The Design of Small Model Railways

Circling between two stations

Two stations layout
[140×110 cm²]
 Goods shed
 Train stop
 Office building
 Interchange track

This plan also focusses on freight because shunting offers great operational value. Goods operations focuses around the central industrial area. The tracks are connected through a turntable. This is quite common in Central Europe, you see a lot of them in Switzerland. They’re used to squeeze the tracks around existing buildings. Here we take advantage of this prototypical feature to add tracks where ordinary pointwork cannot do it. Because this plan is also based on Fleischmann Profi track, I’ve used their manually operated turntable. I suggest you should improve this toy-like article by adding a mechanical or electrical remote control. There’re are also freight accommodations at the station: a good shed and a ramp.

I’ve included two interchange tracks. Connecting a fiddle yard would improve the operation value, but they are not required for the shunting operations on the layout.

The plans shows only railway-related structures. How you would decorate this layout is up to you. I personally would add more buildings to make the narrow curves more believable. A train twisting around buildings on narrow curves looks better than the same curves in the open landscape.

Passenger traffic

The previous plan didn’t have any passenger facilities. But I know that most (European) readers like to run some form of passenger operation. This old favourite of mine has room for limited point-to-point passenger operations. One railcar will do the job. It isn’t much, but what can you expect from a plan of this size. The passenger service runs from the station at point  to the train stop at the interchange track at point . There’s room for a small station building at point , so that caters for most of your needs.

I think that’s the most you can get on a small layout of 1½ . There’s really no room for more. When you include two fiddle yard at interchange tracks at points , you can run different passenger trains between the two fiddle yards. How you would construct those fiddle yards is up to you. But in order to keep the layout small they should be detachable or foldable. If you don’t want to add fiddle yards you can run a small passenger train between the points . When the train is stowed away at these points the train itself doesn’t interfere with the goods services.

 A railbus, like the VT10 of the GKB at station Voitsberg on June 30, 2006, is prefect to move passengers between both stations. A model of this railbus was available from Fleischmann in H0-scale, article number 481174.

VT10 der GKB am Bahnhof Voitsberg
Staging Yards

Most of the plans I present here do not have any staging yards. Staging yards are can be seen as hidden stations, where you can store trains behind the scenes. It’s also the place where you can touch the trains, composing new trains off stage. The staging yard represents the outside world of your layout, where trains run to and from. Nowadays, staging yards seem obligatory. You won’t find any German track plan without one. Elaborate helixes are used to reach the yards below the surface. Some track plans have a more complicated layout underneath than is visible. Some authors [Cordes, Ivo: Ideenreiche Modellbahn-Anlagen] use buildings and ridges to store trains off scene. The ingenuity of those plans is very high. But I think we should be careful being too bold. Let me start saying that staging yards are extremely useful. It allows running a realistic timetable. It allows storing trains away so you can have a larger variety of trains on your layout without overcrowding the place. The issues I think we should not forget are:

  1. Construction: some times the benchwork needed for building the underground world with all the helixes is quite elaborate. It’s is all right on large layouts where there is plenty of room, but on small layouts you need all the space available. The precision should also be high because radii and inclinations are stretched to the limits. Sometimes I think you should be a learned carpenter to make the benchwork. When you create a large underground world, the portability of the layout gets worse. The overall height of the layout can increase to some 50 cm or more. This makes the layout different to carry around.
  2. Visibility: I think you will have the natural desire to see what’s going on in your staging yard. When the yard is operated automatically, you want to check if everything goes fine. Or when something goes wrong, you want to know where and what. On smaller layouts, the staging yard is also used for manual shunting. Here unobstructed viewing is obligatory.
  3. Ease-of-Reach: when you notice something went wrong, you want to take action. You want to intervene manually without damaging yourself, your rolling stock or your layout. This point goes hand-in-hand with visibility. Reaching in the dark is not an option. And when you have to lift off vulnerable sections of scenery to reach your trains your pleasure can diminish fairly quickly. The change of losing details in the process is high.

 I’ve modified this plan to add a staging yard to it. This alternative has a fairly straightforward yard with two tracks, marked . Track can be used as headshunt to access the industrial sidings . Or it can be used as an additional storage track. You can run around your locomotive with this arrangement. You can use the tracks to put locomotives or cars away. You can never have enough storage space on a small layout. This staging yard wants room too, so the plan has slightly increased in depth. The major disadvantage of this scheme is the short length of the tracks . It will limit the size of your trains to about 60 cm. That isn’t much. Please keep in mind that you need to get to the backside of the layout in order to reach the staging yard. The layout is too deep to be able to reach for the trains from the front. A walk-around arrangement would be ideal. If you need to place the layout to a wall or in a corner, try to make it movable in order to get to the back of the layout. It will be hard to operate the layout without easy access to the back.

Two stations layout with staging yard
[140×120 cm²]
 Staging yard
 Industry sidings
 Additional storage track

 To get rid of the disadvantage I’ve redesigned the plan and changed it in an out-and-back layout. The continuous loop has disappeared. At the end of the staging tracks I’ve put a turntable. With this turntable you can run around locomotives. It’s a space saving configuration also used in real life. The headshunt for the industrial sidings also ends on the turntable. But the overall length of the headshunt gets rather short. You can use track to put cars away, but you have to move one car at the time. This will be quite time consuming. It’s not an ideal situation but it all depends on how you want to design the operation of this layout. This staging yard wants room too, so this plan has slightly increased in length. But the depth has decreased because the continuous run has been removed. I think loosing the continuous loop isn’t much of a loss. In the original plan passenger services where designed to operate point-to-point. Now goods services also have to go this way, but I see no major objections against this. Maybe another redesign is needed to improve this alternative even more?

Two stations out-and-back layout
[150×100 cm²]
 Staging yard
 Goods track
 Industry sidings
 Peek through under overbridge

 I only used PECO Setrack rails for the previous version of this alternative, but I missed the double slip in the assortment. I’ve opted for a combination with the Streamline Universal code 100 turnouts. Only the curved turnouts are from Setrack, due to the small radii of the curves. I find the result reasonably acceptable.

Two stations out-and-back layout
[150×100 cm²]

This layout combines the previous two. The plan is not perfect, but it shows how combining two small layouts into one results in a layout with ample possibilities. Ideas for the scenery can be obtained from the plans this one is derived. This plan has an area of nearly 2 . I’ve stayed within my self-imposed limit. (…)

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