This is a little two-by-four N Scale layout built (presumably) sometime in the 1970s by an unknown modeler. A friend of mine discovered it at a donation center and, since it was free, rescued it and gave it to me just for kicks.
The layout was in pretty bad shape, but there was something about it that intrigued me. The builder was obviously earnest, and did things more right than wrong. I especially liked the backdrop paintings; they were quite good (was the builder an amateur painter?), and gave the layout an innocent charm. Construction of the base was excellent, revealing fine woodworking skill. I decided to refurbish the layout using only materials of the era when it was originally built, as much as practical, and in the style of a slightly more experienced beginner.
I began by completely stripping the layout, leaving only the track and scenery shell, while carefully protecting and preserving the painted backdrops. After patching holes in the scenery, I applied a couple of coats of premixed sanded grout, using two colors, grey for the rocky faces and tan for the balance of the terrain. Then I carefully cleaned and re-ballasted all of the track.
Next, I started collecting vintage structure kits. For the most part I chose the same ones the original builder used, although I substituted a few of them with others for a better visual effect. He'd done a clever bash on the mine, and I followed suit. The Heljan grain elevator took a couple of months to track down, and I wound up finishing the rest of the layout around a space I'd left for it.
Meanwhile, after digging around eBay for a couple of weeks, I managed to acquire replacement switch machines and controllers, and I rewired the layout. But I consciously made one deviation from the rule of using period materials: I installed a custom-built solid-state throttle and power supply for the sake of energy efficiency and improved performance.