Introduction to the Bolt’s Cotton Gin Tram

Something that I have had in the back of my mind for a long time now is to build a micro layout. But between being out of town on different projects (I did build a couple of modules on the last project) and working on the layout when I was at home I just never found the time to do it. Now that I am working in North Caroline it is the perfect time to do one. Not only will it keep me active in the hobby, it is something that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

What is a micro layout? Conventional wisdom states that a micro layout is a layout that is 4 square feet or less and offers some type of operation and/or switching. There have been discussions that “Pizza” layouts are not considered Micro’s because there is no operational potential, but I’ve seen a few “Pizza” layouts that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the train go around and around (a “Pizza” layout is usually a circle of track on a base no larger that a pizza box).

So, what to build? Searching the Carl Arendt website ( I found the Bott’s Cotton Gin Tram ( that had potential. The Carl Arendt website has a lot of great plans for micro layout that just about covers everything. Carl Arendt was a huge proponent of micro layouts.
Here is a list of my givens and druthers, there are combined as they tend to tie into each other on such a compact layout.

  • I never have build a micro layout so I’m looking forward to a new challenge.
  • I want to build something different than what I normally model.
  • Seeing as I will be using 6” radius curved the track work will have to be flawless as there will be no room for error.

Now here are my likes, dislikes and planned changes to the track plan
(Note: rather than re-post the plan here just click on the link above and scroll down to see the layout.)


  • A cotton gin is something totally different from what I usually model.
  • The micro contains a self-contained industry that can be switched.
  • Small 4-wheel locomotives and rolling stock will be needed to work on the very tight curves.


  • A small turntable is required to get the rolling stock to their various loading/unloading points.
  • A complicated rope system will have to be developed to move the cars from the turntable to their spots and visa-versa.

Design changes;

  • The turntable will be eliminated.
  • A passing siding will be added in order to switch the industries.
  • The layout will be built on a built on a 24” x 18” bulletin board that can be picked up at any craft or stationary store instead of the 22” x 12” size shown on the plan.
  • Minimum radius will be 6”.

Modified track plan for the Bolt’s Cotton Gin Tram micro layout

So please follow along as I begin this new adventure. Next up track work