This post is made possible by Aaron Riley. I’d like to thank him for his assistance, his time and especially for supplying the images of his Metra maintenance facility layout that I first saw on Facebook (more information in the resources section at the bottom of the post). Adapted from a Robert Chant design in HO scale, Aaron has executed an exquisite small layout that in the photos does not look small. Let’s take a look around his Metra Service Centre.
Rob Chant’s layout concept
In the original Facebook post Rob Chant commented that while he “hadn’t designed [a maintenance facility style layout] before, he thought it would be something that would extend his model railway design skills“.
He said further that he thought “the layout owner’s space would be a good fit with his design and could include a load of detail and some support structures.”
I heartily agree with both perspectives. Rob’s concept and the layout Aaron built from it are outstandingly good and show what can be achieved in a small space. And remember, as you can see from the plan below it is not a lot of space; the layout is only 8′ (2400mm) in total length; with a total width of 4′ 5″ (1346mm) and maximum board width of 18″ (450mm).
And there’s a lot packed into that small space. Yet it doesn’t look crowded; quite the reverse is true. It looks wide, open and has relaxed look about it. Lived in, even.
Enough of the overview let’s dive in.
Looking around Aaron’s Metra layout
In image 1 above, you can see Rob’s use of the administration building as a view blocker ensures that the viewer’s eye is distracted where the layout ends, and the staging begins. It’s a great design feature. In addition, provides a verticality to what would otherwise be a flat, horizontal layout. it gives the viewer, no matter the angle of viewing, a framed view of the layout. It’s a thoughtful design feature that makes Aaron’s layout, and Rob’s plan a cut above.
In image 2 above, it is interesting to note Aaron’s prototype solution to the problem of overcrowding and short sidings. You’ll note the three-car set is fouling the two cars in the siding. This is common where older facilities were designed for shorter cars. Things get put wherever they’ll fit. During late nights most running facilities like this one are crowded, with train sets packed in like sardines. It’s nice to see that modelled, even if Aaron did so unintentionally. It really adds to the believability of the scene.
In image 3 above, what I noticed first was the sense of openness. Taken from the other side of the Administration buildings, it is great that Aaron has been able to achieve this and fool the eye and the mind on what is a small footprint layout. And there is a wealth of detail too. I love the cracked hard standing area, not overtly achieved. Subtle but unmistakable. It is really great work and carried across the layout.
In image 4 above, what took my eye straight away was the photo-realistic building flat. It is an eye-catching feature. The prime mover looks to have just been loaded, as the tie-downs have yet to be fastened to the flatcar. This transfer freight movement will be heading off to the upstream maintenance centre later where that prime mover will get a rebuild before being replaced into another locomotive. I’m impressed by how the scene has been dressed. With most of the buildings flat against the rear of the layout, wide-open space reigns. Cleverly done Aaron.
In image 5 above, we’re standing roughly in alignment with the face of the maintenance centre buildings. No matter how many times I look at the scene, I just don’t see how it is not 16 feet long.
In image 6 above we’re looking toward the heart of the maintenance centre. Cleverly Aaron has not tried to model the entire building, yet there is enough darkness to hide the fact that the buildings are not as deep as they appear to be. Once again, the height of the surrounding buildings, and the service centre, illustrate how even in a small space you can use the vertical to make things appear bigger than they really are. It is something I’ll be using on my current small switching layout when I get around to making the warehousing and other structures. Also, we see another of the photo-realistic buildings; with knocked out windows, rusty roller doors, and a run-down look from an earlier time. It grounds the newer parts of the layout and suggests a history we just haven’t heard yet.
In image 7 above, you’ll note the uncluttered nature of the layout. There’s work going on here, but there’s room to get about, without bumping into things. This particular scene also shows the actual depth of the maintenance centre buildings, just a car length long. Not that you’d notice while switching. The layout ticks so many boxes for me in regard to how small layouts should be built. With thought and care not only in the design but also in the execution of that design.
I guess by now there’s no hiding it: I’m a fan of this layout. There is so much to learn from how Rob has designed and Aaron has built the layout. And there is much more that you can add to what’s already here. That’s for another post and another day, however!
What’s in the next post?
In the next post, I’ll show I’ll share my knowledge of the types of depots that passenger trains operate from in my experience. It’s not something that is often discussed in the hobby press, or online groups. So if you have no idea what I mean by a running depot, we’ll cover that in the next post, and in the series of posts that follow.
Till next time; Andrew
- Aaron’s original post on the Micro/Small Model RR Layouts group on Facebook – membership of the group required to access the post (and well worth it too!)
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