Hello everyone, I'm a month away from graduating college and have wanted a model railroad ever since I was a little kid, when I'd get depressed when the christmas train went into a box for another year. I've been reading up on model railroading a lot lately and have been reading these forums, though this is my first post. I've been working on my first setup (HO scale) and have been learning a lot. Space is really tight, but I wanted something that I could run in a continuous loop, so I ended up going with a 4x4 board. I'm modeling a small mining railroad on the brink of bankruptcy in the American southwest during the depression. There's a small town, three quarters of the way to dereliction, an old ramshackle mine, and possibly (space and $ dependant) some type of quarry. A chain gang is hard at work clearing a small landslide that's covered the main road, and a prison guard, with the help of his faithful hound, is hunting down a fugitive that made a break for it. Meanwhile, a professor from a big museum back east has made the find of a lifetime, and he and his hired hands are busy excavating what he hopes to be a complete T. rex! Some desperate souls pan the creek for any trace of the gold that once flowed so readily from these now barren hills, and an abandoned Spanish mission bears silent witness to it all from the sun-baked hills. I'm not modeling anything prototypical and I'm not really trying to build something with operations (I'll leave that for the next one, which will hopefully be much larger). I've got a Bachman 4-4-0 and have been putting some buildings and whatnot together for the last month or two. I'm using DC, since there's only one train, and keeping costs down is a major issue. As far as the layout goes, I've been building it with foamboard. It's been a lot of fun, though I have had some hang-ups (getting spraypaint to stick to foamboard comes to mind.) The layout itself is divided in two by a creek, and I've finished all the landscaping for one side. I guess its time to lay down the ballast and the rails, but I honestly have no idea how to do it and I really don't want to mess up my landscaping! How exactly do I lay down the ballast and rails? I'm using flex-track. Also, where can I get some 30's hopper cars? Thanks, hopefully I can get a picture or two up once I've got some more work done on it (and can get my hands on a digital camara).