O Gauge Layout Help

I have attached two pictures of the O gauge tinplate layout I have been working on.  My objective was to include as many Post War operating accessories as I could on a 5 foot by 9 foot layout.  I also would like to be able to run multiple trains at the same time if possible.

The first picture shows the accessories in place while the second picture shows some of the accessories moved so the track is more visible (somehow these were reversed when I inserted the images).  Not all of the joints show cleanly in SCARM but I can adjust them. I also noticed that I did not include all of the UCS tracks that are required.

Please provide any comments on improvements that can be made.  Also, I need to know where to break (insulate) this layout into sections so various track sections can be powered independently to allow for operating the accessories independently. 

I'm not even sure I am asking the right questions at the moment, so all comments will be appreciated.  My 3 year old grandson also thanks you.Dennis 5 x 9 with accessories xxDennis 5 x 9 with accessories


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Original Post

With a quick, first glance, I really like (REALLY like!) this layout in its 5x9 space.  Excellent use of space for P/W accessories!  I see some room for additional accessories - and, as we all know, you can never have too many P/W accessories!  




a couple of thoughts;

First, turn outs will be the cause of most of your operating problems, but you want to have sidings and make sure a train can pass from one loop to another, so they are needed. I would consider something other than the old Lionel 022 switches. I have them on my layout, and trains will got through them, but not real smooth. I'd consider the ross tinplate, or some have used the K-Line snap track turnouts with good. results. If you are using Lionel's, make sure you can easily reach all those turnouts.

Second, you seem to have one extra pair of turnouts. See my edit to your plan. Trains will still be able to move back and forth from the inner and outer loops with two less.

Third, I would consider a wider radius for your outside loop. If the inner is 31", look to 42" curves on the other, even small postwar locos look much better coming around these curves.

For the blocks, generally I make blocks on all my sidings, but yours are kind of short, so I don't know if you can have a loco and cars and still fit on the sidings. But if you want to, I make the block just after the turnout. I'd also make a separate blocks for the two route options on the outer route. You can park a train by turning the particular block off. 

Just my 2 cents. But I run all post and prewar, and this has been my experience through three layouts. Good luck, post pictures when you build!





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First of all, I like the concept of your plan which looks like it will be a lot of fun!

I like Tim's revision giving you a passing siding on the mainline. It also eliminates the back to back switches making a tight 's' curve which would likely be a source of derailments.  Also, you could run 3 trains with his version - one inside switching/running, two outside alternating turns on the mainline.  And of course switching from inner loop to outer loop.

Another side comment on design, is that some people prefer when they can reverse direction of the train going clockwise to counterclockwise and back to clockwise.  Currently, you can only change from counterclockwise to clockwise.  Once you're going clockwise you can't switch back without picking the engine up with your hand.  Not a huge deal, but might be to some and should be considered. 

As far as powering the track and accessories (I assume you are running conventionally), personally I would separate the power into 5 categories:

1. Track: Outside mainline (includes blocks for the passing siding)

2. Track: Everything else inside

3. Switches

4. Accessories (low power) 

5. Accessories (high power) some accessories like more juice to optimize performance 

Just remember, that the power districts should all have the same common.  And if more than one transformer is used, they need to be phased. 

Which transformer(s)/power supply do you plan to use? This will lead to greater detail in how to complete the wiring.

To separate power districts and blocks, you just need to insert a fiber pin into the center rail where it touches another block. For example, at the top of the plan, where the mainline switches to the inner track, you would place the fiber pin between the two switches.  

Two primary questions for you: 

are you operating conventionally or using tmcc/legacy/dcs or Lionchief ?

what is your power supply?


all the best,


Also, just be sure you can walk along the two long sides of the table. If you only have access to one long side, reaching the back of the layout will be difficult/impossible.  

At the dinner table with my grandpa, when I would be struggling to reach for something across the table, my grandpa used to say, 'my only rule is that you keep one foot on the ground'



JD2035RR,  Thanks for your responses.

  1. I will be operating conventionally.  I have two ZW transformers and 1 LW transformers but have not finalized whether I will use more than one for the layout.
  2. I cut the layout down to 5 foot by 9 foot so I can get to all sides.  The support framework is also on rollers so I can move it (up to 18 inches in all directions) if necessary to get greater access to one side.
  3. As I stated previously, I tried to include as many operating accessories as I could so my grandson could push buttons to make things "work".  I tried to include more/longer sidings but could not figure out how to work them into the layout.  I kept running into restrictions on spacing between tracks to give access to both sides of accessories.  The 97 Coal Elevator needs 12 inches between tracks while the 456 Coal Ramp/ 397 Coal Loader need 7 3/4 inch spacing.   The 164 Lumber Loader needs 10 3/4 inches between tracks.   
  4. In order to use the the 456 Coal Ramp, the 397 Coal Loader, and the 497 Coal Loader, I need to make a coal car the last one so it can be reversed onto their respective tracks.  Is their a way in this configuration to put one coal car at the end, empty/fill the car, drop the car somewhere and repeat the operation with another coal car?   I need to think more about how these operations can be accomplished without the ability to change the direction of the engines in both directions.
  5. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to add elevated sections of track to this layout?
  6. Are their other locations where sidings could be added?

Since this is my first attempt at a layout design, I appreciate everyone's  suggestions.


JD2035RR posted:


Another side comment on design, is that some people prefer when they can reverse direction of the train going clockwise to counterclockwise and back to clockwise.  Currently, you can only change from counterclockwise to clockwise.  Once you're going clockwise you can't switch back without picking the engine up with your hand.  Not a huge deal, but might be to some and should be considered. 



Any suggestions regarding how to provide the capability of changing directions that JD pointed out as missing in my current layout?  I agree that the two switches labeled A & B can be removed.

ThanksDennis 5 x 9 with accessories switches deleted


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It's easy enough to reverse in the other direction, it just requires that you back through. Yes, it's somewhat of a pain, but IMHO you'd have to give up too much of that you want in order to add another reversing loop. So, when you are running clockwise you do 1 of 2 things. You pull the train past the red building, throw the switch and back up through the crossover. Or, you stop just before the switch, uncouple the engine, back it up through the crossover, couple it to what was the rear of the consist and that now becomes the front. If there is a caboose involved, it's more work, but you can uncouple it, use the engine to pull it down through the crossover, couple it to what will now be the rear and then move the engine up through the crossover. It appears that you are more interested in operation than just running so doing these maneuvers would seem to fit right in. Just a thought.

I really need to learn how to use scarm, but until then, here is an idea for you that adds the double reverse functionality, while maintaining the same feel and adding a siding or two. The accessories may need to be re-situated (such as the 397 coal loader switching sides of the coal ramp).  In my drawing, yellow is your existing plan, black is new idea plan for you.  I'm not sure of how the spacing would work out for the accessories and that's prob the hardest part. As Dave mentioned, it's not the end of the world if you have to go backwards through the reverse loop to change direction as in the current plan.  


You should be able to get by with 1 ZW. Outside mainline on right handle, inside switching on left handle, accessories (low voltage) on B and accessories (high voltage) and switches on C. 

If you want to add a second level, the simplest route is to add a separate oval by itself about 7-8 inches above the table top.  A lot of the postwar display layout do this to add that dimension to the layout. Might be difficult to situate on your layout being action packed with the main focus being on accessories. An elevated plywood roadbed with some 1x4s for support would accomplish this.  


Here is a good resource for connecting power to accessories among other things. I refer to this a lot: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ruction%20Manual.pdf



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I am continuing to work on my layout.  I cut the pieces of track to length to make things "fit" and have everything layed out on my platform.  To make sure I understand your suggestion above, I color coded the track.

Do I need to segregate the sections (for power) as shown?   The outer loop would include the blue and green track. The inner loop would include the orange and gray track. The third loop would include the blue, gray and red track.  I could run two trains at the same time - outer loop and inner loop.  I think I see that three trains could be run at the same time but two of them would share the gray section of track ( I will have to study that more.)

I will connect all switches to constant voltage plugs and will wire accessories into two circuits - one for lights and another for operating accessories.

Do I need to break up some of the sections further so I can park engines/cars (i.e. diagonal leg) or do I just need to add USC sections so I can uncouple cars?

JD2035RR stated above "To separate power districts and blocks, you just need to insert a fiber pin into the center rail where it touches another block. For example, at the top of the plan, where the mainline switches to the inner track, you would place the fiber pin between the two switches. "      Do I need to insert insulating pins on the center rail and the two normal legs OR do I insert insulating pins in all rails on the switches?

I plan to locate all of the switch controllers in a row by the transformer.  I assume the green light will indicate that the switch is open on the straight leg and the red light will indicate that the switch is open on the turn out.  Is that correct?  

I also think I need a layout diagram with lights/on-off switches to help me keep up with which sections are powered.  Can anyone suggest a combination push button or toggle switch with red/green lights to control power to the track sections?  Any good suggestions on how to build this control diagram?

As you can tell from these questions, this is my first attempt to build a layout.  All help is very much appreciated.  I will try to post a picture of my layout later today.

Dennis 5 x 9 with accessories track color


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DS Texas,

The fiber pins in the control rails of the switches should stay, and just add another fiber pin to the center rail to separate the blocks. You are correct in straight route = green light and curve route = red. 

After considering your operations and assuming the traffic will mostly flow in a clockwise direction, my suggestion on power separation is shown below.  

In my picture below:


Black dots are center fiber pins.

M1, M2, and M3 are the mainline and on the same right handle of the zw  . Each M can be on or off independently of the others.  Think of this as each being on a separate light switch for now.  

I1 and I2 are on the inside and on the same left handle.  So you could have a train sitting on I2 (turned off) while operations are performed in I1.

I visualize the movement of trains as this:

Beginning state: 

(All clockwise) Train 1 in making full loops of the main line.  Train 2 is is making full loops on I1.  Train 3 is waiting on I2.


Train 1 (locomotive) stops in M3. Train 3 pulls out of I2 and onto M1 stopping at M2.  Train 2 moves from I1 to I2 stopping to stage there.  Train 1 leaves M3, into M1, then switches into I1.


Train 1 is doing laps on I1.  Train 2 is staging on I2. Train 3 doing laps on the mainline.


You could also run 2 trains on the mainline at a time with the 3 power blocks. Spacing of M2 should be tailored to the length of trains you plan to run.

You can control each block by toggle switches or by insulated rails and relays.  Also look at pgs 32 and 29 in this link:




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Attached is a "messy" layout to show progress.

Layout 2017 July 17I will take some additional pictures after I clean up a little.

JD,  If you are interested in learning SCARM, I will be glad to send you my file so you have something to start with.  In an effort to learn how to use the software, I created several layers - one for track, one for accessories, and another for the different pieces of track and turnouts that are available for O gauge track.  I use it like a legend to select the track pieces I want to insert.  Google searches helped a lot.   Thanks for all of your suggestions.



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DS Texas posted:

JD,  I changed the color of the track to match your suggested section layout - M1, M2, M3, I1 and I2 - above.   I also show where the insulated pins are inserted.   Thanks again for your help.Dennis 5 x 9 with accessories track color sections


I am interested in learning more about scarm, just haven't had the time to really get into it. I did download it a few days ago. I would be interested in your file as my layout has a lot of the same accessories that you added.

The power plan looks good to me.   Depending on your typical train length, you may want to move the M2 section slightly counter clockwise.  The trick will be fitting two trains on the mainline between the top right corner and the bottom left corner without rear ending each other. You'll know once you put the trains on the track. 

Very nice work so far, I'm sure you and your grandson will be having a lot fun in no time.  There is a lot to keep you both actively engaged - juggling trains and all of the operating accessories. Fun layout!


DS Texas,

Good work on the layout!

You have to decide a priority - train running or more accessories.

Do all of the accessories in the first two plans fit into the 7/19 version? This seems to be powered well and will operate well.

You can use the simulator feature SCARM to run a train(s) and try the layout. It requires that you make all of the track joints connect.

You only need a few custom cut lengths to make it all connect in SCARM, just like a real build.

Send your file to me if you want me to fit it. Then you can play with it in sim.


Arctic Railroad

I need to figure out how to wire the power blocks to toggle switches and LED lights and O-22 switches to LED lights on a control board.

I also have several accessories - 45 Gateman, 145 2-story Gateman, 153 Block Signals and some others - that I would like to activate when a train comes by.   Suggestions?


DS Texas posted:

JD, Did you get my email with the SCARM file attached?  I sent it to the email address in your profile on July 20.


Hi Dennis,

Thank you for sending the file, I did receive it. I played around with my own plan a bit and feel more comfortable in Scarm and your tip to review the tutorials was a good one.  I still need to open your file to work with the layers you have created. 

How's the progress on your layout?


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