What Is A Railroad Apartment? (Pros & Cons)

Updated June 15, 2021
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What exactly is a railroad apartment? A railroad apartment is a staple of living standards for many in large cities like New York, Boston, and of course, Minneapolis. The railroad apartment is a long, narrow construction, usually consisting of three to five rooms, all connected in a row like railway cars, hence the term ‘railroad apartment.’

There are no hallways, and each room is open through to the next, like one open layout. The front door of a railroad apartment will lead you straight through to the back door without opening or closing any doors. The ‘hallway’ is only space to get from one place to the next inside the long-style apartment with doors opening outward, like a train car if there is an additional hallway.

The layout of a Railroad Apartment

The rooms of a railroad apartment are all connected from one end to the other. The apartment imitates a train car with all rooms connecting to the room before.

A less common style of railroad apartment has a hallway in the center and rooms off to either side. The railroad apartment is also different from a loft apartment or a multi-plex.

layout of railroad apartment

Pros & Cons of a Railroad Apartment

Depending on your circumstances, there are many pros and cons to living in a railroad apartment.

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Cons of a Railroad Apartment

There are some obvious challenges when living in a small space. Here are some of the less than pleasant aspects of this narrow living space:

Lack of Privacy

One of the more negative aspects is that if your railroad apartment does not include a hallway with separate doors, people will have to walk through each room to get to the next, which can be disturbing if someone is trying to have some alone time or relaxation.

Living room and kitchen in studio apartment. Grey furniture. Kitchen set; railroad apartment

Not Ideal for Living With Roommates

The small size and the flow of the apartment don’t make for the best situation if you have roommates. Some bedrooms may have been converted into living spaces, and there will likely only be one bedroom with a door at the end of the apartment. Making these styles of apartments much better for couples or single people.

Absence of Doors

Most railroad apartments with flow-through hallways have converted dining rooms into bedrooms, which means there will not be doors separating the bedroom from the rest of the apartment.

You could buy partitions to separate the rooms and offer some privacy, but they won’t be able to provide the same privacy as a door.

railroad apartment bedroom

Pros of Railroad Apartment

Despite the flaws in the design of railroad apartments, there are perks as well.


Living in a railroad apartment will allow you to save a substantial amount of money on rent and other expenses. In large cities, living space can be scarce, and apartments tend to be smaller. A railroad apartment is up to twenty percent cheaper than a regular apartment.

For someone just starting on their own, this type of living situation and the ability to save money is essential.

A Small studio apartment with a compact kitchen; railroad apartment

More Windows

With a railroad-style apartment, you get to have a lot more windows, particularly windows on both the front and back of your apartment, which can be quite rare in other apartment styles. If you’re lucky enough to have a corner or end unit, you can have windows on three whole sides of your unit.

Opens up Creative Options

The space that a railroad apartment offers is decent, but the layout is uncommon. Get creative with the division of space and have fun with unusual pieces. Just like a train, the apartment is long but is narrow. Discover unique design opportunities to furnish your home with multifunctional items.

Traditional Charm

railroad apartment living room

The old-world charm of a railroad apartment is sought after by many. Many of the buildings are built in the late 19th to early 20th century and offer incredible features, such as brownstone, vintage molding, and old fireplaces.

If you are a couple looking to live in a railroad apartment, you will appreciate the romantic aspect of old-world charm that makes up for any spatial shortages. And the low cost of this apartment is perfect for a single person who wants to save money. The unique features and design of a railroad apartment set them apart from most other living spaces in the city.

Looking For The Perfect Apartment?

At Bigos, we offer a number of different-styled apartments. Whether you’re looking for a place to live alone or you have a small family and would like a few different bedrooms we’d love to help you find the perfect space. To see some of the different apartment buildings and units we have available, click here!

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