There are an endless number of layouts but there are a few basic types:
Oval - This is what you get when
you buy a train set. a simple oval of track so the train can go round and round.
most modellers dislike this kind of layout as in small layouts it does look like
the train is chasing its own tail. also unless you have a large layout your
train may seem like they are always on a bend and it does not look very
realistic. This layout is however the best place to start and will allow you to
run the trains without having to change direction.
Covered oval - This is the same as an oval track
but the modeller only allows you to see the trains on the front section of
track. Usually at both ends of the board, the railway enters a tunnel hiding all
the track (usually lost of sidings filled with trains behind scenery. This makes
the layout more realistic as the trains can enter the tunnel and stay in there
for a while before coming back out. It is usual on this layout to have your main
sidings hidden away in the tunnels with different trains in each. This means the
train that you bring out of the tunnel may not be the one you just sent in. It
is favoured by many modellers.
Straight layout - This layout is more for
displays or for people who want to set a scene. it consists of having a straight
section of track that ends at both ends of the board. Think of it as a dead end
station scene or alternatively a set of sidings illustrated below:
This layout allows the modeller to build up a realistic scene where trains
aren't going round and round. The layout above and below shows a set of
sidings with an EWS maintenance building. You can run the locomotives from
one siding to another, you can use the shunter to arrange a set of wagons in
the sidings ready to be taken away by one of the big goods locos. Best of
all, the railway is an interesting thing to look at, seeing something new
every time you look at it.
For a full in-depth
evaluation of Shelf Layouts click