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Having a confidence crisis over layout design


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During this summer break from building my layout I'm finding myself thinking more and more as to whether I'm completely happy with my design. Two things that bother me about it are - too much track and too much like a trainset. To reduce the trainset look two corners will be covered (top right, bottom left) The original plan was to allow me to have trains rolling round whilst I had something to do. I wanted easy table building hence why theres no gradients. I've also felt that my main station doesn't have complicated pointwork like other stations I've seen. I don't intend to have the lines being bi-directional which is probably another reason why it looks like a set.


Can I get some opinions on the design? So far the mainlines and fiddle are built but I'm not beyond starting again.



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I can see what you mean but I can't quite put my finger on what's "wrong".


Some thoughts.


- You have two fairly big stations on there - are both necessary?


- You don't have a lot of room for scenery/towns


- Is that two depots, or one depot and one freight yard?


- Everything's "flat" (as you wanted) but perhaps use some of the Woodland Scenics 'risers' for a branch line to go up (as you have a long straight length) and have a branch terminus, quarry or something in one of your 'covered corners'?

Perhaps that gives you a couple of ideas?

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It has reasonable operating potential if what you want is a mainline set up with through and stopping trains on the circuits served by your storage yard, and several locations which can be the scene of shunting, and train formation and dispersal. The high proportion of track to land area is fine for a confined urban railway location. Disguising the end curves as much as possible will help reduce the trainset aspect.


So if that is what you want, then you are nearly set. The one obvious question to ask is why the storage yard is not arranged to serve all the circuits equally? I can see no fundamental obstacle to redistributing the storage capacity so that each circuit has an equal number of storage roads accessible, but perhaps there is some operational reason that makes this a sensible arrangement? (One I can think of is that the two outermost circuits represent surface LT lines or similar, running alongside regular railway: in which case apart from an engineering train the stock on these circuits would always be a single type of stock, and therefore little storage capacity is required.)


But if you are more interested in modelling a different location and operational style, then a revision might be in order. But to make useful comments we need to know what you actually want from the layout.

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Guest stuartp

Do you need to run four trains at once ? There's an awful lot of track there.


Because of the curves the platforms at your top station are only about 4' long which restricts you and spoils the 'big station' look (if that's what you're going for). If you lose the two through roads or the inner platforms you can widen the curves out a bit and bring them around the top end in a long sweeping curve rather than the 'straights joined by corners' you've got at the moment. If you want to keep a four track stretch there's no reason why you can't do both, keep four lines through the top station and partway down the right hand side then reduce it to 2 for the bottom bit, it would make it look a bit less cramped and would introduce a nice bottleneck to keep your signalman on his toes with the regulating.


It looks like it would be fun to operate as it is though, it depends what you want ! I'm jealous of your 20' x 10' space too !

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Thanks for the replies chaps. OK, for some explanation of how I arrived at this design:


20x10 feet. Modern era.


As the layout is to depict the modern era I wanted to go for an intermodal yard (I want a Heljan crane :) ) which is on the right. The small branches are for wagon repair (the 3 lines together would suit the Pikestuff 3 road shed nicely) and the other lines for storage. I like the idea of modelling TMDs which is what is in front of the station at the bottom of the design. I put another smaller station in because I wanted somewhere for the trains to go (if that makes sense)


The fiddle I've never been truly happy with mainly because not all the lines are the same length but I have trouble making the curves of the track fit into the top station - the inner most line is quite tight as it is. The reason the outside two lines aren't connected to the fiddle is more of a throwback from when my original design was actually on two layers with the fiddle being underneath the layout and an oil refinery where the fiddle is now. I left it in as a way of allowing two trains per line to just roll round the outside loops. For the top station, I put in the through lines because there is no other passing point on the layout for trains. I did try passing points on the right which is why it eventually became 4 lines. Funnily enough after I designed the layout I discovered that near my mothers house in Cardiff there is a section of 4 mainlines that are quite close to an intermodal yard not unlike the layout.


It kind of does what I want it to do but it just looks like a big set and not a model. I'm concerned that when I get to the scenery part of the build it just won't look right. The other idea would be to drop the freight yard and put the station down the right hand side and just have some exchange sidings where the top station is now.

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Edit: You have posted while I was writing this and answered some of my points already!


If you'd like to keep four tracks then perhaps have the outer ones as slow lines and (at one station or both) only have platforms on those lines. You can then have crossovers each end so that fast trains can divert onto the slow lines and back in order to stop at the station. This will save space and increase operational interest, and at one end can be part of a ladder of crossovers to connect all four tracks as you show. Alternatively keep the paired arrangement but assume one pair are mainly for goods and the others for passenger?


I agree the platforms look too short. They are much shorter than the fiddle yard storage tracks, though that could be explained by freight trains being longer than passenger trains or by the station only being served by short local trains with long expresses not stopping. Perhaps you would be better with a single station along the long side of the layout? There would still be room for some sort of freight facility alongside it.


Alternatively consider the "half station" idea, which fits with your hidden corners but is perhaps a bit over-used on models. In this the platforms run up to the end of the visible area, which is usually blocked by an elevated station building on a bridge but other ideas would be more original. You can then imagine that the platforms continue beyond the view block, and longer trains can stop there - just as long as the hidden part of the train is in fact fully hidden.


The various yards inside the main lines seem to be accessible only in one direction. You could imagine crossovers off-scene but the fiddle yard layout only seems to allow trains using this inner area in a clockwise direction to use two storage tracks. This part seems to have been invented to fill the space rather than having a definite operating purpose.


A good trick to make a layout less like a train set is to make some of the "straight" bits actually long very gentle curves, and also have the stations and other features not quite parallel with the edges of the board. Remaining tight curves should be disguised as you suggest, don't always think tunnel but consider other view blockers such as trees or large buildings, or some prominent feature to distract the eye from the curves nearby. In the modern era pointwork tends to go on straight track, even if it is some way from the end of station platforms etc, which is also helpful if you are using Peco or similar track.


I also agree the fiddle yard looks a little bit odd. Only ten trains can be stored, and most of them can only run to/from one track, so there won't be much variety of trains unless you swap them around by hand. Think about what types of train you wish to run, how long they will be and which tracks and directions they will use and design it to suit. They don't have to be the same length, just as long as the trains that use them. You could think about putting crossovers near the middle to split some of the longer tracks into short tracks for multiple units, with access in and out for them to run in both directions.


You could even think about covering over the fiddle yard as a scenic area or perhaps even a high-level branch line. But only do this if you don't regularly use it to re-form trains by hand, and you have some sort of detector so you can stop the trains in the correct place without being able to see them. Any arrangement must be removeable to give easy access to derailments and for track cleaning. Hence covering the fiddle yard may be a project for a later date when you have more skill and confidence. If you possibly want a branch line later you should think about how it joins the main line, and perhaps even build the junction and pretend the branch has recently closed!

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I hope you like track cleaning !


My first thoughts on trimming it down would be as follows - but as ever it is a matter of taste


- Lose one station

- Trim it down to double track

- Push your inside freight loop "outwards" to replace the inside two tracks and model it as a loop, with the other bits hung off them - two tracks for the intermodal plus a spur at one end for busted wagons etc and then the other sidings.. That will keep the "busy" look you have now but in less track, and with more scope for complex movements - freight being held to pass, and movements to/from the yard etc

- Possibly angle the main line as well as curve it a bit so it runs from outside top + station to middle bottom (or the other way up whichever works best) leaving room for a scenic background that is deep and gradually narrows up the board.


The fact only two tracks enter each end of the fiddle yard will materially help your sanity I suspect when redrawing they yard. If you only have two platforms it also means you can put most of the station in the fiddle yard if you want. But then equally unless you are particularly interested in stations you can model a suburban station with express traffic not stopping which takes a lot less space.


Intermodal yards tend to be large flat and boring at first glance but beyond the piles of containers you can actually get a lot of interest in - vehicles, portakabins, and all the usual clutter. I'm not clear which bit is your internmodal yard - I'd have expected a long loop off the mainline (like at Cardiff as you say).


For the other bits of freight yard one approach is to trim it down to the minimal sidings and then weave them through industrial buildings and landscape. That way you only need a small amount of space each side of the trackwork before it goes scenic.


In terms of a branch or covering the fiddle yard I am always dubious about covering the fiddle yard and I've regretted it when I tried it. You can however run a narrow branch around the inside of the board in front of the fiddle yard so that you just have something like


board edge, fence, track, fence, small gap, low relief warehouse, backboard, fiddleyard. If you angle it right you can also do sneaky things like splitting the branch into two half way along so that the one side goes through the backboard and joins the fiddle yard midway so it provides a source of interesting traffic, while the other perhaps ends in a couple of sidings or even some concrete bus shelter modern image station. In some industrial areas if you are using older low relief buildings you can pretty much run them up to the track edge.as you see in bits of London and the like.


Another rather big re-arrange might be to split the freight and passenger lines except maybe for in the fiddle yard onto two heights so you get a height interest - perhaps with low level freight lines picking their way through old industry and the main line crossing on a long viaduct/walled section. That uses less space (viaducts being narrow scenery) and gives you lots of space under the viaduct for industrial users.


One thing I'd suggest most of all however is think about the scenery you want and draw it out as a plan as you would the trackwork. Except for the mainline I'd also rough out the industry/scenics/buildings and then adjust them and thread the sidings into them as seems to make sense remembering less is frequently more at least in terms of operational interest - because beyond a certain point extra trackwork just makes life simpler.

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Re the top station there are two lines creating the square in the top right hand corner - they are to indicate that there will be a board on top of this for the station/town - bit like camelot junction if you've seen it. The bottom left corner has the odd lines which is supposed to indicate a hillside (again to hide the sharp curves) The fiddle is where it is as the chimney is there. I did have one design where the two outside lines actually inclined and I had a double deck fiddle - this was junked mainly due to space and not wanting to have too steep a gradient.


I'm going to try some double lines layouts and see how it looks. I'm really grateful for the advice chaps! Its taken several months to build the fiddle and mains so I really need to be 100% sure before I start taking it up.


Etched Pixels - Not too far away from you in Pembrokeshire. :)

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Two points - consider the layout as a whole. At the moment it feels like you've come up with the trackplan and not considered the scenery and how the overall layout will look.


Secondly, I don't know what your personal circumstances are but my first thought on seeing that plan was 'Well that's a multi-year project'. Assuming normal levels of available time (eg, daily job, kids, other hobbies, etc, etc), I couldn't see you finishing that within... 5 years maybe? That's not a problem if you're prepared for that except... you do need to be prepared for that! If you're comfortable with the layout taking years to reach a stage of completion then that's fine, I'm just flagging it up to say 'That's not a 12 month project'.


I haven't read all the answers but if you want a quick way to move away from the trainset then eased curves are the answer - there's nothing that says 'trainset' more than a straight leading into a sudden constant radius corner.


You've got a lot of space to play with there, reducing the track and upping the scenics might be one way to go - a double track mainline running through extensive countryside could look stunning...



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Well I've been playing around with the space available and apart from a few small tweaks here and there - on the original layout I could reduce the size of the TMD and reduce the sidings in the freight area - lose the bottom station and have the two outer lines on a much tighter curve in the bottom right hand corner going into a tunnel before they hit the curves. The two inner curves would then be made much wider. leading into a tunnel arond the same place as the turnout for the TMD.


I am quite the way through building this layout so taking it up and starting again from scratch is going to be tough. However, I am considering re-wiring the layout for more automation/PC control so all the wiring is going to have to be re-done anyway.




I'm quite liking this re-design at the moment. As a branch line up to a 2nd level which means the branch station approach will be all scened and a nice looking junction.


My questions would be:-


In front of the junction would you put anything there (i.e. small loco yard/TMD) or leave for scenery?


In front of the branch station I'm thinking this would been to be scened too and no track on lower level showing - maybe a siding for dead locos?


The right hand table I'm thinking would need have a station towards the background and some freight sidings near the front of the table - this I guess would keep up the operational interest.




I've also had a go at a less radical re-design




Its keeping some of the original elements and adding some more gentle curves. The tight ones at the top I can live with.

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Hi Edd


If I can put my twopenneth worth in too as a friend of mine had exactly the same issues, I would agree with losing 2 of the 4 lines at the top of the plan as it does seem like an awful lot of track in that space, I actually liked the bottom and left hand side of the original but there just seems to be too much going on at the top. This would also give you the opportunity to redesign your fiddle yard as it appears this only feeds the inner loops restricting the changing of rolling stock on to different lines without resorting to the hand of god, it just doesn't seem to flow correctly. The introduction of an elevated branch line somewhere will also help to detract from the train set feel and will add interest not only in operation but in scenic modelling.

Apart from some well placed scenic breaks I don't think you are too far away, I know I tried to cram too much into my first layout, regretted it and ripped loads up, I will probably make a similar error again!


Good luck and keep us posted

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can't thank everyone enough for their views on my layout.


I'm still thinking about which way to go with my main concern being that pulling it all up is going to be a royal pain because the cork is glued down and will be hard to get up. Plus pulling all the track up and starting again is going to set me back months. I think I'm going to have to settle on the fact that I'll end up with a "scene'd" trainset rather than a model railway.


I've modified the plan a little but have kept the 4 mainlines





The crossed parts are where scenery is over the rails (dual carriageway for the fiddle scenic break, town over rails in the top right and hillside along the bottom). If the above design is kept the only visible tight corners are in the top left hand corner




They are tight but they don't look too bad.


Although the 2 outside lines don't use the fiddle I've experimented with having a train leave the fiddle on the inner loops, change onto one of the outside loops via the junction. Have the train roll around the outside loop a couple of times then come back into the inner lines for another trip round or back into the fiddle.


Its not ideal but I have ideas as to its final look and has lots of operational interest which should keep me occupied. :)

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One thought is that the station does look like it can only handle local trains - but could that be an answer?


In other words , this becomes a layout which doesn't have a station as its centre piece. You have freight trains , some quite long . You have mainline passenger trains sweeping through. You also have locals - oh and some of these stop at a wayside station on part of the layout.


The top station is very much laid out like the wayside stations on some of the GW "cut-off" routes (eg Paddington/Bicester/Banbury) with platforms on loops off fast lines . The expresses just charge though without even going through a platform road....


That would certainly be different , and authentic and could gell quite well scenically. You could be in any major conurbation (think places like Meadowhall in Sheffield - lots of trains but no Voyager deigns to stop). That wuld certainly fit with the need for retaining walls at the bottom (common enough in areas like Sheffield or Leeds)

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Like the other postings I'd have lost two of the four main lines, or at least squashed them down to two at the left hand side of the top station - so that the station is a junction station with two track main and single track branch come in from the left hand side and become two, two track mainlines on the right hand side with the single track freight line contecting the two sides of the station and the freight terminal.


With your track plan as it is, I'd be tempted to extend the platforms around one of the curves. Even if you're only going to stop two, three or four car DMUs at them it'll look better if you can add the extra few inches.


I'd also be tempted to either raise the right-hand main-line run or lower the freight terminal by a cm or so to give some extra interest on what's otherwise a flat world layout. Even just laying the freight terminal track onto the baseboard without the cork underlay could make a noticable difference.


Happy modelling,


Steven B.

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For the 'open' top left corner you could move the townscene across from the top right and then have the platforms going under the town, thus suggesting the station is much bigger than it is. Trains going clockwise stop with the engine at the end of the platform and the coaches sitting half under the town, and trains going anticlockwise stop with the final coach again at the end of the platform and most of the train under the townscene. I'd then angle the tracks so that the one remaining set of 'open' curves are gentler and really swoop around into the straight section.


I will now set a new low in posted diagrams with this shockingly bad Paint effort that attempts to demonstrate what I mean.




That should mean only one set of curves need to be relaid.


You might need to observe where trains stop however to ensure they don't foul the fiddleyard exit.

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For the 'open' top left corner you could move the townscene across from the top right and then have the platforms going under the town, thus suggesting the station is much bigger than it is.


I completely agree. Your platforms are too short for a modern 4-track station. You could get away with it if the platforms only faced dedicated slow lines.

Having most of the station off-scene is a nice way out & allows you room to model other things.


Be careful you don't try to squeeze too many things on. The best example you can copy is the prototype itself. Observe the way it fits into its surroundings, or more accurately, the way the surroundings have been built around it & in many cases built on top of disused sections.

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I must admit, I like the centre roads through the main station. (Though sadly such things are rare in modern practice; even at main stations like Carlisle they are often reduced to glorified sidings with no through running at speed). If you scenic over one end and get your viewing angles right it should hide the shortness of the platforms and also you can put the main station buildings at the higher (road) level, a not untypical arrangement.


Arguably the third, inner platform is surplus to requirements. Even quite important stations nowadays manage with two or three platforms. (Stoke always did.) Shedding that third platform would leave room to widen out the other two, and the tracks to it could be re-designed as goods loops or sidings.


I think your revised plan looks quite good actually, though ultimately it depends on what you want. There is a current view that layouts should not be 'all railway' but that is just received wisdom, there's no reason why you can't 'stop at the lineside fence' if that's what you want to do. I think the important thing is to avoid the overcrowded look and although this is a hard thing to put into words the key elements in achieving this are probably to use gentle curves and allow more than the absolute minimum space between sidings.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The 4 mainlines running through the station were thought of after being at Cardiff Central.




My thinking was that passenger trains would stop on the platforms within the 4 mainlines. DMUs would stop on the platforms with only two lines.


The central lines would only be used as sidings. The lines in the station are the only loops available so my idea was that only freight would go down the two centre lines and would stop to allow the passenger trains to move on.


I'll be experimenting with train length this week to see whether an 8 car HST will fit in the space available. I've aimed to have a minimum of 250cm avialable for train length. Makes intermodal trains a bit short but at least it save on cost :D

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I must admit, I like the centre roads through the main station. (Though sadly such things are rare in modern practice; even at main stations like Carlisle they are often reduced to glorified sidings with no through running at speed).


I suspect that at Carlisle the centre roads only ever were used as sidings, but I could be wrong on that; goods trains could avoid the station entirely, and hardly any passenger trains didn't stop. There's a prototype for everything, though. For through running at speed, there's stations like Doncaster, Peterborough or Crewe - or Swindon before platform 4 was built. If you want your through roads to be used to hold freight trains, though, you can operate it like Bristol Temple Meads since the 1960s resignalling: there are four roads through the main train shed, two platforms and two centre roads, one of which is a through siding, the other the Up Through road, usually now used to hold loaded coal trains waiting for their path. Cardiff and Newport are somewhat similar, although Newport is a little more unusual than Cardiff. If you want to use your centre roads as carriage sidings, the prototype for that is Sheffield: it has two pairs of centre roads, but only one of the four lines is signalled for through running; the other three are used to store spare DMU sets.

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EDD-a purely geographical note:-I am in Pembrokeshire,Etchedpixels is in West Glamorgan-although his picture does look disturbingly like me-especially when in `going out to play with the band ` mode...But back to business-My first thoughts on seeing this plan were-Cardiff Central/Newport....Cardiff would make an interesting base model as it works as a terminus in both directions as well as a through stn...F.G.W H.S.T`s through to Swansea,ARRIVA D.M.U`s to West Wales,VIRGIN `Thunderbirds` Cl56`s top,n,tailing,Valley lines pacers ,GM 66`s on monster steel trains (sounds like the end of the world in the coffee shop downstairs )........And what better backscene than the millenium stadium on one side ( play your favourite music on the stereo whilst running the layout-live at the stadium tonight........) and the Brains brewery on the other...Will give this some serious thought..is much potential here-we also have ex-west wales tanker trains out of Milford,steel from Llanelli,Cross Country in that attractive livery,-there is also Freightliner in that neck of the woods-also the Freightliner `heavy haul` service.......There is also the loco depot down the road at Ninian Park ...I picked up on this just from a couple of hours hanging around whilst waiting for a ride home from a day out at the Dean Forest with `City of Truro`-added bonus-Playcraft 009 passenger set scored for £15 from the gift shop......Oh happy day....


Right-enough rambling-


If you fancy Cardiff,let us know & I will send what pix I have and go and get more if necessary ( oh-another day out on a train-what a trial....)

O.K-Heres the thing:-I think you will get more pleasure from a simpler plan based on something solid-have built many layouts in the last 40 years with tracks that never get used,great for appearences ,but a waste of valuable time--think like the real thing,just build what you need ,not what you want....O.K:-leave space to expand if needs be,BUT-do you need that loop,is that siding required ( a nice little feature-the torn up siding with the stranded van on a stub of track....


O.K-It`s beer & bed for me (ok-more beer)


ATB Nick

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The central lines would only be used as sidings. The lines in the station are the only loops available so my idea was that only freight would go down the two centre lines and would stop to allow the passenger trains to move on.



Think B'ham Snow Hill, Sadly not the current station.

It had two long island platforms with a pair of tracks in the middle for through (freight) trains.

Also used to allow shorter trains to enter/leave the platforms at half distance.

Sometimes a freight would wait whilst a passenger service took priority as the tunnel at the south end was only 2 tracks.



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Less is more ( as I keep telling SWMBO) and whilst everyone wants to get as much out of the available space, just make sure you really will get the best out of your plan, no operational snags, you mentioned train lengths earlier, but you will have to consider your freight lengths too if you are going to use those centre sidings for holding.


Ultimately it is your railway and as long as you can run it without tearing your hair out then it's a good plan :D

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