Zarnick’s Butler and Western New York Railroad
article by Ernie Little
Saturday March 30th found members of the Potomac Division attending a
tour of Jim Zarnick’s Butler and Western New York railroad at his home
in Ashburn, Virginia. Thanks to Jim for taking the time to share his
layout with the members of the division in attendance.
Jim started construction on this layout in 2013 and is continuing to
work on completing the track and scenery. His layout models the modern
era using diesel locomotives although he is contemplating having one
steam locomotive on the layout at some time in the future.
This HO scaled layout was designed using CADRAIL to be double track
with continuous running design. The layout is double-decked, of 12 feet
by 35 feet in size, has a helix, and has 225 feet (scale 3.5 miles) of
track. The base of the layout is a combination of
freestanding platform and support members attached directly to the wall
using 1”x4” pine and ½” plywood.
The track bed is a combination of an underlayment material for floors
and cork. This combination appeared to work very well for reducing the
sound of trains moving across the track. Jim used Micro Engineering
flex track for the mainline and sidings on the layout. The main line is
code 83, code 100 in the hidden staging area, and code 70 on the
sidings and yard. One thing of note is that Jim used caulk, not track
nails, to secure his track in place. The switches used on the layout
are manufactured by Shinohara and Peco. Jim used Tortoise motors and a
few ground throws for switch movement.
The layout uses CTI electronics to control the mainline signaling with
JMRI software connected to the NCE operating system to provide track
power and control of the locomotives.
The helix is a four level design using ½” plywood and 1”x4”
supports. The size of the helix is approximately 5 feet in
diameter with 28” and 30” radius curves for the inside and outside
track. The grade on the helix appeared to be easily handled by the
He chose to use small screws and washers on each side of the rail
joiners to secure the track to the roadbed.
An excellent under construction layout and something we will have to
revisit in the future to see Jim’ progress.
Little is a retired Battalion Chief of the Prince William County, VA
Department of Fire and Rescue and resides in Manassas, VA with his wife
Joyce. He has had an interest in model railroading since the mid 1990’s
and has a 12 foot by 20 foot HO scale layout, the Norfolk Southern
Connector, which is freelanced and represents a connector railroad that
runs between two major railroads. He is active in the NMRA achievement
program and has attained certificates in Civil, Electrical, Scenery,
Association Volunteer, Golden Spike, Chief Dispatcher, and is currently
working on meeting the requirements for Cars and Author.