Good Size for a Beginner?

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by NewTrainGuy, Jan 23, 2008.

  1. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    I know this question has probably been asked a thousand one times, but what do some of the old salts recommend for a good starter set that won't be overly daunting to a newbie, but still has the potential for expansion down the road?

    I see 4'x8' being thrown around alot, but I don't want to get in too far over my head. I'll be working in HO scale, because I'd be afraid of breaking the N scale trains. Hehe. Thanks in advance.
  2. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    the typical size for a small railroad today is 4 by 8,which after finishing it (although there are some VERY good and fun prototypical plans) a few months of running trains on that you WILL want something bigger (these basement empires gotta start somewhere :mrgreen: ) but for a starter id Say go for a 4 by 8 or if want the ability to move and join a club of experienced modelers or work in a small area at a time id say to build modules.which are just 2 by 4 pieces that you build separately and then put together to make one large set.this also gives you the benefit of join a larger group of modules for building VERY large layouts by placing all the members modules together.
    so all in all join a club if possible and ask for any advice or help you can get trust me the older guys DO have all the answers.i cant find a single question these clubs cant answer about there home roads or there standards.hope this helped.--josh
  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    The 4X8 is a classic because of the ready made benchwork table size that accommodates 18 and 22 inch curves to provide considerable operation possibilities in a small size. There are myriad published track plans for such a layout that could offer a lot of fun and interest. Feel free to consider thinking outside that box too if a different configuration such as shelf style or something else might suit your space.

  4. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    "which after finishing it a few months of running trains on that you WILL want something bigger"

    Haha. It's that kind of thinking that is going to get me in trouble.

    Regarding the modular build; I picked up a little 'how to' guide by Woodland Scenics, and they had a bit about modular builds, but I think that might be a bit too much for me quite yet.

    Speaking of which, any comments on their line of foam risers, inclines, etc? They look like they take alot out of the guess work for you. Still haven't decided what sort of track I'm going to use (flexible vs not), either.
  5. stdguage

    stdguage Member

    Hello NeweTrainGuy!

    The size of a first layout depends on many factors. What are your modeling interests? Era? Switching vs running? Where will the layout be placed? Will it be sharing space? You may want to complete the given and Druthers form included in this section.

    You see 4x8 quite a bit because this is about as small as feasible for a standard gauged HO layout with a loop of track and some switching interest. If your skills allow for it, try to resist the sheet of plywood layout. The 4X8 is still a good start.

    For a start at looking at what other people have done I'd look into two Model Railroader publications:
    Basic Model Railroad Track Plans (mostly 4x8)
    101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders (all sizes and shapes)

    My personal favorite is #17 from 101 Track Plans which is the original layout plan for John Allen's Gorre and Daphetid. Elsewher, you can find a differant version with the service yard on the outside and an industry spur in the center. This has everything you'd want in a small layout. A good operating distance, a brance line, plenty of scenery space. If you think the switches and radius are a bit tight you can consider the same plan as a narrow gauge line.

    I am also just starting out. I am building some historically accurate structures for my favorite "fallen flag" Colorado railroad while planning a sectional light-weight portable, transportable, and storable layout that can be expanded as time and resources permit.

    Good Luck on your design.
  6. RonP

    RonP Member of the WMRC

    I would suggest a 2' X 4' module. A small diorama of sorts to give an easy and quick taste of the hobby.

    This way when you have that great idea in the future it will have a bit of experience behind it. Then you'll have the knowledge to tell us how big your going.
  7. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    stguage: I think I'm mostly interested in form over function. So I will definitely be leaning more towards a running set with a good amount of scenery and whatnot than a switching. We just got a new house and we've doubled our square footage, so that means we've got a ton of unused space (for the time being). Right now, I have land rights (hehe) to a nice chunk of unshared space in the loft (maybe 5'x12' or so), but we have a spare room that is as of now, unused. When you say skipping the plywood layout, do you refer to a more landscaped layout with risers and whatnot? That's pretty much what I had planned. I will definitely check out those publications. Thanks for the tip.

    RonP: My biggest concern with a modular build is not really being able run it once each module is done. I was however, thinking about starting on one or two smaller dioramas just to get a feel for scenery and whatnot.

    Thanks for the info guys. I promise as soon as I decide where I'm going I'll post plenty of pictures (the wife approved my purchase authorization request for a brand new camera last month, so I'm set there, hehe.)
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I'd suggest the 4x8 or even 4x6. For some reason, when I started 3 years ago, I was urged to go for a 4x6 size. It's been keeping me busy for exactly 3 years and I still (purposely) haven't finished the scenery. In our small Toronto bungalow, we only have room for a 4x6. I've changed the layout a LOT since I first began it and there are so many elements to keep you busy -- building roads, adding stores and houses, adding scenery and hills, ballasting, weathering track (my current project), not to mention running trains.

    Having said that, I'm either considering building a smaller (modular?) layout possibly next winter. Or, if we ever move to a larger house, I'd like to build a larger layout!

    At any rate, I think a 4x8 or 4x6 will keep a newcomer busy without it being overwhelming.

  9. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    So I tinkered around with TrackLayer (unregistered) and this is something that I whipped up. It's nothing fancy, no switches or anything, and I can't display tunnels or trussels, but, yeah. Like I said before, not looking for function, but rather something that would be simple for a first timer.

  10. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

  11. stdguage

    stdguage Member

    I will second Nomad. The HOGRR is a very good way for a beginner to start. Easy to build frame work with step by step instructions. The same amount of scenery as a 4x8 (32 sq ft) built on 4 sections. Great for operations too! You might get tired of any layout where the train chases its own tail.
  12. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    I do like the HoGRR after having spent a bit of time looking at it. I won't get the over/under opportunities, but overall, it looks like it would . One downside that I have... I don't have the tools that would be needed, and the last time I worked with a saw of any sort was about 15 years ago in high school. Haha.
  13. markjf

    markjf New Member

    Woodland Scenics Grand Valley layout kit is 4x8 and the same track plan you posted
  14. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    So I paid a visit to a local hobby shop and bought my first engine today! I decided to stick with a vanilla analog train and decide later to upgrade to DCC or not. I know it's probably not all that exciting for you old-timers but I'm certainly amped about it.

  15. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Anytime somebody gets a new locomotive it's exciting. Congrats.

  16. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Welcome to a great hobby, and a good bunch of folks here on the forums (myself excluded... I'm a troublemaker - as you'll soon see!).

    You've got a good locomotive there, the Proto2000's are solid performers, and those E-units are tanks - they'll pull anything.

    Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) an E-unit is not well suited to a 4x8 layout. It really needs broad curves (22" or bigger) to run reliably. That said, it would run very well on the HOG layout with it's 26" minimum radius curves.
  17. NewTrainGuy

    NewTrainGuy New Member

    I did decide to look into the HOG setup. And I spoke at length with the guy at the hobby shop about things (he probably got pretty sick of me, haha), and he says this train will be a good starter for me. I was pretty surprised how heavy it was. Thing is a beast...and my son is going NOWHERE near it. Ha!
  18. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    It's good your looking into the HOG. Don't let using tools throw you off. You will need learn to use lots of different tools as your railroad progresses.
    And treat your hobby shop guy nice. He can be a major source of quick information and help.

  19. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    The HOG plan (or ones similar to it) are very good for making the jump from "train set" to "Model Railroad".

    A big problem with the 4x8 is that its space constraints tend to limit your options to 'round and 'round plans. Similar to the one you drew, actually. While these look good, and are fun to build (hey, what layout isn't fun to build?) they soon become quite boring, as all you can really do is watch the train go 'round and 'round. If that's all you want from your model trains, then maybe that's the way to go.

    Most people find they become quickly bored with that sort of layout, though. It's good for a short diversion, but after you've watched the train do a couple of laps, you've added a couple more trees, you add a couple of ducks to the pond, you're wandering off to see what's on the tube.

    The nice thing about a plan like the HOG is that you can run 'round and 'round if you like, but there's room for some switching, and lots of variety in scenery.

    While the over-under thing looks cool (and it is), buildiing a layout just to get an over-under is a sure ticket to disappointment. Apart from the real-estate it takes up, it also provides all sorts of opportunities for frustration once the "under" track is hidden by scenery. Better to have your first layout wide open and exposed - fewer things to worry about and easier to get at your mistakes.
  20. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    I don't know what you told your LHS dude, and I don't know what you talked about, but to be honest, if I were selling a newb a locomotive, it wouldn't be a big 6-axle passenger loco.

    You were initially looking at a 4x8 layout - that means tight curves, and that big banana would have a hard time with it. I think given the choices available today, any 4-axle unit would have been a better choice for you to start with.

    An F-unit would have been a better choice if you wanted something streamlined:

    Or a GP-something for a more modern unit:

    Unless this was a used loco at a bargain price, I don't really think your hobby shop guy is doing you any favours...:v8:

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