Model Train Layout Designs (Part Two)

Creating and Designing Your Track Work Plans

Given that you would not start the construction of a new home without hiring an architect to create plans for your future home, the same approach should apply for building  your model railroad.  In fact, this is an absolute must to avoid unwanted or unforeseen problems which can certainly lead to unnecessary expenses and far to many frustrating moments.

Some model railroaders even make track planning a  hobby unto itself….they actually enjoy the planning process which involves figuring out how to capture each and every element of a real life prototype railroad, and they invest a great deal of time with this aspect of the hobby!

For most modelers, however, it is a means to an end which involves developing a blueprint for the model railroad they are going to build.  Although computer generated plans are made available to the model railroader today, many hobbyist prefer, as I do, to create their plans the old fashioned way by drawing their plan or plans out on a sheet of graph paper.

As mentioned in part one of this article, it is important to take accurate measurements of the room you’ve selected for your layout.  Include everything that exists in this room…..this should include windows, door ways and which way the doors swing, vents, if any are present, furnaces, and support columns.  You should start with a rough sketch as you take your initial measurements which can then be re-worked more permanently on a piece of graph paper that has ¼ inch squares.  This will also require that you select a scale to work with, and most railroaders typically use a ½ inch= 1 inch scale.

When drawing your track plans there are certain tools which make this process go more smoothly and quickly.  For example, a compass makes drawing curves much easier because you can set your compass to the correct radius line which will then allow you to transfer the markings to the plan.

Also, to facilitate doing things a litter faster, you may want to make some card board or styrene templates of the more common curve sizes that you plan on using on your layout.  Just make sure that you label the template with each individual curve size .

As for the tracks themselves, there are two types which are most common and they are point-to-point and continuous running.  Examples of continuous running track plans are simple oval, figure eight, twice around, folded dogbone, and dogbone.

Again, you can either create graphed diagrams for these type of track plans as well as more complex track plans by hand, or you can purchase software which will perform this task for you.  If you search online you can also find free software downloads for track planning.

A problem area which novice and even experienced model railroaders have, is in leaving enough room or sufficient space for turnouts when drawing track plans.  One simple solution to this problem is to purchase a few samples and use them to make a guide for measuring.

If you follow the previous suggestion for making templates for curves this same idea can be applied to creating accurate turnouts which will insure that your turnouts are of the correct length.

An easement, as the name implies, helps your trains ease in and out of curves.  With that said, you should use easements when laying curves.  Another reason for using easements is that they will make your layout look more realistic and your trains will operate more smoothly.

One more advantage in using easements is that they will allow you to use tighter radius curves, and in so doing they create the illusion of turns or curves which actually seem larger than they are.

To avoid having to manually lift your trains to be able to turn them around, turntables, wyes, and reversing tracks should be included in your track plans.  Other components which should be included in your track plans are passing sidings, spurs, and ladders which are used to aid in sorting cars and help form consists.

There two things to remember when creating track plans, and they are understanding that it is more than okay to start over if you’re not completely satisfied with your first efforts, and that constructing a model railroad which is a realistic representation of you railroad interest will and can be a very rewarding experience.

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