HO 4×8 layout – Cal’s

Call’s been in touch again with is HO 4×8 layout:

If you missed his last installment, it’s here.

He’s a man of few words this time, but you can read all about his layout in the link above.


Here is a quick video of my layout update



HO 4x8 layout

HO 4x8 layout

HO 4x8 layout

HO 4x8 layout

Cal’s HO 4×8 layout has featured a few times on the blog now and I always enjoy it.

Now on to Jack:

“Hi Al,

I was in Hobby Lobby buying some Woodland Scenics blended turf when I saw they had Realistic Water.

There is always a 40 % off coupon available on line, so I found it on my phone and saved quite a bit.

As you know, I had trouble with Scenic Water before, but since I followed all WS’s recommendations, and the price was right, I succumbed. So far so good.

I have been under the layout wiring the lighting.

To begin the electrical work, I mounted a power strip along the inside edge of the layout.

The switch controls 6 outlets. Into that I plugged various wall warts.

I needed one for the NCE system, one for 16 volts for the switches and amusement rides, one for 12 volts for the incandescent bulbs in the amusement park buildings, and one that came with the Ferris wheel.

For the LED lights in the houses and the street lights I thought about the Woodland Scenics light hub that outputs 3 volts.

It has places to plug in 4 lights or sets of lights, with a dimmer on each of the 4 plugs.

I found an eBay site called wehonest (really) that has a lot of electrical/electronic stuff, as well as scenic stuff, for model railroading. You order direct from China and the stuff is pretty inexpensive.

I bought the house lights, interconnecting wires and street lights from them.

They have a power distribution board similar to the WS hub but it has 29 plugs of various types. There is only one dimmer to control all attached lights. I can plug my 8 building lights and 10 street lights and still have plenty of plugs for expansion. Input to the board can be either ac or dc 4 to 24 volts. I used my 16 volt ac source.

I mounted my street lights on ‘concrete’ pads cut from left overs from vinyl flooring samples.

For my 16 volts for various items I mounted a terminal strip on either side of one of the supports under the layout. I tied all the terminals together on each strip and fed the 16 volts to the strips. Then I could just connect everything to the strips. Since stuff runs on various voltages, I have separate switches on the fascia for the amusement rides, amusement lighting and house lighting.

That’s all the progress for now.


model railroad

model train

model railroad

model train wiring

model train wiring

model railroad

Now on to Rob who asks a question that comes up a lot. Cal’s 4×8 HO layout packs a lot in to a small space – but what about an even smaller space?

“Hi Al –

I live in an apartment, and i have a living room, bedroom, kitchen, eating area, and office. Do you have any solutions for people like me who need to have their hands in a train layout, don’t have any kind of model train club close to them, and are very limited on space and noise?

I am open to any scale; I have worked with S-Gauge (American Flyer), HO, and N. I’m just out of the loop as far as what is available out there these days.



A huge thank you to Cal for sharing his HO 4×8 layout.

And I’m sure you all have some good advice for Rob, carved from hours of frustration!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming because it’s getting very thin on the ground this end.

And if today is the day stop dreaming and start doing, 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.

30 Responses to HO 4×8 layout – Cal’s

  1. Rob says:

    What a beautiful layout, Cal. I’m jealous that you can have a “permanent” layout. Wow, you are doing such a nice job.

  2. Pete Jones aka Pete the Mackem says:

    Layout looking great Cal. Scenery is brilliant and love the waterfall

  3. Rod Mackay says:

    Excellent job Cal, blended in those character scenes superbly, all looking very natural now, quite a triumph given how much you’ve got in the space, well done.

  4. Bob Walker says:

    Hey Cal – very nicely done & love the detail… also got a smile out of the S.S. Minnow & the 7 castaways (grin)… keep up the great work… -Bob W, NH, USA

  5. Brad says:

    New on the market and rather expensive for the moment is TT scale.This is SMALLER that Z scale!!!!! You can literally put an entire town and layout on a 4 x 4 table.Great for people with little room

  6. steven neely says:

    try your hand at either Z or N gauges and do a portable layout , go on ebay and Craig’s list and look for a audio mixer / keyboard case . think of a large brief case . I have a similar situation on not enough room in my house and after doing a rather large O / HON30 layout decided to try doing Z scale in a brief case , I recently did a small 18 x 22 Z scale in an old suitcase . and in the past couple of months have picked up several mixer cases ranging in size from, 26 x 48 to 21 x 26 which I plan on building Z , N and a HON layouts in , I’ll be able to safely store them when not in use and take them with me to show to friends . won’t be able to start these till later in the year when I take time off but will send pictures in when I finish one

  7. Cary B says:

    Great layout on a 4 X 8 has all the viewing needs of much larger layouts. I love it. Well done Cal.
    Cary B Maryland USA

  8. steven neely says:

    Bob , you could also do a ” shelf layout ” have seen a couple where the train ran around the room on a shelf above the the windows and doors going around the room , or just part way around using a auto reversing track
    PS when I get home ( I’m a trucker ) I’ll send in pics of the suitcase layout , and mixed cases hoping to give you more ideas and get started

  9. Jorge L. Fernandez III says:

    Cal, this is got to be one of the best for by a train layouts this Cuban is ever seen,
    The fact that he even put the S.S. Minnow stranded on the island makes it even better ! How’s that song that Billy Idol wrote ? I think it goes something like this a lot, more, more, more !!!!

  10. Noel Ford says:

    Cal’s layout is beautiful but he needs to slow those trains down. They are going way to fast for scale.

  11. Pat says:

    Rob …… have a look a t gauge as you are short on space ….it’s tiny and useable …. the points(turnouts) can be a bit difficult but the rest works well …..

  12. Cal says:

    You are right. I do need to slow the trains down. My bad.

  13. Darrel says:

    Cal, Very Beautiful layout. Word of advice to you. You may go to your public library and see if there is a model railroad club in your area. Or to find out about if a nursing home would like to see your layout or maybe bring the residents over to your home is an idea. Maybe a retirement home would be willing to have you build a layout for them. My one daughter was working in a place like that and when she found out about the room she called me and I went over and talked with the administer and was willing to help with the finishing ballast work and scenery as the person who had started it got real sick and passed away. So instead of throwing it out I was willing to help to finish it for the home and I must say that it is very beautiful job. Check with your library as they have a listing of clubs in your area, not only model railroad clubs but all service organizations and where they meet at and when and also a contact phone number. Or you can go on line and search for model railroad clubs in your area also. Again Very good job on your layout. Also check with your local railroad that runs through your town they might be able to tell you who to contact also. Look around at the county or state fair for displays or to contact a hobby shop who sells trains and they will have contact information also whether it be a train or plane hobby or both. Also see what stores that sell trains they will have contact info as well. In my city we have a couple of hobby stores plus we also have a craft stores (Hobby Lobby) that sells trains and they know who to contact as well. Craft stores have some buildings in all scales for people to put together and finish and they might know also. Hope this was a help to you. Again very beautiful layout keep up the good work.

  14. Bob Matteson says:

    A really nice layout Carl. you’ve got a lot of action packed into a small space. Love it.

  15. Ramcraft says:

    Cal, Your 4 x 8 “masterpiece” is an inspiration for me to get going again on a HO layout in my spare BR/office. At 75, I have not modeled trains since age 15 (WOW! 60 years).Then, it was Lionel 027, on a 9 x 5 (dad bought me a brand new ping pong table top). I am an HO club member, but also want my “own”. Thanks!

  16. Cary says:


    I’ve toyed with the idea of an N scale shelf layout with an auto reversing switch (so basically the train goes back and forth rather than round and round). I had looked at Kato’s Swiss alps glacier express, it’s a passenger tram that would look good running in both directions. I envisioned it traveling through the mountains, across bridges with a train station at each end. I gave up on the idea because i’m working on a large outdoor g scale layout which consumes my time, money and energy.

    Just a thought, have fun. Cary in KY.

  17. Cary says:

    Sorry Bob, this is the kato kit that has an engine at both ends.
    Kato N Scale 10-1318 Swiss Rhaetian Railway Bernina Express 5 Car Set

  18. James Maitland says:

    Well done!! Looks like the real thing.

  19. Mr George Albert Archer says:

    Rob, I was in the same situation. I built an N Gauge set up by putting casters on a sheet of plywood which allowed it to be rolled under the bed when not in use.

  20. Ken Goldenberg says:

    As a fan of Disneyland and an annual pass holder I love the Disneyland Main Street railroad station! Was that scratch built?

  21. Ian Pither says:

    Rob: try using Modules – 1m x 0,5m.

  22. Cal says:

    No. Actually the Disneyland Station model is a paper model from the Disney experience website. The actual scale is about O scale. I downloaded the model and then reduced it to HO scale. Printed it out on card stock and began building. It was too flimsey warped as I built it so I tossed it, reprinted the sheets I used. Then I glued the pieces to balsawood for strength and rigidity. Then I cut out the pieces and assembled them. BUT, you can see the flaws if you look real close at the model. Some seams didn’t exactly line up and there are a few gaps too. I haven’t finished it because the pieces are so tiny it’s very hard to deal with. Someday maybe amodel company will model it but until then this will have to do. I still have to do a bit more landscaping, add an engine house and add lights and cars/people.

  23. Cal says:

    Al and everyone. Thank you all for your kind words, suggestions and advice. Loved reading your comments.

  24. Thomas Murphy says:

    Most stunning and interesting layout, Cal. Each time you post, I become more and more attracted to the display of your efforts. Keep up the grand work and thank you for sharing your talents.
    Regards, Tom (USA).

  25. Ken Goldenberg says:

    It looks pretty good to me! Many years ago I tried making the station out of balsa ( in the 1970s, so no home computers or printers!). I got as far as making one of the roof and for the iconic light bulbs that adorns the Disneyland buildings, I used fiber optic threads that poked through the roof line to form “bulbs”. The fibers were then simply gathers together and ended at a single small light source. It worked great, was cheap to do and you onlyna single small hidden bulb to light the whole roof line.
    Of course now we have LEDs, but I think they would be too bright. Another thought it to make the station out of Lego since it is a pretty straight forward design.

  26. John Reynolds says:

    There are many opportunities for the space starved modeler….
    When I was in college my layout was an HO scale switching layout that was on one end of my desk… The layout depicted the business district of a small town and had a track that ran “off stage” to a “connection” with “the real world”…
    When my children were small I had a 3.5 foot by 5.5 foot layout that could easily tilt up against a wall.. This was an HO scale loop with two spurs and great fun to run…
    Right now I have a couple of switching layouts that occupy minimal space when stored “on end” and a couple that serve as “art pieces”… I also just built a 12 inch radius loop (like a pizza) that sits under my computer monitor… It is my “goldfish bowl” and serves both HO and On30 trains…
    Just a few ideas for you…

  27. NJ Mark says:

    Cal, I thought the burial in the church yard was great! Cheers! NJ Mark

  28. Helmut Eppich says:

    Nice, compact layout with excellent scenery. Especially with the S.S.Minnow beached on that tiny Gilligan’s Island.

  29. Ronald Edwards says:

    you have packed a lot into a small layout that looks to keep one quite busy operating the layout for quite a while. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Bruce Truax says:

    Great setup, I love the elevation at the back and the water falls. Looks fantastic Cal. Any chance I could get as copy of that layout showing track sizes and turnouts?

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