Larry’s basment layout

“I enjoy your emails very much. Such wonderful layouts and how-to tips have inspired me. Your contributors have given me many ideas.

My first train set was a Lionel O27 0-4-0 steam engine, tender, box car, flat car, crane car and caboose at age 5.

Now retired, a HO starter set for around the Christmas tree rekindled my interest in model railroading. As the layout out grew too large for the living room, I moved the layout to the basement.

The 12’x15’ L shape layout is DC with 8 controls in 4 dual MRC Tech 7 Ampac 780’s, and 32 turnouts with wired controls.

There are crossovers between each of the main tracks, except the cable car and trolley lines. The cable car line is DC, auto reversing with a station stop at both ends of the line. The trolley line is DC, auto reversing with a station stop at both ends of the line and a mid Amtrak station stop.

There are 12 sidings. Each track and siding are electrically isolated at each cross over and siding turnout with individual block control. The tracks are numbered starting from 1 on the inside working outward.

Track 1 B&O Chessie System freight, 18” radius curves.
Track 2 Santa Fe freight with Pennsylvania Power &Light Ready Kilowatt coal cars, 18” radius curves.
Track 3 Amtrak that loops by Amtrak Station, 18” and 22” radius curves.
Track 4 Amtrak on incline loop that links lower and upper levels, 22” radius curves.
Track 5 Cable Car and Trolley line 15” and 18” radius curves.
Track 6 Amtrak Acela, with a Pennsylvania RR passenger train on the siding, 22” radius curves.
Track 7 German ICE, with a Thayls TGV on the siding, 26” and 28” radius curves, elevated track.
Track 8 German ICE, Intercity City Express, high speed train, 26” and 28” radius curves, elevated track.

The center area of the layout is a model of my family’s farm and local, small, rural village in Northeast, Pennslyvania.

On the farm, there are models of my home with the green roof and pond, my brother’s stone home with grey roof and horse barn, my parent’s white home, garage and red barn.

In the village, I have modeled a neighbor’s geodesic dome home, A-frame, green apartments, white home, log cabin home and Wesley Chapel Church.

In the back, right area of the layout is Red Rock Mountain, Ricketts Glen State Park and Kitchen Creek Waterfalls. The surrounding track area is symbolic of other distant locations. The nearest operating passenger rail station, Harrisburg, is 100 miles from home.


model train

model railroad

model train

model railroad

model train

Have you had a look at the latest ebay cheat sheet yet?.

A huge thanks to Larry. He looks like he’s been having a blast with his layout – and that’s what it’s all about: having fun.

I love the fact that a Christmas layout got him back in to the hobby too. Just goes to show, it doesn’t mattter how you make that start, just make sure you do somehow.

That’s all for today folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if today is the day you start on your layout.



Bills 4×8 HO scale switching layout update

“Hi Al,

I’m still in detailing mode for my 4×8 HO Scale Switching Layout.

I finally won a great deal on EBay and picked up well over 100 figures. A lot of them are passengers and town folks but enough were workers so my layout is coming to life.

Since the layout is built on foam board I decided to super glue a track nail to the bottom of one foot on each person. After that dried I decided where I wanted the figure then I used a craft pin to make a starter hole then pushed the figure/nail into the pilot hole. It worked very well and they are easy to reposition if I decide to do something different.

This weekends project is detailing inside the repair shops. Some details I will affix to the floor and others I will leave loose.

I picked up some figures welding and I have LED welding kits so I’m looking to install those in between enjoying nice summer weather this weekend and next. I also will start putting the frame together on the next 4×8 section.

I had an epiphany on how to do something interesting with the track work that will go on it. I’ll show all when I get started on putting the track down to test my idea.

All the Best to you and fellow modelers

Bill in Virginia”

HO scale 4x8

HO switching layout

HO scale 4x8

4x8 switching layout

HO scale 4x8

HO scale 4x8

A huge thanks to Bill -what an update.

He’s done a lot to his scenery since his last update. Stunning stuff. Can’t wait for next one!

Hope you enjoyed Bill’s latest as much as I did.

That’s all for today folks. Apart from an apology to Bob, because I called him Bill in his last post. I have fixed that now.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to make that start on your layout.



PS Have you had a look at the latest ebay cheat sheet yet?.

PPS Finally got my head around facebook, so if you want to make me very happy and like my page, it’s here.

Bob solves his layout access problem


As you know layouts are always evolving and in that evolution challenges present themselves.

My original 4×6 HO layout expanded to 5×9 which was all that could be done in a 9×11 room. So I moved everything to a larger room and expanded it again to about 9×10 (the first picture).

I got everything the way I wanted with a roundhouse, turntable, and larger station. The problem was all the turnouts. They are all Atlas and there is know positive way to know which way it is turned without physically looking at the switches.

I saw a video on how to use red and green LEDs on a control panel to indicate the status of a turnout. To do that kind of thing with Atlas would require using Atlas relays. Looking at the expense I decided to try using a Tortoise switch motor to operate an Atlas turnout and have LEDs on the control panel and it worked.

So I took the plunged and decided to convert to all Tortoise motors for my turnouts and redo my control panel using DPDT toggle switches.

The first challenge was to add the Tortoise to the existing turnouts. It required drilling from under the layout to access the operating arm. It was tricky getting the operating rod fed into the slide bar but once in the Tortoise worked fine and I got my indicator LEDs working.

The next Challenge came when I used one DPDT switch to operate both Tortoise motors for a crossover. Because the motors were both working at the same time in parallel, there was too much voltage for the LEDs. I burnt two sets before I decided to search online about using Tortoise motors and LEDs for crossovers. I needed to add a resistor. Now the crossover LEDs are working.

The third challenge was to get to three turnouts to cut off the excess operating rod ( picture 2). The three turnouts are on the left of the picture. The turnout closest to the turntable I can reach.

HO scale layout

HO turntable

To gain access to the turnouts I decided to create a bridge. Because of the fence around the turntable, the trackwork, and trees, I couldn’t just lay a board across. So I got a 2’x4’ 3/4in piece of plywood, cut it to 14in by 48in, and cut eight blocks out of a 2×4 about 3in long and placed them on the layout between the trackwork.

I took the bridge out of the turntable and I put yellow wood glue on top of the blocks and set the plywood on the blocks and screwed the plywood to the blocks. The second picture shows the underside of the bridge.


layout access

The picture shows the plywood bridge in place ready to use. The layout is sturdy to begin with and the plywood bridge distributes the load to eight points. When I get all of the turnout motors replace and have my new control panel I will send an update. Maybe even post a video.

layout access

The picture shows my current control panel. The three circles highlight the DPDT switches I use to control two turnouts and on crossover.

Installing the DPDT switches required me to use plexiglass squares to mount the DPDT switches because the existing panel is 1/4in plywood. It also required some tricky work under the panel. Then I realized that I didn’t want to replace the existing Atlas slide switches one by one using pieces of plexiglass.

I decided that I would build a whole new panel and put it in place when I was ready. I bought a 2’x4’ piece of 3/16 Masonite, usually you see it with a bunch of holes that you can use to hang things. I also wanted to keep the work under the payout to a minimum.

I took a piece of scrap particle board and cut a 3/16 groove in it and stood my 14in x 24in panel board in the groove and screwed two pieces of scrap alongside of the panel to keep it upright.

control panel

Now I can work on the control panel sitting at a work table. I am using quick connects on the wiring so when I put the new panel in place I can ad quick connects to the existing wiring and plug everything together.

Bob, Virginia.”

A huge thanks to Bob. Some very clever stuff going on there.

If you want to catch up on Bob’s pevious post, it’s here.

That’s all for today folks – please do keep ’em coming, it’s all getting a bit thin on the ground this end.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to stop dreaming and start doing.



PS Have you had a look at the latest ebay cheat sheet yet?.