Top Rated Track Plans for Model Train Beginners

Most beginners to model railroading usually ask “what is the best track plan for beginners?” and the answer is the following:

There is no right track plan, the right track plan for you is one that fits within you available space and the amount of money you can spend to enjoy the layout

Have you chosen a scale yet?

Choosing a scale depends on how much space you have available.  It’s sometimes a trade off between getting all of the details you’d like within your layout versus reducing the scale size. For example, if the space available is the size of a coffee table running N scale will give you the freedom to add more loops to your track, add more details and run more trains.

Different Ways to Find Track Plans:

  • Look at example layouts in magazines or online for track plan ideas
  • Use track software to get an idea of what will work in your space
  • Just start laying track to see what works but don’t glue it down
Continuous Running Loop to Loop Track Plans

Simple Oval Track Plan

simple oval model train track plan
Simple oval continuous running loop too loop track plans are the easiest type of track plan to utilize. They are commonly used underneath Christmas trees as a decoration that helps set the holiday atmosphere. Both N scale and HO scale are excellent sizes to fit under without obstructing the view.

Figure Eight Track Plan

figure eight loop to loop continuous track plan

To convert an oval track into a figure eight track plan, first you need to break apart the standard oval track and remove the straight pieces and interchange them with 4 curved segments that will be added onto the exposed end of each section you just seperated from the oval track. 

You’ll end up with two circles that look ¾ complete but are lacking the middle part to connect them together. Now take your 90 degree crossover track piece and add 4 straight pieces to it by adding one track piece to each side of the 90 degree crossover track piece. 

Final step is to simply take the remaining straight track pieces from the oval layout that you had separated and reattach them back to complete the figure eight track plan.

Dog Bone Track Plan

dog bone track plan

A dogbone is basically a double track loop to loop model railway layout. If your spacing and benchwork has room for loops then any double tracked plan can be converted into a dogbone layout. On layouts that are larger, all of the loops can be hidden and to save space they can be stacked as well. 

With smaller sized layouts, this dogbone is usually folded over with the loops left open or only partially hidden. Even with smaller layouts, the loops can potentially be stacked to save space. The biggest advantage utilizing a dogbone track plan is that the trains can be turned on both sides of the mainline without having to back trains in and out of a wye (where two railroads join into a “Y”)

Why Track Easements Are Important

When laying curved track, you should use an easement, which eases your way into and out of the curve.

In other words, start your curve with a larger radius, then ease into the tighter radius, then come out of the curve again with a larger radius. Your trains will look better going around the curve that way.


model train track easement

No Easement

no track easement example

Popular Terms for Track Planning

Many common terminology comes up when searching for track plans. Familiarize yourself with the terms below to gain a better understanding of different types of track layouts.

  • Shortline: A shortline railroad is a small or mid-sized railroad company that operates over a relatively short distance relative to larger, national railroad networks.
  • Runaround Track: It is two tracks side by side, connected by turnouts at each end.
  • Cutoff Track: A railroad (or railway) cutoff (or cut-off) is a new railroad line built to replace or supplement an existing route, typically one where the old line is deficient for some reason.
  • Easement:  Instead of your train having a tight radius when turning, the track radius is much wider, which helps provide smooth turning for the locomotive

Next, learn detailed step by step directions on the following:

learn how to lay model railroad track

  • How to pick and build the perfect layout to suit your budget and the space you have available? One that will provide loads of fun for years to come
  • A full glossary to explain the model train language
  • All the track cleaning methods explained and what not to do. Easy ways to maintain and keep your layout clean… easily keep your trees and scenery free from dust and cobwebs
  • The 4 different track options explained and compared to allow you to make an informed decision on what you should be using
  • The best way to create grassed meadows and fields and fire scenes!
  • What repairs you should do yourself and when you should use an experienced repairer
  • The secrets to creating realism and an aged look… how to create rust, mud and tire marks on your rolling stock
  • Handling common track features – turnouts, reversing loops
  • How do you convert your analog layout to a DCC system and should you even consider DCC?
  • How to avoid those frustrating electrical shorts on your turnouts?

The most important part to building a model railroad is knowing exact step-by-step directions for planning, designing and building ahead of time. To avoid endless frustration due to limited space, derailment/wiring issues and wasted time trying to figure out, understanding the fundamental steps is crucial. The best feeling in the world as a model railroader is enjoying a fully operational layout with all the bells and whistles.

To master model railroad building will take countless hours trying to figure out the exact process for each part.

You must know each of the bullet points above to ensure your locomotives do not have erratic stops, derailments or lack of speed on gradients. and is a fully functional realistic model train layout.

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