One of the keys to overcoming the limitations of the HO 4X8 footprint is to focus the layout narrowly. I tried to do just that with my modfication of the Red Wing HO 4X8 layout first
published in the December 1994 issue of Model Railroader. (My version was published in Model Railroad Planning
My HO 4X8 version opts for large industries focused on California-style citrus packing and related industries. But even with that
narrow focus, by the time we add a cramped yard and an interchange track, the minimum radius is limited to 18". And in
the 8'X10' minimum space for a 4X8, those 2-foot aisles are pretty tight!
As an alternative, let's take the full 8'X10' space required
for the HO 4X8 and its aisles and revise the track plan to use that space more efficiently by going around the room
on narrow shelves. Click the image at right for a larger view of the 8X10 plan in a new window.
allows us to broaden the minimum radius on the main substantially. I've chosen 24" minimum radius here to make the
point, but it does overpower the room slightly. Even 22" minimum radius would still be a major improvement on the
4X8's 18" and would leave us with a little more straight track. Atlas Code 83 #4 turnouts (actually #4 1/2)
are typical and there are no required grades.
The broader central aisle makes things more comfortable for a couple
of crew members. We now have room for a much more substantial yard and interchange track with another railroad. Amargosa
also can host a few industries of its own to add operating variety. There's even room for a compact engine service
terminal, if desired.
The layout would work fine as a point-to-point switching operation
representing a short line serving Citrus Valley from the Class 1 connection at Amargosa. But continuous-running is easily
added with a duck-under, lift-out, or swing gate across the doorway. To keep construction simple, I've shown the removable
section straight. But building-in a curve here might eliminate some of the "squared oval" feeling of the
Since most folks considering an HO 4X8 model railroad aren't actually constrained by a room
as small as the minimum 8'X10', the same concept could certainly be expanded for a more-typical 10'X10' room
This exercise shows that even a thoughtfully designed HO 4X8 model railroad track plan can be
improved upon when we see the space, not just a rectangle.
A few folks have requested a more detailed view of this 8X10 "around the room" HO track plan showing radii,
turnouts, etc. Just click the image at right to download an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file showing these details. (You might have
to wait a minute or two for the download, sometimes my ISP is a little slow.)