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Creating Your Dream Empire For Your First Layout- Can It Be Done?

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Creating Your Dream Empire For Your First Layout- Can It Be Done?
Posted by ShortEngine87 on Thursday, December 28, 2023 6:56 PM

Hey all!

I've owned a few starter sets over the years (and purchased some amazing Lionel stuff for under the tree this year) but that's really about it, I've never built a standalone layout. Recently after a huge hiatus from the hobby, decided to get back into it, and move from N Scale to On30. However, now I'm older, time is more valuable, and work/family are a priority too.

The question I have is this- theoretically, is it possible to take 2–3 years, really plan, do a ton of research, cross all the Ts, dot the Is, and while knowing what you're capable of and what is unrealistic, to take your time, build your dream empire for your first layout, and work over 10-15+ years to get it right?

This seems to be the opposite of what many model railroaders end up doing, and contrary to what layout builders state on various YouTube channels, etc.

However, I find with how much information is out there on the internet, available high-quality models that can be shipped to your door, if we are doing our homework and planning for success, is every layout before our 6th, 7th, 8th, guaranteed to be little more than an experiment and learning process?

So far I've purchased a DCC Equipped Bachman 2-8-0 and a few cars, but that's about it. I'm planning on joining my local model railroading club to learn beyond YouTube. Any advice on planning for success is greatly appreciated! 

Scale: On30 
Desired Period: Turn of the Century/1910s
Prototypical Location: Burner, West Virginia
Railroad: Pocahontas Logging Co.

One Past Law Concerning Trains To Travel Through Texas: "When two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each train shall come to a full stop and neither train shall proceed until the other has gone." Laugh

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Posted by hardcoalcase on Thursday, December 28, 2023 8:40 PM

You will definitely want to check out this site, it's the mother-lode for eastern (NOT western!) logging: Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, http://lumbermuseum.org

Definately join the club.  Beyond having access to the network of other MRR's, and learning layout construction techniques, you will learn and practice model railroad operations, which will help you decide on the aspects you want to adopt in operating your own railroad... which, in turn, will be your "north-star" on designing your track plan.

Of course - we never stop learning, but the above will help you avoid the terrible "early stage" mistakes so you can quickly progress to the "intermediate" and "late-stage" mistakes... which aren't nearly as bad! Smile

Jim

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Posted by snjroy on Thursday, December 28, 2023 9:44 PM

If you have access to an experienced modeler and follow his advice for each step, I would say it's possible. But check out his layout first Smile. Reading a few Kalmbach books also helps (benchwork, scenery, DCC).

Simon

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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, December 29, 2023 12:20 AM

Hi ShortEngine87,

I would offer one piece of advice: Make sure your track plan works before building anything!

When I started into the hobby 20 years ago I drew up what I thought was a magnificent track plan, but when I started to 'run' trains around it, I soon realized that the plan was quite disfunctional. Many of the things that I wanted to be able to do simply couldn't be done, and I had made the rookie mistake of trying to get too much into too little a space.

To avoid repeating my mistakes, I suggest a couple of things:

First, get yourself a decent quality layout planning program. I use 3rd PlanIt and I love it. I have designed three layouts with it, including a 20' x 25' layout for my old club which works great and two layouts for myself. 3rd PlanIt will allow you to run train simulations and it will tell you where there are problems with the design. It is also really easy to make adjustments and you can save as many versions as you want for comparison to each other. The list goes on. There is a cost. I call it a good investment.

The second thing I would suggest is for you to post your plan on the forums. There are a large number of modelers here who have detailed understandings of what works and doesn't work, and you will get suggestions for improvements that can be very valuable.

You may get a couple of folks who will say that all you need is a pencil and some graph paper (and 300 erasersSmile, Wink & Grin). That method has obviously worked well for them. However, if you want to avoid having to do things over because you didn't get the plan right in the first place, the 3rd PlanIt will do that for you.

https://www.eldoradosoft.com/release.htm

Cheers!!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by "JaBear" on Friday, December 29, 2023 1:43 AM

ShortEngine87
...Can It Be Done?".

Yes!!
 
1) Just be prepared to make mistakes. (The only ffolkes that haven’t made mistakes have never made anything!)
2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3) Regarding the answers generated by 2), quickly learn to sift the nuggets from the    dross.
4) Most importantly, Have Fun!!
 
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 29, 2023 8:51 AM

ShortEngine87


The question I have is this- theoretically, is it possible to take 2–3 years, really plan, do a ton of research, cross all the Ts, dot the Is, and while knowing what you're capable of and what is unrealistic, to take your time, build your dream empire for your first layout, and work over 10-15+ years to get it right?

Theoretically?  Sure! But by time 3 years have past, most guys would lose interest. As far as 10 to 15+ years to get it right, I have been at it for 20 years and I am still learning and correcting mistakes. My best advice is to start building a layout and learn as you go.

ShortEngine87


However, I find with how much information is out there on the internet, available high-quality models that can be shipped to your door, if we are doing our homework and planning for success, is every layout before our 6th, 7th, 8th, guaranteed to be little more than an experiment and learning process?

I am on my 5th layout and, as you say, each subsequent layout is guaranteed to be little more than an experiment and learning process. But, it sure is fun along the way.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Lost in A2 on Friday, December 29, 2023 9:04 AM

hon30critter

Hi ShortEngine87,

I would offer one piece of advice: Make sure your track plan works before building anything!

{Ellipsis}

First, get yourself a decent quality layout planning program. I use 3rd PlanIt and I love it. I have designed three layouts with it, including a 20' x 25' layout for my old club which works great and two layouts for myself. 3rd PlanIt will allow you to run train simulations and it will tell you where there are problems with the design. It is also really easy to make adjustments and you can save as many versions as you want for comparison to each other. The list goes on. There is a cost. I call it a good investment.

{Ellipsis}

https://www.eldoradosoft.com/release.htm

Cheers!!

Dave



I use XTrackCAD, available for free from sourceforge. It also has a train mode, which lets you test your plan. 

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, December 29, 2023 10:01 AM

For testing my layout I got a bunch of old sectional track and laid it out to my plan area by area. It helped me avoid most of the mistakes. Now this was just static track but it showed where I needed a bit more room and pointed out where a walkway could narrow a bit to alow more track, for me very important as it is in a smallish room.

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Posted by da29 on Friday, December 29, 2023 10:07 AM

ShortEngine87
 theoretically, is it possible to take 2–3 years, really plan, do a ton of research, cross all the Ts, dot the Is, and while knowing what you're capable of and what is unrealistic, to take your time, build your dream empire for your first layout, and work over 10-15+ years to get it right?

Yes.  Not theory; but practically and realistically, yes.

This is exactly the path I have taken in my modelling.

In the first years in this house I spent time researching prototype inspirations, reading many articles and videos, finishing the basement layout space, and engaging Byron Henderson to design a layout that would fit my space, needs and resources while being satisfying for the longer term.

The next couple years saw construction of benchwork, trackwork and wiring followed by a decade of scenicing, structures, weathering, and all the small projects that make this hobby so much fun.

As I see it, the advantage of deliberate progress is that actions can be well researched and prepared.  My layout space is finite - there is no space to build an expansion in any axis.  My funds are finite - I cannot support whims or ill-thought experiments.  My time is finite - although now retired, I divide my attention accross multiple areas of life (family, church, sports, hobbies).

So yes, this method of progress contradicts many common (and IMO overly loud) common naratives.  However, it works very well for me and my lifestyle and I recommend its consideration.

In short, I have no regrets.

Respecfully, Dwayne A

da29.  the artist formerly known as da1.

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, December 29, 2023 11:05 AM

I would second what Dave said about the trackplan being right. One of the reasons I decided to use Kato Unitrack and flat-top construction on my current layout was the fact that I could test run it first, and could easily move a turnout or change a spur track to make things work better. Would have been much harder if I had done cookie-cutter or spline roadbed with glued down cork roadbed and glued down track.

I would also second the comments several folks made about getting advice from more experienced modellers (and, if possible, 'real' railroaders), but with the caveat that ultimately you should do what you think will work for you, even if it goes against the advice of someone else.

Keep in mind too that On30 is still O scale, 1:48. Even though the trains aren't much bigger than HO standard gauge, things like buildings and streets are going to be much bigger than their HO counterparts. You have to be sure to allow sufficient room - not just for the buildings, but the area around them. You don't want things to end up being unrealistically crammed together. 

When I was looking at switching scales (from O to a smaller scale), I bought a station kit in HO and N, basically the same structure, and built them to get a feel which worked better for me. You might (if you haven't already) want to do that, buy an inexpensive O scale kit just to familiarize yourself with the size.

Stix
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, December 29, 2023 12:04 PM

 

 
ShortEngine87
...Can It Be Done?".

 

Yes!!
 
1) Just be prepared to make mistakes. (The only ffolkes that haven’t made mistakes have never made anything!)
2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3) Regarding the answers generated by 2), quickly learn to sift the nuggets from the    dross.
4) Most importantly, Have Fun!!
 
Cheers, the Bear.Smile
 

JaBear has it right.  We learn from our mistakes because that's how we learn.  I prefer to think of it as learning by developing skills, but that's really the same thing.

I had a young boy's layout as a young boy, a teenager's layout as a a teenager, a long period of college to middle age with no trains, the kind of adult layout I could build once I had a good income and a big space, and now I've got to compress it a bit in retirement.  As we age, we naturally learn the skills that an older person has, and we build more age-appropriate layouts as we go.  That may be a reason that some of us go through a series of layouts.

My layout was built in phases.  I built each phase to completion, and each was pretty much consistent start to finish, but I generally used a "lessons learned" approach on the next phase.  For example, Phase 1 has a rat's nest of wiring beneath it, but from then on, the wiring is neater and better organized.  Phase 1 used Code 100 track with Snap-switches,, while after that I built everything using Code 83 and Tortoise machines.

One thing to consider might be to build out from a small layout to a larger one, giving you time to develop your skills.

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

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Posted by AEP528 on Friday, December 29, 2023 12:05 PM

I once heard a phrase that was along the lines of "Knowledge comes from experience gained by the application of education."

My point is that planning a layout without knowledge driven by experience can lead to a lot of mistakes and re-building. And that can become quite frustrating.

The other thing to consider is that you cannot deviate from your plan. At all. Otherwise everything downstream will be impacted, forcing your to replan.

I'd highly recommend building dioramas or modules to really learn what skills you have, learn about the products and how they function. Don't think your locomotive will pull three cars up a 4% grade, know that your locomotive will (or will not) pull three cars up a 4% grade.

And it's just as important to learn what you enjoy doing and plan around that. Minimize the time and effort spent around tedious tasks, and look for products that will help. One of the reasons I decided to base my model railroad on a real railroad is that I learned that I intensely dislike painting and decalling locomotives and rolling stock. So instead I've made careful purchases of decorated products, and spend my time on things that I find much more fun.

For me, heavy planning and goals turn what should be a hobby into a job. I started with nothing more than a layout shape dictated by space and an overall theme, and am developing each location's operation and appearance as I go.

Which leads me to one last thought - real railroads solved trackage design issues long ago. I recommend copying actual railroad trackage, and piecing sections together to get a track plan. There have been articles over the years in the various magazines where someone modified a real railroad track design because it didn't quite fit or seemed like it had unnecessary trackage. Then years later they finally started operating the layout and discovered why the real railroad had a left-hand crossover instead of a right-hand. Following real railroad practices can help with decision making, reduce mistakes, and speed things up, if that's a consideration.

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, December 29, 2023 12:28 PM

You can build a dream layout this way.  But remember not all dreams are good dreams.  It is pretty rare to be actively in this hobby and feel exactly the same way about your initial goals and thoughts even just one year later.  But every journey as the cliche goes has to start with a single step, so that first step might as well be towards something you really want just so long as you leave open the chance to change your mind, do something over, do something different.

It can seem paralyzing to rip out work you've already done but get over that.  It wasn't a waste of time or money.  It was an investment in education.  Case in point, many guys have built multiple and VERY different layouts on exactly the same benchwork.  

It might pay to think of a "dream" layout in a series of very defined stages, so finishing any one stage gives you the chance to rethink what comes next.  There used to be a very popular book, HO Railroad That Grows (maybe it is still around) that showed how to use that approach for a particular track plan, but the underlying message and lesson is hardly limited to that track.  

Dave Nelson

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, December 29, 2023 2:10 PM

Hello All,

ShortEngine87
The question I have is this- theoretically, is it possible to take 2–3 years, really plan, do a ton of research, cross all the Ts, dot the Is, and while knowing what you're capable of and what is unrealistic, to take your time, build your dream empire for your first layout, and work over 10-15+ years to get it right?

As the comedian Stephen Wright said...

"Everything is within walking distance if you have the time."

A word from John Allen the "Wizzard Of Monterey" on planning:


"A model railroad should probably start with a concept.
Why?
Because much knowledge about railroading, experience in model railroading, and thought are required before a proper concept for a model railroad can be formed.
These requirements are seldom possible on a first pike. Mine was no exception."

     - -John Allen; Gorre & Daphetid Railroad.

Yes, it is theoretically possible...see my signature.

As Stephen Wright alludes to, how much time do you have to spend on this project every day?

Another time factor is tools.

Professional model layout builders have an array of specialty tools- -gained over years of experience- -to make each job challenge easier.

If you are in the middle of a given task do you have the proper tools to achieve the job?

Or...

Will you need to take time to "run" to a local source or "wait" for the item(s) to arrive by mail from the inter-web?

Each costing valuable time.

What is the vision of your "dream" pike?

  • Running trains for just fun- -including yourself and family
  • Creating scenes (dioramas) that remind you of a place and/or time
  • Operating trains in a prototypical (realistic) fashion for the challenge of "real operations"
  • The challenge of building a working pike and the satisfaction of learning new tasks

My "dream" pike has become an HO scale 4'x8' based on coal loading and unloading operations on the western slope of Colorado, using vintage Tyco operating 34-foot hopper cars.

hon30critter
I would offer one piece of advice: Make sure your track plan works before building anything!

I agree that the trackwork needs to be as reliable as possible.

This also includes powering frogs for smaller 4-axle diesels or 0-6-0 and 0-4-0 steamers.

Also making sure that if you are running 6-axle diesels, 2-8-8-2 steamers along with 80'-plus freight and passenger cars, the curves and turnouts can accommodate these.

With a track plan in hand don't be afraid to begin building structures or working on rolling stock and locomotives so you don't get the dreaded "Analysis Paralysis."

Once you have decided on a track plan; continuous running or point-to-point, try and set up the basic or "core" track plan and begin running trains!

This will give you an opportunity to reward yourself with making things move and also help you make any changes to the track plan as conflicts arise.

Keep the questions and comments coming and as always...

Hope this helps.

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

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, December 29, 2023 2:30 PM

Anything's possible!  I am much happier on the 2nd layout than the 1st.  The initial one provided me some great information and was a valiant attempt at a dream layout.  I built on the experience to achieve a more enjoyable one. 

Walt Disney himself was correct in understanding no layout it ever "done."  Nothing wrong with completely changing things. Even though we evolve, why can't our interests and layouts?

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Posted by ShortEngine87 on Saturday, January 13, 2024 8:07 PM

Thanks to everyone who replied to my question, LOTS to think about and take note of- I'll definitely be sharing my track plan(s) when the time is right and building a plan that I can stick to and keeps me engaged along the way.

I think one thing I am already thinking about is having realistic expectations for what my capabilities are as a modeler at this point, and using that awareness to get more accurate, consistent results along the way (not biting off more than I can chew). Thank you again all! 

Also, so glad the site is back up and running! :) 

One Past Law Concerning Trains To Travel Through Texas: "When two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each train shall come to a full stop and neither train shall proceed until the other has gone." Laugh

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, January 14, 2024 6:10 AM

You can build your basic layout if planned in record time and detail it as you get the time. On the big layout that I used to have I had the benchwork done and maineline in, in a couple months, the rest took a long time.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, January 14, 2024 12:27 PM

As with everything else, it's about accepting compromise.

Mike.

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, January 14, 2024 7:22 PM

jjdamnit
hon30critter I would offer one piece of advice: Make sure your track plan works before building anything!

jjdamnit
I agree that the trackwork needs to be as reliable as possible.

Hi jjdamnit and ShortEngine87,

I totally agree that the track laying has to be done very carefully, however, that wasn't quite what I meant by my statement about making sure the track plan works before doing anything, including laying track.

I thought my first layout plan looked great. Then I decided to use 3rd PlanIt to run some trains virtually. I discovered that there were a few problems with the plan. For example, I found that I couldn't get trains to locations that I wanted without trapping the locomotive. Once the locomotive was trapped, I would have to use a second locomotive to switch cars (or back the train 1/2 way around the layout on the main line to get to a passing siding). That is not usually the case in the real world. A local train should be able to drop cars without needing a helper.

What I'm trying to say is that you need to look at your layout plan from an operating perspective. Choose a starting position and a destination for an imaginary car and follow the plan to see if you can actually make that move with the tracks that you have in your plan. Once you prove that all the possible train movements can be made, then start laying track.

Cheers!!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by Jetrock on Monday, January 15, 2024 11:14 AM

I guess I'm wondering what the point to this approach is. People learn model railroading by doing; you can spend years researching and planning, which will make you very good at researching and planning, but not necessarily translate into skill at building, scenicking, detailing, and otherwise turning that plan into reality. It's a bit like deciding that you're going to play professional baseball by spending several years doing an academic study of the game, instead of practicing, training, and playing ball.

 

Building multiple layouts is not a failure; it's how you become a better model railroader. John Allen's approach has already been mentioned in this thread, and he didn't build his dream basement layout on the first try--he started with a sub 4x8 design, and through multiple iterations and subsequent layouts, grew it into what he wanted.

The first, second, third, fourth layouts aren't failures for not being your dream layout; they're all your dream layout while you're building them, and each effort increases your skills and abilities.

And of course part of the process of learning-by-doing is that our dreams change over time; the dream layout of a 13 year old is generally not going to be the same dream layout of a 53 year old with four more decades of skills and experiences to bring to bear.

That said, there's a way to make your first layout your dream layout: start by building a small layout and expand it into your future dream layout. Again, this is an old idea; the original tabletop G&D integrated into the Monterey basement. But as time goes on, you can go back and, not correct, but improve your older work as you gain experience and skills; or, if you still like how that part of the layout looks, you just keep it. This can be done in the form of a sectional approach or a permanent layout that just keeps growing.

 

Another factor to consider, which happens over the course of our lives, is that we tend to move. If your dream layout is permanent, fixed pike, you can't ever relocate to a new neighborhood or a new city, because you'll have to disassemble the layout, and the new place may not fit your old layout. Even sectional modelers deal with this: I used a sectional approach that was easy to move the first time, but my most recent move to a larger but differently shaped layout room required hacking up multiple sections to fit the layout, and subsequent changes to the final design (which, on the bright side, included physical expansion, and in a much more comfortable space.) I don't think most model railroaders are so inflexible in our goals that we'd pass up career opportunities or a better situation for one's family because we'd have to start over on a model railroad. While there will be some pangs of regret, if you're a dreamer, planner, builder, it's an opportunity to improve and have more fun rebuilding in the new space.

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Posted by MJ4562 on Monday, January 15, 2024 1:03 PM

In theory, yes. In practice, the only way to accomplish that is to hire a pro to build your layout for you. Purely my opinion but having been in OP shoes and that is the conclusion I came to.

Everything this guy said here:  

Jetrock

I guess I'm wondering what the point to this approach is. People learn model railroading by doing; you can spend years researching and planning, which will make you very good at researching and planning, but not necessarily translate into skill at building, scenicking, detailing, and otherwise turning that plan into reality. It's a bit like deciding that you're going to play professional baseball by spending several years doing an academic study of the game, instead of practicing, training, and playing ball.

 

Building multiple layouts is not a failure; it's how you become a better model railroader. John Allen's approach has already been mentioned in this thread, and he didn't build his dream basement layout on the first try--he started with a sub 4x8 design, and through multiple iterations and subsequent layouts, grew it into what he wanted.

The first, second, third, fourth layouts aren't failures for not being your dream layout; they're all your dream layout while you're building them, and each effort increases your skills and abilities.

And of course part of the process of learning-by-doing is that our dreams change over time; the dream layout of a 13 year old is generally not going to be the same dream layout of a 53 year old with four more decades of skills and experiences to bring to bear.

That said, there's a way to make your first layout your dream layout: start by building a small layout and expand it into your future dream layout. Again, this is an old idea; the original tabletop G&D integrated into the Monterey basement. But as time goes on, you can go back and, not correct, but improve your older work as you gain experience and skills; or, if you still like how that part of the layout looks, you just keep it. This can be done in the form of a sectional approach or a permanent layout that just keeps growing.

 

Another factor to consider, which happens over the course of our lives, is that we tend to move. If your dream layout is permanent, fixed pike, you can't ever relocate to a new neighborhood or a new city, because you'll have to disassemble the layout, and the new place may not fit your old layout. Even sectional modelers deal with this: I used a sectional approach that was easy to move the first time, but my most recent move to a larger but differently shaped layout room required hacking up multiple sections to fit the layout, and subsequent changes to the final design (which, on the bright side, included physical expansion, and in a much more comfortable space.) I don't think most model railroaders are so inflexible in our goals that we'd pass up career opportunities or a better situation for one's family because we'd have to start over on a model railroad. While there will be some pangs of regret, if you're a dreamer, planner, builder, it's an opportunity to improve and have more fun rebuilding in the new space.

  Very well stated.

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Posted by Ulrich on Monday, January 15, 2024 6:20 PM

I think so.. provided your dream layout doesn't involve something like a very accurate model of Chicago in the 1940s. That might be a bit tough to pull off even for a seasoned modeller. But if your dream layout is more along the lines of a quiet branch in the Midwest, we're talking about the ability to build modest scenery, the ability to model track and maybe a siding or two and a few buildings.. much more manageable. Even a large layout is achievable in a relatively short time  provided that it is simple, with sweeping landscapes, a track running through it and few buildings. Simple yet grand in its own way. 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, January 15, 2024 9:30 PM

Jetrock
I guess I'm wondering what the point to this approach is. People learn model railroading by doing; you can spend years researching and planning, which will make you very good at researching and planning, but not necessarily translate into skill at building, scenicking, detailing, and otherwise turning that plan into reality. ...

Building multiple layouts is not a failure; it's how you become a better model railroader. John Allen's approach has already been mentioned in this thread, and he didn't build his dream basement layout on the first try--he started with a sub 4x8 design, and through multiple iterations and subsequent layouts, grew it into what he wanted.

...

Actually John Allen built an accurate 3-D model of his sub 4x8 layout before he built the actual layout.

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, January 16, 2024 7:14 AM

Jetrock

I guess I'm wondering what the point to this approach is. People learn model railroading by doing; you can spend years researching and planning, which will make you very good at researching and planning, but not necessarily translate into skill at building, scenicking, detailing, and otherwise turning that plan into reality. It's a bit like deciding that you're going to play professional baseball by spending several years doing an academic study of the game, instead of practicing, training, and playing ball.

 

Building multiple layouts is not a failure; it's how you become a better model railroader. John Allen's approach has already been mentioned in this thread, and he didn't build his dream basement layout on the first try--he started with a sub 4x8 design, and through multiple iterations and subsequent layouts, grew it into what he wanted.

The first, second, third, fourth layouts aren't failures for not being your dream layout; they're all your dream layout while you're building them, and each effort increases your skills and abilities.

And of course part of the process of learning-by-doing is that our dreams change over time; the dream layout of a 13 year old is generally not going to be the same dream layout of a 53 year old with four more decades of skills and experiences to bring to bear.

That said, there's a way to make your first layout your dream layout: start by building a small layout and expand it into your future dream layout. Again, this is an old idea; the original tabletop G&D integrated into the Monterey basement. But as time goes on, you can go back and, not correct, but improve your older work as you gain experience and skills; or, if you still like how that part of the layout looks, you just keep it. This can be done in the form of a sectional approach or a permanent layout that just keeps growing.

 

Another factor to consider, which happens over the course of our lives, is that we tend to move. If your dream layout is permanent, fixed pike, you can't ever relocate to a new neighborhood or a new city, because you'll have to disassemble the layout, and the new place may not fit your old layout. Even sectional modelers deal with this: I used a sectional approach that was easy to move the first time, but my most recent move to a larger but differently shaped layout room required hacking up multiple sections to fit the layout, and subsequent changes to the final design (which, on the bright side, included physical expansion, and in a much more comfortable space.) I don't think most model railroaders are so inflexible in our goals that we'd pass up career opportunities or a better situation for one's family because we'd have to start over on a model railroad. While there will be some pangs of regret, if you're a dreamer, planner, builder, it's an opportunity to improve and have more fun rebuilding in the new space.

 

I always go by learning from others mistakes, why make the same mistake twice. You will still run into problems though, with me it was zip texturing which I copyed from the work of another forum paper, even was in contact with him and he didn't have a clue as he had never had the proublem I had. Turned out if you let the base of plaster cloth cure too long (could have been a couple months) that the zip would not stick well even after pre wetting even.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 2,560 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 11:08 AM

Can it be done? Yes. George Selios accomplished it. But I would say that is the exception to the rule. There is a lot more information out there now than ever before, but building a layout is to a large extent a trial and error process. You find out what works for you and what doesn't as you build it.

In my case, I'm on my third layout, having built one in my previous two residences. I have built a layout that fills a large basement. I thought when I started, since I was retired, I could easily complete the layout in five years. I've now been at it for over twenty years and there is still a major section of it that is not close to completion. It's amazing how you can get bogged down with paralysis by analysis. In addition, I began with a serious design flaw regarding my staging yards and have finally come to the conclusion that they need a major overhaul which is going to be a significant effort.

If I had to do it over again, I would have been less ambitious. Started smaller and gradually expanded it until it got to where I thought it was big enough. It's too late for me to start over. I just hope I can finally reach a stage where it is somewhat complete and operates the way I envisioned many years ago. 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 7,642 posts
Posted by rrebell on Thursday, January 18, 2024 7:34 AM

My currant layout is smallish ( u shaped around 10x11)  but compleatly finished, took around two years including the learning curve for DCC and lots of other things going on not train related.

  • Member since
    July 2021
  • 194 posts
Posted by NorthsideChi on Thursday, January 18, 2024 11:05 AM

A freind and I have been "building trains" as we'll call it for 10 years now.

I have over 150 buildings on interchangeable city blocks.  Bridges and 24 linear feet to of modular viaduct systems with working switches, lights and ballasted track.  The only layout I have is a 12' X 4' railyard which will drop into something larger

I have no idea what my layout will be other than a downtown.   

What I do know is I'll either have a larger basement or lease out commercial space to set it all up.  I'm constantly changing things and learning more.

 

I don't think planning for 3 years will give defnitive results.  I think 90% of modelers learn and experiment as they go.  For me, I know I need buildings, bridges, lights and landscape and of course trains, so I'm buying and building as I go so when I finally install benchwork, I have something to set up right away.  

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • From: 10,430’ (3,179 m)
  • 2,297 posts
Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, January 19, 2024 1:31 PM

Hello All,

hon30critter
I found that I couldn't get trains to locations that I wanted without trapping the locomotive.
Once the locomotive was trapped, I would have to use a second locomotive to switch cars (or back the train 1/2 way around the layout on the main line to get to a passing siding).
That is not usually the case in the real world.

Well...

I love to travel by train.

There are "real world" situations where what you described actually happens.

At the Denver Union Station, the California Zypher has to back down the tracks to the station in a wye movement.

The conductor announces these movements.

Last time we traveled to Chicago via train- -to Chicago Union Station, it could not accommodate the the entire train on one platform.

The train was backed into the station, half the train was "cut off" and the rest of the train was then pushed onto an adjacent platform.

Some modelers view these "track faults" as challenges- -just like in the "real world."

I would consider these movements as part of the challenge of selective compression.

Like you, on my pike, I discovered- -through actual running (nothing against virtual running)- -that I needed to add a curved turnout to avoid a problematic crossover. 

As I interpret it, the question the OP posed is...can these "faults" or "delays" be avoided by proper planning?

Realistically, no!

(Disclaimer see my signature...)

By reading the other responses I have gathered the general consensus is planning is great but nothing can replicate actual, hands-on, experience.

As John Allen said, "...Mine was no exception."

Hope this helps.

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

  • Member since
    October 2005
  • From: Central Texas
  • 365 posts
Posted by MJ4562 on Friday, January 19, 2024 4:53 PM

ShortEngine87
However, I find with how much information is out there on the internet, available high-quality models that can be shipped to your door, if we are doing our homework and planning for success, is every layout before our 6th, 7th, 8th, guaranteed to be little more than an experiment and learning process,

What is the motivation behind your question?  Are you looking to save time? Money? Or are you concerned about having a layout you're embarrased for others to see?  Understanding your reasons can help with answers.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Pa.
  • 3,361 posts
Posted by DigitalGriffin on Saturday, January 27, 2024 12:35 PM

ALWAYS  start small.   There's lots of disadvantages to going big on your first layout.   Laying track takes skill, practice and time.  That's the hardest part.  Also certain sections will be problematic no matter what you do.   I wanted a 12 stall transfer table until I realized what a piece of garage that transfer table was.  Got so frustrated that it made me not even touch that section of the layout for over a year!

Also most people will quit the hobby after a couple months IF they don't have track down allowing them to run.  Large layouts slow this vital first step.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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