Thinking of building a layout 1 section at a time...

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by railBuilderdhd, Dec 11, 2007.

  1. I’m in the planning phase of my layout and was thinking I would build the layout in sections. This way I can build a section (or two – optimistic I can build fast) now and when I move and have more room I can join the completed sections and build out to the final layout sections. I’m building in HO scale (FYI). Here’s the big question: I would like to know if anyone has thoughts on the best way to build a layout section by section. Should I plan the entire layout first or just build off the completed section(s). Also, is it better to model a layout after a real rail line or create a model that’s fictional?
  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi...You can build layout "modules" one at a time, and join them to create a bigger layout. You should really have a good idea of where you want to go with the layout, so a good overall plan should be developed and then figure out how you can break it up into modules.
    As far as layout "realism"...It's up to you. If you have a preference for a particular line, you can model that, or you can just let your imagination run wild and do what best suits you. This is called "free lancing". Most modelers do free lancing rather than prototypical layouts.
  3. The only problem I have with doing the design completely before I build any section is the final room I have is unknown. I plan to move in a year or so (depends on the housing market) and have no idea what the room will be like that I can have for my model railroad. I guess I’ll start with an idea of what I want and hope I can build into that layout one day.
    I guess a layout could end up trashed and I start all over with a completely need layout. I've thought of this with doing a layout in scale now and HO later when I have more room. I just hate the idea that I know I’m planning on throwing away the work I do now because I really do want to model in HO scale.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I would suggest having an idea of what you want to model when you get your new space. Decide if you want to model a prototype or freelance. Then I would build an industrial switching section that could be incorproated into a larger layout when you get moved into your new home and have a space designated for the layout.
  5. 91rioja

    91rioja Member


    I'm in the death throws of moving right now. I also have an HO scale layout that I was working on. My plan when constructing this layout was that we would possibly be moving, so it would have to be able to be broken apart to move. I got to a certain point in May, and realized that any further construction would make the deconstruction process for the move that much more costly.

    I probably spent close to a year defining a trackplan that fit my given space at the time, and could be broken down into modules for the possibility of a move. As much as I wanted to run trains, I also really loved the design process to create a railroad that would run in a very prototypical fashion, instead of the proverbial watching the locomotive chase the caboose (which is just what my first attempt was).

    So anyway, three layouts later (and quite a bit of cash on benchwork) I'm back into the design process once again. I'll probably salvage as much as possible of the old layout, but it will be something new.

    The bottom line for this rant is that spending time planning will pay off in the end, especially if you're thinking of moving. Remember that a doorway is only 36" wide. . . .
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I've only once moved a layout to a new space, and that one didn't come out right when I expanded it.
    My suggestions: Come up with an idea of what you would like in the final layout, without restricting the shape. You can then build parts of it to fit together, but add bits to go around problems in your new space.
    Modelling a real place is the easy way to get it right. Modelling an imaginary place and getting it to look real is a lot more work.
    I would suggest building 2 or 3 sections first -- two end units/return loops/yards and a middle piece. Enough so you can get running. Then you can build more middle bits as you find time/space/money/inspiration. Look up the Cat Mountain and Santa Fe and his domino style of design.
  7. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Iain Rice has some thoughts on this in an issue of Model Railroad Planning...2007, I think. Also, "Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans" by the same author has a layout constructed in sections and linked together by plain track on unscenicked boards. Each section is its own self-contained scene but is mostly dependant on the others for expanded operations.

Share This Page