On30 shelf layouts

John’s been back in touch, he’s added to the On30 shelf layouts on the blog:

“Dear Mr. Lee…

You have often said how much you enjoy updates.

My current On30 layout is almost complete.

For those who do not know, On30 is 1/4 inch O scale that runs on HO track to represent 30 inch narrow gauge.

30 inch gauge was a common industrial and agricultural track gauge in many places around the globe.

“Grasse Pointe” represents a small service yard at the end of a small industrial railway (tramway) that serves a brickworks.

The trackplan is the popular Inglenook in a 2-2-3 pattern (maybe 2-2-4 if I push it) I used a sector plate and one set of PECO Setrack points (Turnout or Switch here in America).

The railway is in the twilight of its operations and maintenance is somewhat lacking. The weeds are taking over!

Here is the first set of photos showing the basic setup.

The dimensions are 10 inches wide (29 mm if I have my conversion right) and 28 and 1/2 inches long (725 mm if the conversion is correct).

The layout is my smallest to date and downright minuscule for 1/4 inch scale.

It will fit on a common bookshelf.

Some call this a micro layout in that it is less than 4 square feet in total area.


California, USA

aka John from Cali”

On30 shelf layouts track plan

shelf layout track

shelf layout track

On30 shelf layouts.

On30 shelf layouts

On30 shelf layouts

On30 shelf layouts:

shelf layout backdrop

model railroad shelf layout trees

overhead view shelf layout

overhead view shelf layout.

On3 building

model railroad buildings

model railroad buildings

A huge thanks to John for adding to the On30 shelf layouts. I find it interesting to hear what he has to say about Peco tracks.

Over the years I’ve noticed one name that comes up time and time again when it comes to the best quality of track / points / turnouts – and that’s Peco.

I would love to hear your comments below on that.

That’s all this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you feel it’s your time to shine.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

25 Responses to On30 shelf layouts

  1. Roger Phebey says:

    Nice idea to keep it small but your metric conversion needs correcting.
    One inch equals 2.54 cms or 25.4 mm, so on that basis, your layout measures 254 mm by 723.9 mm. One calculation was within nat’s whisker being 1.1 mm out and the other I would describe as a typo.
    I visualise measurements in Imperial, feet & inches, but when working wood I almost always use metric.

  2. David Hannan says:

    Excellent model! Love to see builds from the beginning. Any more pics of the rolling stock?

  3. Colin says:

    Re Peco track and points. Without a doubt the best you can get BUT try and avoid the n scale curved points. I had a lot of trouble with derailments May be because they are upside down, I’m in Australia.

  4. Eric says:

    John nicely done and realistic, the buildings look great too.

    Re Peco. Always used N gauge Settrack and points plus the long flexible straights, never had any real problems, I also use the above side fitting point motors and they can be used time and again without problems. The one thing that does annoy is the long straights do not come with pinholes in them, otherwise I would highly recommend Peco to all.

    Eric (Leeds) UK.

    AL, one point on the leave a reply column is that people provide a name but it isn’t shown in the comments. Would be great for the person who’s article it is to be able to address a reply to a person by name rather than the time…Just a thought.

  5. Jim says:

    I like your detailing, makes it look bigger.

  6. Don Jennings says:

    Is the short layout a part of a bigger track layout?
    Living in California, as you do, usually means that you have more space.
    Dont you have any more space that what you show here?

  7. Lynn Taubeneck says:

    Very nice railroad. We will do anything to have our layout no matter what the size, shape, or theme. Living proof that this hobby should be listed as a legal addiction in the AMA and psychiatric association books.

  8. Arthur Ellis says:

    Our club. The Hub Division Modular railroad, uses Peco exclusively. I use then now as replacements. for switches that fail. very reliable, little trouble..

  9. Jan Boen says:

    Having used Fleischmann (both kinds), Roco, Märklin (3 kinds, 3-rail/AC), Lima/Jouef and Peco I’ve found Peco to be good quality with wide range of switches, good flex rail and very competitive price.
    At our club most (2-rail) people use Peco track as do we on the club lay-outs as well.
    Getting Peco track in Belgium is not that easy but Internet solves a lot.

  10. I have never procured any sets for an R.R. lay out I have made so it is easier for
    me to buy Atlas track locally and have only seen Peco track on a few miniature
    villages . So I can not speak to the Peco products , I like to place hands on the product at least once to see if I think I can use it properly before I buy .
    I am glad you are willing to keep this site going Al. ! I have picked up a lot of great tips for the hobby from your membership since I joined the group !
    By the way does John have any new plans for buildings or other things going at the present time ? Be well and stay safe Sir!

  11. Fred Levora says:

    Regarding Atlas or Peco switches: Back in the mid to late 70s’, my dad and I had our own layouts witch we worked together. I used all Atlas, he used all Peco. We found the if the track leading into and leaving the switches was perfectly lined up there was no problems of derailing. If on the turnout, the track MUST be perfectly straight, or the same radius of the curve so that the flanges do not pick the rails. We also soldered and filed them to be perfectly smooth. Neither of us had any problems going forward or backwards through the points.

  12. Peter Pocock says:

    First John. Your little railway goes to prove, once again, beyond doubt, that no one can use the uxcuse “I don’t have room for a model railway” . You will have fun with it I know!
    Peco products are built like the proverbial brick dunny (outside toilet to non- Ozzies). We have used them for years with almost no complaints, and, if there was a problem generally a track laying issue or a too savage point motor action was the culprit!
    If you want to control turnout throw, use one of the slow motion makes available. Just saying!
    Western Australia

  13. John Reynolds says:

    In answer to some of the questions…
    While I do live in California, for over 30 years now space has been a premium for me. Many of those years were spent living in apartments with whatever railroad I built having to share space with my wife and my two children… While my current space is larger, it is not significantly so.
    While I have built many “small” layouts, Carl Arndt and others got me interested in “micros” which I could easily transport… “Grasse Pointe” is my smallest to date.
    I do have more projects in mind or on the drawing board…Want to finish the presentation end of Grasse Pointe first…
    Part of what keeps driving me is that I keep hearing the same two complaints… The most common being “I don’t have space for a layout.” and the second being “I don’t have money for a layout.” Most of the layouts I have built over the past ten years reveal both of these complaints to be more excuses to stay in the armchair and spin cat fur into kitten britches than to be real conditions for not having a layout.
    There are many reasons to build small layouts…
    1.) They are fun to build…
    2.) They can be finished relatively quickly
    3.) They are often an affordable way to polish your modeling skills
    4.) They can be a great way to share your favorite hobby…
    5.) They can offer a lot of operating potential in very little space
    “John from Cali” builder of “Grasse Pointe”

  14. John Reynolds says:

    Another question concerned Peco turnouts (points)
    On “Grasse Pointe” Peco was chosen specifically for the switch (point set) I used… It saved space!
    There are many brands of track on the market and each has its own specific advantages and disadvantages…
    Bachman EZ track is a very robust product that is ideal for use around small children. The same can be said for Kato Unitrack but the Kato product is a lot more expensive… The good news is that Kato has a broader range than Bachmann. The old Marklin M-Track also excelled in the area of being child friendly.
    Atlas offers a decent product at a fair price. I do use Atlas for some projects but generally prefer Peco. Both can be a tad “dainty” for use when children decide to stomp Godzilla on your pointwork…Even worse is when your “crawler” decides that your layout is a good perch to observe all the goings on in the house… (I learned these lessons from my children!)
    For the best combination of consistent quality, broadest range of product, and most reasonable price, Peco is the clear winner for my money!
    Sinohara (also sold as Walthers) is a beautiful product but well out of my price range…
    Hope this helps…
    “John from Cali”

    Note: Given the fantastic modelers that contribute to Al’s wonderful site and also given that there is more than one John who contributes… I chose “John from Cali” to help reduce the confusion…

  15. James Yuille says:

    So often when I see micro layouts like this I wonder why I’m persevering with something bigger that is taking forever to complete. I essentially only have one afternoon a week to spend on it so progress is slow.
    Jealous (and a tad confused!)

  16. monty moy says:

    Hi All. I use PECO track and points all the time as do all our members, and so far so good. have not had a problem at all

    hope all is well with you Monty West Australia

  17. Rob McCrain says:

    I like the idea of small dioramas. When I am done with Farland two, I might try a few. Nice work. I wondered if it was photographed with a fitting natural setting in the background with out the blue boards if it would look more realistic. Just a thought, keep up the great work.

  18. Harold says:

    Great job. Like me, you have limited space. Unlike me, you made better use of it. Very nice work. Looks great.

  19. Ross Johnston says:

    I used Peco track and points on a School layout and had no problems at all. (I did send you a report about this but it didn’t get published) On my own layout in an 20′ x 18′ shed I have had no problems so far but I haven’t run any trains yet. I visited the Peco factory in 2014 and found their displays excellent plus their narrow gauge railway enjoyable. Cheers Rossco South Australia

  20. Randy says:

    Kato Unitrack is hands down the best there is. The switches are just plain reliable and they have 14 curve radiuses. No filing points and such.

  21. John Birch says:

    An interesting little layout. Well done!
    My layout is exclusively Peco and I think it is great. I am building a layout for my grandson using only Hornby track and points (inherited from his other grandfather) and I far prefer the look, flexibility and feel of Peco.

  22. JIm Noel says:

    What a nice little layout. I am looking forward, not happily, to a move closer to the children. I am searching for a layout idea which will work for me in a very small living space after 60 + years in a large 2 story house with two sheds for my On30 model RR.
    Thank you for sharing.

  23. Ken says:

    I have both Peco and Atlas N Scale turnouts, all of them #6 because I like long engines and cars.
    One main difference is price – for comparable size turnouts the Peco is almost twice the price.
    The Atlas in the last 10 or so years have taken a major hit in quality leading to the possibility of derailments and short circuits. (these can be fixed, which I did because I already had 20 plus Atlas turnouts) Prior to this they were bullet proof.
    Since I will be using over a hundred, the cost will be the defining factor.
    Pecos are definitely higher quality but the geometry is different. After the frog the divergent line keeps turning as opposed to the atlas continuing in a straight line. This changes how they fit together, and they can’t be interchanged.

  24. Erick says:

    Wow that some good Workmanship? . i sure hope mine turns out that good

  25. $100 Bill says:

    I don’t understand the sector plate in a real life situation. Why not use another point?

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