After a lifetime involved with HO scale trains, i've decided to make a major change and build an O scale HiRail layout. Having an uncle who is deeply invested in O scale 3 rail, a dad who is constantly at train expo shows surrounded by vendors, getting older where my hands can't stay steady enough to deal with the smaller models, and Amazon Prime which is full of awesome model train videos, O Scale seemed like a decent size to work with. I just moved into a 1000 sqft house, have a 3rd bedroom that happens to have the entrance and closet doors along the same wall, and is roughly 11.5' x 10.5'.....first thing that came to mind..."Train room!"

Work on this layout began back in February with a concept I had which I built with the Rail Modeler Pro software. The design ended up being revised numerous times as I browsed the internet for ideas for trains and building. I found the best option for track was Lionel Fastrack. They seemed to offer the greatest variety in sectional pieces to make my design work. The layout is an outer loop, a passing siding, a reverse loop, a series of sidings, a station area, an engine servicing area, and for fun, a girder bridge with a road underpass. Because I have smaller space to work with, i've decided to go with O-31 curves, a variety of O-31, O-36 and O-72 remote switches. Power is provided by an MTH DCS TIU, a Z-1000 power brick, and a DCS WIU. All controlled from an iPad Mini.

Layout 1layout 1a

Layout size is 4'x8' with a 12"x24" extension for the steam locomotives to be stored. Benchwork is Mianne Benchwork, with a 1/2" plywood base, and (2) 2" pieces of foam, 1.) so I have something to carve into for my road to duck under the bridge, and 2.) for sound dampening.

layout 2

 Since the roster for my layout is limited to the O-31 curves, I have focused more around switchers and smaller freight cars.

The current locomotive roster consists of:

MTH Premier PRR A-5 - 0-4-0 #94 - PS.3 - 20-3598-1
MTH Premier PRR A-5 - 0-4-0 #730 - PS.2 - 20-3265-1
MTH Premier PRR A-5 - 0-4-0 #1587 - PS.2 - 20-3173-1 
MTH Premier PRR B-28 - 0-6-0 #7641 - PS.2 - 20-3280-1
MTH Premier PRR E-6 - 4-4-2 #5209 - PS.3 - 20-3624-1
MTH Premier PRR GE 44-Ton #9339 - PS.3 - 20-20888-1

The current freight roster consists of:

K-Line PRR H31b Outside Brace 2 Bay Hopper #220924 - K6255-18923
K-Line PRR H31b Outside Brace 2 Bay Hopper #220944 - K6255-18923
K-Line PRR H31b Outside Brace 2 Bay Hopper #220965 - K6255-18923
K-Line PRR H22a 4 Bay Hopper #412356 - K626-18933
K-Line PRR H22a 4 Bay Hopper #412422 - K626-18934
Lionel PRR GLd 50 Ton 2 Bay Hopper #156155 - 6-81686
Lionel PRR GLd 50 Ton 2 Bay Hopper #156811 - 6-81686
Lionel PRR GLd 50 Ton 2 Bay Hopper #156885 - 6-81686
MTH Premier PRR N6b Wood Caboose #981790 - 20-91221
MTH Premier PRR N6b Wood Caboose #980824 - 20-91442 
MTH Premier PRR N5c Steel Caboose #477926 - 20-90018F
MTH Premier PRR Bobber Caboose #476087 - 20-91635

The current passenger roster consists of:

Atlas PRR USRA Single Sheathed Box Car #46129 - 6454-8
Lionel Railway Express Agency Milk Car #1742 - 6-17364
MTH Premier PRR R50b Express Reefer #2618 - 20-94267
MTH Railking Rugged PRR Madison Diner #4489 - 33-6245
Labella O-353 Soo Line 50' Open Platform Combine (still to be built and painted in PRR P70 scheme)
Labella O-356 Soo Line 50' Open Platform Coach (still to be built and painted in PRR P70 scheme)


layout 3layout 4layout 5layout 6lauout 7

In case you didn't notice, i'm a bit of a PRR snob 

There are quite a number of buildings, vehicles, water spouts, 3d printed engine sheds and trees I have purchased and plan to add to the board once the track is secured down. I'm going remove the track, clean them, and add a sheet of Woodland Scenic grass paper on top of the foam next. That'll give me a nice base color and texture for when I add more ballast and grass. I do have one concern about my switches regarding the remotes. I took the back panel off the switches and their remotes to see if the wire could be detached fairly easily so I could maybe feed them down and under the benchwork, but it seems in both places, especially the remotes, the wire is a little more involved than just unclipping it. If anyone has any suggestions of an easy way to go about feeding the wires under, i'd really appreciate it. If I have to remove the backing plates on each switch and detach the wires, then thats just what I'll have to do.

I am very new to this O Scale hobby, so i'm still learning a lot about what options are available. But I am very excited to finally have a bit of time and space to work on this layout. Like I said, the concept of my layout began back in February, an extensive amount of researching, eBaying, and shopping on various store's sites took a good 2 or 3 months to gather all the items I have now, and i'm sure i'll keep getting more.

I plan to add progress photos to this thread as work continues.

Steve Lerro


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Original Post

It looks like a really nice layout and that you have made good progress on it. I hope you post some videos of your layout when you start running trains. I've studied your track plan and it looks like you have plenty of opportunities for switching cars. I look forward to your future posts about your construction. 

Lot's of progress has been made in the past 5 days.

Built my Atlas Passenger Station, ended up using the "Chesterfield" Station name.

It seems I found a nice place for my K-Line Porter engine, and also a use for all the miscellaneous mini pieces that came with my Wye and O-72 Switches. Some atlas hairpin fence pieces are on their way to enclose the little display engine.

I cut out a section of the top piece of foam to form the trench for my road to dip down and run below the bridge. I then took the cut out section and carved out my angle. Still needs a bit of tweaking. Doing it by hand with has been a pure annoyance. I'll be buying a hot foam cutting knife soon and redoing the ramp. I have enough extra foam that i can use the existing cut as a template. But for now i'm liking where this is going. I lined the walls with Chooch Flexible Large Random Stone Wall strips. These are nice because they actually have the rock texture, not just a flat image, and the ends have bricks sticking out to allow pieces to be locked together. I also needed to cut out part of the girder bridge walls to allow my passenger equipement access without ramming into it coming out of the O-31 curves. I'll do some more fine tuning later, as well as cutting the other side to match. I do plan to get a center bridge support to put under the bridge in the middle of the road. Also, the grass is temporary for the road. Need to start looking into what all materials are available for decent looking roads.

Just finished drilling all my holes for the switch wires to run through. Ended up taking the back panels off the switch controllers and removing the wires. Poked them down through the drilled holes, and they'll be run to a little switch board i'm building. 
I'd love to find a way to make an actual board with mini switches over a map of the layout. This would make it so much easier to figure out what switch lever goes where. If anyone is knowledgable about how to craft one of these, i'd love to pick your brain about it! Something like this:

For now, my little board will work just fine. 

Thanks for checking out my updates!
Steve Lerro


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I found it hard to build a switch panel using the Lionel Fastrack switch controllers. They are quite large. I built a panel for operating the uncouplers, replacing the Lionel push-button with a more reliable, more compact design. I added the switches, using a switch number on the controller that matched the switch number on the turnout. Works well, relatively easy for visitors to use. I had the switch number placed inside the logo of the railway I am modelling (CP, Canadian Pacific beaver.CP Logo blank

I created the track map by exporting part of the layout from RR track to a Jpeg file, then editing in Photoshop.


Joe K


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Can't help you with a mini-switch panel because I like the nostalgic look of the Lionel Switch controllers. They do take up a lot of space, but IMHO, the look is well worth it.

Of course, if you added a Legacy system, all the switches could be controlled wirelessly from the remote. I route the wire at the switch, itself, directly under the track and drill my hole in the layout so that no wire or hole is visible atEND PHOTO 6 the edge of the track, at all. You could go back and do that, if desired, and then patch all the holes. 

I've found the easiest way for re-connecting to the controllers is to put the black and red wires in the center holes at the same time and then tighten the screws down. Then connect the green and yellow wires, one at a time and position all the wires so they go on top of the small center loom.

If the wire is long enough to reach, you're all set. If the wire needs to be spliced, you have a few options. Generally, in that case, I leave the wire connected at both ends and simply cut and splice in the middle using jelly bean connectors or an old telephone 4 lug wall jack screwed to the underside of the layout. That also simplifies things if you ever need to work on them. If you're inclined, you can also purchase male and female 4 wire RJ11 clear connectors and a crimping tool and make a very professional looking connection.   


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It is quite simple to substitute a SPDT on-off-on momentary miniature toggle switch (plus a red/green bipolar LED with current-limiting diode) for the OEM Fastrack controller:

 IMG_3561 [1)

Black to the center post, red and green to the outside posts, yellow to one LED lead and a 470 ohm resistor between the center post and the other LED lead.

Then install that in your control panel:


"U" is for remote uncouplers and "S" is for Fastrack track switch control. The unmarked toggles control my car-stoppers:



Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.


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IMG_3387 (1)

Very nice start. I like your choice of RR's too You sound a lot like me- after a lifetime of HO trains, this is, my first O gauge layout as well.

I used automotive pinstripe tape to lay my track plan on my control panel. Easy to apply and change if you change your track at all.

2018-02-10 07.57.37

This was my original control panel- I've changed a few things but I don't have a more current photo. I run all conventional so the small toggles are track power for the sidings or blocks. Momentary buttons for un-couplers.

2016-03-01 17.51.08

Looking forward to watching your progress.

Three Rails Are Better Than None 


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geysergazer posted:

It is quite simple to substitute a SPDT on-off-on momentary miniature toggle switch (plus a red/green bipolar LED with current-limiting diode) for the OEM Fastrack controller:

 Black to the center post, red and green to the outside posts, yellow to one LED lead and a 470 ohm resistor between the center post and the other LED lead.


Life saver! I went ahead and ordered a bunch of those toggle switches and LED's with resistors from Amazon, and they worked perfect! The only issue I am seeing is that I need to leave my switches in the center position to allow them access to auto throw themselves if not aligned properly, which results in the the LED light shutting off. Guess i'll just have to be extra alert and make sure I manually have all the switches aligned properly!

I went to my local Walgreen's and had an 11x14 metal plate made up with a little track plan I designed in Adobe Illustrator. The toggle switches went in nice and easy. Not sure how it's going to pan out for the LED lights, but we'll see!

Now I just need to fabricate a way to mount this thing to the benchwork.

Again, thanks a million for the recommendation. It's exactly what I was looking for!



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