So You Don’t Have to Wait Until Next Year’s Train Show

This weekend that we’re just ending would’ve been the 2020 Lincoln Square Village Train Show, regrettably cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the historical societies and vendors of model trains, one of the show’s most popular features are the operating layouts.

Some are crowd favorites, returning year after year. It’s always good to see new layouts and last year this included Thomas Northway’s Tuscola Belt Way, a 4×8 based on the railroads of Tuscola. It was going to be a part of this year’s show, with several improvements made since last year’s show, where it’s pictured at here.

Thomas operating the TBW at 2019 LSV Show

This year’s show also would’ve seen the debut of something old and something new in narrowgauge layouts. Over the last month or so, I’ve been restoring the late Bob Miller’s HOn3 Loon Lake module. It’s notable for its exquisite hand-laid track that gently curves from one turnout to the next. I matched its numbered legs up to the correct inserts, figured out how to tap into its wiring, repaired several of the attached structures, then added a NCE UTP panel so it could be networked and a shelf to make things handier when on display at shows.

Loon Lake connects to a new 4×8 HOn3 portable layout that I constructed via the bridge you can see in the upper right corner of the pic above. While Loon Lake provides lots of switching actio, my 4×8 provides a chance to to run, which the crowds like to see. It may be roundy round, but for many that’s entrancing enough to watch . The combination of the two modules is a line I like to call the Millertown & Loon Lake

There’s not much scenery yet, but I have plans. The mountainous viewblock looks better from other angles and is a work in progress as I intend to add at least one more layer of foam board on each side. Thinking about some movable mountainsides that could also be plopped down. But the real goal here isn’t so much a perfect layout but a good display layout. It will be available for division members to display their own structures, like the Millertown depot of an AHM kit I did a very light kit-bash of when I constructed it. Mostly, for now it will be displaying and operating the Miller collection, some which is seen in the next pic.

The connection to Loon Lake is in the corner of the 4×8 that is cut-off on the right side of the pic above. It’s just a very plain bridge section to fill the gap, but may be replaced later by an actual bridge helping to fill the gap.

The whole thing connected together is right about 16′ so takes up about 2 standard table spaces. It was kind of crowded in out dining and living rooms while it went together. Here’s a pic of how the panels of Genesis PVC ceiling tiles serve as building blocks for this layout and allow for it to be broken down to more conveniently travel.

Framework holds Genesis ceiling panels, but breaks down for travel.

The other secret is using the Kato Unitrak-style system in the form of Blackstone Protraxx to act as connectors between section and to pass power between the panels. Combined with the power routing and gaps built into Micro Engineering HOn3 turnouts, this makes it easy to wire.

Having missed this year’s cancelled train show in Urbana, the next opportunity on a very disrupted show schedule to see the Millertown & Loon Lake should be at the Tolono Public Library in early December if things hold together. Of course, if next year’s LSV Train Show comes together as we hope, it will be there. Now that we do have some portable display layouts available in the division, it gives us new flexibility and opportunity for public outreach. If your train show would like a little narrowgauge included, drop us a line at and we’ll see if we can make that happen.