European HO model trains

I’m not sent many European HO model trains – so here’s one from Jan that is really coming along:

“Hi Alistair,

After reading so many of the posts I thought of sharing a couple of pics of my modular HO lay-out.

I’m not much of a scenery builder and having the trains running is more important for me.

The lay-out is not really modeled on anything real but can be set in Belgium, this implies driving on the left track like in the UK.

The layout is digital and controlling the turnouts is done via JMRI (a free and powerful software solution).

There are three locations I gave a name, in the centre “Bouchout”, the station building has been scratch built by an acquaintance some years ago as is the signals house on the left. Both scratch builds were existing buildings. The station is like Bouchout used to be in the 1960’s and the signals house was in Mortsel, both near Antwerp in Belgium.

The upper level on the right is ”Bovenlaar” and you have to imagine an exit at the bottom over the tunnel.

The return on the left bottom is called “Krupeke” and named after the little castle, Crupet, that will come on top of the hill. I have the building, but it is a kit with 100’s of mini bricks and it still has to be built.

The signals are not prototypical Belgian. They’re cheap Chinese made green/red. Prototypical Belgian signals are pretty expensive and much more complicated to control.

I’m using a Tams MasterControl multi protocol command station, the computer is a Raspberry Pi4 (2GB memory) running JMRI and connected via USB to the command station.

The trains can be run using either wired controllers or using the smart phone, which I typically use.

To be able to control turnouts away from the central PC you can use a tablet with any browser connected via WiFi. Very practical.

So the pictures. Those are taken from left to right. The trains are a mix of German and Belgian. I like to mix the European HO model trains.

The day before I took most of the pictures we had some friends over and their 10 year old son had some fun putting figurines all over the layout.

European HO model trains

Image 1: The far left stopping place, under construction but now the tracks are all operational, called Krupeke.

European HO model trains

Image 2: Partial view of the left side with hill. The hilltop was dressed up by my then 14 year oldest daughter.

European HO model trains

Partial view of the left side reversing loop with scratch built signal house. The rock was built by my then 11 years old younger daughter, so it has to be on the layout 😊.

European HO model trains

Image 4: Overview of Bouchout station, with two trains in it. The incline in the back is 2% with a pimped Roco bridge. The brick wall paper is no longer available, since the late 1970’s, so I scanned the original and printed on Conqueror paper, which has some texture, and it came out very nicely.

A Roco series 60 diesel pulling a set of old Lima M2 cars. Better looking versions exist with shorter couplings etc.

Close up of a series 60 diesel in Bouchout.

Image 7 & 8: Overview of Bovenlaar and hidden track. Some of the printed scenery may look familiar 😊. Showing a Roco series 62 diesel, Fleischmann type 93 steam (small one) and Prussian P10 with a series of Belgian K cars.

Image 9: Piko Series 77, actually in service with the SNCB/NMBS, national rail operator as heavy shunter and for cargo transport with current colour scheme. The steam engine is a Roco type 90, type number for small series of locos.

Console 1: Showing web browser view of main layout

Console 2: Showing JMRI related screens

View of the cabling bus. 8 wires look like a lot but most are effectively used.

The whole layout is about 5.3m long. The narrow modules are 30 cm wide. Against the wall you can see some modules hanging. They can be used for other configurations and to connect to other layouts using the Fremo/Modul-HO-Rail standard.

In a future installment and if other readers are interested, I will post some pics of typical Belgian trains, or can even do a little movie.

Best regards from

(Mr) Jan”

A big thanks to Jan – I do love seeing your layouts from different parts of the world, I don’t get set many European HO model trains.

That’s all for today folks.

If you want to start on your very own layout, don’t forget The Beginner’s Guide is here.

Please do keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

9 Responses to European HO model trains

  1. Raolph Berry says:

    What a splendid layout Jan.
    Great to use scenery made by your daughters, these are fond memories for you all.

  2. George Zaky says:

    I know a lot of the viewers did not understand the JMRI, Tams controller etc and it would be so helpful if you were to expand on this a little. What controls the switches, how did you wire it and some more of an explanation to help us along. You seem to be one the few to successfully do this and people like me who are reluctant to make the giant leap need people like you to nudge us into todays technology. Did you have a problem with a reverse loop?
    Much thanks for the the blog and hope to see some videos soon
    Be well & safe
    George from LI, NY

  3. Terry Sipe says:

    Great layout. I can see that it can be quite busy. A lot to watch which keeps it interesting, I envy those of you who have such large space to work in. Elements of scenery from our youngsters brings a whole new dimension to its uniqueness. Nicely done!

  4. Lynn Taubeneck says:

    My son lives in Waterloo and we visit there often from the states. I purchase some of my buildings and scenery from a hobby shop in downtown Waterloo. I would love to see your layout.

  5. Erick says:

    Look great, Keep up the good work.

  6. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Jan…. Nice work…. I love the idea that you are into having the trains running and the shunting. No offense to all those modelers who have built beautiful looking layouts with the scenery. But for me also, the running and operating of the trains are is what I love.
    I am going to look into the JMRI, a free and powerful software solution, and the Tams Master Control multi protocol command station running JMRI and connected via USB to the command station. This sounds really interesting. Also, to be able to control turnouts away from the central PC you can use a tablet with any browser connected via WiFi sounds really cool.
    Great layout and getting the young ones involved is great. Send a video if you can. I also like that overview of Bouchout station.

  7. Jan Boen says:

    George Zaky: Hi George, I will write another blog article on the technicalities.
    Lynn Taubeneck: Hi Lynn, Check out LinkedIn and look for Jan Boen / Kiwanis and you should get to my profile. You’re more than welcome to contact me when in Waterloo.
    Terry Sipe: Hi Terry, I more or less put up such a big garden house specially as my “man cave” with train layout etc.

  8. Gary Nielsen says:

    A few decades ago I made several trips to Belgium, working with folks in Ronse (Renaix), stayed at the St Georges hotel in Ghent, had lots of great meals in area restaurants, enjoyed times in Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp… And I’m with you on preferring to run trains more than building scenery. Look forward to whatever photos or videos you may post.

  9. Jim AZ says:

    Nice. I too envy modelers who have a large space to build a layout. But it looks like you have a great plan and should have a great time running trains. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

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