HO scale track layout ideas – Craig’s

Craig’s been back in touch and added to the collection of HO scale track layout ideas:


Thanks for the response from the readers. They asked for more pictures and a track plan, so I took some more photos. The guy who made the bench work took the plans from the Blackwater Jct in Model Railroader magazine, I don’t know the date or issue, but I think it’s from Maryland. And he gave me the book he made when I bought the track from him.

The first picture shows the overall track plan in that book and I have added the outside loop drawn in black. The area labeled Blackwater is the town I now call Hunter. I am still working on the engine servicing area, as you can see from the photos. The second and third pictures show the west end of the layout and the photo labeled East end shows the other end of the layout including the engine service area, the little town of Caelville and Cienna Lake.

HO scale track layout ideas:

It also shows a good view of the river. The river was interesting to model. I used Magic Water and believe me, it finds every pinhole and drips. Make sure the riverbed is sealed completely before mixing the two-part resin and pouring it. I poured it in two stages. After pouring the first level, I dry-brushed areas around the rocks to show ripples and sprinkled stuff on top like grit, bits of leaves ground really fine, not much just a little. Then when I poured the 2nd layer over this, it looked like stuff floating just under the surface of the water.

On the 2nd layer, when the Magic Water started to set, I teased the surface into bumps, then when it set completely, I used water effects on top of the Magic Water and formed waves and ripples. I dry-brushed these ripples with white paint as you can see in the picture of Cienna Lake.

The pics labeled Hunter 1 and Downtown show two views of the town of Hunter. There was a question of where I got the dimestore Indian. It came with the kit for that structure. A view of the mine and the busy crossing shows the industry that keeps Hunter alive and going. The view of the River shows the seam under one of the three mountains. I have yet to make this seam “disappear”. All three mountains are removable so that I can access the track under them.

HO scale track layout ideas

The photo titled Bar B Que shows the company homes owned by the mine, and the families getting together for a weekend bar-b-que. I made the street lights out of some grain of rice bulbs and some spare plastic that I drilled and filed down to achieve the tapered shape mounted on skewers painted gray and weathered with sandpaper to achieve an “old pole” look. The wire still needs to be painted, but whose layout isn’t always under construction?

I’ll send some pics of the intitial stages of my construction and some more details of the river, rocks and the mountains later. Thanks much for the response from the other readers. I really enjoy this link, keep it up.


HO scale track layout ideas Bar B Que

HO scale track layout ideas Lake

HO scale track layout ideas Downtown #1

HO scale track layout ideas:

HO scale track layout ideas East End

HO scale model railroad

HO scale model railroad Main Street

model train Mine

model train River

HO scale Track Plan

model railroad West End

model railroad West End

A huge big thanks to Craig for adding to the HO scale track layout ideas on the blog.

If you missed Craig’s first post, it’s here.

I do love reading about your layouts and how you all solve different problems. Superb.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day when you grab the bull by the horns, 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.

model train answers

66 Responses to HO scale track layout ideas – Craig’s

  1. Ferdinand D'Angelo says:

    BEAUTIFUL WORK SPEAKS FOR ITSELF ! And this is beautiful work. Congrats ! Ferdinand.

  2. Michael Gibb says:

    I think it is a great layout and plenty of shunting and running well done

  3. Lawrence says:

    I love it, I wish my layout look half as good. Thanks for the look.

  4. Phil says:

    Nice, very nice.

  5. Paul B. says:

    The curved streets really add to the charm of the layout. They make sense because the geography of the area being modeled is not flat. I have always tended to lay out rectangular streets and city blocks. Your approach makes more sense. Thanks. Beautiful work. The buildings look like they belong.

  6. Craig says:

    Craig mentioned that all photos were labeled. I could not see the labels. However on a different note, What an exceptional layout. The details are awesome. Super great work.
    Craig .

  7. Dave w. says:

    Love this site Al. Gathering a lot of great ideas. I would like to ask a favor of those who send in pictures of their layouts to let us all know what scale he is modeling in.

    Keep up the good work on sorting out the posts Al.

  8. Phil says:

    Thanks Craig – an exciting layout!

  9. what an excellent layout Craig…
    the detail is superb and the mountain has such power
    I would like to have a layout done like this….
    keep it runnin dude

  10. mike vassar says:

    What size is the layout. thanks mike.

  11. Tom says:

    What a wonderful beautiful exciting model railroad: Enjoy to the fullest what you have created. Model railroading is a great pastime … isn’t it? Yes it is!!
    best regards,
    P.S. Thank you Craig for sharing … thank you Al for bringing this to us!

  12. George says:

    the colors and details harmonize very well. There is so much to look at. the camera work is supper. Great layout.

  13. Hugh Muller says:

    Looks very much like the “HO Layout that grows from 1957? Model Trains and the book of the same name. Well done.

  14. paul Otway says:

    Lovely layout

  15. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great layout nice detail mountain and tunnel unbelievable no layout is ever finished especially when watching this site thanks for being part of it.

  16. Ray Suckling says:

    spectacular and I take it that it is all on an 8′ x 4′ table.

  17. Donald F. Wick says:

    Great Layout ! ! The track plan is from a MR featured in a 2009? article. That track plan was of the plan of a 4 x 8 feature of the RIO GRAND SOUTHERN using selective compression. It was anexellent track plan and Graig used it in a modern eara time line. A great job. It appears that none of the space was wasted
    Don Wick
    The Yard Master
    West Bend, WI U S A

  18. C.J. May says:

    Love it! Would love to know how to get the grey colored look of the roads in the town… That’s a perfect match with weathered asphalt!
    Mahalo from Hawaii!

  19. james says:

    not bad design… looks good

  20. Colin King says:

    Well made use of every part of this layout which has been finished to a very high standard. Excellent pictures and description as well, thanks Craig for sharing!

  21. RAY G says:

    Great Layout Craig. Keep the pics coming. I just love to watch and imagine. Like the way you used the 50’s theme. what size is the layout?

  22. Ron Lamb says:

    put so-called professionals to shame, well worth the effort. Thank you Ron

  23. Douglas says:

    I again must give huge recognition to the fantastic water scenes. I am such a fan. I might need to set up a photo bucket titled Model RR Water Scenes. With permission, I would include Craig’s water scenes.

  24. ARNIE STEINER says:

    Craig — you’ve done a marvelous job on your layout. Can’t tell the dimensions of the layout, but you’ve accomplished a lot of hard work in what looks to be a relatively small area. Love the detailing. Keep up the good work.


  25. Austin Wilson says:

    Outstanding layout Craig, very well detailed, love it. So much work no doubt went into this just by the beautiful results shown. I can hours on my layout every week and it never look like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Doc Jackson says:

    Very well laid out. Just plain beautiful layout.

  27. jim from nc says:

    VERY impressive!! Lots of activity in a relatively compact space, and beautiful craftsmanship.

  28. Brian Morgan says:

    Great layout – hope mine looks half as good when it’s finished

  29. OUTSTANDING scenery work!!!!! Finally someone who DOES NOT paint roads black. Even down to the cracks on the edge of the road and dirt on the steps of the general store where people have walked up and down. Great detail. Good job!


  30. Cary E Price says:

    Craig, Obviously a well planned layout and painstaking attention to details. Just wonderful, a piece of art. Thanks for sharing. Cary in KY

  31. Bruce says:

    I notice in pic #10 that the engineer and conductor have hung their coats to attend the BBQ.
    Very nicely done and good plan made better with your outer track.
    Bruce in SC USA

  32. Bob Richards says:

    Superb is the only way I can describe this. This layout covers everything, hills, small town, people, vehicles, and water. The water where the broken timber is excellent. I have never seen this kind of detail. You have great design imagination and ability. I am curious what the size of your layout is?

  33. Gary Manganiello says:

    Craig…….. your detail work is fantastic……..I love it and only wish my layout looked half a good………. One question……..how long did it take you to get to this point…….I am in my third year with my layout and not even halfway through. Although, I don’t think I will ever stop working on it. Great work…love your detail.

    Gary M from Long Island

  34. Alan Ankrom says:

    Without a doubt, BEST ever! A master piece!

  35. Paul Case says:

    Craig beautiful compact layout that is so full of interesting things to look at. Thanks

    Gary M where are you located on Long Island —I’m in Northport

  36. WillBill says:

    I model in HO. So I have standard gauge and HOn3. And when I expand beyound 2 4×4 will do HOn2. I am modeling an India rail road. And it is mountainous. I’m thinking of additional 2 4×3 or 4×2.

  37. Truly outstanding detail work!
    Lots of track in a small area – great plan.

  38. AJ ROMANO says:

    thanks. nice to look at. running must be fun.

  39. An excellent layout to be sure.
    The scenery is outstanding!
    As to the trackplan… It is very similar to The HO Railroad from 1957 — Model Trains. Model trains was a Kalmbach publication and was supposed to be the entry level with Model Railroader being for the more advanced modeler. Model Trains was discontinued in the very early 1960’s but some of its features did live on in Model Railroader for a while.
    The HO Railroad That Grows was one of a couple of Model Trains series that were made into books. — The trackplan of that railroad has been recycled a couple of times and when I saw the 2009 Rio Grande Southern article, I knew it looked familiar… As did the Joshua Tree and Southern plan and series by Malcom Furlow.

  40. John Floyd says:

    Awesome layout, could I get the specific track plans from u ,I am looking to build a ho layout very soon .

  41. Léo, Qc. Can. says:

    Great wokk, congrat.

    In the last photo, if you look in the center at tne bottom, there a white rock.

    If, you look closely, it look a face. Wanted or coincidence?

  42. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Great Looking Layout!!!!

  43. Hi there it’s Heather & Jason here in QLD & no we still have not started our lay out yet, just working on where we can put it & what size we have to play as moving things around the house is hard work now I am in a wheel chair & Jason has to do it all on his own more or less but we love seeing all the mail & lay outs for they have inspired Jason to rather than just do a train set for starters why don’t we do one of our area from Grand Chester to Laidley run. He said that on it’s own is a long run & it’s going to take a bit of room to fit it in but we could do it on the 1 wall & still be able to open the front door so he is checking all he can about the track & stations & bridges because 2 of them are listed & can’t be changed so the elect train has to look at a new run out of this area for the newer trains to get to Toowoomba so he has his hands full & I don’t know what I am in for here let me tell you however we will get started soon, the thing I wanted to know about was Craig said I used Magic Water ??? What is it & where can you get it please I am 68yrs old & must say I have never heard of it but would like to be able to get it for Jason for his display for there are water sections around here & if he is going to include them he will need this for the water way thanks to Craig I can be one jump ahead of it with a bit of luck, I know this is more a mans thing but as Jason’s father is not around some one has to help him & that happily is me as I love the trains too & am looking forward to getting my hands dirty with him on this but if you can let me know where I can get this on line I would be great full thankyou, keep the photo’s & comments coming we love it & it also helps to do things too be safe everyone, Heather & Jason.

  44. Will in NM says:

    Craig, What an excellent layout and narrative! I love your water effects with all the driftwood and fallen trees scattered along the river banks. Your attention to detail is superb — the use of figures in little vignettes of activity makes the layout feel very alive. Your roads are also nicely done and thankfully gray instead of jet black.

    I really enjoyed the layout plan and then the two photos looking down on the layout from above. It reminded me of the article in Boy’s Life magazine that I read when I was in 7th grade that first aroused my interest in model railroading. It showed a similar bird’s eye view of a 4 x 8 train layout that my best friend Scott and I wanted to build.

  45. Erick says:

    Very nice.!!! Mine going look something like that.

  46. Bill - Highland Twp Chester County PA says:

    Looks similar to the Boy’s Life Plan of 1957/58 to the 4×8′ plan my grandfather built for me with extra switches and tighter loops. just bought the old magazines to help me restore it after 61 years for my grand kids. Also, here in Pennsylvania at the Christmas Tree Shops for $1.00 USD you can buy a 12 pack of 30 inch long marshmallow roasting sticks. Can be sharpened for a long decoupling stick or re-arranging stick for moveable items in the center of a layout.

  47. Excellent. Love the curved streets

  48. Kevin says:

    I love it. Is the yellow taxi a Rolls Royce?!!

  49. Bob Cassidy says:

    Great city layout. Good job all around!

  50. Erick says:

    Looks great. ? I hope mine comes out that good.

  51. Robert Kersten says:

    Craig, I just looked at the first post.
    That engine shop is STUNNING !!!!!
    Thank you.
    Robert K.

  52. C.H. Specht says:

    I noticed that each of your street lamps have the wires running up the pole. Try using a drinking straw and put the wires inside. Loved the row of bikes!

  53. Ray Martin says:

    The layout is the Western Maryland Blackwater Subdivision layout from the July 2004 Model Railroader. The original building locations are the same as the track plan. An impressive rendition even when compared to the original. The wires may be large (reminds me of the 2400 volt lines at the nuclear plant I worked at). But still prototypic based on a number of light poles I’ve seen around town. The town is a wonder and the people at the mine houses make the scene.

  54. Mark T. Pianka says:

    WOW Great looking layout! Fantastic Mountains and rocks, really sharp!!

  55. Jim Robinson says:

    Well planned and well executed! The closeups look as if one could actually step into the layout!

  56. Jack says:

    As a “Newby” to the hobby I really appreciate the Track design diagram. It makes it much easier to understand the layout. I am still ine
    the phase of collecting potential track configurations. I wish other contributors would do he same for us rookies.
    As with most of the submission laout art is fantastic

  57. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    Craig, you have a really nice layout. Well done!
    Is it safe to assume it is in HO scale? You indicated that it is 5’x9′, but you have a lot of good stuff in that space. Photos can be misleading, and I thought it might be N scale. I don’t have access to the publications mentioned in other responses.

  58. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice work.

  59. Rich B. says:

    This is getting to be one of my favorites, may of also commented on before sometime. Noted switches may be wired using the landline telephone twisted pair cable? Perfect if so, recall how easily that could carry 120V when in service. Purposely done or reference generated on its own. Not legal of coarse but never seemed to be a problem. Yup always found that out hard way (time-era security systems)… ⚡️

  60. Jim says:

    NICE, I’ve seen that track plan some where

  61. GORDON says:

    In Craigs story today he spoke about putting wire on the poles. I have used an elastic thread on mine. (got at Joann stores) Idea behind this, is , if you hit the line chances you will not break any thing. You can find it in Black, Gray as well as others. Hope it works for you. Display is very good. We all learn from each other.

  62. Ted Eggleston says:

    Good Morning- I am planning on restarting my layout. I would love to have a micro video remote camera to place on my train. That way I could watch the travel of my train on my Iphone or a small tv To me, this would be fascinating inside tunnels (which would be lit). But as I am using N scale it would have to be small. Any suggestions on the camera I could use? Thank you so much.

  63. Don says:

    the aerial view is awesome & gives the full perspective of what was created

  64. JIMMY ROBINSON says:

    Great craftsmanship! I appreciate the longer photo shots that take in the whole layout. Those longer shots give context for the wonderful closeups.

  65. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout, well arranged scenes. I like the close up pictures you have taken so you can view all of the scenes more closely. Nice river scene, I have never heard of magic water but it sure looks awesome.

  66. Jim Landing says:

    Lot’s of good idea’s. Thank you Craig!

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