HO scale tram

John’s been in touch with HO scale tram:

“I decided to renew my interest in model railroading, but take a new approach.

As a youngster, I had a HO layout which -if not necessarily very prototypical- kept me entertained and satisfied my MRR bug.

As an adult with young children, I and they became involved with G gauge, and had fun traveling to local shows with a portable display.

With the children gone and downsizing our home, the G layout went to a younger cousin and his family as our new home had little space for anything that large.

Time got me thinking hard about how I could make a layout using my beloved 1/24 or G scale, but with a much smaller footprint.

What I decided upon was a 1/24 scale miniature train set-up using HO track.

My layout would be a sort of amusement park ride, with 1/24 folks enjoying a ride-upon On-30 train.

At the same time, I decided to automate the trains, turnouts, and eventual special effects with DCC.

To make this vision happen, I purchased a small On-30 Spectrum DCC 0-4-2 Steam locomotive, three Spectrum open observation cars, and a pair of Spectrum short wooden gondola cars. All except the engine would require extensive modification.

First though, I had to prepare a layout table. What I decided upon may be a bit unusual, but so will the whole layout be!

I chose to frame the 4′ x 8′ layout with 1″ X 9” PVC lumber. The table surface itself is 3 layers glued up of rigid foam, presently covered in felt. The felt gives it a “finished look” while I build and will be removed as the work progresses.

For support, I purchased a set of folding “card table” legs, to which I added a set of easy-rolling casters for mobility.

You will note in the photo that the layout is in a covered, screened area. Here in Florida most have this, called a lanai.

Ours happens to be large enough for both my layout and my wife’s elevated gardens, with room left over for some chairs and small tables for entertaining.

Since the climate is humid, I keep a light plastic tarp over the entire table when I’m not using it.

The 4′ x 8′ table with felt tucked in over the rigid foam

HO table

I decided to use Bachmann EZ Track for convenience since it was readily available and requires no tedious tracklaying. Not my interest at this point as my immediate goal is to be up and running with my HO scale tram.

I knew rolling stock would be a challenge for this rusty craftsman, but I had a pretty good idea what I wanted and how to achieve it. The Spectrum On-30 open observation cars were “more or less” in scale for O but needed heavy mods for 1/24 or G scale. The first thing was to remove the far too low roof from the observation cars. A razor saw made quick work of this.

Original spectrum on-30 open observation car

HO scale tram

Obs car wih roof sawn off and interior benches removed.

HO scale tram

To remove the O scale interior benches, I removed one truck so I could access the tabs holding the coach body to the chassis. Once the body was removed, I removed 4 screws which held the benches in.

This left the body roofless and empty, so time to add some 1/24 seats!

I found some candidates for the job with 1/24 park benches. These just happened to fit across the width of the car perfectly! I sawed off most of the base a glued 3 benches in place on each car.

Benches glued in and new roof supports going in:

HO scale tram

The new roof supports were next. Each was cut from wooden medical applicator sticks, 2.5″ long for each. Once 8 were in place, the roof went on and the chassis reconnected.

Two done, one to go.

HO scale tram

After completing the observation cars, I had to make a trailer for the driver. On the Howling Wolf RR, the engine is operated by a remote control on the driver’s lap, but where should he ride? A modified wood gondola served the purpose nicely. I’ll spare you the obvious steps, here it is… but lacking a roof!

I gave some thought of how I would match up a built roof with the roofs of the obs. cars. Then an inspiration! We use a fiber product called Benefiber, and just maybe… Stay Tuned for the next instalment!

HO scale tram


A huge thanks to John for sharing his HO Scale tram – some very creative scratch building going on there. Can’t wait to see the next update.

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 stop dreaming, and start doing.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

20 Responses to HO scale tram

  1. James Marek says:


    I enjoyed reading your story and viewing the photos. Would like to see more when you build the layout. Keep up the great work!


  2. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Curious how this is going to turn out………but interesting concept………and there is plenty of joy in scratch building and modifying existing objects into new and different objects. Nice work.

  3. Robert Brady says:

    The weather is your enemy,Can be easily vandalized.Legs need to be stouter.If the caster wheels catch up in the grout lines while moving those thin legs will fold on you especially if you unlock them and forget to unlock one.I’m just looking ahead.I am also a Floridian and the humidity is not your friend.If you glass in the patio and AC the patio then you’ll have a good foundation.Good luck.
    The Critic.

  4. NJ Mark says:

    I like where this is going. Very clever and neatly done thus far. Cheers! NJ Mark

  5. Ted Rothstein says:

    Nice work and loo

  6. Robert Brady says:

    I call it as I see it!

  7. John H Wolfe says:

    Robert Brady & Others:
    The screened area will not be the permanent home of my layout. I have a 20′ X 17′ workshop with A/C into which the layout will be moved as work progresses. Presently the space has my PA system and musical instruments in the area the layout will occupy. As for the table’s legs, yes they are a bit fragile, but movement will be minimal, and the large casters were selected especially to be forgiving of the tiled floor. I may rethink the legs after the layout is in its permanent home.
    I am laying track today. Pictures will follow,

  8. John Wolfe says:

    Rails are now laid and leveled at the joints, The train is running smoothly around the circuit and through the turnouts. I’m presently operating on DC power until everything is finalized and the switch to DCC is made. Photos and video will soon follow in a fresh post. Watch for it!

  9. I thought he was doing a good job

  10. Dan Hulitt says:

    John, my immediate response to the first photo was ” billiards anyone?” A novel idea that is bringing you fun, and that is what it is all about. Looking forward to your next post. Nice work.

    Mn Dan

  11. Bill Luxford says:

    Great idea using On30 for a 1:24 amusement ride. I modeled in 1:24 for years before I switched to On30. (I’ve also spent years modeling in HO, O, On3, and 7&1/2″ live steam as well as On30 and F & G scales)
    I might suggest you either paint the ex-gondola to match the cars or the loco. While NG Railroads often ran a box car for overflow luggage it isn’t something todays public is used to seeing. The Durango Line uses boxcars painted like the passenger cars in yellow and black which with the old boxcar sides looking very weathered because they have dried out so much the grain pattern really shows. I would still go for the cars color though.
    I would suspect you will add a small trunk, a barrel or some pails behind the engineer to fill the space unless you put an oil tank for your loco to run on since firing the loco with coal would be very hard with a coal pocket blocking your engineers way to the firebox door; unless you don’t care that some-one might notice and call you on it. Of course you could remove the coal bunker with a few screws.
    Enjoy your project. I envy you because I no longer have a home layout and our On30 Club has folded. This “Covid=19” deal is not helping either. Do have fun and build your layout,
    Bill Luxford Albuquerque, NM USA

  12. Larry Baucom says:

    I love your ideas and pictures keep it coming

  13. Will in NM says:

    I am continually impressed with the creativeness of all the model railroaders who participate in this site. I used to think I was pretty creative, but I would have never thought of combining On30 and 1/24th scale like John has. I really enjoy seeing all the model railroad ideas this site offers every day. Thank you again Al for making all this possible.

  14. Andrew Aves says:

    Fantastic – Great work – Thanks for sharing – Andrew in Oz

  15. Bill Ridge says:

    Very very creative! Thanks for sharing,

  16. James Yuille says:

    You are a brilliant modeller, this rolling stock is exquisite.

  17. Ben Olson says:

    John, you are very creative and skilled! I would love to see a video of these cars running on the track. Keep up the great work!

  18. George Zaky says:

    Will in NM took the words right out of my mouth but I had to chime in also. It is thrilling to see the level of creativity in this site. There are other talents that go along with creativity- patience, craftsmanship, artistry and commitment and thanks to big Al, we are privy to all this.
    Wow John- keep the Howling Wolf rolling.
    Thanks to ALL who make an old man smile.

  19. Mike Balog says:

    Hi John, Al and “The Critic”:
    First thing I thought of, you were building a “Pool Table” with that green felt top!
    The Legs need to be more stable… could have built the Legs out of 1″ x 1″ by 4 ft Pine ( Split a 2″ x 4″ down the center.). Like the Idea of using those passenger cars… Thought about it. How are the People going to get into and out of the Cars?
    There are No Rails or Steps on the Car Body Sides? Suggest having a scale 12 ” wide board running along the car body sides in order to get people in and out. As well as having a RED LED on the Tail car for Safety. Regarding the Engine. If you put an Oil Tank behind the Engineer with a Hose Leading to the Firebox, it would display where the fuel is coming from. Put a couple of White Flags in front of the Locomotive Boiler end to show it’s a “Special Train”. Lastly, put some figures in the passenger cars and add the operator in the first car. You could even add a red led in the fire box to simulate the fire, shining down onto
    the tracks below.

    Mike in N.H. U.S.A.

  20. Old Ben says:

    Anything you do to get started is FANTASTIC.. The hobby is what you make of it. No matter what anyone says

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