Jacob’s 8×12 O gauge

Jacob’s been in touch with his 8×12 O gauge. It’s unusual because he’s combined it with an HO on the upper deck:

“Hi Al,

I read your column almost daily, and learn quite a bit each time. I grew up in steel mill country in Western Pa, and heard trains running 24/7/365 in and out of the steel mills.

It was always busy at the mills, Homestead Steel Mill and J&L Works. Watched them as a kid from a hillside about 400 ft. above the mills along the Monongahala River. So trains and mills are in my blood. To a child, it all looked like a magical miniature train layout.

Had Lionel’s growing up and still have original Lionel Berkshire engine & freight train I received from my parents at Christmas, 1949. Still runs great.

Now retired and returned to the hobby. I built a combined 8×12 O Gauge/HO layout, with O Gauge on upper deck, HO below. Decided to build a separate HO layout (6 x 8 ft) in the same large room, featuring a double deck, model steel mill, rolling mill & coal mine scenes. Kits for all of these are under construction.

Been working on it for about six weeks. Here’s progress so far.

Trains will go up to upper deck (coal mine area) come back down the other side, loop into steel mill area, disappear under far deck, then reappear and go back to upper deck.

There will be a PRR passenger train around the outside of the bottom and steel mill hot metal & slag cars, and a coal train on other tracks.

Like many others, the surroundings of my youth will be recreated in my layout. There’s an opening for access to tracks against the back wall with a hatch. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Having a lot of fun building two layouts, O Gauge & HO. I enjoy both gauges.

My 21 month old grandson loves the trains too.

Enjoying retirement in Florida,


O gauge 8x12

8x12 O gauge

O gauge double deck layout

O gauge track


For drying spent tea, and coffee grounds for that matter, try the microwave oven. Place the material on a plate, spread them out and give it about 25 seconds, let it cool and repeat three times. Any more than 25 seconds at a time and the coffee grounds will start to fly around in the microwave and no one will like that. This is one of the few good uses that I have found for microwave ovens.


Hampden,ME USA”

That’s all for today, folks.

A big thanks to Jacob – looking forward to his updates on that 8×12 O gauge!

Just goes to show making a start is the most important part of this hobby.

And if you want to make your start, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still going strong.

26 Responses to Jacob’s 8×12 O gauge

  1. David R Adinolfi says:

    As a rank amateur I probably shouldn’t even comment on O x HO layout, but here goes. I have seen similar combinations. They put the HO gauge trains on top and the O gauge on the lower level to simulate trains in the distance and add depth.
    Just a thought for Jacob.

  2. Kermit Beckmann says:

    Jacob interestingly enough I know exactly where you lived. I work in USS homestead works which was directly across from your home. As well as the other mills in the valley. Your modeling of two different gauges is real because Homestead had two different gauge Rail road. We used to call them the narrow gauge and the standard Narrow gauge was used to haul the ingots to the soaking pits from 0H5 open hearth where they were teamed and later sent to be rolled into slabs and later they would be sent to the hundred inch and 160 inch world class plate mills. Hot metal cars from the blast furnace Carrie furnaces across the river were all standard gauge. both slag and HoTMetaL torpedo cars were all standard guage unfortunately today this area is now shopping center and restaurants where once stood one of the finest structural, Forge, plate mills in the world!!!!!! US steel Clairton works is where all the coal went to to be turned in to cook. Coke is used to make steel in the blast furnaces all of US steel’s cokeing operations were in Clairton.

  3. Just out of curiosity, what is the slope of the incline(s)?

  4. David says:

    While I grew up in the northern tier of PA ( Bradford – Coudersport area ), I had a lot of relatives that actually worked for the Pennsylvania railroad in Altoona. My grandfather worked out a deal when I was very young to ride in a steamer that was headed up to the round table and back to the shop. The engineer was great, letting me put my hand on the throttle (with his on top of mine, of course ) AND getting to be lifted up high enough to reach the whistle cord to pull it and “make it whistle”. Memories I will never ever forget and thanks for reminding me of that wonderful time.

    I too am setting up my old O gauge and HO set together. Take care. Enjoy. DR

  5. Hello JACOB, I enjoyed UR HO & O ga. model RR plans.Good luck with it.
    HEAR THIS! I could not believe my eyes when I read about your background.
    I was BORN and raised in MUNHALL , PA. I can relate to all U say about
    the MON ., J.&L, USS, the RRs and the MILLS around Pittsburgh. Oh the MEMORIES. I studied ENGR’G at PITT. All my relatives worked in the Mills. Two of my Uncles were LOCO ENGRS in those mills I, and I wanna hear more about U.
    I’m partial,to O ga but love ’em all. I own & operate 7 trains. From a 1920
    LIONEL to an AWESOME ALCO PA by WILLIAMS. I hope We can begin a friendship via the internet. and exchange pics & ideas.. Can’t wait ’til I hear from you . Contact: wjn356@yahoo.com & we can begin. REGARDS,

    with i

  6. Vic Koyano says:

    Wow, 2-rail Oscale on such small space?! I got similar problem; only 9×16 space but one end of room is angled about four feet. Then my 2-rail loco is a big N&W J611 steamer so it needs 52″ R track circle. We can’t do yard layout on a steamer like this. Passengers won’t like that….Anyhowl, l got AtlasO 52″R circle now but room is enclosed so l have to go around walls. Two sides are concrete walls as basements idiosyncrasies tend to be. So, l have to remove one wall so l can go under layout to access it. No money is worst problem. I’m 73 and retired so income is SSA, no 401K or anything. Shirley you know l am in trouble trying this. Ok,I’m done. Thanks for insight. 🕵🏻

  7. Fred C says:

    I also have both HO and O scale trains and trying to figure out the best design to use both in the same layout. I like your idea about the 2 levels to separate the 2 scales. If possible, please send additional pictures of your layout. We are moving to a new home and have similar space available for my layout.

  8. Fred Wickis says:

    Thanks Captain Kirk! I know this will be great! Can’t wait to see how it goes!

  9. Skip L. says:

    You could also split the difference and run “S” scale trains? -Just kidding! I enjoy seeing other folks enjoying this hobby in their own way… I myself mix and run together Marx, Hafner, AF-O, Ives, Dorfan, RMT, and some Lionel 027 stock. The trains are all around 3/16th’s size (actually 1/64 “S” scale), but they all run on “O” gauge 3-rail tubular Lionel 027 track!

  10. Warren Ferguson says:

    Hello, Jacob, your layout is looking good, and it would be great to see a track plan for it. Keep up the good work! Warren, AL, USA

  11. John Schuster says:

    Sounds like we have a large group from PA. I lived in Pittsburgh for awhile as a kid – I remember the red glow in the sky at night from the open hearth mill furnaces. I also lived in Wall-Wilmerding, where the huge Westinghouse Plant was. I could see the Pitcarin Railroad yards from my house. Huge yard, apparently the busiest in the US during the 2nd world war. My HO layout is patterned after the areas north of Pittsburgh – big hills, little towns, and big coal mining companies.

  12. John Ball says:

    How do you get the O Gage lionels to run with no ccenter rail??

  13. Joe Gennari says:

    Thanks for the History of the steel mills. Very sad that it’s just a part of our history.
    Anyway, Looking forward to updates on your lay out. Good Luck, and Happy building.

  14. Paul Selwyn Otway says:

    How do you stop your baseboard from warping? I have a double decker as well mine has started to warp.


  15. John says:

    Seems like you have every configured layout but O scale

  16. Mr. Ed says:

    I’m starting to Build a 3’x6′ “N” gauge layout. My layout will feature a freight train running on the outside and another freight running next to it that when it come into sight will ascend up to and go through the town then descend to the bottom level. Then both trains will disappear through a mountain and reappear at the front of the layout. The third train will a steam engine that will be an excursion type making a circular route from the town to the mountain and back to the town.
    The time period will be during the 50s when you had the transition period from steam to diesel.

  17. Dr. Bob says:

    You brought back some amazing memories Jacob. As a kid, I remember the USS plant in St. Louis, Missouri and all of the train traffic going in and out of the plant.

    Mixing of scales is a noble idea in most cases I did it in three scales as a Christmas tree layout with HO, N, and Z scales for my physicians office. Children loved it and it did make the trip to see a doctor a little less scarier for them, so I’m told. And for some, they just wanted to play with the trains instead of keeping their appointment.

    Keep the dream moving forward, life is way to short.

  18. Susan Cannon says:

    Russ: A dehydrator also would work very well, if you have one. thanks for sharing!

  19. Jay Kirk says:

    Hi Folks,

    Thanks to all 18 who responded with kind and encouraging words on my post, all very helpful. Thanks especially to those who had similar experiences concerning steel mills, particularly the response from Bill in Munhall.

    Actually, I am separating the two gauges into two separate platforms (they were on one platform for about a year) so I can feature Western Pennsylvania scenes of a steel mill, rolling mill and coal mining scenes on an HO scale. On the O Gauge platform, I’ll have room to use some accessories I have featuring a restored operational scrap iron crane, coal dumping cars and an old style coal loader tower, (Lionel accessories) also typical W. Pa train operations. As I make progress on both projects, I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
    Thanks for all your encouragement.
    J Kirk

    PS. The grade is about 4%, a little steep I know, but my steam engines have traction tires.

  20. Jacob Kirk says:

    To the gentleman who responded that “I have every configured layout except O Scale.” Well my original 8×12′ layout was O scale on the upper lever (2 trains) and HO on the bottom. It’s being transformed into all O scale, running 4 trains.

    I started with O Gauge in 2nd grade with the Lionel Berkshire freight train. O Gauge is my first love. It was the BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER. I still have and it runs like new after refurbishing by an authorized Lionel repair man 15 years ago

    I’d send videos of some of my 21 O Gauge fleet if I could : the Reading Crusader, the PRR Torpedo, the original 1949 Berkshire 2-8-4, the PRR Steam Turbine 6-8-6, and other diesell sets (NYC, B&O, New Haven and Reading Lines) Plus four TRAINMASTERS of different roads. And I have five GG1 O Scale engines. They all run like champs. And that’s why I’m reconstructiong both layouts, O & HO, as I have beautiful engines and rolling stock to thoroughly enjoy both scales..

    So much to do, so little time.


    I also lived in Pittsburgh, Squirrel 🐿 Hill. Saw the mills every day as I took the bus into town. Always remember in the winter a beautiful snow fall would turn gray, the smoke from the mills, as I WALKED to school.
    Those were happy and simpler times.

  22. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Great start on the HO! Like to see the famous and great O scale photos!!

  23. Welder dave says:

    It’s a bit sad that we cannot model the mills in operation still now . It’s great to see this being done to remind people what we once were. The industrial center of the world ! May it come back one day to see those great mills and factory’s in operation again !

  24. Erick says:

    Looks great? I hope mine turns out that good.

  25. Brian Olson says:

    I like these “In the beginning” pics of layouts, they show us that all layouts have to start somewhere. The key is starting.

  26. Rich B. says:

    Yes, my O layout from the 1950’s (it was horrid, knew no difference) was probably the most realistic sounding clickity-clack and sparking, fire and brimstone emitting from the engines (dirty track and burning up engines). Had Track Cleaning car always being chased by trains lmao.

    Like the idea maybe of the 2 versions and maintaining them separated. The keeping in perspective ideas just don’t cut it unless maybe wall sceneries or really expansive railroading. Took second look at O rolling stock and the details are unparalleled. Something like the 1/18th scale metal/model autos these days.

    Also agree with the basic ramps, crossings, bridges can remain more with simple construction rather than the trusses, arches, cantilever bridges. Can find out more on this RR about the contributors and their experiences rather than the author’s input here. 🤣

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