The vast majority of a railroad’s right of way is linear. Capturing that look in our limited space is a challenge, to say the least!


The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Of more importance, from a railroad’s point of view,  it’s generally the cheapest.  As modelers, we have a disconnect between how the real world looks and the harsh reality that our railroads are located in rooms that dictate that all too frequently we hit the proverbial wall and must make a turn.   We can’t eliminate the problem but there are design approaches that address the challenge more effectively than others.  The bench work footprint, and it’s overlaid main line route, is one of the most important design decisions.  That being the case, I want to delve a little deeper into the subject I first broached in July.

The more a design footprint maximizes linear runs and minimizes curves, the more it lends itself to inserting the features we desire the most such as yards, sidings, towns, and long bridges.  Long, straight runs are prime. The more the better.  The longer the better.   Ninety or one hundred eighty degree curves are very limiting.  The fewer the better.

Many years ago Einstein (or maybe it was the Batavia club in Illinois.  I can’t remember) determined that the most efficient use of a given space is an around the walls design with only ONE serpentine peninsula. Not three, not two, just one.  For our purposes, we’ll define efficiency as a design that not only creates the longest main line run, but the run with most straight sections.  This assumes a plan where the main only passes through a scene once.  If you take the same space, and go to a format with multiple peninsula’s, the quantity and quality of your straight sections drops precipitously because so much of the run is spent getting into and out of curves.

Let’s take a look at an example to see why things shake out this way.  For illustration purposes, let’s assume a room 24 feet long by 14 feet wide.



Shown above is an approach that shows multiple peninsula’s.  Linear track is shown in red, curves in black.



By contrast, the second diagram shows the footprint where only ONE serpentine peninsula was used.  Note the much longer linear runs that we so desperately need.



The table above shows how the numbers work out.  Note that in addition to having a ten per cent longer main line run, the one peninsula plan has a whopping fifty per cent more linear track.  That’s only part of the story though.



It’s not just that the single peninsula has a longer linear run, the quality of those runs is higher.  Looking at the multiple peninsula plan, although it has 54 feet of linear run, that’s misleading because the number is comprised of a lot of short runs.  Of the fifty-four feet, twenty of that is made up of less than useful stretches of less than five feet.  In comparison, the single peninsula plan is comprised of a high percentage of relatively long linear runs.

Wrapping things up, modeling the most common rail scenes is much easier the more long, linear runs of track we have.  The around the walls with ONE center peninsula configuration provides that in heavier doses than other options.