How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Post your design ideas for any layout that you are planning to build in the future. Keep members up-to-date with your designs and future plans for your layout.

How do you plan your layout?

In your head
On 'paper' (ie your computer)
No plan whatsoever, I just dump down whatever track I have and hope for the best :-D
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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby blackmoon » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:30 pm

So... a poll... How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'? Or just as it happens to come together hoping for the best :P

So far? All my planning is done on paper. I may get an idea in my head, but the planning is done on paper. Once I've settled on something, I move to the PC to see how everything fits.

Sometimes, whilst trying to "figure the layout out", so to speak, I'll go have a look at trackplans online. This has been invaluable in trying to find that way to make the whole thing come together nicely, and often I'll get an "OH!" moment. However, once I've moved to the PC, the plan stays on the PC. If I want to move something, I move it to make sure it fits.

I also wanted to ask to what percent you folks build layouts for authenticity and looks as opposed to playability, but it seemed a tad daft to create a new thread just for that so hopefully that question can merge in with this thread, it's pretty much on topic I think

A little of column A, a little of column B. My current plan has a realistic small station - the only thing that is unrealistic about it is the length of the goods yard and the distance from station platform to turntable, but sacrifices must be made to fit a station into a certain area. Once my trains leave my station, however, they go around an oval over and over and over again, until I decide that it's time to return to the station. It's incredibly unrealistic, but I like to watch my trains run around for a while until they return to the station. In my opinion, if I can't run a train around a continuous loop for a while, then it's not the right layout for me.

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby PD. » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:38 pm

Some interesting responses in this thread... :)
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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby buz » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:06 pm

For my latest very small layout I used Hornby's track planning aid pieces.
It does have its limitations but it worked well enough for me on this layout.
I normally would have used paper and pencil.
regards John
A model railway can be completed but it's never finished

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby 50046 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:42 pm

I use Xtrakcad all the way. I've used for a few layouts and so far hasnt let me down. TBH its personal error thats let me down :lol:

It wasnt me. It was like that when i got here.

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby whynot » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:47 pm

Paper (tho' I've ticked the "i.e. computer" box on the assumption should read "e.g. computer"!).
dave j
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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby PD. » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:07 pm

Pedant Image
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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby Gladstone 90 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:17 pm

Pick up any piece of paper at home or on my desk and your 90% likely to find in the corner a doodle of some passenger terminus or goods yard.

In fact the bottom of my bag contains little rectangles of card marked 'truck' or 'carriage' that I made to test operation on layout concepts.

I used to pour through my railway magazines and copy down all the track plans I could find; trying to find patterns. Maybe I should just buy a book about why they built the real life layouts they did... anyone recommend anything?
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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby fratton » Sun Aug 21, 2011 9:28 pm

I use xtrackcad for my design, I've changed my design so much I've version numbered my layout like it's software!!!

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby Zunnan » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:43 am

I've just done a track plan using a 1963 GPO plant map (basically a large scale OS map, but considerably more detailed), a ruler and calculator. Really looking forward to starting this one, although theres no way it'll ever fit in the house! :lol:

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby Bigglesof266 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:40 am

I didn't vote because my answer really falls into the (e) none of the above category.

Phase I - No real plan as such
Initial entry to the hobby 'layout' in early 2009 using SBG Hornby track supplied with several train sets was to lay the track down in pretty much Trakmat fashion on improvised demountable x2 sheets of modified MDF as a baseboard nestled on workmate trestles. This differed from my childhood "Tri-ang Trains!" adventure of longer ago than I'd care to mention in that the track was actually laid level, at tabletop level and on a baseboard versus the undulating, cold, hard linoleum floor. It was also marginally more sophisticated than a single short oval, and had points! DCC control by Hornby Select. Point control by Hand of God. :lol:

Phase II - Roughly hewn, plan plagurised in part from a track plan book
18 months and a house move on, the growth curve progressed with supplementation of NCE PowerCAB for DCC control and acquisition more locos and carriages than arguably either rational or sane. :) My now much larger current 'track plan' such as it is, was never intended to be anything other than experimental understanding that it'd be a developmental hands on learning curve which would be superseded as knowledge and experience grew. Using a combination of Hornby SBG and PECO Setrack with some PECO code 100 flexitrack thrown in for good measure, it is an abridged version of a track plan from Hornby's track plan book. I am fortunate to have a dedicated spare bedroom as a railway room and a new permanent in situ baseboard at table top height on which I can extend, add to or reconfigure my layout as desired.

Phase III - Definite plan from a track plan book, which yet to be decided upon
Has just been initiated. The decision to stick with and standardise on NCE for CAB control, the PowerCAB has only this week been supplemented/superseded with a complete NCE PH Pro -R 5A wireless system and PSU. Similarly, point control in the future layout whose service life is envisaged as being considerably longer and more permanent as anything in life can be than its predecessors has been decided upon. ESU Switchpilot Servo Accessory decoders and 9g micro servos purchased are winging their way to me now. External decoder testing by ESU decoder tester. Of course, this DCC layout will feature multiple district circuit breaker protection, dedicated attached programming track implementation of things like NCE mini-panel now better understood than in the incipient phases.

As for the actual layout itself. Nothing truly original there. With a policy of if it works, leave it alone, I don't feel any inclination to reinvent the wheel. So no doubt that my next will be larger in having longer straights and perhaps an incline and cutaway section for a bridge or viaduct. At this point, it's currently in a roughly hewn dream stage of research & planning. I will differ most significantly in being of varying Tracksetta radii laid Flexitrack curves and Streamline geometry turnouts operated by servos. Little doubt however, the plan itself will be plaigurised from a conventional track plan researched in some book of plans suited to my wont at the time. I should think I'll always have a basic roundy as primary so I can sip espresso or savour a single malt as the mood takes me whilst I watch The Blytonian express whizz by. Although I do have a concept that will possibly see the light of day, of a supplementary small portable (4'x 1½') end to end diorama where I can indulge in sheer detail singular period and location modelling.

Phase IV - Who knows?
The metaphor unto dust thou shalt return shall probably apply by then :)

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby HansP » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:35 am

Given the amount of money and time invested in building any model railway, I couldn't bring myself not to develop a track plan before starting to cut wood and laying track. My current layout was planned using AnyRail, but before drawing up the track plan I decided I would come up with a firm list of what I wanted from the layout. It's only then that you can resolve the conflicts that arise, such as wanting a two track main line tail chaser to "watch the trains go by" and having a branch line with for operational interest. Given the size of the box room this railway is being built in (2.1m x 2.9m) it took some time to shoehorn everything in without making the layout too overcrowded and still keeping it buildable.

Plannning is just a must - how else do you know how long the maximum train length can be that still fits in your terminus and allows a loco to run round? Or which radius points to buy so that your bay platforms can still accomodate the trains you want to run into them? There must also be space for station buildings, signal boxes, station forecourts etc.. and it's never a bad idea to scour the Faller / Kibri / Vollmer catalogues to get the dimensions of these things built into your base plan.

Although I can appreciate the freedom that "just building" gives you, and that may be a significant part of the enjoyment of layout building for some, I just have to have a plan worked out in advance so I know what I'm building will give me the layout I want at the end of the whole process. Having a family means that both time, money (and of course space) are at a constant premium, which makes you think before you spend or commit any time to building anything. Then again, that's not a bad discipline to have.



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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby whistlehead » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:56 pm

I sketch them out then try like hell to fit them into the available space on the PC... :roll:

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby HARRYMALLARD » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:48 am

I like to find a name and play with track until I find a plan I like.

My layouts:

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Gasworks Lane micro layout

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby Ex-Pat » Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:46 am

Just like JimS-W – “My layout isn’t designed at all. Not by me anyway. It’s just a copy of the real place with a couple of compromises.”
Alas, there the similarity ends! -( and substitute "lots" for "a couple"!)
After firstly deciding in my head what compromises I had to make (really hated that), I put masking tape down on the floor to designate the proposed baseboard outlines. Then I put down cardboard templates for the points, and this established where the baseboard framework/joins could, or could not, go.
So I guess this qualifies as “paper”.

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Re: How do you plan your layout? In your head? Or on 'paper'?

Postby Bufferstop » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:42 pm

Zunnan wrote:I've just done a track plan using a 1963 GPO plant map

Hi Zunan what happened there? When I left ED2 (basically the planning office for north Birmingham) in 1968 the drawing office were working all hours to get everything metricated before public sector GPO Telephones turned into nationalised BT. If it was a '63 OS publication with later PO records it could well show some of my masterstrokes/cockups. If it was last amended '63 then I need to watch what I own up to :D
John W
aka Bufferstop.
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