Food For Thought on Advanced Layouts

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by brakie, Feb 14, 2004.

  1. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    I thought it would be nice if we looked at advanced layout designing..This is meant to be food for thought and something that might help on the next layout..

    First what is advanced layout designing? That is designing a layout above the basic loop that comes with a train set or a loop of track with 2 or 3 industries. See how truly simple advanced layout planning can be even for the beginner?

    Ok, now we have the space for a nice layout..Now before we hop into designing a layout there are some questions we must ask ourselves.
    1. What do we want in a layout? How many operators? Or solo operation?
    2. Do we want a railfan type of layout where we can kick back and watch trains run?
    3. Do we want prototypical operations?
    4. Do we want to model a given area that we fondly recall?
    5. Do we want single track with passing sidings? Double track main line? Branch Line?
    6. Why was the railroad built to begin with? It has to have a reason for being.
    7. Do we want staging? A working yard with engine terminal? A working passenger terminal?
    8. And last but not least is what era do we wish to model?
    A well design layout should or perhaps must be a pleasure to operate for years to come. This will only come by a well thought out track design..When we design a layout we must take the time to study the above questions and answer them to our taste..Anybody can throw down a loop of track with 2 or 3 industries without much thought in planning. Now the bad part..They can and will soon become bored with that type of layout. Now had they taken the time to think out a well designed track plan they would enjoy the layout much better. See what I am saying?
    Now lets look at the types of designs..

    1. A railfan type of layout.
    This is a layout design for train watching..This could be designed after your favorite railfan spot now or from years gone by and long gone...Here is where staging yards will really shine. You recall the trains you saw like say a passenger train that rip through the general freights and of course the lowly local as it rolled by or perhaps stopped and switched a industry or 2.

    2. Prototypical operations.
    This is a layout set up to be operated like the prototype. The best part is it does not have to be basement size. This layout will have staging, a working yard, engine terminal and many industries to switch. Tony Koester and the other great thinkers of prototypical operation has suggested a staging yard next to a working yard..This will allow a train to enter the working yard, change crews, add or drop cars before heading off layout on another division, or it could enter the layout from another division drop/pickup cars before continuing across the layout to disappear into staging.

    3. The lowly branch line.
    Here is a track design fit for solo operations in a very prototypical setting. Picture this..A low drivered 2-6-0,2-8-0 or a 4-6-0 leaves the branch line yard to head up the branch with say 5-7 cars and a combine switching cars along the way and stopping at some appointed road crossings to pick up cans of milk or perhaps to leave some LCL freight with a waiting farmer in his pick up truck..Of course you will stop at the station at the end of the branch to unload the LCL, mail and passengers(if any) before switching the few industries or the team track...Fast forward the clock. You can do the same with diesels including the combine during the 50s early 60s..Fast forward you can still model a branch line but add a caboose instead of a combine. If you model to today then use a red flag or fred.

    4. Point to point.
    This type of layout needs more then one operator as a rule and I will hit lightly on it..A point to point layout should have 2 yards and 2 staging yards, single track with passing siding to be enjoyed to the fullest..Now you could use a point to point type layout for a branch line layout since only one train should be ran up the branch.

    5. Out and back
    This is a layout that is designed for a train to leave a yard run across the layout run through a reversing loop and return to the yard from which it came. Not bad for solo operations.

    6. The famous loop...
    A loop does not have to be boring..Add some industries, a small yard with yard lead inbound/outbound track, a small engine service area and the loop de loop layout will take on a life of its own and be very interesting and fun to operate..

    7. Modeling a given area.
    This type of design is slowly catching on..This is where you model a given area such as your home town or some other area that you like..

    Looking at a small 4'x8' layout.

    By using the right design a 4'x8' layout can be a super nice layout..It is my thoughts that we should leave un-prototypical steep grades and mountains off that size of layout and use the space available wisely...By using foam you can add a river, creek or a highway underpass..Use a view block, trees or tall buildings to hide the flatness of the layout.

    Less is more.

    The great thinkers of layout designs suggest that we use less track and not fill the layout up with track and they feel that a train should pass through a scene only once..I fully agree with those thoughts if we have the space for such a layout. To my mind nothing looks as bad as a spaghetti bowl layout design as it kills the affect of most layouts..I will mention that the modeler is of course free to use that type of design if they choose to after all it is their layout..

    I do want to mention one more style of layout..This is the industrial switching type..These too must be well thought out least it becomes a living nightmare to operate..

    Comment: I find it strange that after all these years these types of layouts are begining to catch on..I am happy to see that.
    So in designing your next layout I urge you to think outside of the box and design a layout that will not only look good but give you years of operational enjoyment.
    Again I offer this up as food for thought for those that may be interested or designing a new layout and in no way meant to be layout design rules.
  2. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Good thread idea.

    Just a couple of thoughts to keep the process rolling:

    An additional "purpose" for a layout might be listed as one that is intended primarily for photography. This wouldn't satisfy my needs, but it's a valid "purpose" and I suspect, if some layouts featured in some magazines are considered, it accounts for a fair number of layouts built today.

    And I would suggest that staging/holding/fiddle yards (or some "cartridge" fiddle approach as Ian Rice has proposed in his several books) should be considered a necessity for just about any sort of layout --- except perhaps one intended only for photography. Long thought to be a luxury for the large layout, I'd suggest that the smaller the layout, the more important this becomes --- not the other way around.

    I also believe that some (even severly limited) route for constant running is more important to most model railroaders than they might realize before building a layout. It's really nice, no matter your primary operating interest, to occasionally (perhaps secretly?) be able to sit back and watch a train run without stopping it and reversing every seven seconds.

  3. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    I'll go along with Bill on this as my model railroads have always been developed with the camera in mind. Also constant running is a must for me as I like to run new locos in whilst watching the telly.:D
  4. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Fantastic, Larry, thanks for your insite! Your knowledge is an asset to us all! I might add that many of us will want to consider some combination of the many possible objectives.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Also to consider is whether you're building for your own pleasure or your close buddies or for general public that will be coming in. Some people will be having frequent "open houses" and will have to think about the "show" aspects of operation. This means either a set of staging yards or a continuous run.
    And Fiddle Yards were originally developed to go with minimum space layouts.
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    David,One does not need a loop or staging yards for continuous
    running for open houses..You see the club that I am a member of the layout is a point to point single track main line with passing sidings and we hold open houses and always have trains moving across the layout.Some times a train would enter the yard while another was leaving.Now we did add 2 staging yards in order to enhance our operations to beyond the division..We still do not have continuous running capabilities nor do we use the staging yards during open house as the staging yards was not meant for open house operation..
    This can apply to home layouts as well provided your operation group helps out.Of course for solo operation during a open house then one would need continuous running except for certain types of layouts..

    As I stated the idea behind this topic is to get modelers to think outside of the box in layout designing while still designing a layout according to their givens and druthers.:thumb: :D
  7. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Dat Brakie Sure Am Smart !!!

    Great thoughts Larry:thumb:

    One other thing that comes to mind when I think of advanced planning is that model railroads don't have to be square, or run exactly around the walls of a room or be a square table sitting in the middle or corner of a room. The use of a "freeform" style of design can result in a lot more room for all of those things that you would want in a "dream layout".

    You hit the nail on the head concerning advanced design...railroads do work and what type of work to do you want your railroad to do?:thumb:
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm going to build a "L" shaped industrial switching layout on top of a set of modular bookcases in a spare bedroom. I'm modeling the L. A. Junction RR. I just got the new Athearn CF7 in LAJ. I'm using a Thomas Bros Guide. I don't know if they are national or just West Coast, but they publish street map books that are the standard for real estate sales people, or anyone who needs to make sales or service calls throughout the area. The neat thing for prototype modelers is that any RR tracks that are in proximity to any street on the guide are also shown. The tracks are also marked by the owning railroad. In the case of LAJ the tracks are marked BNSF since they are a wholly owned subsidiary (spelling?) of the BNSF. They don't bother showing every track in a yard, the yards are simply empty spots on the map with just the tracks along the perimiter shown, but all of the industrial spurs that are near streets are shown. An interesting feature of the layout of the cities of Vernon and Commerce which define the extent of LAJ is that the streets are often laid out alternating with rr tracks with buildings or rail customers between the street and the rr. Another interresting thing about the LAJ is that the interchange tracks are at one of the yards. The LAJ yards are convenient to both the BNSF Hobart Yard, and U.P.'s yard on Washington Blvd accross the street from Hobart, so the two railroads just drop cuts of cars at a LAJ yard. Cars ready to leave the LAJ are left in cuts for either UP or BNSF to be picked up and taken to the appropriate railroad to be classified into trains by the class 1 that picks them up. I think BNSF throws the cuts into a general mixed freight going to Barstow and classifies them there. Up. may do it at the exS.P. Colton yard. What it all means is that I can have interchange without modeliing an interchange track. I guess this post got a little long, and probably contains more information than anyone needs.
  9. Papa Bear

    Papa Bear Member

    Free-form layouts

    Vic, I like the idea of free-form layouts, too. I guess we get into the habit of thinking we have to build our layouts in some form of square or rectangular shape just because it's convenient to cut lumber that way.

    My current layout is built from sheets of 3/4" blue foam board over a wood frame. While I could easily cut the foam with rounded, flowing edges (instead of just straight), it would be difficult to frame under. I'm concerned that any part that stuck out and was not directly supported by the frame could be broken off easily. One way around this, of course, is to use the 2" foam board instead. Anybody else have a suggestion?

    Larry, thanks for posting your ideas. They have been very helpful.

  10. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    John, Using the old tried and true L Girder benchwork you can make the layout any shape you want to. The secret is in the length of the joists. By varying the length with the joists on 16" or less centers you can make that outside edge curved and it will still fully support whatever is on top of it.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    John, another trick to use if you are concerned with breaking off the foam is to laminate the foam to a Luan door skin and cut your edge with a jig saw. The Luan won't add much weight, but will provide tremendous strength to the foam to keep edges from being broken off.

Share This Page