My First Industrial Site for My Planned Layout - A Timber Yard

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK?

Well, I've decided on the first commercial site that will adorn my N Gauge layout, and it will be a timber yard. This was pretty much a done deal (as I had been toying with the idea) when my brother sent me a couple of nice TOMIX log carrying flat wagons...

So far so good, but then to the tricky bit... I don't know anything about how a real timber yard or saw mill works or even what one looks like! Luckily, YouTube was my saviour once again with this introductory video...

A good general overview, but I will still have to do a deep dive on the internet to find out specifics about machinery and different stages of the preparation of timer in order to get my little model mill reasonably correct.

Stage 1 - The Rolling Stock

Naturally the primary aspect and reason for doing this is that it fits into my model railway and the starting point for this would be the rolling stock. As I said, I am lucky to have a jump on this because of the wagons my brother sent me, but two wagons isn't really enough!

Opps, a snag! The couple of TOMIX log wagons Ian got me turn out to be older and now rather rare items. I've searched around and more of these are not to be had, so Plan B. Looking round there are some alternatives, mostly variations of low wall or flat bed wagons used for timber transport...

This is the TOMIX timber carrying version of the TORA 145000
JNR wagon. I already have a couple of the KATO versions of
this wagon (minus the timber). So I could make up a load of logs
to add to these if I require extra wood <smirk>!

However, I would really have liked some more of the TOMIX type of log wagon, the flat car type that can take full length trees or logs. So if I can't buy them can I make some for myself?

Well, as it happens Budget Model Railways seems to have had the same issue and have a 3D printed chassis kit to make a log wagon that can then be attached to a PECO 15 foot wagon kit!

The PECO kits are very good value and I can pick up three for the same price as a flatcar by one of the big model brands. And then, I can further economise my designing my own 3D print for the chassis... This didn't take very long at all...

Hopefully - if I have done my measurements correctly - it should be just a case of my clipping the 3D chassis on top of the Peco wagon. In theory! 😏

Above: Peco's NR-122 15ft wagon chassis kits.

Finally, I have to make the logs myself. This shouldn't be too hard, I can use balsa wood rods or wooden dowels or - for extra realism - some twigs from the local park! (I'll take the opportunity to replace the rather dodgy logs on the TOMIX wagons at the same time, so they all match.)

So, that's my options for the actual rolling stock which will service my saw mill (I'll post the results of my 3D design once printed and checked). As with all of my rolling stock I aim for four wagons of any particular load carrying type to act as an scaled down representation of a train or 'rake'. This reduced size is designed to be in like with the reduced scale of my layout - a microcosm or avatar of a full sized railway.

Next - Planning the Mill

As I said in the beginning of this post, I know nothing about the actual workings of a saw mill. So there's a lot of Googling going on at the moment so I can at least learn some of the fundamentals of what goes to make up a timber processing facility.

The main thing is identifying the separate parts of that facility which represent each stage in the processing of raw timer (logs) into finished timber planks. Hopefully, I'll soon be able to draw up my plan of my small timber yard, with each building plotted out and where they would be with relation to the rail head that serves the mill.

The following video show the general progress of logs to timber, but in a large scale facility, but it does give me some ideas...

And here's some interesting shots of a smaller scale mill in Japan, I'll have to spend some time going through a lot of these types of videos as there isn't one showing the Japanese process from start to finish... Luckily I find these sort of videos interesting!

Of course, this is a lot of work even before I get to the scratch building of the models to make up my timber mill. And, I guess, there's always the option for my to throw money at the problem instead and buy an off-the-shelf N Gauge model instead. Like this wonderful Walthers Cornerstone 933-3236 Mountain Lumber Company Sawmill Kit!

It's superb, has everything I would need, placed correctly and ready to go. It would make a fantastic centre piece to my layout BUT (there's always a but) it's very expensive at £70 and it would deny me the pleasure and satisfaction of making my own model. The other option is to simply use this model as a model (!) for my own build.

(The snag in this model is that it's an American model based on an American mill... Would this be a fitting piece for a Japanese layout? How different are Japanese saw mills?)

I've a LOT to think about!


Edit: I came across this rather useful diagram which shows the process that 'raw' tree logs go through to become timber planks. Obviously, my layout mill will be very small scale but this gives me a template of the stages in production on which I can base my mill layout...

Above: Sawmill process. Source:

In Part 2 of this series of project posts I'll try sketching out a rough layout of what my mill might look like.


  1. Neat videos. I noticed in that last video that the forklift has a stack of scrap lumber on the back to use as cribbing. When the lift operator wants to place anything on the ground, finished lumber or raw tree, he will put a couple scraps of lumber down first and set them on that so that they forklift can easily slide the forks underneath to pick it up again. Interesting detail I will try to model. Cheers!


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