Designing Your Model Railroad: Basic Design Ideas For The Small To Medium Sized Model Railroad

AN N SCALE MODEL RAILROAD IN VARYING PHASES OF DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Model Railway Techniques Home » FOR BEGINNERS » Designing Your Model Railroad: Basic Design Ideas For The Small To Medium Sized Model Railroad







AN EXAMPLE OF A MODEL RAILRAOD TRACK RADIUSAN EXAMPLE
AN EXAMPLE OF TRACK RADIUS
THE DONUT SHAPED LAYOUT CAN BE BUILT IN AND ENDLESS ARRAY OF SIZES IF SPACE PERMITS. IT WOULD BE A GOOD CHOICE FOR THE FIRST TIME O-SCALE MODEL RAILROADER
THE DONUT SHAPED LAYOUT CAN BE BUILT IN AND ENDLESS ARRAY OF SIZES IF SPACE PERMITS. IT WOULD BE A GOOD CHOICE FOR THE FIRST TIME O-SCALE MODEL RAILROADER IF THEY DON’T MIND DUCKING UNDER THE EDGES.

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Last Updated on 2 weeks ago by James from Model Railway Techniques

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12 comments

  1. Another great article about train models, Finding a location for your track and then deciding on how big to design it is a good idea.  I don’t have a lot of space so I would want a layout for a small track, I would probably got with a basic Rectangle.  A shelf style layout sounds like it would be a lot of fun if you have the extra room for it. 

    Cheers

    M.T. Wolf

    1. Thanks for stopping by our site Mike. The basic rectangle is a fine plan if thats all you have available to you. My own layout was originally a 3’x13′ rectangle before moving to another location. The shelf style layout, if built in just a small section of say 1’x8′ won’t eat up much space at all, and can be incorporated into a large Model Railroad at a future point in time. You should look into that possibility also.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  2. I’m kind of a novice, but very interested. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Free-Standing layout design for a model railroad? As you said in the article, this is the style that many people start with, so why do some people embrace this style forever and others move on to different layout designs?

    How does the Shelf Style layout differ from the Free-Standing layout in terms of design and functionality? And what kind of structural things should I look out for to ensure that my track is safe and secure for a Shelf Style layout?

    1. Thanks for your comment and questions Drew, I’ll do my best to address all your questions.

      One advantage of the free-standing layout is that you have access to all sides, making the construction process easier since you don’t have to lean in as far. Also, some people go with a free-standing layout on a larger surface of say 5’x10′ so they can get larger radius curves and more room for an up and over track plan often depicting mountain railroading.

      For some Model Railroaders the desire for a longer mainline that doesn’t curve or cross over itself as in the up and over design mentioned above, or the desire to depart from a basic oval leads them to look into and build along the wall style Model Railroads. These are essentially deeper versions of the shelf style railroad, which is usually narrow, hence the nomenclature ‘shelf’ as in a bookshelf. These types of layouts usually only have the trains traveling through each scene once, reinforcing the illusion of a real railroad.

      For a basic shelf style layout, you can use heavy duty shelf support brackets, or build your own supports from the wall at a 45-degree angle. The base for the actual layout would be constructed of 1×3 lumber as described in our article How to Build Affordable Model Railroad Benchwork-The Open Grid Method.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  3. Omg, this is so cute!! A miniature model railway.
    This article is very detailed about the model building layout, and I have benefited a lot!

    Although I don’t have such a professional railway model, I can give my nephew some advice when playing with train toys.

    There are so many changes and considerations in the construction of railways.

    thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Winter. It would be great if your nephew took up the hobby, there are many great aspects to it that few people even realize, such as artistic expression, model building skills, imagination and more.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  4. Thanks for your thorough read on designing your model railroad. 

    You have covered different locations and how these will impact upon your design, providing a great saving of time, money and attention to ensure your time is not wasted. 

    I like how you have planning first. This is essential. Then the general shape, detailed layouts from the basic to the more complex. Your diagrams and attention to detail is very helpful. 

    Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise. You can clearly see that you have a lifetime of knowledge to share and that you wish to help others explore such a wonderful creative hobby as building a model railroad. 

    1. Thank you, Dale. The goal here at Model Railway Techniques definitely is to share the knowledge of Model Railroading with everyone who is interested in this fascinating hobby. All too often other articles on the subject either lack in sufficient clear information or make the information far more complicated and intimidating then necessary, turning away potential interested individuals. We’re happy you found the information clear and informative.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  5. When it comes to designing a model railroad, I believe that it is important to consider the size of your layout. As someone who has built both small and medium sized layouts, I can say that there are unique challenges and benefits to each. With a smaller layout, you may have less room for detail but can often fit in more track and scenery. On the other hand, with a medium sized layout, you have more space to work with but may need to prioritise which areas to focus on for detailing. My question would be: What are some key design elements that should be considered when building a small or medium sized layout?

    1. Thanks for reading our article, Akumendoh, and also commenting. If you are designing a small Model Railroad, some key design elements would be: 1) A track plan to allow for a variety of operations. 2) A focused theme or era for your Model Railroad. 3) A minimum radius curve that is complimentary to your theme and equipment. 4) Scene composition. 5) The use of perspective and selective compression to make the layout appear larger. The use of very detailed areas throughout will add to the realism and is an important part of the scene composition above.

      When designing a medium sized layout some key elements would include: 1) A free flowing track plan that allows for scenery both to the front, and to the back of the trackwork where possible. 2) The inclusion of passing or storage sidings if building a single-track mainline, or make the mainline double-track. 3) An area for staging trains, either hidden or visible. 4) Industrial spurs if you like way freight switching. 5) Variations in elevation of your scenery, and if desired, your trackwork also. 6) And again, the choice of a minimum radius that is complimentary to the type of equipment you plan to run based on your theme and/or era of your Model Railroad.

      We have an article on Track Planning publishing in the next day or two, some of the above items will be described in a bit more detail, and each one will get its own full article in the future so keep checking back in.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

  6. Most informative post I’ve read so far!  It gave me some basic design ideas for the small to medium sized model railroad that I want to build. I learned how to decide where to place my track, how to create realistic scenery and how to operate my trains smoothly. The photos and diagrams were mostly helpful since I learn faster visually. Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Cezar, glad you found the article interesting and informative. We do have another article almost ready to publish giving some great ideas on actual track plans and how to even create your own track plan from scratch, so be sure to check back often.

      James, Model Railway Techniques.

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