The Design of Small Model Railways

Starter set

Starter Set
[130×100 cm²]
 Station building
 Good shed
 Locomotive shed
 Terraced houses
 Hidden siding
 Curved backscene

Most model railroaders start their modeling career with a Starter set. Why not? You get a locomotive, cars, rails and a power supply for relatively little money. But what the builder usually discovers soon is that the track plan, as recommended by the manufacturer, offer not enough possibilities: an oval with at most a passing track. Boredom will set in because actually the train can only run around.

The renowned British writer of model railway books, C.J. Freezer, had exactly the same objection. He also looked for an opportunity to do something smart on a small surface with the rails from a Starter set. His plan, prosaicly called SP1 [Freezer, C.J.: 60 Plans for Small Railways], contains a wonderful starting point to do more with a Starter set.

I have adapted his plan from British to continental conditions. I have taken a Starter set from Märklin. The tracks, included in the slightly larger sets, contain an oval with a passing track. With three extra points and more tracks, a much more interesting rail figure can be created. I also placed the switches at the front of the layoutso so they can all be operated manually. Of course, Märklin switches can also be operated remotely and digitally. But the starting model railroad engineer doesn‘t prefer to spend €200 extra on switch motors and decoders, does he?

The Freezer plan does include an oval but no passing possibility. Lots of sidings to store cars and trains. And a hidden siding that represents the outside world. In principle, it is possible to run two trains in consecutively; only not at the same time. Later on, we‘ll see later that this is always a challenge for model railways on a small surface. But if you operate trains on your own, running one train at the time is quite sufficient, especially when you have to do a lot of shunting.

Mr. Freezer rightly notes that the trains, at least the goods train, should be running counterclockwise. In this way, all of the sidings are easily accessible. I would take a railcar for the passenger train. The Märklin Start up – Startpackung “Moderner Nahverkehr” (artikelnummer 29641) – contains a LINT 27 train. You have to buy the goods train separately. But from my own experience I know that many freight cars, especially if they are included in other Starter sets, can be bought cheaply. Merchants sometimes take Starter sets apart and sell the individual parts at a reasonable price on the internet. A shunter, such as the DHG 700 should be cheap to find. I advice to buy a digital version anyway.

Dieseltriebwagen BR 640 LINT

Actually, I think this design by Mr. Freezer is spot on for beginners. The hidden siding and the many shunting options offer a good start for real operational value. Anyone who wants to take it further can also work with a timetable, where cars have to be moved from one destination to another. Thsi is not the place to explain such a system in detail. But you can make your schedule as simple or complicated as you wish.

 Below you can find the list with track pieces required.

-24064  Rechte 64,3 mm-24077  Rechte 77,5 mm-24088  Aansluitrail 188,3 mm-24094  Rechte 94,2 mm
12×-24130  Bocht R1 30°
 6×-24171  Rechte 171,7 mm-24188  Rechte 188,3 mm-24206  Bocht R2 5,7°
 2×-24224  Bocht R2 24,3°
 2×-24230  Bocht R2 30°
 1×-24611  Wissel links
 3×-24612  Wissel rechts
 1×-24671  Geb. wissel links
 3×-24977  Railstuk met stootblok
Starter Set
British model railways

Of course, it‘s no problem to get inspiration for model track plans from other sites, books and magazines. Using a good idea from someone else is not bad. I do it regularly. Not to steal an idea, but to honour the creator of the plan. That‘s why I always mention the source of the idea.

I am always enthusiastic about model rail plans from the United Kingdom. Over there, model railway builders have tiny spaces because the houses are just a little smaller. This limitation has created a large number of good ideas for making small model railways. Authors like Freezer, but also Iain Rice, have written fantastic books on how to make beautiful layouts in small spaces. Many examples can be found on the internet. But you can find them regularly at model railroad exhibitions. Paying a visit is highly recommended.

 Een great British layout is the Ladeside Diesel Depot. This small layout depicts a depot for diesel locomotives. Seen on February 20ᵗʰ, 2015, at Rail 2015.

Ladeside  Diesel  Depot

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