Santa Fe model railroad layouts

There are quite a few Santa Fe model railroad layouts about.

But Jim’s really caught my attention – it’s quite a project.

Here’s his last post on his 11×22 HO scale.

His pics below really do give you an idea of how big his layout is.

“I really enjoy watching trains run.

It all started many years ago when on Christmas morning I woke up to find a Marx train running on a loop of track under our Christmas tree.

Like many other guys guys on this forum I was hooked on trains at an early age.

I am now in my 70’s and still get a great deal of pleasure just watching ‘em run.

I choose PMD of Romeoville, Illinois to build my layout. I consider myself very lucky to have this crew just 25 miles from my house.

I had been in contact with PMD for 7 month before the actual build started.

They were in the final stages of a HO layout for a client on the west coast and I needed that project to wrap up before they could start mine. That was fine, as I got to view that layout with 95% of the scenery in place. Seeing this helped me make up my mind that PMD was right for me.

My build started on December and I expected delivery at the end of September / early October. I have taken several pictures of the process and will start posting them below.

For now, I will list some facts about the build and post a reasonable facsimile of the track plan.

Yes, my layout is a loop. Actually two loops. This allows me to sit back, relax and let them run in opposite directions if I choose or in the same direction depending on my mood.

Layout Facts:

1. The layout is HO.

2. Outside dimensions 22’ x 11’

3. ALL track is Peco code 83

4. ALL turnouts are Peco #8’s – none are manual.

5. Each main line is divided 10 blocks.

6. Each yard track is divided into 2 blocks.

7. My plan is to use TrainController to automate the entire layout, with the option of each main line manually when my train buddies are over.

8. Every mainline curve has easements into and out of the curve and is super elevated.

9. Every elevation change also uses an easement at the base and summit.

10. Signaling, while not prototypical will be installed along each main to provide “eye candy”.

11.A lift gate on the left side (with a gas piston installed) will allow easy access into the layout for operators.

santa fe model railroad layouts track plan

I will start by posting a picture from one of my early visits to PMD. This picture is from a layout that they were building for a client on the West Coast.

I will be having a good size passenger station as one of the main scenes on my layout. It will serve the complete 12-car EL Capitan set that Walther’s released about five years ago. I also have a complete Super Chief set which will stop on the other side of the platform.

Seeing the great detail in and around this fine passenger station made my decision to go with PMD a lot easier. For that reason, I call this one the money shot.

HO scale car park Santa Fe

The Passenger station from another angle.

Sant fe model railroad church

The platforms:

HO scale Santa Fe model railroad layouts platform

After an initial review and agreement of my track plan I made a small deposit to show PMD that I am truly interested in their services. They use their design software to calculate material cost and plot the layout incorporating the easements how best to construct and size each section for transporting and assembling the finished product.

Part of the next phase includes building a small-scale mock-up to aid in visualizing the layout in 3 dimensions. (I got to keep this when the layout was delivered)

HO scale bench for Santa Fe layout

In March I went to check the progress on my build and was amazed to find that they were using 13-ply Birch for the sub-roadbed, risers, and cross members, basically EVERYTHING

HO scale bench Sante Fe layout

In addition, I had requested that the front corners be rounded using 24″ radius corners. This would all but eliminate guys banging into the corners. Here is how they did that.

Santa fe model railroad layouts bench

The back of the layout will be fastened to a wall so they will be normal 90-degree corners.

HO scale bench

The gap in the foreground is where the lift gate will be installed. The left side of the picture is the back of the layout and it will be attached to my basement wall.

HO scale bench for Santa Fe layout

The long stretch on the right is the front of the layout. In the foreground is the gate gap.

HO scale bench Santa Fe model railroad

From this second-floor balcony, I was able to capture the whole layout.

HO scale bench

This is the Central Valley double-track Heavy Duty Truss Bridge. This was built from a kit and will be mildly weathered before final installation. The bridge will cross over the double track main line, just as the lower tracks are crossing over a river. This scene will be one of three major focal points. Many more details (besides the weathering) will be added before delivery

HO scale bridge Sant Fe railroad layouts

Next is the early stages of a small (Veteran’s Park) scene that will be near the center of a small town shopping and entertainment area.

Santa Fe layout adding scenery

The lumber yard / building supply business is the only industry with a service spur.

laying track Santa Fe layout

Different angle.

Laying track santa fe layout

Custom made signage at the entry point.

HO scale sign for lumber yard

Jeff is my son, he works for a major lumber supply company in the Chicago area. In later posts, you will see businesses and shops featuring other family names based on their occupation or talents.

That’s it for now. My next post will show you the technics PMD uses to simplify wiring.

For now, I will close with a short video of the test run.

A huge big thanks to Jim. I love a back story.

If you missd his last post, it’s here.

That’s it for today’s missive.

Please do keep ’em coming because I enjoy them as much as you do.

And if today is the day you press the button on your very own layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

20 Responses to Santa Fe model railroad layouts

  1. James says:

    Interesting, but you will be missing the fun and satisfaction of building your own layout!

  2. Greg Marples says:

    I am really enjoying seeing how the professionals build their framework and track base. Please post more if you have it. We can certainly learn from these guys!

  3. Rod Mackay says:

    You seem to be ruling out a lot of the things you could do in so much space, such as switching, engine changes, local freight traffic, etc. may is suggest, if there’s room, you build in a junction to a build-yourself branch line you could add later?

  4. Don R says:

    Looks great being professionally built, but how did they get it to your home and installed? Is the layout in sections?
    They don’t list any pricing on the website, so, if you don’t mind me asking, how much does something this size cost? I am not certain how much of a “hobby” this would be.
    However, you have a great track layout, and you should have a fun time running the trains.

  5. Ross Herbert says:

    Nice layout, but at the moment I have only two questions:
    1. Is the layout DCC, and
    2. It does not appear that there is any way to cross between the loops. Why?

  6. Ruben Simon says:

    James – you’re not in your 70’s yet, are you? ;-D I love working up firewood, but, at 78, I’m glad the Lord brought someone to me this past week, who did a job for me in 2005, who, though in his 50’s, is still able to work up firewood, who’s going to fill my woodsheds for a good price. I’m glad Jim found this help. God is good.

  7. Dan Robinson says:

    Well some who have the time and some skill, it’s great fun, if not it can be frustrating in all looking great, and watch them run, beautiful. Dan

  8. George Zaky says:

    Thanks so much for the details. So many dont even tell you the scale which so annoys me. Code 83 was so important to me, #8 turnouts also, because I believe my layout with # 4 TO’s is causing me grief with the 3 truck engines.
    I am amazed how pro’s create great transitions of road, sidewalk, & streets so realistically and I cant.
    I have no problem with you using PMD to build your layout. When people say ” Your house is beautiful.” Well you didnt build it.
    Your layout is the place to go hide under in a tornado.
    22×11- still jealous.
    Keep us posted.
    George from LI, NY

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    I very much like your track plan and layout. It is nearly perfection for a medium sized effort. The scenery so far is stunning. Fabulous work, I am impressed. The quality of the carpentry and design of the structure is exemplary too. Nice going. Rob Mccrain – Farland Howe

  10. James Marek says:

    I will attempt to answer your questions. Let me start by saying that the first sentence of today’s post was not shown.

    It read:
    “Yes, I am a looper”.
    No apologizes. I really enjoy watching trains run.

    James – I built several layouts in my lifetime. That part of the hobby is no longer FUN for me.

    Rod – You may enjoy switching, but I prefer just watching ’em run. That is what makes this hobby so GREAT. Something for everybody.

    Ross – YES, my layout is DC. I suppose I should mention that the spur for the lumber yard is my programming track.
    There are actually five cross-overs scattered around the main-lines. They are hard to spot on the layout diagram. If you can expand the picture they will be visible. In the future, when I post a screen-shot of my TrainController software the cross-overs are more obvious.

    Ruben – I turn 75 next month.

    Dan – YES.

    I will be submitting at least 2 more threads this week.

    Hope you guys enjoy them.

  11. I am new to MODERN HO railroading, but, who is PMD?

  12. Erick says:

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

  13. wendell smih says:

    am 80 years old and trying to build on an 8/10 one inch plywood , what is my limits on building on an 8/10. wouold like to expnd later on and is this possible ?

  14. Jim,
    Nice job with a great lay-out. I am in my mid 70-‘s also and put a small lay-out together several years ago. My first since I was 5 years old. I didn’t have much room and my lay-out is only 6’7″ x 4’5″. I used no pre-plan but kind of put it together as I went until I ran out of room. I have three loops with three different DC
    transformers, one for each…I put my lay-out together for my enjoyment, from what I remembered as a child..I didn’t do this to impress others but for something to do and enjoy. I feel many lose out for trying to “out-do” others instead of enjoying what this hobby is all about. I really appreciate seeing what others have and can do. But in the end, I am just as happy with my little railroad as anyone with a HUGE one.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Charles, Wilmington, N.C.

  15. Bill says:


    Not to be rude, but how much did this beautiful layout cost?

    Bill in coastal South Carolina

  16. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Excellent Mark!!! Look at all the top notch train watcher spots you have. And to see video cam train rides will be really good.
    Your replies are spot on too.
    The greatest hobby in the world offers something for everyone.
    Each to his own satisfaction.
    I think we must remember to applaud one another for what it is that we enjoy about model railroading, this supports and strengthens us to continue enjoying our efforts and share them with our friends.
    So much wonderful stuff has been on Al’s site, keep ’em coming.


  17. James Marek says:

    Attention Ross.

    Typing error on my end. My layout is DCC. NCE command with one 5 amp booster.

  18. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    These old eyes of mine…..James I called you Mark….sorry.
    I saw that too, I figured you must have DCC.

  19. JoeS-inME says:

    That’s a great layout! I too am building (slowly) a two-loop layout but with no crossovers between the two layouts; the inner loops will be operated by my granddaughter and the outer loops by me.
    Jim, when you post your next set of pictures, would you please show how your lift out area is built and wired? At 76 this year, I am tired of ducking under an area that should have had a lift out or a lift up and swing out of the way.

  20. Bob M says:

    Great layout, but watching the video I got stuck looking at the 1968 Dodge Charger sitting at the crossing. Were did he find it? I would love to get one .
    I have had two real ones when I was young. It would look great on my layout.

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