HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

John’s added to the collection of HO scale track plans for shelf layout on the blog:

“Good Morning Al,

Hello from Newmarket Ontario Canada!

I’ve been receiving your daily communication for about 18 months now.

Inspiring articles and pictures plus the curiosity of never knowing what the tide will bring in today – that’s what keeps me interested to open up your link daily. Keep up the good work!

As my story goes, it all started so innocently 35 years ago when I had great intentions of building an HO model railroad layout for my two sons.

I was able to get a simple and bare 4 x 8 piece of plywood on legs and a single loop of HO track traveling around the perimeter, similar to a set up my Dad built for me using a Triang railway set way back when.

The layout – if you can call it that – wasn’t much, but it did provide us with some fun.

We simply had to use our imagination on a grand scale as we transported those bold-colored Lego blocks in the mismatched hopper and gondola cars from one side of the layout to the other.

Business life, company transfers, et al, curtailed any furthering of this spirited initial RR effort. Now that I’ve retired, I decided to use my newfound time to build a layout my two Grandsons will enjoy when visiting. In essence, build the model layout I was never able to build for my boys.

So, with great hope and anticipation, I located the two old cardboard boxes of miscellaneous train items from the deep dark basement and peered in for the first time in over three decades.

What limited hodge-podge inventory I had, hadn’t weathered the various moves and storage well.

I quickly wired up a straight piece of track and tested the loco’s. They kind of worked. Some rolling stock models were still in the boxes, so they’d be OK. Many others were in pieces. Where did all my tracks go? Humm… I need to design a proper layout!

I discovered a complimentary RR design software called SCARM and was totally consumed with it for about a couple of months.

My retirement coincided with the beginning phases of COVID lockdown, so I felt this was a justified and productive use of my time.

I was designing hundreds of large and small layouts. Simultaneously I started to acquire additional HO items.

The Train Gods must have been on my side as I got very lucky with a few model train estate sales (my goodness… the amount of stuff people collect and never seem to use is mind-boggling).To the point that I’m asking myself the same thing… Am I heading down that same route??!!

I’ve bought way too much, but who could resist when you’re purchasing new in-the-box items for five and ten cents on the dollar!

I ended up with a mishmash of unbuilt and pre-built model buildings, locos, rolling stock and track – brass and nickel – but I simply figured I’d slam them into a repurposed life on a small “trial” shunting yard or junction style of layout. The idea being if I could build a small layout, learn from it, then I could plan for the future “empire” layout.

So, here it is! I’ve latched onto the darling little railroad company known as the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railroad – TH&B – centered in southwestern Ontario.

It has provided inspiration for this little layout and will become the main theme of the larger and future layout as well.

The TH&B has a colourful history and a great story. Like many other North American Rail Roads, it managed to survive many ownership groups before it was eventually swallowed up by its then iconic majority shareholder, Canadian Pacific Railways, in 1987.

I joined the TH&B historical society and the guys there have been very kind and responsive to all my questions.

I’ve provided diagrams of both the current shunting or Junction Style layout – fictitiously named Amaranth Falls – and the future larger layout to also be modeled based on TH&B operations in southern Ontario.

As with all layouts, even this small one is “dynamic” in nature and I’ve made a few alterations after having taken these pictures. Does it ever stop?

Amaranth Falls is built on a simple raised plywood table covered with a one-inch foam slab. Dimensions are 8 ft. x 16 inches similar to a long wide shelf.

It’s a very busy town that includes a coal mine, furniture manufacturer, hotel, supermarket, craft brewery, fruit wholesaler and scrap iron dealer, a John Deere Tractor dealership, a refueling depot, and a small passenger platform.

Whew, yes, a lot to fit into this little layout, and again it wasn’t planned this way, but with the various buildings that I had acquired at the various garage and estate sales, etc., well I just felt it could work. It’s a simple DC layout.

Surprisingly, I’ve really enjoyed the creative aspects of modeling scenery, water, backdrop creation as well as the weathering of both rolling stock and buildings. That’s the fun of a shelf model railway.

So much more to learn, but as promised to my lovely wife, I’ll have to finish the basement renovations before beginning the big layout.

Oh well, more time for dreaming up new visions of what that layout might eventually contain. That’s all part of the fun!

Hope you will enjoy my story and pictures. My continued thanks to you and your readership for excellent material and inspiration.


model railway shelf layout

shelf layout

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shelf layout

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shelf model railway

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

A huge big thanks to John for such a wonderful narrative and pics, a fine addition to the HO scale track plans for shelf layouts on the blog.

We all seem to slip back in to this hobby on memories and dusty old boxes in storage. Long may it continue.

If it’s shelf layout you are after, there are lots on the blog, here are a few more:

HO scale shelf layout ideas

HO shelf layouts

HO shelf layout

HOn3 Shelf model railroad

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

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



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

24 Responses to HO scale track plans for shelf layouts

  1. Vince says:

    Wasn’t TH&B 77 wrecked when a tank truck couldn’t stop at a crossing

  2. Vincent Perry says:

    Layout looks great

  3. a k says:

    top layout sofar!!

  4. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Hi your small fiddle yard looks great. If you build your main layout to the same standard it should be outstanding. Your layout plan looks good for both fiddle and main line running at the same time. Well done. Keep us up to date please.

  5. Jeff Frazier says:

    To John Aramath Falls: WOWOWOWOWOW!! Been Reading Al’s Blog for 2 years! This is my FIRST POST: JOHN OMG!! SIR!! OUTSTANDING ATTENTION to Detail!! Your Boys should be Very Proud of their Dad for Keeping His Dream Alive!! Good Luck With Your “EMPIRE” layout, JUST OUTSTANDING SIR, Stay Well & Be Healthy, Jeff F. ;-))))))

  6. Nice work in such a small area,plenty of detail,well done !!

  7. George Zaky says:

    If your “empire” layout is half as great as Amaranth Falls it will be awesome. Keep us posted.
    Stay safe
    George from LI, NY

  8. Jeff says:

    Fantastic narration and what you did in such a small space is great. You’ll be ready to create your next larger layout with ease now. Enjoy!

  9. Don Aide says:

    That was TH$B number 71, a GP7, which was also the first locomotive produced by GM’s locomotive division in London, Ontario

  10. Erick says:

    Looking good. I hope mine turns out that way.

  11. Rob McCrain says:

    I have always been a loop layout guy but I have seen a number of end-to-end layouts lately and can now see many advantages to doing a layout that way now. I very much like what you’ve done with Amaranth Falls. I like the idea of an end-to-end layout so much I think I might build one when I complete my Colorado North Western. I love all the detail and the track plan leaves so many options for operating it boggles the mind.

  12. Al Otis says:

    A great little shelf layout, nice scenery work also.

  13. Bill in Virginia says:

    Wonderful layout John! As one who loves switching your layout affords ample hours of enjoyment doing just that. Well done!

  14. Robert D. Bouskill says:

    Love the TH&B ( tramps, hobos and bums ) GP7. I also like the sliced buildings against the backdrop. Nice job.

  15. Bill McCourt says:

    Nice work!

  16. GHenry says:

    Amazingly detailed simulation of a busy community, particularly within the limited dimensions of the diorama. Outstandingly realistic detailing throughout, and the use of diagonal perspectives to deceive the eye regarding depth is phenomenally successfully. Great planning and execution.

    This layout is well on its way to becoming a top contender for emulation.

  17. Cary B says:

    Hello John,
    That’s a great looking switching layout you have built.
    When I started back into model railroading several years ago I had set up a 96 X 12 shelf board and had hours of fun shunting cars around. We later moved and I was blessed to have a fairly large room all my own.
    Your track layout and scenery is to be admired, great work
    Cary B from New Market Maryland

  18. William says:

    Comment is easy.
    WOW!!! Great job!

  19. Great job ! Very nicely done; detailing and switching possibilities + of course, Fun Factor. Would make a great branchline destination as a module or part of your future “Empire”. Inspiring !!

  20. Jim says:

    Love the story and layout looks great!

  21. dan robinson says:

    Thanks and a lovely piece of Ontario history, in which we seem to have a lot of here, so many take overs like Grand Trunk, and the small lines, across this province, that have disappeared most have become walking trails, so many stories that go with it. If you decide to walk on them, you can feel the ghosts of time rumble. Beauty layout. thanks Dan

  22. William Orton says:

    Outstanding detail showing how small railroads were integral to the community. I especially like the old industrial buildings.
    Great work

  23. Stephen Hill says:

    What an amazing piece of masterful work by one man in one day . That’s quite impressive , you must incorporate a warehouse of knowledge sir pertaining to model railroading .. I tip my hat .

    As well to the second fellow John , no less sir may be said for your efforts and accomplishments with your fine display.
    The trains draw us in with passion , but the scenery , man the scenery just brings it , and us the viewers , to vibrant life … thank you gentlemen indeed .

  24. Bob Muhme says:

    Great shelf layout John! Really impressive use of the space! Surprised to not see it worked into the next layout!
    Bob M in Michigan not too far from you!

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