'Area 51' Groom Lake, NV. My Old Layout


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In 2005, I got back into railroading after a break of 23 years flying R/C aircraft. The layout was built for exhibitions, and measured 6 x 2 feet. It had two tracks, one simple oval and a figure eight with a helix to change track height in the limited space.


It was a good practice after years out of the hobby, but operations were limited on the small layout, and it was soon sold on Ebay and a replacement built. The replacement was 'Area 51'.

Because of my aviation and military interests, the new railroad had a military theme, and that was a small goods yard at the secret 'Area 51' base at Groom Lake, NV. Military vehicles, troop trains and aircraft would all feature on the layout.

The new layout followed a similar track plan, but the board size was increased to 8ft x 2ft 6in, built in two stackable sections for transport, as this was another exhibition layout. All the buildings were scratch built, and some rolling stock was scratch built or repainted.

The layout featured a goods yard at the airbase, next to the hangars. The hangars concealed a small hidden yard, and the incline for the figure eight track.


To the right of the hangars was the airfield apron, with aircraft being prepared. At the right end of the layout was a radar site on the hill which partially enclosed a helix. It was more interesting having part of it exposesd.

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This is the entrance to the airfield Admin site. All the track and points are Peco with Peco solenoid point motors. The layout was operated on DC with Gaugemaster Controllers.


and a higher view of the yard.


Looking along the yard towards the tunnel under the radar site.

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An SR-71 Blackbird is running up on the apron. Red flickering LED's were mounted in the tail pipes. The emergency vehicles on stand by are a mixture of scratch built and white metal kits. The Jeep and Dodge Weapons Carrier Ambulance are the kits, while the GMC Fire truck and wrecker are the scratch builds.


Next to one of the old hangars is a dismantled B-29 Superfortress. The fork lift truck and GMC truck convoy are more scratch builds.


The aircraft on the apron showing the glowing exhausts of the SR-71 and the taxiway lights.

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Looking back into the yard from the radar site. The A frame crane was scratch built from brass sections soldered up.


Close up view of the F-104 Starfighter. The apron was made from scribed styrene, spray painted, then stained with dirty brush thinners.


A long exposure as a troop train comes through on the inner line.


Above the yard, looking towards the radar site.


The layout went to one exhibition where a member of the public took a fancy to it. It was sold soon after along with much of the rolling stock. These were all fitted with Rapido couplers, and as I was just changing over to Microtrains couplers, I didn't mind letting them go.

It was a fun layout to build and operate, but I really wanted a steam layout. The sale of Area 51 gave me the money and space for a larger steam layout which was started in 2006.
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Actually, the new one is also an old one, as that got sold too, but I will dig out some photos of that one and post them up!
Thanks guys. Here's a few more scenes around the layout.

Anti-aircraft defences.

Some of the radar site buildings.

Operations block in the radar site. The big sign was made on the computer from photos of real signs, reduced and then printed on photo paper. This was then fixed to sheet styrene with double sided tape.
One of the yard control towers was built up on a 1mm clear styrene box.

This was then clad in wood plank effect styrene with openings cut where the windows and doors would be.

The finished building.
This GMC CCKW353 truck was a resin casting from a mould I made. It has a No 7 set crane scratch built on the back, rather than the normal canvas body.

The finished truck.

This fuel tanker was scratch built using the same GMC cab and chassis.

The warehouse and 'A' Frame crane. The platform was made with individual 1/16 x 1/64 ply planks. The strips of around 12 inches long were stained with different shades of dirty brush thinners with a little brown paint. They were then cut slightly over size, mixed up, and then stuck down to a piece of masking tape face down. Another strip of ply was then glued to the back to hold them all together, and once dry, the masking tape was peeled away.



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The radar/satellite dish was made from aluminium car body repair mesh. This was pressed into a vacformed mould, trimmed to size and attached to the rest of the structure.



I needed several extra flat cars for a train load of military vehicles. A few I made by using old boxcar chassis, with a wood plank deck added


The others were cast in resin from a silicone mould. The first one out had a large air bubble in the chassis rail, but the others came out fine after working the resin around the mould with a pointed stick.


Wooden decks were then added, attached with cyano.

They were then painted and wheels added.


Dodge Weapons Carriers and an anti-aircraft gun can be seen on this flatcar, with a GMC truck on the next one.

I'm sure seeing other peoples layouts and ideas inspires and motivates all of us. I'll be starting another thread shortly for my last layout, 'Storage Depot 41, Kingman, AZ'. That name may give a clue to the theme of that layout. I'll go into a little more depth with that one rather than just showing finished results. It was larger again than Area 51, but also an exhibition layout.