Not Enough Room For Your Model Train Layout? Maybe Not!


The Problem:

The most common question on model railroading or model train forums comes from model train enthusiasts who want to know how to build a layout in a confined, narrow, or small space.

And, it isn’t just forums where this question is asked. You will also find this issue addressed in hobby related magazines, books which are about this pastime, and on the internet. The issue of space available isn’t limited to just a handful of hobbyists, but is, in fact, a common problem that is shared by both the experienced and the newcomer to this rewarding pastime.

The Solution To The Problem:

Only those who are determined and inflexible in their goal of building a grandiose model train layout are actually without an answer to this common problem. Where it may be true that we all dream of having a huge layout which represents the layout of our dreams, the honest reality is that most of us either do not have the ability. Space available or the finances to fund a project of this type.

The majority of model railroaders have a limited amount of space in which they can build their layouts unless they make the decision to purchase another home which specifically has an area that will accommodate their lofty ambitions. With that said, the rest of us will continue to live in our apartments, and homes which only leave enough room for our families and loved one to live and grow in.

The good news is that there is a workable solution to limited or confining spaces for any model train layout! Because of this you can take the first step in building a model railroad with confidence, and accomplish your modeling goals, but on a smaller scale than you may have originally planned. The end result will be a model railroad which will last a lifetime and that will provide constant joy, pride in craftsmanship, and many hours of operating fun.

Although some model railroaders will argue that the first step involves developing a track plan…..you really should start by selecting a size appropriate model train scale. There are actually quite a few that can be selected from, and they include the ever popular HO and N scales as well as the S scale. And, there are even smaller scales such as the TT and Z scales that can be considered as well.

By choosing the scale you want to model in first you will eliminate costly problems further down the road. For example, if you were to decide to change scales at a later date all of your rolling stock will have to be replaced and everything about your layout may have to be changed as well. It is much easier to make sure that your completely satisfied with your initial choice and then construct your layout.


After selecting your modeling scale you can then proceed to the next step which is creating a track plan that will definitely fit the space you have available. There are a variety of things which will have be evaluated and they include the following:

1. The most obvious is the size of the area where you’ll be building your layout.

2. Make sure you pre-calculate the actual dimensions of your layout.

3. A decision will have to made regarding which railroad and era you’re going to model.

4. You’ll also have to choose what type of trains that your going to be running.

5. Last, the style of terrain as well other scenery items your layout will feature will have to be decide on.

You may want to give some thought to taking advantage of the various published track plans which are available if this is you first attempt at track planning. In so doing, designing your scenery and arranging your structures will be much easier.

The best recommendation for a starter layout is to begin with the standard four by eight foot layout. This is a natural choice because almost all plywood sheets and foam insulation board comes in this size.

Finally, you may want to consider purchasing a previous issue of Model Railroader Magazine that featured the following title: “How To Build Small Model Railroads.” Here’s the internet link for this issue: http://mrr.trains.com/marketing/2014/07/small%20model%20railroads.