HO Scale Track Plans for Model Train Layouts

HO is one of the most popular modeling scales worldwide. Large enough to appreciate fine detail but small enough to fit in most spaces, you'll find a vast selection of products to finish your layout. With a little thought, these plans can be adapted to other scales as well.

These plans can provide the inspiration to get you started. Once you have your plans, search on for tips on building your platform and so much more and get ready to embark on a hobby that can last a lifetime.

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    Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge

    track plan
    This simple 4x8 foot trackplan is the starting point for a new project layout. This design offers big scenery to compliment the small narrow-gauge trains. ©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    HO scale but narrow gauge - this is a different twist on HO railroading. It may be the size of a sheet of plywood but this layout is anything but flat. Big scenery and tiny trains combine to make a dramatic yet compact model railroad. Narrow gauge railroading is a path less traveled in the hobby, but it is challenge with great rewards. See how to build this HOn3 layout from start to finish in this series of articles.

  • 02 of 17

    Expand Your Train Set

    track plan
    Adding a few switches and track sections to a starter set oval can greatly increase operating interest. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Adding a few switches and operation to the oval of track which came with your first train set will increase the time it takes to complete the loop as you stop to work the industries along the way. Add industries and scenery of your choice to give this simple plan a character all your own.

  • 03 of 17

    Oval + Figure 8

    Oval 8 plan
    Combining two common track plans yields a layout greater than the sum of its parts. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Combine two common starter layout designs in this plan. Run two trains at once or switch back and forth between the different routes.

  • 04 of 17

    Paper and Pines

    track plan
    The "Paper and Pines" railroad features a dual personality of forested mountains and heavy industry separated by a high ridge, tunnel and rock cut. ©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Spectacular scenery on one side, heavy industry and switching action on the other, this 4x8 combines the best of several aspects of model railroading for an experience that never gets old.

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  • 05 of 17

    "Factory Town"

    HO Model Railroad Plan
    The tracks around Factorytown will keep your HO locomotive busy. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

     This 4x8 offers a nice blend of industrial switching and urban scenery with a track selection that could be an easy expansion from your starter set.

  • 06 of 17

    City of Industry

    city of industry
    The "City of Industry" lives up to its name with ample opertunities to put your switcher to work. ©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    This plan combines continuous running with lots of switching to keep your train busy for hours as you drop off and pick up freight from the customers along the line. The perfect plan for people who get tired of watching a train run in circles, see what operations are all about.

  • 07 of 17


    track plan
    The over-under route doubles the length of the run. The grade connecting the two levels is shown on both plans. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Adding a grade and folding a loop of track back on itself doubles the length of the run on this plan. Hiding portions of the line in tunnels or behind view blocks can make it seem even longer and more interesting. With a staging track and room for more industries you can easily make this route go even further.

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    End of the Line

    Starting with sectional track from a typical train set, add some switches and turn the circle inside-out to create a challenging switching layout with room for scenery. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    For a truly challenging switching session, give this track plan a try. Turn your oval inside out and stop running in circles. Model the end of the line instead. Set out and pick up freight, turn the engine and prepare for the next run. Tight curves and limited clearances add to the challenge and force you to plan your moves carefully. But there's room for scenery around town too.

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  • 09 of 17

    South Street Industrial

    South Street Plan
    The South Street Industrial track features several industries and street running for interesting operations. Paved areas are shown in gray, buildings in brown. ©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    This linear layout keeps the action close to the operator making it easy to switch the many industries and enhance the layout with detailed urban and industrial scenery.

  • 10 of 17

    HO Showcase

    track plan
    This HO layout features two loops for continuous running and a turntable with lots of room to display locomotives. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Many modelers end up with more locomotives than they could ever run at once. Show them off with this track plan that uses two outer loops for running with a turntable and tracks to display the rest of the collection.

  • 11 of 17

    Mountain Pass

    mountain pass
    This 10x12 around-the-walls plan connects heavy industry and rugged scenery with a long mainline. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    This 10x12' room sized layout features mountain scenery, a long mainline run and several industries.

  • 12 of 17

    Cumberland Mines Railroad

    track plan
    The Cumberland Mines Railroad proves that a layout doesn't have to be complicated to follow a prototype closely. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Based on a small prototype, this plan follows the simple trackplan of a isolated coal hauling railroad.

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  • 13 of 17

    Industrial Corner

    track plan
    Pack a lot of action in a corner of any room with this busy industrial plan. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

     Another simple shelf-style switching layout, this platform would fit well over book cases, a desk or workbench in the corner of any room.

  • 14 of 17

    "Archer Paper"

    Archer Paper Switching Layout
    This 4x10 switching layout features one large industry with many spots to work. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    A small layout with a big industrial setting provides lots of modeling and operations options. Set within the confines of a large paper mill, this L shaped shelf layout would use multiple car types and keep an operator busy for hours. 

  • 15 of 17

    Portable Switching Layout

    It only takes a few cars to fill this small railroad and make operations a fun challenge. ©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Enjoy your railroad anywhere you go! In addition to a simple track plan that provides challenging switching, this article includes step by step instructions to build this portable pike. Perfect for the apartment, college dorm, or a switching game for kids and adults alike, this layout proves good things come in small packages.

  • 16 of 17

    The Timesaver

    The Timesaver switching puzzle will challenge your mind more than your modeling. After more than forty years, this game is still popular. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    A classic switching puzzle, the Timesaver has been reproduced in many scales and forms. Combine two back to back for even more challenges as you race the clock alone or with head to head competition.

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  • 17 of 17


    The "Inglenook" is a simple plan which offers a surprising number of switching options for hours of entertainment. ©2014 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Another classic switching layout, the Inglenook features just two switches but literally thousands of switching combinations. Whether you keep just a bare platform of go for complete scenery, this layout is truly simple - simply fun!