HO scale switching layouts – Charle’s

There’s quite a few HO scale switching layouts on the blog now. Here’s Charles’s:

“I’m a pilot for American Airlines based in Phoenix,AZ, but live 900 miles away in Derby, KS.

I generally have 24-30 hrs of downtime between flights (I’m away from home 18 days at a time).

I decided to build this switching layout between trips.

It’s has three businesses that I can switch rolling stock in and out.

One structure is kitbashed using DPM parts. Four of the buildings were purchased used and totally assembled that I reworked and detailed to my standards.

The townhouses are DPM flats that I built up to about 40mm in depth and joined them with a common floor, roof and back.

The plan is to detail some interiors and use Woodland Scenic lights.

The backdrop is from Backdrop Junction of rolling Pennsylvania hills. I was very pleased with backdrop.

The track plan is somewhat modified from one I found on the Model Railroad mag website.

HO scale switching layouts

HO scale switching layouts

HO scale switching layouts

HO scale switching layouts

In addition to HO scale I’m also qualified Engineer, Conductor and brakeman on a 1945 Alcohol S-1 switcher and a 1919 Baldwin 4-6-2 Pacfic (Santa Fe 3415) for the Abilene Smoky Valley RR in Abilene, KS. We run scheduled runs May thru Oct from Abilene to Enterprise KS as well as charters and dinner trains.




“Hi there Al,

I scrapped my old layout as it didn’t go the way I wanted and have restarted on a completely new layout, I will forward pics of that at a later time, the pictures I am enclosing are on a new method I’m trying.

In the past I built all my hills with plaster rolls and plaster skim, and as you will know that is messy especially on a large scale. So after seeing something on one of your mails from a while ago I decided to try using 1/4 and 1/2 inch packing foam.

The pictures show my first attempt on my end hill where I try to hide the helix on my layout. You will see the bare foam in place, then I undercoated it with Matt white emulsion then used two greens and browns to give a varied effect. I am really happy the way it is turning out.

The pics show the texture effect you get even before adding your ground cover which I have still to get to. One beauty is you can easily stick it together to add more terrain. the 1/2″ foam I am trying out on cliffs, results so far are encouraging because ground cover will easily cover joins and hide them. The other good thing is the foam is cheap for a large piece, cheaper than far to plaster rolls, for me anyway. My new layout has a nice new name of Newdale, like I said it’s new:-)

Eric (Leeds)”

railroad scenery 1

railroad scenery 2

railroad scenery 3

railroad scenery 4

railroad scenery 5

railroad scenery 6

railroad scenery 7

A big thanks to Charles for sharing his HO scale switching layouts, and too Eric too.

That’s all this time folks, please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you are ready to get off that chair, lay some track and have some fun.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still updated every single day…

29 Responses to HO scale switching layouts – Charle’s

  1. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    Great job, well done. The scenery is fantastic.

  2. Glyn says:

    Super detailing and craftsmanship Charles – I envy your real-life engineering opportunity! Glyn in Peoria

  3. Jim in Maryland says:

    Very cool, clean and slick. The buildings and everything looks very very nice! HOWEVER, the background scenery is INCREDIBLE!!!! Was that hand painted… or a photograph…it is superb! Have never seen such realistic background… looks so real even in your photographs! WOW!

  4. The pics are awesome to the max, just wish I could do this and display my mini model railroad collection. What I would like to have is combine ho and n scale into one big layout with all the bells a whistles.

  5. Darrin Peterson says:

    I always enjoy the pictures and Video

  6. Stan Roelker says:

    Is that a commercial backdrop? It is beautiful. ……blue sky with those clouds.

  7. Rod Mackay says:

    Not sure what sort of material that packing foam is made of, but it’s very easy to overlook a soldering iron left on, or to generate a fair bit of heat with a short. I hope it’s not made of anything that would burst into flames or put off dangerous fumes?

  8. Jerry says:

    Very impressive. Outstanding work and of great interest.

  9. Eric says:

    Hi Rod, In answer to your post, it is made to fire standards and is used in upholstery so has to be fire resistant. The beauty is it is easily shaped and glued together, Ok it soaks up paint but the results are pretty good once dry. I use the soldering iron well away from the layout or with my hands I would probably burn a lot of things including engines or rolling stock, plus my baseboard is made from compressed newspapers, hard as some wood, or my saw says so. 🙂

  10. Thomas Murphy says:

    Very impressive switching layout. What’s really fantastic about it is you can always pick-out a tid-bit or two to incorporate in your own layout. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Jonathan Caswell says:

    Good job! Hey, does that NEW HAVEN locomotive mean you are a fan of that railroad?

  12. looking for 1860s depot for my grandson lay out like A.T.F.S. would be nice to go with the town witch is kibi?

  13. jim Sulkosky says:

    Looks Great keep up the great work happy rail roading

  14. NJ Mark says:

    Great work! The scenery and the buildings are fantastic. Happy landings! NJ Mark

  15. ARNIE STEINER says:

    Hi Charles — Love the work you’ve done on the switching layout. Very nicely detailed and excellent job on the blending and fade into the backdrop! Would be nice if you could expand at some time to allow for some continuous running.

    By the way, I think it’s really an exceptional experience you have with being qualified to engineer the prototypes; diesel and steam! That adds a whole new dimension to whatever you do in your modeling. Nice work. Arnie.

  16. ARNIE STEINER says:

    Hi Eric — like the creativity in using atypical products for model railroading scenery. The effect, as you said, is really good for creating rolling hillsides. Nicely done. — Arnie

  17. Dr Bob says:

    Charles I can already see the challenges you must be facing with your layout while making those decisive rail car movements and ways to support your businesses. Must keep your mind busy for hours!

    Eric, hang in there, you’re really on to something great!!

  18. Ken Stramel says:

    Very nice job. That’s my next part too.

  19. michael says:

    I wood like to see them run

  20. Jim AZ says:

    Very nice layout Charles. Great looking building fronts with some fine details surrounding them. I too used Backdrop Junction for my background. Dave certainly provided a great variety of backgrounds and was very accommodating with special sizing and installation needs. Hope to see more of your layout.

    Nice work with the foam Eric. That process seems to be a time saver.

    Jim AZ

  21. Russell D Wilson says:

    Your terrain does remind me of the Flint Hills. I recently signed on to work and train on the A&SVRR. See you on the rails!

  22. Terry Miller says:

    Charles–great pictures and ideas..My only thought is there should be an airplane somewhere in the sky and a G scale loco or car parked on a siding to show your occupation and other interests.

  23. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Charles…… Fabulous….Love the backdrop and like you I am a retired railroad freight conductor for the PRR…… my layout is a switching layout. I love your backdrop….. my backdrop will be of factory buildings that are all around Sunnyside Yards in Queens, NY. Great job. Scenery and buildings and street scenes are really detailed and realistic. I love the engine going through the town. I remember some of my jobs went through the streets in New Jersey towns. Like to see more of your work.

    Eric…..Scrapping a layout and building a new one must be expensive; starting all over again. Let me ask you…… what did you do with the old tracks and switches? Were you able to salvage any of them? Is it worth to try?

  24. Bill in Virginia says:

    Super looking layouts. Hats off to both of you.

    How I’d love to operate a real locomotive 🤩

  25. Will in NM says:

    Charles, Beautiful work on that switching layout! Is the 8 x 16 8 feet by 16 inches or is it larger than that? Your backdrops are great and the structures and scenery are superbly done. My only suggestion would be to add some figures and some junk piles, etc. to bring it more to life.

    Eric, Interesting application of soft upholstery foam sheets. It looks like it works well for the rolling hills of the English countryside. Perhaps might not work as well for craggy mountains of the western US, but I salute your creativity.

  26. Erick says:

    Looks great.!!!!!! Hope mine turns out that good.

  27. robert dale tiemann says:

    great layouts, love it.

  28. Ross Charles Johnston says:

    Eric! I think you are courageous restarting your layout. I liked the idea of the foam for cliffs, etc. Great work. Please keep sending progress reports. Cheers Rossco, Adelaide, South Australia.

  29. Jerry Treich says:

    Great looking layout! Solid quality and detail on the structures. Your backdrop instantly reminded me of the mesas off of Interstate 25 between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The clouds are great!

    That foam texture and coloring looks great. The natural rolling quality of the hills is a landscape formation i don’t often see. Do you plan to add trees, rocks, bushes, etc.? Wondering how rigid the foam becomes or how you’d add supports after the fact?

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