Short and long term plans

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to decide how to proceed with getting a layout up and running as soon as possible. The thing is, the size of layout I want (at least 8 x 3 feet) just isn’t possible in my current apartment, and although I have plans to move to a larger property, I won’t be able to realise those plans for at least several months, and possibly a year or more, depending on how long it takes to get a buyer (the Malta property market is unpredictable and can be slow).

I’ve also been getting rather frustrated with setting up a layout on the kitchen worktop or dining table to do some testing and running, only to have to take it down again within a few hours because the space is needed for frivolous, unnecessary things such as cooking and eating.

I’ve decided to get a much smaller baseboard and build a small test layout on it, so that at least I can start building my tracklaying and wiring skills (and run some trains!) while I wait to move house and plan my main layout. In the longer term, once my main layout is under way, I’ll cannibalise the test layout for parts or sell it locally.

So I’ve ordered a 4 feet by 2 feet baseboard from Model Railway Solutions, and taking into account their current backlog I should receive it via TNT courier by the end of May. It’s a few more weeks but that’s OK. It will sit on the dining table when in use, and stand in a corner when not. It will also fit in my car. I decided to buy a baseboard rather than build one due to my woodworking skills being somewhat on the poor side of amateurish.

The plan I have in mind for my test layout is shown below. I’ve already got all the track for it in my track box, acquired from various Ebay purchases over the last few months.

It’s essentially a basic double loop and the curves are quite tight (Fleischmann radius 2), but I’m not going for realism at this stage – I just want somewhere to run trains, program locos, do some DCC wiring, and try out some wire-in-tube techniques for switching points and uncouplers. I probably won’t even add any scenery.

The small head shunt bottom left (or the siding bottom right) will probably be wired up as a DCC programming track with insulating joiners and a separate switchable feed.

So now I’m looking forward to having a semi-permanent place to run these wonderful beasts!

From left: Minitrix SBB RE 460, Fleischmann SBB Ae 6/6, Fleischmann SBB Re 4/4 II, Arnold BLS Re 4/4
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First layout thoughts

OK, so this is the big one. The start of the layout design process (which I suspect will take many posts). I’m going into this process with two main requirements: firstly, the layout must be small enough that it will fit in a medium car in no more than three sections, and secondly it must allow enough variety of train movements to hold my interest.

I’ve been sketching all kinds of layout ideas, experimenting with out-and-back layouts, dog-bone layouts, figure of eights, continuous loop with branch line, etc etc, but I’m not settled yet.

I’ve done a lot of browsing on the web as well, googling for “n gauge layouts”, “n gauge shelf layouts”, “n gauge small layouts”, you name it, and I’ve found a number of layout designs that have fired up my imagination.

I’m going to share two of them here – one is a city terminus (or is it?), and the other is a branch line shelf layout. Though they are very different from each other, both have potential for lots of interesting train movements, and both are reasonably compact. Both of them made me think “yes, I could adapt this a bit and have a lot of fun”.

The City Station Layout

Created by a german guy whose name I couldn’t find on his website called Dieter Buehler, this is a continuous running layout, it’s an “out and back” layout, it’s a dog-bone layout, it’s a city terminus layout, it’s a through-station layout, all in one. I think its only weakness is the lack of a fiddle yard but that could be remedied.

You can see photos and plans at On the plans, pay close attention to the hidden tracks exiting the back of the station. Yes, that’s right, one of them curves right round on itself from one platform to another, and also branches to come out of the neighbouring tunnel. I think this is a really clever design and it increases the variety of possible stock movements by a long way. It’s a very creative way to use a 2 x 1 metre area.

The Quiet Branch Layout

This layout was apparently created as a commission by a British guy called Steve Hornsey, and I think the buyer intended to run American outline on it.

But I can see its potential as an industrial town scene, with a small passenger station on the left and then low-profile industrial buildings along the two backscenes. It looks like it’s about 6 feet by 1 foot, and if it were expanded to 8 feet by 18 inches (2400 x 450 mm) there would be room for slightly longer trains, a better bridge and road and more shunting possibilities with maybe one or two extra sidings or another passing loop.

Either one of these layouts could be adapted to a Swiss setting. I know, a Swiss layout without any mountains – what is the world coming to? But I actually like the idea of modelling a city or town location rather than the usual load of mountains, cliffs and chalets that you always see on a Swiss layout.

So right now I’m still undecided. I could adapt the city terminus layout (I think I would mirror-image it as well as modifying some of the track runs), or I could model a small branch line terminus with some industries, or I could delve through a huge stack of papers on my desk that are filled with other layout sketches.

One part of me likes the idea of adapting an existing layout, because it’s been proven to work, whereas another part of me wants to have something totally unique, not consciously based on anyone else’s design.

This needs more thought.

If any of the photos in this post are yours, please let me know and I’ll add a credit or remove them if you prefer.

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