Planning A Model Train Layout (Part Two)

As previously discussed in part one, it is essential that you develop a well thought out plan before beginning the actual construction of your model train layout.  Continuing the discussion of where to put your layout, you will also have to consider exactly how large the area is that you’ve selected, and if there are obstacles in this area that will require special attention.

With that said, your first step is to find your tape measure and take accurate measurements of the room. It’s also important to take note of the placement of windows, heat vents, plumbing…should it be exposed, and support columns which are often located in basements, doors and the direction they open.

One other thing which you should note is the available headroom in the space you’ve selected.  Make sure that if the head room is low that you mark this on your plan.  Easy accessibility is important.

Now that you have all of your measurements recorded on a piece of paper, you need to select a scale for your room and track plan.  What works best for me is ½ inch equals 1 inch.  Not only does this scale fit well on a photocopier, it also provides a pretty accurate rendition of track work and scenery.

Take the measurements you’ve recorded and draw them on a piece of graph paper.  Graph paper that has ¼ inch squares works best.  If you’re using ½ inch scale, each square will then represent 6 inches, and as you’ll discover, this makes figuring smaller measurements much easier to do.

After you finish you’re drawing, make some additional copies of your plan, which will allow you to make adjustments should they come to mind while you’re working on your layout.

You’re first attempt at creating a track plan may not be exactly what you want or it may be less than perfect.  You can avoid wasting a great deal of time by doing a little experimenting or doodling until you get what you want.

You may want to try this idea:   take your room plan and reduce its size by approximately 50 percent by using your photocopier.  Make four copies per page, and then try experimenting with a variety of ideas to fit the desired features in the space you’ve selected.

Now that you’ve figured out where you want to build your layout and developed a sound plan for its construction, you now need to select a railroad, its location and an era to represent your railroad.  Before I go further it is well worth mentioning that it is perfectly alright to create all of these using your imagination.

Choosing to build a railroad which is prototypical or fictional is a strictly a matter of personal choice, although there are some specific benefits which should be kept in mind when building a prototypical model train layout, and these will be discussed in this article as well.

If you do choose to create a fictional railroad you should keep in mind that you’ll have to create decals and also paint the trains you’re choosing to use.  Often, this is not a good starting point for someone who is new to the hobby.

The other alternative is to model your railroad after one which is a prototype from the past or from the present, and this is typically what most model railroaders try to do.  If this is your final decision, just keep in mind that you may not be able to accomplish this in an exact way, so it’s important to stay flexible as you work.

If you decide to model your railroad after an actual prototype, have settled on a location and era to model, this will also aid in determining what type of trains you run on your railroad.

For example, the location that you’ve selected may have had a fair amount of freight traffic as well as passenger trains during a particular time period.  There may also have been specific industries which were located along your railroads path.

Another important reason for selecting a prototype railroad to model relates to the fact that there are so many model railroading products available.  When you start your research you’ll see that there is a huge selection of N and HO scale trains and accessories to select from.

By selecting a specific railroad to model you’ll automatically narrow your choices, and in so doing, avoid spending money on things which may end up taking up space that you do not have.  Not only will you save space but you will also save money by not purchasing items that are really not needed for your railroad.

The time period is also something you’ll want to represent in an accurate way to add that sense of realism to your layout.  Also, don’t overlook the fact that the era you select should be captured by the buildings and industries that were actually present during that time period that you include on your layout.

Given that planning a model train layout has so many different aspects, one article that covers this topic would be insufficient.  Therefore, this article will be continued in part three.


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