Jim’s HO scale layout

“Hi Alastair,

My name is Jim Volmer Sr. and I live in Buffalo New York, on the western side of the “big pond”.

I have been involved in model railroading most of my life. I started very young, age 5 with my first train from Lionel. Boy do I miss that train. When I was in College, I gave my train away. What a mistake that was, looking back on it now. But as they say, ‘can’t cry over spill milk’.

So after I got married, I decided to get back into the model railroad again. With a young son, I started to build my layout, in HO that I have had for over 32 years. My son is grown of course so now it is time to start a new layout.

I have included some pictures of the original layout to see what I did.

HO scale

The Mountain in the background is so of light in the photograph. I built the mountain out of strip carboard and screen, over which I applied some joint compound that I had. It was applied very thin, over which I hand laid small outcroppings that I made using Hydocal. There are over 1,000 little stones on that mountain. It took several days to complete

The next picture is looking down the double track toward the mountain. There are several switches with Control signals wired into each switch, that control the movement of the trains.

HO scale bridge double track

The next picture, shows one of four sidings that I have. This one is for the Cement factory.

HO scale track ballast

The last picture shows the Diesel Engine Facility. There are three buildings, Car Shop, Engine House, and Service shop. The Car Shop was accessed using a turntable. The Engine House and Service shop are accessed by a Transfer Table that I bought from Walters a few years ago. This section was an add on to the old Layout.

HO scale factory

Now that this layout has come to its end, it is time for a new era in my railroad.

I have included a drawing for the new layout. It will be on backwards 7 design. 8 ft X 11. Does not sound impressive, but I think the drawing will speak for its self.

HO scale track plan

As you can see there are a lot of new ideas going into this layout that were missing from the old layout. The Mountain will have four portals: two on the lower level, and two for the upper level. The Second set of portals will lead the train up an incline to 3.072 inches ( grade incline of 2%) through the Mountain, exiting to a 3 Foot Bridge, followed by two girdle bridges down to a zero landing to a reversing loop that will allow the train access to the Container Terminal. All trains can reverse the loop back again travelling through a series of switches

As you will notice, there are two service areas, one for Diesel, and one for Steam.
There is also a logging camp with several buildings. The Saw Mill is noted. Buildings 1 ( Wood Chipper ) 2 ( Log de-barker ) and 3 (Truck Loader )

Next to the Steam Engine Facility is a small holding Yard.

Well there you have it. I would appreciate any comments from your readers.




The photos of the town scene were all taken with a Sony digital camera DSC-F707 model (about 9 years old and still going strong) with the f-stop set on F8, manual focus and an approximate exposure time of 30 seconds. Camera did all the work in adjusting the exposure.

The only lighting used in all of the photos was the street lights on the sidewalk. (except the daytime photo).

This town scene is only four foot six inches long by one foot wide.

All the products used here are from the Woodland Scenic range.

All the best – Brian”

Thanks to Brian and Jim. Don’t forget the latest ‘ebay cheat sheet‘ too – still amazed at the comments I get on that.

And as always: keep ’em coming.

That’s all for today folks.

And if today is the day you spring into action, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



49 Responses to Jim’s HO scale layout

  1. Goo luck with the new layout Jim …always enjoy starting something new ….and Brian thats a good set of pictures from that camera

  2. Laurie Magree says:

    I am very impressed with the new lay out. Gives me a few more thoughts for my new layout which I must start soon.
    Cheers from Laurie.

  3. paul starr says:

    Very nice layout Jim, I like it,like a lot.

  4. Robert Arnold says:

    A very ambitious project indeed and well planned out.
    I am sure it will be very impressive when completed.
    Have fun with it.

  5. Robert Arnold says:

    Excellent night shots.
    Your detailing is superb.
    Well done.

  6. ken naddeo says:

    I too had Lionel trains as a child, set it up every Christmas for 3 weeks, on the living room floor. I still have them , all from the ’50’s. Really like your layout.

  7. Barry Weaver says:

    Jim, I can relate to your story about having a Lionel train when I was about your age and then regretfully giving it away. When I was a teenager in the 1960s I built an HO layout; but after I got married I took it down as it was in my parents’ home and I never rebuilt it. I still have much of the rolling stock and the Revel structures, which were considered “the” model kits back then. When I retired (I am now 65), my wife, who sadly passed away earlier this year, encouraged me to get back into model railroading and I am certainly glad that I did, as it has gives something to create rather than to lose. I am now building an N scale layout because of space. I am living in Vancouver, Canada. I’ll be interested in hearing how your new layout progresses; good luck with it, Jim.

  8. Tommy says:

    Nice layout, but if I may. Don’t switch down to a single main line at the upper left track layout drawing and add a crossover switch (center-right top) from inside main to the center track main to allow hands free two train mainlines running.

  9. Paco Gayon says:

    Congratulations JIm, you took very good use of your layout size. Is great.
    Paco Gayon

  10. Chris Rohrer says:

    Interesting track plan (and old layout. Would like to see updates as it progresses. Chris

  11. Roland Burch says:

    Jim, great layout and thank you for the diagram of the layout. They always help to understand what we are looking at.

    Brian, very good pictures. I really like the night shot.

  12. Chris says:

    Like the new layout, looking foreward to more pictures especially the mountain

  13. Rob says:

    I always enjoy seeing what other modelers are up to. I gives me ideas for my own. Thank you Brian and Jim.

  14. paul Otway says:

    lovely layout.

  15. Ian says:

    great new layout it will keep you busy.after all these yearsi think you miss your old layout all the stories hope you have stored to look back on.

  16. Ian says:

    like the light pictures it looks so real keep them coming.

  17. jacob says:

    Nice layout Jim keep up the good work.

  18. Rev Steven Eggum says:

    Jim ,

    I concur with Tommy, with such forethought you have the makings of a fantastic layout. However. completing a double mainline track with crossovers allows for uncontrolled traffic and operational freedom while simulating local and mainline scenarios simultaneously..
    I was widowed many years ago.. but my hobby keeps me going..


  19. THOMAS says:


  20. Al Good says:

    At last I had time to recover this email and enjoy the photos. When, if ever, I get rid of my addiction to be at work I plan to start something here at home. I was raised close to a community sawmill in the 40’s 50’s have a nice aerial photo of the site [the mill, SP mainline with spur, trestle over the Fall Creek River, Fall Creek, OR]. Being in a mobile home will make the layout n scale.

    Toot Toot from near UPRR MP 613, near Jasper, OR

  21. Bob Bouskill says:

    Hello Jim,
    I’m not far from you at Hamilton. I too lost part of the train set my father and mother gave me when I was five. I sold the milk car, the side dumper and a few others but I kept my old engine and refurbished it just last year.
    Love your C liner. I tried to model each type of steam engine and got into diesels too, all in HO scale. I think you should use what you built as it looks like a fine layout and it is “finished”. Your new plan has to have some tight radius curves which limit your steam roster to switchers.
    Best of luck whatever you decide.

  22. Jack Hough says:

    I found an easy way to make rocks, ledges and large stones is to use the spray insulation in the can. For ledges it can be formed with a popsicle stick smoothing it and for all others just spray

  23. Gary Ball says:

    All the best with the new layout Jim. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day.

  24. harold says:

    Good morning. Your sitr have been a GREAT Help. The town are excellent!

  25. brjohn says:

    Very nice Jim. I live in Tonawanda ny, been working on my layout for the past two years, almost done. Would be great to see your on video, If possible. Keep p the good work. Br John

  26. Dean C says:

    I’d add a crossover between the two main tracks between the two side tracks to the engine houses. That would simplify operations when you’re setting up trains. It would also serve as a runaround track.

    But as is it’s a great plan.

  27. Yet the layout is also manageable enough that he will be able to keep on top of the maintenance that all layouts demand of us. This means his trains run well and his scenery and structures will never look neglected.

  28. This is very awesome Thanks for sharing Looks Great A throwback to my childhood days

  29. Brad says:

    RE,the post about only using steam switchers.I have some articulated large steamers that do just fine on 18 radius curves,just keep that speed down and you should be ok .Passenger cars may be out though lol

  30. Franco428 says:

    How about a peek, or rather a detailed view of the “Transfer Table?”

    I love Roundhouses and always wanted to build a Transfer Table too.

    I saw one at a port overseas used to sort cars into the right order for local drop-offs. I wish I had taken photos of it.

    A Transfer Table would be neat for not only transferring engines to different sheds, but to sort rolling stock into a different order on the line.

    Does anyone have other Transfer Tables that they would like to share images of their work???

  31. Webster Morton says:

    Good morning. This is a very nice layout. Maybe next time you could show
    trains running.

  32. James Adolf says:

    I have gotten back into model trains after a 60 year brake. My wife of 48 years passed away 2 years ago and she had always encouraged me to get into trains again. I have very little imagination to strike out on my own..This plan fits the room I have. and I would love to discuss this with you if I may.

  33. Allan J Jelinek says:

    Pretty cool dude !

  34. Robert Brady says:

    wish i could click on the photos and enlarge them,I’m missing a lot.Please Fellows consider that so we can enjoy more.Other then that very nice stuff.

  35. Will in NM says:

    Jim, That’s a nice layout plan you’ve come up with. Looks like there will be plenty of operational possibilities. Your original layout looked pretty neat too. Good luck with the new layout.

    Brian, Great photos! I like the idea of building the town as a separate piece behind the rest of the layout. I think I might borrow that idea some day to add more interest to the test layout I’m working on. It would give me a chance to use some of the many structures and structure kits that I’ve accumulated over 60 years in the hobby.

  36. Jim G says:

    Interesting layout plan and love the use of control signals. What is the mainline radius?

  37. Frank says:

    To Brian, I have to say that photo is very striking and dramatic, yet it looks like the mood is somewhere between mildly busy and serene.

    To Jim, you will embark on a new journey trying to do things you haven’t done before or things you wanted to do, but were not able to or had left out. It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds.

    Frank in Orlando

  38. Gregory Saeger says:

    I love the Ready Mix concrete plant on your layout. I have worked for concrete producers for 35 years now in USA. So I always spot anything related to the cement, aggregate, or concrete industries.

  39. Ruben Simon says:

    Jim, looks like a lot of fun creating your layout. My only recommendation is to make your trees point straight upward. Plants grow toward the sun. When you have them tilted in different directions, it says “MODEL railroad” instead of “railroad”, if you get my drift.

  40. Erick says:

    Neat Pretty Kool. I hope mine turns out that good

  41. James says:

    I like your track plan! Adding a lot more people and having straight trees would make things more realistic looking in my opinion. Keep up the good work, Jim!

  42. Terrence E Dragon says:

    Nice layout Jim keep up the good work.I had a beauyiful n gauge layout. I am now 78 years od, living in a tiny apartment in Dayton Ohio. Lost everything in a total loss fire, do not even have saved photos of my layout, My wife used her egg money to buy most of my equipmen, Rolling stock Engins and associated cars. Miss it every day. Too small here for even S cale.

  43. william j plmer says:

    enjoy the journey

  44. James says:

    Looking good!

  45. John P Verrengia says:

    Great track layout design. I’ll bet that took a while to figure out…well worth it.

  46. Jon Webb says:

    Very interesting layout plan. Modeling should be great, around the plan. Good work.

  47. Andrew Aves says:

    Hi Jim
    What a wonderful – no excellent layout – lots of different operating configurations from local shunting to express trains. Love it.
    Andrew in Oz

  48. THOMAS SNIDER says:

    To those that ask about enlarging the photos. If you hold down the ctrl key, and tap
    the plus key your picture will enlarge 10 to 15 per cent with each touch of the plus
    key .To return the picture to normal just use the subtract key. With each touch of this key the picture will reduce by 10 to15. Always have the ctrl button held down with each of these moves.
    Al-thank you for all you do for us model roaders.
    Tom from Mi.

  49. Larry Kenneth Schweitzer says:

    I like to take night photos of live street scenes. I like your photo, it would help if there were reflectors on the street lights to direct the lighting down like the real things did. I’ve got a Nikon D300 That I’ve had for years. Great camera but no video & it is heavy, especially with a 200mm zoom mounted. Model RRs that are equipped for night add so much to like.

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