HO scale oval track layout

Jim’s been in touch with his HO scale oval track layout.

Here’s a pic of it, as you’ll see:

HO track railroad double loop

But first, I want to tell you about his G scale, then get to his HO scale.

“Hello Al,

You said in today’s post that your inbox was getting low, so I thought I’d send this short photo story. I

I’m mostly working on an inside-HO-railroad-in-a-closet. I’m not yet ready to send an update to my two earlier posts, but this is something quite different.

It’s a G scale out and back setup in our driveway, about 40 feet in length.

The photos show the complete line.

We’ve had a train set in the driveway and into our back yard since the mid ‘80s. I had worked for a few years in Europe and came home with some LGB and Marklin Gauge 1 track and trains.

We built the railroad up over the years and a lot of time has passed.

Our girls grew up, moved out, got married and we now have five grand kids, and grand they are. The four oldest are boys between 15 and 22 years old. They have long outgrown the backyard trains but will no doubt remember all that we did together over the years.

Lately I’ve downsized the layout to the small setup you will see in the photos.

At Union Station.


This morning, our granddaughter Lily came over. She wanted to set up the modern Playmobil town for the first time this summer! While she did, I cleaned the tracks and powered up the LGB railcar pulling a Playmobil coach. It runs using the LGB out and back shuttle. Great fun. And a nice break from the detail work demanded by HO scale modeling.

So that’s my story for today. Thanks for all you do to keep your site running on time.


Now, I suspect one or two of you are staring at these playmobil pictures in disbelief – but if so, I think you are missing the point.

Anyone reading Jim’s narrative can see it’s glowing with fun. And if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

Also, I really do enjoy the posts where memories have been made, here’s a line from Jim’s narrative that made me smile:

“The four oldest are boys between 15 and 22 years old. They have long outgrown the backyard trains but will no doubt remember all that we did together over the years.”

And as Jim says, it’s nice to work on a layout just for fun, rather than detail.

So what about his HO scale?

Here it is:

(If you want to get up to speed, here’s Jim’s first post: Jim’s HO railroad story.)

“Hello Al, again.

Thanks for the daily info and stories from your readers.

I wrote my first story to you about 8 months ago. I had started on a small HO scale oval track layout with an up and over design in December, having just retired from a teaching job and having some space and time to begin this project.

I’m enjoying the work (work?) and consider this both a challenge and a welcome journey.

The inspiration is the real world Pipers Lagoon and Shack Island in Nanaimo, British Columbia, my wife’s home town.

The curves have 18-degree radius and the grades are 3% up and 4% down running counter-clockwise.

The base of this railroad is a 1 meter plus (4 foot square) foam pallet that once held a new dishwasher!

I had gotten this far by October but the track was not reliable. You can see there are no straight sections in this design.

The curvature and grade is always changing. Using Atlas flex track was a challenge because it tends to spring back to straight, not holding the curve as shaped. I had several bad track joins and could see no easy way to smooth them out, so… let’s start over!

HO scale oval track layout

I decided to bite the bullet and redo the track. First step, scrape it clean!

HO track double loop

And then clean up the now bumpy roadbed, make it ready for new track.

HO scale oval track layout

This is with new Micro Engineering track which can be curved to the desired radius and will hold its shape well.

HO scale oval track layout

I got started on some buildings and scenery. Then I was able to clear out a 2.5 meter (8 foot) closet for a permanent home for this little scene.

HO scale oval track layout buildings

Here is a view of the new location with some mountains and a few “Bob Ross” happy clouds in the backdrop.

You can see “Shack Island” on the left of the lagoon, and the fictional town of Pipers Corner over on the right.

I’ve tried a few HO kits as well as your print out buildings which are perfect for this scene.

HO scale oval track layout

Next, some real clouds, thanks to artist and friend Tom Devine who was visiting for a few days.

HO scale double loop

I was dissatisfied with the mountains beneath the clouds so made some changes to my work, not Tom’s.

HO track doubel loop with backdrop

Still not happy, so another try…

HO scale oval track layout backdrop

And the current, final version. I modified the mountains a final time but kept the overall outline. Tom returned and “touched up” the clouds using some black and yellow paint to add some “drama” to the scene. He also framed the mountains with some very distant tree lines.

HO track railroad double loop

It’s a compelling look and I hope he will come back soon a time or two as there is more black and yellow paint to add to that gathering storm.

Now, I’m about 18 months along and here is my first YouTube video showing the layout in operation.

It is a bit rough and too long so I’ll have to do some edits for next time.

And yes, it just circles at a slow speed but that’s all I was aiming for in this first phase. There is more detail that can be added but I’m ready to start something new.

You will see turnouts pointing off to the left and that’s where expansion will take place. I can move more than a meter (4 feet) to the left and then another meter out into the room.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this will turn out. At my pace of progress, I think it will take 3-4 years if all goes well but I see this more as a marathon than a sprint.

I’ll send updates when there is some progress to report.

With thanks, Al, for all you do to keep this great web site running…


A big thanks to Jim for sharing the problems he had with his HO scale oval track.

I think we’ve all ‘started over’ at some point – and as Jim says, it’s half the fun.

For me, the key is to start, and then carry on.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, just like Jim did, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

10 Responses to HO scale oval track layout

  1. Theo evernghim blake II says:

    Isnt g scale used on the store display railroading? A good lesson if im right

    Your model newsletter was fabulous several idea inspirating

  2. Martin Taylor says:

    The ho layout is an impressive example of what can be done in a small space. I will ne overjoyed if my efforts even approach that standard.
    As for the G scale – it may not be s purist’s idea of a model railwsy, but it has provided an awful lot of pleasure to a lot of people, which is exactly what a hobby is for. Thanks for sharing bpth layouts.

  3. matiSon says:

    It’s nice to see a G gauge railway on the site. I have been working at setting be up on in my yard. I hope to have it operational by next spring. The biggest issue is that the locomotives are terribly expensive. Jim, just because the kids are not into trains is no reason to give up on it. Some of them will probably want to revisit trains in the very near future. Having an outdoor train is a good option for people like myself that live in very small houses. Even with a smaller yard, there is still plenty of room to set up a nice layout.

  4. Erick says:

    Nice Layout

  5. Gary M from Long Island says:

    To both Jim’s…….great work and looks like lots of fun. Enjoy, that’s what it is all about.

  6. Robert T Beard says:

    Each to their own. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, from ultra-realism to complete fantasy, model railroading is about having fun – no matter how you define it. that’s my beef with the rivet counters and “scale rule harrys,” they think that there is just one “right way.”

  7. Geoffrey Plumb says:

    One hundred per cent with Robert T Beard. Model Railroading is meant to be fun and one’s end result is just that one’s end result.

  8. C.H. Specht says:

    I noticed in the video that the train is traveling counter-clockwise. I usually run clockwise, and it made me wonder…Is there a bias either way? Maybe below the equator one way and above the other?
    It doesn’t make any difference, just wondering if there is a preference.

  9. john shestakov says:

    very nice i like to build my houses from plastic and wood kits but the paper ones look good to. good job

  10. david howarth says:

    Nice to have ) gauge sure would be easier for handling the stock and locos on to the tracks ….as for the H) it does show you even in a small space you can have a decent layout ….Dangerous Dave

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