Layout size - How much is enough?

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fmjnax

New Member
I'm more-or-less a newbie here. My only experience has been with HO scale about 10 year ago on a 4x4 square layout (not enough room for what I was really wanting to do!). I'm now to a point where I want to try again and I am planning an N scale layout.

Based on the [bad] experience I had with the 4x4 not being big enough, I'm planning this new layout to make sure I have enough room.... but at the same time, I don't want to have so much room that I am overkill on the layout.

First off, I know I'm going to go with an L-Shaped layout and not a square/rectangle. I have about a 10x10 zone to work with. I have been toying with three different dimensions; an 8x8 (48sqft), a 6x6 (27sqft), or a 4x4 (12sqft). The more I think about it, the more I lean towards the 6x6, but I'm not sure just how much real estate that is in the N-scale world.

As for my plans with the layout, I'm going for kind of a Rocky Mountain/valley diorama. I grew up in Idaho and I remember the pine-covered, rocky mountain switchbacks with the trains running through the mountains and along the river and finally coming out into the valley/town. This is ultimately what I am going to shoot for (or a much simplified aspect of it, anyway). I need to make sure I have enough space to handle the switchbacks and the grades. Any thoughts?
 

railfan

junk collector
Most folks today build the bench work against the walls going around the perimeter of the room....usually no more than three feet deep to be able to reach across the platform while working on it. That way you can be in the middle with the layout surrounding you. Sounded like you intended to make one big square platform.....which is fine if you can make that work for you. The main thing is to have fun and I think you'll enjoy N scale. I went on a vacation in Idaho once and went to Craters of the Moon national park, and through Sun Valley, and camped in the mountains in central Idaho. Beautiful state!

Mike
 
How big is big enough? An interesting question to which each person will have their own answer. I am working on a 32'x32' N scale layout. I enjoy operations and operating my layout with friends. Although I have most of the layout built, I do wish my mainline runs between towns were longer, but I wouldn't want to give up any of the towns.

Try to meet some other model railroaders who have layouts and visit them. This can be done easily at NMRA regional and national conventions. Some of the NMRA divisions have periodic open houses or layout tours for there members.

I would also recommend getting some track planning software like XTRKCAD. XTRKCAD is a freeware program that will allow you to draw trackplans in each of the spaces you have available and better evaluate what size you want. Be sure to at least sketch in some scenery to make sure that your vision will fit. Some people even go so far as to build a model of the layout the want so they can see what end product may look like.

Keep asking questions here. Also try googling model railroad layout planning and see what sites come up.

Glenn
 

TrinityJayOne

N gauge fan
8'x8' would get you a decent layout in N, but your options for grades will be limited unless you don't plan on having a loop.

I highly recommend SCARM for layout design.
 

fmjnax

New Member
I ended up using SCARM and have been working on an layout. I started with my 6x6 idea and quickly found that it simply wasn't enough to accomplish everything I wanted to do. I expanded out to 10x10 and put together another design; one that I think is a winner. I'm stuck with 10' one side, but I have another 20' I can expand off the other side in the future, if I ever want to.

I'm still looking for locals that are in the hobby, but I've been checking out A LOT of pictures and I easily see how my question is relative to the individual. There are a lot of massive layouts... and a lot of bookshelf layouts. I could have a lot of fun with this!
 

beyerswede

New Member
I must be missing something here. 10 x 10> You mean a 10 x 10 room size. If the layout was 10 x 10 you would need a multitude of hatches for access. It makes much more sense to do a layout that is around the wall no more than 2 feet wide. I just read again about the UP Cascade subdivision where the entire layout was in sections only one feet deep and it is an amazing layout.
 

fmjnax

New Member
When I say 10x10, I don't mean a square, but I actually mean it is an L shape with each leg of the L being 10 foot. It will be 3 foot deep (I am tall enough to where a 3 foot reach is more than capable).
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
This is a question that has a different answer for everyone. Though computer programs will help you with a track plan there are still a couple of basic questions they can't answer. What do you want the railroad to do? Do you want to sit back and watch them roll? Do you want the railroad to have something to do operations wise? What sort of trains will you be running? What motive power? They will determine your minimum radius.

I once saw a You Tube vid where a guy had a 4 x 8 HO layout and was running a 4 unit lashup of six axle diesels pulling eight or so hoppers. Now it was his railroad, and call me arrogant if you want, but to me that looked silly :rolleyes: I think the trains should look at home in the scenery and that everything should work together to present a good picture. The picture can be a snapshot, and 8 x 10, or a mural depending on the real estate available :D I have seen HO 4 x 8 layouts that were extermely well detailed and would be very satisfying to build. These layouts took detail to a very high level, high enough so that when looking at them you weren't really conscious of size, just what great modeling had been done. Whatever space you end up with, don't consider it a limitation. Consider it a challenge and think about the best way to fill it effectively. In layout planning most of us end up making a list of what we want and a second list of what we need. Inevitably we end up giving up a few things. Remember that in some cases, less is more. Get a copy of John Armstrong's book "Trackplanning for Reaslistic Operation". Even if you don't care about operations, there are still lots of good ideas in there about layout design as well as common problems we all encounter.
 
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otiscnj

Well-Known Member
How much is enough? depends-depends on a couple of things, some have nothing to do with the hobby. How much time do you have to pursue the hobby? How much money can you afford to splurge on model trains? How handy are you with power tools, troubleshooting electrical problems, etc.? Are you building this for yourself, or for 'the grandkids to play with?' Do you want to watch trains go round and round, or do you want them to simply go back & forth? what are you trying to model;1 scene, several different/similiar sceens, a particular place? How much room do you for modeling? that may be the most important, besides time and money.

Your 10x10 space would be huge for some people, and small for others. If that's the space you have, then, that's what you have. 4x4 is to small to be able to do more than have a circle in HO, somoving to N might be a good move. 18" radius is about the tightest radius many types of equipment will run around in HO scale. By switching to N, an eqivalent curce in HO would have about a 30" radius. generally, the larger the curve, the more reliable the trains will run. The fewer derailments you have, the more you'll probably enjoy the hobby.

Other questions I'd ask are: how long do you want it to take before you can run a train, complete scenery, etc? the larger the layout, generally, the more time it takes to complete eachn stage of construction....

FWIW, inspite of how the hobby media makes a big deal about the huge layouts, that everybody(or at least most from what you see)seems to dream about, after having built both large (18'x24'), and small layouts(4x8) in HO, I've learned that bigger is not necessarily better. Once its built, a larger layout takes more time and money to equip and maintain.

Not sure if I answered your question the way you expected,but what I've learned over the years,by trying, doing, and seeing different things.

Good luck!
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Maybe this is big enough. the picture was taken from the top left corner of the layout diagram area. The basement is 55' long by 35' wide.

IMG_5494.png
layouttrack.png
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
How big is big enough? For me the fact I ain't as young as I once was, dictated to me that the ease of maintenance was the most important. So except for a small 4' section against a wall, I have access from inside the layout and the outside, to all areas of the layout.

Mine is built with operations in mind. It can be operated as, point to point, point to loop and continuous running. Just whatever I have a desire to do that day.
 

otiscnj

Well-Known Member
CJ, I was younger once tooo.... No matter what the size, there's always something more to do, than you planned, or expected.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
I want to try again and I am planning an N scale layout.

As for my plans with the layout, I'm going for kind of a Rocky Mountain/valley diorama. I grew up in Idaho and I remember the pine-covered, rocky mountain switchbacks with the trains running through the mountains and along the river and finally coming out into the valley/town. I need to make sure I have enough space to handle the switchbacks and the grades.
It is never a problem to get a grade. It us usually a problem to reduce the grades :). But, more importantly talk to me a little more about what you mean by switch-backs? The only switchbacks I know of in main stream railroading were the Northern Pacifics in 1886 before they got Stampede Tunnel built (6.5% grade too!), and The Denver & Rio Grande Western's Monarch Branch that switch-backed over US highway 50.

While I am certain there were other switchbacks, the only ones I know of were on mining or logging railroads.

What do you mean by switchback?
 

RBMNfan

Member
Sometimes I wish I had a smaller layout. It depends on how much time and energy you want to spend on your layout. I think a well planned layout can be better than a huge layout. If you have extra space you can expand later.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
Agreed. Never enough space. I am happy with my current layout, but an aircraft hangar would be nice to have, like for a 747 or two.
 

John P

Member
It depends on how you plan to build your railroad. If you have an enormous space to fill, will you live long enough to feel that you've accomplished anything, and even if you plan to live to be 90, will you be willing to work hard enough to do it? We know that a model railroad is "never finished" but if your layout is in a tiny corner of a great empty cavern, it's just not going to be satisfying. And even if you filled a large area with "wide open spaces", would it be interesting to run a train on it? I mean, trains run across Kansas, but the crews probably find it pretty boring; they do it because they're being paid.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
It depends on how you plan to build your railroad. If you have an enormous space to fill, will you live long enough to feel that you've accomplished anything, and even if you plan to live to be 90, will you be willing to work hard enough to do it? We know that a model railroad is "never finished" but if your layout is in a tiny corner of a great empty cavern, it's just not going to be satisfying. And even if you filled a large area with "wide open spaces", would it be interesting to run a train on it? I mean, trains run across Kansas, but the crews probably find it pretty boring; they do it because they're being paid.
Building alone won't be the problem, but the maintenence will be something else to consider. My layout in in a room that is about 28'x 16' and I unfortunately don't really have time to work on it during the summer due to outdoor duties, the maintenence even on a small layout like mine can take up a lot of time.
 




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