Factory Town HO Scale Model Railroad Track Plan

HO Model Railroad
Eli Christman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Factory Town - A Busy 4x8

    HO Model Railroad Plan
    Ryan C Kunkle

    4x8 platform is a common size for a starting layout. The materials are easy to acquire, it can fit 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 that you probably have in your first starter train set to add operation.

    Layout at a Glance

    • Scale: HO
    • Size: 4x8
    • Minimum Curve: 18 inch radius
    • Minimum Switch: 18 inch radius
    • Maximum Grade: 0 percent


    You could use any number of methods for building the benchwork on this layout. You could start off with a simple platform or adapt the open grid platform.

    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 inch radius turnouts, which match the track geometry of a standard curve and 9 inch 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. This allows more options for track alignment and smoother curves, such as the run-around siding, while eliminating about a third of the rail joints, which provide an opportunity for voltage loss.

    To build the layout as shown, here are the pieces you'll need:

    1. 22 inch radius curve - 8 
    2. 22 inch radius 1/3 curve - 4
    3. 18 inch radius curve - 12
    4. 18 inch radius switch, right - 4
    5. 18 inch radius switch, left - 2
    6. 9 inchtraight - 18
    7. 6 inch straight - 2
    8. 3 inch straight - 1
    9. 2 inch straight - 5
    10. 1.5 inch straight - 2
    11. 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 the 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 inch 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. Prior to the 1960s, 40 foot cars were much more common. 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. You may prefer powered switch machines.

    This layout provides a nice balance of operation and scenery and can be an easy extension from a starter set to a permanent layout.