Family Ties: Building My First HO Layout – Inc. Inc. Articles Railfan Spotlight Family Ties: Building My First HO Layout

Family Ties: Building My First HO Layout

An Article by Bradyn Terrell

Pa and me.

I’ll admit that the roots of my railroad interest began with that blue tank engine that everyone loved as a toddler. But, I give most of the credit to my amazing grandfather. Even before we were doing model trains, he was my hero. A Vietnam veteran, a hard worker, and an even better man. It was that one evening when I was at “Ma and Pa’s house” when my grandpa emerged from the attic with his HO scale trains. Little did I know, these dusty analog trains would be the beginning of the best hobby I’ve ever had. Pa began building his layout, with me excitedly watching his plans come to fruition. Even today, he’s still adding new things to his miniature world.

Pa’s Rivet Counter™ DASH-9 Locomotive on his layout.

I can still remember the year I got my own HO scale trains. Christmas 2013 would begin the foundation of what I have today. From that set, I upgraded to my first layout of which I’m still working on today. My grandpa made most of it possible, building the benchwork, building structures, and electrical work. Of all things, he was definitely capable of the electric side of things. That WAS a major part of his profession. There were a couple of years where I didn’t mess with the layout much, being a kid, you have all kinds of other interests going around. I still do. I can’t help it, though. Some of those LEGO sets are too good to pass up for another boxcar. The real investment started in 2018. That’s when things really took off.

My layout in 2018

Here in Kentucky, the Louisville show is the biggest one around. We’ve gone every year for about…6 years? At the 2018 show, I got some new stuff and I got really interested again. Fast forward to summer break. School’s out and I usually hang out with my grandparents. Pa and I started exploring some nearby train stores, that until then, I had no idea existed. I slowly started working on the layout. Beforehand, it was just a grass mat over foam. In the past couple of years, that foam slab has become my fictional town of Remford, Kentucky (affectionately named after my two dogs, Remi & Woodford.)

My layout in 2021.

It wasn’t just models in 2018, though. Me and Pa ventured out on the nearby Norfolk Southern line. This is when I started railfanning. Like many other new railfans these days, I just had my phone to record. I’m glad I was taking videos that year, because that’s when the NS fleet began losing its diversity. I’m thankful to have captured some of the SD60s, 70s, and DASH-8s. I had a YouTube channel that I created in 2015, and I focused my content on trains. I renamed it to TerrellTime. No thought behind it and yet the name stuck. It worked out pretty well. In addition to filming real trains, I also like to review HO Scale products. My most recent review was on the new Rivet Counter HO Scale CSX “Spirit of Our Law Enforcement” ES44.


I’m still going out to see trains around Kentucky and occasionally out of home state. My favorite spot to go to with Pa is definitely Norfolk Southern’s Danville Yard on the CNO&TP line. Sitting trackside with him is my favorite pastime. Some of my most-cherished memories involve our railfan adventures together. On a recent trip to Danville Yard, I snapped the picture below of a Norfolk Southern train swapping crews at the yard. Danville is a major crew change point for NS trains running north and south on the old Southern Railway mainline.

NS power in Danville, Kentucky.

Presently, the layout has really come together. I’ve learned tons of modeling skills and I’m putting them to work. I’ve upgraded to a DSLR plus a drone for railfanning and I’ve obtained hundreds of followers on my channel. This hobby has really been a blessing. I’ve met countless friends and been to fascinating places because of it. Last year, I even published my first book about railfanning; “A Guide To Railfanning For The Uninformed.” has brought awesome models to the market, and I’m glad to have a few in my ever-growing collection.

My ScaleTrains Rivet Counter™ HO Scale DASH-9.

Bradyn Terrell, only in 8th Grade, is an aspiring writer, filmmaker, and passionate hobbyist who lives in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.