Switching layout



I model H0 and I´m in the design process of an industrial layout but space is tight, so I don´t want a main line.

Does anyone have an industrial layout with no main track?


rtw3rd's picture


By no mainline do you mean that you don't want the ability for continuous running?  To answer your question - yes, you could have an industrial switching layout without a mainline.  The trains could be supposed to be on a spur or siding line when coming in / going out working the industries.

I suggest that you get Lance Mindheim's excellent books on shelf type layouts that will give you great ideas for designing interesting industrial layouts.  I have his books "How to Build a Switching Layout", How to Design A Small Switching Layout", and "8 Realistic Track Plans for a Spare Room" among others.  You can Google the titles to find where to purchase them.

(Note:  I am not affiliated with Lance or paid to suggest his books - I just think that they are great!)





The Richlawn Railroad Website - Featuring the L&N in HO  / MRH Blog  /  

How Tight is Tight?

You don't need to have continuous running, but you do need some place for the cars to "go" and "come from", and a small section of mainline or track leading off layout to an invisible mainline can represent that.

My daughter & I built an N Scale shelf layout based on Byron Henderson's "Alameda Belt Line" that's 1'x6':

The carfloat on the right represents traffic to Oakland (and thus the rest of America), while a curved "interchange" track with the SP on the far side represents traffic to San Francisco (and thus the rest of the World West).

You could replicate something similar in HO in about 18" x 10' or 11'
(Ours folds up into a 1'x3' box, but not sure you want to do that with HO :) )

What kind of space are you talking about?

Byron has some HO switching layouts for unusual spaces in his design gallery.

The (recently) late Steinjr has a plethora, nay, cornucopia of HO shelf layout designs on his gallery that fit in 18"-2' x 6'-12' spaces.

Need something for a smaller space?
The late, great Carl Arendt's "micro layout design" site should have something!
But if you just want a switching (shunting) puzzle, this site should help.

The more info you give us, the more we can help!
(specific dimensions, era, industries, etc.)

Hope this helps.


Well I´d like the ability for continuous running and switching but I only have space for a 9'x7', 18''  wide L shaped layout.


LenTurner's picture

You"ll be surprised...

I'm in agreement with Rick on Lance Mindheim's small switching layouts. You'll be surprised at what you can do with the space you have available. My layout has a couple of lift out sections that form a complete loop of track, but even with the two sections out, I can still do a lot  of switching on it.

first layout

Yes, I know it. Actually I have a test layout inspired on Lance´s ideas:


Continuous Running....

...is not necessarily all it's cracked up to be. I have an HO layout in a spare bedroom that has continuous run and I'm kind of wishing now I didn't do it that way.  The turnback curves eat up a huge amount of space and I have to have pop up access holes. I'm not one for lift outs or duck unders either. I'm really staring to wish I had gone with a shelf type layout on one or two walls because I need the room for other uses and the layout just totally dominates it right now.

I don't have Lance's books but I've been reading a lot of his stuff on the web and he is really starting to influence me and my thinking, so much so that I'm considering starting back at square one. The only problem I have with shelf layouts though is that I personally like mountain scenery.  Most shelf switchers  have an industrial or urban theme and I find it hard very to visualize a mountain theme on a shelf with a lot of car spots.


What freight are you hauling?

Any operation-focused railroad is really about what freight you are hauling. After that it doesn't matter whether you are hauling it through the mountains or the desert.

One of the points Lance is trying to make is that you don't need a lot of complex track to have satisfying operations. You just need the be hauling enough varied freight to make it interesting.

I think there is a rethink going on in model railroading as people are realizing that they don't need to fill a basement (or even an entire bedroom) to enjoy themselves. If you combine Lance's ideas of simplification with Tony Koester's ideas about building blocks, I think you start to get an idea that you start to develop a strategy of smaller elements that represent a bigger idea that are then linked together to form a railroad.

Lance points out that even a single spur can keep you busy for a while if you follow some basic railroad rules.

So, maybe, the mountains are the bits between the industries...



N scale, DCC-NCE, Switching, Operations

My space

That's roughly the space my current layout occupies, mine is 8X10  but it sticks out 4 feet into the room at two places (those turn back curves) and it has an extension at one end making it a sort of U shape. If I went to a shelf design, I'd be about in the same ballpark as you are. I might go as wide as 24" or even 30" for some three dimensional mountain scenery but I wouldn't put any track back there. Of course, if you're doing an industrial theme, you wouldn't need that much width.

What freight are you hauling?

Well, I have a big industry layout, a cement plant. It receives cement hoppers, fuel tank cars and some aggregates hoppers. It´s 9x6 feet, 24'' wide.



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