What is the Perfect Sized Layout?

ModelRailroadForums.com is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
I see those club sized layouts in the model railroad magazines and wonder what is the perfect sized layout.

Mine is small by most standards filling a 16' x 11' room and I would like more space for longer trains and longer runs, but how big is too big and how small is too small?

What are yours thoughts and opinions?

Thanks.

Greg
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
I think it really boils down to two things; how much funding is available to build and "stock" it up? And how much time are you going to have available to maintain it after building it? I built a train shed 20' x 32' with a double-deck layout in mind. I could have built a bigger building if I wanted to, since I have 15 acres to build on. From experience with previous layouts, I determined that this was all I would want to maintain. Prior to retirement I stocked up on lumber, rolling stock, track, structures and roadbed, knowing that there might be some limitations afterward. It probably also depends on how much help you expect to get. I am a "lone wolf" so I have to do everything alone.
This is a question that has no real answer, everyone's situation is different.

Willie
 

KB02

Well-Known Member
I started planning a layout for a small corner in my basement. Then we moved. So I built up a 4x8 layout. Then it grew. I think Willie is right, though: "This is a question that has no real answer, everyone's situation is different."
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
Following Murphy's Law of Available Space, Corollary 1765-1/2, no matter how big you build your layout, it will become too small, quickly! My latest layout resides in a 14' x 14' dedicated room. It is a folded dogbone with return loops at both ends. I cannot build a double-layer as the tracks would have to cross two windows, which the local fire code requires to be accessible for escape in case of fire. Over sixty-odd years, I have collected enough rolling stock so that I could equip two or three more comparable-size layouts! I have to be VERY careful when attending model railroad fairs, conventions and swap meets to leave my wallet and credit cards at home, lest I come back with something I don't really need! Unless, of course, I come upon something I just can't live without! :rolleyes:

I don't smoke; I don't drink alcoholic beverages; I don't use drugs... But I have an addiction to buying and kitbashing Mantua steam locomotives! :cool:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Following Murphy's Law of Available Space, Corollary 1765-1/2, no matter how big you build your layout, it will become too small, quickly! My latest layout resides in a 14' x 14' dedicated room. It is a folded dogbone with return loops at both ends. I cannot build a double-layer as the tracks would have to cross two windows, which the local fire code requires to be accessible for escape in case of fire. Over sixty-odd years, I have collected enough rolling stock so that I could equip two or three more comparable-size layouts! I have to be VERY careful when attending model railroad fairs, conventions and swap meets to leave my wallet and credit cards at home, lest I come back with something I don't really need! Unless, of course, I come upon something I just can't live without! :rolleyes:

I don't smoke; I don't drink alcoholic beverages; I don't use drugs... But I have an addiction to buying and kitbashing Mantua steam locomotives! :cool:
I think the code is referring to living spaces, i.e. bedroom, living room etc.
As for determining the right size for a layout, its about the level of dedication you have to the hobby. Don't go for a full basement layout if your interest in the hobby is only around Christmas time and the circle of track under the tree. Too small of a layout will really limit you on what you really want to do, i.e. wanting a switching yard on an O scale layout that's built on a coffee table.
The ability to have detail is supported by your choice of layout as well. A layout that has to be folded up against the wall when your not running trains, isn't going to be fun when ya have a lot of detail that isn't fastened down. That includes the rolling stock. It has to all be taken off the layout then put back on the tracks each time ya run trains.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Lynnb

Active Member
I think the perfect sized layout would be one that has enough space for a long continuous mainline, and enough space that it will have all the s enery and fine looking structures but still be not so large that's its impossible to see the lite at the end of the tunnel.
 

Burlington Bob

Well-Known Member
I'm currently doing what Willie did......stocking up before I retire. I got out of the hobby for about 25 years due to moving, job, family and poor quality of N scale products. Then the bug took a giant bite again and I jumped back in with both feet and my eyes wide open! The original goal was to build an around the walls layout in a 10x 15 room. Well, plans changed. My wife and I decided we wanted to live someplace other than Illinois when I retire. So, right now I am buying as much stuff as I might need to build when we move, short of lumber. Hoping to build something in the ballpark like I originally planned. I am in N scale, so 10 x 15 would be a very large layout.............which leaves room to downsize if needed. Hopefully, not!
 

Graff

Airbrush artist
I was planning a layout in a 22' x 16' room, but I realized that it was unnecessary to use a space that big for my purposes.
I build in HOn3 with hand spiked track...
The room was in my workshop separate from the house as well.
So to keep my wife happy (as she wants to see me in the evenings :cool: ), I decided to build in the house instead.
The room is 16' x 13' and has a lower ceiling than the one in the workshop.
The advantage is that it is fully heated and more secure than the workshop building (you have to force three locked doors to get to it, and it has no windows).
Sure, both are equipped with burglar alarms, but it feels better to have it inside....
With this size I can actually both build, maintain and operate it by myself.
A real advantage in my book.
It is a dual level layout with 2 levels on each, it results in an almost 125 feet mainline.



 

new guy

Active Member
I went insane and built as much table as would fit in the room! Making sure the longest 'reach' was three feet was the only limiter.

I now have 500 sq feet to roam in till the day I die! I'm thinking this is just over the edge of what one man can maintain in "perfect" condition. It's turned into a full time job! I'm not complaining, by no means will I ever! Just comparing.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
I see some very good responses here.

I see a number of things that would influence layout size. The first would be the amount of space one has available. Next, budget. Another concern would be maintenance. I am also a lone operator and don't want to spend all my time trying to keep up a layout.

My layout occupies a room about 24' x 17 feet. The room was designated as a "Train Room" over 30 years ago. I originally had a N scale layout in the room but chose to change to HO scale for a number of reasons. N scale locomotives back then weren't the best running little critters and the availability of road names was lousy. I really couldn't find anything for the railroads I wanted and being that I enjoy detail, HO was a better choice.

Another thing to consider is the amount of time you can and want to dedicate to the hobby. How many other interests does one have. I love trains and grew up with 1:1 scale. I was hooked at an early age. With the winters we have up here, most all of the work on my layout was and still is done during the winter months. I never really considered a budget. When I started I had dealerships with a number of suppliers such as Walthers and stocked up. This was back in the 80's and I still have stuff I am using from that time, but not have a local hobby shop was a bit of a problem. I had to let the dealership go and this really slowed my progress.

Now to other interests and how much time one can devote to the hobby. My wife and I do travel a lot alll over the country. This is good when it comes to the lack of hobby shops as I can resupply on these trips. We are avid bowlers and attend not only local tournaments, but nationals across the country. I am a NASCAR fan and we try to attend a few races each year if time permits. We also have friends in the mid west that are model railroaders and stop by there on our travels.

Another hobby I have is restoring class cars. This can eat up a lot of time too, but I have been slowing down and selling off some of my cars in recent years. I am also a pilot (private) and try to get up in the air when ever possible.

Stepping back and looking at the whole picture, I think my layout is just about the right size. It's not a maintenance hog and finally after many years has evolved into just the right size for me. Being fairly low maintenance goves me more time to operate that layout and still have time (sometimes) for other MRR projects and updating the layout.

Yes, it would be nice to have more room. When our kids finally moves out my wife said that I could expand into an unused family room that is 14x22. I had toyed with the idea of tearing out a wall and taking her up on her offer but realized that it would be a big undertaking and chose not to expand.
 

Beady

Well-Known Member
I began collecting N-scale trains, scenery, etc, before I retired 2-1/2 years ago. After I retired we moved from Vermont to Michigan and I have finally got to the point where I'm clearing out space in the basement. Except for one small corner for general storage and another space for some furniture we don't have room or use for*, the entire basement is mine to do with as I choose.

My general plan is a tabletop setup based on multiple six-foot folding tables and sectional Kato unitrack, allowing me to expand, contract, and reconfigure both track and "geography" at will. For terrain, I'm going to borrow a concept from tabletop wargamers and go for representation rather than photographic accuracy, with hills made of terraced stacks of styrofoam sheets and water by blue cardstock cut to shape. I'll be using Kato viaduct track, and tunnels by cardboard boxes. All terrain and its components will be covered by grass mat paper. Clumps of trees and single trees and other flora will be glued to heavy green cardstock bases. ALL scenery will be movable.

The entire concept is based on my artistic ineptitude and the old-man trembling my hands have developed. A major side effect is that I'll be able to disassemble and rebuild in hours and days, where others need months and years; minor adjustments such as moving entire towns, mountains and forests will take seconds and minutes. I'll be able to do whatever I want whenever I want. I'll be a God!

Sorry about that last bit, it's past time for my medicine.

*If anybody wants a complete, high-end 1920s dining room suite, come get it. We can't give the damned thing away.
 

RBMNfan

Member
My layout is medium size, squeezed into a spare bedroom. Its 5'x6-1/2' plus staging. I find it to be the right size for the time and money I have. I am into operations so it keeps me busy for about an hour. I am trying to focus on scenery and this size is helping me slowly finish details. I have some shelf space around the backside if I do 'finish' the layout and need something new to work. I can expand the branch to run into this area. The nice thing about a smaller layout is hopefully you can get to a higher level of detail. It's a tremendous amount of work to get a basement size layout detailed. Many guys spend decades building a huge layout. Even if I had the space, time and money I would build my layout the same general way. I am trying to round out my modeling skills.

Sent from my XT1080 using Tapatalk
 

new guy

Active Member
Seeing so many posts with "Homer" moments (DOH!) led me to the conclusion that 'permanent TEMPORARY' was the way to go! Leave yourself 'wiggle room' cause "things" WILL happen!
 

MGWSY

Active Member
Plan as big as your room and budget will allow, build as small as your wife approves.
Actually plan as to what you can handle to maintain as you get older. Even if you have room for a 10000sf layout regular maintenance tasks like cleaning track, dusting it every now and then, repairs, reworking old faded areas, Etc. will come into play. You want something to play with not just maintain non stop. This is why I noticed many older guys building a small layout at home and joining a club for the bigger layout size and to just sit and BS with other guys.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
The perfectly sized layout meets the following criteria:

Affordable
Enjoyable
Acceptable
Modifiable
Expandable
Reducible
Any other criterion required by the builder/operator

This necessarily means that what one person would call perfect another would wrinkle his/her nose at. The hobby is a personal experience, including one's expectations, fantasies, druthers, abilities, and resources. Thank God there isn't a précis with firm rules about how any one of us must enjoy the hobby.
 

RBMNfan

Member
I actually think that list is pretty accurate. The other criteria hopefully add up to the enjoyable part. Sometimes our ideas are so big it becomes an overwhelming challenge and then the trains gather dust. This shouldn't be work. There is going to be work like anything else in life but it should end up with fun.

Sent from my XT1080 using Tapatalk
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
The perfect size layout is one that you have the space for, the money for and the ability to maintain ;)
 




Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)


ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Top