Category Archives: Small

Small layout designs

Site Seeing – the Model RR to Go edition

Good day readers wherever you may be, and whatever you may be doing. It has been a while since my last post. That’s mainly down to my work schedule being all-consuming, and the days being long and the start times being all over the clock face. Nine months into my new role as a tram driver I’ve just managed a couple of weeks off and needed every moment to recover.

While recovering and looking around for some layout baseboard design ideas today I stumbled across Rick De Candido’s Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse blog.

His section of layout concepts (click this link to open a new window) has several great ideas. He really thinks outside the box on many of his designs. There is such creativity from this space starved modeller.


POST UPDATE – August 8, 2019
It appears that Rick’s WP site has been removed. I’m trying to contact him through multiple sites to see if there is a new site for this layout. I’ll do my best to keep this post updated.

His terminal layout is something to see too, and can utilise up to 6 operators on the layout during each 2.5 hour operating session. Well worth the time to visit the site and take a long read through the many useful posts there. Thanks to Rick for sharing his passion.

Rick’s Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse layout

Unfortunately I have no contact details for Rick, and there is nothing on the site where I can post a comment to let him know that I’ve profiled his site. If any of you can help with getting me in touch with Rick would you please reply to this post?

Site Seeing – August 7 – Master class: Operating Session

A recent post on the Model Railroad Hobbyist site by Tim Garland and the associated video (see below) shows the realism and enjoyment that can be achieved by operators with little cost beyond the time to set up and the time to operate.

What I enjoyed most out of this operating session video was the way that both Tim (who works as an Engineer for NS) and Tom Klimoski (the layout owner) work together as a team to get the ‘work’ done in a professional way, without hassle, in a small layout space, all the time working the layout to get the switching work done. Better was the way that you cannot see the engineer (Tom in this case) only the conductor on the ground working the cars into place.

Watch the video below and share your thoughts here or on Facebook.

At the Recent Ballarat Model Railway show (June 2017) I managed to catch up with a long time railway mate and his layout. When I saw this video I forwarded it onto Neil as a teaching tool to help him get operations going on his own layout. I think that what Tom Klimoski has recorded is the gold standard for small layout operations. It shows how (and I’m guessing on time) over a shorter operating session two people can work and have a lot of fun switching. Maximising the usefulness of a small layout by following the rules as set out, and by opening and closing gates, calling out the moves, and so on makes such a difference. I hope that you enjoy the video as much as I did.

Additionally there is a great post by Tim going on over at the MRH site about this video. Click the link at the top of the post for more. Lots of really good stuff in that post for the operator as well.

Ops, TT&TO, invective, and blah-blah-blah

It’s been a while since my last post. Life has become hectic with lots of work (as the opposite to none at all for quite some time) so to keep the blog moving I thought I’d cross post my response to Joe Fugate’s recent editorial: Secret to needing less layout on page 11 of the June 2017 edition of the e-zine ‘Model Railroad Hobbyist’. I found that as I read through the responses there was a lot of heat being generated by those for and against the smaller layout ethos. A recent kind email from a new model railroading friend Charles Malinowski got me to thinking about the original post on Joe’s editorial and the thought that perhaps it might be time to draw that line in the sand on this blog too.

If you can, take a moment, to read of some of the initial responses to Joe’s posting. Then either read my post on the MRH  site or as reproduced below. Don’t be shy. Got something to say, then comment and start the conversation here. It’s the only way we all learn.

Am I missing something? Did the hobby just become a pain in the butt during this discussion (and I’m not through reading all the responses yet)? Timetable and train orders, and… all to much work for me. While I understand that model railroading is all things to all people I don’t need all of that other stuff to make a me a happy modeller or operator.

I like small layouts. I live in rented accommodation, and will likely for the remainder of my life due to circumstances beyond my control. My wife loves the idea of me ‘not’ cluttering the place up with ugly wooden stuff that takes over the space, so I have to consider the aesthetic of any layout design as well as the piece of furniture it must also purport to be.

I’m limited in space, money and the time I have available to actually build the thing. So a long time ago I took the first mile, last mile approach to railway modelling. I model industries and locations where there is a lot of work to go on (switching) at an industry or location (such as a team track facility) getting the loads in and out in an efficient and useful way.

Do I care about Timetable and Train Order operation? Nope. Does it affect me as either the modelled customer or as an operator? Nope. And lastly, does it affect my enjoyment of the hobby? Nope. Would I love to model TT&TO operations? I’d love to but I cannot afford it.

I use paperwork, operations plans and rule books to model, and there’s a reason for this. I like my crew (usually my son and I) to feel the need to get the work done efficiently and with haste. There’s a train to catch out there somewhere and our cars need to be on it. I love operating by real railroad rules and with prototypical operations paperwork.

I focus on the things that matter to me, and that is the first mile and the last mile. What happens in between where the rail line curves away from my business – is none of my business. I put a lot of thought into what makes operations work for me. And I’ve shared that online as well. And it is not all that hard to achieve, especially in a small space. You can read more about that on my blog.

Joe’s TOMA approach I like. It means that it is achievable, in space, time and money. It gets you working quickly and allows for interests to develop as your skills and knowledge develop. Big TOMA, small TOMA, even in between TOMA… who cares? The idea is to get something going that allows you to play, find out what you enjoy the most and do that with the effort you have available.

Thanks Joe for sharing that article. I’ve been following along with the TOMA approach because it mirrors what I’m already doing and because it makes sense from my son’s perspective (Dad can we get something running now, I want to play with the trains again).

I appreciate that others do things differently. It’s a good thing. Let’s not get so focused on the forest that we forget about the trees. Happy modelling from Ballarat in Victoria.

Site update – 20 March – Updated 12 foot home layout design page

There has been a lot of thoughtful experimentation going on at Andrew’s Trains of late. While I was ‘reasonably happy’ with my Mk 72 layout design I wasn’t joyous about it. Recently while rediscovering some of my older layout designs I came across the design for ‘Industrial Park East’, as shown below, from somewhere about 2006-7.‘. Something in this design called out to me and so I set off on a slight redesign from the Mk 72 to Mk73 version. The changes I made have allowed me to get the ‘flow’, and the look that I wanted. I know this all sounds like something ‘the Dude’ would say from the Big Lebowski at this point but if it doesn’t work for you while you’re designing it, then it sure won’t work for you once you’ve committed track to plywood.

There’s a lot more information on the what, the why and the wherefore on the additional layout design page (yes I added another one to keep it all straight in my head). If your interest is peaked and you’d like to see more click the link in the line above and head on over to read on.

Thanks for reading – now it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Site Seeing – March 18 – The ‘other’ Glendale freight layout edition

It’s been a while since my last post and that is thankfully due to being fully employed for the first time in two and a half years. A full-time job is a very satisfying thing. But I digress.

As I wrote in my March 6th post I’ve worked up another idea for the Glendale Freight layout. Let me say from the outset, that this is not one of my better ideas; especially after seeing Bruce Petty’s original layout. There’s merit in the ideas expressed in the design certainly – it just doesn’t have that vibe going on as Bruce’s layout does in spades. Before I go on to tear my work apart let’s take a look at a 1/12th scale model and why I find them so useful for designing a layout.

So what’s wrong with this layout idea?

  • Firstly the central theme of the design is not the freight station, it is the entrance from staging onto the layout.
  • I wanted to have the train enter through a portal of buildings, cross the street and then go about its business. It’s a pretty skimpy idea right? There’s no meat on the bones though.
  • Why this means to enter onto the layout instead of some other way? Is there some missing story about this means of entrance; did the city grow up around the freight station for example? But isn’t this supposed to be Glendale CA, right? Well, is it?

The layout is overall 8 feet long (2400mm) and each square is 12 x 12 inches (300 x 300 mm). It is 2 feet (600mm) wide. And it’s very linear.

So what would I do different now that I’ve built this mini layout?

  1. Angle the entrance onto the layout,
  2. Angle the buildings and the street to the long axis of the layout,
  3. Cluster the switches near the end of the run around, and finally
  4. I’d make a transition between the industrial area on ‘main street’ at the entrance end and the other end of the layout – making it more suburban

And having had a while to think on how I’d make those changes here’s a rough drawing of the layout that ‘could’ spring from this thought experiment.

This design has gravitas. It is the last bastion of railroading in the inner city, and the edge of the suburbs. Sure there are some strange curves, and I’d rework the industry lead and the industry back wall too. But it is much more interesting and tells much more of a story than the first layout.

This layout could be setup as is with the industries, it could be modified for a single industry layout (say an industrial workplace such as a foundry), or it could be something that I’ve not considered and that you already have swimming around in that pool of ideas in your head. As an aside, I videoed the first layout build process. If interested in seeing that video let me know in the comments and I’ll post it here over the next week or so.

Site seeing – March 06 – Bruce Petty’s Glendale Freight house Module Redux edition

In a post on January 18, 2017 I made mention of Bruce Petty’s excellent module of the end of the Union Pacific’s Glendale Branch and the freight station located there. Bruce’s Module is 5 feet (1500mm) x 18 inches (450mm) but to my eye looks much bigger because of the great use of the space he has made. There is no crowding, no feeling of busyness, only the feeling of a warm summers afternoon in Los Angeles sometime during the 1960s or 1970s. This small scene is evocative and places you immediately in the place and time, even if that is coloured by your chosen time period.

The majority of my layout designs fit into an 8 foot space Bruce’s layout module with the addition of a 3 foot fiddle yard fits right in the space available and would make an excellent display or exhibition layout. More importantly it would fit with any time period from the late 1940s – early 1950s (when I believe that the freight house was built) through to the mid to late 1980s when I believe the freight house fell out of use.

As I said in the previous post I’ve pondered over how to use Bruce’s track plan in other ways. I’ve even worked the design up into a 1/12th scale model to see how it might work. I’ll come back to the alternative in my next post; for now let’s revisit Bruce’s excellent module.

A closer look at Bruce’s module

While this module is a part of Bruce’s larger railroad forming the end of the UP’s Glendale branch it can also stand alone as a layout in its own right. At its heart it is an Inglenook layout. Each of the freight house roads can take two 40 foot boxcars against the dock. For those of you interested in modelling this layout at a later stage it is highly likely that the Freight station never hosted more than 2 x 50 foot boxcars at any one time. If it did so then they would be placed on the right most track with the second car either unloaded directly into trucks as shown in Photo 1 above or set off spot on the left most track and switched out once a suitable space was available at the dock. Lots of switching possibilities here.

Of particular note in the photo above is the connecting piece to the rest of the layout. I like this little yet important touch. The wooden insert which allows the module to join the layout has been disguised as a typical UP/SP bridge. Very smart and ensures that the layout and the module appear to be a single whole and not something that Bruce built later on.

Operation

Operations on this layout would be pretty good too. As we’ve discussed before on the blog Inglenooks are completely prototypical and often used by railroads in tight places. Operating with a locomotive pushing in – pulling out switching focuses on the industry or industries served. The longest track on Bruce’s layout I would use as my switching storage and sorting track. The incoming train pulling outbound cars before spotting them on the long track. Cars would then be switched according to requirement on the remaining two car tracks at the docks. Any cars from those pulled needing to be spotted back at the dock could then be spotted before the locomotive crew pick up the remaining outbound cars and head back across the bridge and back to the yard. And here endeth the session.

Short, clear, easy to achieve, enjoyable and within the 30 minutes to 1 hour per day play time that a small layout should give you. Whether you use a single person (driver/engineer only) or two person (driver/engineer and conductor) crew to do the work the time taken will remain roughly the same. I prefer a two person crew simply because it makes the play time more fun when family or friends get involved.

Hope that this revisit has been of some use. If you like the blog don’t forget to Like and Subscribe. PLease comment if you are looking for more information on layout designs or on the designs I’ve previously posted. And of course take the time to visit the “further reading and resources” links below.

Further Reading and Resources

Site seeing – February 19 – The small passenger layout edition

While searching for ideas recently I came across a now very old set of posts from 2001 onwards about the building of a narrow yet long passenger station layout. Onto today’s site of interest.

Site 1: Simon Martin’s Shelf Layout project

This appears to be an orphaned site, and I cannot find any information or updates beyond the 2005 update on the page. Which is a real shame as this layout is a simple, well designed and yet highly operational layout for the single operator at home or at an exhibition.

The track plan is clean and has no major needs apart from two switches and some flextrack. You could even use this to get into building your own track work. Operationally there is much to work with. Trains may arrive and depart from either platform. Heading to the fueling depot means that you need to either shunt back onto the main, then into the second platform road prior to running back into the fueling/storage road. Planning your moves here would be very worthwhile in the smooth operation of the layout.

The fueling/storage point on the bottom left of the plan gives options for storing stock on the layout without over crowding the scene. Scenically the station building hides the end of the platform roads and gives the layout a greater depth than would otherwise be the case.

I think this would be a great design to work with not only in the short-term, but for the longer term by adding all the bells and whistles (such as automated announcements, details, more scenery and upgraded ready to run models.

I’ve tried finding anything else by the blogger but have been unsuccessful. I’d love to see more of this layout and what it became. No luck however. So we’ll just have to enjoy the layout as it would have been. If you know anything about the layout, the author or have contact details for Simon, let me know in the comments.

Site seeing – February 17 – Alain Kap’s excellent exhibition layout blog

I’ve not met or talked with Alain before. But his small layout popped up on one of my regular reads, Carl Arendt’s Micro/Small layouts site, when notification went out about a page update this week. But we’ll get to all of this shortly. For now on with the site seeing.

Site 1: Alain Kap’s Exhibition Layout

The link above takes you to the Alain’s blog with a search set for his Show Layout posts. There are five articles included so far, each of which shows something new and to me interesting. The board design and build are my favourite so far. As this gives me something to think about for diorama style layouts in the future.

The layout, based on Shortliner Jack’s Box Street layout, is well worth the look as Alain takes you through the baseboard build and then through track laying and building creation. Looking forward to more of this coming in the near future. There is way more great modelling there too, and not just railways.

Site 2: Carendt.com – February update

There are four layouts featured in this update:

  1. R.I.P. Car Shop – by Alain KAP in HO standard gauge
  2. Ingly Nook – by Scott Pollard in 009 narrow gauge
  3. Piper’s Yard – by Andrew Cockburn in OO standard gauge, and
  4. Bridge Street – by David Collett also in OO standard gauge

All of which meet the criteria for small and friendly little layouts, they also are well done visually and technically. Very well worth looking at all the pictures provided in the post.

I do hope you enjoy this post. If you do, or don’t, let me know in the comments.

Site seeing – January 18 – the ‘Perfect Storm’ but in a good way edition

I’ve had an idea for a small layout, running around the mouse wheel that I use for a brain, for a while now. What kicked the idea off was a 2013 plan published in the Model Railroader for the Glendale Freight House that Union Pacific built there during what I ‘believe’ was the early 1950s. Bruce Petty has already built a layout based on the real location and using the UP freight house in Glendale. Let’s take a look at that first to see where we start from.

Site 1: The Union Pacific freight station drawings

Step one of this plan is to get a copy of the plans. They are available for logged in users on the MR site by clicking the link above.

Modellers in HO scale will need to enlarge the drawing substantially (which is doable at a local copy store)to be able to build directly off the drawing.

Big thanks to my next site owner for the idea about doing that. He uses the protective sleeves (clear plastic ones) to build on.

The model once completed using liquid polystyrene cement does not stick to these plastic sleeves and Bruce simply lifts the completed side of the model off the sleeve. Plan protected, model free, what’s not to like about that? I just wish I’d thought of that all these many years later. I did mention that I have a mouse driving the wheel that powers the mental machinery, right?

Site 2: Bruce Petty’s LA River Railroads site

Bruce’s website is a trove of information on the railroads of LA. His layout looks fantastic too. Of most interest to me was his article on the Glendale freight house build which you access from the link above. Well worth reading the entire page and taking in the method of building it. Clever, clever man!

This building rests on his Glendale module. When speaking to him via email earlier this week he told me: “… the modules for my layout are 18 inches wide and 5 feet long. If I ever move the layout goes with me easily taken down. All structures
and small detail parts come off the layout. On the Glendale module only the loading dock stays as it is concrete. No big deal to take this module down off the shelf brackets, it’s the end of the UP Glendale Branch.

Essentially the layout is an Inglenook (and exactly as the original). Bruce says that just like the original “… it gets switching crews from Southern Pacific and Union pacific. It’s a fun module to switch on and I can take it to shows.” What more do you need?

In the next post I’ll be taking a look at how I’d like to model this location as a stand alone layout. I’ll be taking a slightly different tack to Bruce’s excellent representation. I’ve been thinking about using an interesting technique to cover off the gaping hole in the wall exit to the fiddle yard that ought to work perfectly for this design; and all in 8 feet.

Additional resources:

Bruce has kindly provided me with images of the layout module. My thanks to Bruce for his kindness in being so willing in talking to a stranger and being willing to take photos of his layout especially for me to share with you.

All included images above are copyright of the creator and author: Bruce Petty. Used with permission on Andrew’s Trains.

Site seeing – November 4 – The ‘I got track plans coming out my ears’ edition

Small layouts are my thing. Like most modellers in Australia space here is at a premium. So a small space layout, offering lots of operating potential, is the way to go.

Recently a long time model railroad friend Shortliner Jack shot me several links over to look at. We’ll be coming back to look closely at those this month. For right now though let’s take a look at a downloadable and one of Shortliner’s links.

Site 1: Designing small shelf Layouts for operating fun

Presented back in 2015 at the NMRA’s Thoroughbred Limited 2015 MCR Convention in Kentucky I felt that this download (in PDF format) provides a great overview of small layouts and a bit of learning about the why and how along the way.

small-layout-handout

The details shown on the Inglenook drawing on page 4 are wrong (you can find out more about Inglenooks in this post); besides that however there are some exceptional small layout designs that should inspire the modeller in you to get out there and make something.

Site 2: Railroad Line Forum – Layout Design Ideas

This is the site that Shortliner Jack pointed me to as a source for his next layout inspiration. Being in the far north of Scotland, buried in snow for 9/10ths of the year, and surrounded by only boxes of Whisky for company he has a lot of time to work on layouts. One layout in Proto48 caught his eye specifically:

There are so many more designs in this thread large and small that you’ll spend several hours looking through and pondering them all. Great ideas and thanks to Robert Chant for sharing his design on the forum.