Layout Design: the vital forgotten questions

Layout Design. I was going to do a search and count how many books are dedicated to this one concept of layout design. I decided against it, far to many and I suppose it would only prove one thing…layout design is a tough nut to crack for many modelers.

I think the first challenge is space, one always limits the design by space. After all, that does seem to make sense. What doesn’t make sense is why someone wants to build the mainline of a class 1 railroad in an 8 X 10 room with 18 inch radius curves. I guess that why there are some many modelers working on the next version of the mainline in a 10 X 8 room with a helix and three levels.

Layout design needs to start with some vital questions. I have been pondering why over the years there have been so many modelers including myself changing so many layouts. Here are some of the vital questions I started to ask about “Beckleysville”. You may have some more I haven’t considered as of yet. Feel free to share!

(1) How much time and money do you have to pursue the project?

(2) How big is your CURRENT SPACE and more importantly will you ever move?

(3) What qualities or memories are drawing you to the prototype? For the freelancer, why am I freelancing?

(4) What do you want to get out of the layout? For example do you want to learn about timetable operations? Do you want to learn more about grain movements on the prairie branch that you remember from your youth. Do you want to learn more about your favorite railroad and its operations in 1928? what is the scope of the project?

(5) What scale do you want to use for your layout? A rather important consideration. The answer to number one really does play into the answer to this question. If you are modeling the Bridgton and Saco River in 1938 in Sn2 are all the engines and rolling stock available or is it a major scratchbuilding affair? Time and Money. I would also like to throw in operational preference. If timetable operation is your think maybe N or if you have a big area HO. If switching or branch line is your thing, consider a larger scale like S or O.

(6)Do you know how to make the scenery? If not consider a test module to work on techniques and ideas. You are still modeling and learning how to improve your skills, just not on the finished layout! Also gives you a chance to test minimum radius, turnouts, and track spacing. Plus it helps give you a visual for your design.

(7) Having answered all of these questions HONESTLY, pull out paper, pencil, compass, ruler, etc.. Start working on your track plan. If the plan includes a favorite building, will it fit? How much are you selectively compressing to make everything fit? Ask the questions now while everything is on paper. If you can, make a 3-dimensional drawing. Figure out elevations and if they will work. If you made a test module, use it to figure out any issues.

Layout Design: the vital forgotten questions©

By H. Mathews, May 2016

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