4×8 HO scale layout

Brent’s been in touch with his 4×8 HO scale layout.

“Hi Al,

I saw you had posted my large layout a while back, that layout now belongs to the City of San Jose, CA for Christmas in the park. I was a junior in high school when it started, wanted to give back, so I donated it.

Which brings me to my little 4 x 8 that has been stored for over twenty years!

I live in the Sierra foothills of Northern, CA, known for gold and logging operations. As you can see by the pictures, this is the theme I was looking to recreate. Still putting it back together, going to add a shanty town and small lake on the upper right ridge. Will eventually go DCC, having fun with my old Heisler’s & Shays (DC) for the time being.

All of the trestle, bridge work and engine houses are scratch built. I found the saloon and train depot kits (Ayres) I purchased years ago, they are in various stages of completion and will be added soon

I hope you enjoy the pictures, will send more as progress is made.



4x8 HO scale layout

4x8 HO scale layout

4x8 HO scale layout trestle bridge

4x8 HO scale layout logging

4x8 HO scale DCC

4x8 model train

4x8 model railroad

(If you’re after more HO, have a look at the HO scale train layouts

And now on to Stephen, who has sent in pics on a subject I’m always going on about – starting!


Some pictures from the early stages of my platform. Started with your buildings, then Your Beginners Guide, and every post you send out.

Will show you as it progresses.


And now on to Mike, who has also made a cracking start:

” Hi Al –

I’ve been a faithful reader for a few years so let me start by thanking you AND all those who have contributed so many pictures, tips and advice!! It is all more valuable and appreciated than you can imagine.

Your persistent support of beginners has given me the courage to submit my project.

This is my second start in three years as we have moved to Hatteras Island, a rather remote NC location…my nearest club is nearly 3 hours away. I am applying a lot of lessons learned the hard way and have incorporated as much storage space as possible into/under the layout to satisfy the boss…

Details first – the indoor layout is 9×7 feet. Trackwork is Atlas 100 flextrack with some sectional inserts. I use 1” foam, cork roadbed and primarily yellow carpenters glue. I love working with foam as no mistake is unfixable!

I have found it to hold securely but easy to remove if needed. It was planned using RailModeller Pro for Mac (heartily endorse!). Equipment is a mix of every manufacturer that every existed except Marklin. Turnouts are Atlas #4s. I don’t count rivets nor is the layout intended to be prototypical.

You will see mistakes and repairs as I softened a few curves – lessons learned from the earlier layout. My major achilles is the electrical system. I’m using a Digitrax Zephyr DCC system.

Following a long career in telecom, I’m comfortable with DCC communications tech. It’s the wiring and connectivity that gets me fussed. So, I have decided not to implement blocks at first but I have run 2 distinct bus lines for future use.

I have joiner feeds dropped every 3ft and will attempt to use a “peel and pigtail (soldered)” approach using wire nuts to minimize soldering needs. The turnouts will probably be wired individually back to a central board using old school Atlas switches.

One area I expect a lot of critique on is the “valley.” I know speed control will be key to avoid bunching and maybe the rise is too sharp. It’s something I wanted to try and am prepared to replace if needed.

Again, thanks to all for their inspiration and advice. Learning to be patient and knowing everything can be fixed gives me the confidence to go on!!


A big thanks to Brent for sharing his 4×8 HO scale layout, and to Stephen and Mike too.

I do hope there are others out there that have made a start because of the blog – the start is everything…

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day when you make your start, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

29 Responses to 4×8 HO scale layout

  1. Robert Brady says:

    MIKE ! Please put leg covers on those legs to the layout. You’ll ruin the floor. the legs will make indents especially when it gets heavier.
    The Critic

  2. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Mike and Steven A great start looks like they will be an interesting layouts. I wonder if you both could try and add a bit more marshalling storage at this early stage, I think you could run into storage problems as your locos and stock expand.
    Brent This layout has survived well. I’m sure with a little work it will be as good as new. Love the curved engine shed.

  3. Ruben Simon says:

    Brent, very, very nice! But one thing confuses me – in the dark, some of the buildings are orange. Is that from outside lighting, or are the walls made of material that allows the light to shine through? My brain’s not making sense of it.

  4. Mike says:

    Appreciate the feedback!
    (Critic) I should have mentioned the legs have levelers inserted and then those are capped with rubber disks…saves the floor and provides enough friction to prevent shifting. I’ll also add cross struts once I’m done with all the work below.

    (Colin) Altho I still only have the 4 lines at the coal yard, they are a bit longer now. I hadn’t thought about freight yard storage and will have to work that in…good point.

  5. Johnathon says:

    Totally awesome. Great work.

  6. NJ Mark says:

    I love all of the submissions! There is something to enjoy from all. Mike, your layout is neat as well as the storage beneath it! Brent, those glowing buildings can be fixed by painting the inside walls. My first illuminated building did just that and I didn’t like the effect. I have many structures and had to go back and carefully add a coat of flat black paint. With new buildings I spray the walls with paint before assembly. Stephen, great progress, it already is a winner. Cheers! NJ Mark

  7. jeanne griffin says:

    I love all the layouts, and if there was room, I’d build one one a base. Because I want the grands to be involved (as do they), I decided to build elements of a layout and let them put it all together on the floor when they visit. They spend hours playing with the train and setting everything up. It’s fun for me to take it all down when they leave. I’m not going to any sort of realism as trains go, but more a telling of family history. Grandpa was a machinist in the roundhouse for Norfolk Southern and I have his work diary, with the engines he worked on and what he did to them, as well as injuries he sustained himself. So interesting! Thanks for all the tips/tricks/info.

  8. All sooo good!
    Good starts.
    Brent, the first model kit I assembled on my own was an Ayres lumber shed — Later released by Suydam, California Traction, and Alpine.
    The Ayres kit had a little office that the others did not. I wish I still had that model.
    Your curved engine house is unique.. Quite the eye catcher.

  9. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Brent…… That looks great…..send the more pics as you add on. Scenery and detail is awesome.

    Stephen……great start……nice work on those buildings…nice idea with the columns (are they temporary)?

    Mike……great plan and great start. I am jealous of your carpentry skills; great platform. The green trestles…are they scratch built?

  10. Brent says:

    Hi Ruben.,

    Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you! A few of the buildings walls are a thinner styrene, I will address this with a bit of cardboard to stop that orange glow. Glad you like it, quite a few hours have gone into it.


  11. Erick says:

    Pretty neat idea.

  12. John Verrengia says:

    What a great layout. I hope you don’t mind, I saved an image w it for future use with my N gauge.

  13. Alabama Mike says:

    Brent, glad you shared your layout with us. Great work. I really like the layout a lot. It beautiful. Please keep us up to date on additions and addons. I really like the logging and mining theme.

  14. Alabama Mike says:

    Brent, glad you shared your layout with us. Great work. I really like the layout a lot. It beautiful. Please keep us up to date on additions and addons. I really like the logging and mining theme.

  15. Mackenzie says:

    Hello Stephen, I’ve got a question about the climb in your pics. I am building my own layout now and I’ve got a climb too, so I’d like to know how steep your climb is. Thanks a lot!

  16. Bob Walsh says:

    How and where in the world did you store this great looking layout…for 20!!! years?
    Was it next to Howard Hughes’ hermetically sealed body? Probably looks better than he does.

  17. David Schaffner says:

    Brent…Love your layout. I especially like the way it unfolds into an interesting effect. I have had a large Lionel layout (*x8) which was dismantled and sold after I got married and started having kids, but mostly because we moved into a different house, so to my anguish, there it went.
    I am in the process of staring a new one, much smaller (6×5) and built around a wood stove…Yours gives me ideas.
    Love the rustic feeling of isolation, your buildings, trestle and the feel of realism.
    Awesome snow effect….Can’t wait to see more.

  18. Rusty Hubbard says:

    I may have miss is but what are the layout’s deminsions/scal? I assumed it was 4×8 until I saw the tiagram that looks like it has an extension on it?

  19. Tim shirk says:

    Mike, it looks like you have modified the track plan with the line through the valley where it heads off toward “farm”.? I like the valley concept. If the rise is too fast, You might lower the turnout a quarter inch and feather out track and landscape to match that turnout elevation with all your current layout design. Fairly easy task with foam.

  20. Brent says:

    I want to thank everyone for their wonderful and helpful comments! Will send more updates as things get added and improved. So glad that with a bit of cleaning, all the track and turnouts work well. Till next time!


  21. Ed DeBoth says:

    I really enjoy the submittals on your site.
    Could the layouts being submitted be labeled with the gauge being used as
    it’s hard to know from just looking at the pictures. Ho versus N.

  22. Thank you for the blog!!!! I was interested in starting, now I am hooked. Lots of questions, I bot the Beginners Guide and am looking forward with great interest.
    Just looked at the ebay cheat. Surprised at the low costs for rolling stock — some said for parts, OK I understand.
    But the locomotives did not seem all that expensive. $29?? what is wrong with them?
    I have a lot learn.
    Thanks for all the advice and suggestions I read daily.


  23. Dave Karper says:

    Jeanne Griffin, was Grampa Norfolk & Western or Southern RR?

  24. Nice layouts ! Where did you guys get the graduated styrofoam grade risers , I have looked around the internet with no luck ! Iam planing a H.O. layout , about 12 ×15 ft Transition era, Mining and Logging on the UP of Michigan.

  25. Brian M. Hanson says:

    Hi Brent,

    These are really splendid layouts. I notice in the first layout you have a “loop back” design. How do you get round the problem of short circuiting? I guess you would need to pay close attention to which points were open or closed around the track!
    I’m a novice building an OO gauge layout from multiple sets and add-on kits that I received as a gift, so I’m hunting ideas and tips.

    Kind regards,

    Brian from York, UK.

  26. ScenicsRme says:

    Ernie Ernsting, Woodland Scenics makes and sells the foam risers with different slopes and elevations or you could cut your own with a hot wire foam cutter.

  27. ScenicsRme says:

    Brian, these day of the DCC command control system, you can wire up a device known as an automatic reversing module at the reversing turnout that will sense the potential short circuit and switches the polarity so fast the command station nor the locomotive even knows it happened. No more having to have power blocks, flipping switches on your panel as the train crosses over or any of that old school complicated wiring nonsense is needed, plus with DCC you control each train no matter where it is on the layout or even if it is sharing the same track with another train. Then there is the availability of sound from the locomotive in sync with the engine’s movement to add even more realism and fun to operating your layout.

  28. Phil from California says:

    I love the layout. You mentioned your layout is 9’x7′. How big is your benchwork surface?

    Thanks for the info!

    Phil H.

  29. Billie Tadros says:

    thanks for all the photos, a most helpful layout, sure looks great as I have very limited room 4×8. it gives me an idea of where to start,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *