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Bad layout design

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Bad layout design
Posted by gregc on Monday, January 18, 2010 8:11 PM

I've recently discovered Byron Henderson's LayoutVision website. Before finding his web-site, I was particularly attracted to his "Black Diamonds and Beer" layout on page 51 of the Jan 2010 Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.  While it has a loop for continuous running, it also has two lengthy branches that also make it a point-to-point layout.

But after reading his blogs, particular "The Tragedy of CAD-Too-Soon" and "There should be warnings ...", I feel I need a better understanding of layout design.  He's suggested that many published layouts are poor examples of good layout design, but is kind enough not to say which.

I was hoping that some of you would fill in the blanks and describe common mistakes and features to be avoided in layouts.

Thanks

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by Jacktal on Monday, January 18, 2010 8:27 PM

The best info I can see is for you to buy John Armstrong's "Track planning for realistic operation".You can order it through Internet from Model Railroader and you'd have it in a few days.This books explains all the ins and outs of layout designs very clearly.A "must have" publication for a modeler.

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Posted by selector on Monday, January 18, 2010 9:01 PM

In no particular order:

No idea from the get-go what you want in terms of a general vision, and no identifiable relation to a given prototype's own plans for a certain area based on revenue.  In other words, if you only want an oval with some add-on stuff, that's what you'll get, and it may make you happy in the long run.  Most of us find, to our dismay, that we're bored and would rather have some switching capacity for a change, or an engine-servicing facility, or maybe a large industry to service.

The tendency to cram more track into your space than is reasonable...linked strongly to the first point above.

Not knowing what the minimum curves and maximum grades are for the equipment you will run.  That should be carefully borne in mind all through the planning process.

Not providing for ease of maintenance.  That means actually fixing mistakes or things that go wrong over the first bit, and then later on, but also in daily operations where you make turnout lining mistakes and experience a derailment.  If you have to get foot stools and ladders to reach up and over things, it will get old really fast.  The general rule is that you can only reach safely, most often, about 26" into a layout's surface from any one vantage point.  PLAN FOR ACCESSIBILITY!  Think of where your tracks are in relation to the edge of the benchwork, and think also of how high the working surface is in relation to your blind elbows. 

That's probably enough of a start...I'll let the other fellers add their own learning.

-Crandell

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Posted by fwright on Monday, January 18, 2010 9:31 PM

gregc

I was hoping that some of you would fill in the blanks and describe common mistakes and features to be avoided in layouts.

Thanks

 

Some things to keep in mind:

Your preferences in operations should drive your layout design.  Each designer has their own operational preferences, and their layout plans tend to favor those preferences.  And the criticisms of published designs will also reflect those operational preferences. 

The smaller the layout, the less room there is for diversity of operations, scenery, and anything else.  So if plausibility is one of your high priority layout goals, the small layout is going to have to be very focused on a particular operational aspect (prototype switching, switching puzzle, continuous running, moving through a scene) almost to the exclusion of others.  If the tight focus omits the critic's favorite mode of operations, the layout plan is doomed to get a poor review.

Knowing what your operational preference is the key.  But unfortunately, most of us have no idea of what our operational preferences are until we have gotten a layout or two to the point of trying out operations.  We know what designs seem to appeal to us, but won't know our true preferences until we get there.  This is where the criticism from others that a layout is a poor design because it doesn't support the critic's preferences can get us into trouble.  We end up assuming that the critic's vision is the same as our vision.

Then we get into technical errors.  Curves being drawn sharper than accurate scale would suggest.  Turnouts drawn shorter and sharper than the ones you buy at the LHS.  Insufficient horizontal and vertical clearances between tracks.  Insufficient room for the planned structures, if any structures were planned at all.  Grade calculations with no allowance for needed vertical transitions.  Keep in mind that published track plans get next to no review for these errors because the design can't be put online for review in advance of publication.  And the pressure is always on a published design to fit into a fixed space or the least possible space.

Finally, there are planning inconsistencies.  A layout that is designed to have a parade of trains of a given length has inadequate amount of staging or staging that is too short.  A layout that requires a functional yard to make up and break up trains efficiently has no yard lead.  A key passing track is too short for the designed train length.  Desired train length was not taken into account during the planning process.  Switchback tails are totally inadequate or require one car at a time movement with the engine.  And the builder doesn't even care for switchback operations, much less be forced into them on every switching move.  Switching obstacles are not fun for the builder, yet the design is full of them.

Manual uncoupling is assumed but requires reaching over several tracks at near armpit level.  The logical uncoupling spot is hidden in a canyon between 2 buildings.  Magnetic delayed uncoupling is assumed, but the uncoupling ramp is on a minimum radius curve.  Manual turnout throwing and uncoupling are assumed, but the layout builder envisioned sitting back at a central control panel and watching trains run.  Or layout is designed for local switching but the spotting points and turnouts can't be seen from the central control panel.

Minimum radius is not consistent with planned locomotives and rolling stock.  Same with maximum grades and train length.

Insufficient room for reasonable slopes is left between tracks at different elevations.  Result is cliffs and retaining walls everywhere.  Same is true for other scenic features - impossibly narrow rivers and river banks, short tunnels that have trains visibly sticking out both ends at once - well, you get the idea.

I almost forgot about aisles and duckunders and liftouts and fold downs and gates and access hatches.  Different folks have different tolerances for each of these.  Many older published designs (including those in 48 Track Plans) have less than 24" wide aisles.  Depending on layout height, and multi-level or not, and number of operators that need to pass each other, you may need 40" or wider aisles.  My dad had to ultimately give up his layout when a shoulder injury prevented him from comfortably navigating his 48" high duckunder.

Unfortunately, experience and full-size mock-ups are the only real way to know what will fit and what won't, despite what the plan says.  Most don't want to bother with mock-ups when that precious time could be better spent getting on with the real layout.  So they get to learn by experience.

You could refine what I've said into a design review checklist.  But even then it would be incomplete - I still find new planning mistakes and omissions when I'm building full size in 3D.  The best way I have found to get a good design is to go through many iterations, then submit it online for review.  Incorporate those suggestions that make sense to you as real improvements - not all of them will be.  Redesign and resubmit.  Perhaps build a mockup if you are still not sure.  And be prepared to make changes when you actually built the plan anyway.

And that's the remaining flaw of published designs.  Very rarely are the designs redrawn after building and modifying the original design.  MR project layouts and the Atlas layout books are the exception where some of the changes made during building were put in the design before publishing or explained in the project article series.

I've written too much and rambled too much.

Fred W

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Posted by tgindy on Monday, January 18, 2010 9:47 PM

Jacktal

The best info I can see is for you to buy John Armstrong's "Track planning for realistic operation".

Ditto!  John Armstrong's "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" as a must-have is an understatement.

An outstanding PDF-Download many model railroaders overlook, Realistic freight operations, by one of model railroading operations pioneers from the 1940s-1960s, Frank Ellison -- includes an MR-series from circa 1950s.

Example:  Every type of railroad yard (and design) is discussed in a simple-to-understand way that is still hard to find in print today -- important for planning.

My first exposure to Frank Ellison's "Delta Lines" was in 1980's (now out of print) Classic Articles from Model Railroader -- where Delta Lines' trackplan is published from a 1955 MR article, and you are instantly mesmerized by how smoothly the layout intertwines for its operations.

PDF-Download Tip:  I print PDF-Downloads to a black & white HP-Laserjet (that just won't quit) with really nice greyscale recognition for color pages -- three-hole punched -- very inexpensive to print.  If you subscribe to MR's weekly e-mail -- you'll be tipped off to Kalmbach's 40%-off PDF specials.

Conemaugh Road & Traction circa 1956

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Posted by steinjr on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:11 AM

 

gregc

I've recently discovered Byron Henderson's LayoutVision website. Before finding his web-site, I was particularly attracted to his "Black Diamonds and Beer" layout on page 51 of the Jan 2010 Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.  While it has a loop for continuous running, it also has two lengthy branches that also make it a point-to-point layout.

But after reading his blogs, particular "The Tragedy of CAD-Too-Soon" and "There should be warnings ...", I feel I need a better understanding of layout design.  He's suggested that many published layouts are poor examples of good layout design, but is kind enough not to say which.

 Byron actually does say quite a bit about what he considers bad design ideas (but you don't have to agree with him about that) - but in a couple of other blog posts on the same blog:

 Tricky Traps of Layout design: http://mrsvc.blogspot.com/2006/10/tricky-traps-1-4.html

 Track Plan Analysis: http://mrsvc.blogspot.com/2008/02/track-plan-analysis-indexed.html

 Smile,
 Stein

 

 

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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:26 AM

 Just to put it into simple words - a badly designed layout does not do, what you want it to. To come up with a good design, you need to have a fairly precise idea on what you would like to have and what you can achieve. Much has been said and written about developing your own givens and druthers - for me the most important step to a well designed layout!

Without any idea on what you would like to get out of building your layout, even a proven design, made by others, may not turn out a good layout for you, unless you are able to understand the rational behind the design. 

Dream - Plan - Build - you need to dream it!

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Posted by dehusman on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:57 AM

A bad design is one that does not accomplish what the owner wants and a good layout is one that does.  If your goal is to run multiple trains around and have as many trains orbiting as possible a "good" design for you will be be very different from a "good" design for somebody that is very interested in industrial switching.

The hard part about designing a layout is NOT arranging the track or benchwork.  The hard part about designing a layout is deciding what YOU really want and making the required compromises to get what you want onto the footprint in the basement.

Those two things never go away.  A friend is about to start designing a 3000 sq ft layout.  He has every known fact about the area he wants to model.  The major challenge isn't what to include, its what to throw away.  Even with a huge area, even with double deck, you can't include everything.  If you are looking at published plans, pick a plan for an area about 10-20% smaller than the area you have.  Then expand that plan to fill your area, without increasing the number of tracks.  You will end up with a better looking layout.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:49 AM

 I agree on John Armstrong's book.

The biggest mistake I have made is not designing adequately for people, even if it is just me.  Moving around and working on the layout should be a priority.  I personally find that a layout that is easy to move around and work on is a real joy outweighing longer mainlines, more benchwork, etc.

My current layout has minimum 3ft aisles, no duckunders, 50" height.  It's a lot better than the prior layout that had a duckunder into the room, 58"height, and a 2ft aisle and a 2 1/2 ft aisle.  My next layout (already in the planning stages due to moving) will also have 3ft aisles, no duckunders, and be 50" high.

Enjoy

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by faraway on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:07 AM

The first step is not to start with any kind of track planning. Instead it is key to have clear vision what the purpose of the layout in terms of the prototype should be.

 

 

Reinhard

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:36 AM

It is an unfortunate but enduring truth that the first 3 hour operating session probably tells you more about your layout design flaws than 3 years of thinking about layout design.   Certainly the Armstrong books (don't forget Creative Layout Design, a sort of addendum to Track Planning for Realistic Operation) help, but aborbing all the lessons in a theoretical sense is no easy task.  I suspect even Armstrong had this experience. 

Just two aspects to illustrate the point. 

Run around tracks -- think how you actually switch an industry or enter a yard and whether a run around track is needed and where.  I have seen many layouts have to be "amended" after the first few operating sessions to add run around tracks.  I have had the opportunity to operate on a layout custom designed by Don Mitchell and was impressed that sight unseen he knew exactly where to put all the needed runaround tracks. 

Yard or storage tracks -- why are they as long or short as they are?  If a track can hold 1 and 1/2 cars, it is either too long or too short.  Sometimes adding a turnout just to fit in yet another yard or storage track that is too short actually ends up costing you yard capacity (assuming you keep cars off the turnout and away from the fouling points  -- I have seen this happen and yet things looked great on the track plan.

I have never used CAD or similar programs except as demos -- but I would generally agree that a simple line on a piece of paper to represent track, whether drawn by pencil or computer can be a mightly misleading thing. 

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by odave on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:50 AM

dehusman
A bad design is one that does not accomplish what the owner wants and a good layout is one that does.

I agree 100%.  Byron's latest (1/12/2010) blog entry is along these lines.

--O'Dave
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Posted by rxanand on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 9:28 AM

I just posted a series of articles on my blog about how I designed my current layout.

A few words to add to what I have written on my blog: A layout is not a static diorama - trains have to move! However, the the kind of movements that you would like your trains to make can vary widely. Don't assume that you have to do what everybody does. Make no mistake - industrial switching and timetable/train order operations are great but there are other kinds of operations that might work better for you.

Anand

Slowly building a layout since 2007!

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:25 AM

hi,

odave
"]A bad design is one that does not accomplish what the owner wants and a good layout is one that does.

Kicking doors that are open allready.

Having loads of experience in education I am sure of a just a few things.

If a student doesn't want to learn, don't even try. The great students learn, with math and physics maybe even to fast, the in-betweens are the targets. For them you can occasionaly open a door to a new world.

Byron Henderson talked about a friend of a friend who wanted more operation, no staging ,no extra spurs; he meant to double track his layout. Go against it and you will lose that one; explain that with double track swapping trains (from and to staging) is even more fun and you have a chance. 

And reasoning that as long as you do snaptracks a change is easily made. So maybe, when building a more permanent layout, you could better do both. (add double track and staging)

Lots of stuff is written about short and long term achievements. Problem with modelrailroading is the time it takes to build a great layout.

Back to the original poster.

Cuyama is afraid of newbies going for great looking plans, because the drawing is so beautifily done. Or the picture in MR or 102 Realistic Railroads is so great looking. Because the car looks great it must be a good car. Just buy it now!!!!!!!!!

I still remember the first modelrailroad (to me) in the late 50's with a three track staging yard.(Miniatur Bahnen 1959. W.Germany). It seemed so obvious; I could have found out myself. Not having the same train running around and around in the same direction all the time. And creating a break, so the local could do its job. Not formal operating, that door had still to be opened. Having a passing siding with some spurs was obvoius too. A freighthouse, a teamtrack and an industry were mandatory.  

The standard European layout in the 60's was a 4 or 5 feet deep table with a station up front, a loop to an underground staging area in the back, entirely out of reach and a branch to the back, above the staging area. The loop was even called the "parade ground" (parade strecke), because it could accept larger equipment.

When I saw in MR a plan without any staging, without a passing siding without any comment I don't think that Byron Hendersom should aim his arrows at some newbies or advisers on this forum. A newbie picked the plan from 102 Realistic Trackplans because of a nice picture (my guess). I asked him very friendly why he had chosen this one, it was next to a pretty good one, alas he never responded.

Paul

 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:32 AM

Layouts really need staging.  Failure to provide for it will severely limit what you can do with the layout.

If your yards are always 80% full, they really are storage tracks, not yards.  Either reduce the number of cars you have on the layout, or increase the amount of yard space.

Yards should function independently of the main lines.  If you're constantly "fouling" the main line with switching operations, you've violated this principle.

You can never have too many industries.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 3:31 PM

MisterBeasley

Layouts really need staging.  Failure to provide for it will severely limit what you can do with the layout.

Yards should function independently of the main lines.  If you're constantly "fouling" the main line with switching operations, you've violated this principle.

You can never have too many industries.

Thanks, Mr. B for being the straight man to make my point. Smile  If your desired operations are similar to Mr. B's, his statements are right on the mark.  But...

Layouts do not "really need staging."  A more correct statement is, "Staging significantly enhances certain types of operation." 

If the operations of your layout is based on a series of trains traveling over a main line, staging will definitely assist in achieving the goal.  The staging enables a series of trains without having to break up/make up a train every time another train is needed.

OTOH, a switching puzzle gains little or nothing from having space devoted to staging.  On a one-man "engineer" style layout, where the operator starts with an engine and a yard at one end, and ends up with an engine and a yard at the other, the only benefit from staging is variety in rolling stock.  And the cost of staging is a shorter run or fewer industries to switch along the run.  On a test run layout, staging again is unnecessary.

I've built layouts without staging and never felt I had deprived myself.  The present layout will have one passing siding that will work as "sort of visible staging", holding a passenger train until I am ready to run it around the loop.  And I may eventually add a cassette that attaches to the layout to swap rolling stock in or out - if I ever build enough rolling stock to justify the cassette!

The same can be said of the "never foul the main with yard operations" design principle.  There are plenty of prototype yards that don't have leads enough to avoid fouling the main.  But they don't have trains arriving and departing the yard every other minute, either.  Similarly, in model operations, a one-operator session using sequential operations has no need to keep yard operations separate from the main.

Similarly the statement, "You can never have too many industries." is a not a universal truth.  On a logging layout, the focus may be just like the prototype - a railway whose only purpose is to support the movement of log from the woods to the mill.  For this very reason, many model railroaders find a logging layout once built to be extremely boring to operate.  Others thrive on routine, repetitive operations. 

Now there are those (Mr. B is probably way too nice) who would say the examples I have given that don't need staging or don't need independent yards aren't "real" layouts.  The layouts are poor designs in the critics' eyes because they would not consider for themselves the operating styles I have suggested.

David H said it all.  The layout must suit the owner's/builder's purposes to be a good design.

Fred W

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 4:23 PM

Hi Fred

 it is so easy to find the exception

fwright
On a one-man "engineer" style layout, where the operator starts with an engine and a yard at one end, and ends up with an engine and a yard at the other

 

You will have to run the very same cars every day, you could call it virtual staging. The next day you imagine the cars are "fresh". But when you have more cars in the future? (see below)

fwright
The present layout will have one passing siding that will work as "sort of visible staging",

Again some form of staging

fwright
And I may eventually add a cassette that attaches to the layout to swap rolling stock in or out

Some staging again

fwright
- if I ever build enough rolling stock to justify the cassette!

Are you the exception? Most people suffer from to many cars.

I stated it earlier; building a model railroad takes it time. Once you are beyond snapping tracks, changes are not always easy to make. Planning some staging in future seems wise; the only thing you need is a track to the edge of your pike. In the design stage just a simple line. On a small switching pike a cassette can make so much difference. Staging and a long tail track for the same prize.

Keep in mind the OP wanted to keep newbies from bad designs. Staging should be on the short list of issues they need to hear (learn) about.

fwright
"never foul the main with yard operations" design principle

On a "one train a day" RR fouling the main is a bit weird. Try to read it as : switching and mainline running can be conflicting. Reading between the lines and asking yourself  the question why statements were made, is more productive then fighting them because of their "thou shalt" character.

fwright
David H said it all.  The layout must suit the owner's/builder's purposes to be a good design.

To easily said and not to the point, the initial problem was the many frustrated ex model railroaders because of bad designed and bad constructed railroads. How can a newbie know which kind of layout will suit him for a longer time?

IMHO only keeping to standards will prevent a lot of newbies to become bitter ex-MRR's.

Paul  

 

 

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Posted by steinjr on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 4:57 PM

 

Paulus Jas

Fred,

 it is so easy to find the exception

fwright
On a one-man "engineer" style layout, where the operator starts with an engine and a yard at one end, and ends up with an engine and a yard at the other

 

You will have to run the very same cars every day, you could call it virtual staging. The next day you imagine the cars are "fresh".

fwright
The present layout will have one passing siding that will work as "sort of visible staging",

Again some form of staging

fwright
And I may eventually add a cassette that attaches to the layout to swap rolling stock in or out

Some staging again

 Mmm - Fred did not say he didn't have staging on his present layout. He said he had a single track that would function as a "sort of visible staging" track.

 Also, Fred did not say that a cassette would not be staging. It is a form of staging.

 What he said is that he had built previous layouts that had no form of staging (ie somewhere - hidden or visible, fixed or detachable - where an already assembled inbound train could wait to make it's dramatic entry on the main stage).

 Fiddling cars on or off the layout between sessions isn't really staging as such, even if you label it "virtual staging" :-)

 But you can off course "prestage" a train somewhere on a layout that doesn't have a dedicated staging track, starting the operating session with the train "having just arrived from <somewhere else>" and ending the session with the train "about to depart for <somewhere else>".

 There are lots of ways to design layouts and to set up different operating schemes for a model railroad. That's one of the things that make model railroading so fun!

 Grin,
 Stein

 

 

 

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 5:19 PM

hi

I see staging as a way to have "fresh" cars the next day. How it is done is a different question. Fiddling during or before an "operating" session, just imagine it, having a large staging yard or some thing in between it all comes down to create a destination (or starting point) for our cars.

BTW the most difficult part of every conversation is finding out what the other really means.

Paul

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Posted by cuyama on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 5:30 PM

I see folks have already linked to a number of my thoughts on the topic, so I'll be very brief. The biggest shortcomings in layout design that I observe day-in and day-out:
- Not having a clear vision of what you want the layout to accomplish -- this leads to many other errors
- Too much track!!
- Too-tight radii and turnouts for the desired era/equipment!!
- Plans drawn unrealistically; e.g., tracks too close to benchwork edges or to other tracks, no room for vertical grade transitions, not allowing room for turnout points, drawing curve radii too small and turnouts too sharp to be practical, etc., etc.
- Thinking only of rectangles for benchwork and thinking only of islands for layout footprints
- Overuse of switchback industry spurs
- Not allowing sufficient length for switch leads and runarounds (or leaving them out altogether)
- Poor yard design (a huge topic on its own)
- Poor access (impossibly tight aisles, excessive reach, multiple duckunders, etc.)
- Excessive and overly tight S-curves

Basically, much of this comes from folks creating track plans who have limited or no exposure to layout design and prototype principles and best practices. But it's also a shame that so many of these same issues turn up so often in published plans as well (even "prize winners").

Byron

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Posted by CTValleyRR on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:49 PM

Bad layouts come from one thing:  an acute case of Rushintoititis.  Most people want to run trains as soon as possible, and that's a noble goal, but taking a deep breath and curbing the enthusiasm a little goes a long way toward success.  The MR motto is "Dream Plan Build", not "Build, Plan, Submit Layout design to MR forums and endure loads of well-meant criticism, Dream of finding a different hobby."  There is a reason for that.

Before you do anything else on your layout, you need to nail down a few basics, such as the type of operations you want (continuous running or point to point), amount of switching, size and type of locos and rolling stock (largly determined by the time period you select), number and type of industries, any special scenes, locales, or vignettes you would like to include.  All of this must be fairly firm before you can decide if a layout design works for you.

These decisions flow naturally into a more concrete plan, where you may have to make tradeoffs (if you want to run big steam, you can't use small radius curves, maybe that huge meat packing plant just doesn't fit, etc.).  A rough sketch (by the squares), followed by a more detailed plan is the order of the day.  And if you post it here, by all means tell everybody what your preferences are ahead of time, and be prepared to ignore comments that don't fit your vision (for every design posted, at least one response will tell the OP that he doesn't really want that kind of layout, he's just too inexperienced to realize it).

Then, and only then (and maybe long after) should you start cutting benchwork.

The trouble is, true beginners often don't know what they prefer in terms of operations.  To this end, some time with a club actually operating (or at least watching) is very helpful.  You can also invest in Trainplayer or similar software which actually lets you run virtual trains, to get a feel for what kinds of operations you enjoy.

Whatever you do, remember one thing:  It's YOUR layout.  It has to make you happy, and be within your capabilities and means. 

Connecticut Valley Railroad A Branch of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford

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Posted by jmbjmb on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:24 PM

One thing I would add is be willing to build, experiment, tear down, and try again.  It's possible to get caught up in too much paralysis by analysis trying to fit your desires into all the rules or vice versa.  But for many people, they both don't know what they want/what the choics are until they've tried something.  Probably, in my mind, the biggest problem caused by too many track plan books and layout articles is they set the bar too high for many new model railroaders.  After seeing the great articles, they set goals that are too far beyond their reality, be it time, money, or experience leading to frustration. 

So build that first layout small.  For example, the much maligned 4x8 can demonstrate many of the principals -- staging on one side, switching leads, etc.  Those lessons' learned can lead to the larger layout, more insight into operation, and a better understanding of the modeler's goals so he or she can then view track plans in a better light.

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Posted by steinjr on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 4:09 AM

fwright
n a one-man "engineer" style layout, where the operator starts with an engine and a yard at one end, and ends up with an engine and a yard at the other, the only benefit from staging is variety in rolling stock.  And the cost of staging is a shorter run or fewer industries to switch along the run. 

 

 That's an interesting point. I am mostly in agreement with you. 

 But one interesting thing you can use a hidden track disappearing e.g. behind buildings for in a pure switching layout is to represent a bigger industry, or an interchange track or a yard "over that way" that you can't model in a visible way in your available space.

 Where you might want to sort cars first on the main part of your switching layout, and then "push cars down the spur towards the plant" or some such thing.

 An example of the concept of using a single track to generate quite a bit of switching to put cars into the right order before they are shoved down the track is Tony Koester's Westvaco Paper plant - described in some early issue of MRP.

  A reasonably decent example of using hidden tracks on a small switching layout is Peter M White's 10 foot by 18 inch T.I.R.R (Tenderfoot Industrial Railroad): http://www.shenware.com/layouts/tenderfoot.html

 And Andrew Martin's10 foot by 20 inch "Harmony Industrial Park": http://www.huntervalleylines.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=30&fullsize=1

 Mind you - I am not saying that all switching layouts must have staging or hidden tracks  - fiddling and prestaging trains also works fine. But in some circumstances a hidden track or two can do more than just provide "variety in cars".

Smile,
Stein

 

 

 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:14 AM

fwright
David H said it all.  The layout must suit the owner's/builder's purposes to be a good design.

Fred W

Yes, that's really the most important thing, isn't it?

What I was suggesting is from my own experience.  Since this is my first "grown-up" layout, I built Phase 1 with no staging, limited industry and a yard which is too small.  I didn't know any better, frankly.  I didn't know at the time how I was limiting myself.  On the other hand, I did end up with a layout which is a lot of fun in terms of scenery and details, and it allows me to have two trains running in "unattended" mode while I switch with a third engine, providing a lot of activity in a small (5x12 foot HO) space.

I want something more, though.  My comment about industries was paraphrased from "A Thousand Clowns," where Jason Robards says, "You can never have too many eagles."  But, that was a real shortcoming of my design, and limits its utility as both a switching and operating layout.  Again, I didn't see the problem until it was too late.

Phase 2 is underway.  It will have staging and more industries.  I'm still short of yard space, but the staging will allow me to have fewer cars in existing yards, so that should help.

I suppose I could say that what I've learned from this phased layout construction is - there's no substitute for experience.  Not only have learned how to do things over the past 5 years, I've also learned what I want to do.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by dehusman on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:52 AM

CTValleyRR

Bad layouts come from one thing:  an acute case of Rushintoititis.  Most people want to run trains as soon as possible, and that's a noble goal, but taking a deep breath and curbing the enthusiasm a little goes a long way toward success.  The MR motto is "Dream Plan Build", not "Build, Plan, Submit Layout design to MR forums and endure loads of well-meant criticism, Dream of finding a different hobby."  There is a reason for that.

 

jmbjmb

One thing I would add is be willing to build, experiment, tear down, and try again.  It's possible to get caught up in too much paralysis by analysis trying to fit your desires into all the rules or vice versa.  But for many people, they both don't know what they want/what the choics are until they've tried something.  Probably, in my mind, the biggest problem caused by too many track plan books and layout articles is they set the bar too high for many new model railroaders.  After seeing the great articles, they set goals that are too far beyond their reality, be it time, money, or experience leading to frustration. 

 Interesting juxtaposition of opinions in successive posts.

Unfortuantely I agree with both of positions.  Rushing into something without doing some homework is a bad thing.  But not trying things or realizing that there is a learning curve is just as bad.

The worst case scenario is the new modeler who sits down and decides he is going to build his permanent, only layout he will ever have right off the bat.  There are a few that could do that.  The vast majority will be doomed to fail.  Even worse are those that start with that and then realize the plan will fall short and will not change or rebuild because it was their "dream layout".

Plan and build it like it was your last layout, but always realize its really just your next to last layout.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Thursday, January 21, 2010 2:50 AM

Hi ,

Cuyama, beside the cornerstones this is the kind of short list newbies should read.

Just as with the cornerstones the first one (protypecally based/inspired) is the hardest to understand.

Among the others I would like to see some numbers; e.g. too tight radii: at least a 2.5 ratio.

IMHO to many "would be" advisers forget newbies are probably unable to "understand" why these standards are specifically needed for their first layouts.

cuyama
Basically, much of this comes from folks creating track plans who have limited or no exposure to layout design and prototype principles and best practices. But it's also a shame that so many of these same issues turn up so often in published plans as well (even "prize winners").

From folks who have.............; they often have the best intentions, but they are not the pro's.

From is pro's it is a shame! Though I do understand the reasons why no remarks are made; questions could be asked. I never understood why in GMR no questions were asked how Lance Mindheim worked his trailing and facing spurs without a run-around.

For some reason I liked Thomas Oxnard remarks ( MR dec 2009) about his have foot wide aisle. Now he's got some new railway friends and he wants to take the step from a single operator to group sessions it will become a different story.

I still think that putting your plan on this forum and let it be teared apart by the "pro's" is the only way to get response. And maybe you can learn a point or two.

BTW I was a bit disappointed by the response on my trackplan. I didn't met all the requirements of Cuyama's (brief and short) list.

Paul 

 

 

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 21, 2010 3:39 AM

 If we conclude, that a well designed layout resembles prototype operation as much as possible within the constraints, which all of us face in terms of space and budget, then developing a layout is certainly a form of art, requiring a good deal of knowledge on how a real railroad is operated. With the little exposure people nowadays have to railroad operation, this knowledge is hard to acquire. Reading the numerous books availabe on this issue is a first step, but quite often does not help us in translating it into the little world we envision to have. This is, where the experts among us have to jump in, helping us to understand. I am glad to see, that there people in here, who, with a lot of patience, answer the sometimes seemingly stupid questions, turning an ignorant into the adept. Just to name of few, Cuyama (Byron), Paul and Stein are the ones, who, IMHO, excel in this discipline.

I, for myself, always develop a picture of my "layout in being" quite rapidly, but this concerns looks, not operation. The reason for this is, that the prototype operation I can observe at my doorstep differs so much from US railroading practice. I have to rely on the advice from the experts - needless to say, that I am happy to be able to collect their expertise here in this forum.

I am not really a newbie to model railroading, but my layout which is still in the planning stage, will be my first US based layout. For me, it is a big help that I have been reading model railroading mags for 40 years now, enabling me to understand US railroading terminology and to communicate with the guys in here.

My advice for the newbies is:

  • Collect all the information you can get, by reading books and through the web
  • Develop an idea of what you want to have and why - as precise as possible
  • Try to put your ideas into a first sketch of a trackplan - don´t just copy someone else´s design
  • Put it up for positive critique here, listen to the advice you get and incorporate it in your design
  • Don´t let anybody discourage you, even if some of the answers may seem a little gruff.
  • Don´t rush in, take your time. 

If you want to come up with a good design, there is no short cut through this. Only a good design will turn the craze for trains you may feel at the moment into a rewarding hobby, which will last as long as wheels roll on rails...

Have fun!

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, January 21, 2010 3:48 AM

Before a person can design a good layout, that person must have a good idea of what the layout owner really wants.  That is especially important if the designer and the eventual owner are two different people.

OTOH, anyone can design a bad layout.  All that's necessary is to ignore the eventual owner's REAL givens and druthers, substituting:

  • A published track plan designed by a stranger to satisfy THAT person's wants - no two modelers are exactly alike.
  • Plan # whatever from (name of manufacturer)s book of plans for brand x track products.  Great for promoting brand x, but not so hot in reproducing one modeler's vision of the Podunk and Northern.
  • Deliberately starting with one of the above and trying to graft on something else from some other plan to 'improve' it.
  • Turning over basic design parameters to a committee, and then letting that committee produce a design incorporating all of THEIR (frequently contradictory) givens and druthers.  A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

The owner can do the same thing to himself by:

  • Diving into the planning process with no clear vision of what he really wants.
  • Trying to stuff too much spaghetti into a fixed-size bowl.
  • Trying to incorporate the entire world on a kitchen table layout in any scale larger than TTT (1:450.)
  • Insisting on some feature that is a space hog and an operational PITA.  (Operating hump yard, anyone?)
  • Completely ignoring his own physical limits and designing something that would be impossible to build and impossible to operate.
  • Same as the above, but substitute Fiscal for physical.

So, can anyone ever design a layout which will be perfect for the layout owner?  I think I have - for myself.  It is radically different in concept, design and expected operation from anything I've ever seen published.  But then, I am ME, not some non-existant statistical average modeler.  So far, I'm happy.  Come back in a decade or so and see if that's still the case.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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