HO scale lift bridge

John’s been back in touch with an update – have a look at his HO scale liftbridge:

“Good morning Alistair,

Moving my layout is progressing and it’s time for an update.

Since I had to cut up the entire layout, I decided to use the same method I used when building the layout in the basement area of the house, which is to do one section at a time and “connect” the dots as each in completed.

This move required going up 3 stories, taking it to the attic (as I said to friends, might as well moved it to the moon, given how hard the job was).

Nothing I did below is fitting in the room upstairs as was originally done, so lots of module modifications are being done, and a complete re-arrangement of where everything was is required.

One casualty is the rather soring mountains that I liked when I had the headroom to include them in the basement (sigh) they had to get cut down. On top of that, I’m adding a few new modules, an example shown is the old wooden ore mine in the foreground. 

I’m taking an extraordinary amount of time laying the track, and this time using code 100 rail.

The last version of this layout was plagued with derailments which I traced to my not paying enough attention to good workmanship when installing the track.

I’m running a precision level, and NMRA gauge over every inch of track and solder joint, and frankly have found several turnouts (points) that were way out of gauge, no wonder they were a source of derailments!

Anyway, one wall is on the way to completion, probably 2/3 done, some modules are still not secured as I have to lay track behind them.

The schematic diagram has been modified, the lower left track coming off the bridge module is now exposed, and is where the wooden mine structure is located. 

The picture showing the right end of the bridge valley is my work area. Trains will go by but other than simple painting there will be little or no scenery there. 

Another feature is the lift bridge. I had to work out a way to get to the Airconditioning unit behind the wall, so made the bridge.

It actually works and allows access to the closet/AC room behind the doors. That bridge was constructed (OK, I admit out of scale) with some old Gilbert Erector Set stuff I had from 50 years ago.

The actual train track portion is a couple of HO Central Valley Pratt Truss single track bridges kit-bashed into a longer span 2 track bridge.

Hope all our modeler friends across the world will have, or had a great holiday season. I’ll be sending in more updates as time permits.

John from Baltimore”

HO scale lift bridge

model train bridge freight

track plan

HO scale lift bridge

HO scale coal mine

HO scale model train

HO scale mine layout

HO scale model train

HO scale mine layout

HO scale loft layout

A huge big thanks to John.

It looks like he’s had lots of fun – especially with his lift bridge.

If you want to see John’s last post, it’s here.

You can see his complete journey in the Hall of Fame.

That’s all for today folks.

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

39 Responses to HO scale lift bridge

  1. Ruben Simon says:

    Incredible detail. Just fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Joseph Randazzo says:

    Great work

  3. Herman Crauwels says:

    Prachtige layout !!

  4. Bob Jakubowski says:

    I have to say what was showed, was outstanding. Very attentive to detail. The way the high power pole was on the side of the hill. An you left it on a hill an made the high power poles legs according to the hill detail o yes. Can’t wait to see more for sure you go sir. You love it. An so do I !!!

  5. DJfromNJ says:

    John –
    Good luck with reconnecting and modifying your layout. Moving is never easy, and 3 flights just complicates the job (not to mention the physical (grunt) aspects required. I was impressed with your fessing-up about derailments and I’d betcha you are part of a large group with a similar problem.
    It’s wonderful that Al has this forum available so modelers can learn from each other!

  6. Stephen Hill says:

    Well I just don’t know how y’all do it , that is absolutely amazing .. the bridge yes but the entire display is stunning . That is one astounding display , look forward to seeing the progress … thank you for sharing .

  7. Patrick Barron says:

    This is one of the first websites that I visit every morning. It always is a highlight of my day. I love three types of model railroad layouts–heavy industry, railroad infrastructure, and red brick buildings from the 1920’s era. Keep ’em coming!

  8. Brian Olson says:

    WOW, a major project and proof again where there’s a will, and space, there’s a way!

  9. Michael Ilkenhons says:

    Your layout is museum quality, even better in the attention to detail. The lift bridge is an engineering accomplishment on a smaller scale. Impressive. If you have a chance, take some ground level shots and pass them along. The realism would be awesome to see and no doubt show your craftsmanship. Well done.

  10. Neal J Perry says:


    Great way to get around that entrance bridge problem.


  11. Jon Vincent Slawik says:

    There is a very similar full size here in Portland, Oregon. The “Steel Bridge” crosses the Willamette River.

  12. Rob McCrain says:

    very nice, brilliant layout. Excellent use of space both horizontal and vertical. I like your scenery and structures too. All around it is a great layout.
    Rob McCrain – Farland Howe

  13. George Zaky says:

    Followed you for some time and you are a member of the Colossal Greats that are articulate, masters of the arts, and have the talent to visualize a masterful production. Your ability to plan and execute is the tops.
    Much thanks for your narrative and pics. Please keep us mortals updated and also let us know the minutiae of why you did somethings like brand of track, points, controls and electronics.
    Big Al- thanks
    All- Happy Holidays!!

  14. Bill in Virginia says:

    Love that bridge at the door. Great way to solve access problems and show off a wonderful construction

  15. Ken says:

    Extraordinary detail and realism. I’d like to drop by and take a look!

  16. Mike Matejka says:

    Incredible modeling and the lift bridge is superb. Thanks for sharing. Laying track is now fun, but it makes a huge difference long term!

  17. kenneth S. Roth says:

    looks Great! I like that you shared the actual track plan . there is a lot out there. but its great to see new ideas. any track plans posted would be great and in clude the size.

  18. Tom Hager-- TrestleRiverWestern says:

    This is the replacement of John Allens G and D as the epitome of excellence !!

  19. Allan J Jelinek says:

    WOW! I’m speechless. What an artist.

  20. Eugene Shaffer says:

    Awesome drawbridge. Reminds me of the one in Sacramento over the American river. In the picture it looks like the doors open into the room and I wondered how they would open. The layout drawing set me straight.

    Great work!

  21. David W says:

    This is a true work of art!!!
    Amazing detail, weathering, craftmanship.
    Also appreciate the layout plan as well.
    Best of luck with the transition to the attic area.
    Glad you have the A/C there as well.
    Much nicer climate to work in the warmer months.

  22. Keith Miller says:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to post this update. Extremely good detail. It would be helpful to know the make of the turnouts (points) that were way out of gauge… Dustyk UK

  23. John Frye says:

    the turnouts I have the most problem with are Shiniorah (SP?) #10 or long radius curves – the points to the stock rails are way too tight.

    Thanks to all for the kind words and comments.


  24. Tony Fryer says:

    WOW !!! So life-like in your layout – buildings, bridges and scenery. I ESPECIALLY APPRECIATE your layout drawing on grid paper . . . Merry Christmas 🎁 🎅 🎄 to all . . . Con una sonrisa

  25. Gary M from Long Island says:

    John…… fantastic work. The lift bridge is awesome and the detail and weathering of mill scene is one of the best I’ve seen.

    Ago Al and all you modelers out ther……HAPPY HOLIDAYS and a successful NEW YEAR.

  26. Rob Robbins says:

    Great looking railroad. There a bridge like that at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland Ohio. Incredibly cool looking bridge and access idea. Great stuff!

  27. Will in NM says:

    I remember how much I liked your original layout with the deep canyon and the soaring mountains, so I’m sorry to hear that you don’t have the same space in the attic to relocate all of your modules. The lift bridge is really neat, but how does it allow access to the A/C closet when it’s not as tall as the closet doors?

    Your structures, scenery and details are all top notch and remind me too of the great John Allen’s G&D layout (which I was lucky enough to visit in person when I was 12 or 13 years old.) Keep up the good work and please keep us posted with your progress.

    Al, thank you for another year of your excellent blog and I hope the new year is even better for you and all your many followers.

  28. John Frye says:

    Will, thanks for the complements. What a treat being able to see the great John Allen’s G&D!
    The lift bridge when raised full up allows 5′ which I can bend and get under. The air-handler/AC coil unit will fit under the bridge, and through the doors as well.

  29. william janmes palmer says:

    awesome layout love the lift bridge

  30. Jim Robinson says:

    Some really good work going on! The overall layout makes sense, and I’m anxious to see more!

  31. P. Maitland says:

    Very Nice Bridge! It reminds me of a couple in my area. Looks like you put a lot of work into designing and building that.

  32. robert dale tiemann says:

    great job. looks like the one a friend of mine had in his house. he had one that went from the basement to the third floor. it would stop at each floor and go around the main room and go to the next floor. when it got to the top it went back to the basement and started all over again, that was the biggest layout ive ever seen.

  33. Rich B. says:

    Have viewed 2 identical yet completely different worlds today. I guess flabbergasting is the word here. Can never see too much of these things including repeats with new picture angles even more so.

    Regards, R

  34. Frank from HB says:

    Great layout with tremendous detail and what is not to love about that lift bridge. Outstanding!

  35. Mike Balog says:

    That Lift Bridge reminds me of those I saw as a young man in NYC, and the famous one’s on the N.H.R.R. by Devon Tower, and the one up in Cape Code, Just outstanding construction and operation must be something to watch. I know of such moumential moves such as the one you made going up three floors and then to rebuild your model railroad. When I was in my youth, I was a member of the Housatonic Model RR Club down in Bridgeport, CT. We had to move a Hugh Layout from the basement of a Church to the top floor, the Attic of an Old Bank Building that had an Antique Iron Cage type elevator that was decommissioned. We had to take module sections and buggy lug them up what I remember as 6 flights of stairs to the building’s attic. And spend months assembling the modules together. Someone in the bank admin. decided to “clean the attic out” and never bothered asking any of the Club Officers if we are still active. Some cleaning Crew Demolished our layout and threw sections out the widow down a series of ramps to construction dumpsters waiting below. We found out what was going on and put a stop to it. Removed remaining modules down the stairs and over to the next town to the Fairfield Public Library, in the Children’s Library basement. There is stayed… for years… lost track of them after I moved decades ago…

  36. Steve Ruple says:

    WOW !!!! looks awesome, can’t wait to see it all done or farther along.

  37. matison says:

    I understand where you are coming from. Not too long ago, due to health reasons, we were forced to sell our dream home. It had 4600 sq. ft. and more storage than we could ever use. We now live in a home just under 1000 sq. ft. with very little storage: no garage, no shed and an unusable attic that one has to kneel down and stoop to access. I have to share my 4’ x 8’ train setup with my bed in an 11’ x 11’ bedroom. It’s really the only thing here that keeps me sane, but I’m having trouble with designing a decent HO track plan with the space that I have. I hope that all goes well with setting up your very nice, well designed train layout. It’s a keeper.

  38. Dan Piccolo says:

    What happened to the three bridges/three tunnels scene? Please don’t tell me that. It’s gone..

  39. Calvin says:

    I love the bridge. If it is powered, would it be possible to see it in action?
    I am in a club that has transportable modules. They are a major undertaking to assemble and disassemble. I understand the issues that you have experienced in your move. Keep posting. The detail, of what is shown, is excellent!.

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