N or HO for 4'x8'

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by jambo101, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. jambo101

    jambo101 Member

    Starting to think about getting back into the hobby and will be using a 4'x8' dimension.
    I am now in the N or HO delema,i read dmcgeoch's thread and got some points to ponder but was wondering about the pro's and cons of the 4x8 layout specifically.
    The theme will be in the early diesel (SW's and RS's) and late steam era..
    I prefer the HO size but N gives more diversity on the layout.
    I hope its not going to come to tossing a coin.
    I need more points to ponder.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Large late steam and full length passenger cars in HO scale are not going to be happy with the curves you are forced to use on a 4x8. If you do use HO on a 4x8, be aware of the following:

    - use "shorty" passenger cars rather than full scale. These typically scale to 60-70 ft rather than the 80+ ft of full scale.

    - personally, I wouldn't use any steam engine larger than a 2-8-2 or 4-6-2 on the 18" radius curves. But there are larger engines will physically do it. You have to decide whether the overhang is acceptable.

    - train length is practically restricted to about 56" in HO unless you use a double track main. This is due to siding length limitations. This equals 7 40ft cars, a caboose, and a short engine. The same length train in N is 12 40ft cars, a caboose, and a pair of 1st gen diesels on point.

    If you use N, you will fit 2-3 times as much "stuff" (cars, engines, structures) in the same space. Even if stuff is the same price or slightly less, it will cost more for an N scale layout because of the extra "stuff" required for the same space.

    I think most of the points have been well-covered in other threads.

    I personally prefer HO because I like to build kits (there are still loco kits available in HO) rather than buy RTR. Because of my small space (and because it appeals to me), I model the 1890-1900 era when engines, trains, and cars were all much smaller. Modeling that era would be very difficult to do in N with kits and kit-bashing for my older eyes.

    these are my thoughts and your choices
  3. ESE999

    ESE999 Member

    HO on a 4x8 will never be more than a glorified loop. But on N you can do wonders! Imagine if you had 2x4 N layout, the N equivalent to an HO 4x8. If you did N on a 4x8, it's the equivalent of doing an HO on a 8x16 or 4 4x8's, a respectable HO layout. My vote, is with the N, for the simple reason that your canvas is larger.
  4. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    What's your main objective with this layout? If you're just looking to get back into the hobby and relearn the basics then either scale will suit you fine. If you're interested in a basic switching layout then you could use HO scale; if you're more interested in attempting some mainline operations then N scale might be better suited.

    There are plenty of other considerations to account for as well. How is your eyesight? N scale models are half the size of HO models. What scale is best available locally? Is there a hobby store that stocks more than one over the other? Is there a local club in one scale you could turn to for guidance and camaraderie? What's your budget look like? If you're working with a limited budget you might want to look at HO scale as you'll be tempted to cram less into the same space. Who else will be using the layout? Younger children and elderly people are generally more inclined to work with larger models, not to mention the safety factor of having more durable models around children.
  5. jambo101

    jambo101 Member

    Thanks for the input guys.looks like N scale gets the nod due to the larger canvas idea and also if i ran HO most of the continuous running aspects would be very close to the edge and i'd hate to see expensive loco's on the floor..
  6. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member


    I too am about to re-enter the hobby and am faced with the same dilemna. It's not that I can't go bigger than an 8x4 layout, it's that I don't want to for my first serious attempt; I don't want to "bite off more than I can chew" and get discouraged. I have waffled back-and-forth for about a year now, reading anything I could get my hands on, getting up to speed on DCC, and monitoring this forum for ideas. I finally decided to go with HO scale for reasons that I will share with you now... True, on an 8x4 I am limited to a basic glorified circle. However, anything that I build I can add on to later or incorporate into a larger layout. But my main reason is that I am just as interested in the modeling of scenery and structures as I am running trains. I recently attended the National Model Railroad Expo here in the Detroit area and had an opportunity to scrutinize very large HO and N scale layouts. As impressive as the N-scale layouts were in terms of train length and train-to-scenery ratios, I couldn't get over how tiny the structures and figures were. To the point were I could barely make out and enjoy the little scenes that were laid out of figures working on the tracks and vehicles and what-not.

    So anyway that is my input, for what it is worth. I'm going to model a humble 8x4 HO layout, basically just to see how it turns out and to test my modeling skills.

    Good luck to you and keep us posted.
  7. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    What kind of space are you going to put the 4 by 8? A 4 by 8 takes up almost an entire room when you include the walk around area. In N, for example, you could have a better layout that is water wings in shape and roughly 3 by 9 or 3 by 10, a very nice size for an N layout and laying against one wall. With a three foot width you could have 16 inch curves in N scale, which is just shy of 30 inch curves in HO.

    Or maybe you have a corner of a room, which could give you an enjoyable L shaped layout, again in N. Rather than start with an arbitrary size of 4 by 8, why not see what space is available and how you can use it.
  8. ESE999

    ESE999 Member

    It also depends on the type of operations you're planning. You could do switching operations on 32' square feet in HO (like a shelf style layout, point to point or dogbone). But if you want mainline runs and heavy freight and passenger operations, then the N would be better.
  9. jambo101

    jambo101 Member

    I'm not into using lots of switches as they usually become a trouble spot,I also dont like doing a lot of wiring so it will be a two mainline continuous running type of layout with a few bypass tracks and enough sidings for 2 or 3 industries and i'll fit in at least 1 station.The actual running of the trains is secondary in pleasure to actually modeling the layout,In the past i usually spend several months creating the mountains,forests,towns roads.industries etc. but once its done after about a month of playing with it i'm thinking of the next layout.

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