Large O gauge train layouts

Tim has been in touch – he’s added to the collection of large O gauge train layouts on the blog:

“Mr. Lee,

I do not remember how I subscribed to your news letter. But I also enjoy it.

Here is a PDF of my monster O Gauge in progress.

Each main Line is 250 feet.

Feel free to publish it on your news list.



large o gauge train layouts

large o gauge train layouts

large o gauge train layouts

o scale platform track

o scale main yard turntable

O scale main yard track

large o gauge train layouts

large o gauge train layouts

O scale bridge track

Well – what a layout. But it looked familiar. Had I posted. I checked. I checked again. Nope. So I thought I’d publish… and then I found it.

Have a look at Tim’s post here.

So why have I just posted Tim’s earlier pics now? Two reasons. I love progress pics. And Tim’s post, shows in spades how long a layout can take (Okay – Tim is the other end of the scale…)

A big thanks to Tim for adding to the large O gauge train layouts.

I think it’s really important just to make a start – and it’s best said by Kevin, who posted this comment recently:

“To all of you who are older, stop waiting to build, even if it’s an oval on the dining room table. There are no guarantees in life, except for the near universal love and enjoyment of model trains. Get to it.”

So I need your help. Please post a comment below – how long does an average layout take? (I know there is no such thing as an average layout… but let’s have a go).

And now on to John.

I still get emails on the embankment printable scenery, and how best to put it together.

Believe it or not, it’s all made from just one print (printed out lots of times…)

It really does show how this embankment is only limited by your imagination. You can make an embankment as long or as short as you like. Here are the pics of his ‘creation’:


emabnkment 3


So how did he do it? Well, John was kind enough to record this ‘how to’ video:

I really can’t thank John enough.

You can see the embankment and lots more printable scenery in the store.

That’s all for today folks – large O gauge train layouts, printable scenery and a question I really want to hear your answers on.

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.

36 Responses to Large O gauge train layouts

  1. Ben Hawkins says:

    That is Great information

  2. BullfrogEH, in Ontario says:

    How long ? – Well, my first layout started under the Xmas tree in 1950, in 3-rail Lionel 0 gauge, with 027 track. It was dismantled in 1961, when I moved into the working world. It was revived in HO gauge in1970 at the birth of my son, and lasted until ‘retirement’ towards the turn of the century. The third layout was kick-started just about 5 years ago, and continues as a ‘work-in-progress’. So… how long ? About 65 years – – – ‘so far’ ……. (‘dave’ – – in central Ontario)

  3. Marklin ed says:

    Thanks for the great pic. O gauge was my first layout It was on tall wooden legs over my Bed on a 4 by 8 plywood. I slept under it, at Christmas time. Bang my head many times but it was worth it.

  4. Richard Horton says:

    I had the beginnings of a layout built in the late 1980’s in a large shop area that came with the house we had just purchased. Well, instead of the layout growing, the family grew and the space was needed to accommodate 2 of the eventual 7 kids so the layout had to go. Two years ago, after reading your column and most of the kids gone, I began to build a small HOn3 layout. Then life changed and we relocated to north central Wyoming from southern California. But, we bought a house with a basement room that is dedicated to the hobby. Still trying to unpack so I can begin however I have been able to spend time on retrofitting old NMRA couplers with Kadee and obtain track, buildings, scenery for what will become my mixed HOn3 and HO layout. I am now 62 years old and looking forward to retirement where I can spend much more time on a hobby that started when I was 7 or 8 with an American Flyer train set.

  5. Eric says:

    I have found it is a life long hobby, I started with an OO railway, when I was 14/15.
    That one was sold off due tio space and I was around 48 when I got the bug again and restarted with N gauge and have spend many happy hours over the last 21 years building and rebuilding layouts. Now at 69 I get much more fun out of building the tracks and scenery than actually running the engines. I have bad rheumatoid arthritis especially in my hands and in this scale it actually helps my hands keep active, frustrating and annoying at times trying to fit things together with fingers that don’t want to do what you want. If I stop building then my hands would probably just give up. But the joy of seeing the layout coming together is what makes it a worthwhile hobby to me at least.

    Eric (Leeds) UK

  6. Kevin McArdle says:

    As a young boy, I received a Lionel train set in 1955 when I was seven, but my brother Brian who set it up, prevented me from playing with it, saying it wasn’t right, meaning he hadn’t used up all the smoke pellets, which he did. Fast forward a few years, and I started with HO because you could fit more trains in less space, set them up on a plywood table with rudimentary buildings, and ran trains. I enlisted in the Marines in 1967, and had all my trains, in pristine condition, and gave them to my nephew on the condition that he take care of them like I did. Well he didn’t, and they were jammed in a box in his basement. Never again. So in 2006 I started building craftsman models in HO and purchasing trains for an eventual layout, and rather than going through the logistics of building, and taking over a room in the house, I purchased a custom railroad from Rasch studios in HO, and hon3 five feet by nine feet. Needless to say it’s stunning, and I couldn’t be happier. Just google Rasch studios and see some of their work. Even though I could build a layout, just like most home repair, I decided on hiring a professional. I thought the cost would be prohibitive, but they price their layouts in three ways, layout only, mostly finished with some scenery and buildings, and complete railways where you just run trains. Sorry for being long winded, but just my two cents. Happy railroading.

  7. Don says:

    Great stuff!! Keep it a comin’!

  8. Dr. Bob says:

    I’m not sure a layout can ever be completed. You can discontinue working on a layout, maybe even spend an entire lifetime improving your layout. Completing a layout is like saying you now longer have the ability to be creative. So, you can spend an entire lifetime building a layout.

  9. that print-out stone abutment idea is awsome
    I hafta try some of that myself
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  10. Gene Fricks says:

    Has anyone modeled a gas storage tank, esp. in N scale? Before the early 1960s, gas made by several different industrial processes was a widespread feature of many towns. The gas was typically stored in cylindrical tanks whose roof(s) could rise or fall depending on the volume stored. I am looking for a design to scratch build as I have not seen anything like a kit to accomplish this. Thanks.

  11. Bruce OScale says:

    For Lionel Tim and the great looking layout. Where are you located? I am about to start my build in new home next March just after we move in and may want to pick your experience.

  12. Ralph Berry says:

    It all depends on when you decide it’s finished. It took me a year for my present ho layout to get to the stage of running trains through any sort of scenery. After a total of five years it is still not fully finished as there are pieces of scenery still being filled in. The block instruments and signalling are still to be fitted, as well as electrifying the turntable. Meantime I have built a small portable oval layout for my grandchildren to use when they stay and a small tram layout that is still growing on a corner of the bench.

  13. Paul says:

    Hi Al, I grew up with a rail line at the bottom of the garden and started building a model railway for my two kids in the late seventy’s in the spare bedroom, well they grew up & we needed the bedroom so the railway moved into the loft but then sport & other things including girlfriends took over their lives whilst I spent many days working away from home & the railway was forgotten until I retired & my sons bought me a new loco. Well that started me off again & it’s still well short of completion what with converting loco’s to Dcc etc. Still it gets me out of the way from time to time. So 40 plus years is my submission. Will it ever be completed ? We’ll just have to wait & see !

  14. George Ross says:

    Going To Try O Gauge. Eyes To Bad To Continue HO. Hope Every One Enjoyed The Holidays And Those To Come.

  15. Robert Virnig says:

    My current layout has been under construction for over 4 years. I am about 70% done. Because my layout has been accepted to be on the tour for the 2017 NMRA National convention, I need to have it completed by July. It’s good to set deadlines to keep from getting sidetracked.

  16. David Scott says:

    Last weekend we visited Pendon. Back in 1975 we went there as a family and were shown round by the founder Roye England. Still unfinished and still people are making things to fit in place.
    As in my other branch of the hobby 5 inch live steam modern technology is catching up and with computer built up buildings etc things speed up.
    We are still limited by 24 hours in a day so careful planning is essential!!!

  17. Don J says:

    As I am sure other POSTS have stated that there are a lot of variables to your question.
    Here are some that come to my mind.
    How much space do you have?
    What scale are you modeling and in what era?
    think about the supplies you will need then purchase all of them.

    Boiling it all down it all depend on how much time and money you care to put into the building of the layout.. then there are a zillion questions there after.
    Good luck and like a blind man stay in touch with your progress.

  18. John Reynolds says:

    I have been in the hobby over half a century now…
    With all respect, the first challenge is to define what an “average layout” is: The common size here in the United States is 4 foot by 8 foot (a standard sheet of plywood) for and HO layout, N scale is more commonly 2 foot by 4 foot for a “starter”. I have seen articles in model magazines that have built layouts to those dimensions in as little as two weeks but more commonly stretched to four or five months.
    I tend to build small or “micro” layouts as popularized in Model Trains International or on Carl Arndt’s site. A very basic operational layout can be built in as little as one weekend. Scenery will take longer.
    May years ago I built a 3.5 foot by 5.5 foot layout with all scenery in a matter of four weekends.
    So, how long does it take to build an average layout? The best answer is…
    It Depends…
    Hope this helps..
    John from California

  19. Rod Mackay says:

    For the guy asking about scales, from the bottom up –

    T Too small to find if you drop it. 3mm gauge. Can’t yet get working points I believe.
    Z Zoom in to view. 6.5mm gauge. Stock doesn’t look bad but couplings, flanges, point motors etc look HUGE.
    N No good for the banana-fingered. 9mm gauge. Good range of stock and accessories, US-outline stuff very good value for the standard.
    TT Table-top was what it stood for, overtaken by N in terms of Trade support, bit of a niche following these days. 12mm gauge.
    HO or OO, Half of O supposedly, 16.5mm gauge, or “Ooh, just what I wanted. The pretty much universal choice for kids train sets, so also what most go on to model in.
    O “Oh, it’s HOW much??” 32mm gauge. Great ranges of ready to run and kits now available for UK themes, but not cheap.
    1. “One heck of a big basement.” 45mm gauge, lovely, but curve radii just start getting silly.

    Now, scales are a slightly different question, in many gauges there are slightly different scales used, mostly reflecting the earlier manufacturers’ need to fit available motors into the bodies, some international/UK scales are –
    For N: 1/160 versus 1/148
    For HO: 1/87 whereas OO: 1/72
    These don’t sound much different but put a OO model car on an HO layout and it looks ridiculous. Anything scenic marked HO/OO basically means “what, you think we measured this? Ha!”

    There are several other gauges and scales used by people who want greater accuracy, such as EM or S4, or the ability to work in Imperial measure, eg S gauge, but then you might have a life and want to get out more.

    Also, real railways are not all standard gauge, so of course you can use one of the track gauges above to represent a narrow-gauge line, modelling to one of the larger scales, for example, if you model in 4mm to the foot scale, as you would with OO gauge, then 9mm gauge track represents a prototype 2’3″ gauge line such as the Talyllyn Railway. For an American, if you model in HO (3.5mm to the foot) then the 9mm gauge track could represent the 3′ gauge DRGW.

    My advice is look at your space first, you’ll need more than you’d expect, and however much you fancy that HO Big Boy in the catalogue, if it can’t get round your curves it’ll be a constant frustration.

  20. Bob says:

    When I was 4-5 I had an Am Flyer. I musta liked trains, next thing I know I was into Lionel until about 10-12. Then moved on to HO, really got into that layout with my dad – had a big L layout until I got married at 23. But had no place to put it and it was too big. That layout was closest to ‘done’. Then when wife was pregnant, started a ‘new’ HO.. had it from 1974 -2011! Was only missing people and vehicles, almost got it ‘done’. It was 6X10, a close copy of Jack Mamula’s Gizmo Gulch from Model Trains 1951. We moved to smaller place, had to dispose of that. Now I have two N scales, one in MI (in garage – 48″x 34″), one in AZ (3′ x 8′), both are coming along…don’t want to ever be finished!

  21. David Hannan says:

    That has been so useful for a beginner – thanks!

  22. Mr Al
    I saw someone ask about setting up a tank farm using scratch method. I tried using balsa wood and toilet tissue rolls (they severed as the tanks body) with the balsa as the end caps. I then took spackel and lightly covered the tanks making sure all smoothed out using 400. Grit sand paper. Base was made from balsa strips type lumber using the cradle style. Piping was old pieces of plastic that model piece come with and glued together in the configuration desired. Bottle caps with the top act as the filling and inspection hatch. I found a lot of useful things are the.answers to a project and using the plaster, spackel, paint and a lot of imagination and patience with pictures and research. really pays off and when done you start looking for the next project challenge.

  23. Mike Street says:

    Just to answer Don’s question about scales in different countries etc. In the UK, British outline layouts, this includes dangerous Dave’s layout are mostly 00, although there quite a few N gauge also. In Europe continental based layouts are mostly HO. OO and HO run on the same track, which is obviously wrong scale wise but it’s what goes. So Peco, Hornby, Roco etc, and the many US makes of track in 00/HO are interchangeable for running trains on.
    Hope this helps, Mike S

  24. John Birch says:

    A comprehensive response re scales from Rob. However, for what it’s worth: as I understand it, 1:72 scale is used mostly for model aircraft. OO scale is 1:76. HO is 1:87. Fact or fiction, I read once that the Germans created HO scale which is half O but the British couldn’t create a motor quite small enough so created OO scale.

  25. Shane Mackie says:

    I have been seeing these layouts and think they are great but have one question how do you keep the tracks clean so the train does not stop because of dirty tracks.

  26. Swisswchris says:

    Hi. The quickest layout build (without scenery) was a 6′ X 4′ knocked up on Christmas morning for my nephew’s first and unfortunately only trainset. I also managed a few years later to build a station layout in an afternoon/evening for my first Great Nephew to play with when he came to visit the following day It was supposed to be part of a 16′ X 12′ layout that I was working on between 2011 and 2021 and is now dismantled except for that first station. That layout was not a great success with modern OO stock as I was using boards from the 1980s which had distorted over the years. HO stock was happy on it though. Also, I converted from DC to DCC during the build and I was on a steep learning curve I will be moving next year and the new layout will be 20′ X 40′ in a custom-built room. Without, hopefully, the mistakes I have made building precious layouts. As far as scales are concerned. A Hornby Flying Scotsman (OO) towers over a Fleischmann Br01 Pacific and a Rivarossi Big Boy(again( HO) And I would say if you like something tun it. After all it’s your layout and you can invoke rule 1

  27. DOUGLAS BRANDT says:

    In answer to Rod Mackay.
    Actually T Guage operates perfectly and very nicely if the track is keep very clean.
    Yes, it’s small and requires glasses for me at 74 years old.
    Just make sure the floor is light colored carpet and clean and you can find if dropped. I have a 44″ x 21″ layout in a closet. Works great.

  28. Brian Olson says:

    My main layout is a 6×12 N Scale duck under. Two main lines, DC power. Just over 3 years old and while “complete” today, a new idea tomorrow will change that.

    My new project is a 2×4 switching layout, also N Scale. I think in terms of it being a “science project.” This one will be DCC, likely just two engines going from here to there and back. But learning new things. Best part of the hobby!

  29. JC says:

    Thanks John for making your “How To” video on building the large retaining wall. It really looks great and is such a simple build. Good job. I enjoyed it.

  30. Bob Virnig says:

    I have an open room on the 2nd floor (10 x 14). It took me 5 years to get my layout completed enough to be in the NMRA convention of 2017 in Florida. Still, I keep adding details when I can. Now I am adding a new engine facility to one end of the layout. I don’t think I will ever be “done” with the layout.

  31. SantaFeJim says:

    How long does it take to build a layout?


  32. matiSon says:

    Two years ago, I started an N layout, but it is getting tougher to work with as I get older. It is mostly static because I am moving to O gauge for inside, and G (1) for outside. I currently have no room inside for an O layout, but have collected enough track and cars to start as soon as a space opens up. With G, I have collected enough LGB track to go through part of the back yard. The locomotives are so expensive that it may be a long time before I can buy one so that I can actually use the garden railway. Hopefully, I have many years left in me to see it through. The pictures from Paul and Timmy are impressive. I always like to see John’s videos. He is both a great teacher, and entertaining. It is a rare combination.

  33. Bob From Towson says:

    5yrs for this present American Flyer layout. Its 16 x 31 and every inch has something going on. I like old and new Flyer S Gauge. I have found Lionel too big and HO too small for my taste. I can’t even see N scale with my eyes and hand co

  34. David Mathieu says:

    How Long/ First 80% maybe 6 months. Last 20% take forever.

  35. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Tim great looking start on that O scale, I have o27 track and a smaller layout can’t wait to see the finished layout!! God Speed

  36. Red says:

    I say a lifetime.
    Like another commenter stated I started my train “life” around 1960.
    My dad had built my brother a 4’x8′ Lionel 027 layout. But I NEVER liked 3 rails, it just wasn’t real enough for me. Since my brother didn’t really care for it I adopted it and dismantled it!
    That is when my love for HO trains started. I used the same framework, but I built mine with a mountain, added HO scale slot car track to it, hand cut squares to scale for walkways, all of my utility poles had real copper wire (coated of course) that ran power to the buildings and light poles on my layout.
    One by one I purchased and entire A-B-A powered Union Pacific train with about 8 passenger cars! That took years. But now I still have it albeit in my grandsons possession.
    And now I have built an entire 4′ x 32′ layout in a basic oval with a siding and a turntable. It incorporates my wifes Dept. 56 North Pole Series Collection of currently 45 lit buildings and various moving additions.
    They really aren’t to scale with each other, but it works.
    I have already posted several pictures to this site and will add more as I progress.
    I’ve been working on this project for over a year now and it is slowly progressing.
    With all my “chores” and things to do (like build a 12′ x 12′ covered deck off our bathroom and take care of chickens, goats and a steer it often gets put on the back burner.
    But with winter setting in I think I can devote more time to my passion,

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