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More Horse Before the Cart Talk


Conductors don't have wings. They can't fly. In this view, the conductor is taking a final look at his work before walking back to the locomotive. Motion isn't constant. Pauses like this are frequent. Incorporating even a touch of this reality effectively stretches a layout requiring fewer elements to keep you entertained.


Drawing a track plan is the last, and easiest, aspect of layout design.  Planning is the hardest because it involves doing some soul-searching and requires a level of self-awareness that we all “think” we have but often do not…myself included. Drawing, sketching, and daydreaming is easier and more fun than planning.  I get it.  However, if you don’t have a clear objective in mind as to what you want to accomplish you’re setting yourself up for trouble down the road.


Here are some questions you should be able to answer before you start designing.


1. Where is your enjoyment and satisfaction going to come from?  Building the layout and models?  Looking at it? Operating it? A combination?  This is a tough one that even experienced modelers don’t have as much of a handle as they think they do.  For me, the Downtown Spur is for operating.  East Rail 2 and the LAJ are 3D art and photographic platforms. I enjoy them all but in different ways.


2. If some form of operations is important to you, what type? Casual train runner and rail fan?  Semi-prototypical?  If prototypical, what type of operations do you enjoy most? Yard, branch line, mainline/through, industrial?


3. Will you be running solo or with the occasional guest operators?  I’ll answer this for you.  The vast majority of the time it will just be you.  A cautionary warning not to overreach and build in more elements than you can absorb.


4. How long will your running sessions be?  Again, I’ll answer this for you.  Generally, people go thirty to sixty minutes when running by themselves.


5. How much operational variety do you need from session to session?  If you need a ton of variety and visual stimulation you’ll need a lot more elements and layout to feel entertained.  In the prototype world, they tend to do the same thing week in and week out.


Armed with the answers to these planning questions you are better positioned to come up with a plan that is focused on what you enjoy most.

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