My wishes for a 'real' and 'prototypical' layout met with so many compromises in planning that eventually i ended up with a two level roundabout layout, which if laid out would represent a branch line terminus, through station, a small mpd, industry sidings and exchange sidings for a steel works. Trains can operate 'out and back' from the terminus due to a hidden reverse loop charged by a frog juicer.
Obviously i want a lot from approximately 6x3 feet of real estate. After a long break from railway modelling i have a few hobby itches that need scratching as well as skills that need honing. Meanwhile i can amass rolling stock and do the research for a serious layout in the future. So if it looks like a trainset with way too much crammed in then that's because it probably is! My favourite ever layout plans are those of Cyril Freezer as they were often approached with operating potential in mind.
Part of my planning brief is that the available space is multi use, since it's a garage and a workshop for my various hobby and non hobby related projects. Therefore the baseboard now constructed is mounted hinges to the garage wall, standing off approximately 12" from the wall to allow room for landscaping. When folded away the layout takes up approximately the space of a small wardrobe with train related bits and bobs stowing away in a cupboard underneath.
Train workings hint at the prototype rather that emulate it, so loco hauled passenger trains will only have 3-4 coaches for instance, as that's what i have room for. The terminus can accomodate this and so can my wallet. For the price of a prototypical consist i can get two 'sort of like' trains and double my operating potential.
The layout is intended to be busy and have potential for multiple operators, and with limited places for trains the layout may be operated as one large puzzle. Experiments with cards and drawing hands of cards have varied from fun to annoying. More work on that to follow, but as my other hobby us wargaming then there might be dice involved. Of course there is always the option of watching trains go round, at least two in my case due to there being a loop on both levels. I've got lots of operating potential in a small space, something i wanted from the beginning.
Plans exist for an off scene fiddle yard located elsewhere in the garage.
So far the lower level is complete as is the gradient up to the upper level. The gradient is 3% which is acceptable for the shorter trains i'll be running.
Track laying is currently stalled while i get the lower level electricals in, which necessitated i get the control panel designed and made. The large amount of points in a small space mean that this isn't a simple task, and because i've shied away from electrical complexity in the past it's something of a learning curve.