Ken’s American West layout

“Welcome everyone. After following Alastair Lee for about two years now I am at the point where I thought that I wanted to add some pictures of my own as I can always benefit from comments and feedback. Having always had an interest in the American west I wanted to convey a time when steam was starting to replace the old wagons heading west. I entitle the layout Westward Ho! simply because I have not really thought of a more creative name.

Although much of the history comes before, our story begins in the town of hole in the wall noted in the rough cut tunnels that blasted through the rocks in order to allow for the train to come into the town founded around a watering hole that protrudes from a rock. It was at this very hole where the Native Apache Indians used to stop and drink. It is near this watering hole where our settlers first came out of the parched desert to the rock from whence the water flows, or the watering rock as the Indians and the early pioneers referred to the land until the coming of the steam engine.

Just as the Native Americans were pushed west, so too do we find the early pioneers wanting to escape the industrialization era. And so we see them loading up their wagons and moving to . . . where we do not know just where they are moving to but is is anyplace better than hole in the wall where cattle barrens and outlaws have come brought there by the water and the greed of gold believed to be found in the nearby hills and barren wasteland.














I thought Ken’s layout had bags of character – and a nice narrative too.

Please do keep ’em coming. And if you haven’t had a look at the ebay cheat sheet for a while, now’s the time to too. Have a look at what’s there.

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



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

model train answers

51 Responses to Ken’s American West layout

  1. Bruce says:

    Most unusal and very nicely done.

  2. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    Great, Ken. Thanks for sharing. John Allen (Gore and Daphited RR)
    was a model rr pioneer, who died in the late 70’s. His fabulous layout
    was frequently photographed (he was, himself, an accomplished photographer)
    and had many “how to” publications, which are probably still available. His
    layout was “Western” themed, though not as early as your own. Keep up the
    good work!

  3. Bob Tucker says:

    Love the idea…very nice set up. Thanks for sharing.

  4. david howarth says:

    Nice story Ken and portrayed through your layout …well done

  5. Orv says:

    Nice. Very nice. I am also working on a western setting. I have been working on it for over 2 years and am not near this far. I am still in the trial and error phase. Lots of trials and many errors. I am working in “N” gauge on a 4 X 8 foot table. I really appreciate this site. Lots of ideas. Thank you very much.

  6. Barry Pearlman says:

    Ken –

    Great concept! I live just outside St. Louis, Missouri and St. Louis was a major jumping off point for the westward migration.

    Your town must be very progressive and by the number of stars on the flag flying high, anticipated the growth of the United States.

    Just kidding. šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚


  7. kenn says:

    I thank you all for the comments. Yes the flag is a little ahead of its time but reminds me of the progression. I hope to post more pictures and further narrative in the future but am also looking for ideas. Like some of you I have had to learn through trial and error. My original design was totally scratched after making a bit of effort. My ideas are expansive but the space and cost of building the dream are limiting. I actually am starting on part two of the project.

    I am wondering how to connect the upper line with the lower line without creating polarity issues which is what happened in the initial design. I want to be able to run both lines simultaneously and be able to interconnect if possible.

  8. what a nice layout
    the detail is superlative and the narrative too
    goood job!!

  9. Chuck Reicha says:

    I think your layout is quite nice. You might want to re-think the flag you have flying. It is a 50 star flag and I don’t think at the time you are portraying there were 50 states in the union.

  10. paul Otway says:

    i like the old time layout too.


  11. Ralph says:

    A great way to use some models that would otherwise not fit in. My Wild west models come out for special excursions and “movie making”. Maybe I need a permanent western “set” on corner of the layout. Thanks for some great ideas.

  12. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great theme, like the township.the building fit right in.

  13. Great job ken,enjoyed looking at your lay out. I think that it’s a great idea.

  14. Fred says:

    Finally, somebody with American Flyer ‘S’ scale; REAL model trains.

  15. colin gibbs says:

    A great idea Ken, I don’t recall seeing a model set this early before. Well done, thank you for sharing.

  16. Duncan Galbraith says:

    I love a railway with a history! This is really interesting, I live in the wild west of Scotland, Argyll. Hardly a frontier but a lot of people left here for the Americas in the Highland Clearances. Contrary to popular belief, manywere pleased to get the chance to go and start a new life, often paid for by the Laird who could see the land could not support the people. Thanks, D/

  17. Philip Pisanelli says:

    I cought the flag thing as well. Just for information sake there were 31 states pre civil war say1850, and post civil war say 1870 there were 37. Hope you can modify your flag for the time period you built your layout. It looks very good and I wish I had the time and space to play with different time periods, including the future. Phil

  18. THOMAS says:


  19. NJ Mark says:

    Beautiful work all round! Interesting scenery with wonderful details makes a great layout. To D.D. it is fitting to end your video with “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Cheers! NJ Mark

  20. Dale W. McSwain says:

    I don’t know your scale. If n-gauge where did you find the stage coach? Dale

  21. Dale W. McSwain says:

    I don’t know your scale. If n-scale where did you find the stage coach?

  22. Cary Price says:

    great western look and with lots of character Ken. Nice job and thanks for sharing. Cary in KY

  23. David Wibbels says:

    I enjoyed the western layout. I am thinking of scene in a corner of the my HO layout that would have a Civil War Re-enactment. I also already have a Navy Air Station that houses old prop aircraft being scrapped.

  24. Cary B says:

    Very nice layout and great storyline. Cary B

  25. Billy Mills says:

    hey out there on the rails:
    I have a TAINPAK model 200 made by Model Rectifer Corp & a SPEEDMASTER Universal Powermaster model 50 made by K F Ind – neither of which work
    I don’t think either manufacturer is in operation currently.
    Cracked ’em open & it looks like the coil in both is very rusty.

    Any chance someone out there has a suggestion for parts or repair.


  26. Bruce says:

    Please show existing layout plan and desired. Will help any contributing thoughts by others.
    One recognized trains as older Flyer, therefore ā€œSā€ gauge. True.
    A wonderful layout to enjoy.
    Thanks to you & Al
    Bruce in SC USA

  27. David Ryder says:

    Ken –

    Thanks for the wonderful layout and lots of ideas. I’m currently starting design on an HO layout also based in the mid 1800’s American West. My rolling stock carries the Virginia & Truckee name. I’d like to know where you found the stagecoach, freight wagon, Conestoga wagons and the western figures, as I haven’t been able to locate these. Al, you can share my email with Ken.

    Dave in MD USA

  28. Jim Julian says:

    Great western Layout, great job. I’m also using a Western theme. In order for me to use modern day items on my layout such as cars, trucks, American flag, I set up my western town as a “THEME PARK”, having it so that it portrays the western town without it messing with up-to-date modern technology. I’m interested in knowing where you got your stagecoach from. I bought 4 covered wagons from the Dollar General store here in NC. They cost me exactly one dollar came with a driver, horse three Indians and three cowboys as well all for a buck. I’m still looking for a stagecoach however. Thanks Jim NC you have permission to use my email thanks..

  29. Warren Ferguson says:

    Love the layout.
    Regarding the flag, is there a source for buying a flag with the correct number of stars, or can you print out one in correct scale?
    Warren, AL, USA

  30. Bill Holt says:

    Ride’em Cowboy. Good Job !!

  31. David A. Massimi says:

    Forgot to ask about those wagons…am doing layout set in Civil War, so need many wagons….where did you get them ?
    Dave, in NY

  32. Bob C says:

    Looks like the old 4-4-0 has derailed in Redwood. Better get a crew working on that.

  33. jack cheasty says:

    How about photocopying the correct period flag (google images) then reducing it to scale and placing appropriate bends in the paper to give it the proper hanging appearance? You’ll need to paste the reverse side, (copy flipped for mirror image on your copier) back to back with the front. I’d make several copies to cut out, taking the pressure off doing it right in one take …

  34. Mike Balog says:

    Great Western Theme Layout.. Oh, for the S Gaugers out there, This is an HO Scale Layout. How can you Tell? Look at the Couplers on the Caboose,, Typical TYCO 4 wheel bobber Caboose,, with the Horn Hook Coupler. Liked the Long Haul Wagons.. have some fun, Stencil “U Haul” on the canvas. Also, the Flag is Much Too Large as so is the pole,, not to mention the number of Stars. Find an HO Scale Flag on line, computer image. To hide the edges of the buildings, you could use some white glue and scenic material, dyed saw dust, vegetation, etc. Even trap rock ballast. Still Laughing at the Town Name… What it the Town next to it called? “AZ”. ???

  35. Fantastic layout concept Ken…
    A few thoughts… The flag thing… Probably a 40 star flag would be a good choice.
    Go on line… you can probably find one that can be reduced to size.
    Second, Jaaques mentioned John Allen: John Allen used to use his camera as a modeling aid. He pointed out to another pioneer of the hobby how the camera reveals every flaw in your work. Cliff Grandt (Grandtline) once made a beautiful O Scale shay from scratch. He showed it to John Allan who shot some pictures of the model… With the pictures, Cliff could see screw heads that he thought were hidden… And a lot of other flaws in his “perfect” engine… He rebuilt it and won Best In Show at an NMRA competition.
    (As to myself, I have found flaws in “completed models” that I could not see before taking photos and after looking at the photos I often wonder how I missed something so obvious!)
    The theme and backstory is a great help and gives solid direction to your work. “Westward HO! ” Is a great name for the layout BUT your town needs a name too. “Rockridge” might be the perfect choice given the back story.. (Blazing Saddles)… If that is the choice, a “U-Haul” canvas on one of the wagons would be appropriate! (A touch of Mel Brooks and John Allen style humor)…
    “Stonecreek” would be another good town name
    Hope this helps.

  36. stephan brown says:

    HERE’S A TIP. Spray you “plastic people, horses, etc. with a light spray of clear mat finish (compatible with the plastic material.) Try it on a few spares first, then take a picture – it will look more realistic.

  37. Ken you never said what scale you are into but I`m doing n-scale old west scratch build buildings.

  38. Mark T. Pianka says:

    You have to get Matt Dillon out on the streets, Nice Layout

  39. Timothy says:

    I Like the Detail of the hole Layout

  40. Very nice layout and a great story it explains a lot of how USA was built and the natives were destroyed and put down in the name of so called progress!
    Should write a book it was so clear!
    Peter Rothwell

  41. Dave Karper says:

    John Allen’s original 4’X8′,to my knowledge, was originally an adjunct to his work as a photographer.

  42. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Different but great idea and it works.

  43. Dan Willams says:

    Nice work! Do I see a town name of Redwood on the station?

  44. DavidHutto says:

    Iā€™d like to know where the wagons and saddled horses came from. You can share my email

  45. Jeff J says:

    Love the old west theme. Nicely done.

  46. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Like the originality of the 19th Century American setting.

  47. Ross Herbert says:

    Kenn: I like your layout. I am currently in the design process for an N-scale western layout. I especially like that you incorporated the windmill pump directly onto the water tank. I am using a combination of windmill-water tank from Outland models in my design for re-watering locomotives. Your layout looks great! I just hope mine will look as good when I get to that point.

  48. Don says:

    the stagecoach & covered wagons what a different & unusual setup very nice

  49. Steve Ruple says:

    Great layout Ken, I like the three men resting on the roof of the building and the covered wagons. I don’t remember ever seeing covered wagons on any other western layout before, great job, well done !!!!!

  50. Edward Pagenkopp says:

    VERY NICE. Love all the detail. Just one comment on your narrative. The Indians were not pushed West. The settlers just pushed through. Every part of the country was populated by indigenous tribes.

  51. robert dale tiemann says:

    love all the horses and wagons. hope you have a scooper.

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