Getting Started with an HO Scale Railroad

September 22, 2021 2 Comments

Getting Started with an HO Scale Railroad

If you’re new to model trains on an HO scale railroad, many things can be confusing – namely, what HO scale even is. Model train tracks use different scales, including N scales, S scales, O scales, and more. 

HO scale is by far the most popular.

We will tell you everything you need to know about HO scale so that you can get started on your new hobby today.


Begin with a Starter Pack

HO, is a scale for model trains that uses a ratio of 1:87. That is 3.5 mm to 1 foot. HO stands for Half-O, meaning it is half the size of the larger O scale train tracks. HO tracks are the most popular because of their smaller size and affordable prices. 

Now that you know what HO scale is, you can purchase a starter set to construct your HO scale train layout . A typical starter set comes with a length of track, a locomotive, and a couple of train cars. The track forms an oval. Setting up the track is as simple as latching the pieces together, connecting the cord to the transformer, and plugging the transformer into a wall outlet.


Expand Your Track

Setting up a starter pack is only the beginning. Get creative by adding switches and detours to the oval track. The more track you add, the longer it will take for your train to complete the loop. Adding scenery and buildings will take your track to the next level. Consider giving your train a tunnel to travel through. Any addition you make will diversify your HO scale railroad, making it unique.

A black locomotive travels through a mountainous HO scale railroad scene


Create a Cityscape

HO scale train tracks are better with scenery. You can easily add buildings to create a town or city; the factory town is one common layout. This 4’ x 8’ layout is defined by switching, which allows your train to weave between and around buildings. You can even add stops for your train to pick up and drop off freight along its journey. This is a simple addition to any starter pack.


Go Rural with a Mountain Pass

For lovers of rural scenery, the mountain pass is an essential addition. This layout is great for any hobbyist with room for a 10’ x 12’ track. The mountain pass layout is a perfect mix of rural and urban scenery as it includes a mountain, a long railroad, and several industrial stops.


Save Space with an Industrial Corner

Modelers with less space for their HO scale railroad will need to get creative. One way to optimize space is with an industrial corner. This sharp turn is perfect for constraining your track to the corner of a room. You can design your track to pass over a desk or bookshelf.


Get Started with TrainLife

Now you know the steps to build a HO scale train track of your dreams. Begin with a starter pack and get used to how it works. From there, you can buy expansion packs to redesign the track and build scenery around it. 

We hope you fall in love with constructing your HO scale railroad! It is a hobby that never tires. Hobbyists add, modify, and replace parts of their scenes over many years. Ready to construct your train track? Check out TrainLife. We carry everything a modeler needs to build their dream HO scale model train set!

2 Responses

Adrian Hoover
Adrian Hoover

December 20, 2021

It makes sense that you can have an oval but have you ever tried a square seeing as i am 12 and do not have a lot of track (but a lot of trains) however it makes sense like i said.

Rob Granger
Rob Granger

October 29, 2021

Torn between Ho and N scale I once saw an awesome n scale under glass built on a large coffee table and its stuck with me for decades.But also considering Ho and AFX road race combo but wondering it I can still locate RR/AFX crossings

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