Designing A layout – Reviewing One User’s Layout

One of the key elements to model railroading is the layout itself. Designing a layout takes a bit of personal preference while assessing what will ultimately provide continue use and entertainment. For some people running a layout that is purely a loop is perfectly fine, but many people find that without some additional elements, switching, industry etc. enhances the usability and longevity of any layout.

A reddit user ( u/ancap_attack ) submitted the orginal track plan

This layout presents some great operation elements, industry, switching the ability to swap mainlines, and continuous running. This layout might be a great start for many modelers but there are some enhancements that can be made to overall improve the track plan.

Revision 1

  • A reversing loop
    This is a great add for any layout. As it implies it allows you to reverse the operation of the direction of your train. In the previous design a train aligned to run east to west can only run east to west but in this design a train can run through the reversing loop and now operate in a different direction on the layout.
  • Straight away after turns:
    After the main loops you see that there are not some straight segments ( with the exception of the reversing loop) there are straight away right after the main loops turns. This helps ensure that after the train comes around the turns its not forced another turn. It’s generally considered a good design practice to allow a short straight segment as it prevents derailments as a train is pulled from one direction to the next.
  • The station becomes its own siding,
    • This could be more realistic depending on the area and era being modeled. You might find in a rural town or area that the train simply stops on the main for small station, where as a busier corridor the train would pull off to a station siding to allow traffic to continue to flow through as a train makes a stop.

Revision 2

Operationally we see some design changes that while seem minor provide an increase in operations and may help keep the modeler interested in their layout longer:

  • The round house moves closer to the rail yard. This provide some more realistic operations around the rail yard
    • Many roundhouse based facilities keep the round house near the rail yard
    • You often see a track for engines going to the round house and a separate tracking leading TO the roundhouse. Often you will find that one these has some service elements such as a water tower, fuel tanks, etc.
  • The industries have become more spread out
    • While this might not be a deal breaker, or perhaps scenery could be used to fill the void but, by spreading the industries to different areas of the layout it prevents the entire layout from being cramped into one area
    • Spreading out the industries might also allow for the layout to run by more than one operator. A local could leave the yard could service the industries on the left side of the layout, while a different local could service the industries in the bottom right. In addition, a third train could be operating a passenger service at the same time.
  • A longer lead track allows for better yard operations
    • Not only is the lead track longer, but it has straight section. Anytime you need to fix something or couple a train being on a straight section will be prefered to a curve
    • At the very least with the longer lead to the yard one engineer could be switching out and blocking trains in the yard while a second works the mainline / industries
  • The addition of the wye in the top left allows for train to turn 180 degrees without being picked up
  • By splitting up the mainlines up in the bottom left it allows for some scenery diversity,
    • In this case a mountain, hill or other scenery pieces could be placed in between the tracks allow change in scenery from the rest of the layout.

To see the full discussion