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Glad to see that Micros and some of the associated design techniques are getting some airtime. Stein has definitely got some winners in this article.
However, the thing that strikes me is that much of this info is and has been available via Carl Arendt's Small/Micro Layout website for years.
(and still alive in the form of the S/ML archive http://www.carendt.us )
Guess Carl was just "ahead of the curve"? ;-)
Aim to Improve,
The plans are due to Joe contacting me, asking permission to use these plans in a compilation article he wanted to do on the MRH forum and small track plans - which is why the text is not totally a coherent whole, but more a collection of quotes from various posts - with links to the threads where the original discussion took place for those that want more context. I of course had no problems with Joe using these track plans in an article.
It also explains why there were no references to places where I had learned about small track plans. The late Carl Arendt's web site (which you provided a link to) is indeed one of those places. I am very grateful to Carl and the contributors to that site, and also to the three great model railroaders who stepped up to revive the website after Carls untimely death in March 2011 - "Shortliner" Jack Trollop from up in the Highlands of Scotland, Jonathan Scott (who describes himself as "British antecedents, Australian education, American spirit, New Zealand residency") and Tom Barret of Jacksonville, FL.
Other sources of inspiration for small switching layout has been the Yahoo group "Small Layout Design", Adrian Wymann's excellent web page "The Model Railways Shunting Puzzles Website", which is not just about switching puzzles, but also has quite a bit of useful information on operating small layouts, the web site known as "Andrew's Trains" (which also was resurrected - but fortunately not after the death of its creator - in this case it was just website itself that reappeared on a different address under the same management).
The British website RmWeb also have forums about small layouts - small switching layouts being a staple of the British exhibition circuit - can be built in the basement or kitchen and brought along to shows in community centers etc.
Another inspiration has been the modular layouts - e.g the FREMO layouts - where each person builds one or more modules, and then you come together to run large layouts put together from small modules. Not so much the track plans of FREMO layouts, as the contruction of layouts in sections - FREMO layouts tend to not be so crowded as small switching layouts.
Other sources of inspiration - the Blogs of well known layout designers like Lance Mindheim and Byron Henderson, and of less known but excellent designers like Linda and Dave Sand of the Twin Cities - their web site about model railroading has provided a large amount of interesting ideas that could be applied to small layouts - e.g. on multispot industries and train briefs.
So my fascination is not just about building really small layouts (Micro layouts - which by Carl's definition was less than 4 square feet).
It is about building relatively small layouts for somewhat realistic switching. I'd say that for H0 scale, a sweet spot for a small starter switching layout is about one bedroom wall length - say 8-12 feet long, and somewhere between 15 and 24" deep.
That is long enough to avoid the "sliding tile puzzle" feel (where you constantly are moving the hole around), and to provide some spurs that can hold 3-5 or so cars each, and deep enough for a little foreground scenery.
For example, this little youtube video shows a switcher picking up a couple of extra cars from the freight house on my upstairs little switching layout - what you see when you look down along the layout is a scene that is about 8 feet deep and 15" wide:
While checking my website stats today I saw the referrer link and followed it up. And boy am I glad that I did when I read this: "the web site known as 'Andrew's Trains' (which also was resurrected - but fortunately not after the death of its creator". It took me about three reads before my heart rate got down to something approaching normal, and I stopped clutching my chest. Amazing what a short attention span and speed reading can do to the message.
Yes the website appeared at a new address after the demise of the Fotopic site. Most of my layout design content is there. A few older designs were lost to the nether regions of the internet, however not all. And they are still free in the Layout Design Gallery "http://www.huntervalleylines.com/gallery/".
You can also Google "Andrew's Trains". Link one takes you to the "Under powered and overburdened blog", while the second link takes you to the gallery. And for a quick heads up of the content of the site please allow me to provide some details as below:
There's lots of other stuff there too - it is my photo gallery.
I am always working on "stuff" and I share when I can. There's been a lot going on personally for the last few years that has limited my output since we moved from the USA in 2006. But there'll be more coming over the next few months as I am working on a lot of articles that I want to share.
Very glad that I am not needing resurrection.
I Andrew Martin
Modelling 0 (1:48) and H0 in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Birthplace of the Australian Democracy
T: +61 3 5340 0219
M: +61 434 849 745
I really liked this article and I would also like to see more small(er) sized lay-outs. Don't get me wrong; I love the lay-outs that are shown in the magazine but I prefer seeing what's possible in a more limited space.
Lance Mindheim has commented recently on his blog on those of us - me included - that may have a good amount of available layout space, yet not the free time available to do a whole lot with it. Between work, family and other obligations and chores when a smidgen of time does come you may not have the energy left to do much, other than flop on the easy chair for a nap.
I've devoured Lance's library of books, his two blogs and other associated articles, as well as much of the aforementioned sources ranging from the late Carl Arendt's site to Kalmbach's MRP. A self-professed track plan "junkie" for over thirty years I've armchaired the best of smallish shelf layouts in books, magazines and the web. Then again, that's gotten me no closer to a layout either.
Leaving the armchair, analysis-paralysis, etc. has been a challenge, especially when one's job takes you away a time zone (or two, three) M-F each week - and occasional weekends. Cramming all that aforementioned family time - and house/yard chores - between Friday evening and Monday morning flights leaves little left for the hobby, so thinking outside the box is a requirement. As a professional Project Manager (PM), I can draw on my craft a bit for answers.
PM's think of project constraints - and constructing a layout is certainly a project - in terms of time, cost and scope. The running joke from some old wag in the business is you can have your project done cheap, fast and good - but you only get to pick 2 out of the three! Humor aside, this reality is clear - to get something done when time is of the essence you can do two things - reduce your scope (layout size and complexity) or increase your cost (i.e. hire the layout construction out). Neither is ideal, but sometimes you have to compromise in order to complete the project, that is - have a layout, period.
Stein's point on how little (e.g. 15 inches by 8 feet) of expanse is required to operate is spot-on, and as I mentioned above not just for those constrained by space but time and energy as well. In my case, I'm looking at my 20 foot wall coupled to an adjoining 12' 6" wall, for an L-shaped "Phase I" construction of my future 12' 6" by 27' basement pike. See here for a rough drawing of how it will fit into my space - a finished basement room dedicated to my hobby. Now, under the triple-constraint of time, cost and scope - how to best get started?
My approach is to contract out the hard part, in my case - benchwork. I've had a pair of 2'x6' modules/sections finished to the bare Homasote stage for a few years, but no progress beyond that. I have a friend that is an under-employed carpenter and general contractor that is stopping by this evening, and we're looking at the layout room to see what can be done (i.e. jobbed out). My goal is for him to take my pile of unused Birch ply 1x4s and build sectional plywood box frames cantilevered from the walls - anchored to the studs beneath the drywall. Width will be 16 to 24 inches, and topped by Homasote.
Once done, I'll be ready to lay cork roadbed and track - having gotten over the hump on the benchwork end. Another of Lance's points is on whether the benchwork footprint or the track plan should come first. He argues that since track cannot float in mid-air it is best from a time perspective to get the shelf up first, and then let the track expand across the available space. After years of indecision, planning analysis-paralysis and molting in the armchair I agree, and hope with my handy friend Steve's assistance will be ready to start tracklaying this Fall.
If you build it and enjoy the hobby time then its good.
Granted we all dream and want the HUGE lifetime layout, filling a warehouse full of layout, but enjoy what you can, build it, learn......
No matter the size of the layout, I have found I can learn from every one I see.
Virginia Southern - Ho triple decker 30x32
Digitrax Zephyr, JMRI
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Based on the north end of the Clinchfield.