Turnout Optimism

Model railroaders are an optimistic bunch, particularly when it comes to layout design!  To be more specific, overly optimistic when it comes to sketching in turnout geometry.  We all do quick sketches to an illustrate a point.  Trouble looms, however, when we stay with that approach as we delve more deeply into developing the design. …


“TIME”

  The timeless 80/20 rule, model railroad planning is not immune. All too often we have our 80/20 priorities backwards.  We spend eighty per cent of our time wringing our hands over what I would consider more tactical issues and only twenty per cent on the much more important strategic questions.  What curve radius to…


Picking a Theme, Setting Your Scope

Before we draw the first line of a layout design, before we lay the first stick of bench work, the most important decisions present themselves and must be addressed.  The big ones hit us hard, early, and unfortunately for those new to the hobby, at a time where we may not have the benefit of…


Fear of Mistakes

On a relatively frequent basis I encounter modelers that confide in me their fear of making mistakes.  It’s perfectly understandable.  The hobby and our work is important to us and we don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something that doesn’t meet our expectations.  However, if you don’t manage it, it’s…


Rail Gaps and Rail Joiners

I get lots of questions from my model railroad design clients, many new to layout construction, as to how to handle rail gaps and rail joiners.  Here are a few best practices and tips that may be helpful.   Tip 1: Allow Room to Breath     With changes in seasons, temperature, and humidity rail…


Six Landmines to Avoid

Planning a layout for several….or many years down the road? Design, preparing, and anticipation can be a big part of the fun.  In my experience with clients, the “layout launch” date is often tied to a lifestyle change, such as retirement, that will finally free up the time and space to FINALLY, have that model railroad…


What’s Your Operational Style?

Trains in motion, that’s what we ultimately want. Without it we essentially have a static diorama.  But what is your operational style?  Rail fan? Branch line peddler? Industrial switching?  The answer doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you have a firm grip on it so that it’s front and center in your mind during…


West Virginia Logging Track Plan

Logging Railroad Track Plan   Rickety logging lines are a popular theme.  The design shown above is a free lanced West Virginia logging branch set in the 1930’s or 1940’s.  It’s an ideal canvas for building craftsman structure kits, bridges, and scenery.   The line starts along a river bank at a town wedged between…


How Many Towns Should I Put on my Layout?

Early in the planning process, it’s common for clients to tell me that they have a specific number of towns they’d like to have on their future layout but are having difficulty visualizing how to fit them all in.  (This is often because, in many cases, they simply won’t fit but we’ll get to that…


Structure Building Practice

  Model Railroad Structure Building Practice   The clients that I see generally have many things in common.  Typically they’ve been waiting decades to have a layout, building structures is the aspect of the hobby they are looking forward to the most,  and they are at the beginning of the learning curve.  Over the years…