Steve asks for some comments


I’ve attached some “progress pictures” and would appreciate any feedback or comments anyone might care to provide. This is my 1st real non-Christmas layout.

It’s O gauge, bench is three 4’x8’s making an ___—–___ shape. I have some passenger trains and Intermodals that need 54″ turns, but 80% only need 31″…so my plan was all 54″ with an inner loop(s) with 31″.

The 31″ loop(s) concept was also to have an isolated loop that was very “kid, friend & cocktail safe” before letting them out on the “big” track where the larger more expensive trains play ( Platinum Ghost, Southern Daylight, GG1s, etc)

I used the Troy & Mohawk Valley Plan from 101 Track Plans as a basis and tried to modify it for my bench space. I also used software from AnyRail initially.

I have thick skin and would appreciate any guidance…


“These are just a few shots of the lake hope you like them.


Stunning pics from Tracy, his original post is here.

“Hi Alastair,

You can use a lot of bought in or found items as scenery, such as cars, animals or figures, but these plastic items always look “cheap and plasticky”. Just give them a light coat of matt varnish, avoiding any ‘glassed’ areas. It tones down colours and evens the finish – it works great on rolling stock too.



“Hi Al,

Layout is OO and I am incorporating the “Micro” car racing track to add a bit more fun – the grand-kids love it and the scale is comparative.

See photos of work in progress to date:

Layout is on a 8′ x 4′ top then running round the window to the goods yard.


Another bumper edition! Loved Tracy’s water pics. Impressive stuff.

Keep ’em coming!

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



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

45 Responses to Steve asks for some comments

  1. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    Looking good, Steve (always great to see “Mo O “)
    “Lake Tracy” is wonderful, and Neil’s tip is great.

  2. builder Kim says:

    Hi Steve.Looking good.May I ask those pieces of wood holding up a single rail.What are you going to do about that.Make supports or are those the ones your going to use.May I ask again why did you choose 3 rails.Continue on with it and send in more pictures I could be missing something.keep up the good work.

  3. builder Kim says:

    MR.TRACY E. BROWN love your lake.Makes me want to go jump in it.

  4. Duncan Galbraith says:

    Hi, what is a Micro car circuit? Is this racing cars like Scalectrix? Good idea.
    Could the cars be modified to change the bodies – make trucks etc? D/

  5. Roland Burch says:

    Great layout pictures and the wonderful lake, what detail.

  6. Dave DeCarlo says:

    Tracy, that is the best lake I have ever seen! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK.

  7. Tim Crump says:

    Love Tony’s setup…..with two discarded dressers and an old door, you can have a sturdy layout with tons of storage…

  8. Tracy, I love your lake! Would be nice if we could see how you made it. The best I’ve seen!

  9. Kevin McArdle says:

    Regarding the o gauge layout, I personally would change out thetrack to the more realistic three rail track with ties, that can be ballasted, unless you wanted the older toy train look, but by the look of your layout you want to include scenery, so just an observation. Regarding the layout with added slot cars, I think they may overshadow the railroad, since more people can play. Make sure your track and operation is flawless before you put scenery, otherwise a small issue becomes a big headache. Happy railroading.

  10. don kadunc says:

    Tracy, what material did you use for your water. Also, has anyone used the new Woodland Scenic’s deep water?

  11. imthepoppa says:

    i’m starting my first layout in a very, very long time and want to include a waterfall. any suggestions.

  12. Warren says:

    Tracy, your lake is the best I have seen! Keep up the wonderful work.

  13. Charlie says:

    Grate layout, I love the water features.

  14. Robert Brady says:

    Steve,You asked for it! I’ll be gentile I know your putting alot of love and care building the layout but why did you choose Lionel? They’re more expensive, never changed there design With that 3 rail configuration and why did they not put in more ties per track is beyond me.To each there own.I wish you luck and enjoyment
    See that didn’t hurt,
    regards : Robert B

  15. Those lakes look very real , nice job you have done with them …Dangerous dave

  16. Brad K says:

    LOVE the lake scene,very well done!!

  17. Wonderful WORK!
    Rails look very toy like. Perhaps utting ties and putting underneath.
    Is the incline around 2%?
    Love anyrail too
    Use it to make building shapes. Cut them out and place to be sure it all fits.

  18. Robert Brady says:

    Steve i am not a fan of 3 rail tracks.They in my opinion take away from realism.I think that was Lionel’s only downfall although they do have a small following.I think HO was a way to go and so many more options.

  19. Bill in Virginia says:

    Steve – you’re on the right track (pun intended) with your thoughts on curve radius. A couple of thoughts though. Do you have enough room to access the backside along the wall? Doesn’t look like much space and trying to get to any problem there could be an issue. Also the elevated loop stands out as very high relative to the layout as a whole. Have you thought of lowering it some? It would still give clearance but make it easier to add scenery and not hide the base level tracks.

    Neil that is a great lake 😀 Keep up the great modeling

    Tony your layout looks wonderful! Great progress on it and it looks fun to operate too

  20. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Steve. Elevated track looks a bit high. Can it be lowered ?. Track does look a bit toy train set with so few sleepers. I also appreciate the smaller radius but I wonder if you’ll regret being limited in the inner circuit to the size of trains you can run. You could perhaps look at taking the curve radius out and perhaps run the lower track at the rear of the layout underneath the upper track. Thus allowing you the greater radius.area.

    Neil Your lake scenery is very very good. everything to scale that I can see. Very good scenery at the banks etc etc. Well done more photos please

    Tony A fun layout allowing you to entertain the grand kids and get some railroad fun yourself. That’s what this hobby it is all about enjoyment.

  21. John Birch says:

    A personal comment. Pease note, it is my opinion and many will not agree with me – but that is one of the joys of the hobby; it accommodates all tastes. When I see a new layout being planned, or sometimes a well-established layout, I often wonder why a lot of track has to be squeezed into very limited space. We would all like to have more space for our layouts but track can often be concentrated in one area for the station, shunting, etc., and then the remainder of the layout left with less track to give a sense of space and distance.

  22. Denis says:

    Hi Steve,
    You say you have a thick skin. Then why-oh-why are you using such an awful track. The only advantages of using a gauge as large O are
    1) filling a large area, like a garden railway {railroad} and
    2) being able to model in a very fine and authentic scale.

    In the UK only ‘Southern Region’, of the big companies,(I suppose you could include some of the underground {Subway} systems) runs on a track with a pickup rail running down the centre and none has such a ridiculous sleeper {stretcher} spacing as you are using. I appreciate that the Lionel system is popular in th US But really??

  23. Tony Whiteside says:

    Reply to Duncan Galbraith,

    Yes the cars are from Micro Scalextrix and the Aurora range 1:64 so not too bad as scale. The bodies snap off and some one more cleverer than me could build or modify car, truck shell to fit on the bogies. I took off the hand controllers and used analogue controllers so can leave them running at set speeds.

  24. Mike Street says:

    Great water effects from Tracy, just brilliant, really good.
    Mike S

  25. JACK MASARIE says:

    Always great to see the work of other “high railers” Use what you like, the
    way you like. Your scenery looks great.

  26. alan says:

    Dennis don’t be so negative I model Kato in the uk it’s irrelevant what scale type used if we used rail with pink and yellow dots on who cares as long as you are enjoying yourself,Steve 100per cent effort well done ignore the critics jyst do want you want

  27. To begin….
    Tracy: Yours is the most realistic lake that I have ever seen. None of the pictures look like pictures of a model. Even the figures do not spoil the illusion that you have created. (Often it is the figures that spoil the illusion). Well Done!!!

    Steve: A few days ago Al posted a Hi-Rail Lionel layout that was so realistic that the center rail became “invisible”… There are blackening agents that can help with that. Next… Most Hi-Railers (Lionel users that still want to make their layout as realistic as possible) add extra ties/sleepers between the metal ties to help with the illusion. Lionel is fun… My favorite uncle was quite the collector of it and had his “toy train” layout on the floor. I knew a mortician that had his in the attic of his home. Enjoy!
    As to the building of your layout, make sure you can reach all areas in case of a derailment (even though with your curves your Lionel is not likely to derail). I do like your idea of a simple loop for young folks and those young at heart to enjoy while protecting your prize possessions.
    Lionel is not my proverbial “cup of tea” BUT I enjoy the fun that its fans have playing with it… (The same goes for American Flyer) There is something about those particular “Toy Trains” that brings out the child in all of us… We need that… Especially those of us that may have been suckled on lemon juice and weaned on pickles… I know that I myself often take life too seriously and need that “jolt of inner youth” to keep me on “even keel”.

  28. Jim C. says:

    Beautiful Lake!

    Can you tell me about the color(s) you used?

  29. Tom says:

    All great projects, Steve the double switch to the left of the bridge. Tracy, the lake is beautiful and helpful since I’ll be starting mine soon.

  30. Tom says:

    All great projects, Steve the double switch to the left of the bridge will be fun in operation. Tracy, the lake is beautiful and helpful since I’ll be starting mine soon.

  31. bob goetz says:

    i love the lake, the best i have seen. i wish i was there to watch you build it. the water, colors on the shore line look so realistic.

    great job, keep your progress reports coming


  32. Norm says:

    My water features will be going in soon and I hope to be able to create as much realism as you did. I’m not a three rail fan but HO is new to me too. To me, it’s all about what makes you feel good!!

  33. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Mr Brown’s lake is excellent.

  34. David Schaffner says:

    Always nice to see three rail, but it seems almost foreign to newer layouts, but I still collect Lionel, but I don’t run it…Always on the hunt for pre- war or early post- war…..Lake looks cool, I love it……

  35. Fred Anderson says:

    Loved Tracys pond layout might add some ideas to my yet to be built Lake

  36. Walt Walters says:

    Love it Steve,
    Your incorporation of slot car track with the railroad reminds me of what I did some 50 odd years ago!
    Keep up the GREAT work. Love seeing these posts!

  37. Bruce Gaither says:

    Steve. Go for it. High Raiders rule
    Bruce G

  38. Rich Cee says:

    Steve, you may want to add more supports under the sub-roadbed to prevent sagging over time. Maybe try some form of cookie cutter type bench work or cork roadbed to reduce the sound during operating time. I built an HO 4 x 8 using cookie cutter to reduce the sound of a solid plywood top and also for scenic reasons. The combination of cork over the slit plywood works well to quiet things down. Keep plugging along and enjoy the journey.


  39. Dan Willams says:

    Great pics and work by everyone!! Love the lakes. Tony, is that an Aurora AFX race track? I’m still in the design/planning stage for my layout but have that race track. Im 70 and started with the Race Track when I was 12. I have a piece of race track with an at grade RR Xing. Added HO trains when I was 23. Interesting to run a race and have to watch for the train!! Have not had another good place for a decent layout since 1976. Looking forward to getting everything back up and running.

    Dan in Richmond Va.

  40. Gerald Edgar says:

    I have never seen better rock & water than yours in 50 yrs of modeling!

  41. Dave Anders says:

    Great start. I could not tell if you created a blind switch. If you did, my advice is avoid them.

  42. DavidHutto says:

    I love the lake, water looks great but to me, what really sets it off are the undercut banks. That’s a touch of realism that’s often neglected. Maybe a little more greenery around the edges. After all, it is water and you’re going to get weeds!

  43. Kevin in NC says:

    Steve: 54″ is bold – I wish I could have managed it in my O scale space but I kept 36 inch curves. Where that outside loop ends perhaps you could continue it to the middle base with a large trestle bridge if you are so inclined. I think your elevated section is higher than it needs to be (though you may be constructing a hill or landscaping around it). Railroads need 23 feet of clearance, so maybe 6 inches is adequate? I found my fastrack track to be too steep at 2% for any long train. I would have liked to use more realistic track (and even S gauge) but I worked with what I had the most of and it makes sense. Granddaughter loves it so I am fine with it.

  44. Bob Shipley says:

    Steve- Looks like you are off to a good start. One comment is that I think the grade on your helix is going to be too steep. I have grades on my layout across a 4′ span that don’t work well.
    Looks to me like you can lengthen the loop and make the grade work.

    Bob in NY

  45. Jim Richards says:

    The Lake photos look fantastic…. have a very realistic look to the water… amazing job!!!!

    Jim R in MD

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