The Design of Small Model Railways

Extending the layout

An extra terminus
[200×130 cm²]
 Through station
 Goods shed
 Goods siding

On the previous pages I have shown how you elaborate on the idea of shrinking or increasing a model railway design. Here, I want to describe how you can extend an layout. The idea of making a design extendable is not new. Especially in the United States, many designs have been created that are extendable, so that the job can grow with the space, budgets and skills of the modeller. For example, John Allen’s world-famous layout, “Gorre and Daphetid”, stated with a simple model railway of 4×8 feet to end as a basement filled with a model railway paradise.

I do not want to take it that far. Here I would like to present two ideas where a simple a simple oval be extende to create more operational possibilities.

 A short passenger train, such as this BR628 railcar from the DB in Sigmaringen, Germany, is sufficient to perform the basic passenger services. The photo was taken on July 28, 2020.

A BR628 railcar of the German railways, entering the station of Sigmaringen in Germany on its way to Ulm.
An extra terminus

This layout above is – for me – the minimum feasible oval. It has little, but sufficient, possibilities for shunting. The oval has a passing loop at the station and two goods sidings. The plan is drawn with Märklin C-track. On this layout you can run a maximum of two trains, for example a passenger train and a goods train. Given the tight curves, I recommend using only short cars. Otherwise, yopu might encounter problems with coupling the cars.

By adding an extra terminus to this plan, you can run more trains at the same time. There are also more sidings so that the possibilities for shunting are improved. The station at the oval now is needed to “reverse” trains, for example to place the locomotive on the other side of the train. This allows the train to change direction and head back to the main terminus station. This gives just a bit much needed operational value than just running around in circles.

 If you want to build this design, the numbers of the track pieces are shown below. I would make the room between the station and the oval a bit larger. This gives you more freedom of movement when you operate the layout.

An extra terminus
Bedroom Layout (revisited)

As I wrote above, a lot of designs, made in the United States, extend an oval on a rectangular baseboard with a terminus station. The design below is an adaptation of a design by Iain Rice, published in Model Railroader on October 2001. To be honest, this design is no longer small and does not meet my self-imposed limits. But I wanted to see how I could recreate this design – originally drawn with flex tracks – with the rigid Märklin C-track system. And I think I have done a fairly good job, if I say so myself. I used the large radius (arced) turnouts as much as possible. This not only looks better, but also gives better running characteristics. Only the switches that are a bit out of sight have a “normal” radius. There was no other way to do it without exceeding the original dimensions of the layout.

Bedroom Layout
[240×300 cm²]

To make the tracks fit within the self-imposed space limits, this design has two problems. The passing loop at the bottom just did not fit exactly within the geometry of the track system. Anyone who wants to recreate this design should probably fiddle a little with the track pieces. So, test that before fixing the tracks. At the top the distance between the station track and the goods siding is tight. I think it fits but take care that cars are not bumping into each other.

How to operate this layout, I will leave it to you. Again, the focus is on shunting and transport of goods. Passenger trains play a minor role. One passenger train – a pulled train or a rail car – is sufficient to maintain a local train service.

Because the track is equipped with a reversing triangle, it is not necessary to run the locomotive around in order to return to the terminus. With the Märklin three-rail system, this track configuration can easily be made without any short circuits. But it remains a typical American design. There are no hidden staging yards, there are no slopes and there is an open, visible oval. But with these types of designs, the emphasis is always on shunting and not so much on running a schedule for passenger trains. And there are plenty of shunting options!

 The same design with the numbers of the rail pieces. The problem zones are also indicated. I’m afraid it’s up to you to make everything fit together properly. You should also take care of the accessibility of all parts of the layout. Hatches or lift-up pices of scenery are needed to access the back side of the baseboard for construction and maintenance purposes. I haven’t drawn them on the plan.

Bedroom Layout

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