How to build a model train turntable

Ken’s been in touch with How to build a model train turntable:

“Hi Alastair

Here are some photos of my hand made turntable for my 0 gauge layout.

I bought a lazy Susan base off eBay for under £12 screwed a piece of plywood across mounted a length of track wired it into my 16v track wiring via a on-off-on switch as you have to reverse the track polarity as the table turns the track round from positive to negative.

Fitted a 15 rpm motor with threaded shaft also off eBay underneath via another on-off-on switch so I can reverse the direction of the table.

To finish I scratch built a hut for the controls added railings, figures, oil drums etc and covered the floor with corrugated sheet painted grey.

One problem was the motor went too fast and didn’t stop immediately so I wired it to a potentiometer and I now control speed and stop it to exactly line up with the main track all for under £35 !!


Ken Blyth”

build a model train turntable

build a model train turntable

build a model train turntable

Now on to Greg:

“Hello Everyone,

I have been modeling for a long time now and acquired quite a few brass engines, nice rolling stock and craftsman buildings.

But because of circumstances, I will not be building another railroad for about 2 years, after I move.

And I have also accepted the fact that I will never build one of those huge railroads.

I ended up selling most of the big stuff and started collecting traction models, mostly along the lines of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee.

Traction seems to be a great alternative because a whole train can be just 1 car long.

There seems to be a recurring theme in this blog: “Just get started.” So I am taking that advice.

I am building a new traction layout digitally. Using some of the CAD programs that are available, I have built a railroad along the lines of the North Shore Line, centered around Howard Street in Chicago.

Here is the basis of this layout. Howard Street yard of the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority). The North Shore ran right through this station.

Looking at the photo, the track that runs to the upper right side is the Shore Line.

This was the original railroad that served all of the little towns through Illinois up to the City of Milwaukee. It was a long, slow trip because of all the stops and street running along the way.

The track that runs to the upper left side is the High Speed line.

It was relatively flat and straight. Trains would hit 90 MPH as they headed to Milwaukee. This is where the Electroliners ran. The track that heads to the bottom of the photo ran into downtown Chicago on “the El”.

Next, I developed a wish list. I included everything that I could think of, whether it was feasible or not.

Overhead wire, Cobblestone/asphalt streets, Electroliner (High Speed line), Heavy weight cars (High Speed line and Shore line), Streetcar (Chicago Surface Lines on city streets), Steeple Cab for Freight Operations, Merchandise Dispatch for small package delivery. The North Shore offered all of these services.

4×8 and 5×10 plan (Hey,, when you do it digitally, it is pretty cheap.)

Main Street Station Suydam kit. (Couldn’t find a good one on ebay, so I ended up getting a brand new one from Alpine Models).

High speed line with reverse loops and storage stacks, Shore Line with reverse loop and storage in Waukegan (Lake County seat)

Insull Spanish station (This is actually on the South Shore, but they are all the same.)

Interchange track with railroad for freight operations

Ravinia Park:

Easter Eggs(Just hidden little surprises): Nighthawks Scene, Where the streetcar bends the corner around (just google it. it is a real place), Merchants curve

I jammed most of these into my first try, using XTrk CAD.

If anyone is interested, let me know. I will continue to update with how I revised my thinking and my track plan to create a more realistic model railroad.


A big thanks to Ken for showing us how to build a model train turntable – and to Gregory too.

Gregory is right – it’s all about making a start. What’s more, if you can make a start with a theme too, you’re well on your way.

Please do leave a suggestion below if you can help Greg.

That’s all for today, folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you want to stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Don’t forget the latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still updated daily.

19 Responses to How to build a model train turntable

  1. Terry Fleet, Old Hampshire says:

    Much, much more please as a tram fan I can only envy the variety of workings that were run on street car lines not only for passengers but mail and fright. With two or three trolley pole fitted locos hauling rounded end box cars, tanks, live stock, etc down Main St and switching into the Third Ave exchange yard the RR Co.

  2. Robert Brady says:

    Greg We’re yearning for your layout construction Thus far.
    The Critic

  3. Mike Walsh says:

    What does Greg mean by ‘traction models’? It’s not a term I’m familiar with.

  4. Casey B says:

    The photo of the station gave me an idea. About a year ago RMC ran an article about modeling commuter stations/lines. The multiple reversing loops in the yard could make for some very interesting switching. Add a fiddle yard or two for runs and you have a single module layout that can keep you busy with operations and have room to grow.

  5. Frank says:

    Hi Greg I built a g scale turntable using a stepper motor and a arduino. It works great and you can program it to run and atop any where you want on a dime.

  6. Chuck says:

    Greg, I think traction railroads are fascinating.. What scale are you planning?
    Please keep us posted, I am eager to see the progression.

    Ken; That is a great little turntable, nice job. Very clever.

  7. Barry says:

    I live the traction railroads and think your choice of the North Shore line to model is wonderful. I want to model the Illinois Terminal line in central Illinois as I live ½ a mile south of where it ran on the west side of Champaign. I should get started on that.

  8. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Two great posts today!
    Gregory- looks like the makings of a great layout- keep us posted all the way!
    Ken- nice work!
    Thanks to both of you for sharing.

  9. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Hi Greg….. Gary M from Long Island and I am interested in how you progress. I started my layout in 2018 also using a CAD program called SCARM. It is still a work in progress but I have altered my original layout plan as I went along. Your plans look good……Keep us posted.

    Ken……that is a cool piece of work……..great job. Its fun building something like that from scratch.

  10. Dan Hulitt says:

    Wonderful plans and nice looking turntable.

    Mike, traction lines are electric, mostly perhaps from overhead wires. Greg mentions that as a possibility. Street cars are of that category. I believe. A lot of high speed lines are third rail electric, with power coming from a rail that runs along the side at more or less ground level.
    Mn Dan

  11. We all are waiting and very interested in your system and and want to see more !
    George E. Prinkey – Tarrs Pa.-U.S.A. and be well and stay safe !

  12. Nice layout turntable you have build Ken ..Dangerous dave

  13. Greg, Love your enthusiasm for your layout. I just have one question about the track plan. Is there any practical, historical, reason for the double (triple) reverse loops in the upper left-hand part of your diagram? It seems redundant to me. I love reverse loops, but in my primitive O-27 Lionel layout, they are much easier to do since you don’t have to worry about the polarity issue with the three rail system.

  14. Tim shirk says:

    Noticed you have 3 reverse loops on upper left and 2 more on right. The length of train is deternined by length of shortest loop. If you like to run trains this layout works. Depending on what landscaping is to be on left side, a simple loop might add to operations. This from a man who still rips up track after ten years and still not pleased yet. Smile.

  15. Greg Schaefer says:

    Thanks for all of your support. Just to briefly answer some of the questions briefly:
    Mike traction generally refers to trains running on electricity. The North Shore ran mostly on overhead wire down to Howard. At that point, they switched to outside 3rd rail. Streetcars and interurbans are traction.
    This will be in HO scale. I have already collected some rolling stock.
    Regarding reverse loops, electrically there is no issue with overhead wire. All the overhead wire is positive and all the track is negative. Reverse loops do not cause short circuits. And any track can be short, because one car can be a complete train. I don’t know anything about DCC, so I will have to study that down the road.
    Also, if you want to run in the opposite direction, a loop is easier (see the big loops in the first photo). The other way to reverse is pull down one trolley pole and lift the other one.
    There will be more explanations as I go along.

  16. Frank Vozak says:

    It is good to see another traction modeler. and I have built up a nice collection of I have a two level urban layout point to point, no overhead wire. There are some good traction brass re-sellers here in the US. Brass availability ebbs and flows. I have Illinois Terminal, Northshore, Southshore, Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin, and Pacific Electric models as well as a group of plastic commuter cars with pans by Con Cor. There used to be a really good source of traction equipment by a man in England (Isle of Man I believe) who printed paper sides which I glued onto Bachmann Brill Trolleys but unfortunately he no longer answers e mail or snail mail

  17. Brian Olson says:

    Love your approach to creating the layout digitally until you can build an actual layout. In our minds we can visualize what’s on the computer screen.

    Especially like “Beverly Shores” that you shared. Again, until you can build the actual layout, you can certainly start building elements of it on the work bench. Or kitchen table!!!

    Keep us posted!

  18. Scott J says:

    Greg, if you have a look at my recent post, you’ll see that my yard ended up being a fair resemblance of the Howard Yard. I didn’t know that until I had built it.

  19. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. i like when people put good turntables and a lot of time is taken to think these things out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *