The Design of Small Model Railways

Scaling up

[100×100 cm²]
 Station
 Quarry
 Office building
 Interchange track
 Factory

Before I show you lots of track plans, I first want to illustrate two issues which in my humble opinion are important in the design of small model railways. On the following pages I will repeat myself a lot: when enlarging the surface area with the same track configuration you immediately get a better result. I have a nasty habit of making the plans as small as possible. This is sometimes at the expense of the overall look. The next page will show this effect.

This page describes how changing the theme can also lead to a better result. I’ll show the effects of changing the scale of the track plan.

Above design is more or less a theoretical exercise. You cannot do much on 1  in H0. This obligatory light railway offers (too) few possibilities for shunting. The curved tracks will cause problems coupling the cars. The passing sidings are too short. I did provide an interchange track to connect to the outside world. With this track you can put trains away on a (removable) storage track and change the trains by hand. Also present is a quarry. An industrial narrow gauge train delivers the gravel. Frankly, this plan is a nice “gimmick” for an exhibition. I’ve used PECO track from the Setrack program.

A much used method in order to obtain a more acceptable plan is the re-design to narrow gauge. Because in reality everything is smaller with narrow gauge, the disadvantages mentioned above are less evident. When you re-design a track plan for narrow gauge, you can squeeze the same plan in a smaller space. I wouldn’t do that, because the plan will become like a postage stamp. I’m confident you can redraw the plan yourself.

TramwayH0 tramway
[100×100 cm²]
 Stop “Marketsquare”
 Postoffice
 Depot
 Connection to outside world

I’ve redesigned the plan and changed to theme to a tramway. In reality tramways have sharp curves which comes in handy because on 1  we can only have sharp curves. The quarry has been replaced by a depot, where you can store your tramcars. A little bit of freight traffic is generated by the post office. These cars can be loaded and unloaded at point .

Like before, this plan has connections with the outside world. You can even build more 1  tramway modules and put them together like tiles.

 The photo belows shows HTM tram 3021 in the Van Boetzelaerlaan in The Hague, April 23, 2009.

Den Haag: Van Boetzelaerlaan, tram 3021

This layout stays rather small. In reality it would occupy a surface of 87×87 . That isn’t much. Everything is depicted tighter. It’s what the Americans call “selective compression”. You only model the interesting bits and leave out everything in-between.

TramwayIIm tramway
[240×240 cm²]
 Stop “Station”
 Postoffice
 Depot
 Stop “Park”
 Connection to outside world
 Manhole for accessibility

On the previous page I described how a large scale plan occupies a lot of space. This design shows how I’ve scaled up to 2m (meter gauge at 1:22.5). Articles for this scale are produced by LGB in Germany. LGB has tramcars in their program, which could be used here. The baseboard can be divided into four squares of 1.2×1.2 . This makes the tramway transportable. With a layout with the dimensions of 2.4×2.4  the inconsistencies become less evident. The eye can see surface of 1  at a glance, here this isn’t possible anymore. So we can compress the cityscape even more. Theoretically, scaling up a layout of 1×1  in 1:87 (scale H0) gives you a layout of 4×4  in 1:22.5 (scale 2). This can fill a room comfortably. But I’m convinced the smaller surface of 2.4×2.4  also gives convincing results.

To obtain the illusion of a tram riding through the streets I’ve put low-relief buildings along the sides of the layout. When the building are high enough, i.e. three stories, the effect will be quite noticeable. You’ll need to make a manhole in the middle. Standing there will give you the feeling being amidst the scenery. This is also necessary to have all parts of the plan within reach.

As a bonus I have drawn the same plan in N-scale with PECO track. I’ve replaced the curves switches by normal ones. The layout gets somewhat loftier and therefor more realistic. I didn’t draw the cityscape. I’ve assumed you can do so yourself.

N-scale tram line
[85×50 cm²]

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