The Design of Small Model Railways

ICE all-around

ICE all-around
[185×100 cm²]
 ICE loop
 Local train loop
 Storage yard
 Station building
 Discount store

High-speed trains seem to have a high appeal to model railway enthousiasts. I think young modellers, who have never seen steam trains and branch lines in their full glory, only know main lines and passenger traffic. Freight trains are now handled on large industrial areas far away from home. Steam trains only ride on preserved railways (a perfect prototype for a model railway though). Branch lines are closed or, in the best case, modernised. Operated with train cars only. It’s not a miracle that model railway manufacturers offer models of high speed trains and put them in their starter sets. These trains are the most glamourous modern railways can offer. But we as railway modellers have a problem here. High speed trains are extremely difficult to model. They just take up a lot of space. Long distances, large curves, stopping at main line stations only. Most track plans I’ve seen with high speed trains only model a piece of show track, where these trains wizz by without stopping. That’s all you can get.

 ICE 631 arrives at Hannover Hbf on April 2, 2010. This train travels through Germany from Bremen Hbf to München Hbf (Munich).

ICE 631 at Hannover Hbf

So when you’ve only limited space available, you better stay far from these modern trains. But what if you’ve got a starter set with an ICE train, as sold by Märklin, Fleischmann and others? What if one of your family members has got such a set and wants your advise? You can tell them to sell-off the whole bunch and start over again with some descent stuff. I know fellow enthousiasts who would do so. But you can also see it as a challenge for your planning capabilities and try to find a solution how to make sense of this modern theme.

The professional modelers of the Diorama Display Factory in Japan seem to have customers who want their high speed trains. So they manufacture small layouts where there’s room for a bullet train (Shinkansen: the Japanese high speed train). In most cases it’s just an oval where the trains can run around. Not much operational value, but that’s the prICE you’ve to pay when you model this team. In reality, these trains only run from forth and back without much happening in-between. With the beautiful dioramas of the Diorama Display Factory in mind, I set out to design my own layout for running an high speed train in h0 scale.

Imagine you’ve got a Fleischmann No.638301 set. This set is no longer available, but imagine. The set contains an eight car german ICE train with a transformer and some tracks for an oval. This is quite a large train for the relatively small oval. And it won’t get any better in my plan. A lot of tail chasing. At this moment, if you want to run a Fleischmann ICE in h0 scale, you’ve to buy the combine the train from individual cars or take another brand, like Roco.

Based on the sectional track present in the 638301 starter set, I’ve drawn a plan with two ovals. All pieces of track from the set are used, but you’ll have to get other ones to complete the layout. The outer oval is for the high speed train, the inner oval for some kind of local traffic. There’re four storage sidings present, so you can change train compositions if you want to. This plan is for passenger transport only. This is fairly prototypical for our modern times. Because the operational value is low, this layout is more a showpiece than a layout to play with. The idea is that you hide the ICE in the tunnel to suggest the train is of to the outside world. By changing the direction in the tunnel, you can suggest some form of protoypical traffic. The high speed track is single, what in itself is not quite like it should be. Double track is the norm for high speed track. The scene depicted on this layout could be a piece of normal track. In Germany ICE trains also use normal tracks on their routes. The radii of the curves is also too small to allow for real high speeds. The ICE only passes through, there’s no stop for this train. The local train has a halt. A station with only one platform is quite normal for branch lines nowadays. The storage sidings allows for changing the composition of the local train. I also managed to put in the high speed turnouts in the outer loop. These turnouts are far to short for being prototypical, but they suggest that something speedy is passing along the tracks. Needless to say, you’ll need overhead wiring for this modern prototype. The inner loop can do without, but in that case you’re not able to store the high speed train on the storage tracks. Digital operation is preferable for independent train control. But like most of my plans an analogous operation, using cab control, can be employed without problems. Alternatively, you can power your high speed train through the overhead wires and the local train through the rails.

ICE all-around

You don’t have to admire high speed trains to appreciate this plan. You can use this scheme for more “normal” fast trains, like express trains or intercities. Märklin offers the super starter sets with an express train and a goods train. Leave the train stop out: the inner circle is now a goods loop. The storage sidings can be altered into classification sidings. Now you can change the composition of the goods train as part of the game you play. Replace the high-speed turnouts by normal ones, because they aren’t common in this new setting. But now you’ve got a new concept for this track plan.

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