and testing of this system on my modeling bench.