Scale to Acres is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


On a whim, I decided to take a prototypical "Oval" and find out what model scale would be most appropriate to model on a 4x8 sheet of plywood. To be honest, my goal was to prove that HO is the best. My results, unfortunately, do not agree with my hypothesis.

So for starters, assuming a 4x8 platform: How many acres of space does that provide for each of the main scales?
There are 43,560 square feet in an acre.

Z 220:1 4x8 = 880x1760 = 1,548,800 SqFt = 35.56 Acres
N 160:1 4x8 = 640x1280 = 819,200 SqFt = 18.81 Acres
HO 87:1 4x8 = 348x696 = 242,208 SqFt = 5.56 Acres
O 48:1 4x8 = 192x384 = 73,728 SqFt = 1.69 Acres

Now to find a real oval. There are a few, but the one I used is in Ardoch, North Dakota. You can find it on Google Maps just by searching for "Ardoch ND". The track oval is bigger than the town, so you can't miss it.

Using the Google Maps measuring utility, the real oval measured 1,900' x 3,100' or 5,890,000 SqFt = 135 acres.

So, not only is HO way off, but even the small Z scale would not accurately capture the vastness of a real oval.

Next step. How big would my HO layout need to be in order to match the relative size of the real oval? Using whole sheets of plywood, I would need 30 sheets arranged in a 5 sheet x 6 sheet layout measuring 20' x 48'. That would scale to 167 acres. Enough room to fit the oval, the pond in the middle, and the coal loading station :)

There ya have it.


Well-Known Member
Question: Why would you put a coal pile in the middle of a farm field?

Answer: So it does not flood?

(see oval in Ardoch, ND

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.