Small Layout Design Handbook

As regular readers will know, I do like small model railways.  And until recently (with lockdown and retirement) I seemed to design far more layouts than I ever built.  So seeing this book advertised, and spotting the key words ‘small’ and ‘design’ it was an instant purchase.


It was an extremely good buy.  Most of the layouts described are only a few feet long, and most have between 0 and 3 points in the design.  But nearly all are designs either with a definite concept, or based on a real location.  They mostly also have plenty of operating potential, even in a small space.  

Why do I like small model railways?  Although I really do enjoy taking a long goods train down to an ESNG club night and watching it trundle around the layout, I am always drawn back to small designs.  Here are some advantages that I can think of:

  1. For those with a magpie mind and multiple interests, a series of small layouts allows one to model a number of different prototypes (or even scales and gauges.)
  2. Small layouts are much more likely to be finished than the ‘plywood prairie.’  Perhaps this can be offset a bit by making modules for N-mod or N-club, as I have been doing recently, but modules can rarely also be operated at home.
  3. Small layouts allow operation for a short time – half an hours shunting, say – that fits in with our hectic 21st century lifestyles.
  4. Small layouts allow one to experiment during the construction (staged, window viewed layouts, different baseboard materials, scenic experiments, DC or DCC) without too much cost if things go wrong (as they most probably will.)
  5. They don’t take up much room to store at home, and…..
  6. Are very easy to transport to exhibitions (although you may go a little mad operating a one point layout for a weekend show.) 

One concept that came back to me reading the book is what Iain Rice calls the ‘bitsa’ layout.  Here you model (say) half the station, hiding the rest behind the ‘wings’ of the baseboard.  A large prototype can be compressed into a small space by modelling just the key location.  As I mulled this over, a small brain wave hit me.  I think that I have discovered my next layout (after Minories) in concept, and maybe I’ll need to put together a scale drawing to see if it really does work.  It’s a location that I’ve wanted to model for years, but have never been able to make a viable design out of it.  Another post may follow next week….. 

Strongly recommended, and I’ll let the author describe his book himself….

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
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