HO train layout built with foam board – Craig’s

Craig’s been in touch with his HO train layout built with foam board:


I have been reading for quite awhile and …just thanks. I really appreciate the tips.

I sent one post in about making some street lights and keep telling myself that I should do another on some of the things I have been doing for my lay out.

Mine is about 5 x 9 feet, takes up half the garage (which my wife constantly reminders me about, but that’s another story).

I bought the cookie cutter layout benchwork from a guy who just likes to construct roadbed.

I have added all the pink foam insulation for the mountains and to fill in between the tracks. It’s a work in progress, but I thought to share, hope it’s worth looking at. My first layout, and I made mistakes and have learned much from the experience.

My layout has little towns named after my grandkids. Caelville shows a couple of boxcars being unloaded at the local mercantile.

Downtown shows the teaming metropolis of Hunter and a couple of policemen shaking down two suspicious guys hanging around outside the shops. A little welding operation is going on at Teds workshop across from the new house under construction.

Downtown #1 gives us a view of the biker bar tucked back in the alley. Farther down the road we see the plumbing and hardware store and the local market.

A hot dog stand supplies snacks to the people getting off at the train station across the street.

I also wanted to put lights in a truck, so I drilled out the headlamps and glued two grain of rice bulbs inside them and ran the wire down through the roadway to the transformer. Turned out OK.

At the outskirts of town, below Caelville some folks are enjoying the lake and the fishing, camping and canoeing. On the other end of the layout, Sonny’s gas station has the monopoly on all the cars coming into Hunter.

I’ll take some better pictures next time, sorry for the blurry ones. I made some silos and a corrugated steel workshop that I will send pics in of. They turned out OK and were interesting to do.
Thanks, and keep up the good work.


HO model train tunnel

ho train layout built with foam board camping lake

ho train layout built with foam board Downtown #1

ho train layout built with foam board Downtown

HO scale Hunter

model train store

ho train layout built with foam board gas station

“Hi Al, photos of the engine house finally complete.

The Two stall enginehouse is now complete after 70 hours of work.

All the interior detail, lights and cabling, weathering all done. Ready for instalation on my friends layout.


engine house

engine house

HO engine house

HO engine house

HO scale engine house

Brian’s engine shed is just stunning. A work of art.

And I just loved Craig’s narrative on his HO train layout built with foam board! Superb. Hope you enjoyed it as much as me.

I keep getting mails on how to submit a layout – it’s all very simple – just hit reply to any of my mails.

One thing though: don’t attach too many pics to one mail otherwise they won’t get through. Split the pics over multiple mails if you have lots of pics. Hope this makes sense.

And if Craig and Brian have got your imagination flowing, here’s how to put it to good use.

Keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

model train answers

98 Responses to HO train layout built with foam board – Craig’s

  1. jim morris says:


  2. Wayne says:

    Fantastic detail on both posts. Well done guys.

  3. a r murrell says:

    full of admiration for such atmospheric work.

  4. RAY G says:

    REALLY NICE LAYOUT! Like the towns and scenery detail.

  5. Mike Wilson says:

    First up – Craig and I have to ask this where did you find the wooden Indian at the storefront ? Mate I hope my first attempt looks as good as yours.
    Keep up the great work.
    Mike in Australia
    Brian, if I became a mate of yours, do you reckon you could do an engine shed in HO for me? It’s fantastic. Puts the Walthers one I’m building to shame.
    Mike in Australia

  6. Phil says:


    Your layout looks brilliant – any chance of showing us a track plane please?


  7. Peter Jones says:

    Cracking layout Craig, well done

  8. Peter Jones says:

    Superb engine shed Brian, brilliant detail in and out thanks for showing us.

  9. Terry says:

    Brian, did you find the overhead light fittings commercially or have you found something make your own. Not sure if I can call them by their traditional name these days.

  10. Brian Messenger says:

    Light fittings are grain of rice bulbs with Campbell Scale lampshades fitted, sunk the cables of the bulb into a grove on the underside of the overhead beams. Then ran the leads to the side of the engine house and down the walls and through the floor to a power supply lead under the layout.

  11. Brian Messenger says:

    Craig, if this is your first attempt at a layout, then keep going as what you have done so far is absolutely fantastic. Keep up the excellent work. Brian.

  12. Charles says:

    Awesome engine house. The detailing is GREAT!

  13. excellent layout Craig
    terrific detail
    and engine house is just perfect
    keep it runnin guys

  14. Paul B. says:

    Craig, Your arrangement of buildings in your towns makes them look like they belong. Very nice.

  15. Ash says:

    Awesome. Excellent. Superb. Lots of hard work put in to this. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Peter Boston says:

    This is brilliant.

  17. Al; I have been collecting your posts for years and have filled 4 e-mail folders with them. I am 66 and started a 17′ x 22′ 3 island Ho scale layout of the Screaming Eagle Lines. I have the bench work done and am working on the wiring and on the hush, collecting DCC engines. I went with MRC because that is what I have used on all my previous temp layouts and have never had a problem with the company and I can expand to wireless should I choose. I have been in the hospital for major surgery, but recovery is coming along nicely. Love your e-mails and going through them during down time. Please explain to me what the e-bay cheat sheets are. Got me stumped. I will get your Golden Key as soon as the hosp bills are taken care of. Where do you live? Seems much of what it shown is European. All good though. Keep up the wonderful work. Eric and Kaelin Foy

  18. Kenton says:

    Nice layout!

  19. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great work , great detail.

  20. paul Otway says:

    Nice work guys

    Paul Otway

  21. Tom says:

    Craig and Brian,
    Model railroading at its finest!
    Detail is stunning!

  22. Douglas says:

    Brian, that water scene is fabulous. I am so impressed with the ripples from the boats. Very inspiring also is the use of family names to personalize the layout.

  23. kenn says:

    Love the engine house and the detail. Wish I were as talented.

  24. dave c says:

    question—-where can i get hold off a 6 volt transformer for my lighting on my model railway

  25. Don george says:

    Great detail all around.Outstanding work on both projects. Love the clothes line on the building roof and other additions. The more I study the photos I see things I missed.

  26. Keith Carey says:

    Craig and Brian,

    I am “compelled” by enthusiasm to write this.

    I’m OCD. Many of us are. Maybe discovered
    Late in life.

    The little scenery niche -so many – that a person can “place themselves
    Into. What you have created is the epitome of what we all want to present
    In our layouts.

    The canoe scene, the current looks sooo real. It takes time and sometimes
    Seems like a waste of good rail space to provide for a river. But, the eco-
    System needs to be there for the realism. I would like to know how you
    did that – kinds of resins – and the time devoted.

    The engine house is phenomenal. 10 employees working efficiently, ready
    for the next work order.

    Have you considered obtaining sponsors? Find a building location near
    A mall or a theater? And, display this as the “base” for a much larger
    All-season layout – complete with video games and RC cars?.

    I really this would bless your heart’s desire. Base admission plus hourly
    rate to be entertained – with a hands-on build-it, run-it. And coupons
    from sponsors?

    God bless you with the church and nation of the Cross.

    Happy Easter. He is Risen.

    Keith Carey

  27. Ben Taul says:

    NICE layout sir I don’t know where your from but your towns look like they could be one of hundred of old mining towns in the state of Colorado USA

  28. Bob Walsh says:

    Well, that’s it. Craig, you have finally made my decision. I am now officially done with model railroading. There are no words to describe what your artistic hand created on this layout. I don’t want to even look at my layout any more.

    Just kidding.
    And a triple wow on Bryan’s engine shed!

  29. Bob Cassidy says:

    WOW Outstanding!

  30. Stan says:


  31. James Palmer says:

    Great job, The detail is outstanding. Keep up the good work.

  32. Albert Roach says:

    That’s and awesome layout Thanks for sharing that with me

  33. Emmanuel says:

    Your layout and all houses, buildings and background were so realistic. I’m just starting to be one but very far but being realistic in all aspects. Congratulations for your success. I wish I have the ability to create like what you have. I want to see the full view of your project. Thanks.

  34. Ray Joles says:

    Al, I’m having a hard time finding any plans for a book shelf style layout to go around my upstairs room in the garage. Can you help…Ray

  35. Jerry Birkbeck says:

    If you are resident in the.UK then have a look at the range of.books on layout design written by Barry Norman and published by Wild Swan. If you google Barry Norman’s name and model railway layout design you should find a link. His layouts are primarily based on Britsh.practice and transferable to 7mm, 4mm, 3.5mm, 3mm and 2mm scales. If you are modelling US practice then I’m sure there is loads of stuff on the net. Certainly shelf layouts are a regular item in the UK model railway magazines

    Hope that this is of some use.

    All the best

  36. VINCE says:

    im switching over from o27 to ho and have been looking for a simple ho track layout without any findings,,i have straight and curve track along with with two cross tracks,,,,would appreciate some idea’s…..thanks

  37. Gordon Alberg says:

    Looks very, very cool. Makes me want to get started right away. I had a whole basement setup when I was a kid and still have all the trains, cars and track. My trains are all Lionel .027 1948 to 1953. I have about all the automatic cars from that time, milk car, horse car, cattle car, sawmill and log loading car, two different kinds of coal unloading facility’s. and more Just need to get it all set up again with the correct scenery…………. Cheers, Gord.

  38. gregg says:

    It just goes to show you the variety and creativity of model railroaders. The engine house and the entire layout is great. I have a small 4 x.15 layout that always gets a homemade touch with tile grout poured over cut styrofoam and then painted with an appropriate color, and tree moss, twigs for trees with greenery applied, It’s amazing how much stuff you can find laying around the house and garage to appl?y to a layout. I’m fixing to use screen wire for chain link fencing around the railroad yard.

  39. Craig you have a very nice layout . I have about a 5 by 10 ft fast track but yours puts mine not even in the same class as yours🚂 Later pete . Eau claire wisconsin

  40. Larry Freeman says:

    I just signed up for emails and I’ve gotten a ton of tips already. Love the idea of automatic transmission fluid on tracks to help with conductivity and less cleaning.


  41. john brooks says:

    I have a oo set up and I just would like some ideas of a layouts fof my loft thanks

  42. Wayne Pursh says:

    Very, very nice. Love the scenery and the engine house is amazing. Spectacular work. Once again, a contributor has inspired me. I’m at work right now but I need to sneak out and get back to my layout. Thanks, Craig!

  43. JIM Butler says:

    that’s a
    very nice layout

  44. Gene Nordgren says:

    Very nice, but I have noticed as a new subscriber, you do not indicate the layout gauge. I suspect they have been HO, but it would be better if this were confirmed in the title or somewhere in the text.

  45. Mervyn Abel says:

    As they say in NORFOLK, dialect, (England) —————— “Boy, Tha’ss BOOTIFULL ”
    Well done ! absolutely incredible !
    Another Norfolk saying —————- Do yu keep a’troshin’ Bor’.
    Regards, Merv’

  46. Tommy Wilkens says:

    Amazing,,,,just wonderful,,,super job well done !!!

  47. Dom says:

    Beautiful!!! ..Someday I’ll have one too!!

  48. Lester Rowe says:

    Al, what a great service you are providing for us train fans. I love the layouts and how to’s. Al, do you have a how to’s for your buildings? How about weathering them?

    Kind Regards from Michigan,
    Les Rowe

  49. Sharon says:

    Wow! This has a lot of similarities to downtown Ellicott City, Maryland, and I am from that area!

  50. Lloyd Andruschek says:

    Great layout, love looking at it

  51. John says:

    Awesome scenery, but where are the trains and tacks.

  52. Billy says:

    I would like to recommend to any model railroader who comes any where near Crossville, Tennessee to stop at the Crosville Outlets Mall and check or the display at the CROSSVILLE MODEL RAILROAD CLUB located within the mall.
    No charge for entering.
    Donations are accepted.

  53. ken says:

    I am just amazed at the work you have done. It makes me want to keep my imagination open on how to work on my project. Great work!!!

  54. Rick D says:

    Unreal man, authentic as I’ve seen and at 65 years old I’m a newbie too. Keep it up. Fantastic job. If your wife is giving you the gears as mine does, just tell her you are going to reno the bathroom. No shower for 2 or 3 weeks and the living room is next so the tv has to come down to the basement beside the railway layout. I would imagine you will have lots of time to work on the R.R.

  55. Stanilius Stankiewicz says:

    Fantastic work I really appreciated you sharing it with us. I’m starting my first n gauge layout, and you can’t believe how excited I am. Thanks for sharing.

  56. Darrell says:

    I really have enjoyed the emails and all of the pics. I have layouts in “0”, H0, and N scales. 0 is my main runners. Still working and addin to each layout. I just cannot get enough.

  57. Graeme Wilson says:

    What a layout we are only starting out in OO gauge and so many books out there just don’t know where to start thanks for a look it has given us a idea of to where we are heading Kind regards Graeme & Lyn

  58. Keep the pics and ideas coming at your pace. I love model railroading and my lastplatform was built in 1981 so needles to say I have a lot of catch-up to do…..

  59. Harvey Landers says:

    You mentioned a corregated steel project. Sid you make the corregate steel yourselfor did you buy it someplace? I’m not finding N-Scale corregated material anywhere. HJL

  60. Tony Faulhaber says:

    It’s aa beautiful work. Thanks for Sharing it with me.

  61. walt emerson says:

    Craig, what a beautiful job you’ve done, Hunters and all your scenery. I would love to see how your track is laid out and some overhead pics of what you have posted.
    walt from usa

  62. Michael wolak says:

    Oh I wish I could create such a great layout it is fantastic

  63. Julia Kastran says:

    I am impressed by the detail of the buildings. As I am a novice, I know nothing about mapping out the scale. HO is all I know .
    My fiance’ sent me his plan about a month ago. I ordered “items” to go with, but some were larger than others.
    My fiancé’ passed away Nov. 18. He enthused me to become active in making a layout and plan. First I have to do a bit of research, as I want to make it as realistic as possible.
    What do I do with the playground and children, and all the palm trees I bought for him? the Texas panhandle of the 1880’s probably would not need them.
    I’m impressed by what you have done.
    Juli Dee

  64. Tom Clapper from NE Ohio says:

    Great work… it takes an artist to design a great landscape, make it interesting and a great hand to sculpture it. It appears to be HO which offers a multitude of beautiful period buildings etc. to complete any builders imagination.
    I am an old school 0 gauge collector with NO layout.. I have been accumulating Lionel for 40 years and my shelves are bulging.. The old pre war tin buildings and accessories provide a nostalgia but not a true realistic layout.. A toy yesteryear world… many good memories there…
    My wife wants to move to a single floor home next spring so perhaps there is an attic or basement where I might use for my trains… I set up track on occasion to just run something… but not permanent.. I love the HO realism but guess I will stick with my pre war and 1950’s 0 gauge.
    Again, great job… enjoyed the pics.

  65. Melody says:

    Wow this is awesome

  66. Alex Nieto says:

    Great Job!!

  67. Lou Burns says:

    A labor of love. Glad to see that there are still people who take pride in their work.

  68. Ronald christal says:


  69. erick says:

    looks great!!!!

  70. Jim says:

    Nice modeling by you both. Craig, your buildings are truly unique and set in place to represent a “sign of the times”. And Brian. Wow. If that was an engine house on my layout (which I don’t think I could ever reproduce) I would leave the roof off.
    Thanks you both for sharing.
    Jim AZ

  71. Kevin McArdle says:

    Craig, some overhead shots please, and a diagram. Regarding your wife reminding you, tell her to pound sand.

  72. Very inspiring. Awesome work.

  73. Lumpy says:

    Great job on the engine house! Did you make all the stuff in side or was it bought?

  74. Susan Cannon says:

    Thank you Craig not only for sharing your beautiful excellent work, and the story behind each name, but for sharing LARGE pictures that we can zoom in on and see more detail of. Many pictures shared, even when viewed by clicking on them, are so small that it is difficult to see more detail. I wish everyone would submit pictures that can be viewed in detail. Love it, and thanks again!

  75. Bob Richards says:

    Great layout! Love the detail. You’ve done a lot with 5 foot by 9 foot. Look forward to seeing your additions.

  76. Hemi says:

    Very NICE Layout! That was done VERY WELL and very tastefully! Keep up the GREAT WORK!

    The Engine house is absolutely AMAZING! NICE interior Detail, and done well, weathering, and “clutter is done well but done in a way that allows it to be a “Safe Environment” to work in!!!!!

  77. bob from towson says:

    I sure hope first timers dont get discouraged when they see layouts etc. like Brians. I hope they aspire to do the same with trial and error as we all have done. Thats the real fun of this hobby isnt it?

  78. Chris Sylvester says:

    That’s a really nice job on the layout!!!

  79. I really like the layout!….I have some vintage h-o scale steamers and diesels, along with rolling stock, like new, in boxes, and some brass h-o…..I have a great AMERICAN FLYER / LIONEL collection, with many postwar buildings and accessories..however, I have never put a neat layout together….would you consider helping me put a FLYER/LIONEL layout together, for trade and maybe cash for your help?…..I live 20 miles N. of Columbus, Ohio……..JIM..

  80. Myron Sonkin says:

    Great Detail and wonderfull work. It is amazing what people can do when they are doing something they love

  81. Gilbert Beaulne says:

    Very nice work.
    Your not only ” habile ” but also ” patient ”..
    Would like to see your track plan if possible.

  82. Will in NM says:

    Craig, More great photos of your layout. I love teh back story explaining the sense of each photo. Keep up the good work!

    Brian, Your scatch-built engine house is a masterpiece! Absolutely beautiful workmanship. Thanks for sharing the grand finale. How about a photo or two when it’s been installed on your friend’s layout?

  83. Erick says:

    Nice layout.!!!! Keep up the good work.

  84. Berniedoc says:

    Most amazing engine house.

  85. David Schaffner says:

    Cool layout and nice landscaping, especially the water scene with the canoes. Like the common feel of the way you engineered your curve by the General store and the buildings. Are they kits or fully assembled? If they are scratch built, your one of a kind…Bravo!

  86. Tony says:

    Great work have to ask where did you find all the different figures they look awesome im in o scale besides the figures fantastic

  87. Raymond W Smith says:

    Engine house detail jaw-dropping!! Thanks for posting.

  88. TOM HIRSCH says:

    Hi Brian , that’s a nice engine house. Because I have spent almost 20 years working in a Diesel House, you need to install a PIT TRACK to get under your various Loco’s, Various companies offer models of pit tracks . The floor of your shop is super clean. In 1975 I went through the Western Pacific Diesel House , in Stockton, Calif.. floor was Spotless, you could eat off their floor. Your floor needs Oil spots and Grease spots Rags and all matter of junk same goes, for outside, more junk. Usually the train layouts I see look the same, A One or 2 track engine house and No Pit tracks, or inbound tracks or ready tracks same ole blah

    Tom in Shake & Bake Calif.

  89. JW Snyder says:

    It is good to see good work from another “foamy”. (One who constructs their layout on an extruded foam base. Not to be confused with a RR foamer, a nick-name for a railfan).

  90. Brian Olson says:

    I’m a firm believe in foam board as a firm foundation for both my layouts. Placed over solid wood benchwork of course. Nice job on this one!

  91. TJK says:

    Where do you modelers find these magnificent figures for your layouts?
    I can only find the same 4 construction guys in the same 4 poses.

  92. Nick H. says:

    Forget the trains.., I want one of those cool ford pinto wagons.

  93. Dale Hogan says:

    Brian, detail in the engine house is superb. Is there an inspection / ash pit around there somewhere, where the engines can have their running gear that is underneath the engine inspected / repaired this is a must for an engine shed or at least have a pit outside for this to happen. Maybe some of the floorboards can be lifted up to gain access to a pit under the boards. The boards are put there to cover the pit for safety reasons. If so, it might pay to put lines across the boards inside the rails to represent the lengths of the boards that are to be lifted.

  94. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout Craig, lots of interesting scenes and rock design. I also like your stone tunnel portal, awesome job.
    Brian the detail on the engine house is very awesome and the weathering is awesome also, great job.

  95. robert dale tiemann says:

    really cool. lots of work.

  96. Jim Richards says:

    Very nice. I have actually seen towns that look just like this up against rock mountains in up state Pennsylvania. Your water effect is perfect. Good job.

  97. David Schaffner says:

    Awesome detail in landscaping and I love the town square and adjoining structures. I have trouble with kits, since I have severe arthritis in my hands and fingers. Fully assembled buildings and such are too expensive for someone on a fixed income.
    Was wondering if their is anyone or a source that does the kits for someone like me?

  98. Alan G says:

    Craig, fantastic detail in establishing life like imagery. We all strive to achieve this detail but with far less success. Would appreciate more photos along the way from start to finish with pointers and lessons learned. Like to see more about the construction of the removable mountains as access is so important. You have truly inspired me.

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