More from Lawrence on HO layout

Lawrence has kindly sent in a video of his layout – if you missed his post last time, it’s here.

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

“Hello Alistair,

This e-mail is as much a thank you to you and to the folks who contribute to your blog as it is an opportunity to share some information about my layout.

I started this layout when I retired and unlike many of the folks who contribute here, I did not have a layout as a young man. Growing up in a NYC apartment, well , there was just so much room.

A friend of mine retired a few years back and starting sending me e-mails of a layout he had started. I was intrigued. But, I found the idea of doing a layout on my own and being an electrician, a carpenter, a modeler, an artist etc. to be overwhelming. But with my friend’s encouragement and with all the wonderful information I was able to gather from the contributors on your blog, I forged ahead.

It did not take long for me to realize that it was really the scenery I enjoyed that is, creating the scene, building the buildings, laying out the street grid etc. Hence, my “railroad” itself is a humble trolley oval.

I learned that many modelers attempt to recreate their childhood home. Being no different, I created a New York City neighborhood circa 1950’s I thank the good people of Pittsburgh for allowing me to use their downtown as my backdrop. But then again, imagination is what model railroading is all about. I have attached photos. I hope you will enjoy them.


I loved Jame’s narrative – it just goes to show the important thing is having fun. Yo don’t have to run trains to enjoy yourself.

A huge thanks to Lawrence and James.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get going on your own layout.

That’s all for today, folks.



88 Responses to More from Lawrence on HO layout

  1. Tom says:

    Jim……….The beauty of what you have created is: Most of us have only memories of our youth. You have carefully recreated your youth in 3D.. You can sit there and enjoy recalling events of the past. Each visit can bring another memory. I especially like the entrance to the subway. THAT is awesome.

  2. Gary O'Connor says:

    Jim, what was your profession before you retired? It must have been a creative enterprise.
    That is outstanding modelling you have photographed there. You say that this is your first try? I am amazed at your skill.
    The street scenes are truly stunning, I am so impressed.
    Tell me, the ‘just rained’ look you have there on some of those streets, how did you achieve that. I don’t ever think I have seen that affect so lifelike before.
    Thank you very much for sharing your images.

  3. Frank Cortese says:

    This is by far the best and most realistic layout I have ever seen! It brings many memories for me as this is the epic when I grew up in Brooklyn New York My layout is during the same time but does not come close to yours. An outstanding masterpiece with true details! Thank you for sharing.
    Frank, near Mickey Mouse, Orlando

  4. Bruce says:

    James, you have certainly created a terrific layout. The so many people, very detailed buildings well placed, so many vehicles, and streets that appear gauged to real widths. Yours is one of the best and so good for a “beginner”. My only question Is how do the drivers return? All streets are one-way. I suppose at end of work day they will be going opposite direction.
    Beautiful layout
    Bruce SC in USA

  5. Congratulations – The best thing (at least one of) about this hobby is that there are so many areas one can focus on and enjoy.

    Alas, even after 2.5 years my scenery is non-existent (though there are some kit buildings sitting quasi-randomly around the layout. On the other-hand I have over 3 miles of fully automated (and soon fully signaled) track being controlled by multiple computers.

  6. Joe Cavilla says:

    Jim, that is amazing work for a first try. You brout back many memories. Being from NYC myself. We used to play stick ball in the streets. The clothes line on the roof, nice touch and the subway entrance along with what has been mentioned that’s how I recall it. Thanks for posting.

  7. NJ Mark says:

    AWESOME, Jim!! What great little scenes making up the whole. I especially liked the guy poking around in the trunk of the car, the rooftop clothesline and the iron fencing throughout, just to name a few. Thanks for the inspiration and truly great attention to detail. Cheers! NJ Mark PS that ad for Wildroot Cream Oil brought me way back to my childhood

  8. Keith says:

    Jim. For a first time effort I think you’ve entered the record books. Your layout is amazing , well done you’ve even managed to blend the back drop in nicely with the whole project. Well done. Keith

  9. Dave Whatley says:

    Really great layout, thanks for all your hard loving work. Dave in Ga. USA

  10. Brad says:

    Truly fabulous work.The attention to detail-STUNNING!! One can look at this a long time with NO train running.Looking forward to starting my layout early next spring(after moving) and can only hope I can partially achieve what you have created.AMAZING!!

  11. Warren Ferguson says:

    Jim, that’s a wonderful neighborhood you’ve created! I thought the subway entrance was amazing. Thank you for sharing your pics with everyone. Warren

  12. David says:

    I enjoyed all of that, very well done

  13. John Meehan says:

    Beautiful cityscape! Well done!

  14. Roy Forbes says:

    Very impressive, I echo the others comments.

  15. John says:

    Brilliant! Fantastic city scenes.

  16. david howarth says:

    Very outstanding modelling ..well done Jim ….Dangerous Dave

  17. Kevin McArdle says:

    One word. WoW!

  18. Steve Hudacko says:

    Jim. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your pictures. There are a lot of modelers out there and they do a great job but very few have your eye for details. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference. A man putting something in his trunk, a street with a curb, a street that is not perfect. People all over the place doing what you expect people to be doing. It sounds simple but it takes a person who is very aware of his surroundings. I know when I am out driving I look at how a tree is.growing or how that hill looks. Just the thought of all the little things you found like fire hydrants, signs, people in different positions. That is what makes a great layout. Keep the pictures coming and enjoy
    Steve from Tome River NJ

  19. Appookta says:


  20. Rob McCrain says:

    Fabulous cityscapes.

  21. Peter Gladman says:

    Absolutely brilliant. An amazing city scape, I hope Lawrence elected himself Mayor after so much effort, the detail is second to none.

  22. Peter Gladman says:

    I’d like to apologise to James for my mix up after viewing both Lawrence’s video and Jame’s city photographs and elect James for mayor, and also say sorry to Lawrence for such a short term in office.

  23. gregzed says:

    A stunning masterpiece! Something that all “detail” modelers can aspire to. Great pics really do it justice..

  24. Jack Bury says:

    Great job, Jim. Very realistic. How many people are on the layout?

    Jack in PA

  25. Robert Shuman says:

    Beautiful work! Great detail. Very inspirational. I hope to get there someday soon. thanks for sharing!!

  26. Tony Tesoriere says:

    Having grown up in New Jersey just outside of NYC what really got my attention was the A&P food market. I worked for them when a junior in high school. I especially like to find A&P reefers for my O guage layout, but very few were made. Your layout is about as close to real as there ever will be. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  27. Mike Richardson says:

    Jim, this is a fantastic layout. I love all the scenes. You have a great talent whether you know it or not. I really enjoyed looking at your city and the details are amazing.

  28. Mike Richardson says:

    Lawrence, you have a great layout. Lots of detail I enjoyed watching the steam engine running the route. Keep up the great work. I did get some ideas from your layout to use on mine.

  29. Jim says:

    Thanks for bringing back so many memories. I too grew up in the NY Metro area and played sewer to sewer stick ball, lived in a three story walk up and drank nickel vanilla soda with water at Joey Gee’s candy store. Loved the street scenes and all those period vehicles. Truly great modeling.

    Jim AZ

  30. Ken From PA, USA says:

    James, what a great layout! Detail is amazing. You have a great eye for how something should be laid out. And you say this is your first attempt.
    Lawrence, I enjoyed your video. Your layout is fantastic. I am partial to rural layouts as I grew up in farm country. I can only hope my layout can come close to all the great ones I have seen on this sight.
    Keep up the good work every body. happy modeling.
    Thanks Al for keeping this blog going. I enjoy seeing everyone’s contributions.
    Ken in PA

  31. Jim,

    Like so many others, I have to same that you captured the small Brooklyn neighborhood perfectly. It is exactly as I remember it from the early-mid 1950s. As a mom and grandmom, I have wanted a train set since childhood, mostly because of the scenery. Your creation captures the reason it would be such a pleasure. Thanks so much for sharing your meticulous effort with us.

  32. Carl Halgren says:

    Jim, great layout. I lived in New Jersey and sometimes worked in NYC. I had an Edsel just like that one. From the subway entrance to the Good Humor truck, you have brought back many memories. I had almost totally forgotten about the A & Poo Feed Stores — I mean the A and P Food Stores! Those pictures remind me also of why I retired to Kansas — too d*** many people!!

    And, Bruce in SC, NYC is full of one-way streets. Just go one block over, and the one-way street will take you back the other way.

    Some photos of your layout taken from eye level should be simply amazing. Challenge people to guess – is it real or is it a model?

    Jim, I saw no street car and no elevated subway. Yeah, I saw the empty tracks but no train.

    I too like creating buildings. I am trying to recreate the period prior to the First World War.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Keep on modeling,
    Carl in Kansas

  33. Ron Schultz says:

    all back in the 50’s . Yes no “cover” over the gas pumps I gased the cars checked the oil and the customer sat in the car. rain and shine it was the customer was always first . ah those were the days .

  34. david pugh says:

    Great job your city streets are very realistic. I would rather work on scenery then run the trains . The main thing is to have fun. Dave

  35. Leo Hoonakker says:

    Jim you truly created a beautiful layout, so lifelike. You should be very proud I certainly am learning a lot from fellow train modelers like yourself. Thanks for sharing. Leo ketchum, OK

  36. Rod Mackay says:

    Fabulous work, but where are the trolleys?

  37. Mal says:

    Excellently evocative. I was enthralled by the pictures, looking at all the cameos contained within them. Beautiful modelling done with a truly artistic eye. I really like the way you have depicted the road surfaces, often these are a real weak point but yours are done so well. It took a while before I realised the lack of railway and train photos. However, it clearly shows that what we should be striving for is the realism you have created. Far better to have less track and a realistic view than a board covered with track and a toy town look and feel. You get top marks from me for your result and effort. First time eh? Heaven help us as to how good your second attempt will work out, perhaps we should all give up now!

  38. Wayne Deal says:


    Your layout is truely amazing. You reminded us all that it is not the trains alone that makes this hobby so enjoyable, but it is rather the joyful process of using one’s imagination and one’s skill to create concrete interpretations of what is in our “mind’s eye”.

    Thank you!

  39. Bernard Schainholtz -Still Plays says:

    Super, I never saw a subway entrance on layout.A studebaker and Good Humor truck and a push cart.Just wow.
    Bernie,still plays.

  40. John F Hughes says:

    Lawrence, your set looks awesome. I’ve been working on my and hope to have it running soon. I do like the country side and the bridge. What I also like is how you have your Gunsmith, Liqueur store, and your Bank side-by-side each other. Don’t get any Ideas now. LOL. Keep at it. 🙂

  41. Jim Sulkosky says:

    Very nice layout, great work on the building’s.

  42. Mario S. says:

    First thanks for bringing me back to my childhood in Brooklyn NY. You didn’t miss a beat, it actually made me feel emotions, and that is not easy to do, but your attention to detail and being able to tell a story is amazing. I recently retired and I’m thinking about getting into railroading with an accent on scenery. Are you in any model railroad club? I’m not sure where your located now but I would greatly appreciate some advise on creating both an elevated subway train and an underground functioning subway train. Maybe you and your buddy can help me get started. Pls drop me a private email, Thx again so much for sharing your talent and gift.

  43. Marklin ed says:

    Great Jim, myself a NYC boy. Looks like my old neighbhood.

  44. Paul Goddard says:

    Living in England this is just how I imagine “down town” New York. Well done.
    Paul (Reading)

  45. GREG Camden, Delaware says:

    Jim – What a nice layout. It brought me right back to my childhood in NJ. The A&P sign really hit home. Nice job.

  46. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    Jim – ME TOO – Steve

  47. Herman Crauwels says:

    Hello Jim,
    Fantastic scenery verry realistic keep on building and sta safe.
    HC Treintje Belgium Herman.

  48. Having recently taken up modelling for the first time ever in my retirement, I can appreciate the many hours of work that have gone into this, every photograph revealed something interesting, and many questions regarding “How was that done?” and “Could I do something like that?”, I particularly like the beer mat recycled as an advertising board high up on a building, a small thing but very, very, effective.

  49. Gregory Gray says:

    Perfect job excellent detail
    It brings back memories when I grew up in Toronto the gas station just like in your layout reminds me of the one I worked at in the earlier 60,s with the champions spark plug ad and the gulf oil And the 55 Chevy
    I still have a case of the oil in my garage 10w30
    Thanks for sharing

  50. Mark G. says:

    Thanks for sharing Jim. Your layout looks great! What scale is it? All the little details you added are really nice.

  51. Bill in Virginia says:

    Others have said it and I’ll say it too, your layout looks great. You have an eye for detailing and you created wonderful scenes. Great work and keep having fun!!!

  52. Joe Kincaid says:

    Jim, in the vernacular of our millennial population, ,who have the skills of couch potato slugs, “awesome.” I am hoping to do the same thing with my home of 71 years, and show the same love, attention to detail, putting the viewer in the scene, while modeling the wild wooly west. You sir, have helped me visit NYC in the 1950’s. I walked the streets with you as you shared your memories with me. Your “ not so humble” trolly layout deserves a place in the Smithsonian!
    Thank you so much for allowing me to visit.

  53. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Jim- excellent work! I love all the people and vehicles! Thanks for taking us back to the 1950s!
    Lawrence- excellent, also. From the finished section of farm, you can tell this will be a great scenic layout! I like how you have the farm area wide open, not all bunched together.
    To both of you, I echo comments that show up a lot- What scale? What size? Can we have a track plan?
    Thanks to you both for sharing your great work with us.

  54. JACK MASARIE says:

    Great job, Jim. I especially enjoyed all the 50’s autos.

  55. Roger Shaw says:

    “Magnificent”…..thank you for sharing!

  56. Gordon Valentine says:

    your layout is GREAT. I really like the fact of so many people and cars and ect. Not over crowded by still real looking.

  57. Jack Bury says:

    Jim, Great street scenes. Love the layout.

  58. Brad K says:

    Totally agree with those that have said “Don’t even need to see a train”.Excellent layout and scenery. Depicts very well NYC on the rise,the hustle and bustle. A vid WITH a running train would make this more enjoyable yet.I am 63 and want to start mine soon.I hope it’s 1/10th as awesome as yours.Well done

  59. Richard Gregory says:

    Fantastic work, Jim.

  60. Mike Balog says:

    Jim.. For a First Time Layout, the details are fantastic., every building and the surroundings create a scene unto itself. Added together it creates a highly realistic historical flashback in time to the 1950’s we grew up in. It all fits together seamlessly. It just flows.. have to review the excellent close up photography you have done highlighting each scene. Have to find your RR Station,, was it like the El Line type station? What you have created is Museum Quality in a small space. Congrats on your achievement and inspiration to the rest of us in these trying times. What type of camera and lightening did you use? Where did you get some of those excellent city building kits? Did you rely on your memory or photographs of your old childhood area? God gave you a great gift and talent. Keep up the Good Work. Mike in N..H. USA.

  61. Big Al says:

    Jim, your eye for detail is second to none. From window shades at different heights in the buildings to the theatre marquis and the workmen putting up the billboard. This may be your first attempt at this but I have seen nothing any better as to detail and craftmanship. I envy you. Well done!!!

  62. Thomas Klosterman says:


  63. Oldtaz says:

    I love it. Can’t say enough about what you have created. Well Done!!

  64. Mike matejka says:

    A great job capturing the feel of a mid-century urban area — well balanced!

  65. Ripper from King City, OR says:

    WOW! Holy Cow! These 2 layouts are great!

  66. Mark T. Pianka says:

    outstanding what more can u say!

  67. Charles form California says:

    Great layouts!. So different and yet both can be very fun. Good job both of you. Wishing for my project to look half as good. One day I’ll be far enough along to share pictures, I hope.

  68. Ruben Simon says:

    Wow, Jim, WOW! Incredible! I can almost smell the “city”.

  69. Jim,
    I am jealous of your very sharp eye for detail. Your street scenes and landscaping are terrific. Among the best that I’ve seen here or elsewhere.
    I wish I had your eye.

  70. Gary from Long Island says:

    Lawrence.…… great layout…….you did a great job with the buildings and farm detail. Nice work.

  71. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Jim…. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950’s……what a great job of capturing the city life in that era……..lot of detail…….great job.

  72. Alabama Mike says:

    Lawrence, I really enjoyed your video. I like your layout and the scenery. I hope my layout ends up as nice when I am finished.

  73. Alabama Mike says:

    Jim, fantastic layout. Your scenery is out of sight. It is beautiful and I see a lot of hard work went into it. Keep up the great work.

  74. Will in NM says:

    Jim, WOW! What a fabulous first layout you’ve created. It doesn’t matter that trains are not the primary focus of the layout. Your scenes of NYC life in the 50’s evoke both visual and emotional interest. You are a true creative artist. Your buildings and rooftop details are really impressive too.

    Several questions come to mind: What size is the layout? Are all the structures from kits are did you scratchbuild them? I’m guessing you’re modeling in HO 1/87th scale, right? If you have the capability, I’d love to see a video tour of your fictional city and maybe see the trolleys running too. Thank you for sharing your excellent photos.

  75. Stan says:

    I love the subway entrance. Very clever!

  76. Dominic Joseph Radanovich says:

    Good old New York!!! Wow!!! I especially love the nun watching over the school kids.

  77. Bob Phillips says:

    Bob from Long Island (Pronounced Longgiland)
    I grew up in the 50’s, played stick ball in the streets, stoop ball on the front steps, pushed a Good Humor cart for two summers and had a 55 Ford for my first car. Married a gal from the Bronx who lived in the building the green Chevy with the open trunk is parked in front of—-I can go on and on with the fond memories you have stirred in me with your terrific work of art. I’m in awe of the many period items like the cars,hydrants,fire alarms, trucks and busses that you have been
    able to amass. Thank you, thank you, thank you !!!

  78. Ron says:

    Absolutelt fantastic ! Great job !

  79. Andrew Aves says:

    Outstanding model and a big THANK YOU to your friend for getting you started.

  80. Benny Rosario says:

    If there ever was a time to take a ride on a time machine, this was it watching and at the same time showing my wife made me a kid for a day, and now I can save this and be a kid anytime I want, thank you for your ability to put your childhood and ours in a way that everyone else can really appreciate and enjoy, thank you again a thousand times and may God bless.

  81. Tom snyder says:

    In a word…OUTSTANDING. Period.

  82. Jerry Barto says:

    This is astonishing!!! It took me back to a place in time. I actually found myself drifting back. The realism is awesome. Great Job!!

  83. Incredible detail, I think that I even smelled the urine common in NYC! Seriously, very detailed and creative layout. Personally, I like more trains and factories, but you have definitely captured the essence of NYC or any major city. I especially like the detail of the streets and the inconsistent coloring common in an older city. Super job! Would love to see you in an expansive area and left to your designs!
    Incredible collection of period cars and trucks too.Nice job, well done.

  84. Ray PA USA says:

    Jim: Love your scenes. With all the activities of people and vehicles, they are spectacular! I enjoy creating scenes more than running trains like you. Seeing the A&P store there reminded me of my mother who went to the store with her shopping bag during WWII. We had a small refrigerator that didn’t hold much so she went there every day except Sundays and Holidays. Looks like the prices in the windows might be accurate for that time period. Anyway, fantastic. Keep up the good work. Best regards: Ray

  85. ANDY SCHYHOL says:

    Jim, Queens mid 50’s, Wow your streets are wide enough for traffic and parking. I remember being on the apartment roof in Jackson Heights with the laundry. You could sit up there and watch the planes overhead heading for La Guardia Airport. They all had propellers back then. I could ride the subway into the city, Two blocks away and I could watch the NHRR freight trains, and more. Thanks for the memories. ANDY FL

  86. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Hi James Do all American towns have square corners to their pavements. It just looks so wrong. You setup and the town as a whole is very good but the square street corners really stand out as being wrong.
    It would not take much I’m sure to correct this

  87. ronald marchesi says:

    Just LOVE your layout

  88. Jeffrey Mandel says:

    This is a truly remarkable layout. The detail is beautiful and nostalgic for many of us. As a kid, I had an 027 gauge layout on a plywood sheet. It was in the garage so I had it on pulleys to raise to the ceiling when Dad wanted to pull the car in. Trouble was, as a kid I really only wanted to drive the trains so my landscaping was minimal. Now retired, I’m still in the mental planning stage so that I can do a layout once I get caught up on all of my home renovations. Maybe 6 months. I’ll be sure to document the job when I do it. The stories and pictures in you emails are really inspiring me to get going as soon as possible. Keep them coming. Jim and Lawrence – just WOW. Subway entrance, movie marquee, pocket parks….. just WOW!

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