Al’s stunning HO logging railroad layout

“Attached are some photos of my 4′ x 8′ layout for you to post if you desire. I am 73 years old and retired from a career in commercial fire protection.

My layout is set in the northwest United States in the early 1940’s. The buildings are all wooden kits with the exception of the saw mill and power house which are plastic.

I have two DCC steam engines with sound, a 3 truck shay and a 0-6-0 tank engine. All of the buildings are lighted and I am going to install some street lights in the near future. The mountains are made of rigid foam which was shaped with a wood burning tool, knife and rasp.

I enjoy your posts and have gotten many good ideas from them.


Lacey, Washington”

HO cross track

HO rock face

HO tmber yard

HO timber yard

HO sidings

HO forest

HO girder bridge

HO water tower

HO girder bridge

HO tunnel

“Hi AL.

I read your email every time I get one. I enjoy them so very much. I’m not exactly a newbie as I have made at least 10 layouts since I bought my first train set as an adult in December 1963 for my two sons, then ages 3 & 4. I have made or helped make layouts in O gauge, HO gauge and N gauge and have had fun with all of them. I’m current in HO gauge and probably remain there for the rest of my life.

I don’t know what category in which to put this, but I’m a number cruncher in real life (accountant) and here are formulas for calculating speed of HO/OO gauge trains.

actual feet/time in seconds * 59.386 will give scale mph

actual meters/time in seconds *313.493 will give kph

I will derive the formulas for O gauge and N gauge in the near future.

Lester in Georgia, USA”

“Beware of paralysis by analysis. It’s easy to use up too much time planning so that you don’t get on with construction.

Make a start and then you can make corrections as you go. (Some baic plan is of course required.)


And lastly, something from Hall of Fame member, Dangerous Dave.

“Hi Alistair, just downloaded part 3 of the re build, shows my method for adding static Grass and a few other tips there for modellers building a layout.

Hope to get near completion within the next few weeks.



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Dave, Desmond, Lester and Al.

I do love the layouts with a theme, for me, they stand out a mile and I thought Al has done a cracking job.

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

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you’re inspired by Al.



49 Responses to Al’s stunning HO logging railroad layout

  1. steve says:

    excellent job , al

  2. Brian Messenger says:

    Lacey, love the detail around your layout. Looks natural.

  3. Brian moretti says:

    Just a note , the track would look just so much better if you air brush the rail

  4. Colin says:

    Nice layout. I also like the number of trees within the forest areas. Really starting to look as dense as a real forest would be. It also has the effect of creating smaller panoramas within the layout all with their own character. One of the best layouts so far. Well done.

  5. Jack Bury says:

    Al, you’ve done a great job with your layout. Love the details. True to your theme and time period.

  6. NJ Mark says:

    Beautiful scenery! This stuff inspires me. Cheers! NJ Mark

  7. Ralph Samples says:

    Al, very nice log operation. And I have never seen a siding on a bridge before. Does the siding have a purpose (real or imagined) other than to park one car or engine on the bridge?

    Ralph in Eureka, MO, USA

  8. Appookta says:

    At 74, I’m still contemplating my first RR setup. I have an N-gauge Bachmann kit and am at the planning stage. I’ve calculated that 100′ oaks would be about 6″ tall. Is this possible? That seems incredibly large for N-scale. Would someone either confirm this or correct me? That’ll let me know if I’m in the right direction. And maybe tell me if modeling trees are just made as impressions and not to full size. Thanks ahead of time.

  9. Don Jennings says:

    Al I went on the site LAYOUT and could not find anything about your layout. Please direct to where it is. A layout sketch of your layout with the good pictures would help identify the pictures with where the pictures are on the layout. How about a nice sketch Please. donj

  10. Brian says:

    Looks like you have a lot going on in a 4 x 8 space.
    Please post a track plan so we can get a perspective on the photos.
    Always been intrigued by the logging theme.
    Were you inspired by a prototype?

  11. Warren Ferguson says:

    Al, you’ve done a beautiful job on your logging operation layout. How about some night shots?
    Dave, as always, great job! Love the stations and moors.

  12. bob says:

    Dangerous Dave,
    Loved your field trip into the country. It is like a fairytale and looks just like your model railroad. I live in Canada so nothing looks like you describe. I also would like you the see the art deco station in Chicago.

  13. JACK WINDT says:


  14. Eric Rayner says:

    Nice work Al. Ignore the ones that want every rivet in place, everything coated in rust and grunge, if you are happy then that is all that matters as it is our hobby for ourselves to enjoy. We try to encourage others to get started and interest them in the hobby by Alastair showing our efforts in this blog, can almost guarantee someone will ask for a track plan too as they can’t think a layout up for themselves.
    Enjoy your modelling Al.
    Eric (Leeds) UK

  15. Carl in Kansas says:

    Is a 100-foot tall oak tree 6″ tall? Sounds about right to me, but I am not sure. If you have a 60-foot long passenger car and a 40-foot long freight car, then couple them together and measure them, and see if they are about 6 inches long.

    Still in training,
    Carl in Kansas.

  16. Carl in Kansas says:

    An oak tree 100-feet tall is about 7 1/2 inches tall.

    100 feet = 1200 inches.
    N scale is 1:160.
    1200 inches divided by 160 = 7.5 inches.

    A 6″ tree in N scale = 80 foot tall tree.

    Keep on training,
    Carl in Kansas

  17. don kadunc says:

    Do they have regular steam service in England and Europe, or is this an excursion train? We lost out steam decades ago.

  18. Suggestion: I wouldn’t be so precise in the length of a tree for N gauge. Trees grow to many heights in real life and should not all be the same height on a model railroad. Match the trees to an N gauge car to get a general size for trees to build or purchase.

  19. Mal says:

    N gauge = 2mm to the foot hence 100’ tall oaks is 100 x 2 = 200mm
    200mm /25 = 8 inches.
    Yep that’s how big a 100’ tall oak would be in N gauge.
    It never ceases to amaze me how much compression our minds eye imposes on the layouts. Real trees are huge!

    Fancy a giant redwood at 300’ high?
    Two foot tall in N gauge!!!! It would just look sooooooo wrong whilst being correct.

    It’s all to do with the perspective. The horizontal is so compressed on a layout that the true vertical extent also needs to be limited to prevent an odd looking result.

    Might be better to think of 30 to 40 foot tall mature trees to get a better appearance. N-gauge is 60 to 80 my tall. I.e. 2.5 to 3.5 inches.


  20. Shawn says:

    Al I like the layout. Very nice. Great attension to detail and keeping it period correct. Great job.

  21. Mike says:

    Al, this is a great layout. I love all the setting and the detail you have put in it. Super job. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Allan Jelinek says:

    Very nice job. I’m thinking about getting into HO Scale because I no longer have the space for “O” Gauge in our townhouse. Very cool

  23. Thomas Murphy says:

    Oh boy, Al ~ what a remarkable job that you pulled off with your lay-out. The detail is fantastic, it really shows your dedication and talent for creating a real-life scenery setting. Thank you, so much, for sharing your impressive work.
    Regards, Tom (USA)

  24. Johnny says:

    Looks real good, keep up the fun.

  25. Kenneth W. Hall Jr says:

    Love it. This would be great in my layout. Awesome job.

  26. Ian McDonald says:

    great pictures. the detail is very good.sawmill detail really made me interested.
    the video Dave is outstanding. thanks for sharing.

  27. Bob Davidson says:

    Good job building a remarkable R R scene!

  28. dangerous daveErmnie has done a nice jhob says:

    The video showing the North Yorkshire Moors Railway , has a regular service which runs from March through to November , then the odd Santa specials over the Xmas period …Dangerous Dave

  29. LARRY PEEK says:

    I would love to have a copy of the layout so that I could build a similar layout. It is , for me, an outstanding layout and one I would enjoy.

  30. John says:

    I thought the layout was impressive but the garden really amazing !

  31. James Marek says:

    Beautiful logging layout! Nice detail work! Very impressive!

  32. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Dave Thanks for the instruction video will be a great help to all modelers. I think the new curves on your layout are an improvement on the original layout track plan. As usual with you your layout just gets better. Looking forward to seeing this one finished and see what you come up for your next alterations. I think it will be difficult to find what you can improve but I think we all know you will find the need to redo something. As you said in the video you love the scenic part of modelling.
    Thanks again.

  33. THOMAS says:

    Dave ,
    So nice to see your trains running ! Thanks

  34. Dwight in Toronto says:

    I’ve always been intrigued with converting real world structures and features into N scale dimensions. To think that a scale redwood would be 3 feet tall … kinda gives you a new perspective on how big these old trees really are. Or how ’bout REAL mountain dimensions? For example, the highest peaks in the Alps are on the order of 4,000 metres, or, roughly, 12,000 feet. At 1:160 N scale, a real alpine mountain would need to be 75 feet high! That’s like a seven or eight story building. And Mount Everest is what, three times higher than the Alps … that would be a twenty story office tower!

  35. Robert Brady says:

    Question AL; Once the logging car empties it’s load how do you make way for the next car inline? BTW ur layout is superb.
    The Critic

  36. James Marek says:

    Nice layout.

  37. James Marek says:

    Looks like we have two James Marek’s on this forum. I live in the Midwest. And you???

  38. Mike Balog says:

    Great Workmanship and Detail on the Logging Layout.. Can you publish a Track Plan too ? Only Thing I noticed, that was Odd was the yellow Fuel Oil Truck being too Shiny for the Layout.. need to use a Flat base enamel or water base paint on it to tone down the shine. Someone else wondered about the Passing Siding on a Double Track Bridge. Could have made the Siding 2x or 3x as Long starting Prior to the each end of the bridge. And since it is a Logging RR, Put some Fire Barrels on the Bridges. As far as the Comments on TREE Height.. That is True, In Real life the Trees are Very Tall. Have Oak and Maple Trees here in my yard that are 2x as tall as this house. If you made an area depicting the New England Fall conditions, don’t forget to make a few Trees changing color and leaves under the trees on the ground. Figures Raking Leaves too. A couple of Dog’s chasing Squirrels or playing Ball with Kids.. ~ Mike in N.H. USA.

  39. Terry Miller says:

    I too was wondering about the siding on the double track bridge. Why?
    Overall a good looking layout.

  40. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done, Al. You’ve created some interesting and realistic scenery on this layout. Thanks for sharing.

  41. Alabama Mike says:

    Al, you have a beautiful layout and well done. Very detailed. I enjoyed the pictures very much.

  42. Victor Koyano says:

    l love logging scenes. l live in Washington and went mushrooming many times. Uh, you may want to remove trees too close to tracks to avoid locomotive wheel sparks causing wildfire. Just kidding. Nice layout on such small space.

  43. Will in NM says:

    Al (Lacey, WA) I really like how you’ve managed to get a lot of logging railroad into a 4×8 space. The track plan looks like a figure 8 with an outside loop and some sidings which gives you a lot of operation in a small area. You said the lumber mill was a plastic model: was it a kit or scratch built? I like the motel and General Store area — very nicely detailed. The only thing missing from your photos was the 3-truck shay. Where the heck was it? 🙂

    Dave, Nice work on your revised layout and your beautiful yard and Koi pond. I paused the video so I can show my wife the yard. She’ll go crazy over all the flowers. Thanks for sharing again.

    And Desmond, thanks for reminding us all to get busy. I am one of those who suffers from paralysis by analysis too often. My wife’s motto, on the other hand, it “Just do it!” which, thankfully, often get me out of the analysis phase.

  44. Dennis Koppo says:

    Love the “Paralysis By Analysis” adage. Applicable whenever undergoing a project of any kind, personal or professional. Thanks.

  45. James West says:

    This to to Dave.

    The RXR is very good but the back yard is GREAT
    I don’t know how you keep it all up. I only have about 1/4 of the yard you do and it’s a full time job for me.

  46. John Dougherty says:

    Hi Dave I know you have been asked this a million times, but what camera do you use to make your videos. I have tried all different mini cameras and can’t seem to get a clear good video. All your stuff is amazing. Thank you

  47. Thanks re my layout , to answer John , I use a panasonic HC-X920 camcorder for the main video filming from above , and for the track side mini cam I use the Mobius mini cam …..and thanks you all for the comments on my back yard , the koi pond and garden …

  48. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Al……. love your scenery…….

    Dangerous Dave…….as always, your HOW-TOs are great and welcomed.

  49. Mark T. Pianka says:

    nice looking layout!

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