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Pelle Soeborg’s Union Pacific Daneburg Subdivision

L&N locomotive 4501, an EMD SD38-2, rounds a curve behind the barn on Pelle Soeborg's layout, now located at ScaleTrains in Tennessee.

In October ScaleTrains hosted an open house at their new warehouse and offices located in Cleveland, Tennessee. One of the highlights of the facility is Pelle Soeborg’s Union Pacific Daneburg Subdivision layout that has a new home there. The layout has been featured in several Model Railroader Magazine articles and in Pelle’s books. I have always liked and admired Pelle’s layouts and really wanted to see the Daneburg Subdivision in person. The ScaleTrains location is about a two hour drive from my home, so I decided to make the trip to see the layout and tour the ScaleTrains facility.

I don’t think even Pelle could imagine how his layout would travel across the ocean and end up in Tennessee when he originally built it. After completing the layout, Pelle experienced some life changes in 2017 which required him to dismantle or sell the layout. Fortunately, ExactRail’s Trainlife was able to negotiate a price and have the layout shipped to their showroom in Provo, Utah. Pelle carefully dismantled and packed up the layout in a shipping container, and it began its journey from a port in Denmark to Savannah, Georgia, then through the Panama Canal to Oakland, California. Once in California, it was offloaded onto an intermodal railcar and brought by train to Salt Lake City, Utah, then trucked to the Trainlife showroom in Provo, Utah. The layout was reassembled in about a day, and once operational, model railroaders in the United States could now see Pelle’s layout.

But the journey for Pelle’s layout still was not over. Early this year Trainlife announced it was closing and Pelle’s layout was in jeopardy again. As it turned out, ScaleTrains acquired ExactRail, and also Pelle’s layout. It was time to move it again. When Pelle originally built the layout it was designed in a modular style, so taking it apart and moving it was much easier than if the layout was designed in another way. The new ScaleTrains facility is much larger than their old location, so finding a dedicated room for the layout was much easier. The layout was moved a few months ago and setup in its new home. The ScaleTrains location allows visitors to see Pelle’s amazing layout and enjoy it for years to come.

Once I got to the ScaleTrains facility, the first stop on my tour was to see Pelle’s layout. As you enter the layout room you see the “hidden staging” that is behind the backdrop for the layout. Pelle designed the layout to be operated from inside the double loop and this part of his layout was hidden between the backdrop and the wall to his layout room. You enter the layout through a liftout section in the corner of the room. Unfortunately for the open house they were not allowing visitors to enter the center portion of the layout as they would have to use the duckunder, possibly causing damage or a derailment while a train was operating on the layout. Even so, it was great to see the layout in person.

Pelle’s scenery work and scene composition are some of the best I have seen. I have always been inspired by Pelle’s work. The layout is freelanced based on small towns that Pelle visited in Nebraska. The town of Daneburg is fictional, but captures the look and feel of many of the towns, industries, and the scenery there.

From an operations standpoint, Pelle designed his layout from a railfan’s perspective. Years ago I spoke to Pelle and asked him about operations, he said that he enjoys watching trains run on his layout much like he observed the prototype on his trips to the United States, but not doing much switching. The UP Daneburg Subdivision fulfilled those goals with primarily main line running, large staging area for continuous running, and just a couple of industries. When designing a layout it is important to understand your goals and build a layout that meets those needs.

A member of the ScaleTrains crew was able to take a photo of the large grain facility for me. This is the main industry on the layout. The weathering and scale of the facility is impressive.

I was glad that I made the trip to ScaleTrains and got to see Pelle’s layout. If you are in the southeastern Tennessee area be sure to stop by ScaleTrains and see Pelle’s layout in person.

I wish you and your family a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for all the great friends that I have made through this hobby.

Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

607 views3 comments


Awsom! It's nice to see more layouts focused on rural small town areas. On my current switching layout build, I'm hopeing to capture just enough of the open prarie rural small town look too. Most modelers, including myself, have favored the big city crowded industrial scenic style, and still think it's great! My past modeling was always city focused. Since I'm 55 this year, I know this is my final and third layout, I'll ever build in my lifetime. So, I wanted to pursue something brand new to me. Modeling rural small town and branchline industry. This layout give me some ideas, espically the town scene. I like the way the backdrop, gives the viewer, the feeling that the town…


Michael Armstrong
Michael Armstrong
Nov 15, 2023

Very nice coverage of Pelle’s Daneburg Subdivision. He is a true master of model railroad construction and an inspiration to many. Glad that ScaleTrains was able to preserve and showcase this work of art. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Tom!


I think this iteration was the second or third Daneburg. His first that I remember had a much larger Daneburg spread against the backdrop behind a main street. The same big industry was on the other side of the layout with slightly more elaborate trackage. A couple of sidings on the inner side of the street across from the Daneburg structures allowed some switching. Always magnificent.

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