HO Train Layouts

HO train layouts are the most popular model railroad scale in the world. This type of model railroad comes in many different track types, a wide variety of locomotives and several forms of model train scenery. 

That’s why it’s the number one choice for model train beginners. The layouts vary from simple loop-to-loop track plans to enormous world record breaking designs and everything in between. 

Each HO scale layout serves a different purpose based on its dimensions. The size of your HO layout depends on your track plan and can range from 2’x4’ to even bigger than 12’x8’. It’s all dependent on the space that you have available and your desired outcome.  

Here’s examples of both small size HO scale layouts and large size ones. If you’re looking for the HO scale layout of your dreams then continue reading for inspiration from the examples below!

2×4 Model Train Layout HO

2x4 Model Train Layout HO

Remember, 2’x4’ HO model train layout is small and does not provide the flexibility to grow your layout. It places a tight restriction on the level of space you get to work with. One suggestion is to start with a 4’x8’ model train layout first and build it out the tracks small first and add to it accordingly. 2’x’4’ is not a bad size for a N or Z gauge starter layout but will not do an HO gauge justice.

4×8 HO Train Layout

4'x8' HO Train Layout

One of the main reasons why model train beginners tend to start off with a 4’x8’ HO train layout is because building it is very easy and it also provides enough flexibility to grow your layout. 4’x8’ plywood sheets are readily available and do not take up an incredible amount of space. It is better to start larger then too small. It is just like getting your haircut, once its cut you cannot change it but if the barber starts off cutting it off slow, you can manage and customize it as you see fit.

4’x8′ HO Train Layout 2

4'x8' HO Train Layouts

One interesting fact about 4×8 layouts is that after beginners start off by building a HO 4×8, they never build one again. This is because after experience, they soon realize that it is too small for a proper model railroad layout. Some others reasons besides size include the fact that curves for tracks are too tight, which does not allow the model trains to turn properly as well.

Building HO Train Layouts

Building HO Train Layouts

Start off building an HO train layout by crafting the design on a grid paper. Set up the grid paper scale based on your own preference, I always find it better to use big sheets of paper that can be found at elementary schools. If you currently have grandchildren or know teachers that work at elementary schools, try to ask them for larger grid paper. It’s easier on the eyes and actually helps visualize the drawing much better. Now begin shaping the ho train layout and decide on the shape of the layout. Finally, you must figure out the era and theme.

HO Train Layouts Single Model Train

HO train layouts single model train

Some model train enthusiasts prefer to use a single model train on their layout that serves multiple purposes from picking up passengers on their way to work, all the way up to being used a freight train for supplies for the town. The most important aspect of HO train layouts that are customized for a single train is the switchers. Road switchers such as diesel based RS3 and EMD GP series and smaller Mogul and Atlantic types for steam is a crucial decision for HO railroading.

8×8 HO Train Layout

8x8 ho scale train layout

This 8×8 HO scale model makes excellent use of a small space. Its tracks loop between two tables and across a window. Its placement by the window brings in plenty of sunlight so that it is always well lit. Make sure to admire the trackwork and the realistic model railroad buildings. There are also cars, helicopters, small people, and a beautiful backdrop. You can do the same to your own layout to make it more interesting.

4×6 HO Train Layout

4x6 ho scale layout

Here’s a great idea that you can do for your next 4×6 layout. It has a loop to loop track plan which lets the model trains travel between an outer and an inner loop. This saves plenty of space while keeping it interesting. The trains have no trouble passing through since it’s a DCC locomotive with a controller. In the middle of the track is a town center containing a factory, some stores, and power poles. You might think that the backdrop is not as realistic as it should be. However, there’s no denying that its homemade feel adds charm to the ho scale scenery.

L Shaped HO Train Layout

L-shaped HO scale layout

When building a model railroad, don’t forget to have fun and be imaginative. This layout, for example, is the fictional town of Jesterville. Since it’s an L-shaped track, it fits perfectly in the corner of a garage. The model trains travel through 3 loops: the inner loop, the outer loop, and siding. You can do the same to your layout to give different model trains the space they need to travel to and from.

6×4 HO Scale Layout

6x4 ho scale layout

Next up is a model layout with beautiful mountain scenery. Although it is a fictional town, it is based on the Western part of Victoria, Australia. Take a closer look to get an idea of how realistic scenery should look like. Appreciate the mountains, structures, and patches of vegetation. Finally, this track uses a Peco Code 100 Set Track with #2 curves as the smallest radius to make sure it’s easy to shunt. 

12×8 HO Scale Layout

12x8 ho scale layout

Here’s a good way to switch trains between inner and outer loops. What this track has is a double crossover and four #5 code 83 Micro Engineering turnouts. This is then controlled by Tortoise switch motors. Now the trains can switch easily across the DC powered tracks. From this perspective, you can see how the tracks are neatly laid out. The structures and other details are also arranged in a way so they don’t seem like clutter. Topping it all off is a hand-painted backdrop of a sky with fluffy white clouds.

Continue onto Part 2 of HO Train Layouts

Here’s How to Get Started Quickly And Easily With Your Dream Model Railroad


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