Model Train Resource: HO-Scale Track Plans to Inspire Your Own Layout Designs
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can view videos of HO-scale track plans at this link.
- NMRA - National Model Railroad Association
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- Model Train Resource: Online Model Railroad Sites You'll Love to Visit
Take a break and peruse one of these wonderful online model train sites.
- Model Train Resource: Model Trolley Layout Videos to Enjoy Online
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- Bachmann Industries Train Catalog - World's largest manufacturer of model toy trains
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- Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine
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