i'm a firm beleiver in the 4x8

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by alexander, Dec 17, 2006.

  1. alexander

    alexander Member

    for several reasons'

    1. there small and manageable
    2. they are cheap to build and dont need complex benchwork
    3 who is saying you cant connect 2 4x8s together?
    often, there all a person has domestic approval for (ie, the wife, or in my case mother wont let the have any more
    4. if mounted on wheels, they can be kept in 4 foot by 8 foot no more
    5 i have fit a lot of action into several 4x8's

    these are just my pros of 4x8's. i know off at least one disadvantage, that they are limited to tight curves, but, the smaller locos are often cheaper too (ie, a GP9 is cheaper than a BVig boy

    these are my 4x8 plans


  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    The 4X8 can bring a lot of joy, especially with thoughtful trackplans. Good stuff Alexander!
  3. trainwhiz20

    trainwhiz20 Member

    Personally, I'm a strong believer in the 4'x7'. :thumb:

    Cool trackplans.
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I like them both enough to bookmark 'em:thumb: I, too, am a firm believer in the 4x8, especially as a first layout---big enough for running and ops, yet not too large as to overwhelm space or budget.
  5. alexander

    alexander Member

    agreed. Although, the larger layouts are better, they are also more daunting and expensive
  6. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Here here! Have you seen Dave Methlie's work in Model Railroader?

    I think a challenge for any small layout is to get away from the evolution from toy train layout to a 'well dressed' toy train layout, if you know what I mean. I think many of MR's "____ Central" plans are that way. They do, in their defense, try to make operations a feature of these layouts along with a distinct setting. But sometimes it seems like just another answer to the premise: Hmmm...let's see how we can arrange the tracks this time!!!

    Now don't get me wrong...there's a lot of fun to be had just playing trains without any concern for prototype fidelity or operational interest beyond moving this car from here to there without any rhyme or reason...just because it's fun!

    But I've been chewing on 4x8's for some time now, and you've inspired me to perhaps share a few of my sketches. SO maybe this week I'll scan in some of the old ones and share. (And hopefully get some other sketching done...that's for you, Illus...)

  7. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    I don't know if I agree 100%, but then I like scenery a lot too.

    Great write up:thumb:

  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I am a proponent of table-top layouts, too. But as Galen points out, getting beyond an expanded train set running around in circles is not easy.

    Another drawback to many of the published 4x8 layout plans is the inability to be built as drawn. Even after one accepts that some turnouts and crossings are going to have to be handlaid for the track to fit, many of the published plans "cheat" on horizontal, vertical, and scenic clearances. Some of the most esteemed track planners (examples from John Armstrong and Iain Rice come to mind) are guilty of this. The vertical clearance issues are show stoppers - on a 4x8 where there is not at least 3.5 inches difference in elevation where the tracks cross over one another, there is not enough room to increase the clearance and still keep the grade reasonable.

    And running track to within 1" of the table edge is hardly a good practice, either.

    My final issue with many published 4x8 plans is putting industrial spurs on grades. If the turnout to a spur is on a grade, where does one leave the rest of the train while the spur is being switched? The grade on a spur can be addressed with the old hair brush bristle glued vertically trick, but the main line cannot.

    My rules of thumb for a table-top track plan are:
    • track at least 2" from table edges
    • 3.5" minimum vertical elevation difference between tracks crossing over one another
    • maximum 4% grade except under special circumstances
    • no turnouts where switching operations will occur on grades.
    • minimum 2" parallel track separation on straight, 2.5" or more on curves
    • 1" of radius will go to curve easements, and 4" of straight. If one uses 18" radius curves, plan for 19" radius, with 4" of straight at end of each curve for easements
    • parallel tracks at different elevations must have distance between the tracks equal to 2" plus the difference in elevations. Otherwise, retaining walls must be used between the tracks
    Other constraints that come from the sharp curves and size of layout (again, my rules of thumb):
    • normal longest train is no longer than the length of table side minus 2 times the curve radius plus 2 inches. An example is a 4x8 with 18" curves. Longest train would be 96"-36"-4"=56" or less. Passing tracks will often force shorter. Double track will permit longer trains, but they still look out of place.
    • rolling stock and locomotives must be shorter than 1/2 the radius, with 1/3 the radius preferred. In HO with 18" radius curves, this means nothing longer than 66 scale ft, with 40 scale ft maximum preferred.
    In HO, these are huge limitations on rolling stock and locomotives - era, size, type, prototype, and quantity all become important decisions. Thinking small - earlier era, branch line, or short line prototype, no post-1910 passenger equipment, no 6 axle diesels, no steam bigger than 2-8-0, and 7 or fewer cars/train are realities for realism.

    Rosters really need to be planned well - 3 locomotives and around 20 cars are all a 4x8 need or should have. The locomotives should fit the era and service they are performing. Cars should be an appropriate mix of home and foreign roads, and types to fit industries served on and off the layout.

    The biggest improvement to a 4x8 or similar is add a rectangular extension (2ft x 4ft to 2ft x 8ft). These, if designed well, add immeasurably to the operational capabilities of a 4x8. Two extensions, each containing a terminal of some kind, and linked by the 4x8, is ideal. Using a hidden-from-view passing siding as staging is a very effective operations multiplier, too.

    The Atlas HO-33 (Plywood Summit Lines) is a buildable plan for a 4x8 without extensions. It's one of my favorites.

    my thoughts, your choices
  9. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    I've enjoyed working on my 3x6 n-scale layout. I've learned a lot using the Scenic Ridge kit and I agree these 3sx6/4x8 plans are great for getting into the hobby and learning.

    My next goal is to the tools/idea/techniques/etc.. in a more walkaround style layout. While I enjoy the compactness of this style of layout, the "loop-de-loop" layout does have it's limits of what I can do (or want to do really).
  10. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I've seen this on many plans of other sizes as well. A mainline passing track can be on a grade if there are no spurs around. Engines attached to a train will prevent it from rolling. However, I've often seen runarounds on grades, which can't work.
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Great insights as usual! ;)

    The need to brake a train on a mainline (sans loco) could be addressed by a choke cable type retractable pin that would engage an axel to prevent runaway trains...

  12. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Guys,I am of the opinion there should be NO grades or mountains on a 4x8 as the space should be used more wisely.
    Check out these small but,excellent layouts.:thumb:

  13. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    What do you all think about a scenic divider down the middle of the layout lengthwise? (effectively dividing the layout into two, 2x8 scenes?)

    I have planned a 4x8 urban industrial line that utilizes a backdrop across one of the short ends to create a staging area of about 1'x4'. I'm not at home now to scan and post this plan, so maybe later today, but probably in the track planning section...where this enjoyable thread should be, probably.

  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    4x8s are okay if you have the room and the funds.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the central back drop is a great way to divide the 4 x 8 so it doesn't look like the train is going around in circles. Harold Minkwitz (Hminky here on the gauge) pointed out that it is difficult to deal with the view of the layout with the center divider from the ends of the bench because some of the realism of distance is lost when you can see both sides. If you go to his web site www.pacificcoastairlinerr.com you will see in one of his pictures of his 4 x 8 layout the problem he spoke of.

    It just occured to me that the problem might be alleviated (spelling?) or even go away completely if you designed the backdrop as an "I" beam with the flanges as a vertical extension of the ends of the bench. You would in effect make each side of the layout a "shadow box." The transition from one side to the other could be a tunnel, a large building that the train goes behind, or even a bunch of trees so it wouldn't need to be a tunnel entrance and exit on each end. You could put an access door on each end to access the hidden tracks to rerail a train if needed.
  16. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member


    This is partly what led to the plan I spoke of with a divider across one short end. Only a couple feet available for any staging, but a fiddle yard concept might work better, especially with cars on shelves above & below the tracks.

    Also, a long central backdrop can conceal wiring and supports for lighting, even a valance.

    I think it's about designing a railroad theme that maximizes the inherent benefits of a 4x8 while downplaying the inherent flaws.

    Two ways of thinking about a 4x8 that have influenced my planning...ONE, as a 2' shelf layout pulled away from the walls and placed backdrop to backdrop. TWO, as one overarching theme or large scene comprised of several smaller mini scenes.

    In the first case it can be two disparate themes or locations on each side...urban on one, rural on the other, etc. Operationally, two trains can be run as long as at least one side includes a passing track. For instance, a passenger train waits at a station while the freight pulls into town. Then the passenger train leaves and hides out in the country on the other side while the freight does its work. Then the passenger returns and waits at the station again while the freight heads out to the other side. Etc...

    In the second case the layout is conceived of as one large scene. A mountain or scenic divider/backdrop hides one section, long or short side, as staging. This gives you a nice deep scene with plenty of room for large structures, a big industry (maybe two) OR a large rural scene like a creek or gorge running down or across the layout.

    In either case, simplicity of track CONCEPT is important. That doesn't mean you can't have many little sidings ducking through brick alleys, but essentially in that case what you've got is a switching district...not a 4 track mainline PLUS a switching district PLUS a branch line, etc. Pick one because that's all there's room for, realistically.

  17. Illus

    Illus Member

    Waiting patiently!sign1
    I Just finished my New River Mining Company model... Well, it may turn into a gravel company:)
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Galen, one concept I really like the idea of for a fiddle yard is to use one of those rolling tool utiliy carts as the benchwork for your fiddle yard. Allowing for plenty of space between tracks for hands, you could still easily get 6-8 tracks on one. Drill some 1/4" holes in one end of the cart and put in some 1/4" bolts then fill the shallow openning with layered plywood to lock in the bolts and provide a surface for your fiddle yard tracks at the top. A few holes drilled in the end of your model railroad bench to use the screws sticking out of the cart for alignment purposes, and your fiddle yard is now a rolling sector plate. You don't even need to power the tracks if you use some other freight cars as handles for your locomotive to unload the fiddle yard, or you could wire up the tracks and use something like a Cinch-Jones plug to the 4 x 8 to power the tracks when you plug it into the railroad.
  19. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Freight cars as handles...a cool idea. I could see mounting an actual loop door pull onto a 40' flat car. Use an epoxy adhesive so it'd be strong. It'd work even better with a cheap car like a Tyco since the flanges are usually grossly oversized but that might keep it on the rails better. Of course, the couplers would have to be body mounted or get Kadee replacement wheelsets. Well, maybe just a good old Athearn or MDC 40' box car would work. Or something like the old 'Oscar' or 'Piker' to save space. Great idea, Russ!

  20. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I have no choice: my ( great ) wife just fixed the limits of my railroad layout.
    I have a 25" x 36 " N scale layout in the bedroom and I'm starting a Marklin HO switcihng layout on a 30" x 80 " hollow core door layout.
    I'll get retired 6 months from now and my wife told me that if I retire in Brasil , I'll get a whole room for my layout.

    What should I do ?
    The problem is that in Brasil model railroading is not very popular.

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