Looking for beginner HO track plans

Can anyone recommend a good resource for HO track plans in a 4'x8' area? I'm using Kato Unitrack, if that matters.

I want my first layout to be interesting but not overly complicated.



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Hi Robert,

The 4' x 8' is actually not such a good use of space:

  • it fosters round-n-round track plans which quickly lead to boredoom
  • it requires a lot of room, minimally 8' x 12' to use (allowing a couple of feet each side

Having said this, a good track plan is available here

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If I can convince you to cut your 4x8 in half and make it 2' x 16' you can fit in much more realistic operation, or you can turn it into an L

2' x 10' x 8'



Reply to
Colin 't Hart


Since Colin has brought up the inevitable argument against the 4 x 8, let me present my argument for it:

For a beginning layout the 4x8 has several advantages:

It is wide enough for a reasonably large 22" radius turnback curve. If designed right, this 4x8 layout can become a turnback or loop for a later, shelf plan.

The wide table allows plenty of interesting scenery to be built; it is wide enough for a plausible town scene.

The building of a sturdy 4x8 table is easier engineering than a shelf plan, especially when plywood comes in 4x8 sheets and lumber in 8 foot lengths.

There are many, many track plans available for this size.

The disadvantages (which Colin is right about) can be dealt with in these ways:

The layout can be pushed against a wall or into a corner, thereby taking up only

6 x 12 or 6 x 10 feet. Reaching the back track will be hard, so design in a pop-out section, and avoid putting switches at the table back.

Many old houses have basements or attics that are not very useful as living spaces, but are fine for a model railroad. Space isn't always hard to find; sometimes labor is harder.

Round-and-round plans are only dull when they are designed wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of them are. The best plans are those which allow either round-and-round running and point-to-point or out-and-back operation. Often a bad plan can become good with only a simple change, often as simple as turning a switch around.

I have had 'island' layouts, shelf plans, and a British style switching layout, and I think the island type is the best to start from.

Cordially yours: Gerard P.

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Kato has sample plans on their site:

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[Click on "Unitrack" at top center of the home page, then "Track plans" on the left.] These have the advantage of giving you a complete inventory of the sections needed for each plan.

-- Bill McC.

Reply to
Bill McCutcheon

Here is a site that has info and track plans for all scales. Their HO section is quite thorough. Plenty of good ideas and info.

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Reply to
Roger King

Thanks for all of your replies.

I already have a 4'x8' table constructed of insulation foam and sawhorses, with a supporting frame of 1x4's. I'm considering this layout to be a learning experience, and I may end up keeping most of what I do or throwing it away later. (I've already seen enough articles on L-girder tables that I think I'll eventually want to try building one just to see if I can do it.)

I guess my concern is I still don't understand enough of what goes into a layout, and why track is laid out the way it is. I've been reading a lot of Model Railroader books with layout projects in them. Some of them have ideas I'd like to integrate into my layout. (Some of the ideas are probably best saved for the future.)

Anyway, it's too bad you can't take classes in how to do this stuff!


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Actually, you can. AFAIK, NMRA still has a program called Modelling with the Masters. Go to nmra.org, and sniff around.

The trick is to think in terms of a) a real or imagined prototype: that will help you imagine operation and scenery.

b) design of the layout, not just a "track plan": that means, think of how the layout will look from different angles, that is, hink in terms of scenes. There are at least four scenes possible on a 4x8.

An excellent book to help you design track plans is John Armstrong's Trackplanning for Realistic Operation. The title is misleading, as he actually shows you how to design a layout.

Any of Iain Rice's books are good, too, as he always discusses the real or imagined prototype for the layouts he designs.

Warning: layout design is a hobby in itself, and can eat up a lot more time than actually building a layout. Believe me, I know!


Reply to
Wolf Kirchmeir

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