Pizzatopia – an HOn30 Micro Layout

For the last couple years, the e-magazine The Micro Model Railway Dispatch and the Facebook group Micro Model Railroad Cartel have been hosting an annual layout/modeling challenge they call their “Christmas Challenge”. The name is just because you have to complete it by the end of the year, not Christmas themed (although you can do that if you like). For 2023 they decided to do a Pizza Layout Challenge. The exact rules can be found on the FB group and in the Spring 2023 edition of the Dispatch.

Hmmm, a simple Pizza layout, I can do that. keep it simple (not my forte) but I thought doable. I would have to think about it for a while though. At no more than 24×24 it will have to be a small gauge for sharp turns. After months of “thinking about it” I finally broke ground (well um foam) in August 2023. Yeah, as usual I had procrastinated a bit…

I have a number of HOn30 and OO9 equipment which was sitting idle. I buy it when I see it at a fair price and always though “I could do something with that”. here was the opportunity to finally do something that I can use that equipment on. I started with a 2″ foam square of 23″. I made it just short of 24″ to ensure I did not exceed the 4 square foot maximum requirement for a micro layout. From there I added a additional 1″ foam pieces to create the base level of the track and creating the depressions for the harbor and the inlet. Hmmm, was this supposed to be simple??

After building the base, I added the loop of track and two turnouts to give some operational reason for the railroad. To give the layout a better profile and keep it from looking flat, I added additional thin foam pieces around the layout and in the corners. I used hotwire to get the basic shapes and then used DAS modeling clay to smooth out the transitions.

OK, so I have a loop, I have some features, but I still had not come up with a theme. I started using some kits I had and test fitted them into various positions. Because I was using “left overs” from other projects they were not very cohesive. That is when I thought I would use that as part of the design and came up with Pizzatopia where all locations were pizza parlors. One for each style of pizza in the eastern US, New York, Chicago and Detroit. Each unique building would house a unique pizza style. My family was not impressed with my idea, but I pressed on!

The only buildings not strictly for the production of pizza are the train depot (which is why we are here) and the Coal/Fuel supply dealer (which supplies the pizza ovens with fuel). The dock area supplies Pizzatopia with ingredients from afar and allows people to visit as well. Yes, total fantasy but a challenge and fun to build in just three months!

With the deadline for the contest looming, I worked every night on the project layout. My usual persistence for details had to be curbed. “I do not need interior details on every structure” I told myself. I did not always listen and wasted time in a few areas. I did not like the raw foam and added thin plywood to the side, cutting them to follow the contours of the land. the harbor and the inlet were especially challenging for me.

I scratch built the dock for the layout but I would not be able to finish the landforms around the bay until the dock was in place. Since the dock sat in the water, I would not be able to put it in place unless I did the water first. I had planned on doing the water last as the other scenery will be messy and it would be a challenge to keep the water tidy. With the deadline looming, I took the plunge and created the water using Gloss Modge Podge. I then set the trestle and the dock in place before it hardened. The water looked great but would it stay that wait (foreboding music here).

With the dock and trestle in, I was able to move forward with scenery and track ballast. As per my normal, I used alcohol to pre-wet the ballast and scenery elements. The alcohol managed to get into the Modge Podge water and took most of the gloss away from the water. There was also some errant wet glue which migrated down hill and covered the water in spots. Oh, I thought I was done on that day!

After an overnight pause to let it all dry and take another look, I found all was not lost. Most of the water had regained some of its shine and I figured another coat should make it all better. from here it was a mad rush to add scenery items, trees, people and all the little things that bring a layout to life.

In the end my family really likes the out come and I hope you do as well. I expect to be showing this layout at some of the local Michigan shows in the near future. OH, the contest, well, looks like I came in second. I am very happy with that.

Author: Marshall Stull

4 thoughts on “Pizzatopia – an HOn30 Micro Layout

  1. Excellent! I really like the theme and the modeling. Please tell me more about the small green and yellow depot. Kit? Scratch built? or ??

    1. The little depot is an HO Scale – Flag Depot “Diecast Metal KIT” – D239 made by Woodland Scenics. you can still pick them up on eBay. I got this one as an open package at a train show for a couple bucks.

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