Readers Model Train Layouts: Lou

I receive a lot of pictures and stories from readers about their model train layouts. I love getting stuff like this from you guys, it’s always great to see what other people are doing.

This week I thought I’d share an email and some pictures that I received from Lou last week. Lou is a Pastor in Washington, Indiana and has kindly has given me permission to share his pictures and story here.

Dear Dan,


I am glad you were able to find my photos. I wish I had a better camera and more experience in that field but I use what I have available. Trains have been an interest of mine as long as I can remember. The first Christmas gift I remember getting was a push train. In Kindergarten I got an HO train which of course didn’t last very long. A few years later I got my first Marx set which included a figure 8, two trains, and a semaphore to control the crossing. In 6th I graduated to Lionel and since the budget was always lean I had to depend on Christmas and birthdays to add to my collection.


Trains were put on hold during college and seminary however having graduating, I decided to go to HO since it was truer to scale and a whole lot cheaper! I have had layouts of various sizes in my first three churches but never was able to do much in the line of scenery. When moving to my fourth church, I had the privilege for the first time to purchase a home and it had a basement room that had been added on and was used for a garage/shop. After making needed repairs and upgrades in the house, in the Spring of 2004 I started work on my train room by removing the garage door, insulating and sheet rocking the walls, installing a suspended ceiling and lights and starting the framework of the layout. The layout is about 20′ long and 10′ wide on one side and 12′ foot on the other. It is shaped somewhat like a G. This time I choose to use Atlas code 83 track and switches. My curves go from minimum of 22″ to maximum of 34″. I have a double main line that runs around the outside of the layout and a secondary line that rises about 8″ above the main line. I used woodland scenic Styrofoam risers (3%) to make the transition upward and downward. I have painted the sides of the track and ballasted it with medium mixed gray ballast.


The scenery is mostly Styrofoam sheets with sheet rock mud used to cover them. The deciduous trees were built for the most part with Sunvista Tree Armatures. I like these better than woodland scenics because there seemed to be more branches to work with and more importantly, off the base of the tree is an extension about 2″ that makes planting trees in Styrofoam quick and easy. To glue the clump foliage to the armature was a challenge at first, however this was quickly resolved when my daughter introduced me to Aleene’s fabric glue which you get at Wal-Mart and craft stores. It is clear and has the ability instantly secure the foliage. I have used it with wood and other materials and even a touch of it works well to hold figures in place.

I model the Erie Lackawanna because I grew up around the EL lines. Even when in college I used to watch the trains run from the Library window when studying. I have probably 100 cars, mostly Athrean, Atlas, Model Power, etc. Most are the blue box type kits of earlier years. I have upgraded them all with additional weight, metal wheels, and Kadee couplers. My freight train runs about 40+ cars at any given time. The layout is wired DC and does not look like I will be making any upgrades to DCC anytime in the future. My engines are a mixture of Athrean, Atlas, and Bachmann.


I have done some scratch building and kitbashinging with some of my buildings. Many have floors installed and lights for future use. One trick I picked up that makes gluing ground cover and ballasting simple is attaching a sprayer head to a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I put the ballast in place, then I wet the ballast well with the rubbing alcohol which usually does not disturb the ballast. Then I use a dropper with white glue and water. The alcohol allows the glue to quickly and easy penetrate both the ballast and scenery.


At present I have about 2/3 of the scenery done and I hope to complete most of that by the end of this year. I enjoy all aspects of the hobby from building kits, working on cars, tweaking engines, and running the trains. Two years ago I decided to make my layout available to the public as part of the local historical society’s annual Rail Fest. The town of Washington had been a B&O town for many years. Southern Indiana does not have many who are into model trains and as far as I know I am the only one in town that has a sceniced layout. The open house went well and I did a repeat this year. The local paper did a front page write up on the layout including additional information on the inside pages. I have attached a copy of the article.


I am a full time pastor who supplements his income with a part job of developing websites. I also teach two courses a year on line for a Bible institute out of New Jersey. I try to get in 5-6 hours a week on the trains. Not enough as far as I am concerned but better than nothing. I just updated my pictures on my website. I have done some additional improvements to my layout since I took the original pictures. I need to be back over the whole layout and take a number of new pictures.

Thanks for taking a look at my work.

Lou Showers

You can see more of Lou’s model train pictures on his site here

Photo 02 Photo 04 Photo 24 Image11 Phtoto 27

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