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One Room, Several Railroads

Rather than filling this spare room in my house with one medium sized layout, I built several smaller ones creating a "layout gallery". Doing so allowed me to explore several themes. On the left is an HO scale, modern era, Los Angeles Junction model. On the right is an N scale, 1940's Brooklyn waterfront project.

The traditional approach to planning a layout is to evaluate your available space and then find a way to creatively shoehorn your vision into it. One room, one room filling layout with trains traversing a canvas that represents a portion of a transportation system. There’s a big assumption here, however, and that is that ALL modelers get their primary enjoyment the same way, from watching trains in motion. We enter a slippery slope, though, whenever we apply the everybody thinks the same way/wants the same thing point of view. They don’t.

Sure, many modelers do put watching moving trains as their primary way of enjoying the hobby. It’s what separates us from the other modeling avenues such as aircraft, marine, automotive, etc. Many is not all though. When you take a step back and watch how people approach things you’ll notice a very large segment that derives most of their satisfaction from simply building things. Watching trains wind through their creation is fun but for them months go blissfully by when no trains ply the rails and time is simply spent building structures and forming scenery.

For those that fall in this group, and there are a lot, an opportunity presents itself. If modeling a miniature transportation system where trains go from A to B to C is secondary, then you don’t need extended main line runs. Taking that further you don’t need one layout.

Rather than filling your room with one large railroad, you now have the opportunity to fill it with a number of smaller ones. The layout room becomes a layout “gallery” of sorts, something similar to an art gallery.

For the “builders” in the crowd this offers a number of advantages:

1. You can model several themes. If you have a number of areas of the country or era’s that have always interested you, this is a way to have all of them.

2. You can focus on more detail within a given layout since it isn’t as large.

3. You’ll get the smaller layouts finished faster than one large one.

4. You can approach your vision in small achievable segments, one layout at a time.

5. You can explore multiple scales.

Let's look at how this might play out by looking at the graphic examples below.

Shown above is the typical approach of filling a basement with one single space filling layout.

Now, let's take the same space and see what it would look like if we filled it with a number of smaller models creating a "layout gallery".

There is a natural tendency to associate small layouts with situations where you have limited space, a condo dweller for example. There is an equally common tendency to associate large spaces with just one larger layout that fills that space. Such doesn’t need to be the case. Food for thought.

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