Small HO Switching layout

skiloff's picture

 OK, because I simply don't have enough projects on the go already, I've often thought of putting together a small HO switching layout so I could both display my HO equipment and do some switching.  The other thought is taking it to a train show (likely the local show) and allow kids to get some hands on running trains.  Train shows are great for looking at the trains running, but the experience would be so much greater for a lot of kids if they could actually run a train themselves.  One gentleman set up a small switching layout 2 years ago at the Saskatoon show and my kids (and many others) LOVED it.  What better way to get kids to really feel what its like to run a train?

Anyway, ideally, I'd like a single 6' x 2' module that would fit nicely in the back of a truck and wouldn't be too heavy (foam would be the base over a plywood frame).  I'm not opposed to two 4' x 2' modules that would join, but I'd prefer the simplicity of one module.  I don't want it too complicated, just enough that I'd get enjoyment out of it and kids wouldn't have a lot of trouble figuring it out.  If anyone could point me somewhere or show a plan they have come up with or built, that would be fantastic.  Look forward to any suggestions.

+ +

This is exactly what  John Allen had come up with; THE TIMESAVER.   Part game, part puzzle, part nighmare. 

The object is to switch a specific set or group of  cars to specific spots in the shortest amount of time.  The layout is purpously built and not simply thrown together at ramdom.   Do a search for Timesaver and  Allen in the same search / query.  Over in England they call it a shunting puzzle.  

My link is to a site that has a few examples and ones you can run from the computer.  It can get addictive, I got hooked.

Marc Fournier, Quebec

Kevin Rowbotham's picture


Have you looked at the small layout scrapbook?


Appreciating Modeling In All Scales!

skiloff's picture

Time Saver

I could do the time saver, but I was hoping for something just a little different.  On the small layout scrapbook, I came across Linn Westcott's Switchman's Nightmare.  I might try a little variation on that.  Its a perfect size and is different enough that its not plainly obvious its the Timesaver. 


HO Scale '70s/80s era

Ness Street Yard

I have been a fan of Ness Street Yard.  I couldn't find the original thread but here is one from the MR boards that will get the idea through


Small/Compact single module switchers, doon't forget the 'Nook!

Dear Skil,

If you're searching for a simple switcher, that you can

- build quick,
- scenic nicely,
- have room to do _prototypical_ local switching,
- is simple enough for a 5yo to "get it" and have fun,
- and yet can keep grown men amused for hours,

why not try an Inglenook, or it's "proto-inspired" cousin, the "Proto-nook"?

You've already been directed to the Small Layout Website by Carl Arendt,

but some specific examples could be useful...
(a little smaller than you are asking for, but interesting concepts none-the-less)

Hope this gives some food-for-thought...

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Improve,
Prof Klyzlr


Hobo Al's picture

Switchman's Nightmare

I've always wanted to build Westcott's Switchman's Nightmare, but never have. I might build it in software (TS2010) and run it on that.

I found this interesting link about the Switchman's Nightmare on Byron Henderson's blog.


Puzzle vs. layout -- your choice

IMHO, the Switchman's Nightmare has much more potential as a layout simulating real railroading (in highly compressed form, to be sure). The Timesaver is a move-the-empty-slot puzzle.

Depends upon your goals and interests.

LayoutVision Custom Layout Design and Ops Planning
Model RR Blog

skiloff's picture

Exactly my thoughts, Byron

The Timesaver, to me, is just a game like one of those puzzles with the plastic numbers you have to line up.  I enjoyed playing on it on one of the links provided, but its not what I really want to build.  When I came across the Switchman's Nightmare, I saw a little piece of railroading that could be nicely scenicked and provide different switching scenarios and more long term interest.  I think this is what I'm going to go with, but I'll add six inches front-to-back and put a mainline at the back so I can also display all my Rapido passenger equipment.

I was also thinking, after seeing the Prof's post, that I'll maybe try to build it with foamboard as well as he demonstrated in another thread.  That would make it extremely lightweight and easy to move.

Thanks for all your comments. 


HO Scale '70s/80s era

jarhead's picture

Industrial Switching

I think I have the layout that you're looking for. It is design by Scot Osterweil and it is 6' x 1' Perfect for transporting. The plan is in HO scale. In matter of fact I was so impressed by it that I am building it in O scale two rail for my club that I am in. Here is the link to it:

It also came out in the "Model Railroad Planning 2005".

Here is a photo of my O scale version in the first stage of building it. Mine is 16 feet long by 2 feet wide. I did mine into 4 modules.






Nick Biangel 

skiloff's picture

Nick, isn't that

essentially the Switchman's Nightmare?  I do like it, though.  I think this will be pretty much what I build now.


HO Scale '70s/80s era

>> Posts index

MRH search (Google)

User login