About the MFR

The Metaline Falls Railroad (MFR) is a proto-freelanced model railroad based on the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad located in northern Idaho and north eastern Washington State. For the very latest on the layout, please visit my YouTube channel and follow along with my Instagram account.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

4X8 Sucks!

The January 2012 issue of Model Railroader magazine is out now and the project railroad featured is once again a 4X8 foot layout.

I hate 4X8 foot layouts.

Ok, hate is a strong word. I don't hate them, but I do have some serious issues with pushing the idea that a 4X8 foot railroad is good option for a beginner. It is not and the reason for this has everything to do with size.

When we talk about the size of a layout, we should always take into consideration not only the foot print of the layout itself, but also the asile around the layout that are required for maintenance and operation. With this in mind, a 4X8 foot layout actually requires 8X10 feet of space.  That's the size of a spare bedroom! (for more on this, check out this awesome article by professional layout designer, Byron Henderson)

In my opinion, that kind of space requirement is just too much. Especially for a beginner who may be unsure of just how much long term enjoyment they will be getting from the hobby.  There are also many of us who just don't have a spare room to turn over completely to the trains and trying to squeeze a large table into a den or other room shared with the rest of the family is sure to foster more than a small amount of animosity towards the trains.

I think one of the reason the 4X8 foot sheet is still popular (besides the fact that MR pushes it so hard.) is because of the desire of a beginning hobbiest to watch trains run and run and run. If this is your desire (and it is a perfectly valid desire) and you are just starting out, consider building a small N-scale layout.  My second model railroad was an N-scale layout that I built on a small closet door.  It was small enough to easily slide under my twin sized bed when not in use, and it still offered a lot in terms of operation and modeling. Plus I learned a whole lot of tips and tricks along the way that I am now able to take advantage of on my new, slightly larger layout!

If the size and detail of HO scale models interests you, and continuous running is not a concern, then a small, space-saving point-to-point style shelf layout that can be placed against the wall may be your best bet!


  1. Well said, Matt. As you know (because you commented at the time) I had a similar reaction, which I published here:
    I'm enjoying your blog, by the way... and just added it to the list of interesting links on my Port Rowan site.
    - Trevor

  2. Hey thanks! I love your work and I'm very flattered to join the list of other great layouts on your site.