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Model Train Resource: HO-Scale Track Plans to Inspire Your Own Layout Designs

The author has been enjoying model trains for decades and enjoys helping others with his hobby and introducing newbies to it.

The U.S. Army rolls along on this model train layout.

The U.S. Army rolls along on this model train layout.

These five HO-scale track plans range from club-sized behemoths that require the efforts of several individuals, to a switching puzzle that would fit on a shelf. All these selections have track plans as well as photos, with some showing a video. They are all linked within their descriptions to their original model railroading sites.

Sierra Pacific Lines

Spanning over 5,000 square feet, the Sierra Pacific Lines is one of the largest operating HO-scale track plans in the world, according to its owners, the Pasadena Model Railroad Club.

Three bridges on the Sierra Pacific Lines layout.

Three bridges on the Sierra Pacific Lines layout.

It boasts 1,700 feet of main line, which a locomotive can traverse in an hour at normal speed and traffic. Its three yards have a total estimated capacity of 2,000 cars, and it has a minimum mainline radius of 42 inches.

I visited their club during one of its frequent open houses and was impressed by the variety of operations, scenery and motive power available. Among the highlights were a container port with a scratch-built ore freighter, a trolley line, canyon scenery, a small Western town, logging operations with a lumber mill and cities joined by passenger runs. You can view the somewhat unclear track plan by clicking “Track Plan” on the home page, or see picture by clicking “Photographs.”

For more great model railroad pages, check out Online Model Railroad Sites You'll Love to Visit, Model Train Resource: Model Trolley Layout Videos to Enjoy Online and Online Model Trolley Resources You Must See.

HO-Scale Track Plans Example from Custom Builder

Lance Mindheim is a custom model railroad builder who has written several books. He is a proponent of eye-level, shelf layouts with relatively simple trackwork that provides lots of operating potential. His latest effort is the Downtown Spur layout which occupies a gigantic 17.5’ x 21.5’. It’s modeled after the CSX prototype in Miami, Florida, and focuses on present day industrial switching operations.

The layout features modern, scratch-built buildings, some of which are full of graffiti. Several roads and highways remind you that this is an urban layout, while water features and hand-assembled palm trees put you in Florida. Be sure to click “Progress Photos” a the top of the track plan to view his superb structures.

Just another busy day for Town and Country Traction.

Just another busy day for Town and Country Traction.

Town and Country Traction Company

Fred Miller takes an innovative approach to developing the Town and Country Traction Company, the only trolley layout in these HO-scale track plans. His effort takes up about 14’ x 10’ around the perimeter of a room. However, his creation is partitioned into six stand-alone 2’ x 4’ sections that have connecting track. Each module is framed with front and baseboards, so it can be admired as a stand-alone diorama. This enables him to plan, construct and detail a part of his dream, before continuing on to the next part. His work is of such fine quality that four of the modules are enshrined in a local trolley museum.

Each module focuses on a specific scenic type and works as a self-contained example of HO-scale track plans. Gotham City, for example, shows a medium-sized city with 19 buildings, mostly three and four stories tall; 151 people; and 28 vehicles. Upper Gotham is an upper-class residential suburb with Victorian homes, a church and school. And East Gotham is all factories and industrial structures. Through them all run trolleys powered by overhead wire.

To view his website track plan at the largest size, right-click it and choose “View Image.” Then move your cursor over the image until it changes into a magnifying glass with a plus sign. Click the image, and it will increase to full size.

Gateway Central X

If you find large model railroad too daunting, then you’ll enjoy the Gateway Central X, which measures just 4’ x 6’, making it the perfect size for home. While this layout does not offer a track plan diagram, it offers an overhead view of the actual layout, both in the track-laying and built-up stages. It uses Code 83 sectional track and two Walthers curved turnouts, and does not require any complex bending of flex track.

Large, multi-story industrial buildings divide each side of the layout, with multiple railroad crossings over a central street. Because the main line is an oval, you can watch trains go round and round. However, many sidings and industries provide hours of operation.

Be sure and click "Project Railroads" in the left column of the site for more examples of HO-scale track plans.

Urban structures act as a scenic divider on the Gateway Central X.

Urban structures act as a scenic divider on the Gateway Central X.

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Jallen Branch Line

If you’re still bemoaning the lack of space for your dream layout, check out this switching puzzle layout, which is called Jallen Branchline., made by Charlie Comstock, editor of Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine. Measuring about 18" by 6', this well-scenicked jewel has five turnouts. It includes a steam-powered Shay and a diesel switcher for moving boxcars, flatcars and tank cars to different sidings.

His layout also acts as a diorama, where he can photograph model trains, and is small enough to be carted outdoors to take advantage of natural sunlight. It also attaches to his main layout, the Bear Creek and South Jackson. Comstock’s website is worth a visit on its own for viewing his other HO-scale track plans, how to’s and operations tips.

© 2011 Aurelio Locsin


Tammy from North Carolina on September 03, 2012:

This is incredible! This would be such a great hobby. I bet it is relaxing and very enjoyable. I would love to get a train set with the complete village to put under the Christmas tree each year. That would create magical memories. This is very interesting!

Micheal from United Kingdom on April 30, 2012:

I love these model train hubs that you produce Aurelio. I thought the first video was a real train until it went along the track. Amazing layout designs well done. Voted up 4/5 buttons sharing.

Great hub

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on March 15, 2012:

Up, useful, and awesome Alocsin. Such a cool hub my friend. Loved the videos. The grass on the first video is unreal. Looks real as can be. I had a layout when I was younger and my old man still makes them. Brought back some great memories.

RTalloni on February 13, 2012:

This is a neat look at how to begin planning a model train layout. We've enjoy videoing model trains in motion for our grandchildren.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on February 13, 2012:

We never had a train set when we were kids, but I've always been fascinated by trains and I loved traveling on them when I lived in Europe and the East Coast (only used the CalTrain for a year in the Bay Area). The intricacy and realness of some train sets are really stunning. Thanks for this interesting Hub!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2012:

These are amazing to look at and brought back memories of the model train that my dad had in our basement in Wisconsin when I was a child. We had a recreation room in the basement that he had built and it fit on top of our ping pong table. Obviously it was not up year round since we also liked to play ping pong...but generally around the holiday time of year he would have it installed. Nothing as elaborate as what you have shown here, but it did have tunnels, bridges and the like. I know that we were always fascinated with watching it.

Up votes and SHARING with followers. Model railroad buffs will really like this!

Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on June 19, 2011:

Thanks Plastic Soldier. II like these layouts a lot.

Plastic Soldier from Cheshire England on June 19, 2011:

What an excellent hub the detail on these models is awesome

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