Progress on the Lake Erie & Western

Ray Breyer recently sent photos of his layout progress. Since my Wheeling Freight Terminal is not set up, I figured it’s time for a layout feature. Ray is focused upon the First Subdivision, Peoria Division, Lake Erie & Western District of the Nickel Plate Road, circa 1929. Got that? Here’s Ray with some details and photos.

I spent a couple of weeks recently roughing in scenery, dropping feeders, and soldering joints on the layout. These photos document progress along a couple miles of mainline.

Right out of staging, the mainline crosses the Illinois Central with a live interchange just east of Paxton, IL. The IC will go through the wall into staging, which is above the washer & dryer. Once the mainline is fully operational, I’ll punch through the wall here and into the IC staging area, which will be to the left of the corner.

The diamond at Paxton is the east-west dividing line on the layout. Operationally, trains will enter the layout at the interchange heading left (west), make a full circuit of the basement, and will head back into staging to the right of the diamond. The small stretch of track that actually goes over the IC mainline is the continuous running connection, which won’t be used during op sessions.

Immediately to the left of the Paxton interchange is the first town on the line, Oxford, IN. Oxford’s main claim to fame was that it was home to Dan Patch. An occasional horse car will be spotted at the team track here to service the race horse breeding farms in the area.

Past Oxford is about 15 feet of open country running around a corner, to get to the second station on the mainline, Handy, IN. Here the NKP crossed the Big Four, which will be a second live interchange (and again, I still need to punch through the wall here). The interchange track here is long enough to handle eight 40-foot long cars, although it will normally handle ten loaded twin hoppers heading towards the coal barge loading facilities in Peoria.

A prominent feature of mid-west railroads is a fence line along the right-of-way. So far, I’ve strung more than 25 feet of “Bob Waar” fencing between Oxford and Handy, and will have to add at least another 70 feet to the layout in total. Adding this kind of fencing is deceptively easy to do, once you learn the trick.

All you need for this kind of fencing are four things: toothpicks, India ink, black or dark brown sewing thread, and CA. Cut the toothpicks in half and stain them in India ink. Once they’re dry, install them on the layout about 25 to 35 feet from the mainline centerline (railroad rights of way were up to 100 feet wide, but narrowing this to 40 or 50 feet looks better on a layout). Space the toothpicks eight feet apart.

Next, secure one end of the thread to the end of the fence line with a double thumb knot, and slip the “wire” to near the bottom of the pole. Start stringing the line; keep steady but light tension on the thread, and every three of four poles loop the thread around a pole and keep moving; there’s no need to tie a knot at the midpoint loops. Once you get to the end of the fence line, loop the thread around the pole two or three times, and keep tension on the line by hanging a weight on it (I use large tweezers).

Once the first line is threaded, move on to the next two lines and repeat. Once they’re all strung, adjust the spacing on the three strands so they’re relatively even (I use another toothpick for this). Once everything looks good, add a little drop of CA wherever there’s a knot or loop, and trim the excess thread off the ends.

This sounds like finicky work, but it’s not. I can do a four foot length of fence line in 15 minutes. Most of that time is taken up tying knots and spacing the three lines. It’s a fast and cheap detail that really makes a layout stand out.

Next up for me is painting track, adding ballast, and adding a second layer of scenery material. I recently stocked up on Liquitex Matte Medium during a recent 50% off sale at Michael’s; mixing your own matte medium ground cover adhesive is far cheaper than buying the premixed stuff from hobby suppliers. I do need to figure out a good color for the river water, which in Illinois is generally a greenish-brownish muck.

Past Handy, the mainline crosses the IL-IN state line and proceeds to East Lynn, IL, which will be another small town with an elevator, coal bin, and small stock yard. Beyond East Lynn the NKP enters Hoopeston, IL, which is a large Midwestern town featuring several industries, including a very large U.S. Can Company plant. From Hoopeston there will be another long stretch of open country running (about 20 feet worth) to Paxton, another large industrial town.

I’ve found that plugging away on the layout’s scenery a little bit every day is a good way to make fast progress. On weekends I’m able to get 2-3 hours done at one stretch, but during the week even half an hour before I head for bed speeds things along.

One recent night all I did was drill a few holes and solder a dozen feeders. The work took about 30 minutes. I’ll spend the next few days working small blocks of time to hand-paint the track. When I get a larger two hour block of free time I’ll be able to ballast.

Ray Breyer


I thank Ray Breyer for sharing a progress update on his layout. Ray’s advice on using small windows of time to complete tasks will help you make progress, too.

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8 thoughts on “Progress on the Lake Erie & Western”

    1. Ken, those data points and illustrations will be forthcoming in Ray’s next update. We just wanted to offer an early look at his layout. – Eric

  1. thanks for posting…while I was an apprentice at the Monon, saw the NKP roundhouse was right across the tracks there near 30th Street. I recall “stewardship of the lanf” from my studies at Purdue. Beautiful layout…

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