This page is one in a series on the buildout of an N scale model railroad depicting the Cajon Pass area in Cajon, California. We are modeling from roughly CP Walker to Sullivan’s Curve.  You can find the main table of contents for all the articles in the series HERE.

Welcome to Model 160 and we hope you enjoy the project!


I’ve decided to try and get caught up a bit on updates as I’ve been itching to make more timely posts as things happen, so Part 2 here is going to be a bigger one and a lot of show and tell photos. So let’s get started. First the track plan for reminders:


I have some generic home depot cabinet bases with a Formica top that I originally thought I was going to keep under the layout. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was a poor use of space under there as the drawers would be nearly impossible to use and the counter top would be basically worthless just mere inches under the layout. So I started pulling them out and relocating them to a different part of the basement:

Pulling the cabinets out made me realize that I only “finished” the plywood shiplap boards to the counter top level as I couldn’t reach that space. So now I had another minor project in cutting, nailing and painting that section of the wall to finish it off.  You can see in the upper right that I had started attaching shelf brackets to the wall. I used 18″ Rubbermaid shelf brackets that I got from Home Depot for this part of the layout. These are rated to hold 250 lbs. each which should be just fine for the distributed weight. On the sections where I need to come out from the wall more than 24 inches I either anchored one of the box sections to the wall, the ceiling (coming up below) or I built a 45 degree bracket to install later.

Next up I wanted to clamp up some masonite hardboard in the corner where I have to deal with ductwork that was retrofitted to this house:

Here I’m trying to get an idea of how far a single 8 foot long piece of hardboard will stretch across this area. I also want to visualize where I’m going to curve the masonite in on the right side. This is the part of the layout where the Cajon Pass area will meet up with the Scenic Sub. As the Cajon Pass section comes in through the tunnels that pass under I-15, there is an opportunity to have the backdrop wrap all the way around. However, after clamping it up, this area got very cramped. You can see where the shelf brackets are on the lower left and the benchwork on the right. In the end I felt like keeping this area more open would improve the overall feel of this corner. So as you’ll see later, the backdrop will wrap around and meet up with the backdrop on the Scenic Sub side. I’ll provide a scene block via scenery rising up between the two sections. This will also facilitate a better backdrop for photos and such of trains coming out of the tunnels as opposed to an abrupt cutoff that would never look right on the backdrop.

Moving on to the Sullivan’s Curve portion of the layout, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the best way to approach the fact that trains will disappear off the layout on the south end of the curve. The double track will go beneath the layout and go through a turnaround loop. The single track will also go beneath the layout, but circle around under the layout back to staging. So I needed to think carefully about supports, grades and the pass-under clearances. I decided to that if I cut out some foam roadbed mocked up to represent the track itself, I could better visualize and sort out where everything will fit. So I slid the 18″ shelf brackets into their wall mounts and screwed in a piece of dimensional lumber on the top surface of each bracket:

I discovered that I could still remove the bracket with the board attached if I left a few millimeters of room, which meant I could temporarily install them and sort out heights later. So I installed the three brackets in the Sullivan’s curve section at equal height:

Then I took a 4×8 sheet of 1 inch pink foam insulation and laid it on top so that I could use some nails and strips of masonite to get an idea of curves and easements leading into this area:

and from the other angle:

(Note my pile of foam “rocks” at the top of the curve…). While I had originally used track planning software to draw this area out and see how large I could go with the curves (I wanted minimum of 18″ on the inner-most curve), I still wanted to see how this would look. I’m also trying to sort out the compromise of track/curve width versus scenery space around it.  After finding a line that looked right, I then marked the center line of the masonite track path and cut the foam to represent the dual track and single track sections:

While this added step isn’t necessary for some people, I just seem to be able to work better visually looking at things a bit. This foam won’t be used as  the roadbed, I’m just using it to help sort out grades and whether this flows visually.  Now, if you remember from our last update on this project, I talked about how Sullivan’s Curve in real life is around 1,800 feet across.  In N scale that’s about 11 feet (!). Above you can see where it comes out at about 5 feet (which is more than half compressed). If it was closer to 11 feet it would look like this:

So yes, while I thought dedicating 48 inches sounded like a lot, you can sadly tell that this is going to be compressed quite a bit. I’m crossing fingers still that this will look ok in the end, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m worried a bit about this compromise. I need enough aisle space to reasonably get through and I’m already looking at having hatch access to get to the far corner of Sullivan’s Curve. In the end, with the facia installed on the front and measured to the backdrop, this scene ended up being 54″ deep.

The next thing to deal with is the large double sided backdrop behind Sullivan’s Curve. I want the backside to be finished in addition to the large wrap around backdrop on the layout side. First I attached a 90 degree bracket to the ceiling down to the benchwork which will help support the long span of the shelf bracket.  I clamped up more masonite hardboard and started plotting out how this would work and how far a sheet would get me:

And here is the layout side with a little visual for help:

I also need to add supports for the layout side of the backdrop and where my hardboard sheets would begin and end:

Measurements were taken and pieces were cut and installed on the aisle side:

On the layout side, I installed small blocks of wood to keep the gap between the top and bottom sheets of masonite aligned and also to have something to screw into on the backdrop side. I also installed 90 degree metal brackets to hold up the bottom sheet of the backdrop at the proper height to blend into the wall. Each of the vertical dimensional lumber pieces is screwed into the ceiling joists and this section is now quite strong and doesn’t budge:

From there I cut the backdrop pieces next and counter sunk the screws into place:

The end where the back and front pieces meet was glued up and will get sanded later:

While that was drying, I went ahead and finished installing the backdrop hardboard:

Because of the reach-in distance, I haven’t finished adding the curved parts of the benchwork. Once the backdrop is completed, I’ll go ahead and construct those areas. Here is a quick time-lapse video of the rest of the backdrop installation:

And here is the finished area with initial coat of spackle to hide the screws in the masonite hardboard:


Next up is paint and roadbed. Thanks for following along!




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Cajon Pass Table of Contents Cajon Pass Project Part 3