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Layout Theme
Posted by Outsailing86 on Sunday, January 10, 2021 11:07 PM

How did you pick your layout theme and era?
What makes you pick one industry over another? 

sometimes the decisions are overwhelming for a layout and "analysis paralysis" will set in. 

thanks for your insight. My next layout is an 8x10

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Posted by selector on Sunday, January 10, 2021 11:35 PM

Photos, nostalgia, experiences, stories, reading, films....they all help to establish a range of exciting rail phenomena that we try to capture when we create a layout.  For some, it was a Christmas layout, maybe a simple circle O Gauge running around the tree for hours.  Or in my case, a complete Plywood Pacific with trains already railed and ready to go on Christmas morning in 1962.  They were Marklin.

Industry is the same, what you saw, where you were, what was explained ot you...  

It should be understood that a lot of what eventually gets plunked onto the layout rides on what is available without more than a couple of years' wait.  Or what can wait to be constructed from scratch.

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Posted by Pruitt on Monday, January 11, 2021 12:15 AM

My theme was easy - the tracks along many of the towns where I lived as a child.

My era developed over time. At first it was the 1980's (that was current era when I was at that point). But since I have always had a love of steam, that was a big driver to backdate me to the 1930's-1940's. Also part of that decision was that highways were more primitive, and industrial centralization was still in its infancy, so more model-railroad-sized industries in more towns were around then, and smaller cars meant more cars for a given train length.

I had to struggle a bit with industries - Some I really liked were not rail served, and some were redundant with industries in other towns that would be represented on the layout. And a few didn't exist yet in my era, but came along 10-20 years later. So...

I made industry selections based on what would (I hoped) make for varied and interesting traffic flow during operations. I made one or two non-rail-served industries rail served, and took one somewhat more modern industry and made it a "pathfinder" industry in my era. All that was mainly for the traffic flow I mentioned.

My advice - First, pick the theme and era that appeals to you the most. You can always change later - and you'd be surprised how much can reasonably "cross" eras and still be used. Second, pick your industries the same way. As you work on your layout you'll refine these choices and maybe change a few. But industries can be swapped out pretty easily when it comes right down to it.

You may be uncertain of many of your choices at this point, but as time goes on they'll sort themselves out.

So take a deep breath and jump right in! And don't forget to keep us all abreast as you go! Thumbs Up

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, January 11, 2021 12:51 AM

My theme is whimsical pseudo-reallistic nonsense set on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, at 2:00 in the afternoon.

My layout is no where in particular, maybe not even in the United States, filled with steam-punk and sci-fi gubbins here and there, and just a way for me to have fun.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:16 AM

An interesting thread with some interesting answers.

 

When I brought my trains out from the loft of the house  and 'moved into the spare bedroom' (11ft by 8ft)  I had a 'mish mash' of a layout.   

I read a couple of books  written by people I admired  and basically took there advice  in what I wanted for a layout.

 

I wanted a layout that was easy to operate, so even my grandchildren could run trains.   It had to have things on it that all the family could connect with.   A section of farmland.  A canal.  A diesel locomotive yard and a scrap yard.   

The industries were easy to name.   My grandmother had a small cottage industry as a tailoress making suits for gentlemen.  We would call it 'Town Tailors'.  As a young boy of eight or nine years of age I had a 'weekend job'  sorting the empty beer bottles into their correct cases for return to the breweries.  One such brewery was Hey & Humphreys.  My first job was at Smith & Butler's, printers'.

I have always been involved with road haulage in one way and another.   Three companies had to be on the layout.

Some stores and shops are named after members of the family.  (I get some lovely Christmas and birthday presents for the layout from them.)

I now make railroad wagons up with the industry names on them.  Making them unique in their own right.

 

When I run trains they have to have a reason to run.  A departure and destination.  Scenes on the layout have to be believable even if not railroad related.  Bring it together to make a living model railway.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by rogerhensley on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:41 AM

My thoughts went to a town in Soutern Indiana, Westport. The NYC had stopped running and PC owned the trackage. I setup from Anderson (Central Indiana) through the old CCC&StL trackage to Westport for a Large Grain Elevator plus other industries along the way. I run a Passenger special on weekends from Anderson to Westport.

I had spent a number of years in Westport as a youngster, so it was easy to set it up. Westport was constructed from memory and added to. I went down there a couple of years back. I shouldn't have.

Roger Hensley
= ECI Railroad - http://madisonrails.railfan.net/eci/eci_new.html =
= Railroads of Madison County - http://madisonrails.railfan.net/

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, January 11, 2021 6:12 AM

While I had grown up in northern California, during my teens and twenties I went on several trips to and through Utah and Colorado and was impressed by the scenery and locals of the D&RGW. Even the desert scenery of Utah and western Colorado appealed to me so much more than the boring (to me) midwest or eastern scenery. 

As for era, for many years I was interested in "contemporary" but as time went by "contemporary" got less visually appealing (no cabooses, ugly graffiti, etc.) so I back dated about 10 years from (at that time) late 80's thru early 90's to late 70's through early 80.

What appealed to me aobut late 70's thru early 80's is I could run a private passenger train (the Rio Grande Zephyr), colorful per diem box cars, 40 and 45' TOFC traffic, cabooses were the norm, and graffiti was limited to cute chalk drawings like Herbie.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by snjroy on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:19 AM

My layout is loosely based on local RRs that existed in our area since the early 1900's, with emphasis on logging and mining because of the cool equipment associated with these local operations. Of course, being Canadian, there is a mainline that allows CN and CP locos to speed past the locals...

Simon 

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Posted by dstarr on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:15 AM

My choice of era and location is traditional.  I model New England where I grew up.  I model the 1950's so that I can run steam engines plausibly and also because I grew up in the 1950's. 

   There are some themes and era's that I never heard of anyone modeling but could be cool.  How about a railroad running on the moon sometime in the future.  Locomotives would be electric or nuclear, diesels won't run in vacuum.  It would need some pressurised cars for cargo that cannot stand vacuum, like fresh fruit.  Presumably it would haul a lot of ore and water and rocket fuel.  Each rocket launch from the lunar surface would use a trainload of fuel.  Sky would be black rather than blue.  Rolling stock would be manufactured on the moon, it is much to heavy to brng up from earth by rocket.

  Or, how about a railroad on Middle Earth, serving the mines of Moria, run by orcs?  Would they offer passenger service?  And accept hobbits and elves and dwarves and men as passengers?  I assume they would run tiny steam engines and small cars.  They might have a branch running to the Shire to get cargos of pipeweed. 

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:24 AM

I picked the layout theme and era b/c always enjoyed travelling in Southern VA to visit my older brother in collage and similar for my g/f and now wife.  She went to school at JMU, which is along the N&S and old N&W line.  I picked the 1980s b/c it offers a lot of switching, great variety of cars, and has a more modern feel. Plus, the area and era is not often replicated (IMHO).

For "analysis paralysis," I suggest either closing your eyes with a decision or walking away a bit.  Get a fresh perspctive.  Looking at things with new eyes helps or asking for help.

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:27 AM

A layout doesn't have to be based on the past, you know.

Drive around areas that have railroad tracks.  Use google search and look for interesting places to visit.  Model that.

If you have a big space for lots of staging and broad curves, build your layout like its a Class 1 railroad with lots thru-trains.  If you have small to modest space, make the layout a branch line or short line with local trains doing an out-and-back operation.  If you have small space, build a small switching layout.

Same theme, different layouts based upon available space. 

Look around and take pictures. 

A nice sunny warm day.  Drive the back roads of the countryside.  Pack lunch or visit a nice little diner.  Research can be fun, not always needing photos of the past.

- Douglas

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Posted by York1 on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:44 AM

Outsailing86
How did you pick your layout theme and era? What makes you pick one industry over another?  sometimes the decisions are overwhelming for a layout and "analysis paralysis" will set in. 

 

I came very close to this when I started three years ago.

I was trying to read everything, plan everything, draw everything -- to the point that I almost decided I didn't want to do it.

Then I decided I was just going to jump in.

I made everything modern day, but I also have some trains that are from the 1950s.

Some modelers would not like that, but it doesn't matter to me.  I like it.

If I had started 50 years ago, I probably would be on my 4th or 5th layout, and maybe the era and location would be set.

But in my case, I was old and retired when I started, so I don't have the luxury of time to do things, then start over with certain things that fit.

York1 John       

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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:47 AM

Doughless

A layout doesn't have to be based on the past, you know.

 

 

Quite right Douglas.    Up to the minute 'Moden Image'.  With modern industry on the 'doorstep'.    No worries as to what things look like or what trains run.   Being able to see it then model it.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by angelob6660 on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:48 AM

When I designing and planning my layout back in the late 1990s. I wanted it in 1992 or 93 for some reason other than being in Kindergarten. 

The only thing was Cotton Belt and Amtrak with a few SP and ATSF. Within a desert landscape around railfanning and no industry switching. 

I'm not a big fan of switching, but lately added at least one or two industries. I got a printing company with false fronts to become an automobile facility. A customized factory that stay the same with different railroads that is on the layout.

Modeling the G.N.O. Railway, The Diamond Route.

Amtrak America, 1971-Present.

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:59 AM

NorthBrit

 

 
Doughless

A layout doesn't have to be based on the past, you know.

 

 

 

 

Quite right Douglas.    Up to the minute 'Moden Image'.  With modern industry on the 'doorstep'.    No worries as to what things look like or what trains run.   Being able to see it then model it.

 

David

 

Researching modern railroading can also give insights into the past.  Older towns were laid out around railroads, and legacy structures can be seen.  Eviidence of older rail lines, old industries, etc.  Businesses that exist today can have a past that extends back 10 years, 20 years, or more.  When I see these areas, it isnpires me to model the modern more than the past, and adjust the modern for what I want my layout to do.

An internet gathered photo of an old coaling tower in GA, and how the tracks have incorporated the structure.  Not that I want this on my layout though: (proper credit for the photo is given)

 

RailPictures.Net Photo: CSXT 3143 CSX Transportation (CSXT) GE ES44AH at  Newnan, Georgia by Kyle Yunker

- Douglas

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Monday, January 11, 2021 11:11 AM

York1

I came very close to this when I started three years ago.

I was trying to read everything, plan everything, draw everything -- to the point that I almost decided I didn't want to do it.

Then I decided I was just going to jump in.

I made everything modern day, but I also have some trains that are from the 1950s.

Some modelers would not like that, but it doesn't matter to me.  I like it.

If I had started 50 years ago, I probably would be on my 4th or 5th layout, and maybe the era and location would be set.

But in my case, I was old and retired when I started, so I don't have the luxury of time to do things, then start over with certain things that fit.

Very similar to my story.

Including: Modern day throughout, but three named passenger trains from the 1950s and a few orphan F3s and PAs running around.

In addition: Three steamers. One pulling a string of colorful billboards, one pulling ten heavyweight passenger cars, and one pulling old-timey Overton passenger cars (a little Disneyesque nostalgia).

Plus: An SNCF IC Luria and a 16-car JR Shinkansen A700 Nozomi.

No burning buildings, no grafitti, no hobos, no naked ladies swimming in the lake, no Godzilla, and no spaceship landing in the glen.

And a slight edit . . . I was pretty old and almost retired when I took up The World's Greatest Hobby.

Robert

EDIT  I misspelled SNCF. Dang!

 

 

LINK to SNSR Blog


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Posted by rrebell on Monday, January 11, 2021 11:24 AM

I have always loved steam but diesel is easier so i picked 1939 and a what could have been done. Such as diesels that were not sold in 1939 but could have been like S2 or you could even stretch it to S4 as most of the changes were under the hood. Also the depresion era was a time for opertunity for some and being a contrainan investor it seems to fit.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, January 11, 2021 12:30 PM

ROBERT PETRICK
No burning buildings, no grafitti, no hobos, no naked ladies swimming in the lake, no Godzilla, and no spaceship landing in the glen.

We had a thread as few years ago about things that you would never include on your layout. It was an interesting discussion. I will see if I can find it.

If I ressurect the thread, Rich and RioGrande will probably comment on it.

Thread Necromancer Kevin is on the job...

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, January 11, 2021 12:43 PM

For my current and final layout I made a must have list and went from there.  I fell in love with John Allen’s original G&D as a teen so all of my layouts have been built around John’s twice around concept.

I simply listed everything I wanted on my layout and stuck with it.  I think growing up in the 1950s was great, some of the best times of my life were in my teens so that was #1 on my list, mid 50s era.

#2 was a roundhouse and turntable followed by mountains, a trestle and a Howe Truss bridge.  I don’t remember the reason but a double crossover got on the list too.

I’ve been building on my layout since 1989 and most likely won’t be finished when I’m pushing up grass.  Been a great ride and I love my layout, the only thing I missed is enough hidden sidings to park a half dozen trains.  I would like to have been able to store five complete trains so that one could enter my west tunnel and a different train exit through the east tunnel five times.

 

Mel



 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

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Posted by hornblower on Monday, January 11, 2021 1:22 PM

Having built several freelanced layouts in the past that required more imagination to operate than create, my current layout is based on a local fallen flag the Santa Ana & Newport which was a short line in Orange County, California.  Although the entire life of this railroad took place in the 1890's, I did not want to completely start over with a new set of rolling stock.  As most of my previous layouts were set in the transition era, I decided to model a "what if" scenario that assumes the Santa Ana & Newport remained independent and operating into the 1950's.  Modeling an actual railroad and area meant that I didn't have to invent industries or industry locations, and I could follow the operating practices of the prototype.  So far, this layout has been quite satisfying in both construction and operating phases.  As the prototype was a short line, I was able to model quite a bit of its length on my layout.

Since building this layout, I discovered another California short line just itching to be modeled!  This is the Ventura County Railroad in and around Oxnard and Port Hueneme, California.  The line serves a very compact deep water harbor, a U.S. Navy SeaBee base and interchanges with the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific).  In the modern era, this railroad transfers imported automobiles from ships in the harbor to local storage lots for deliveries in California, and on to the Union Pacific for deliveries outside California.  The VCR also serves and runs right through the middle of the Navy SeaBee base.  Best of all, the entire route of this railroad could be modeled in HO scale in as little as 5' by 10' or in N scale on a 4' by 8'.  An around the room layout in either scale would be fabulous! The original track plan was a squared off loop around Oxnard and Port Hueneme.  The harbor is located at the soutwest corner of the loop with the SeaBee base along the west side of the loop.  The VCR shops and interchange point with the UP (SP) is located at the northeast corner of the loop with the automobile storage lots located along the east side of the loop.  The south side of the loop is all but abandoned now but was certainly used in the past.  Best of all, a VCR layout could be run in different eras by simply changing the rolling stock, ships in the harbor as well as activities on the Navy base.  The modern era would use car carrier ships in the harbor, various construction and other military equipment on the Navy base, and LOTS of import autos in the storage lots.  The WWII era would use Liberty ships in the harbor and all kinds of military equipment on the base.  The auto storage lots could be used for military equipment storage, too.  Check out the VCR through its web site, Google Maps and Historicaerials.com.  This prototype is so much like a typical model railroad layout it is ridiculous!

Hornblower

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Posted by nycmodel on Monday, January 11, 2021 1:28 PM

Growing up on Long Island NY and taking a PRR train (The Trailblazer) to Chicago as a child as well as 3 school trips to DC, you would think I would model the Pennsy or LIRR. I am not quite sure how it happened and it did happen slowly, but I model the New York Central circa 1960. Some of the paint schemes may drift forwards and backwards a bit in time but close enough to 1960. Frankly, I think it was the site of a Lionel F3 in NYC lightning stripes as a child that planted something in my brain. But then again who could deny that those GG1s were quite a site.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, January 11, 2021 2:06 PM

Hello All,

Check out this similar thread...

Why we pick the era we model

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:15 PM

I also grew up on Long Island, New York.  Unfortunately, the LIRR was just electrified commuter rail back in the early 60s, so I looked for other options.  I chose the Milwaukee Road.  I was a kid and liked the colors.  But, like any true model railroader, I never threw anything away.

Fast forward about 40 years, and I unpacked those same trains, so I found myself on the Late Transition Era.  I stayed there.

I had a few things I wanted, now possible because such things are now available, and because I had an income.  So I ended up with a lower level with subways, and a real yard, plus a roundhouse and turntable.

I never thought much about industries, and as the original first phase of my layout neared completion, I started rectifying that mistake.  To me, industries are represented as much by the rolling stock needed to support them as by the structures.  I still had a few industrial buildings from my teenage years.  I found that an icehouse and icing platforms basically supported anything needing ice bunker reefers, so I built a simple background brewery and restored a packing plant.  I found Railway Express high-speed reefers, so I modified a depot into a Railway Express building.

A hint from a forum member led me to the Empire Leather Tanning Company, which filled a large spatial gap, and suggested a few more car types, besides linking that packing plant to another on-layout industry.

My final bit of luck came when Walthers started remaking the previously discontinued carfloat and carfloat apron models.  I jumped on them immediately.  While a carfloat isn't an industry, it works like a "universal interchange" track, at least for freight.  Finally, I had a source and destination for the missing pieces for all my industries.

I since added some staging, which will allow me to provide a second source for those missing links.

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

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Posted by PM Railfan on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 6:39 PM

Id say it was a logical course of events for me when you come right down to it.....

I became interested in railroads, I saw a railroad I liked, I modelled it.

It was a toss up there around stage two i admit. There are sooo many railroads and each different. I could've easily been a C&O or NKP modeller, gone fantasy road, or even my own home road - RF&P (not many model the ole Run Fast & Push!) where i grew up.

The PM pretty much had the most of everything I like in a railroad. When i look at that decision now, seems like it was an easy one, if not inevitable, for me.

 

Good Luck!

PMR

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