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Hi Everyone.


I want to test the water with an idea for a thread before I put loads of stuff up here.


As some will have seen from others of my ramblings I have an ambition to represent the Didcot Newbury and Southampton line in my newly liberated cellar.

I am near enough now that I can smell it :locomotive:  so it's time to start detailed planning.


I wondered of there would be interest in a thread using the Iain Rice book "Layout Design" published by Haynes as a basis for planning the layout.


I would provide a case study of how I use the book, chapter by chapter, to plan my layout.


What you get then, is a layout planning thread and a book report rolled into one.




Shall I go on????

Edited by colin penfold
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  • RMweb Gold

Will it also include research, rational, real-life train movements, etc?


Also, will it be in this thread or a new one?


I will do it in this thread and yes I plan to share with you all the work I do as I go through the book. I have in fact already done the chapter by chapter read of the book and made written notes so I will start tomorrow with the first chapter. Once I have taken you through the book, and the planning/thinking it generates, I will hopefully re-visit different sections as I do more research. With luck and a fair wind, it might even become a layout building thread in due course!!!! If I say any more now i'm in danger of stealing my own thunder.

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  • RMweb Gold

OK so here we go.


I am going to describe my layout planning journey using the Iain Rice book, "Realistic Railway Modelling - Layout Design"


I am going to work through chapter by chapter so here is the contents page to whet your appetite




I hope you will read the book, I think it's brilliant. Each chapter took me a lunchtime at work to read through and make notes on the decisions I was being led through. There is some repetition and duplication, and I would think that some bits will be more or less important depending on your approach. The way Iain writes, and takes you through the thinking is very effective. Following me on here is no substitute for reading the book, and I have no intention of breaking copyright by repeating Iain's words or thoughts here. 


Chapter 1 is entitled Philosopy, Standards, Scales and Terminology


So Iain is asking us to look at some basic decisions here


For me, the layout is going to be 00 gauge, 4mm scale and I am intending to use a mixture of code 100 and code 75 track in different areas of the layout. This is partly because I have a quantity of code 100 already and partly because I want to push myself to improve by trying code 75 and even possibly some kit built points. I will be careful to keep the types separate in different areas.


Wheel standards will be to the equivalent of modern RTR, as will detail standards. Any older stock will be upgraded where necessary, and if I build kits, I will aim to meet the same standard of finish.


The next consideration we are asked to look at is site.


The chosen site for my layout is my cellar which I am currently bringing back into habitable condition after 13 years sealed up. If you want to read about that, I have a separate thread (link at the bottom of the page.) The size is 14'6" x 7'6" although there is a small dividing wall which cuts the space into two lengthways, 42" one side, 10" clear the other. More of this anon.


Now, the Subject


I have mentioned elsewhere on RM Web that my chosen subject is the Didcot Newbury and Southampton Railway. I lived in Hungerford for several years, and fell upon Woodhay (pron. Woody) station when I was out for a bimble one day in the car in 1980. I visited all the remains I could find and started to research the line. Life has stood between me and having a layout, but all my collecting of models has been done with a DNSR layout in mind. I've been pretty good and self controlled in terms of sticking to the brief. I like the DNS because it allows through freights and short passenger trains, a mix of SR and GWR stock and truly was a sleeping giant - a line with far more potential than was ever realised. Anybody who has done battle with the constant stream of heavy lorries on the A34 would recognise the value to todays UK of a railway route between Southampton and the Midlands  which pretty much follows the route of the A34.


I plan three scenes:


1  Burghclere station, built as close to scale as my site will allow

2  A Shawford Viaduct scene using visual compression and view blockers to model only part of the viaduct

3  A DNSR "what might have been" terminus in Southampton


And the Scope, as Ian describes it, which is basically about how much of your subject you think you can fit in. For me that's


1 Burghclere from the road overbridge to the end of the loop by the box.

2 A smaller than scale number of arches, but each arch built to scale. I take the view (having been to the site) that a viaduct that big can't be taken in by the human eye. You naturally focus on a part of the viaduct, with your view limited by mature and by the limits of your own field of vision.

3 I plan to use compression to model the impression of a decent sized urban terminus, with some features "suggested" as being off-scene.


Next comes the Format


For me this is a  twin level layout, in order to fit the three scenes and a fiddleyard. I am going to need a spiral/helix. The higher level will contain a continuous run but the lower level will be u-shaped end to end due to the cellar steps. I intend the three main scenes and the fiddleyard to be built as stand alone modules which can be moved to future homes, but the track which joins them will be built on pragmatic supporting structures and be lost in the event of a move.




We then move on to deciding our prototype. In the case of freelance layouts it's a question of which company's practice to follow, but for me this question is reasonable simple.

1 Burghclere will be in wartime condition, after the introduction of the layout changes and the building of wartime boxes.

2 Shawford Viaduct at the same time, although it's changed little over time

3 Southampton will be built in a way which suggests one of those places that changed hands between regions, with elements of SR and GWR Practice. I am going to use a seriously cut down version of Southampton Terminus track layout, and try to incorporate bits of the Southampton City walls, representing the "site adjacent to Bargate Street" where the independent DNSR  hoped to build their terminus, but never did. More about this concept later....


Time to sign off now, I have covered all the thinking that Iain's first chapter takes you through.


I hope this is of interest  to you guys and girls. Happy to hear feedback as to whether I should continue with the remaining chapters.


If anyone is interested, google revealed these three chances to buy the book below RRP













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  • RMweb Gold

Thank you for the positive responses folks. You have encouraged me sufficiently to address chapter 2 of Mr Rice's tome.


Site, Height and Light


The site I have chosen is my cellar. I did consider a purpose built shed but It's nicer not to have to leave the house, and hopefully the cellar will cost me less than the shed. I will not elaborate on the cellar work as there is a separate thread on this, see the shortcut in my signature. Suffice to say I am in the process of putting heating and ventilation down there and gradually reversing the effects of it being sealed for 13 years. I will get a professional sparky in to wire me up in due course.


The size and suitability of your chosen site need to be considered. The cellar is a nice rectangular shape with a headroom of almost exactly 6' - as am I :scratchhead: This is suitable for my plans as it gives two levels, one at seated eye level (about 4' off the floor and one at standing eye level, about 5') The only slight problem with the cellar is an intermediate wall which is supporting and cuts the space into two. I am confident I can work around it - more of this when I get to the actual track planning. (You are going to have to be patient - as Mr Rice says, there's a lot more to planning a layout than track diagrams!!!)


The question of permanence versus portability are to be considered. For me, it's permanent, but with one eye on any future house move, as I can't abide the thought of having to rip it up and start again. As I said earlier, I shall build the main modules to be moved (but not frequently - I don't intend exhibiting) and the tracks that join them together will be expendable when/if I move.


Next consideration is the format and footprint - as described by Iain. My format is to be an oval, with viewing and operating done from inside a central well. Mounting heights will be designed to provide the viewing heights described above. The modules will be 12" tall to allow for backscene and lighting pelmet. I will experiment a little with this to ensure I can reach the back of the modules without banging my head on the lighting pelmet.  I will have a line of old kitchen cabinets for storage, then two 1' deep modules on top of each other. That will fit comfortably in the 6' ceiling height.




I intend to put lighting for each module in a pelmet , and the room will have fluorescent light for normal use. Iain talks a lot about the benefits and disbenefits of various types of lighting. I have taken on board his comments about the heat output, and will consider LEDs or low emission tubes. I think I will go for low voltage so that I don't have mains power too near to the layout.


Some of this stuff is probably second nature to people who have successfully built numerous layouts, but to me as a novice, the discipline of working through a methodical set of questions from a respected modeller such as Iain Rice has been really useful. Just to reiterate, you are seeing my conclusions and decisions based on reading the advice in the book. If you want to see all the discussion, read the book. Next update, if spared, will cover chapters 3&4 of the book, regarding baseboards and some other key decisions.

Edited by colin penfold
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Hi Colin, all good foundation work which I'm sure will yield a very satisfying layout. I'll be going for a spiral around the walls so viewing height(s) will be interesting.

Thinking ahead to baseboards...

Did you sort out the humidity? Are we to see tradition (if so would recommend ply tops vs. MDF) or new-fangled foam baseboards?

Cheers, Steve.

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ooh Steve, I have you hooked don't I????? You are going to have to wait for the section on baseboards like everyone else LOL :nono:


This is just like a soap opera, people desperate to know what's in the next episode   :rolleyes_mini:


I can say, yes I think I shall remove the odd brick to enable tracks to pass through the dividing wall. As regards the humidity it's nicely down whilst the dehumidifier is running, in fact it's a bit over dry, but I'm still getting out 7 litres every 24 hours so I think there is some more work to do. Humidity rises quite steadily if I leave the DH off for a few hours. Radiator getting fitted next week will help. I am running a parallel thread on the cellar if you are interested.....


Thanks for following

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Colin, you'll have to be wary of removing the moisture from the surrounding footings through the cellar brickwork, and therefore bring about some movement in the walls. What is your surrounding earthwork like? Is the cellar the same area as the house above?


steve I have responded via the cellar thread, see the link in my signature below

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I agree that this thread seems a brilliant idea. As you say at the start, it not only provides a layout planning thread but a book review as well.


The way I tend to work is to cherry pick bits I like and mould them together, and I think your thread gives other modellers who are wondering where to start planning a layout the opportunity to do the same if they find the whole thread doesn't necessarily cater for them completely.


Well done and I look forward to reading more.



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  • RMweb Gold

I cannot think of a better way to proceed or a better guide. I'll be following with interest how you get on.

Good luck!

(The irrepressible) Ian Everett (See p 11 - not Everret!!)

Wow, coming from a star of the book in question that's praise indeed regardless of the quantities of Ts and Rs. Thanks!


I have no way of asking him but I hope Iain would approve?


I think this will be a very useful thread for many on RMWeb.


And an interesting layout project too although it seems like quite a lot to get into that space.

a terminus to fiddle yard u shaped layout in 14 x 8 isn't unusual, nor is a roundy with a small through station and fiddleyard. The challenge will be to find a way to link all four! I won't say more, you will have to be patient :O)

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If you are going to have a mix of code 100 and code 75 track, I'd be inclined to use the code 100 for the running lines and code 75 for the sidings.




thanks . I am more inclined to use 100 for the fiddle yard and southampton modules and 75 for burghclere and the viaduct scene

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Thanks for starting this thread. I am in the early stages of planning & building a layout and the thought processes mentioned so far has been very useful to reaffirm my plans.


You have another follower!


Much appreciated.

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Heres the next instalment of my working my way through the Iain Rice book, Layout Design.


I didn't make lots of notes in chapters 3 and 4 as they are quite straightforward for me, so I will combine them into one post. Iain gives lots of thoughts for those of you who might have more involved considerations to work through.


Chapter 3 Baseboards and other boring bits

Chapter 4 Things you can't ignore


I have some baseboards made of all-ply construction from an aborted project. Those will be re-used. The new ones I make will be ply tops with integrated backscenes and proscenium arches. I will probably use softwood framing rather than ply, as the extra work isn't worth it to me as the little bit of weight saving is of no benefit. I will consider making the viaduct board open topped or with a foam surface, as it will not be load bearing. The viaduct supports will be fixed to the frame. I already have heavy duty drawer runners in stock for the fiddleyard, which will be a revolvable (centrally pivoted) sliding traverser. I will decide on baseboard sizes when the track plan is finalised as the position of joints is more important than consistent sizes or portability. I will try to keep to a maximum of 5' x 2' as more than that gets awkward through doorways etc even for occasional movement.


I plan to run the majority of wiring in conduits under the front of each board, and the boards will overhang the kitchen units they are going to be supported on, so I can access the wiring. I will provide a limited number of "proper" 2"x2" timber legs to supplement the support provided by the recycled kitchen units.


Things I can't ignore (so the man tells me)


Curves will be minimum of 20" setrack curves  or 24" flexi but all of these will be hidden in non-scenic areas. There will be very few curves on the visible scenic sections but they will be a minimum of 3' except where I might use one or two 2' radius peco points on sidings.


Clearances. I will follow the peco geometry for track spacing as I will not have double track as such. In other words the distance between parallel tracks will be determined by the pointwork, and be checked using their 6' way gauge. I know some people go to great trouble to reduce it to nearer to a scale 6' way, but I can only see the point of that for double track sections. I am going to absolutely minimise the height clearances on the helix by using strong but thin material to support the curves whilst minimising the necessary gradient. I hope to achieve something like a minimum 75mm (3 inch) headroom requirement - I don't own any taller stock than that although I have seen larger gaps quoted. I will be aiming for 1 in 40 or better gradients but will do some experimentation with the locos and stock before I commit to building the layout. I am aware that gradients are more of a challenge on curves so will build a mock up of my helix to test.


Track geometry is something I feel I can (almost) ignore - sorry Iain - as I will be using mostly peco. I think this would be a massive consideration for people building their own trackwork. Even if I decide to use C&L on burghclere I will buy the track ready made or use the plastic based kits. I know my soldering isn't up to anything more. I admire the handmade track brigade, but I know I couldn't achieve good running.


The next instalment will hopefully be more interesting - prototype inspiration and sources


Keep tuned to this channel......

Edited by colin penfold
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