Book review – “Compact Layout Design – Iain Rice”

One of my favourite reads is an Iain Rice layout design book.  Hidden amongst the slightly bumptious and wordy – but always entertaining – text, there are always inspiring photographs, clever construction techniques, prototype information and neat track plans.  And the hand drawn and coloured plans are a pleasure to view in themselves.

I was therefore pleased to see Kalmbach had published his latest opus, “Compact Layout Design”, and I soon had a copy winging my way from SPV in Canterbury.


The book follows the usual Rice format of four chapters describing his philosophy of model railroad modelling and design, followed by eight designs presented as case studies.  I always enjoy these case studies, as they include a lot of prototype research and information.

Those first four chapters are pretty standard for a Rice book, but I am always happy to carry out some revision about the PRR (“patent Rice railroad).  The case studies are compact by USA standards – bedroom size for the UK.   But a 14 x 11 foot room in HO is a very reasonable size in N, so a lot of the plan details are useable for small layout.

The eight plans maybe didn’t have the unusual standout designs of some earlier Rice books, but there are plenty of good designs.  I especially liked the bucolic short line of the Asphodel and Southern, modelling an army railroad in Fort Boyd, and the depression coal shifting of Black Creek & Buda.

Altogether recommended to stir the creative juices!

It’s worth mentioning here my favourite Rice books.  I think his original “Layout Design – Finescale in small places” takes a lot of beating for small UK designs.

DCF 1.0

For the USA, “Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans” and “Shelf Layouts” are also inspirational.  But the ideas are not geographically limited.  The concepts can be used for any UK, Continental, USA – or even Antipodean – layout.

I noticed in the biographical notes that Iain is now has Parkinson’s.  I wish him well and hope that this doesn’t affect his modelling too much for a long time to come.

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About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book review – “Compact Layout Design – Iain Rice”

  1. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog.


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