Factory Town - A Busy 4x8
A 4x8 platform is a common size for a starting layout. Materials are easy to acquire, you can fit one in most rooms and it is just large enough for a great variety of track plans in most scales while small enough to remain affordable and easy to complete in a reasonable time. This plan builds on track sections you probably have in your first starter train set to add operation.
Layout at a Glance
- Scale: HO
- Size: 4x8'
- Minimum Curve: 18" radius
- Minimum Switch: 18" radius
- Maximum Grade: 0%
You could use any number of methods for building the benchwork on this layout. You could follow these plans for a simple platform or adapt the open grid platform as shown on the Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Layout.
The platform is designed to be seen from all sides. To help hide the grade and make the mainline run feel even longer, place a view block of tall buildings, a mountain or even a backdrop down the center.
This track plan is designed around standard track sections and switches. The switches are all 18" radius turnouts which match the track geometry of a standard curve and 9" straight track section. If you want to use a different style of track, No. 4 switches could be substituted with some additional adjustments in curves and small straights.
You could also substitute flex track for most of the track on the layout. Flex track will allow more options for track alignment and smoother curves such as the run-around siding while eliminating about 1/3 of the rail joints which provide an opportunity for voltage loss.
To build the layout as shown, here are the pieces you'll need:
- 22" Radius Curve - 8
- 22" Radius 1/3 Curve - 4
- 18" Radius Curve - 12
- 18" Radius Switch, Right - 4
- 18" Radius Switch, Left - 2
- 9" Straight - 18
- 6" Straight - 2
- 3" Straight - 1
- 2" Straight - 5
- 1.5" Straight - 2
- Bumper - 2
Scenery and Structures
The mainline oval wraps around a center of urban scenery with a large factory straddling both sides of the angled siding at center. Two additional smaller customers share the other siding.
Store fronts, houses, and a church are shown to the left to complete the scene. You could, of course, add more or less and choose buildings to suit whatever era and locale you prefer.
You could add some more operation by adding an interchange with another railroad represented by another siding in one of the four corners. Use an 18 or 22" radius switch, with the mainline taking the curved route, to add a spur towards the edge of the layout in one corner. This could also provide an avenue for future expansion.
Operations and Rolling Stock
- The two industrial sidings face opposite directions so depending on which way your train is traveling, you'll need to use the run around to serve one or the other. The shorter run around makes a better choice for this move but the longer passing siding could also be used.
- The long siding could also be used to meet and store the second train. To control multiple trains, you could use either conventional block control, or explore your options with a starter DCC system.
- With the tight curves, four-axle diesel and smaller steam locomotives will look and operate best. Freight cars have grown steadily in size over the years, so modeling an earlier era will tend to lead you to shorter cars. 40' cars were much more common prior to the 1960s. The cars you'll need for your industries depends on which businesses you choose.
- You could use a car-forwarding card system to set up operating moves, or just set up a train with a few random cars and head out on the line to make your pickups and setouts as you see fit.
- With any layout, spending a little extra time to ensure your track is laid well, and powering switch frogs will go a long way towards increasing your enjoyment. Uncoupling magnets on the sidings would also make switching easier.
- Most switches are within easy reach so simple ground throws could be used. Powered switch machines are always an option however if you prefer.
- This layout provides a nice balance of operation and scenery and can be an easy extension from a starter set to a permanent layout.