Don’s HO scale

Don’s been in touch with his 4×10 HO scale:

“Hi Al,

I was sitting around the house so bored when someone said to me that I need a hobby.

Well, I thought about my interest in trains, and helping my stepfather build his layouts when I was very young.

Most of my family were railroad people working for the B&O railroad at the time, and I was living in Baltimore where all of the facilities were.

The museum is still there, but I haven’t been back in many years.

I started reading Model Railroader, and began getting your tips with your readers sending in their layout photos. As you say, it’s all about getting started, so I did.

My layout is HO scale on 4×10 base.

I was a sales representative in my prior life, and know nothing about carpentry, electricity, tools, etc, so I had to read a lot about everything, and was amazed how model railroading has changed since my early years.

Most everything was Varney and Athearn kits in our basement. I had to learn about building the benchwork, wiring, DCC, and constructing mountains and tunnels. Well, I found out real fast, that I
could forget about the latter for now.

After three attempts, my mountains looked like multicolored lumps of foam and plaster. I am not very “artsy”, so, I just was content to build this first layout with just a rocky pass at one end. I am no longer in the days of brown mountain paper you could just wrinkle up, and there it was. That was then, now at 83 years old, the world is a little different.

I tried to use everything available in these modern times, so I could judge the pro and con of it all. That way on my next layout, I might know what I wanted to use, and what I did not want to use.

There was quite a learning curve for everything, and things got re-done many times. Most of my buildings are card stock, and you might recognize a few. I also used Model Builder software on my computer, trying to copy the looks of structures around my neighborhood.

I used Kato track because it was so easy with sure connections, but I later realized that it was sort of “limiting”, so I will use different track and roadbed next time. I will also make my layout larger so I can do more with it, as I learn to make those mountains and tunnels.

I went DCC using the starter control from Digitrax. I have that coupled with a row of Kato individual controls for my turnouts. Some might call this a “jury” rig, but it works for now until I learn more.

Living in Florida with constant high humidity, and having my layout in my garage (no A/C), I found things like the asphalt-like roadways shrunk over several days, so I had to revise how to install them. I just put patches in some of the seams to look like “roadwork repairs”.

Long story short, I am having a great time doing my first layout, and looking forward to a second one with improved methods, and material. It doesn’t represent any real life scene, but it is my little village of Rockingham named after the street on which I live.

It’s the first thing of this kind in the neighborhood, and everyone stops by to see how things are progressing.

These are a few scenes of my first attempt. Keep up your good work, and keep those tips coming. They give novices like me great ideas and advice.

Don R.

Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA”

HO scale 4x10 model railroad

HO scale model railroad 4x10

HO scale 4x10 model train

4x10 HO shops

4x10 HO scale shops

HO scale apartments

4x10 HO scale bridge embankment

4x10 HO scale shack

HO scale 4x10 turnouts

HO scale printable buildings

HO scale sidings 4x10 track

HO scale 4x10 diesel locomotives

HO scale 4x10 maintenace yard

A huge thanks to Don for sharing his 4×10 HO scale.

He’s absolutely right: it’s all about getting started. Once you take those first few steps, look what happens!

Of course, I’m biased, but I think those buildings look great – he’s done a really good job on them. Especially the houses from the printable buildings..

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. I know I’ve said it lots recently, but it’s really thin on the ground this end, so if you have something to share, now’s the time to do.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to make that start, just like Don did!



23 Responses to Don’s HO scale

  1. KenG says:

    OK this is weird: The photo of The Southern green and white F7 loco you have…. About 30 minutes ago I watched a YouTube channel called “Jen Brooks” where he was engineering the same Southern F7! The number were different, but how crazy is that?
    His channel is basically a travelogue, usually riding the rails (Amtrak, Canadian Pacific) and showing excursions aboard these passenger trains and sometime luxury first-class air travel.
    It was posted today, on May 20 if you want to take a look at it:

  2. Will in NM says:

    Don, you’ve made a great start at model railroading. I like your attitude of trying various methods to see what works and what doesn’t for your next layout. I like the way you have brought some scenes on your current layout to life with figures like the lady hanging her laundry on the roof top.

    Kato track can be ballasted to give it a more realistic look. I think Mike Fifer of Fifer Hobby Supply has a YouTube video on ballasting N-scale Kato track, which should work as well for HO scale.

    For your mountains, I’d suggest checking out Bill in Virginia’s various how-to videos here in the Hall of Fame section. Bill does a great job of showing how to achieve realistic mountains using foam board, sculptamold, stains and paint.

  3. Stephen Hill says:

    Don , what a wonderful display, superb craftsmanship and detail especially the buildings . Trial and error are ever present with this hobby , there is some portion of right and wrong ( technical stuff) but at the end of the day it is your heart and soul and imagination that are on display . You have a delightful layout , like all layouts there’s always room for tweaking . Have fun , be proud .

  4. Brian Olson says:

    Wonderful work, proof, again, that all you need to do is… start.

  5. Ross Herbert says:

    Looks great.
    I really like the way you brought the tenement house to life.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. George Zaky says:

    I think you have a great layout, it is nicely planned, and captures your interest. I assume the trains are running well. Best that I can tell with a 4×10 base the inner loop will be too tight for passenger cars and should be assigned for freight only- I was really stretching to make a constructive comment here.
    Carry on with vigor and let’s see some updates and some videos.
    Looks like a 1 1/2 ton heat pump is in order to extend hours in the man cave.
    Big Al- Yeah- those houses look nice.

  7. Robert Brady says:

    I like ur layout very much . You have many models like mine . Good taste there Don. My era is the 80’s forward. Close though.
    The Critic

  8. Jeff says:

    Your first layout is pretty darn good. I’m just starting mine and hope it comes out as good as yours. I love everyone’s tips and techniques. I

  9. Ken says:

    For some with no previous skills, you did very nice work. Congratulations!

  10. Jim Landing says:

    Good work Don, wonderful detail. Thanks for sharing

  11. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. i like the pipe work.

  12. Ryan says:

    Don I like what you have done. I like myself have never done any kind of buildings or scenery on my layout. This is inspiring to me. I’m currently working on a n-scale layout.

  13. Dave Karper says:

    Just a tip for Don. In photo 1, the pipes at ground level would have some type of barrier to prevent vehicular damage to the pipes.It’s a minor thing, but I hope it helps in your next layout. With what you have done so far, I expect the next layout to be a work of art.

  14. Larry Schweitzer says:

    Nice start. Some serious aging would add some reality.
    After I retired I decided to try machining resulting in watching some nice model builds. Blondihacks is currently building a model, live steam loco.

  15. kevin says:

    a most excellent layout
    are the two houses kitbashed. they look great

  16. Rich B. says:

    Most excellent, town is the cleanest most kept up ever. If only humans could do the same, way better world right here. Plenty of action and believe anything there can be adjusted or retro-fitted as things evolve. Really like photos that hone in on daily activities, makes RR seem immense.


  17. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Ken Holbrook says:

    Hey Don, I had to laugh at your comments about mountains looking like clumps of plaster and foam! That was hilarious. You and me have a lot in common, although you have a few years on me. I too retired from sales in a previous life with no experience in electronics, carpentry, painting or railroads. But I did have a small HO layout as a youth, so we both similarly jumped off into the deep end in retirement. I think your layout is tremendous! I love the people in your scenes. That makes all the difference. Don’t let people tell you that the scenery should take a back seat to operations. Some evenings I’ll turn my layout on without even firing up a locomotive, and it seems to come to life like the movie “A Night at the Museum”. I think you did great!

  19. David Schaffner says:

    Nice layout, love the addition to people on rooftops and such .Like the town layout, I would love more buildings, but I can’t do kits (arthritis), and full assembly is expensive….Good job.

  20. Eugene Shaffer says:

    Hay, I identify with you brother. I am a semi-retired land surveyor in California. At 82 years old I knew I was going to have to stop working soon so I started rekindling my hobby of model railroading. I cannot work with the HO scale since it is too small for my giant fingers and shakiness, so I am using my 1950s Lionel set as a starter. I am having to overhaul all of the equipment due to long storage and new technology. My old transformer has to have new breakers installed to make it respond to shorts before the new electronics in my new engines are damaged, etc. Anyway, my layout has to be in my garage since the layout is 8′ x 24′. ‘O’ gage takes a lot more space than ‘HO’, so to have a decent layout I have to make it BIG. It is great to see a fellow octogenarian just starting in this hobby and I think you have a pretty nice start based on the pictures. Congrats.

  21. Steve Ruple says:

    A really nice layout with some real good scenery, well done !!!!

  22. robert dale tiemann says:

    i like the walk bridge very nice.

  23. JOHN P VERRENGIA says:

    Great layout and not overdone…sometimes less is more.

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