Thursday, 8 June 2017

Layouts - Smaller or Larger?

 The CV WRJ Vermont roundhouse, May 24 1953. George Corey passed along this photo through the group list for Marty to consider. These large engines are great for a mainline but for branchline service they will have to hang around on the display shelf.
There has been a bit of discussion lately through an e-mail group list I am on about branchline or mainline and large or small layout design. As the day went on a lot of opinions were voiced...all good.

If you follow Marty McGuirk's Central Vermont Ry. blog you already know that his layout is coming down prior to a move. He has many options for his next go large or model a CV branchline. I myself like the idea of staying small and finish the layout in short order. I have been able to highly detail my layout by staying small. Maintenance is minimal  and operations is simple with most of the time just me at the throttle. I do have the room for a larger empire...I am currently only using about one sixth of my basement. 

Trevor Marshall voiced some points that really hit home for me and something for Marty to chew they are.

I’ll argue in FAVOR of the Richford Branch. I model a one-train-per-day operation in my basement and I love it. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1 - 90% of the time, I run the layout by myself. Any more than one train would be too much.

2 - The smaller physical plant required for a branch like mine (and Marty’s) means more space can be devoted to each scene. The main yard of my layout - the terminal in Port Rowan - has a grand total of five turnouts, and I’ve been able to model it roughly 2/3 actual size. It looks great and is actually a lot of fun to operate.

3 - I’m 50 years old, so I’m possibly one of the younger people on this list. Yet, I find that between work and home commitments, other interests, and just getting older… I don’t want to grapple with a huge and complex layout. I was able to go from empty room to running trains with all track hand-laid and wired in about a year. Since then, I have had almost no maintenance issues with the layout. Plus, I enjoy zero derailments and no electrical “table-thumping” or “locomotive poking” issues. In short, the layout runs perfectly - with the exception of operator error - 99% of the time. When there is a problem, it’s easily spotted and fixed in next to no time.

4 - I enjoy scratch-building - everything from structures to the more than 200 trees I’ve added to the layout - and it all takes time. A simple layout, with no maintenance issues, means I have the time to do that.

5 - I have many projects in the hobby that I want to explore and my small, simple layout means I can do that. For example, I belong to a group that exhibits a free-mo style layout in S scale. I am also learning to brass-bash, with an Overland S scale 2-8-2 being converted into a CNR S-3-a. And I want to scratch build a Jordan spreader (type A) and a crane similar to the Tichy 120 ton model, both in S scale. These are all projects that will take up considerable hobby time - but thanks to having a mostly complete, easy to manage layout, I can indulge in them.

Trevor posts regularly on his blog which I find very informative, link below...thank Trevor...George Dutka

Port Rowan in 1:64



  1. You need to be careful with that Trevor Marshall. He writes well, and speaks from experience.

    Where would we be with such common sense all around us?

    1. Hi Simon:
      Common sense...what is that...George

    2. Your post on layout size comes at the right time for me as I grapple with the decision of large or small. At the present time about to turn 30 and have more then ample room for a empire in a dedicated building on our farm.
      Yet I have decided on a 10' 20' layout room with a 3 narrow deck design mostly single track branchline and an interchange with the northern pacific. Plenty of rolling scenery on the 10" wide decks and single track.
      I like the one train a day idea from time to time I pop in there to run trains

    3. Sounds good Adrian...George

    4. At age 62 I am starting to have problems getting down on the ground...not so much going down but coming up. I am glad I kept the wiring simple also as I can't deal with under the layout chores...George

  2. I'd be curious to know which email list you're referring to.

    1. HI Jeff: Jim Dufour (B&M modeler) sends out e-mails from time to time to a group of over 60 friends...many are New England fans. At times others on Jim's list will reply with another topic such as Marty did last week...George

  3. Hi George,
    I'm new to your blog. What a great article! I have wondered the same ideas. I myself have decided to go small, for many of the ideas listed above. I have a full time job and I'm on call a lot of the time. My short line RR carries granite products, cut blocks and crushed stone, and is called the Oxbow. My inspiration for the short line is the Barre and Chelsea.

    Best, Scott

    1. Hi Scott:
      Thanks for your input...your Oxbow layout sounds interesting and the Barre and Chelsea is a neat little line...can't go wrong with that one...George