HO scale circus tents

Ray’s been in touch with a great way to make HO scale circus tents:

“Hi Al,

I really enjoy getting your emails and I always get some great ideas from the posts.

I am adding a circus/amusement park to my layout and I have not been able to find a circus tent.

So I decided to try to make one from scratch using different size tooth pics, styrofoam, plaster cloth, paint and other scraps I had laying around.

Here are a few pictures of my results.



HO scale circus tents

HO scale circus tents

HO scale circus tents

A big thanks to Ray – an interesting take on HO scale circus tents.

“Greetings Al,

I have been following your blog for some time now and find it very interesting and informative.

About 30 years ago when I had small children, I bought a HO train set for my son who was 5 or so at the time.

It evolved over time to a small flat lay out with 2 main lines and switching. Never got any further because of lack of space and kids grow up.

We moved 1 year ago so the lay out was completely dismantled. I have twin grandsons who are 9 years old and love to watch model trains run. So I got to thinking, why not resurrect the train that I have and expand it. I am 1 year away from retirement and have more time to fool with this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I must quit rattling on about the past and get to present day. I am building a larger table for the new lay out (144 inches longX61 inches wide at one end and 81 inches at the other end.

I have attached some pictures if you are interested.

The first is of the main frame, the second shows the casters on the legs as this lay out must be moved to work on it.

The last three show the frame and girders finished. I call this “The Storage Area Lay out” for lack of a better name.”

Best regards,


model train bench

model train bench

model train bench

“This is my first post, I have been interested in architecture and architectural models ever since a bought my first Alan Downes book, so I have attached some photos of my efforts. I use cardboard scrounged/recovered from all sorts of places, for example, proper brand name cereal packets which use good quality card boxes, I also use foam board, which is lightweight but strong.


HO scale scenery

HO scale scenery

We’ve had quite a flurry of scratch builds recently – it’s wonderful to see the different ways folk make their buildings.

I thought I’d show Ken’s bench because for me that’s the first step in getting started, and often the biggest step too. Over the years I’ve noticed the posts all have a common theme, once you have a space of your own, you are up and running.

A big thanks to Ken and to Ray for showing us his take on HO scale circus tents.

That’s all this time folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get off the starting blocks.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

20 Responses to HO scale circus tents

  1. David Hannan says:

    That has given me an idea!

    Why did I not think about wheels?

    Thanks Ken!

  2. Marion says:

    KEN: I am impressed by your benchwork! That’s truly a great beginning. I am a beginner, but think I can recognize good construction when I see it. My husband does all the construction and wiring for me, so I am really fortunate. I get to do all the really fun stuff. At age 80, it IS fun!….. It will be good to see your progress. Have a great time doing it!

    PETER: Wow! You are really creative with whatever is at hand. I absolutely love your beautiful building. Thanks for sharing!

    Marion in Mississippi

  3. Marion says:

    RAY: I just realized that I failed to comment on your circus tent. What creativity you have shown. My only criticism is that you might want to consider covering your plaster with something more smooth next time, and the stripes would look a little sharper. HOWEVER, if you are happy with it, then that’s all that matters. This hobby of ours should be to please no one but ourselves. It’s nice when others ooh and aah over our efforts, but in the end it’s our little world, and it matters not what others think of it. Anyway, I love your circus tent with all its little people and animals…..Marion

  4. Alan & Rosemary Boswell says:

    Its all amazing, that bench will be magic if you can access the back of the layout, and as for the building, well, I would love to know where you got the drawings from, all the best.

  5. Claude E. Dodd says:

    I too did mine with wheels so I can move it and I can get to the other side. Good to see someone else has it on wheels. I have never seen a layout on wheels other than mine before. I thought I was building the layout with everything in reach but that didn’t work out. So, N-scale on wheels in my small garage in Tulsa, OK. USA

  6. the circus tent is fabulous….
    getting started is the biggest step of all
    keep em runnin fellas!!
    stjohn in long beach calif

  7. ted grimm says:

    I like the wheels. I think next I would use Styrofoam to keep it light so it moves easily.

  8. Stephen Kurtz says:

    The tent looks amazing. I am very impressed with the buildings. The train tables look well-designed. I like the technique with the wheels to give it movement. Well done to all!

  9. Fred says:

    KEN: Very good start. Have you thought about some sort of back where you are parking your mobile unit against a wall. Probably thin plywood about a foot and a half high would work.

  10. Larry Wilson says:

    I have just started an n scale layout based on Malcolm Furlow’s HO Narrow Gauge San Juan Central Rsilroad. I would like to send in some pictures of the base platform and the start of the track sub-roadbed. How do i send these to you?
    Larry Wilson
    Kentucky, USA

  11. Cary says:

    Great circus tent Ray, the lighting really makes it pop, lots of activity inside and its visible. I learned a trick back in my diorama days for fabric, take kleenex tissues, soak in a white glue and water mix, hang it, drape it, fold it and let it dry, paint it. Makes great scale fabric (don’t use toilet tissue – it dissolves) Ray the building is amazing, can’t wait to see the trains running near it. Hope everyone is having fun.
    Cary in Kentucky

  12. John Reynolds says:

    More excellent posts…
    Each post is a gift and I thank you…
    The creativity in the circus tent,
    The solid benchwork,
    The beautiful building…
    Amazing all…
    John from California…

  13. Dan Hulitt says:

    Ray. I can almost hear the calliope now! Great job. Ken you have made a great start. What will you use for your backer boards? Thin Masonite or plywood would work, and paints easy.
    Peter, love your building, am curious as to what will go in the notch?

    Thanks Al.

    Mn Dan

  14. Jim Saccento says:

    Sheet Rock those walls and ceiling before you get any further. I made the mistake of building a RR in an unfinished area, and I got a lot of dirt constantly falling on the layout.

  15. Robert Brady says:

    Ken Aren’t you jumping the gun by putting the carriage before the horse ?
    I would’ve at least finished the walls and get that out of the way. Especially if you want to put Murals or paint the walls. Not to mention the floor.
    The Critic

  16. Kenneth Stauffer says:

    To those who commented on the bench work, the walls are now covered in white plastic and the ceiling is dry walled. I have made slow progress on the lay out and hope to send more pictures soon. Thanks for all the kind words and suggestions. Thanks Al, for the work you do on keeping this site going.
    Ken from PA, USA

  17. Will in NM says:

    Ray, Amazing job on the circus tent. Love the lit interior that showcases all the action inside the tent. You have more patience than I do for working in N scale.

    Ken, That looks like some serious benchwork! 2×4’s and heavy-duty wheels are probably a little over-kill depending upon what you plan to build. I don’t quite understand the 1×4 strips across the top and the tapered addition to the front of the layout?

    Peter, Nice building and I like the interiors you made for the little shops at the front/rear? of the building.

  18. Erick says:

    Looks pretty kool.!!!!! I hope mine turns out that good.

  19. Dave Karper says:

    Peter; don’t forget Mr. Lee’s printout buildings. The only limit to what can be done with them is your imagination, and I can see you have a generous supply. I have no room for a railroad as yet,but I have almost all of the printouts. I’ll have to get busy and build them. Just looking at them, I can come up with a few hundred different variations. And this is while they are still flat printouts.

  20. Brian Olson says:

    Overall I remain very happy about construction of my 6×12 N Scale layout. But… if I could go back (and I can’t of course) I would have used dolly wheels.

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