The Design of Small Model Railways


abc-industries [300×50 cm²]
 “Virtual” d-company
 Bridge (giving access to abc-industries)
 Bridge (connection to d-company)

At the end of a lot of railway design books you’ll find less detailed plans, mostly in black and white, which require more filling-in by the reader. This plan is of the same level. It’s basically an idea only, illustrated by this plan.

abc-industries is about creating an expandable layout, composed of several micro layouts. The main idea is that you add segments or modules to the plan, increasing the operational possibilities but also the overall size.

The name abc-industries is derived from the ABC expansion sets offered by the large European manufactures, like Märklin. You get starter set denoted ‘A’, mostly a simple oval. Then you can buy expansion set ‘B’ and later on ‘C’ to build any of the predefined plans. The trick is that ‘B’ is useless without ‘A’, and ‘C’ is useless without ‘A’+‘B’. Well, I’ve designed three segments along the same lines. All segments have a surface area of 100×50 cm². The main objective is to create such a plan that segment can be operated on its own. + is a fixed combination and has larger operational possibilities. ++ is also a fixed combination and has the maximum operational value. The overall length has increased to 3 meter. But the combinations + or + don’t make sense. As you can see, these combinations are not even technically possible.

abc-industries is therefore not a modular layout in the normal sense. Because modular layouts have standardised interfaces, every combination of modules is technically possible, though not always meaningful from an operational viewpoint. abc-industries also differs from the renowned British “out-and-back” plans, where it’s possible to slot in extra segments between the terminus and the fiddle-yard.

The -segment of the layout is a variation of the coffee table layout from the previous page. The scale is H0, normal gauge 16½ mm. I’ve made some slight changes to make it easier to build. I’ve replaces the segment turntable by switches. The whole plan can be made with Atlas track and Atlas “Custom-Line #4” turnouts. But be aware, almost all track is laid within the street surface! Again, the main focal point is the turntable . We’ll need this turntable to access all tracks on this space-limited layout. I’ve used the Atlas turntable.

The -segment, which can only be used with the -segment, has a canal as a main feature. The bridge over the canal is the only access to the premises of abc-industries. It’s a combined railway-street bridge. The “natural” obstacle of the canal makes the cramped layout of the tracks more logical. Bridge leads to the “off-scene” extension of abc-industries, called d-company?

Segment contains rather cowardly a traverser . And the “off-scene” track for d-company . No scenic development here, but you can choose otherwise. But with this extension you can more trains and have a lot of storage capacity at your disposal.

 Below I’ve published two photos of a cameo named Courcelle Part PO & PLM. This diorama was shown on Rail 2008. It depicts only a small part of a yard of a major station. A few tracks and three buildings create a beautiful atmosphere. But there’re enough possibilities for shunting cars around. And there’re enough details to see, due to building in 0 gauge (1:43½).

Courcelle Part PO & PLM

I think these kind of expandable layouts offer some interesting benefits. You can start small and expand your layout when you’ll find extra space. When you don’t have lots of time available you can finish the first segment in a calculable timeframe. And whilst you’re working on the second segment, you can play with (and show off) the first. You’ll enjoy also all the benefits from working with segments: easier transportation to e.g. exhibitions. Your layout can move with you when you’re changing homes. The layout as such is more adaptable for changing spaces, at home or at exhibitions.

In the end you’ll don’t have to plan the complete layout in advance. History has taught us that five-year plans don’t work, so what about lifetime projects? When you design a layout that is potentially expandable, you can re-use your initial layout in later projects. Nothing stops you from re-designing the expansions whilst working on the first segments.

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