Railroad Style Apartment

What is a railroad style apartment?

A railroad style apartment is an apartment traditionally found in older apartment buildings or split brownstones, with a floor plan consisting of consecutive rooms, often leading from front to back through a central corridor. This means that you have to walk from one room to another as if you were moving through a train car (hence the name).

History of the railroad style apartment

The design of light railroad apartments was a response to overcrowding in U.S. cities in the mid-1800s. Light Railroad Apartments were built in residential buildings and split brownstones in the early twentieth century, primarily in urban areas such as New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., but also elsewhere.

Light Rail Apartments were built at a time when building codes for health, light, air, and privacy were not yet standard. And amenities such as elevators were not yet standard. Modern architects and interior designers have found creative solutions to make rail-style apartments livable and even desirable in the 21st century – primarily through creative ways to divide space, create interior storage, and let in natural light. We usually find most railroad style apartment plans anomalous by modern standards and are less inclined.

The term “railroad apartment” often refers to “shotgun style” apartments and houses, which you find primarily in the southern states of the United States, where they were the most popular style of housing after the Civil War until the 1920s. Shotgun homes, which have their roots in Haiti, have narrow front profiles and long rectangular spirits. While light rail homes often have a central corridor that resembles a row of train cars (or a side corridor with multiple train car entrances), narrow railroad homes are not wide enough. The central corridor is often dropped in favor of subdividing the curtains or hallways. In a shotgun-style apartment or house, the rooms are directly connected, with no hallway.

While the origin of the name “shotgun” is debated, modern real estate folklore claims that it refers to the fact that a bullet fired from the entryway can theoretically be fired in a clear shot. Go to the back.

Railroad and shotgun style apartments and houses are simple homes, but they share some historical worlds. The “enfilade” style, found in European palaces especially from the Baroque period onward, where one room leads to another, creates landscapes and a sense of grandeur. The enfilade style of interior design is also common in museums, where one gallery leads to another.

Characteristics of a Railroad-Style Apartment

You usually find it in apartment buildings that are within walking distance of each other, in the style of a house

Narrow, long and narrow rectangular floor plans

The rooms usually overlap with the hallway(s)

Railroad floor plan may include a central corridor, room-dividing arches, or in some cases a corridor on one side with multiple entrances.

The window is high at the front and/or back, but not in the center

Railroad-Style Apartment Pros and Cons

Pre-World War II and pre-railroad apartments often offer the charm, character and period details of historic buildings, such as trim, fireplaces, exposed brick walls and large French doors. They are also a good choice for first homes or low-budget apartments, as their unconventional layout means they generally price affordably.And since they generally consider less desirable and less practical than conventional floor plans, they often offer more space for the money.

One thing to keep in mind about this floor plan, however, is that it makes privacy a challenge. This means that railroad apartments today are usually more suitable for singles and intimate couples than roommates and families. It can also lack air circulation and natural light, especially in the middle of the apartment.


Intense and efficient living

No wasted space

Charming and full of character

Often more affordable than other types of housing

Attractive to modern minimalists


It is usually located in buildings without elevators and other amenities

Makes privacy design a challenge

Lack of natural light

Cramped quarters

Lack of air circulation

Tips for decorating an apartment in railroad style

1. Clear clutter and use vertical space for indoor storage or open shelving

2. Minimize upholstery and decorative items to a minimum to maintain a comfortable living feel

 3. Use space-saving modular furniture such as Murphy beds, wall tables or convertible dining tables.

4.  Use sliding doors, French doors, curtains or open living to maintain privacy between rooms.

5.  Focus on compensating for the lack of natural light with wall sconces and pendant lights with delicate specifications to keep the floor clean and create a layered and balanced light.

6.  Consider replacing swinging closet doors with sliding doors

7.   Paint the walls, decorations and ceiling in the same light neutral color to create a sense of coherence and spaciousness.

8.  Avoid heavy windows in favor of bare windows or sun shades, depending on your privacy needs.