Layout planning

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Modeler's Moment - Light the hidden track

Lighting hidden track

If you've got hidden track under your layout for staging or for a long tunnel section, consider how well you'll be able to see trains and equipment in those areas. If you can, add a light in those areas to ease visibility. The light doesn't need to be on for the whole operating session, just turn it on when you need to see in there. While strings of holiday lights can be inexpensive, they can also be fragile and they can also run at a high temperature; compact fluorescent fixtures will often run cooler and use less electricity.

Modeler's Moment - Selective compression

Selective compression

A model railroad friend of mine likes to say "our eyes are bigger than our layouts." What he means by this is that there is never enough room on the layout to include all of the features that we want to include. Whether they be structures, track arrangements or scenery, there are just too many big things that we want to model. As model railroaders, we employ a process called selective compression where we select the most important features for a scene and compress them enough to fit in the space available while retaining the key elements of those features to keep them recognizable. Now if only I could selectively compress all the paperwork around my house...

Modeler's Moment - Eye level is relative

Build an accessible layout

When you plan your layout, think about who will be operating it. This is especially true for people of smaller stature than yourself. The SCWD Youth Group's portable layout is positioned at a level where the group members can see and operate it comfortably with a low backdrop so they can reach their trains. If you're building a multilevel layout, think about the operators you plan to invite and provide footstools so operators shorter than yourself can see the trains they are operating too.

Modeler's Moment - Micromodules

T-Trak modules

Want to operate in a modular layout but don't have the space to work on an NTrak module? Take a look at T-Trak; the typical module size is as small as 8¼ by 12⅛ inches. Such a small module size should easily fit into the 2 square foot space we each have on our workbenches for current projects. These T-Trak modules were displayed at the 2005 National Train Show in Cincinnati.

Modeler's Moment - Well, why not?

do not flush

If you've got track passing through a closet or small room, try to minimize the number of rail joints, and thus the number of potential derailment locations, through the small room. Derailments will always happen at the most inopportune time, especially when this small room is in use.

Modeler's Moment - A convenient flat surface...

A convenient flat surface

When you're planning your layout, think about more than the layout itself. Think about where you're going to store all the tools and equipment in your "basement hobby shop." Think about getting one of those rolling tool carts like they've got at the auto shop. If you put your tools back into the cart when you set them down, you'll be able to find your tools right away when you need them, and your layout won't turn into the convenient flat surface like this one has.

Modeler's Moment - Elbow room

wide aisles

When you're planning your model empire, look at the places on your layout where you plan to have a lot of switching (the yards and heavy industrial areas). These are the places where your operators will congregate, so leave enough room in the aisle that they can get by each other. Sometimes it will require curving a yard around a corner, like you can see here. Believe it or not, this photo is from an operating session at a home layout.

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