Lowell Walters

Waltersville, Pennsylvania

A Small N-scale Community

Welcome to my layout!

My model railroading experience starts a good sixty years before I was born when my grandfather, Eli Walters, found employment with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona, PA. According to family oral history, when my grandfather was just a kid, he carried drinking water to the men who maintained the secondary Muleshoe line which roughly followed the topography of the Allegheny Portage Railroad of the early nineteenth century Pennsylvania Canal System.


During his 44 years of service, my grandfather apparently held a number of different appointments, including a long stint in the Altoona Car Shops. One of his final assignments was to assist in the construction of the yard for the Samuel Rey shops in Holidaysburg, PA. I have several uncles and cousins who have either retired from or continue to work in the Juniata or Sam Rey (now closed) shops. One cousin is an engineer for Norfolk Southern and has run the grade of the Horseshoe Curve countless times.

Ironically, my father found work in a prestressed concrete products plant owned by New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co., an industry directly related to highway construction. In 1972, he gave me my first electric train set. He opened an Exxon credit card account and received a HO-scale Union Pacific 4-6-2 set built (by Mantua, I believe) for Tyco.

Over the next 13 years, he bought me many toy train sets and accessories until we were running trains on 13 separate ovals of track. We ran trains on top of trains by creating our own system of hammerhead columns to elevate the lines. We had a 10’ x 10’ portable layout that we ran from Christmas Eve until roughly Easter each year.

In the early 1980’s my attention turned to N-scale. I bought a little Bachman set and tacked the oval of track to foam insulation. I could then "play" anytime, anywhere. Then came college and I laid model railroading aside for a while.

Thanks to Woodland Scenics, I re-entered the hobby in 1999. As a kid I never really thought I had the ability to make realistic scenery. When I discovered the Woodland Scenics learning kits, I thought, "Maybe I can do this." I bought an N-scale diorama learning kit and was very pleased with the results. I zealously readopted the hobby and focused on learning to make my scenery more realistic.


In 2000 I bought Woodland Scenics’ Scenic Ridge layout, the accompanying Design Preservation Models structure kits, and the corresponding track pack from Atlas. The 3’ x 6’ layout is made of Styrofoam and plaster shell. These materials do not require woodworking talents or tools so I was able to get off to a good start very quickly with minimal capital costs.


I was living in Bloomer, Wisconsin when I started the layout in late 2000. The summer of 2001 brought a move to Lynchburg, Virginia. At that time the sub terrain work had been completed and the track had been laid. I built a crate for the layout and shipped it cross-country to our new home in Virginia.

After unpacking, in 2002 I was able to finish structures, construct streets and roads, wire lighting, and start applying foliage such as grass, bushes and trees. One of the most satisfying touches was to add two small water falls. The Woodland Scenics’ Water Effects product really did a nice job and made easy work of the task. For the next 18 months I took my time making tress and bushes and adding small details such as people, animals and vehicles.

The layout is freestyle but "focused" on the last 25 years of the Pennsylvania Railroad (1943-1968). It is set in Central Pennsylvania (fictional Waltersville) during the late spring as the purple lilac bushes, white blossomed trees, and patches of yellow dandelions hopefully indicate.

Although I continue to add vehicles, and I may add a backdrop, the layout is for the most part "finished." A person with a lot of free time could have put the layout together in several weeks or months. I chose to plug away at it between church, Little League and school activities and family outings. Thus, it took me years instead of months.


Currently I am working on a 4’ outside corner module with the Lynchburg N-scalers. When finished, it will be set in rural Pennsylvania during the fall. It will feature a gas station, a rural house, and a church with an adjacent cemetery. Two small waterfalls and a pond will be featured in the scenery.

A special thanks to Tim Hammack and Jack Vormittag. Tim built the benchwork of the module in one long evening while I occasionally held a board. Jack was a great help in quality control relating to N-TRAK standards and he was of great assistance in laying track and wiring. I look forward to doing the scenery this winter.

Posted November 2005