Starting an HO train layout

Starting an HO train layout is the same as starting any other layout really.

Find a space you can use – then you can have an idea of track plans that fit.

Build a bench or buy a table that fits in your space and start laying track.

Make sure you’re really happy with the track and the trains run smooth, with no derailments, then get busy with the scenery.

But do it step by step – enjoy each stage, just like Eric is doing. You should see his layout now, it’s amazing (you can see it in the later posts).

“Hello Alastair

Been reading your emails now for a couple years and love the info that you report on. A lot of great railroaders out there.

A little on me, I have been in the fire service for 39 years now and looking to retire at 41 years.

Me and the wife moved to a bigger home a few years ago where I had room for a shelf type layout.

I had finished my basement and had put a room in 16 x 12 for my fire collection and ran the layout 14″ down off the ceiling with 60′ of track that consist of two main lines. I have attached a few photos in its completed stage.

I did add pieces In the corners for a park, construction site and a small little farm house.

The theme of the layout is called my fulltime jobs. Buildings in each one of the corners are places I use to work up to my current job firefighter.

Everything on the layout has something to do with my life. Portal dates, billboards, cemetery and park ect. I am send some pics of each area.

I work part time at a hobby store in St. Charles, Missouri for the past 3 years. After visiting and buying material for the layout they handed me an application. And he I am.

Like all of us we can’t get enough, so I began a lower expansion, I have a few pics and more will follow in the next few days. I have time to move forward quickly due to my fire schedule.

Hope this has a intrest and I thank you and your readers for all that I been helped with from your emails.

Eric the firefighter”

starting an ho train layout

starting an ho train layout

starting an ho train layout

starting an ho train layout

“Hello Al,

As is my custom, I make a layout update video every year, and my layout has celebrated its 3rd birthday.


Henry van Wyk in Pietermaritzburg, Sunny South Africa”

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Eric – he shows what starting an HO train layout is all about: same as ever scale, just get going and enjoy. Thanks to Henry too.

It’s really early days with Hernry’s layout, but that’s why I liked it so much: it’s all about making a start, and he’s made it his own: his theme, his world.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to take that first step towards your own model railroad.



PS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

12 Responses to Starting an HO train layout

  1. Thomas w Krider says:

    Good morning Alastair, iam tom from altoona ,pa.. i started to build a new layout after 40 yrs .. had a great layout when i was 10 in my parent’s basement. But then i discovered girls and football so ho trains took a backseat until October of 2019.had to start from scratch because my loving brother bought my parent’s house and threw out all my ho trains and accessories with out letting me back on 2013 had to start going to flea markets and yard sales to start getting everything i would need to build a new got the layout built, but no track laid down as of writing this,but intend to start build the mainline this coming week or next..just want to give you some information about myself and what i have planned .. i read your email every morning before work.. hopefully i will have some pic some to send to you…keep up the great work…thanks for all the great tips and ideas that you send me ..hope i can make you proud..thanks again Alastair.. “crazy for ho trains in Pennsylvania “

  2. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Eric and Henry- thanks for sharing your great layouts, we look forward to hearing more from both of you!

  3. Brian Messenger says:

    Eric, glad that you have made a start. Great looking train Room.
    Henry, great seeing a layout based on SAR featured here. Very nice video of a few places that I recognize. Well done.
    Brian – the HOn 3 guy – Knysna RSA 🇿🇦

  4. Robert D. Bouskill says:

    I like Eric’s layout.

  5. Rob McCrain says:

    Wow, the shipbuilding cranes are spectacular. What an interesting layout. There are too many fascinating details to count. I love it.
    Rob McCrain – Farland Howe

  6. john thorogood says:

    Why is it that Firefighters and retired Firefighters always have to have a fire hydrant ? Anyway glad you are in the loop. I, myself, an a retired firefighter from Omaha NE USA. 29 years career and 12 as a volunteer. Total 41 years chasing the BEAST. Retired as senior Haz-Mat Captain on Heavy Rescue Ona. And, yes, I have a real non-working fire hydrant holding up the birdbath in the garden. My insurance agent once asked me how far was the closest hydrant and my reply—18 feet from my back door. Needless to say he wanted a picture.
    Have fun building you railroad empire.
    John T. OFD retired

  7. Jerome j Lodge says:

    There is always excitement starting an adventure with model trains. You will continue to build and re-create as the years give you more memories to use as guide posts.

    It is said that creating a new hobby; learning how to create something from nothing, helps the brain to refresh the memory cells to keep Demetria side tracked.

    Keep the energy goings; enjoy this new adventure.

    With the Warmest and Kindest of Regards

    Jerry; San Jose California

  8. Patrick Leonard III says:

    Very nice. I like the way that the pressed metal ceiling reflects light onto the layout.

    PS My father was a deputy chief in the FDNY

  9. Troy Devault says:

    Love mark Twain hobby store. Im from St .charles but live in Wisconsin. When im home , that is my first stop,nice basement. I too retired from the fire dept. And military. Now working on my 3rd career and building my layout that I have been putting off the last 20 years.

  10. Keep up the great work Eric on your new layout, happy railroading.

  11. Eric kiehl says:

    I would like to thank all of you for your comments, I enjoy very much model RR and the darn hobby is basically endless. I will update soon on progress.

    Eric the firefighter

  12. Russell Postlewaight says:

    Hey Eric – from New Zealand

    49 year career veteran firefighter and lifetime model railroader here.
    Check out my facebook page if you feel like it.
    I’d ultimately like to compile a list of firefighters who model trains/railroads.

    Stay Safe
    Russell Postlewaight

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