Letting Off More Steam

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Mountain Man, Mar 31, 2008.

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  1. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    We recently discussed the trend towards more size, and i often see members looking for plans for smaller layouts, so I thought I would relate my latest encounter with the "size actually is what it is all about" MRR gurus.

    The scene is the library in Colorado Springs, where I found a Model Railroad/Kalmback book on "small track plans. I read the intro remarks, wherein the author said he regard the 4x8 layout as the basic building block and intended to focus on that and smaller layouts. Perfect. check out book, go home, settle in, and...:confused:

    One 4x8 layout. One. A single small switching layout. The rest of the book jumped immediately to 8x10 for most of the book, then to 12x12 - "perfect for the average spare bedroom" - in what particular neighborhood, I wonder? - and finally to a 10x20 behemoth.

    What part of "small layouts" does MRR/Kalmbach not understand? 4x8 is 32 sq ft. 8x10 jumps to roughly 2.5x that, and 10x20 in on another planet entirely, half of the avergae two-car garage. Even that ludicrous "spare bedroom" layout comes in ad 144 sq. ft. - over four times the author's stated "building block" goal.

    Exactly how does this hobby define "small layout"? Anything less than the endless array of giga-layouts featured in the MRR Magazine? Does not require a realtor's license and city council permit to plan? And why is it that the "small layouts" are still designed for HO? Why is there no correlation within this hobby between small layouts and small scales, such as N?

    This hobby is obsessed with size, to the exclusion of all else. Mega-layouts, huge locomotives, gigantic structures...if Freud were alive and a member of this forum, I can only imagine what he might think.

    OK - I feel a little better now. I will no resume my fruitless search for small layouts designed by rational people for small scales; however, I may change my screen name to "Diogenes".
  2. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer

  3. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    my "spare bedroom" is about 9x12 with a door, closet, and window to work around. It's just large enough for a 4x8 and room to walk around. I don't even have enough room left over to use the room for anything else.

    I recently aquired my first model railroader magazine in 5 years. In it, there is a pretty cool review of a layout that is built into a spare bedroom about 10'x15'. The article implies this as being a "small layout" yet it takes up the whole room. There is no place in my whole house, save the living room, that would be large enough to accomodate even that layout.

    Yet, my 4x8 is gonna keep me busy for years. I say do whatever suits your needs. There is no reason to be ashamed of a small layout. I think it is better to have a good, finished small layout than an unfinished basement empire.

    Out of necessity, the best small layout designs come from Europe. But Americans like everything bigger than it needs to be. Cars, houses, meat portions on the dinner table... Perhaps there is a subconscious in the American modeler that says a 4x8 is not a "real" layout and instead nothing more than a toy.

  4. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Thanks for the link. Unfortunately not quite what I had in mind, but interesting all the same.
  5. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    It certainly seems that way in the modeling mags and the hobby stores.

    Sunday in the Caboose in Denver the N-scale guy came right out and asked me why I didn't "model in a real scale"? My response?

    "If N-scale isn't 'real', why do I have to pay you in real money"? This guy must have experienced a signficant closed-head injury during his childhood...:cry:
  6. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member

    small layouts

    Mountain Man, I don't know if you are HO or N, but I Googled up "4X6 HO layouts" and got some pretty good ideas. That may be the best way.

  7. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Trying to get into N scale, but having problems getting started in a smaller scale, for some reason. Thanks for the suggestion - I'll give that a try.

    They say everything you can ever think of is on the 'net somewhere, if you can just figure out how to find it. :rolleyes:
  8. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Well, well...most of what comes up is HO scale, even though N scale was clearly specified. Apparently Google ain;t too bright...:cry:
  9. jesso

    jesso Member

  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I have to agree about the obsession with gigantic layouts. My first layout was a 4'x8' , with an oval, five sidings and two reverse loops, all done in HO. In N scale, you'd probably get better scenic opportunities and using the same radius curves and a similar trackplan, it could let you run some decent-size power while still including more sidings for operation.
    However, I think for me, nowadays, a 4'x8' would be more interesting as a 2'x16', or, in N scale, as a 1'x32'. Of course, that 32' dimension could be turned at the corner(s) of the room, and could even include a peninsula. You could also make it in 8' or smaller modules, if you needed, at times, to use the room for something other than trains. Of course, this also assumes that you're interested in a point-to-point trackplan, which, admittedly, not everyone is. ;):-D Just another option to consider, though.

  11. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Actually, I am a point-to-pointer and a sceniker, not too surprising since I'm from Colorado and have a passion for the old mountain railroads. I also agree with the concept I have seen voiced that a single sheet of 4x8 is an unwieldy and awkward footprint to work with, although some of the reasons given are a little on the intellectually challenged side.

    I'm not experienced in module building ,so I do';t see that as the initial way to go. I happen to live in a house with limited wall space due to placement of windows, doors, etc.,...and several snakes, lizards and other creatures. Anyone who thinks a 4x8 layout is an insurmountable weight can try moving an 8x3x2 python cage...while the snake is in it. Wimps...:cry:

    I'm trying to figure out how else I might do it, but what I am not happy with is the way anything that smacks of "4x8" is denigrated while the immediate "8x10 option" is paraded around. In other words, "just do it bigger", and ignore the desires of the builder in the process.

    I imagine I'll just come up with a plan on my own, since the entire concept seems lost on the old pros who appear totally enslaved by the bigger and bigger and "jumbo-gigantic-humongous" school of model railroading. If I were a youngster looking for something to do, this whole experience would have unquestionably driven me to the GameBoy store and then to the couch.
  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Well, many of us started out with a 4'x8', but you're right, a lot of us moved on to something bigger when we got the space. Perhaps the reason that so many look down on this size is because their particular version wasn't very well done, and didn't offer the things that they wanted. If you look around on these pages, many first-time model railroaders want to get something running, without regard for an operating plan, geographic location, or era. This is easily accomplished with all of the r-t-r products available nowadays, but I suspect that many of these people will quickly lose interest in watching the train go round and round. They'll either give up and opt for the Gameboy or whatever, or move on to a more well-researched form of modelling - possibly still on a 4'x8' platform, though, albeit greatly revised.
    For some younger modellers, even a 4'x8' is out of reach, either financially or space-wise, but many persevere. Check out This thread by TruckLover - windows, furniture and doorways be damned! ;):-D:-D
    A well-thought-out small railroad can be just as interesting to build and operate as a larger one, with the added bonus that there's a much better chance that the builder will reach his goal of having a layout that at least looks "finished".

  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm an advocate of shelf layouts simply because a 4 x 8 island with space to walk all the way around really takes up a minimum space of 12 x 8 allowing for only 24 inch walkways around it. I have also seen the members of this site come up with some great track plans in the "Track Planning" forum if you post givens and druthers, scale or gauge you want to use, and a footprint of the room or the layout space and any obstacles that are in the way.
  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Is it a matter of square feet of layout? Along the lines of what doctorwayne (4x8 versus 1x32) and nachoman (4x8 in a 9x12 room).

    MR would tend to categorize the layout size by the room dimensions, rather than actual benchwork real estate.

    nachoman's 4x8 takes up 32 square feet of benchwork in a room that is 108 sq ft. doctorwaynes imaginary 1x32 also only takes up 32 sq feet, but would cover 3 walls of that same room with a shelf 1 foot deep, leaving the rest of the room open.

    But MR would call one a 4x8, and the other a "bedroom-sized" layout. Both in fact require a bedroom sized room to do (although the 1x32 is more flexible - could be built a variety of ways).

    If you want to stick to a table format, look at Model Trains and Model Railroads - Gateway Division NMRA - Gateway to Model Railroading Fun. Lots of great 4x8 and sub-4x8 layouts in HO. Convert to Nscales as 3x6 or leave as is for extra-generous curves and more real estate.

  15. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    I don't understand what's so difficult about coming up with one's own layout design. I, too, have a number of layout plan books, but I tend to combine ideas and elements into my own designs. I don't believe in my fifteen years of model railroading I've ever built a layout plan as published.

    The biggest gripe I have with the "classic" freestanding table is that it's a horribly inefficient use of space. As has been pointed out in this thread building a layout like that would make the rest of the room unusable in most situations. I'm a big fan of using a single sheet of foam or plywood for a layout, but if it's in one piece the plan is a non-starter for me. Plans like that were great to run in Boys' Life back in the '50s when people had room to build a layout on the old ping-pong table. With the advancements in the hobby over the last fifty odd years, however, building a layout like that just seems pointless. In smaller scales the form factor works better because it can be pushed against a wall and still retain easy access and a degree of realism. (See Model Railroader's "Carolina Central" N scale layout for an example of this.) In HO scale it just turns into a messy waste of space.

    I've thought about proposing a layout design contest for the forums as of late with a 32 square foot (one four-by-eight sheet) specification. Seems that this would alleviate the original poster's gripe. Any takers?
  16. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Why is that?
  17. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    My first "layout" was built on a 4' X 6' sheet of plywood. I have operated on a 70' X 140' HO layout, that started at 30" track height, and ran to a track elevation of approximately 96".
    The 70' X 140' layout was only fun when I could walk around with my train.
    The 4' X 6' was fun to build, and fun to operate. There's a lot to be said for both, but truth be known, the room size, more than any other factor, will set the size limit. The building, and operating, of the layout, will set the fun limit.
    {Edit} When we set up the LCSofME modular layout at the 2001 National Train Show in St. Louis, we had an "L" shaped layout that occupied 44' X 56'. (every member, at the time, brought all their modules :mrgreen:)
  18. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I plan to mount my layout on lockable castors so that it can be rotated as necessary to reach any area for maintenance or derailments. This means that it only requires access from one side. Otherwise, it will placed in a position to allow maximum viewing for the operator and locked in place.
  19. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Lockable castors.....Good idea, for a lot of reasons. Not only can you more easily perform routine maintenance, you can actually have at least two "fronts" of the layout!
  20. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    First many modelers fully believe a layout needs to be basement size..I say hogwash.A small layout looks as good and can be finished unlike some basement size monsters that may never be finish by one man.

    My "dream" layout is a simple around 3 walls ISL that would feature some "street running" to serve a brewery..

    As for the lowly 4x8 footer many turn up their noses at this common size layout-I suspect there are thousands of 4x8 footers because it takes up to much room.Better they say if you go around the walls..Well I agree with that UNLESS one rents and can't fasten anything other then clocks or pictures to the walls.Of course MR and other magazine overlooks those conditions.Then even if one is buying a house the missus might forbid using the walls as well..

    My thoughts is to use the space you have wisely,build a layout that can be built,maintain and operated by one.
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