What's happenin forum (hope you get the joke) I'm building an ho 4x8 layout and I need some ideas. Normally I blue sky on my own, but Ive got a budget problem due to the fact that I'm 13. All I've planned so far is that it will be a Californian setting, but if you have any suggestions, feel free to email me, I'll make a post of the ideas that made the cut. Many thanks!
Thanks anyway, but I'm not interested in a competition.
You mention California setting, but different parts of California are very different from each other. A logging line in coastal Northern California is very different from the agricultural lines of the Valley which is very different from Donner Pass or Feather River Canyon which is different from the high desert railroading of Southern California. Era also makes a difference - enough difference to make your 4x8 practical or impractical in HO because of curve radius.
You seem to indicate that the budget is going to be the primary driver. Is this a cooperative effort with your family, or are you on your own with just your allowance? Whatever the budget situation actually is, it probably won't get any better as long as you are a student. That's just the way life is. You can build a layout on $20 a month. But there will be months where you won't have money to advance the layout. The upfront cost of the benchwork is a bear on $20 per month if you have to start from scratch, so keeping things small helps. Also, buying from garage sales, and kits instead of RTR will help you not to run out of money before the month runs out. And you will gain skills and capabilities you never knew you had in you.
Do you actually have space for a 4x8 layout? Do you have the lumber on hand? If not, do you have a way to get it home? Most cars, some minivans, and many SUVs will not fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood. You may have to cut the layout down to 4x6 or 4x7 to get the materials home and/or fit it into the proposed space. My current spare bedroom/office/train room will not fit a 4x8 with adequate aisles, nor can my minivan take a full 4x8 sheet. Which means I either have to cut it down to 4x6 (which I have done) and/or use shelves around the walls (which will be an add-on extension).
A shelf layout or a 4x8 table are the cheapest ways to get started in the hobby. Carl Arendt's Micro Layout site (http://www.carendt.us/ has lots of fabulous less traditional ideas for very small layouts. The traditional inexpensive way is to buy a train set and put it on a 4x8 (or smaller) table, and slowly expand from there, as finances, time, and money permit. The shelf layout is a different starting option, one that many beginners in the hobby would never think of, but is probably a better fit for a teenager's bedroom and budget.
Finally, somewhat more expensive, but much better suited to modeling modern railroading than a 4x8 while taking the same floor space, is something like the Heart of Georgia (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_OWJKbUUCx00/SyMKs_oR-xI/AAAAAAAACC8/4dZCKnp6I8E/s1600-h/Heart+of+Georgia+HOG+Layout+Rev+511.jpg). The HOG will take longer to build and takes a little more skill than the typical 4x8. But for many the result will be a more satisfying layout than the 4x8 it replaces.
Ultimately, you have to decide how much space, time, and money you really have for the hobby. Staying within those limits will keep your life balanced, which is important at your age. Don't over estimate how much time you will have for the hobby. As my soon-to-be a junior son told me a few months ago, he never imagined he would be this busy in high school when he was finishing middle school.
hope this and the other advice you have been given helps