Designing compact layouts

Pre-planning matters for thought

When you're planning a compact layout, there're several things you need to make decisions on, since you cannot do everything:

Generalist layout or specialist?
A specialist layout is what I call one where there's one major source of traffic, for example a steel mill, brewery or saw mill. In this case, you really, really need to study the subject in order to get it right. If you love the subject, this is the sort of layout you should build.

A generalist layout is where almost anything goes. A sea port for example could realistically be expected to send and recieve almost all kinds of freight cars. This is a good reason to choose this kind of layout.

Intensive or extensive operation?

A steel mill would be a good example of intensive operation, as you've got several sorts of special cars that have to be moved in a strict pattern and on time, both inside the plant and shipping and recieving. As would be a large engine terminal, with locos arriving to be serviced, stored and put into service. Extensive operation would a small countryside terminus, where a railcars comes by three times a day and a short
freight train a couple of times per week. May more easily lend itself to modelling in a small space.

Both kinds of layouts equally well lend themselves to scenic treatment.

Operation versus scenery?

This isn't just a matter for compact layouts. You always have to make a choice which is more important to you. But it's important you make it clear to yourself what you value most, since on a small layout it's not practical to combine the two, like you can on medium sized layouts.

What can I leave out?

This is a tough one.

Most of us have definite ideas on what just must be on a model railway. But apart from "track and trains", the answer is "nothing". Lets face it: You cannot have: An engine stall, a passenger station, a freight terminal, a large bridge, a tunnel, a marshalling yard, a business district, a long mainline and a large industry on a small layout. Somethings has to go!

But what?

Well, sit down and imagine your layout as it could be built. Now imagine it three times larger. What have you put in more of? More turnouts, a longer mainline, more scenery or what? Now, imagine the layout the original size again, but remove the things you didn't add anything of.

Fiddle yard or not?

Unless you model some kind of self contained industrial operation, your trains need somewhere to go. I think you need a fiddle or staging yard. But I'm not sure it really has to be hidden: An exchange track can be on the layout and have its cars exchanged between operating sessions. And unless the whole layout has to be permanent, a fiddle/staging/shadow yard turned 90 degrees to a shelf layout is usually enough "out of vision" to work as a good fiddle yard. In order to save space, it should be removable and only in place during actual operation. If you want it as part of the scenery, something like a ferry terminal would be a good idea.

Text last modified 1996 Dec 29 by Urban

No comments:

Post a Comment