1950s HO scale model railroad

Jim’s been in touch with his 1950s HO scale model railroad:

“Hello Alistair,

This e-mail is as much a thank you to you and to the folks who contribute to your blog as it is an opportunity to share some information about my layout.

I started this layout when I retired and unlike many of the folks who contribute here, I did not have a layout as a young man. Growing up in a NYC apartment, well , there was just so much room.

A friend of mine retired a few years back and starting sending me e-mails of a layout he had started. I was intrigued.

But, I found the idea of doing a layout on my own and being an electrician, a carpenter, a modeler, an artist etc. to be overwhelming.

With my friend’s encouragement and with all the wonderful information I was able to gather from the contributors on your blog, I forged ahead.

It did not take long for me to realize that it was really the scenery I enjoyed that is, creating the scene, building the buildings, laying out the street grid etc. Hence, my “railroad” itself is a humble trolley oval.

I learned that many modelers attempt to recreate their childhood home. Being no different, I created a New York City neighborhood circa 1950’s I thank the good people of Pittsburgh for allowing me to use their downtown as my backdrop.

But then again, imagination is what model railroading is all about. I have attached photos.

I hope you will enjoy them.


model railroad car tunnel

model train church

1950s HO scale model railroad

1950s HO scale model railroad

model train HO scale street scene

model train police station

model train buildings

1950s HO scale model railroad

model train apartment block

model train city

HO scale apartment block

1950s HO scale model railroad

HO scale busy street

1950s HO scale model railroad

HO scale street store

model railroad overhead view

A big thanks to Jim – love the detail. His layout has bags of charm and what a theme, your childhood!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, just like Jim did, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here is that’s your thing.

69 Responses to 1950s HO scale model railroad

  1. orion says:

    Jim … l really love your set up here. That was the thing that kind of slowed me down from recently (now retired) to build a lay out. Back when a kid, I loved trains, then as I got older and Aurora created Model Motoring, with cars moving on tracks, trains kind of took a back seat. I always thought about trying to integrate both a car track with train track, but am missing one valuable piece from that dream … a car track section with an HO train section crossover. So searching for years for that piece, was my excuse to delay my layout. But besides cars, (still top of my collections) I loved the scenery. I mean who wants to see a 4’x8′ layout of a forest, and a bike trail? Your layout, speaks to me, tells me to save room, in case I find that missing piece of train / car track, that I could integrate them … but build the scenic aspect … that will suffice and carry it’s own fascination and weight … on it’s own. Great Job!

  2. Fred (skullintophat) says:

    I have been to New York, but not in 1948 or earlier The scenery looks really authentic.Good work

  3. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Indeed the scenery does look authentic and the bonus for me is the population. So many layouts have left people out but this layout really comes to grip that people are always around – great.

  4. James says:

    Terrific detail work! Impressive!

  5. Kenneth Fox says:

    Good job on New York set-up, but NOT much on the railroad itself or any elevated trans which I would have been interested in.

  6. BillFleming says:

    The layout looks fantastic. Especially the amount of figures. At first glance I thought it was real. Spacing is dead on too. I’d love to see a video with the trains running!!!


  7. Chris McCabe Sr says:

    I love your layout. Having grown up in Queens and now living on Staten Island, your scenery is typical NYC. Great job!

  8. DAVID says:

    Wow Love this ! In my 73 years I’ve yet to do a trolley line though in my younger years they interested most. Still intriguing I must say. And trolley lines are generally simple, they fit into their surrounding which you have captured so well.

  9. Harper Goldwire says:

    Very nice layout, reminds me of the Bronx where I grew up.
    I like the subway entrance and the crowd and kids playing
    stick ball in the streets. One thing the
    police cars of the day were Black and White and Green,
    they went to Blue and White while I was in the service
    sometime in the 70’s.

  10. Stephen Hill says:

    Jim that is truly one of the most stunning displays I’ve seen …anywhere . Amazing detail in every aspect , the people , the cars , the buildings. Those are the most realistic buildings I’ve seen . You have certainly done a stellar job . The trains going round are always keen but as you have determined building the scene and brining it all to life with character snd structure is what grabs the viewer , and the modeler alike.
    That is an amazing layout … oh yeah , you’re welcome for the backdrop … I’m from Pittsburgh.

  11. JC says:

    Good job. I like how you made the roadways nice and wide. Too many folks make their roads too narrow that there’s no way two cars could pass safely. Yours look like actual city streets. And the population on your sidewalks really helps too.

  12. Robert Brady says:

    Even though not one train was shown i thoroughly enjoyed the ride through town. Remined me of my home town in the mid 50’s.Very nostalgic.
    Fabulous job JIm
    The Critic

  13. Don Poitras says:

    Wow…that could be a movie set!Awesome workmanship.You have a gift ,my friend!👍👍

  14. Richard Sappelli says:

    I was growing up during the 50’s and was in the city many times shopping with my parents. The scenes are just right as I remember the neighborhoods. The detail with the people, trucks, etc is superior. You have done a fantastic job and hope that some day our layout will be preserved for future generations to see how NYC ;looked in the best times ever. Great job and many thanks. You are a real craftsman.

  15. Howard Zryb says:

    Really nice detail. I grew up in NYC in the 50s &60s, and I loved the little anachronisms like the NY Giants sign, the A&P supermarket, etc.

  16. Jack says:

    Wonderful! I am also setting up a 50s Era display.
    I often wish I grew up in the 50s. Seems like an easier, more peaceful time.

  17. Jerry Treich says:

    What a great job! You’ve really captured the East Coast feel in your scenes and the people-activity! Quite the feel of the hustle & bustle of city life. If you haven’t already fitted the scenes with LED lighting, retrofitting the layout for nighttime lighting might be a rewarding and very do-able next layer of sophistication!
    Best to you!

  18. Brian Olson says:

    Great work, I too love working on scenery and creating scenes. Small scenes make such a big difference.

  19. Ruben Simon says:

    Lived there at that time – I can almost smell it as I look through the pictures and remember…

  20. George Zaky says:

    That is an astonishing inventory of buildings, people & cars placed artistically to represent a busy NYC residential neighborhood. You can almost hear the constant sounds of kids playing, people hollering, traffic & noise of activity. Remember the smell of the A&P, candy stores, Cafe, & the neighborhood in general. Wow you did it. The cars are awesome-great collection here.
    Please give us a glimpse of the entire layout and a little history of the numerous buildings you built. It looks like they were kits and very well done. Thanks.
    Big Al- Thanks

  21. Terry Miller says:

    JIM—outstanding and fantastic!!
    ORION–If your still looking for that rr/slot car crossing, I have one somewhere in my junk box that I’ll give you. Contact me at asoundbite on yahoo.

  22. Glyn Jones says:

    Congratulations on a beautiful piece of modeling Jim- excellent detail and weathering and the people bring it to life. Keep up the great work!

  23. Greg Saeger says:

    Were any car windows broke during the stick ball game in the street? I live the Era you captured.

  24. JW says:

    (Orion) slot car RR crossings are on Ebay.

  25. Wayne Charles says:

    Great job, details are amazing. As mentioned would love to see an elevated train line.

  26. Larry Quartano says:

    Excellent job. The scenes are so realistic. It must have taken a lot of patience to build this layout.

  27. Bob From Towson says:

    Jim, Absolutely Fantastic!!! I am in awe of your craftsmanship and attention to detail!!!

  28. Gary Hildebrandt says:

    Hey,, not enough Studebakers. I had to find something to pick with on this wonderful layout. I’m almost 80 and this is right on. BTW, I grew up in Detroit but married a girl born in Brooklin.

  29. Mike Balog says:

    Fantastic Capture of History of NYC in the 1950’s,,, echo’s similar scenes all across the urban landscape of the East Coast of the USA… I grew up during that period of time,… thru the early 1970’s… Used to go on Photography Trips by train on the N.H. RR from Bridgeport RR Station to Grand Central Station. Took City Subways to get around the City taking tons of color slides… This captures how it was back then… a much Peaceful & Prosperous time and everyone got along well. Sad, a Lot of the famous places are no longer there. The Old Yankee Stadium, The Old Metropolitan Opera House, a Lot of the Piers and Warehouses around Manhattan that were served by all the major east coast railroads, torn down, gone. The Scenes you created come alive with all the detail you put in,, the Period Cars (Where did you find them?) the People in the scenes brought it to life as well as the Period Signs… Just Great…Hope to see next one with a running train included. Remembered the EL running above the City Streets… I road the Complete System with my friend back in the 1970’s before a large segment was torn down. ~ Mike in N.H., U.S.A.

  30. Rob McCrain says:

    I remember those days clearly and you have captured the feel of them very well. Nice effort. Looks great. Rob McCrain

  31. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. i love the old cars.

  32. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Jim…….great job…..love the detail and love how you weathered your streets and roads. Great detail made for a great layout.

  33. Robert J Green says:

    Thank you Jim. Being a child of the 50’s you brought back some wonderful memories. Love the A&P sign. Rob Green

  34. David McElwain says:

    Hello Jim, Wonderful layout and so detailed it makes my head spin. Your attention to detail and knack for storytelling is mighty impressive. I think of our layouts as a stage and it’s our ability to capture the viewer and draw them in which makes a fine model. I’d like to hear how you managed to create such excellent street surfaces. I’m just beginning my latest urban train set and I’m including a street car figure eight.
    Thank you for your devotion to our craft and for sharing.
    Dave McElwain

  35. Chet Karlewicz says:

    Probably the nicest sets I have ever seen. Bought me back to the good old days when I lived in da Bronx

  36. John Kamas says:

    I noticed that Jim’s church on the layout is 0/027 gauge, which makes it larger,
    like a big cathedral would be like in New York.
    I did the Exact thing on my layout, with the same, exact 0/027 church model!

    I love what he created!


  37. David W. Pittsfield MA says:

    Absolutely beautiful city modeling layouts. I echo the many positives that others have pointed out. I really enjoyed the city photo tour! Great job!!!

  38. Al Otis says:

    Superb job. Your attention to detail and scenery are second to none. Looks like your population is greater than mine and I’m around 200 on my layout. Again sir excellent work!

  39. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. Truly appreciate your camera work and the lighting to bring so much realism to your scenes and highlight so much detail. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  40. Robert Kent says:

    Born in Brooklyn NY. The layout brings back great memories of my youth in the 1950’s as a teen. This is just how I remembered I remembered. Thanks for the memories

  41. Als says:

    When are you going yo get some trains to go with all those people?Al S

  42. Andrew Aves says:

    Superb modelling Jim, I loved the scenes
    Andrew in Oz

  43. Ray D says:

    Great artistry and realism.
    Grew up in Queens at the time.
    Thankyou for sharing.

  44. Jeff says:

    Fantastic layout. Love all the detail. Makes you feel
    Like you’re living that era. There is so much to see. Great inspiration. I’m just starting my layout and wanted to model the late 50’s myself.

  45. Keith Smith says:

    Being from Baltmore and raised there in the 50s and 60s I could have been down there playing on those streets. Thanks Jim

  46. Tom says:

    A real city with real people, doing what real people do (shopping at the local stores, playing, getting married etc.!

    Lots and lots of traffic.


    Oh by the way there is a railroad that serves the need of all those people and businesses!

    Also appreciated that the theme carried into the background (even around the corners)!!


  47. Larry Schweitzer says:

    Great work!, I’ve been to NYC a few times. All you need to add is more trash in on the sidewalks & streets to really make it real.

  48. william james palmer says:

    loved the amount of people ties your city scene together

  49. Brian Rockey says:

    Nice work Jim – that’s a busy old neighbourhood.
    Best to all!
    Brian, Wokingham, UK.

  50. David Schaffner says:

    Wow! Awesome layout with the buildings galore (most probably from kits) and so many of them. You are a model craftsman for all of us model railroaders. Having arthritis in my hands is a disability for me, especially in my fingers, so I can’t do kits. Gets quite expensive to buy them fully assembled, but that would be my outcome. Good job!

  51. Yale M Schiffman says:

    Jim: Absolutely outstanding detail. Although it is New York. Many aspects remind of growing up in Boston. Thanks for the memories.

  52. Nick Novogradac says:

    I was expecting to see trains going through city scenes, but what I saw was beautiful photos of suburban city life. absolutely beautiful modeling. Each scene telling it’s own story with all the people. I’m glad I didn’t see any trains. I’m from Pittsburgh and it’s been so long since I’ve been there, I wouldn’t recognize any thing on the backdrop Matter of fact I was so intrigued by all the detail in each photograph, I didn’t notice there was a back drop.

  53. Ken Holbrook says:

    I love the detail with the “non-train” elements. Many times that is what makes a layout special. Great job!

  54. Maurizio Fasone says:

    Beautiful details
    Really nice well done

  55. Don says:

    good looking city & many of the autos are nice as well, but on auto haulers to get them there

  56. Rich B. says:

    They’re still out there hiding. Captures the era perfect, all I could think of was back to Elizabeth, NJ. Not exact of coarse, today or last I knew the city is now in shambles. Jersey Central long gone, does Pennsy still even stop at upper station or just hi-ball right by?

    Show more anytime with this one, R

  57. Tony, Kitty hawk NC says:

    Everyone has said it so well- perfect! Thanks for sharing.

  58. Clayton Clatur says:

    A really nice 1950’s scale model but I did not see any railroad

  59. Greg Rasberry says:

    Your layout looks great! On a scale of one to ten, your’s is a perfect ten. The people, the buildings and the overall scenes are perfect. All of guys overdo it with too much. Trying to put as much stuff in the scene as possible. You On the other hand, got it right. Great job!

  60. robert dale tiemann says:

    very good scenery. nice job.

  61. Arthur Romano says:

    I dig the Knickerbocker beer billboard. ‘Official beer of the NY Giants’. That’s when the city was hoppin’ post war.

  62. Jurgen says:

    Jim you created a great looking layout, congrats.
    Can you disclose your source for these 50. -area cars?
    I’ve been all over looking for some a little more affordable then the Mini Metals.

  63. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout Jim, well planed and scenery is super nice, well done.

  64. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Very nice. My 40’s and early 50’s were spent in a small town population 111 (Deaver Wyoming). Occasionally we made a trip to the big city population 45,000 (Billings Montana).
    Your layout makes it easy to reminisce and enjoy what it was like back then. Great work Jim. Back then even in our little town of 111, we had two grocery stores, bus stop, depot, two gas stations, auto and truck repair shop, grade and high school, church, library, etc. It was really nice.

  65. Jeffrey B Gainsborg says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! Where are the trains?

  66. Rocco Maley says:

    What a memory you bring back to me. I am 79 years old and grew up in east harlem in the late 40’s and all through the 50’s. It actually looks like a mock up of the streets I use to play in. What a great job. It looks like the old stomping grounds. Are you from a neighborhood that looks like this one you built? I am and it sure brings back memories. Thank you for the nostalgia. Rocco from New Jersey (Originally East Harlem, New York)

  67. Godi Robert J says:

    Very nice layout, great detail. My only question is where are the trains? I didn’t see them or am I missing something.

  68. Matt says:

    Nice job. I’m building an HO layout that will include a downtown area, but it will be much smaller than yours. I don’t even know where to start. I’m making some models, but have no clue where/how to set them up.

  69. Norton says:

    This message is for Orion: JUst out of curiosity I did a search on Ebay for ‘ho slot car and train crossing’ and got some hits. There are a variety of styles, and angles available. Some are horribly overpriced but others are reasonable (to me).

    Go look, I think you’ll find something you can use.

    I apologize if I am taking away your ‘excuse’ for not building a layout. 😉

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