Givens and Druthers -- form

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by 60103, Apr 20, 2006.

  1. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    This is the “Givens and Druthers” that the late John Armstrong used when designing layouts for people. It’s a very useful way to clarify your thoughts about what you want to do with your model railroad.

    Givens and Druthers

    (Railroad Name)
    Gauge: (Std, Narrow)

    Prototype: (the railroad you want to model)

    Describe Space e.g. basement. Provide diagram showing Overhead clearances and any obstructions or limitations.

    Governing Rolling Stock: (Biggest planned)

    Relative Emphasis: (move the V)

    Track/Operation ....................................................Scenic realism

    Mainline Running .......................................................... Switching
    Operation Priorities: (rearrange as required)
    1. Passenger Train Switching
    2. Helper District Operations
    3. Main-Line Passenger Train Operation
    4. Long Freight Train Operations
    5. Engine Terminal Movements
    6. Local Freight Operations
    Typical operating Crew: ______
    Eye Level (Owner) ___In.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    Thanks for providing the form. I've saved it.

    The next step to me would be establishing standards based on answers to the above that drive the design.

    • desired minimum radius
      • absolute minimum radius
    • desired normal train length
      • minimum normal train length
    • maximum acceptable mainline grade
      • maximum acceptable grade
    • primary track system? sectional, flex, or handlaid
    • couplers/uncoupling system
    • DCC or DC?
      • Willingness to pay extra for walk-around control?
      • Wired or wireless?
    • are duckunders acceptable?
      • Willingness to build liftout, hinged bridge or gate?
    • acceptable distances between decks
    • my favorite aspects of model railroading are (list your top up-to 3 in order; 1, 2, 3)
      • operation of a scenicked layout
      • building locomotives and cars from kits and scratch
      • detailing locomotives and cars to exactly match a prototype
      • building structures
      • building benchwork and laying track
      • adding electronic gadgets and gizmos
    • I have ____ hours per week for model railroading
    • I have ____ $$ per month for model railroading
    • I can go ____ weeks without being able to run my favorite loco on a continous run of track.
    I find that many folks already have intended standards in their heads, and their already-made decisions on these standards are at odds with what they said in givens and druthers. What I would do first, based on the response to John Armstrong's Givens and Druthers, is submit back a partially filled out set of standards for client review and correction. The other issue I have with the Givens and Druthers is that because Armstrong was an operator, his form has a definite operations focus. While I have no problem with operations, I think many times the overlooking of other aspects of the hobby doesn't give a full enough picture of what a particular MR really wants.

    An example would be my case. Time (primary) and $$ (secondary) constrain what I can do for a model railroad far more than space or operational givens and druthers. My already selected standards for track system, uncoupling system, control system, and duck-unders dictate to a large extent what type of layout and design I'm willing to accept and build.

    yours in planning
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    This is a great resource guys. Thanks!

  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I had trouble with the relative emphasis. There should be 2 scales running from Track/Operation to Scenic realism and Mainline Running to Switching.
    Not an exhaustive set of specs, but a lot of points to think about.
    Any more ideas? I though there were a lot more lines under the relative emphasis until I looked it up last night.
    I think we could at least give this form to anyone who starts a post on "Will you design me a layout?"
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I think there are many variations on the "slider scales"; one would just have to decide. Other pairs might include:

    - Prototypical Operations (whatever they may be) vs. "Running in circles"
    - Model building vs. Operational layout
    - Award-winng vs. "three-foot rule"
    - Sliders for the skill level of various "trades": electrician, carpenter, etc.

    Some other questions that might be useful:

    Can you navigate a duckunder (now or future)?
    Do you like to run solo or with a big crew?
    Does the room have to include a work area, or is it all layout?
    Attach a picture of the space, including all windows, doors, stairs, and closets that may be present.

    Amen to that!

  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    David, Andrew

    As always, I enjoy reading and thinking about your ideas. The reason for my earlier post was to develop a consensus on a list of questions we could give to a poster - especially a relative newbie - requesting a layout design. I would suggest a sticky post with the questions in the Track Planning for the Future forum. Right now I sense a lot of frustration from both posters requesting layout designs and would-be designers. Requesters feel like they are being grilled unnecessarily, and designers don't know where to begin due to lack of information.

    In addition to the list of questions, there needs to be an explanation as to why answering the questions is important to an impatient newbie, and how answering the questions will improve the design of his layout.

    The list of questions needs to be kept as short as possible, yet reasonably comprehensive to minimize frustration. We need to avoid what I call "dependent questions" - questions whose answers can be logically be derived from answers to other questions. We also need to avoid repetitive questions - questions that are asking for the same information in a different way.

    With these thoughts in mind, I proposed my additions to John Armstrong's "Givens and Druthers". Some of my questions, such as minimum radius and maximum grade are really refinements of Armstrong's "Governing Rolling Stock" and "Operation Priorities". Armstrong, left them out, I believe to keep minimum radius and max grade as a designer's choice. I would rather leave them as educational tool for the client as to how desires and reality interact in the design. But I will bow to the consensus view.

    Andrew, of your proposed additions and variations, the one that stands out as not dependent or repetitive is the "Award-winning vs 3 ft rule" question. Unfortunately, I don't think most MRs can answer that question unless they have years of experience in the hobby. When I was a young pup MR, I would have answered "Award-winning, of course! Who would consider anything else?" It would take years to learn that neither my skills nor my time were/are sufficient for a large layout at award-winning quality. I tried to drive at this scope issue by asking the "$$ per month" and "hours per week" question. I don't necessarily expect a realistic answer from a newbie, but just getting him to think about the issue would be useful.

    The duckunder issue I covered (I think), and the # of operators and available space diagram were in Armstrong's "Givens and Druthers". I am assuming that the MR that gives priority to mainline passenger operations and/or long freight operations (Armstrong) is requesting a continuous run. I tried to address the spectator operations issue indirectly in the walkaround control issue.

    My thoughts, I certainly welcome yours.
  7. bloyseboy

    bloyseboy New Member

    hye guys
    just a new cat getting going here. i built a 4x8 table with 5/8" plywood and am wonderind if i should paint it before i draw my track design. just not 100 percent on the scenery i want yet.
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The only reason not to paint now is getting glue to stick to the plywood when you lay track or build scenery. Don't know how much of an issue this is with the latex caulk often used in track laying or the white glue used for glueing scenery.

    my thoughts, your choices
  9. I’ve seen layouts that have foam insulation attached to the plywood and then build on the foam as the base. This way gives you room to cut into the insulation for rivers or valleys as needed. Does anyone know of any drawbacks to doing this? I was thinking it was a good idea and wanted to know if anyone has other ways to achieve valleys that could be more preferable.
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The primary drawback of the foam on plywood solid top is that you are very limited as to how low your features can be. A 2" foam top represents about 14 scale feet in HO, and about 26ft in N. This is the maximum height your track can be above rivers, and so forth. This is a huge improvement over no foam, but still typically tends toward the Plywood or Foam Plains look.

    If you can leave the solid table top behind, and go with an open grid, many more scenic features are possible, even in a 4x8 or 4x6 space. The easiest path to open grid is to start with the solid top. Lay your track, and then cut around the track with your handy jig saw. Pull out the plywood (and foam or Homasote) that is not underneath track or structures. This is commonly called cookie cutter construction. The remaining plywood and track can be raised by a series of risers (vertical 1x2s) and cleats (horizontal 1x1s) attached to the underlying framework or grid. By raising the track on risers, you give yourself more depth for rivers, valleys, ditches, etc.

    Terrain can still be constructed by stacking pieces of foam and carving it to shape. Or you can use the more traditional plaster shell methods for making your terrain to the desired profile.

    yours in open grid benchwork

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