A question asked by many beginners is how much space will they need for a railway set. It’s a good question but it’s a bit more involved than you might imagine.
The difficulty is down to what is meant by ‘railway set’.
For most people, a “railway set” means one of the self-contained train sets from Hornby that contain all the track, controllers and trains needed to get started. They’re easy to set up and provide a lot of fun and a great introduction for children or those new to the hobby.
This is for a typical Hornby Caledonian Belle railway set, other packs require more space. The wonderful Flying Scotsman set for example will need an area of 5 feet 2 inches by 3 feet 9 inches.
To both, I’d add another foot on each side so the track and trains can be accessed without reaching over the rest of the layout.
If these Hornby sets are as far as you plan on going and you have no plans to expand then I can sleep happy tonight knowing I’ve answered your question.
But if you’re planning on using these sets as a part of a more elaborate railway, or you suspect you’ll expand on it in future — with long stretches of track, buildings and scenery — and otherwise grow the train set into a model railway there are a whole different set of considerations.
Extra: For the smaller Bachmann N gauge sets (see the previous link if this N or OO gauge terminology is new to you) a table or work surface of around 3 feet by 2 feet (depending on the particular set you get) will be fine.
I cover these in the sister article to this post but if this is you then should budget for at least 6 feet by 4 feet of space, and again adding a foot on all sides for easy access. This assumes an oval type track plan, narrow rectangle areas – six foot by 2 foot – are possible but I’m encroaching on the subject of the other article.
This, of course, assumes an oval type track plan as per the typical starter set.
Other track arrangements are possible and have different dimensions (although bear in mind the minimum curve radius of the track). An end-to-end track plan where the trains run forwards and backwards over line(s) of track, for example, can be done in six by two feet. But I’m encroaching on the subject of the other article.
Hopefully, this has answered your question but if you have any other questions please feel free to ask away in the comments below, drop me a line directly via the contact page.
Of course, if you’ve decided you have enough space and want to get a model railway make sure to read the accompanying article to this post where model railway gurus and followers of this blog have picked the best train sets to get you started.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.