Dad bought a couple MARX O-27 sets for *ME* when I was about 2 years old. He would set up the track on the floor when we lived in old Detroit, and later built a 5' x 10' train table in our basement when we moved to Redford. After several years we moved to Tampa - bad news, no basement! He sold the old MARX stuff and bought a MARX HO set. He built a 4' x 6' layout on casters that rolled under my bed (I had an old hospital bed for years - the only thing good about it was the high clearance underneath and the width).
I had the common diversions when I was in my mid- to late-teens, and did not have a layout for a few years. After marriage and while serving in the Air Force (in Las Vegas - a tough assignment, but somebody had to do it ) I built a 4' x 8' layout in our apartment living room (my wife is a Saint!). When I shipped out I dismantled the layout, and we moved to Montana when I returned. I was hoping for a basement, but the house we bought had no basement. However, the garage was large enough to house a 5' x 12' layout at one end (the hood of the car fit under the benchwork). After 18 months, I was assigned to Tampa, so we were back to no space for a layout again. By now we had two boys and I really wanted to get them interested in trains, so I bought them a LIONEL set for Christmas. We set it up on the floor, but didn't have room for a permanent layout.
After about 6 or 7 years, I was transferred to Louisiana, and we bought a house with an attached garage. I insulated the room, added a heater/air conditioner in an outside wall, and built a pretty nice (to me) 13' x 18' "L" shaped three level layout. It was a folded dogbone with reverse loops at each end. The loops were stacked, and the lower level was totally hidden. It wasn't as problematic as I had anticipated, but I would not recommend it! Each loop was totally automatic - an approaching train would be detected and align the turnouts, then progress through the loop and either reverse the main track polarity or stop clear of all turnouts. I designed all the electronics and built them with salvaged parts and circuit boards I re-purposed (I worked in electronics and was a tinkerer, so I had lots of electronics junque).
After almost 10 years, this layout was dismantled also. I needed the space for a home office, so I built floor to ceiling shelves around three walls, and a smaller bookcase below the front windows. I stored my train stuff in boxes in those shelves.
At this same time I started the CN Lines SIG, and that endeavor took all my spare time. I spent around 20 hours a week doing membership stuff, editing CN LINES (newsletter) and other miscellaneous stuff. This left no time for modeling. I also got into computers at this time, and that put a further squeeze on my time.
So, life happened (kid stuff, career stuff, family stuff, etc.) and one day I found myself "collecting" trains! What? How did this happen? I had started the CN Lines SIG because I was a prototype modeler and could not find much info on the Canadian National. Now I was collecting all the HO stuff I could find that came factory decorated for the CN family (whether it was accurate or not). That is the joy of this hobby. There is something for everyone!
Now I am retired and am building a 5' x 11' layout in that attached garage (ex-home office, ex-storage for trains). All the shelves are still full of trains (as well as some boxes on the floor), but I am going to sell off some more stuff so I have more space. The train table is on castors so I can move the layout to gain access to wall shelves. This mobility of the table allowed me to have a larger layout. Before building the table I gained some very pertinent information and advice through these MR Forums - Thank you all!