Choosing a suitable prototype for a limited space

One obvious way to get room for more railroading in a small space is of course to choose a smaller scale.

I don't like this, as I like the trains in themselves to be as prominent as possible, but it's naturally not wrong since a smaller scale lets one build a more impressive landscape, which sometimes is what you want. In general, I think you should use as large scale as possible. What you can do in general to get in more railroading in a given space is to use shorter rolling stock, shorter trains, tighter curves, just model a part of specific feature and a model prototype with more frequent operation.

Different ways to achive this is for example:

  • Model an earlier time period. Smaller locomotives also mean they can pull shorter trains, so for a given train length it will look more reasonable. This goes both for diesels and steam.
  • Narrow gauge equipment is inherently smaller and the track is usually built cheaper with tighter curves.
  • An industrial plant can have quite a lot of operation even if you don't model the connection to or the mainline itself.
  • A streetcar and/or interurban system can have a relatively complex trackage in a small space with a corresponding operational pattern.
  • If one wants a large station, it's quite possible to model just part of it, like one of the throats, and have the same operation as if it'd been larger.
  • One can model a railways which mainly uses DMUs or EMUs, as getting rid of run around tracks can save a lot of space. (With EMU/DMU in this case I include
    push pull operations with the locomotive at one end of the train and a coach with driver's cabin at the other.)

    True, this to some extent makes it hard to run freight trains, but there are places in the world where that's just how it is.
  • Model a rack mountain railway. They often run rather short trains with short equipment and usually with the loco always on the downhill side. That you
    can have really steep, but still prototypical, grades gives some scenic possibilities, and if the loco is always at the same end of the train trackwork is
    simplified which saves a lot of space.

    When I think about it, there are also places where railways, or parts of them, are operated like this when they're steep but have no rack. I certainly wouldn't be out of place on a branch on a layout with our sometimes quite steep grades.

Text written 2000 Nov 29,
last updated 2000 Dec 02

by Urban

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