Deer Creek Mine/My new Sierra West Layout

As most of you old timers know, I can't seem to stay in one place for very long. Well, I finally built my retirement home in Georgetown, Texas (just north of Austin), so I'm hoping to stay put for quite some time and build a logging/sawmill free lance layout which will feature many of the Sierra West Kits. In this thread, I will be building the Deer Creek Mine and also posting progress shots of my new layout. I hope you enjoy the journey and as always, I appreciate your comments and critiques.

My "train room" is an upstairs room with a dormer. It's not very large, but the space created by the dormer allowed me to place a killer work area and a staging area. Let's start with my proposed layout which is below.

Train Layout

The proposed bench work will be L-girder and I will have a drop-down bridge to access the middle. I'm too old to go under a "duck under."

When I was designing the room I thought about putting regular kitchen cabinets in, but 24" was just too big. I found a local company who manufactures garage cabinets and could make any size I needed, so I requested 18" depths for the bottom cabinets and designed a second work center so I didn't have to disturb by Sierra West building station that you will see next. I think the cabinets look great and I adorned them with local railroad signs, and yes, the picture you see is Bill, Ken and me in Boston.

Train Room

Train Room 4

The designer of the cabinets also had a great idea for locomotive and rolling stock storage by the use of a slat wall. We found slat wall brackets that could support small shelves and he made two cuts in the shelves for the wheels. It really turned out great. The staging yard will be right below the shelves for easy on and off.

Slat Wall

As I mentioned, I have a separate "Sierra West" building station which features a Dick Blick workbench that has a glass top. It's a great space for building Sierra West kits. BTW, my chalks are in the side drawer.

Train Room 3
Work Bench 2
Work Bench

Now, let's get to the Deer Creek Mine. The directions are great, but I'm also following Bill's great build of the same kit. Between the two, I can't go wrong. As for the wood, I decided to go with a more grey, old look. Please ignore the fuzzies. They will be gone when finalize the tipple.

Treated Wood

As you know, the first step is to build the tipple bents and it couldn't be easier with Brett's acrylic jigs. One word of caution. The jigs are very fragile and you can break them pretty easily. I did. However, nothing that a little CA couldn't cure.

Building the Tipple
Tipple Bent Jig

That's all for now. This is going to be a slow build since I'm building the layout at the same time. I will post progress on both fronts from time to time.



  • Great update Phil. Really enjoy seeing your awesome new setup! Thanks for sharing with us. Will be looking forward to updates on your Mine!
  • No fair Phil. That man cave/layout room is too awesome. Wish i had that space.

    Good start to the build buddy.
  • Looks Great Phil. Are those boxes filled with York Candy...I love those things.
  • Thanks. I'm a lucky man with such a layout room. However, my wife is a smart person. Instead of getting in her hair, she sends me to the train room. BTW, the York peppermint patties are gone. I use it to store Gatorade and Diet Coke caps which are good for paint, glue, etc.. Phil
  • Glad to see you building Deer Creek, Phil. I think you'll really like the new tools and techniques Brett put in this kit. Let me know if I can be of any help as you go along.

    You've got a great looking hobby space! Nothing like a spacious comfortable area for modeling.
  • Bill, I will certainly take you up on your offer. If I can get half the result you did, I will be very happy. Glad to see you back on the forum. I hope the ski season went well. Phil
  • Really nicely done Phil both in negotiating the annex and in the construction itself. Some great SWSM projects are destined to result from such a wonderful work space. I assume the picture is to keep the rodents out!...Ken
  • Very nice, clean and organized
  • Phil
    Can you tell me where you found the slat wall brackets?
  • Oh yes the peppermint patties. Sweet work area.
  • edited October 2016
    Phil nice room you have there. Looking forward to your build.

  • Carl, I got the brackets from Creative Store Solutions. They are called "Mini Wood Shelf Brackets." They are pretty inexpensive, but the shipping costs were almost as much as the brackets. You might be able to call them a negotiate a better price. These places are used to sending out large volumes to stores. Phil
  • Thank You Phil for that info.
  • All,

    I haven't made any progress on the mine, but I have made significant progress on my layout. As you may recall my proposed layout (see above) will feature mostly Sierra West kits. Therefore, the layout has to be as good as Brett's kits. I used Model Railroader "Basic Model Railroad Bench work" as a reference for my L-girder layout. The first step is to develop a scale drawing of my proposed bench work.


    When building an L-girder layout, you're really building tables and joining them together. I also added adjustable feet to the legs. It all starts with the first table:


    Followed by another table:


    Followed by another table and so on:

    I am going to have a drop down bridge and I didn't want there to be any difference in height from one span to another, so I created one girder, put it in place, then put the legs and bracing in place, and then I cut out where the bridge will be.


    Next was the yard, which will be around the corner from the main layout.


    Before I got too far, I needed lights. With the help of my brother-in-law, who is an electrician, I put in track lighting. He gave me a great suggestion. Buy the incandescent light kits that accommodate R20 bulbs and then add LED bulbs. It's cheaper than the LED kits. Boy, do I have the lighting now.


    I've now progressed to where I am adding the joists. Before I put them on the layout, I use my drill press to punch holes for the electrical.


    That's all for now. I'll update as I add more joists and lay down the plywood. Thanks for following my build. Phil
  • Wonderful work Phil! Such a splendid facility for the layout and your craftsmanship appears superb. I assume your going with either HO or HOn3 or both? Early 1900s logging, mining, come on man what's the plan here?? You caged us up with the bench work now you have to feed us....
  • I think it is wise to build the bench work and start adding the structures as you build them.
    I know it's sacrilegious to say something like this here but depending on the structure's position you might skip detailing the parts that can't be seen to make more time for the parts of the layout that can be seen. I think in building a layout the ultra detail that's possible
    can be an empty effort if it can't be appreciated. In your plan it looks like the sawmill will be appreciated from all sides but the railroad camp might not be.
    It looks like you got all the sawdust out of the carpet or your cutting wood in another room and bringing it into this one.
  • Well if that isn't the cat's meow. And you expressed concerns if you could do quality builds and a quality layout. Question answered. I big fat yes.
  • Look's very well done Phil what are you going to do for the backdrop?
  • Thanks for your comments. Ken, it's going to be a timber cutting/sawmill layout in central Louisiana. I prefer the 50s and I believe Brett's kits are still believable in that era, especially in the backwoods of Louisiana.

    Mitch, you state the dilemma that I'm facing. When you put the kit in the layout, do you totally detail out all sides. As for the saw dust, I do most of my cutting in the garage, but there is still some cutting in the train room. A good vacuum cleaner is a must.

    Carl, I'm going with a photo backdrop from my good friend Joey Ricard at Trackside Scenery. I want a lot of trees and I plan to place trees in front of the backdrop so you can't tell where the photo stops and the real trees begin.

  • Very, very nice Phil!! You are on the way to a wonderful layout. Getting Joey's backdrop will be special as he does wonders with them. Keep up the great photo's and posts and thanks for sharing.

  • Looks great Phil. Those photo backdrops are the way to go.
  • Thanks Bill and Steve.
  • Continuing on my layout build. The next step is to lay the joists to support the plywood base. At the beginning it will be flat, but this provides the base to draw out the track plan. Then I will start cutting out the various tracks and elevate them according to the plan.

    This step is probably the hardest because once done, it's hard to change. Therefore you want to be right. I have a buddy Burt who taught me how to envision the track plan by using various curves made out of hardboard. It really helps. You will see my progression below.


    I made a lot of progress, but I'm out of plywood, so it's back to Home Depot for more. Thanks for checking in on my build. Phil
  • Great work Phil. Just like's all in the preparation. Again, what a wonderful space.
  • That's going to be really nice!
  • Phil
    I used a real thin one inch wide peace of wood and it will flex to the curves and works well if you can not get it to make a round curve then it is to tight. I got this tip from Dick Ewell he has the Hoosic Valley RR. The strip was about 15 ft long and it gives you a true look at your up coming track work. I made a big mistake by not setting the structures in place first.

    Just my 2$ worth
  • That's a lot of progress there, Phil! I love L girder bench-work because of the flexibility it allows you.
    Have you kicked around the idea of using splines for the subroadbed? I made mine out of Masonite strips that I laminated together. You get nice smooth curves like Carl was talking about abov and it makes it easy to change and adjust elevation.
    These are lousy pictures, but here's a look at how I used them on my layout:



    Here's a link to a S-B-S on spline construction:
  • Thanks Carl and Bill. You guys have way too much confidence in me. I like the idea of a spline roadbed, but that is way too ambitious for me. I plan to do cookie cutter with risers. As for smooth curves, I use the hardwood radius to ensure smooth curves and this worked great on my last layout. Carl, I also plan to make copies of all the Sierra West kit layouts and place them on the layout so I can get the tracks in the right spot for each. I also have Mike Engler's pictures of his great layout as a guide. The next step for me other than finishing the plywood top is to conquer the drop-down bridge. Phil
  • Phil, your layout bench work is looking VERY good. You are going to have a wonderful layout! It is going to be great to follow this construction.

  • I have taken advantage of the holidays to start working on the track plan and track for my layout. The first big challenge is the drop-down bridge. I know folks have a dim view of MR, but when it comes to help with a layout, MR Video is really good. I followed a design for a drop-down bridge and it turned out very well. I used micro switches that will cut the track power when the bridge is down. BTW, the scratch marks on the copper are necessary to isolate the circuit for each rail.


    The next phase is the layout of my train yard as it leads to the drop-down bridge. As you can see, I carefully laid it out using pins to make sure everything fit correctly. Also, to test my track and turnouts while I'm under construction, I use an old DC transformer with alligator clips to temporarily power the track to test it. It works really great.


    Thanks for checking in on my progress. Happy New Year!!

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