Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Sketching with squares

32 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
  • 6,287 posts
Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, December 5, 2019 12:10 PM

My room is 15' x 24' and my layout is completely freestanding with the backdrop attached to the benchwork. A slightly smaller version would work.


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,022 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, December 5, 2019 12:45 PM

 Someone (probably John Armstrong) showed that a lazy G shape gets the most railroad in a given space. What makes that work, even with large radius curves, is that not all of the benchwork needs to be a uniform 2' wide. You may need wider for a yard, but at the same time, if you have a section that is just some track running through scenery, you can use half that width. By narrowing the adjacent benchwork, you can maintain a decent aisle width AND fit a turnback curve.

Even more efficient use of the space - stack turnback curves on top of one another. Incorporate staging in the loops, either by making them even wider if possible, or using Armstrong's reverted loop concept.

Believe me, it's a massive leap. After years of building island layouts, the largest of which was a 3x6 N scale (I had room for a 6x10 HO, even drew a plan, by my Mom would never let me build it. 4x8 was as big as I was able to build, but 3x6 in N is actually more space than 4x8 in HO), it was hard moving beyond a basic around the walls. At least that was better than a square island.

 I read track planning book after track planning book before it finally clicked. I also had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to build my 'ultimate' layout, but the house I edned up buying thwarted that, and it took a few iterations to come up with what I have as a basis now. More or less a clockwise spiral with slight reversal at the end (curves back the opposite way). I'm still string at it trying to figure if there is some other way to arrange things that allows a longer mainline run and still keeps wide aisles. Crunch time is coming, basement demo and wall and floor prep is nearly done (should be done this week), then it's time to plan where the new walls go, besides the obvious around the perimeter. Then I'mm be committed. Scary, in a way. 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's


Visit my web site at for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: In the heart of Georgia
  • 3,414 posts
Posted by Doughless on Thursday, December 5, 2019 5:54 PM



agree with the center operation area/around the walls 2'x8' benchwork module sections. 

I just don't see doing a penninsul plan. Maybe it's time to start tearing down the HoG and start building benchwork. 


If your layout will be 14 x 20, subtracting 4 feet for 2' deep tables on each side leaves a 10' pit.  A 2 x 14 foot stub peninsula coming out from one of the 14 foot ends wall allows for really long stub-ended staging peninsula with generous 4 foot aisles on each side.  You could make two staging yards side by side in a 2 foot width. One for east bound trains, one for westbound trains.  There would be some scenic challenges where the yard lead(s) meet the mainline but it could be worked out.

Or, as others have shown, you could have a walk-in design with the mainline doubling back on itself.

Both types tend to call for different benchwork shapes, so don't start building the benchwork until you've committed to a plan.

The table modules would be more forgiving if you changed the track plan slightly.

Four foot wide ailses would still be generous enough to access any type of household item stored under the benchwork, as might be needed to keep the boss happy.

- Douglas

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!