5 Simple Trackplans for Beginners

5 Simple Trackplans for Beginners

We are all beginners at model trains when we first get started. Many who are becoming model railroaders now will often start with a train set from Bachmann, Kato, Hornsby, Lionel, or one of many others. As the hobby gets into our blood and we want to do more than just run a train in a circle, it is often difficult to pick a [semi-]permanent layout plan. How much space we have combined with financial considerations are usually the key points in deciding what sort of layout we do. If you are at that stage, looking for the right plan, here are 5 simple trackplans for beginners that you can choose from.

You can adapt these trackplans to suit your space and finances, or you can use them as the basis for your own, similar but not the same trackplan. All of these 5 simple trackplans for beginners are in HO scale, but they can very easily be adapted to N, O, 00, or any other scale. The space necessary will have to be increased if converting to a larger scale, but will be small if converting to a smaller scale.

  1. This 11 ft. x 1.75 ft. (3.4 m x .53 m) plan would be an ideal shelf layout in a large room. It is also designed so that it can be added on to later, becoming the starting point for a larger layout. It features a single track mainline (the line closest to the top) with a runaround. This allows the engine to run around cars and pick them up again from the other end, if necessary. The track closest to the bottom would be the main switching area. It could be a grain silo, a sawmill, a rock quarry, or any number of other industrial settings. Leads on the siding allows for plenty of room to shuffle three or four cars – maybe more – in and out with ease.


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  2. This compact trackplan would allow you to build a small switching layout in just a 7 ft. x 1.5 ft. (2.13 m x .5 m) space. Like plan #1, it is designed in a way that it can be the basis for a larger layout in the future, expanding from either end. It features a double track mainline (the tracks closest to the bottom) with a double crossover that doubles as a runaround. The tracks at the top are your switching areas. Like in plan #1, it could be any number of industries – sawmill, quarry, cement plant, etc.


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  3. A compact 3 ft. x 4.5 ft. (.91 m x 1.4 m) oval serves as plan #3. This plan could feature two small industries and one large industry or it could be two small industries and a small yard. The upper right and bottom left corners have short sidings coming off of them, large enough for a single average size train car. Either could be just about any industry you can think of that only needs one car at a time – machine shops, textile mill, etc. The two spurs in the center of the oval could be a larger industry like those described in plans #1 and #2 or they could be a small yard where you store some of your extra train cars or engines. Also, the short spurs at the corner end at the edge of the layout table, so either or both could be points for adding on to the layout in the future. Please note that the small size and tight curves of this layout mean that longer model locomotives and cars could not be used.


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  4. This one is the first of two 4 ft. x 8 ft. (1.22 m x 2.44 m) trackplans here. The 4×8 is the ubiquitous beginners layout, and many modelers start with this size. In this plan there is a single track mainline forming the oval. At the bottom of the plan is a switch that leads to two long spur sidings. Either or both spur siding could serve as any type of industry. Both spurs are long enough that you could shunt several cars into either one, even if there are already a car or two at the end of one. In the center you have another spur that could be any type of industry, or it could you locomotive servicing facility (diesel tank and sand for diesel-electric locomotives or coaling tower, water, and sand for steam). Please note that the curves in the center of the plan are tighter than the mainline curves, so only smaller locomotives and cars could easily move through them.


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  5. My final trackplan is the second 4×8 footer. It features a double track mainline oval around the outer edges of the layout and in the center is a five track yard. You would have plenty of room to store a fair number of train cars and/or locomotives and it is large enough that you could do some switching to build your train before sending it out onto the mainline.


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I hope that you like these 5 simple trackplans for beginners and that you find one you like. If you build a layout using one of these plans, please send us photos and we’ll feature them on our website and on our social media outlets as well!

These trackplans were created by me using SCARM (Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeller), a free trackplan software for different types of track and several different scales.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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