Kato Unitrack HO

Tom’s been in touch with his Kato Unitrack HO scale:

“My name is Tom H. and I live in Colorado, USA. I live near Durango, Colorado, which is home to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

I started model railroading as a child and have been doing that off and on since then. Now that I am retired I have more time for the hobby.

I did have an N gauge layout for years, but got tired of working with stuff so small !

So I gave that 6′ x 6′ layout away and started a new layout in HO gauge, which is the gauge I had as a kid.

My new layout is in a spare bedroom in my house, which measures 10′ x 13′ (3.048 meters x 3.9624 meters).

I didn’t want a bunch of support legs that would interfere with easy access to wiring as well as interfering with cleaning the floor.

So I elected to cantilever supports fastened to the wall studs. The only straight legs are the supports for the peninsula.

I use a mechanic’s creeper chair to do the work underneath the layout.

The angle steel I used is from used bed frames bought at a local thrift store. Wood was added to the top of the steel in order to easily screw down the OSB tabletop. There are holes drilled through the wood pieces to route wiring.

The layout has two lift-out bridges at the entry door to ease access. I am modeling two railroads, The ‘Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe’ and the ‘Denver and Rio Grande Western’.

The location for these on my layout is Castle Rock, Colorado (with great liberties on my part!) This is one of the few places in Colorado where both these railroads went through the same town. The era is mid 1950’s, as diesel was replacing steam.

To design my layout I used CAD software from AnyRail.com, which takes alot of guess work and measuring out of designing a layout.

I used rulers in the software to transfer the layout plan to the layout tabletop.

After I laid the outer track, I then trimmed the OSB tabletop to contour with the track before applying the facia. AnyRail has a library of many different brands of track. I also use software by Trainplayer.com which runs trains on the Anyrail layout plan. This software catches any place where there is a track problem with the layout design.

I am using Kato Unitrack HO scale, which is nice to work with and trains run well on it. I am using DCC by Digitrax for the layout, except for a train I run on top of the Valance with uses DC and is a model of the Durango and Silverton Railroad, as a railfanning train running most of the time I am working on the layout, to keep me entertained, lol !

I am using electric turnouts and found turnout controls that I like better than the Kato controls.

The Kato ones stick out too far for the close quarters of my layout, these ones I use are made by RPC Electronics (rpc-electronics.com) and are mounted flush with the facia. They are specifically for Kato brand turnouts.

For securing wiring underneath the layout I use plastic 1/2″ pipe brackets, fastened with only one screw so they can easily be opened to slip wires into. For connecting wires I went with a very easy to use and simple connectors which are CirKits SPL-62 Multiple Terminal Blocks, which are push in cable connectors. (wire stripping required).

All the track is in place and trains run with DCC, and everything runs very well. You can see on one picture the lower shelf which is the staging area. A track from staging runs under layout at a 3% slope and exits at the track level on the layout. I have built the roundhouse, a diesel shop, and a line of background buildings so far.

I will post more pictures in additional posts.


Kato track plan

Kato unitrack HO scale benchwork

Kato unitrack HO scale benchwork

Kato unitrack HO scale track lefthand view

Kato unitrack HO scale right hand view

Kato unitrack HO scale middle


turnout controls

layout wiring

A huge big thanks to Tom for sharing his Kato unitrack HO scale layout.

Tom’s layout reminded me of Dick’s Kato Unitrack layout.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

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



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts

PPPS Or perhaps you’re just after a collection of model train stuff.

12 Responses to Kato Unitrack HO

  1. Robert Brady says:

    Looks like the start of something great . Keep us posted on your progress.
    HO the way to go
    The Critic

  2. Dave says:

    Tom, thanks for sharing your layout and many valuable tips. I’m building an HO railway in my garage loft in Pagosa Springs, Colorado (so we are practically neighbors). I also have a Durango and Silverton train which runs real well after I replaced the plastic wheel sets with metal and the hook couplers with magnetic knuckle couplers. I plan to one day take some photos and share them on this site.

  3. Stephen Hill says:

    That is going to be some serious layout, very well planned and thought out . Will be looking forward to seeing that as you progress.

  4. Brian Olson says:

    Lots of neat ideas here, especially about legs for the layout vs traditional wood. Thanks!

  5. TJK says:

    Hey Tom, Love the accessibility of your layout configuration, any unfortunate derailments are within reach.

  6. John Bullock says:

    Now that’s one interesting layout plan!

  7. David Winklepleck says:

    Looking like that should be a great layout. I am working on a new set up my self again at 70 years old. We are out in Arboles Colorado.

  8. george zaky says:

    Great job of planning a knockout layout that has all the appearances of trouble free running. This site consists of the most clever people who contribute and fortifies that you learn something new every day. Much thanks for your time & effort and please keep us updated.
    Big Al

  9. Roger Turner says:

    The planning and effort you put in up front will pay many dividends in the future.
    Please keep us updated on your progress. Looks like a great start. The era you are modeling has some great history and so many options, plus such an interesting and beautiful part of the country.

    Roger in Kansas

  10. Don says:

    when finished it will be a great layout design. impressive

  11. Mr. Ron from South Mississippi says:

    Although my HO layout uses Marklin track (3-rail), It is about the same size as yours. I too have populated the layout with houses and structures, all handmade. In fact, I have too many structures and my layout is overcrowded.

  12. Will in NM says:

    A very impressive start to what should be a terrific layout. You’ve done a great job planning and building the layout. I wasn’t aware that Trainplayer could run Anyrail layouts. I especially like how you curved the fascia to fit the track plan. All in all, a very well thought out and executed layout. Please keep us posted with your future progress.

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