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HO Model Train Layouts – How To Find The Best Layouts

Here we’re going to look at some of your available options for HO scale train layouts, where you can find different layouts, and the best choices for getting help in creating your model train layouts. Also we’ll discuss a few of the best starter options if you’re looking to get a basic HO model train set to start your self off.

HO Scale model train layouts refer to the scaling of model trains which is most popular, that being 1:87 . This was first developed after the first world war (originally the scaling was “0” and this was simply far too large to allow model train enthusiasts the opportunity to easily build models in their home).

More About The HO Scale Sizing

The HO scale in the North America is defined as 3.5 MM representing 1 real foot in size. So a model train engine piece for example, that’s approximately 18 CM (180 MM) is going to represent an engine that in real life would be 51 feet long, or 15 meters in length.

HO Scale has become standard in both Europe and North America and has been for a long time (since the 1920s). In Britan however, OO scale is still the preferred as the main scaling and measurement system for models, and that’s a little different being measured at 4MM to a real life foot. There are SOME modellers in the UK who use the HO scaling system, but they are less common.

HO Scaling is generally more precise in the area of model trains, whereas in modelling in other areas for example the area of slot cars, the term “HO Scale” gets thrown around a little less formally, and sometimes it will refer to different scale sizes and measurements.

You have to be careful too when buying certain “HO” train models and layout pieces, because sometimes the term “HO” is used a little too easily so that companies can more easily market their modelling products and get a higher rate of sales.

If you know enough about the certain engine or other item that you are buying, you can always find out the original measurement of the real thing, and compare it to the size of the piece that you’re looking to purchase making sure it is indeed HO Scale.

Some Examples Of HO Scale Model Layouts

Here’s a few examples of what you can do with your HO scale layouts. It can get very complex very quickly, and obviously the layout that you go with at the very start will determine the direction you can head in later on, so it’s important to make some firm decisions about how you want your layout to be setup.

Popular Sources For Ho Scale Layouts

There’s many places to find HO scale model train layouts online, so let’s take a look at some of your options. Of course in this area, you can quite often find a lot of free stuff, then there will be paid stuff as well, it really just depends on how much you like researching and digging around. The paid “help” quite often takes the form of convenience, as they have compiled things and made the process of actually learning what you need to know much easier.

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Here are some of the paid and free options for those looking to build out their model train layouts:

Free Sources

Paid Sources

Top 4 Most Popular HO Scale Model Railroad Sets To Get Started

Bachmann are one of the biggest suppliers of HO scale model train sets and have been in the game since the 1930’s when the model train scene really started to take off. They’ve been around for a LONG time, and this is one of the reasons they dominate the market for this particular subset of scale model trains.

Although Bachmann create model trains that are more targeted to a younger audience, rather than your older serious model train hobbyist they’re definitely worth a look if you’re more on the novice side, and just getting into creating your own model train layouts, HO scale or other. We’ve listed a few of their most popular items here for you. They also make model sets in the other scale varieties such as N Scale, O Scale and On30 as well as some of the less popular scale variants.

Bachmann Rail Chief Ready To Run Electric Train Set

This Rail Chief ready set is a great starter kit for anyone wanting to start a HO scale layout. With 130 different pieces supplied with this set, it’s certainly a good start to building a decent sized railway. This great starter set comes with the following to get you moving:

  • 1 x EMD GP40 diesel locomotive engine with working headlight
  • 1 x open hopper car
  • 1 x gondola style car
  • 1 x steel reefer style car
  • off-center caboose (travels at the rear of the train set)
  • 47 inch (119 cm) x 38 inch (97 cm) oval shaped snap-fit “E-Z Track” which also has 12 x curved style track
  • 1 x straight track
  • 1 x plug-in terminal re-railer
  • 1 x signal bridge
  • 36 x miniaturised model people
  • 24 x miniature telephone poles
  • 48 x railroad signs & road/street signs
  • 1 x =power pack and speed controller 

This set is recommended by Bachmann for ages 14 and up, so not really suitable for really young children. This is a great starter kit for the young enthusiast, and will give him or her a chance to have a great basic setup, and build up from there if they want to.

Buyer Feedback On The Bachmann Rail Chief Ready Set

The feedback from buyers of this particular model set was overall positive, but nonetheless mixed, and while it didn’t receive the greatest overall review score we’ve ever seen for a model train set, it also wasn’t the worst either.

Overall many people commented that they thought this was an excellent introductory set, and good value for the price. The feedback highlighted the fact that this set is really an introductory/basic set, and also that it’s not intended for young children and the advised age of 14+ should probably be adhered to when there’s no adult supervision.

The main issue that people had with this set was that it’s built with relatively flimsy materials (cheap plastic) and overall it’s a very simple design. That being said, for the cost you’re not likely to be finding much better at this range. 

Bachmann Trains Pacific Flyer Ready-to-Run HO Scale Train Set

If the Rail Chief Ready set that we looked at above is said to be a “simple beginners model train set” then the Pacific Flyer is SUPER SIMPLE. This is really a set that’s probably more aimed for a slightly younger age group, although Bachmann still advertise the same age group of 14+ for this set.

This set includes:

  • 1 x Box car
  • 1 x Gondola car
  • 1 x off-center caboose
  • 11 x bits of curved track
  • 1 x curved plug-in terminal
  • 1 x Body mounted E-Z mate coupler set 

It should be noted that this Bachmann set is really very simple, and if you (or if you’re shopping for your child 🙂 ) are looking for something with a good possibility for expansion, this one might be a little limited…

Buyer Feedback On The Pacific Flyer Ready-to-Run Set

Generally speaking this set received positive overall feedback, with a total of 69% of buyers (at the time of writing) giving this model set a 4 or 5 star rating out of 5. The positive feedback reviews are filled with people who thought this particular set was a great introductory set for the kids, and they were “thrilled” to receive it.

People also commented that the set’s pieces are well made, and looked the part. There were several mentions of how people thought this was a great value for money option, especially for young kids just wanting to get starting in playing with and building their own train sets and models.

One of the main things that you might want to consider, based on the feedback from other parents, is that the included track just being good for a circular design, might be a little limited, and you may want to look at including a track “expansion pack” so that more complex track designs can be created.  

Bachmann Durango and Silverton HO Scale

The Durango and Silverton is one of the classic train lines originally built for it’s mining purposes, but becoming very popular due to it’s beautiful scenery. The line which exists in the San Juan National Forest in Colarado, USA, has survived all sorts of crazyness including wars and natural disasters and is now so well renowned (as a national historic landmark even) that it survives off tourist attraction – Visit their website for more info on the train line itself.

Bachmann have done a good job of providing a simplified easy to setup version of this particular train line with its characteristic and well loved engine and car style.

The Durango and Silverton is a simple HO scale setup, with the following included:

  • Easy setup 47 inch (119 cm) x 38 inch (97 cm) oval of snap together  “EZ” track
  • 1 x DCC ready to go engine
  • 1 x  2-8-0 locomotive main engine including working headlight
  • 1 x 8-pin socket ready for DCC decoder of your choice
  • 1 x Open “excursion car”
  • 1 x “Old-time” combine
  • 1 x “Old time” coach
  • 1 x Powerpack / speed controller
  • 1 x Illustrated instruction manual

Again, similarly to the Pacific Flyer set, this is a pretty basic and introductory HO model train setup. This one is a little less basic than the Pacific Flyer, and has a little more detailed engine and car pieces. Still a very entry level model train set, and a great choice for the young enthusiasts.

Buyer Feedback On The Bachmann Durango and Silverton Set

Based on the Amazon.com review feedback, the feedback for the Durango & Silverton was pretty good, but not particularly amazing, with an overall nearly 60% of people post purchase giving the set a 5/5 star rating. Its summarised rating is approximately 4.5/5 stars. Very few people gave it 4/5 stars, and the rest of the reviews were either neutral 3/5 stars (just 9% at the time of writing) or a negative 1 OR 2/5 star rating. So not the worst we’ve seen, but not the best feedback score either.

Many users said that they’d bought this train as a Christmas gift to be setup around the Christmas Tree itself during the festive season, and were really happy with how it looked and added to their special holiday. Most users who had positive feedback overall for this model were happy with the quality, while there were some minor issues, from one or two reviewers here and there stating that they had to mess with the engine’s driver rods to get it working properly again after a short period of use.

People were also really happy with the price point of this particular model train set, and for the price generally found the quality to be satisfactory.

The negative reviews were often comments that questioned the quality of this model train set, and quite a few people complained that it quickly became dysfunctional after a short amount of use.

This feedback swings back wildly in the opposite direction from the positive feedback, so it’s hard to know if it’s just the small percentage of overall buyers who had a negative random experience with this train or it’s a design flaw (this is because quite often with any product feedback, we are only seeing a very small percentage of actual opinion about the product, as most people don’t bother to leave a review at all, and are more likely to if there’s something really negative in their experience of that product).

At the cheap price point for this train, I think to have wild expectations of a really high quality HO scale model train set might be unrealistic, and as I said before, this is definitely an entry level choice.

Bachmann Trains Deluxe Santa Fe Flyer Ready-to-Run HO Scale Train Set

The Santa Fe Flyer ready to run is the last popular HO scale set from Bachmann that we’ll take a look at here. Again this is an entry level set for either novice model train enthusiasts or children. The Santa Fe takes its fame from the Southwester USA line, and it’s red painted theme has become somewhat famous, and quite a collectors item in terms of model train engines.

This particular model includes:

  • 1 x EMD FT type diesel train engine with working front headlight
  • 1 x gondola
  • 1 x off center caboose
  • 1 x open quad hopper
  • body-mounted E-Z Mate couplers
  • 36 inche (91 cm) circlular shape snap-fit “E-Z Track”
  • 1 x illustrated instructional manual

This set is stated by Bachmann to be aimed at the age group of children around 8-12 years old. This again is a very simple track, and being just a circular track shape with not much complexity, it might be good to get some kind of expansion pack (like this one on Amazon), if you’re wanting your child, or yourself to be able to push past the basics of this set quickly…

Buyer Feedback On The Bachmann Trains Deluxe Santa Fe Flyer Ready-to-Run

The feedback for the Deluxe Santa Fe is overall pretty positive, with 70% overall of the post purchase reviews on Amazon.com being positive, with either a 4/5 or 5/5 star rating. Just 7% gave this model train set a neutral (3/3 star) rating, and the rest (approximately 25%) of the reviewers gave this set a negative review.

The positive feedback often mentioned that people were happy with the very simplistic design and setup of this set. A large percentage of the reviews came from parents, who’d bought the set for their young children. Many of these reviews commented that this set made an excellent introductory model train set for their young one. Apart from these things, buyers were really happy with the low price point of this particular Bachmann set.

Among the negative feedback for the Deluxe Santa Fe Flyer people quite often mentioned that the build quality of the parts, especially the other cars apart from the main locomotive engine. There also seemed to be issues for some people getting the train to stay on the tracks, and some people thought that the train was generally to light weight to be able to effectively stay on the tracks, especially with the way that young children can be quite energetic in their play.

Of course as usual, there were people that had a really bad experience where the product either came broken or broke very easily. Unfortunately it’s hard to know if this is an actual design/build problem with this particular train model set, or those customers were just unlucky.

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About the Author Nick.E

I consider myself a pretty regular dude, a dude who LOVES his hobbies... Aside from just being darn fun, hobbies have literally kept me going during times of my life that were challenging. I've always found the relatively harmless escape of video games, chess, other commonly played board games and more recently poker, to be an excellent way to spend my time. I hoped you enjoyed my content, and please stop back anytime :)

  • Mikel says:

    Just wanted to say that i like the site! Im really into poker as well and coincidentally just started collecting and building model trains in my spare time. Im gonna check these sources out. Thanks Nick!

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