Basement train layouts

There are lots of basement train layouts on the blog – and Harper’s is getting an overhaul!

“Hi Al,

Thanks for your blog. Attached are some photos of my basement layout.

Due to your blog I’m inspired to overhaul it and convert to DCC.

I think the last photo shows it on its side to access the bottom, so I had to clean it anyway.



basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement train layouts

basement layout track plan

Next, on to Ernie, who has done a fab job on the print out buildings.

“Hello Alastair:

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say “Thank you” for the great emails and tips. I have been enjoying them for quite awhile.

I had a great time putting together your printable buildings and watching John’s videos. I have included some pictures.

Thanks again

Ernie G

Philadelphia PA”

And now from basement train layouts to portable ones…


I’ve been working along on a portable layout I can take with me when we travel in our Winnebago motor home.

We usually ‘snow bird’ it in Galveston so I thought it would be convenient to have some of my trains along in the Winnie’s basement. That’s RV-speak for the storage space under the floor of the unit. That limits my storable size to 48 inches by 18 inches that can fold down to 6 inches deep.

I prefer to model at 1/48 scale, primarily ON30, but I dabble in 3-rail O-scale too.

Since the layout and rolling stock will likely take some abuse from riding in the RV, I felt that the 3-rail track, accessories and rolling stock would handle that better than my ON30 Bachmann gear.

I really like the Inglenook Switching puzzles and found that I could fit a 3-2-2 version onto an 8 foot by 1 1/2 foot space (Google ‘Inglenook switching puzzle’ for a more complete treatment of the topic).

I devised a set of procedures to set up switching scenarios that change in a random manner.

To make the switching experience more reallistic I added a siding on which to park the switcher as well as a run around. To operate the run around I came up with a removable 18 inch extension to attach to the right side of the layout for the locomotive. I have included a picture of the extension I made.

The track is a mix of O27 tubular track and Gargraves 3-rail track. The turnouts are old Lionel manual ones with targets on the throws that stick up above the surface. Due to the need for clearance when folding the layout I had to devise offset hinges so the throws would not get crushed. Another picture shows how I did that.

Thinking ahead to when I build scenery, I built buildings to cover the hinges when I’m operating. They appear in the other two pictures I took of the layout.

I now have the GWK switching yard ready to operate. That’s for the Galveston, Winnebago & Kansas Railroad, also, coincidentally, that’s my initials. For those interested, there was a narrow gauge railroad on Galveston Island in the early 1900’s.

Future plans are to document operation procedures for my version of Inglenook, test them with my grandkids then publish them here and improve the scenery quality.

I will be attempting to create a dead-rail battery powered locomotive by adding parts from a remote-control car to an old DC Lionel 0-4-0 loco. That would allow me to operate even when I’m camping in the boondocks.

Whether I’m successful or not I will share my work.

My thanks to Alistair for his efforts to promote our hobby, seeing what everyone else is doing keeps me thinking.


That’s all for today.

A big thanks to Harper for adding to the basement train layouts and too Gary and Ernie.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, 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

32 Responses to Basement train layouts

  1. Good stuff today.
    The basement layout is beautiful…
    I love seeing what people do with your print out buildings
    They really are a great way to build modeling skills.
    The portable O gauge is really “different” and inspirational as well.

  2. Mark Labash says:

    Years ago when I had my layout, dust was always a problem. After seeing this latest post, I would really like to know how you clean up a layout without destroying it.

  3. Bob From Towson says:

    Harper, I just have to say My O My …How do the citizens of your town breathe??? Never seen so much pollution !!!! Great layout though!!!

  4. Al, Thanks for showing my unfinished basement layout that I left uncover for over 10 ten years (maybe longer) It was boring, ran 2 cabs (inner & outer loops) and siding locos. Finally decided to switch to DCC after seeing videos. Al’s blog inspired me to clean it up and change some things (add remote turnouts). I have some clear vinyl to cover when not in use after I rebuild it. Just added LED lights and a dehumidifier to the basement. I think I need to paint the floor and add a dropped ceiling. The house is 113 y/o and the attic is finished, but my wife grab the whole 3rd floor. We don’t use our dining room often…hummm

  5. Richard says:

    Harper, Do convert to DCC. The wiring is so much simpler and better. Even with the simplest DCC unit you have no problems with manual on-off switches to select blocks. You can start a locomotive on a main line, let it run by itself and do switching or control another train at the same time, switch back to the first to stop at a station or drop a car on a siding. SO MUCH BETTER! The change to DCC is easy.

  6. Bruce Ganas says:

    Harper, your layout is beautiful, and I’m sure will be even more so after the upgrades. One comment on photos: I’d like to see views from closer to “ground level”. The drone views always scream “model”.

    Bruce in NC

  7. Erick says:

    Pretty Neat.!!!!!!!

  8. Richard Chapple Sr says:

    All great stuff today. I like Harper’s reply also. I had a severe dust problem in our old basement. Our house is 108 years old. Covering the basement ceiling helped a ton to reduce dust on my G scale layout. A certain amount of dust gives added realism, maybe Harper’s layout models the dirty 30’s hahaha. Really nice layout though. You will really enjoy the benefits of DCC.
    Always happy to see more of Al’s paper buildings. Ernie those are super!!
    I like the GW&K RR Inglenook which offers a lot of railroading activity and so good to share operations with grandchildren, friends, etc. Take a look at Carl Arendt’s site. Carl passed away years ago but he had published 3 books, all about micro size layouts using Inglenooks and so on. Tons of cool ideas especially for anyone with very limited space.

  9. James Johnson says:

    Harper, I love your basement layout. I aspire to do something similar in my basement. The dust actually adds a certain gritty reality to the scenery. Anyway, nice looking layout and good luck with your conversion.

  10. Dick Walter says:

    Your manual turnouts are Marx, not Lionel. Have fun!

  11. Andrew Aves says:

    Thanks Gary – an Inglenook Switching Puzzle is now on my “To do” list.
    Andrew in Oz

  12. Mr. Ron says:

    Your layout looks like the fallout after a nuclear bomb was exploded. You may have to wait a few hundred years before the radiation level has fallen so you can rebuild the town.

  13. Kevin says:

    The basement isn’t dust – there was a volcano nearby. Looks like Cubi Point after Pinatubu blew its top in the 1990s.

  14. Harper,
    Great layout. It looks like a scene from the Pacific NW, 1980. That would be when Mt. St. Helens blew!
    When you get it all cleaned up send more pics.

  15. Ken Roberge says:

    Many suggest benefits of switching to DCC.
    Is there a link to information on how to modify old analog locos?

  16. Andre says:

    I think this town needs some dusting…

  17. Jim AZ says:

    You’ve modeled several good looking scenes on your layout. A bit of cleaning and DCC, you’ll really enjoy running trains on it.

    Jim AZ

  18. Tom Roscoe says:

    Harper: The dust (dirt) on your layout makes it SO real.. NOTHING in the real world is clean unless it has just been built. You are so fortunate the dusting has made it so realistic. Too bad you cant gather it up, bottle it and sell it to those who are into realism.
    You are so lucky. If you have to clean something, maybe a car wash.

  19. Bob Wajerski says:

    Looks like an interesting layout.After a good cleaning and refurbishing the scenery,it should be a great layout.Good luck and enjoy.I would like to see more photos after you finish the refurbishing.

  20. Larry Berger says:

    Good ideas from the man from glavenston. The switches are not Lionel but were made by Marx. still looks good.

  21. Stephen Hill Woodstock GA says:

    Harper , that looks like you’ve spent sone time creating … very nicely done and very distinguished detail. Hope the transition goes well. Will enjoy seeing the results . Great display , glad to know you’re not giving up .

    Ernie , I like what you’ve done , I’m torn between my next project being N gauge or going bigger . Current Tim sun HO gauge , but I’ve been entertaining the thought of a large display with larger trains . Good luck to you sir .
    Thank you both for sharing your work.

  22. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Harper…….that looks like a really interesting and detailed layout………lets see the next set of pictures when cleaned up and converted to DCC.

  23. Foola Sheet says:

    Harper too late now but u should have covered layout with a sheet. would have saved you a lot of trouble.

  24. Ray Volpe says:

    Harper – a very attractive layout! Great use of space and perspective as well as modeling craftsmanship.

  25. robert dale tiemann says:

    very very nice.

  26. Rich B. says:

    Like everything about this, especially the fine layer of dust (guilty). Removes all shine that’s not supposed to be there. The cement wall even resembles mountainous terrain as part of backdrop. As a huge drop off cliff of sort, imagine if painted to look as such w/3D foliage here and there stuck in or outcropping at top.

    A few polished autos could really make you take 2nd look. And then DCC, never gave thought about still needing blocks lmao. Not that advanced myself, won’t do it. Have thought though of having just 1 switch only for all turnouts. Either all one direction or other, challenge being running trains without derailing, electrical faults and block directions. Running trains and keeping all moving, so could have all trains derail, running full forward to full reverse…. really?

    Moving On, Rich

  27. Kenneth R Fox says:

    Nice layout, but I do wish that more people would include floor plans and the size of their layout so that I can get a perspective of how they might relate to what I’m trying to build.

  28. Harper Goldwire says:

    Thanks for the positive comments. I’m still working on the N scale layout.
    I had to remove the tunnel top to clean and repair the track, the inner loop
    double track curve was too tight. The turnouts/switches are going to be Kato,
    I like the hidden switch motor, but don’t care for the light grey roadbed.
    I received Kato flex track for Christmas, it’s the best I’ve seen. The chairs that
    allow the track to slide are missing from the ends, meaning you don’t have
    to cut them off and looks better than other flex track with the funny double ties.
    So it will be hybrid original flex track with Kato turnouts that I can’t reach and manual turnouts ground throws that I can reach.
    A contractor I know said he would be able to sheet rock the basement ceiling for me this year. This old house basement walls are 3 rows (19″ thick) stone that I painted white (Thoroseal) I may return it to rock color for some of the back drop.
    This 4’x8′ was supposed to fit in the alcove where a 275 gal oil tank used to reside since I converted to natural gas in 1986.
    Foola Sheet mentioned I should have covered the layout with a sheet, yeap…hind sight,
    Al is shaming me for an update by showing what it was, alright, alright I’m on it.
    I’ll be 75 next month, a 60% disabled Viet Nam veteran Thankful that I’m kicking albeit slower. Thank you Al your the best.

  29. Steve Ruple says:

    Lots of interesting subjects today, everyone is doing a wonderful job on there projects. Keep up the good work !!!!!

  30. Jeffrey Hayes says:

    Hi Harper,
    I enjoyed seeing your shark near the photos at the end. You must be in IT, I have a few of them myself from installing equipment into shark racks in data centers. Nice layout!
    Jeff (Postwarman)

  31. Harper Goldwire says:

    Hi Jeff,
    You got it…shark racks, built plenty of data centers (cold with raised floors).
    I’m retired system engineer and saved stuff when I upgrade systems,
    I have some fiber optic cable I need to strip out some strands to use
    like fabulous Fred back drop and layout.
    I should cut the shark so only the head is above water like in Jaws movie.
    Man…I love this site and all the talented people that contribute their ideas.
    The world’s greatest hobby is right, you just need some space and some money.


  32. Jeffrey Hayes says:

    Thanks for the response and your service in the military. I recently retired and am going nuts being at home all the time, I had been in field service since the early 80’s. I’m defiantly am spending more time in the train room!

    Take care,

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