O scale trains – more stunning pics

There are lots of O scale trains posts on the blog – but Tom’s really does stand out:

“Alastair about 99% of the layout was scratch built mainly because I just got tired of going thru magazines and visiting layouts and see this and that built by the big manufactures just wanted to have something my own.

Many of the structures were built from old photos from the 20’s some were just built to fill in spaces, all are wood most of the front buildings and some of the rears have complete interiors and lighted of course.

I found that O and On3 are just to big to have nothing but blacked out windows or windows that had no interiors, some of the back walls in the buildings are photo shrunk to 1/4″ scale then details from there to the front, I really like doing forced perspective it really tricks the eye.

All the track and turnouts were had laid with spikes. This helps with O scale trains. The ties are roughed up and stained with various browns and lots of gray.

Trees on the layout are something I just stumbled across, my only neighbor about 1/2 mile away (we both line in log cabins on a dirt road in the woods) owns a tree service, I was helping him one day and saw the roots of this tree an ash tree. Then WOW here folks go around cutting branch’s off trees then gluing on bits a pieces….. so here right in front of me is a perfect tree for my O scale trains.

Tree Roots Gods gift to the model RR’er. Next step spray some adhesive hole it upside down sprinkle on your favorite color green (I like to use more then one shade of green) keep in mind the if you look a tree in the daylight the sun give the green different colors.

Small roots make great bushes. Then just square off the bottom (should have been done before you start) drill a small hole in the bottom to accept a stiff wire or nail and place in on the layout.

As far as ground over goes I use floor sweepings! Sounds a little crazy but as most modelers are a little sloppy and when you on occasion clean off you bench onto the floor just sweep it up and save it. the mixture of colors makes great ground cover just remember to remove and pink or blue foam that you might have used.

For the base nothing looks better the real dirt really fine dirt….so where would you get some super fine dirt….find a construction site where the heavy equipment has been driving over for a few days grab a 5 gallon bucket and shovel it in. IT MIGHT BE GOOD TO ASK FIRST most of those construction guys age pretty big. LOL

Lay down some white glue on you base take a strainer shake it over the glue fairly thick (don’t make it flat) the ground just is not that way unless you building a golf course.

Then mix some white glue and water and a little dish washing soap set it aside. Before you pour this on the dirt you will want to spray some denatured alcohol on the dirt soak it right in the pour on the glue mixture. The denatured alcohol and it must be denatured will help the glue soak in.

Your can then put on your floor sweeping while the mixture is still wet.

Painting structures is one of my favorite things to do. Keep in mind again that nothing is one solid color, after all you have done a lot of work to make it look real so dull down the color you don’t want your work to look like a store purchased plastic toy. If you are using plastic a spray coat of dull coat will help it also will give the plastic a rough surface that can be painted over.

Well that’s about it for now I’ll write more when the mood hits. Right now I’m in the middle of changing scale from On3 to indoor G scale…Wow talk about having to get a lot of detail in….lots of fun for me on the way, with or without my O scale trains.

CEO and mostly Janitor …. Narragansett RR On3”

(Images are clickable so you can zoom in on the detail)

O scale hotel

O scale yard

O scale backdrop

O scale run down building

O scale boat pier

O scale trains Irish pub

O scale trains store

O scale house

O scale garage

O scale trains garage

O scale factory

O scale  factory

O scale trains run down house

O scale trains fishing pier

Now on to Brian.

He has sent in this superb video of his engine house. Amazing detail:

“Hi Al

Another short video of a chap welding inside Woodland Scenics Tucker Brothers machine shop which is also on my layout.



Latest ‘ebay cheat sheet’ is here.

Wow! A huge thanks to Tom for his wonderful pics and narrative on his O scale trains. I’m green with envy. Have a look at the comments below.

Tom’s post reminded me of Rob’s O scale trains too.

Big thanks to Brian too.



81 Responses to O scale trains – more stunning pics

  1. John Luff says:

    Fantastic layout like tree root idea

  2. Simon Zeoli says:

    Fine work, great detail. Love photos.

  3. MIKE,Seattle WA says:

    TOM That is one GREAT layout.All the details are very very good.Reminds me of some of the things I saw as a kid.JUST GREAT
    BRIAN The welding instructions are GREAT as well

  4. Gary Baker says:

    Very realistic, great job!

  5. Dick Chapple Sr says:

    Great material and pictures Tom. I sure hope you will show us what you’re doing as you do G scale. My layout is an indoor g scale as well. Your pictures and material from today is very useful and excellent. I also like being able to zoom in on your pictures for detail.

    I like Brians welding shop also, I have a spot for a welding scene.

  6. Raymond Bove says:

    Great job there, extremely realistic. Love the weathered and aged appearance. Far too many layouts look far too clean, having that “out of the box” look.

  7. Jim in NC says:

    VERY nice! Love the “hot beer, lousy food, bad service” sign on the pub!

  8. Ken Pauly says:

    I used regular dirt for groundcover also. Just grabbed a pailfull from the flower bed(I did refill the hole with black dirt from Home Depot or else I would probably not be writing this) Then borrowed a flour sifter from my bride and great results. Tried mixing woodland scenic products etc. But could not get the color right.

  9. Duane Hampton says:

    W-0-W!!! Artistic is all I can say about this person’s layout. Thank You for sharing, your layout has highly enthused me to continue working on mine…

    Duane Hampton

  10. Well done Tom , like all that detail ..

  11. Roland Burch says:

    Tom, what a GREAT job of building. So much detail to your buildings.

    Brain, also on the detail.

    Both of you, I think I am looking at actual travel photos.

  12. john roat says:

    great photos great buildings keep up the good job

  13. Peter Jones says:

    Nice pictures Tom, you have done a great job with the buildings and the ground cover you have used complement the whole layout fantastic.

    Pete the Mackem

  14. Ken Goldenberg says:

    Stunning! Disney quality detail! You have quite a talent!
    Ken Goldenberg
    Orange County, CA

  15. Tom says:

    My favorite picture: In the picture is this girl holding up the telephone Pole?
    Is that her day time job?
    Well done!!

  16. paul Otway says:

    Nice layout

  17. Doug says:

    Fantastic detail. Great looking layout.

  18. Ian says:

    unbelievable detail puts me to shame build a house put a light in it thats me. keep the photos coming i store them and look back for ideas and have a go. thanks.

  19. WoW Brian, What an amazing job, if you hadn’t said they were scratch built prior to seeing them, I’d be asking you where I can buy these models, as they are just outstandingly amazing. So thanks for show what one can achieve with a bit of perseverance!!!

  20. Chris says:

    great looking layout, love the photos and the tree root idea

  21. Joe says:

    Great job!! Where did you get the name Collard for the Used Car place?

  22. Great video,hope there will me more.


  23. paul wilson says:

    Cracking layout great ideas. Well done even the photos look sort of 3D next time I need buildings you will be getting an email and invite
    Well done you have a fantastic talent
    All the best
    Paul Wilson

  24. Terry jacks says:

    Love all these structures. All are unique and weathered beautifully. Great job.

  25. litacats says:

    great ideas, love the roots for trees and the welding is spot on.

  26. george greasley says:

    The best I have seen by a mile Mr. Tom. The detail is unbelievable. And Brian, your work shop is great too.

  27. David says:

    I often admire others work here but these are the most amazing layout photos I’ve seen yet !

    I’m an architect by profession so get to see the offerings of some incredible, professional, architectural model makers but here, your contributor has proven his skills and vision are “way up there” alongside them. I am in awe. Passion and enthusiasm shine through in every conceivable detail……… and I know I’m hard to impress. Well done ….. more please because this really is the standard to beat.

  28. ken morgan says:

    I think this layout is the best I have seen, it is so authentic I think it is the best I have seen

  29. George says:

    For scratch built models they are awesome, as good to look at as the expensive ones, but with that personalised uniqueness. Great work and please keep posting these inspirational pictures.

  30. Wayne Pursh says:

    I am speechless at Tom’s pics. Been working on an HO layout since January and this site continues to amaze me. One beautiful layout after another. I agree, that the “dirty” look is much more realistic and I will be going for that myself. Tom, your attention to detail deserves the respect of all of us and truly inspiring. Guess I’m not so speechless after all.

    Pittsburgh PA

  31. Ray says:

    Best scenery i have ever seen. Fantastic

  32. Robert Shuman says:

    Amazing detail. Great themes. Wonderful workmanship.

  33. Bruce says:

    Tom, the architect said “this really is the standard to beat.” However I will say that your work is way above an existing standard. If only we all shared the time and patience you exhibit in your work.
    Please send pics of whole layout, even if you have much of it incomplete. Hope I can do only 1/10th as well on my new build.
    Thank you, Bruce in SC USA

  34. Fred N-B says:

    Absolutely stunning modelling….hats of to you sir

  35. Leo says:

    Tom absolutely awesome.

  36. Adolph Svec says:

    My two favorite aspects of these pictures is the continual change in the roadways, both in texture and color and the lack of brilliant reflections from cars etc. I don’t know if there is a way to “scale” reflected light. With the new LED lighting now available, it seems that very often it is far brighter than it would be in real life. Again it poses the question of is there a scaling of reflected and ambient light?

  37. Bob Sandrus says:

    Extremely well done. Something to be really proud of.

  38. Bill Koepsel says:


  39. All I can say about Tom’s layout is WOW!

  40. Hemi says:

    GORGEOUS Scratchbulind work man! WOW…….

  41. Jim Coulon says:


  42. Dennis Koppo says:

    Stunning! What about the human figures? Where do you get them? You seem to “weather” them as well. Do you make those too?

  43. Brian says:

    Brilliant scratch built buildings Tom.

  44. george zaky says:

    Narragansett RR On3
    Unbelievable artistry, talent, and craftsmanship. The finite detail is amazing. Please send us pics and videos of the whole layout.
    George from NY

  45. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Fantastic Tom! Excellent scratch building tips! I am not surprised that there are 4 times as many comments today than usual- very motivating!

  46. Rube Simon says:

    So real! I like the broken porch roof support touch. Again, so real! 😀

  47. Old Ben says:

    They look so REAL.. Outstanding !!!!!!!!

  48. Robert Brady says:

    Tom ,Fantastic scenery,so professional.

  49. Robert Brady says:

    I see no rains! where are the trains
    The Critic

  50. David Schaffner says:

    Stunning photos, love the fallen down house and the way you have had a plan to make for good photography on bringing a life to your layout…Love the house & workers with the cages….Almost looks like ghosts in a haunting sort of way…Love your buildings and the articulate way you film…..Awesome layout….Would like to see more, but a little bit more of the trains…
    Very imaginative layout…..Love it!

  51. Michael Newton-Brown says:

    I’m working on a scratch-built N scale layout, Florida in the 1920s and I’m designing my own structures. I couldn’t find any that were appropriate to the place and period. Yours are so unique and beautifully detailed. One just does not see this individuality on most layouts. I fully understand why you chose to do this. You might just want to start a line of kits, just sayin’.

  52. Will in NM says:

    Tom, You are a truly awesome modeler! I can’t imagine how much time and patience it takes to create such a layout. Hand laid ties and track, scratch-built structures that remind me of George Selios’ Franklin and South Manchester HO layout. You have set a new standard for other modelers to aspire to.

    Brian, Very nice video of your engine house interior. What exquisite detail. I wish it was a little longer and showed more of the exterior for context. Thanks for sharing your work.

  53. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    You obviously enjoy your work. The detail, and weathering are unbelievably realistic. Glad you said ahead they are models. Like to see some pictures of your “root” system.

  54. Dan Williams says:

    WOW!! Fantastic work and great detail.

  55. Gerald Edgar says:

    That :”Fahie Arms” hotel is one of the best structures I’ve seen on ANY Layout ever!

  56. Marklin ed. says:

    Greatest of the layouts, one of the best every. Didn’t see many trains but maybe next time. I’ve seen some layout with to much track and some with to little track.

  57. Frank says:

    Well Tom, everything looks dirty, LOL. I think your buildings are superbly done.

    Brian, nice welding shop and the lighting effect is very cool.

  58. Beautiful! The details are unparalleled!

  59. Ben says:

    This is amazing. What a talented and creative man. I am in awe. There is no middle track. But this is “O” scale. How is that possible and still maintain the “O” designation?

  60. James Malins says:

    Truly impressive, obviously a great deal of thought and skill to produce such a layout. Well done.

  61. Tom Duffy says:

    Without a doubt the best O scale layout that I have seen in quite some time…!

  62. Mike Balog says:

    Very impressed Tom with your Layout, Your Modeling and Photography Skills are Superb.. It looked like You went back in Time to Capture ALL the Details in Each Building..and in each photo, you can see several mini scenes within a scene. This is Museum Quality that is rarely seen outside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. ~ The Comical whimsical names of the businesses kept me laughing. What did you use for the road surface material? The Harbor was very well done…though the Fishing Boat, the workers are covered in a lot of Dust, that must have blown in from the Sea… liked that Tree Cutting Scene, was one of the workers hurt, lying on the ground? Each part of the layout fit into the next one like a complimentary jig saw puzzle piece. Could you supply us with a Track Plan of your layout with a Video Tour with the Trains running.. That would be the icing on the Cake. Keep Up the Excellent Work.. Hall of Fame Material Right Here Al… From Mike in N.H. U.S.A.

  63. The attention to detail is amazing!! I’m envious of your talent!!

  64. Gordon Valentine Jr says:

    Tom I am not a O gage person, but I also don’t like cookie buildings. I can find only one word to say about your pics. WOW!!!!!!!!

  65. David Wiechecki says:

    Tom…Just amazing craftmanship on the buildings and layout.
    Is that patrol officer frisking that pretty lady on a traffic stop?
    Was it like that in the era? Probably couldn’t get away with that now.
    Ha ha, just busting ya, simply beautiful work.

  66. Erick says:

    That pretty kool.!!! I hope mine comes out that good.

  67. Ruben Simon says:

    Tom, what an exquisite labor of love!
    Brian, I’m sure that guy on the left’s head is moving! Those flashing lights as the camera moved – unbelievable effect! Makes it all the more real.

  68. Dana says:

    In the latest issue of Model Railroader magazine there is an article on how people can really make a scene come alive. These photos above uses that theme perfectly. Great job…Great photos! Great layout! Love the old buildings!

  69. robert tiemann says:

    i love to see that there are still people out there that are doing and “playing” with trains. hopefully it will keep going. these are very nice buildings and i loved the video of the welder. i havent seen that kind of dedication in a long time. i hope i can get mine back into shape soon.

  70. wayne w watts sr. says:

    very very good. i think your detail is exalent.

  71. Frederick says:

    Truly SPECTACULAR models and layout!!!

  72. The buildings are amazing! It’s like looking at photos of actual, real structures! Truly great work, Tom!

  73. ScenicsRme says:

    Tom: As others have said, very impressive buildings, painting, weathering and detail work. I love the fact that you gave your vehicles and PEOPLE a coat of dull coat as well. From a distance even brand new cars on a dealers lot don’t appear shiny and bright due to atmospheric fading, and people are NEVER shiny!
    I must give a constructive criticism to the weakest part that gives it away as a model, though, your backdrops. They are first too uniform in color top to bottom which makes them look flat. Sky does not have to have clouds in it to look realistic, in fact a cloudless sky is preferable to poorly painted clouds, but should graduate and blend from a darker shade of blue at the very top, down to a light grey/blue about 2/3 of the way down to a very light slightly tanish grey off-white at the bottom. This is called atmospheric perspective, as the air gets further and further away, the dust etc in the air lightens and softens all objects, colors and the sky itself, As you blend in the lowest color, use a slightly curving rolling stroke rather than a straight line blend to give the illusion that there may be clouds, weather, or land in the very far distance, but keep it subtle.
    Tom the other thing you need to add is some transition from the foreground into the backdrop at the juncture, It could be very small scenery (forced perspective) painted along the bottom that continues the scene, flattened 1/2 trees and bushes, or best, a combination of painted and 3/D. I only offer this because the rest of your work is so good this would be the decorations on the icing on your cake!

  74. Dave Karper says:

    Ben, O scale is 1/4″ =1′. Three rail is properly known as Tinplate, or Hi-Rail, although some railroads tinplate railroads have all structures built to O scale. O scale is an NMRA designation with full scale practices and standards.

  75. I love the humor of the businesses signs and the detail in all the settings and scenery. I wish I could do that kind of work. It is pure artistry to me. I do have one question. Did you put that electric lawnmower in picture No. 8 on purpose? Based on the model of the cars I would assume this timeframe is late 40’s, maybe 51. We had a push lawn more with a real type cutter back then. I did not see any of the rotary mowers like yours until about the 60’s.

  76. James says:

    Exceptional detail, Tom!

  77. Ray Suckling says:

    Excellent Tom……….

  78. William Mitchell says:

    I just LOVE that run-down rooming house, Tom. It’s stunning!!

  79. william james palmer says:


  80. Red says:

    What a phenomenal layout, amazing detail on the buildings!

  81. Larry Schweitzer says:

    Great detail, looks like West Virginia.

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