Jacob’s HO layout from Kentucky

“Hi Al! Long time subscriber but first time to share my work and tips from my layout.

To begin, a little about where I come from as my layout reflects aspects of my life and my hometown. I am a pharmacist and 43 years old and live in Bardstown, KY (also known as the bourbon capital of the world).

I have loved electric trains since my first set when I was 7 years old from the 80’s – a TYCO Chattanooga Choo Choo – which I still own today and it still operates! I am also a huge baseball fan, not only of MLB but also enjoy baseball movies, etc.

My wife and I met when we were 16 years old. She worked as a waitress on the My Old Kentucky Home Dinner Train that RJ Corman Railroad Corporation owns and operates here in Bardstown. She grew up on a dairy farm and her father still farms to this day.

Anyway, enough about me and my history but I had to share some of it because my layout is of no particular place or industry, but instead a culmination of my memories and experiences throughout my life – all condensed on a 4 x 8 HO scale layout!

It features a dairy farm with pond, a “Field of Dreams” baseball field (complete with kids from “The Sandlot” playing ball) made into the cornfield across the road from the dairy farm, a little general store similar to the one down the road from where I grew up, and a distillery rickhouse similar to one you would find here in Bardstown storing and aging barrels of bourbon at the Heaven Hill property.

The layout can be switched from DC to DCC with a toggle switch so I can run both my old TYCO locomotives (and a replica of the dinner train that my wife worked on as a waitress when we dated) as well as my Athearn RTR locomotives with sounds. I also installed a small Bluetooth speaker in the water tower near the baseball field and can play background sounds from a little league ballpark while running the trains.

Beginning stages:

HO model railroad start

HO model railroad tunnel

HO scale

HO loco

Then final product:

HO scale tunnel

HO track curve

HO baseball field

HO scale lorry

HO scale shop

HO scale bridge

HO scale barn

The one tip I wanted to share is that about how I made the cornfield. I surely didn’t want to plant each individual stalk of corn because I would have been cross-eyed and out of money to do it properly to look realistic!

I found a way to make a decent sized cornfield for less that $25 and it turned out pretty good in my opinion. First I started with buying an outdoor coconut husk welcome mat that one would put at the entrance into their house. It was already a golden brown color, plain and uniform, and able to be cut to whatever shape I wanted.

Once I cut it to shape, I spray painted over the top with a medium dark green and let dry completely for a few days. Once dry, I used a wire brush and scrubbed over the top that I painted and brought back remnants of the golden brown color through the green and it creates the look of tassels on the corn! Then just glue it down to the location of your choice on the layout! The thickness of this mat is perfect height for a maturing cornfield!

Happy model railroading!

Jacob from Kentucky”

A huge thanks to Jacob – I do love it when folk create their own themes from their own lives. Wonderful!

That’s all for today folks, please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to recreate your youth on your layout.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

49 Responses to Jacob’s HO layout from Kentucky

  1. kathe Kozlowski says:

    Beautiful layout. Lots of action in the daily life scenes. Your cornfield solution is great idea. Great looking sandlot.
    Kathe & Frank, Florida

  2. Wes Eakin says:

    Well done Jacob!
    Well done!
    All the wonderful detail brings the ‘set’ to life.
    How did you make the rolls of hay?
    Have been on the Dinner Train many times, including this past Christmas with the young Grandson and Family. Wonderful time was had by all!
    Congrats on an awesome layout!
    Wes, also from the great Bluegrass State!

  3. Jacob, I love it. You have a lot going on in just 4 x 8, yet it doesn’t look overcrowded as can happen. Love the cornfield idea too. Like to see a video if you get the time. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ian McDonald says:

    a very good layout.the how to is very good thanks for sharing.

  5. NJ Mark says:

    Outstanding! The “Field of Dreams” (one of my favorite flicks) baseball field is simply great. Love all of the detail right down to the chickens. I would love to see it in operation. Cheers! NJ Mark

  6. Mike says:

    Jacob, your Field of Dreams is stunning, especially with the lights on!
    Beautiful layout.

  7. Cary B says:

    Great looking layout. Many details that are awesome. The ball field with the lights on definitely the highlight. Thanks for sharing
    Cary B

  8. Jack Bury says:

    Jacob, love the layout and attention to detail. I used elements of my childhood in my layout too, as it really personalizes it. Great idea for corn. It looks realistic. Thanks for sharing.
    Jack in Pa.

  9. Bill Wilson says:

    WOW! Impressive detail. It is difficult to imagine how you created some of it. The pond is lovely. The batting screen behind home plate looks impossible to create.
    Thank you for showing it to us.

    Bill from Montana

  10. Great realism in a memory collage, thanks for the inspiration Jacob! My wife loved your “Field of Dreams”… this has given me ideas for blending various themes in building a layout.

  11. george zaky says:

    awesome job
    Great layout. Need videos. Would love to know how to add additional sounds to my layout-what is the recording device, power etc.
    George from NY

  12. Don (DJ from NJ) Brown says:

    Dayem, Jacob, you done reeeel good!
    I love the small town look, feel and detail of your layout; and all on a 4′ x 8′ platform. The bourbon truck was a swell KY touch!

  13. AWESOME. Love the layout, and the scenery. “Smalls you’re killing me”.
    Sandlot Sandlot Sandlot.

  14. John Bates says:

    The whiskey barrel house looks so real.

  15. Bob Davidson says:

    OUTSTANDING

  16. Well Jacob. Being a member of the Bardstown Whiskey Society. I say cheers! Fabulous ballfield.

  17. James Marek says:

    Very nice! Some great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    James

  18. Jim says:

    Nice. I’ve seen layouts with amusement parks and golf courses but this baseball part is not only unique and novel but well done. And the lighting effects are truly realistic. So many of the other scenes are well incorporated and realistic as, one might not realize that there’s model railroading going on here. Well done.

    Jim AZ

  19. Ken says:

    You have captured the essence of Bardstown and the areas around it.
    Looks like life in Kentucky.

  20. Susan says:

    If we could do emojis, I would put many, many hearts. Your layout is wonderful! Great job!! And thank you so much for sharing your story and pics. That’s what makes this site so appealing, and has us all coming back for more.

  21. Terry Miller says:

    It’s my understanding that if you accidently run a DC motor with a DCC controller it will burn the motor out. (or maybe its the reverse–doesn’t really matter) The question is do you have some kind of warning or alarm that will let you know you’re about to make an electrical error?
    Like you I have a lot invested in straight DC but I am considering getting a DCC engine at some point in the future. I don’t want to see my trains go “poof” if I screw up.
    Thanks
    Terry/Idaho USA

  22. Rob McCrain says:

    Great layout. I loved the baseball diamond and the way you did your tunnel. The farm scene if great too. Well done.

  23. Barry Rowe says:

    Wonderful layout!! I live the ball field and the farm. Well done!!

  24. Scott Frey says:

    WOW, Jacob! You knocked this one right out of the ballpark! (pun intended! 🙂 Absolutely love the detail and this truly is a 3D painting work of art! Especially love the incredible detailing of the rocks behind the track above the pond that have the vertical lines in them, simulating where they’d drill down through the rock to blast it out of the way! It really looks like the mountain was there first and they had to get through it, as opposed to looking like the track was there originally and the cliff was built around the tracks. EXCELLENT job and only wish I was capable of doing as great a layout! Thanks for sharing! -Scott in the USA-

  25. Richard Sappelli says:

    Beautiful layout and I love how you designed it. My sister lived in Bardstown for many years Her husband manager of the Boroughs Manufacturing plant years ago. She raised her family there and I visited once with my family. Will send her your info – she may know you and yours? We loved the town going to My Old Ky home, the train and the show when we visited.

  26. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Excellent layout! Just goes to show that you don’t need a huge space to accomplish a lot! The baseball field is truly unique. Not just a representation, but the entire feeling of a baseball game! Well done.

  27. Andrew Aves says:

    Wonderful layout
    Andrew

  28. Ennis Hackman says:

    You do ‘seriously good work’
    very fine ideas

  29. Mark Birnbaum says:

    Love the baseball field and background

  30. Enjoyed the lake very much in day light and the baseball scenery at night!

  31. TOM SAWYER says:

    bravo! bravo! bravo! my layout of dreams!
    ga.,usa

  32. John Down says:

    Been to Bardstown and all over central Kentucky. Rode the Corman dinner train about 19 years ago.. Wife and I are thinking about moving out there near Lexington sometime in next 3-5 years, Great job with the distillery building (Heaven Hill?) and 18-wheeler. Keep up the good work. Try some EC Taylor small batch or Woodford Reserve if you haven;t already. Blanton’s not too shabby, either!

  33. Ken Goldenberg says:

    I’m reading this as I am having a mint julep! I love the Bardstown connection. I was there last year and went to Heaven Hill and Maker’s. It was a side strip going from Dollywood to Bardstown then to Nashville. What a fun area.
    Nice layout….

  34. Ben W says:

    Really cool man! Nice!

  35. Mike RICHARDSON says:

    A super job Jacob. So beautiful and detailed. Thanks for the corn field tip. Had never thought about using a mat like that. Keep up the great work and enjoy running your train.

  36. To Terry in Idaho you can run either of them on the other. Use cab # zero for your DC engines and for the DCC you need to enable the decoder to run on DC by setting one of the program locations (I think it is #28? check the instructions for that decoder) you can’t just let the DC engine sit there because it will overheat and eventually go POOF if it not running. I have a mix of both in my collection and made a small id mark on the bottom of the DCC ones I converted so I would remember to not leave the DC locos just sit on the layout while running the others.
    Norm in York, PA

  37. Mark says:

    can you share more about the baseball field. dimensions and such….is my plan to have one on my layout as well

  38. Ed Hansen says:

    The night game at the baseball field is top notch. How did you make the bourbon building – it looks so real.
    From Ed, also in the Bluegrass state. Kentucky Derby this Saturday.

  39. Joe Ricciardi says:

    Great layout. Love the BB field and the cornfield solution.

  40. Jerry Barto says:

    Fantastic work.!!!

  41. Joe Gennari says:

    FANTASIC!!!

  42. Jacob, very nice layout. For your DC train, you could build a narrow extension onto part of the front edge of the layout and add an isolated siding where it could be stored with the power turned off.

  43. Jacob Walton says:

    First of all thank you all so much for so many nice compliments about my layout. It is truly a passion of mine and has been a slow build, finding moments of spare time here and there over the last 16 months to make small bits of progress. And it’s never completely done as many of you know!
    I’m working on some video clips to share with both DC and DCC locomotives and will post soon!
    Below I will try to answer some questions asked throughout the comments. And special thanks to Alastair and his hard work with maintaining this site and sharing our works and pictures and videos from all over the world to help encourage and inspire us to make our layouts even better than before! Thanks Al!

  44. Jacob Walton says:

    To Bill in Montana:
    The batting screen (and also the chain link fence near the distillery rickhouse) was constructed using a kit I found at a somewhat local (40 miles away) hobby store called Roundhouse Trains in Louisville, KY. It is item # 90451 HO chain link fence set made by a company called Plastruct. A simple search online will show you a picture of the product….very easy to use…just cut to size and glue together. I spray painted mine a flat silver (very light sprays) after construction.

  45. Jacob Walton says:

    To George from NY:
    I have found that for around $30 I can have decent quality ambient background sounds going on while I operate my trains and it adds so much to the experience!
    I searched eBay and found a mini micro Bluetooth speaker (there are lots of them) for around $16-$18. Easy to use, most hold a charge for several hours and easily syncs with your smartphone.
    Then I spent $15 on a website called soundsnap.com and downloaded 5 different ambient background sounds…baseball in the park, farm sounds, cars driving by, etc.
    I hid my tiny Bluetooth speaker in the water tower near the baseball field (which works great because the shell of the water tower actually amplifies the sounds) and just play a loop of background sounds from my phone. I made sure the ones that I downloaded has some significant length to them so I wasn’t constantly having to restart the sound over and over again.

  46. Jacob Walton says:

    Someone asked about the baseball diamond construction and dimensions. This was tricky as I soon found that if I went with a replica of the actual Field of Dreams (from the movie) then it would have taken up most of my space on the layout to do it in exact scale. So…. I made it to resemble the Field of Dreams (googled aerial images from the actual Field of Dreams in Idaho) but it is actually an optical illusion and not to proper HO scale. The actual field has 90ft bases and 60ft 6 inches from pitchers mound to home plate. Mine is more in scale with a little league field, having approximately 55-60 scale feet bases and approximately 35-40scale feet between pitchers mound and home plate. I just did simple conversion: HO = 1/87 scale…1 foot actual = 87 scale feet.
    I drew out on cardstock my scale dimensions and cut out a template to lay down on the layout. I used actual dirt from my back yard as the infield dirt and applied over top of the already “green grass” applied on the layout. Sprayed down with scenic glue and let dry for several days. Then slightly rubbed over the dirt to smooth out rough spots and bring out that “dusty” look.

    Did the same thing with the distillery rickhouse. Had I built one to actual scale, it would have been huge and overbearing on the layout.
    An actual rickhouse is seven stories tall, mine is only 6. An actual rickhouse dimensions differ depending on the bourbon company’s preferences but I modeled mine after some of the older Heaven Hill structures which actually measure about 100ft wide by 240-250ft long and 75-80 ft tall.
    Mine are built scaled down….probably more accurate as N scale….to represent about 50ft wide by 100ft long and about 40ft tall even though I made 6 stories of windows. By placing the rickhouse on top of the mountain and set back a little, I can get away with the optical illusion of scale. If one looks closely, the semi truck is true HO scale and is huge if I place it right next to the rickhouse. But if I place it in the foreground and the rickhouse in the background it tricks the eye and looks ok!
    I built the rickhouse from balsa wood and covered the sides with some HO scale corrugated roofing tin (self adhesive) that I found on eBay. The roof has homemade corrugated tin using aluminum foil. I then dull coated the building and used weathering chalk and an airbrush to mimic the black distillery mold that accumulates notoriously on these buildings in the Bardstown area.

  47. Jacob Walton says:

    To Terry from Idaho:
    Like Norm from York, PA said…just have to make sure you remove all of DC locos before toggling over to DCC (and vice-versa) when switching between the two. I ran a bus line around the bottom of the layout with feeders every few feet to ensure constant and consistent voltage. The bus then comes into a three way toggle (middle position is OFF). From the top connection of the toggle I ran lines to my PowerCab controller for DCC operation. From the bottom of the toggle I ran lines to my older MRC DC power pack. When I want to switch power sources I just toggle to the middle (everything is OFF at this point), remove locomotives, then toggle to the other power source and replace with appropriate locos to match the source of power. Just have to pay attention and label toggle and locos appropriately!

  48. fred day says:

    dc and dcc hybrid system are not advisable. reason is dcc run at higher voltage usually 16-20 volts on the newer stuff. old dc n and ho run at 12-15 volts max. dcc put out an ac style signal. its a square wave ac signal riding on a dc base signal it will burn out most non dcc equipment. make hybrid systems at your own risk

  49. yale schiffman says:

    Love his detail work, especially the ball field.

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