NEONS Layout Set-up Information
Updated 7/7/2015

Download complete Layout Set-Up Information

General Information

  • For each show there will be someone assigned to the position of NEONS Layout Coordinator. This individual will be responsible to see that all the tasks identified in this document are completed and completed properly.
  • If you are assigned or volunteer for a specific task, let the coordinator know when you have completed it. If you don’t understand what you are supposed to do, ask for help. Don’t guess. It takes less time to explain how to do it right the first time than it does to indentify and fix a problem later. If for some reason you are unable to complete the task, it is important that you let the coordinator know that the task is incomplete and to identify what is done and what remains to be done.
  • Tools and Supplies. We have two tool boxes, Red and Black. They are stored in the blue cabinets on the shelf above the clamp box. All other tools and supplies are in the supply cabinet. Please return all tools and unused supplies to their proper storage place when you are through with them.
  • If you accidentally break or damage something or find something that is broken or damaged, inform the coordinator so it can be fixed before the show if it is critical or before the next show if it isn’t critical.
  • Fearless Leader and Razor each have a key to the supply cabinet. It will be locked when the layout is not operating.
  • There is a red loose-leafed binder in the supply cabinet that has everything you need to know in it, including: simplified layout diagram, detailed layout diagram, skirting plan, LocoNet cable plan, travel check list, truck pack diagram, cabinet pack diagram, truck loading suggestions, layout set-up information, layout teardown information, layout operating information, DCC startup procedure, etc.


  1. Unlock the Supply Cabinet.
  2. Erect Modules
    1. Remove only those modules that will be used in the layout.
    2. SAFETY FIRST! As modules are removed from cabinets, watch out for legs that may have become unlatched. If they have become unlatched, the legs will drop once pulled from the cabinet slot and can pinch fingers.
    3. Position cabinets across from an 8' table. Pull each module, laying it on its back on the table. Open the module's legs and latch the leg braces to the frame w/ cinch pins run THROUGH the hole in the bolt. Un-strap all wires that are bound with Velcro straps. DO NOT CUT ANY TIE WRAPS. They are for permanent lacing of under-module wires. Adjust all leg leveling screws so they only extend 1” below the bottom of the leg. If a leg bolt is missing, there are spare bolts and T-nuts in the bottom drawer of the supply cabinet. Replace any missing ones now!
    4. Set the module on its legs and move it out of the way.
    5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until all modules that are to be used in the layout have been erected.
    6. If Beucher Farm and/or Skeet Shoot are to be used on the spine, remove the three screws at the back of the skyboards and lower the skyboards.
    7. For Junction modules, if a power screwdriver/drill is not available, there is a ratchet set with a ½” socket in the red tool box.
      1. Empty and remove upper storage tray.
      2. Remove the Masonite shields that are Velcro’d to the bottom of each module
      3. Open and latch all legs.
      4. Remove orange end cap from both modules, then remove green end cap. If a bolt does not unscrew, check to see if it is held in place by a wing nut rather than a T-Nut. Store the bolts in the yellow bolt box. (Top drawer of supply cabinet.)
      5. Store the storage tray, end caps and the shields in or on empty cabinets. (See IX.C)


  1. Move all cabinets that will not remain inside the layout out of the way.
  2. Move all cabinets, tables and chairs that will remain inside the layout to a central position. (The supply cabinet and the two 4’ blue cabinets stay in the infield)
  3. Starting at a critical and marked position, (usually at a spine connection) position the modules snuggly against each other according to the layout plan. Use marks on floor or tape measure to confirm alignment and that straight runs are not creeping toward or away from aisles.
  4. Leave appropriately sized gaps for clamp-on modules.
  5. Get 4” C-clamps from blue cabinets and place two on the floor below each module interface.


  1. Before leveling of the entire layout (not just the NEONS loop) find the highest point on the floor. Leveling should begin there, with the module at that point (the key module) having its leg bolts screwed completely in. Long levels and torpedo levels are in the bottom drawer of the supply cabinet.
  2. If the high point is not in the NEONS loop and there is a laser level available, obtain the proper position and height for the junction corner nearest the key module. Two leveling crews can begin, one working clockwise and the other working counter-clockwise, leveling and clamping the modules. There is a box of ¼" Masonite shims in the supply cabinet and a box of 1½" wood shims in one of the module cabinets. Shims should be used if the bolts have to be extended to the point of instability. If the layout is in a carpeted area, place a Masonite shim under each leveling bolt that is on carpet.
  4. Quick clamp leveling technique: Align tracks (both height and offset) and clamp new module to leveled module using torpedo level to check front to back position. Adjust leg bolts on other end using 24” level. Go back and lower leg bolts on clamped end. Repeat for next module.
  5. Gateway module – Hand turn the leveling bolts until they touch the floor. Then use a ratchet wrench (3/4” socket) to lower the leveling bolts as necessary.
  6. When the two crews meet, make minor adjustments as required if the modules at the meet are not level with each other. If modules do not align, adjust the position of a string of modules as described in (IV.G) below. DO NOT ADJUST THE POSITION OF THE STRING OF MODULES CONTAINING THE GATEWAY. Doing that will stress the Gateway and cause the lift gate to mis-align.
  7. Shake out the layout. Gather as many volunteers as possible, placing them about every 6’ along the inside and outside of a section of the layout. In unison, momentarily lift the modules just enough for the legs to come off the floor, and then set the section back down. Repeat this action all around the loop. This will remove any kinks. NOTE: If shims have been used, the leveling bolts must be positioned back on the shims.
  8. After the shake out is complete, level and attach the cantilevered yard ladder and stub modules to Eddie Wye and clamp on the Purple and Blue yards to Holy Wholly Holey. Each of these yards has alignment dowels and a power cord that must be plugged in.


  1. While leveling is progressing, the layout coordinator will bag and tag the bus wires that are to be left unconnected and will place signs where insulated joiner tracks are to be inserted. The bags, No Plug tags and Insulated tags are in the top drawer of the supply cabinet in a baggie box.
  2. Plug all power poles together (unless they are tagged to stay disconnected) and Daisy chain all power strips. At the spine block break(s) plug the red bus power poles into the blue bus power poles (black to red). Leave the Yellow bus unconnected. If there are modules in the loop that have Cinch-Jones connectors, there are both male and female adapters in a small brown box in the bottom left bin of the supply cabinet. Note that the Gateway and the modules immediately to either side of it have a special hookup. If you don’t know how it’s done, ask for help. DO NOT IGNORE IT AND MOVE ON, LEAVING THOSE MODULES DISCONNECTED!
  3. The 110V AC power Daisy chain should make a complete loop under the modules. 110V power does not go out under the spine modules. If there are modules without a power strip or extension cord attached, get a jumper cord from the bottom bin of the supply cabinet and fill in the gap. Place a piece of masking tape on the back of the skyboard of the module without a power strip noting that a power strip needs to be permanently installed.
  4. Power Boxes
    1. Clamp the Master Control Station and the three power boxes to the layout at the designated areas. The bottom of the boxes should be ¼” or more below the bottom of the module so the boxes’ bottom doors can open freely.
    2. Hook up the Master Control Box.
      1. Open bottom door. Un-strap the wall wart cord, pull the wall wart from the Velcro attachment and plug it in to a power strip.
      2. Set the Aristo power supply on the floor and plug it into a power strip. Attach the power pigtail and plug into the MCS pigtail. Attach a ground wire from the power supply to the green terminal strip at the back right corner of the Master Control box.
    3. Hook up the three power boxes (red, yellow and blue)
      1. Open bottom doors. Un-strap the two wall wart cords, pull the wall warts from the Velcro attachment and plug them in to a power strip. Depending on the setup format, either plug the Red, Yellow and Blue feed wires into the bus lines between the nearest two modules or just plug in the feed wire that is the same color as the box. Be aware of polarity, plugging red power pole to red power pole and black power pole to black power pole for each line. Let the power supply pig-tail hang to the floor. Close bottom doors.
      2. Set the three Digitrax power supply boxes on the floor. Attach each power cord and plug it into a power strip. Attach power pigtails and plug into power box pigtail (flat power pole connecters). DO NOT attach the ground wire from each power supply to the green terminal strip at the back right corner of the corresponding power box.
      3. Install the six Aristo-Craft antennae and plug in banana plugs.
    4. Run a green ground wire to connect the Master Control Box and all three power boxes and tie them in to the green terminal strips identified in 2 & 3 above.
    5. Green ground wires will also have to be run to Digitrax boosters in the adjacent loops.
  5. Install Joiner Tracks. The joiner track box is in the top drawer of the supply cabinet. Track connection tools are in the small red box in the same drawer. Extra rail joiners are in a small, transparent pink box that will be in either the joiner track box or the red box.
    1. General discussion of joiner tracks. There are several types of joiner tracks in the joiner track box.
      1. All are ballasted with either light (main line) or dark (branch line) colored ballast. Put light joiners on tracks with light ballast (Red and Yellow Lines) and dark joiners on tracks with dark ballast (Blue and rear sidings/switching tracks.).
      2. There are also special joiner tracks that have “INSULATED” written on the bottom, a white stripe on a center tie and a white dot on each end tie. These are to be used ONLY WHERE INSULATED signs have been laid out.
      3. There are 20 special joiners that are unballasted and painted brown that are for use on the cantilevered yard. There are two curved and two short joiners that connect the tail to Eddie Wye and four insulated re-railer joiner tracks to connect the ladder to the tail. All eight of these joiner tracks are color coded and the place where they fit is painted with the same colors.
      4. Use re-railer joiner tracks to connect the blue and purple yards to H3.
      5. There are also 2 special curved joiner tracks for the junction curves, three code 55 joiners for Newton Ravine / Fisher Tunnel and a short joiner plus a joiner / turnout for the Tulsa modules.
    2. All joiner tracks are measured and color coded on the back. Red = x-short, orange = short, yellow = medium, green = long and blue = x-long. There are three gap gauges in the joiner track box that can be used to indicate what length joiner will fit best at each gap. This gauge is fairly accurate, but not absolute, since each color code covers a 1/8” range of joiner track lengths. Joiner tracks should slide into place freely without touching the module rails, but with a very minimal gap between the rails.
    3. All modules should have rail joiners at the end of all tracks. Sometimes the rail joiners are missing and sometimes they have been used for so long that they no longer fit snugly and therefore do not provide good electrical contact. If you notice any like this while installing joiner tracks, replace the worn out or missing rail joiner.
    4. When all joiner tracks have been installed, walk the entire loop checking to see that there are no gaps where joiner tracks were overlooked. Also check to see if any rail joiners have accidently been slid below the rail instead of around the rail causing a bump in the track. Do this by running your finger across all connections in both directions to see if they are smooth. Check all three main lines and all sidings. Check for joiners that are too tight, causing kinks or bowing in the track and check for joiners that have too much gap. Replace as necessary, paying attention to ballast color, regular or insulated, etc. Check to see that insulated joiner tracks were installed where directed and only where directed. Pick up any spare joiner tracks and rail joiners that were left lying around and put them in the joiner box along with the box of rail joiners. Return the joiner track box to the supply cabinet. Return the INSULATED signs to the baggie box in the supply cabinet top drawer.
    5. LASTLY AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…. Clean all tracks with a bright boy and wipe down with a clean, soft cloth. BE AWARE AND VERY CAREFUL TO AVOID DAMAGING SCENERY WHILE CLEANING TRACKS!
  6. LocoNet Cables. LocoNet cables are stored in a box on the bottom shelf of the supply cabinet. Each one is color coded green or orange. DO NOT USE THE ORANGE CABLES! All LocoNet cables that you will install should be plugged into the two rear sockets/ports of the UP-5s. DO NOT PLUG INTO THE SIDE PORT OR THE FRONT PORTS.
    1. Mount and clamp the Radio Tower in position as per the layout diagram. Plug the extension cord into a power strip.
    2. Using the creeper chair, Daisy-chain all UP-5s and power boxes in the NEONS loop following the detailed LocoNet cable diagram. DO NOT MAKE A COMPLETE LOOP OF THE LOCONET. It should dead end in all directions. Note that LocoNet cables are permanently installed underneath the junction modules, on the Gateway and between the two UP-5s on Cantilevered Stub, each 4’ corner and each power box. While under the modules installing the LocoNet cables, check to see that all other power cables that should be plugged together are plugged together. Before plugging in unplugged cables, check to see if they really are supposed to be plugged together and that they aren’t at a block break and the safety bag has fallen off.
    3. Offset loops will connect to our LocoNet at the 4-way splitter under the junction modules.
  7. Main Power. Run a heavy duty extension cord from the facility power source to the closest module, but DO NOT PLUG INTO THE FACILITY POWER SOURCE. Tape all exposed portions of the extension cord down with duct tape. Break the daisy-chained 110V AC loop and plug the male end into the extension cord. Check to see that the four power supplies are turned off. Make a LOUD ANNOUNCEMENT that you are going hot, and then plug the extension cord into the facility power source. Plug something with a light on it into the power strip at the end of the 110V chain. If there is no power, first check to see that the facility power source is active, then work your way around the daisy chain, checking to see that all power strips are turned on and plugged in.
  8. On the supply cabinet shelf above the top drawer are several old MRC throttles. Place one under each junction and tie the auxiliary outputs to the 22g red/white wire pair that is tucked up under each junction module. When power is on, check to see that these throttles are properly operating the powered turnouts on those two modules.


There are 28 stanchion poles and 28 stanchion bases located in the two blue cabinets.
  1. Pull all the bases and screw in all the poles. Place the stanchions around the layout as per the layout diagram, 2’ from the modules. Place two stanchions at the Gateway, 2’ apart.
  2. The ski rope will be one continuous piece around the layout. Unreel a few feet of rope and slide 28 T-tops onto the rope, and then knot the end of the rope.
  3. Start at our last module on one spine. Drop the 1st T-top into that stanchion pole. Un-spool the rope to the next stanchion, sliding the T-tops down the rope as you go and keeping some tension on the rope. Continue to un-spool rope, sliding and inserting T-tops as you go. When you reach the next spine and/or the Gateway, tape the rope to the bottom of that pole and duct tape the rope to the ground, under the spine and to the other side (or tape a 2’ section to the ground in front of the Gateway), then come up the next pole, drop a T-top and continue on. NOTE: Remove excess slack from the rope before taping it down. At the last pole, drop the rope dispenser over the pole and knot the rope at the T-top after removing slack from the rope.


All sections of skirting have their length labeled at each end on the top, back side. There will be a skirting plan in the red book that tells you which sections of skirting go in which skirting block.
  1. Push pins are in the top drawer of the supply cabinet (front left). Homosote plugs are located approximately every two feet around the layout. Stretch the skirting snuggly from pin to pin. Velcro each piece of skirting to the next. If the skirting’s length label is showing after installation, you have the skirting on backwards!
  2. There will be four break points for skirting runs: Newton State Park, Gateway, and the end of the spines. Skirting blocks will run from each end of Newton State Park and from Gateway to the next break point.
    1. There is one special piece of skirting that fits Newton State Park. It has Velcro all along the top of the section. Install it first and work in each direction.
    2. As you get to the Gateway, there are pieces of Velcro attached to the module inside the gate, under the lid. Attach the skirting and work in each direction from the Gateway.
    3. If planning is done correctly there should be 1’-3’ of extra skirting for each block. Double the extra fabric under the pins.
    4. Attach Module Sign Boards using the skirting push pins.

Power up NEONS Loop

Each loop in a multi-loop layout will initially power up and operate independently. Once the DCC systems on all loops are running independently and properly, the Digitrax consolidation of the Red Line Route will be initiated.
  1. Make sure any LocoNet cables to the offset loop(s) are disconnected from the 4-way splitters under the junction modules and from the LNRP in the Master Control Station. NOTE: the MASTER COMMAND STATION is the DCS 200, the MASTER CONTROL STATION is the entire green box.
  2. Fire up and test Digitrax DCC system.
    1. Flip all toggle switches on all power boxes to DCC.
    2. Make sure each Command Station/Booster has the left toggle switch set to “N Scale” (center position) and the right toggle switch set to “Run” (top position).
    3. Turn on power supply to the Master Command Station. Then turn on the other three power supplies. The Master Command Station must always be turned on first! If the power light on the Command Station /Booster does not come on, use a DT400 throttle to turn on track power. If it still doesn’t come on, check the fuses in the power box. Replacement fuses are in a plastic jar in the bottom drawer of the supply cabinet.
    4. The Digitrax system will talk to you with beeps and flashing lights.
      1. All PM42’s should have the green light on and the four red lights off. If a red light is on, there is a short on that line. 1st light = red line, 2nd light = yellow line, 3rd light = blue line, 4th light =green line.
        1. If red light appears, check power feeds from power box to bus lines. Are they plugged in properly? Red power pole should be plugged to red power pole, and black to black.
        2. Check to make sure that bus wires are not plugged together at block breaks and that insulated joiners are in place at block breaks.
        3. Punt!
      2. Check Digitrax book for interpretation of beeps.
    5. Follow phase check and soft switch check instruction in red book.
      1. If a phase problem exists, change one LocoNet cable between the two out-of-phase devices from a green cable to an orange cable. Repeat the test. When completed, reset the speed of address 00 to zero and then dispatch address 00 from the system.
      2. Once the phase check is successfully completed set OPSW #20 to “closed” to disable the use of address 00.
    6. Test to see that the Radio Tower is receiving both Simplex and Duplex signals.
    7. Test all tracks in all blocks with coin shorting test. When coin is placed on the track, the PM 42 in that block will beep and the red light for that line will light. When the coin is removed, the system should reset.
    8. Place a test engine on the layout and test Red, Yellow and Blue lines in all blocks.
  3. Fire up and test Aristo-Craft analog throttles.
    1. Make sure GOOD batteries are installed in the Aristo-Craft throttles.
    2. Flip yellow and blue toggle switches on all power boxes to analog.
    3. Turn on the Aristo-Craft receivers that will be used. (Switch at the back of each receiver.) Check to see that each receiver is set on the correct frequency and channel. The instruction book is in the box with the throttles. If the receivers do not power up, check the fuses at the power box pigtail. If there is no power to the track, check the fuse at the back of the receiver and the fuse in the Power Box under the receiver. Place a test engine on each block of the yellow and blue lines to confirm that that all is working properly. Make sure that the three yellow line blocks are running clockwise and the three blue line blocks are running counter-clockwise.
  4. Activate DCC Red Line Route. When all loops have their Red Line DCC system operating properly, it is time to consolidate the loops. One Command Station will be designated as the MASTER COMMAND STATION for the entire layout. If we are the host club, our Master Command Station will be in control. NOTE: the MASTER COMMAND STATION is the DCS 200, the MASTER CONTROL STATION is the entire green box.
    1. If we are NOT the host club, unplug the LocoNet cable that is plugged into the front of the DCS200. That will disconnect the Master Command Station from the layout. It will still function and operate our programming track. Then plug the LocoNet cable from the Host Master Command Station into the SIDE PORT of the LNRP located in our Master Control Station Power Box.
    3. Make sure all CS/Boosters in all loops are connected to each other with a ground wire. Plug any inter-loop LocoNet cables back in under junction modules.
    4. Unplug the MASTER COMMAND STATION from the LocoNet. Plug throttle into LocoNet. Set right hand toggle switch on all CS/Boosters to center (OP) position, convert all other Command Stations to boosters by toggling OPSW #02 to “closed”. Return the right toggle switch on all units back to the top (Run) position.
    5. Plug throttle into MASTER COMMAND STATION, toggle the right hand switch to the center (OP) position and set soft switches as per instructions in the red book. Do not disable Analog running option until after the phase check is completed. Return the right hand toggle switch to top (Run) position.
    6. Turn off all power. Plug MASTER COMMAND STATION into LocoNet. Power up MASTER COMMAND STATION. Power up all other DCC equipment and perform phase check. Correct out-of-phase units by replacing one LocoNet cable between the o-o-p units with a “normal” (orange) LocoNet cable.
    7. Plug throttle into MASTER COMMAND STATION and disable Analog running.

Final Preparations

  1. Position the Supply Cabinet and the two blue stanchion cabinets as per the layout diagram. Erect and position all tables and chairs as per the diagram
  2. Return all equipment, tools, etc to their proper place in the supply cabinet or the blue cabinets.
  3. Stow all end caps on a supported shelf of the module cabinets. Relocate the module cabinets to the pre-assigned temporary storage area for the run of the show. Store them with the back sides out so anything on the shelves will not be seen.
  4. Locate and acquire a trash can and move it to the layout infield.
  5. Stack 4-wheeled dollies and store under a 6’ module.
  6. Store coolers at end of a work table.
  7. Store creeper chairs under Eddie Wye.
  8. Place begging jars, signs and NEONS info sheets on Red and Green modules. Place Running schedule sign-up sheet on cantilevered yard.
  9. Attach the vinyl NEONS/Digitrax signs to the back of the blue cabinets with rubber bands.
  10. Mount and clamp the Trainboard riser bracket in position as per the layout diagram. Attach the Tranboard frames to the trainboard bracket and Radio Tower.
  11. Check to see that Hello/Goodbye signs on the red and green 2’ers are facing the right direction.
  12. Set up NEONS wooden herald.
  13. Using masking tape, tape Aristo-Craft channel designation signs on the backs of the skyboard around the loop.
  14. Using binder clips from the binder clip box in the top drawer of the supply cabinet, attach the laminated block break signs to the back of the skyboards and the two sets of info signs (“Can you Find?”, “How long is the train?” and “How fast is the train going?”) to the front of the skyboards at various places around the layout. Note: One “Can you find” sign should be near Og’s Farm and one near Newton State Park.
  15. There is a wall wart sitting on the left side shelf of Gateway that powers the train warning signals. Plug the wall wart into a power strip and flip the three-position switch (battery / off / 110) on the controller to 110. Test the signal by breaking the photocell path with your hand.
  16. Activate "Neuralizer" by flipping the slide switch on the back of Men in Black to the ON position.
  17. Place diorama cars on layout. Coal hoppers at Willya B. Mine, oil tankers at Cushing Hub, Texas Flyer at Union Depot, box cars at Frisco Freight House, etc. The diorama car box is either in the top drawer of the supply cabinet or with Fearless Leader.
  18. Police the area.