Most modellers build their first layout with no real idea of what they want to achieve beyond running trains. The deficiencies of the first layout soon become obvious, but the means of planning that "perfect" system only come with experience. There is no one layout that will suit everyone's requirements and building too many unsatisfying layouts can be frustrating.
This list is presented to assist the modeller in defining what it is he or she wants.
.....Positions of doors, windows and other layout obstructions.
.....Other uses of the layout area:
open access plan.
lift out scenery sections.
Donut shape baseboard.
Around the walls.
End to end shelf.
Proportion of layout to viewing area.
Modern. (The current scene)
Modern with Preservation Society.
Recent. (2 - 10 years ago)
Steam/Diesel transition. (1950s - 1970s)
Depression. (1920 - 1930s)
1900. (Belle Epoche)
1820-50s (The beginnings)
Flat with raised gradients.
Proprietry sectional track.
Proprietry flexible track.
Hand laid points.
Hand laid track.
Cable cars, etc.
Central control panel.
Multiple control panels.
Dispatcher system, (All routing handled from one panel by a signalman separately from drivers) Combination of systems.
Command Control (Digital)
This is not just a matter of how much space you have, but more of what models you find most satisfying. A "I" scale layout can be built in an area of 8' x 2' (2400mm x 600mm) or a "Z" scale layout in a 40' x 40' (12m x 12m) room. Larger scales work better for outdoor layouts, but scales as small as HO have been used successfully.
Some suggestions of possibilities:
Trains passing along a scenic line, with no major station facilities.
Large hidden sidings required for operational interest.
As Parade but with added operational interest.
Timetable operation adds further facet.
A large locomotive depot beside a main line would despatch and receive
for maintainance, locos from an imaginary major station.
Goods trains are received, sorted and despatched for different destinations.
Wagons are delivered and collected from industries.
Special purpose line (eg. iron ore, timber) connecting with common carrier railway.
A locomotive depot sited at a position on the line where locomotives are exchanged for operating purposes. (more common in steam era) Electric to steam or Diesel traction change-over point.
Trains have helper locomotives added, large locos replace smaller, or trains are divided to climb stiff gradients.
Small trains, non-intensive service.
Sea ferry service, river or canal dock. Intensive or quiet operation. Passenger and freight.
Lake-side terminus, trains bring tourist traffic to meet the ferry timetables.
Locomotives are exchanged, Customs procedures meet, and goods trains held. >
Odd mixtures of prototypes and eras, usually more rolling stock than the trackage can handle and one clear track for operation. Often running rights are negotiated with the neighbouring mainline.
End of the main line.
End of a branch line.
City terminus with multiple routes.
Suburban traffic intertwined with long-distance traffic.
Goods traffic may be relegated to another facility.
A common European practice was to build a terminus station rather than a through station in a major city. All through trains had to be reversed to depart. Most, but not all, of these stations have been rebuilt between 1900 and 1950.
A stopping place on a railway, the most common type of station.
Where routes diverge beyond the station. Sometimes the routes will run parallel for considerable distances before diverging.
Where routes cross one another. The lines may combine into one station, or remain separate with two station complexes close together. Usually, there will be complex interconnecting lines.
Where incompatible transport systems meet: eg. Narrow gauge and standard gauge lines must interchange freight. This might be handled by unloading and reloading, by using adapter wagons to carry the out of gauge stock, or even by changing wheel sets.
eg. Border stations are often operated as two terminus stations laid end to end, with only an occassional through train. A private branchline may have its terminus station combined with a mainline station, each system having some lines of its own and some common lines.
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