Skip to main content

Hello all!


Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to purchase my very own home. Of course with that comes the joyous decision to create my own layout room.


My basement is divided. One half contains a summer kitchen and the other is a large room measuring 15x22.5 feet. There isn’t much clutter beyond a single support beam and one door in and out of the room


Ideally I’d like my layout with large enough curves for my legacy engines. O-72+ for the main curves and crossovers. For that reason I’ve decided to have the layout against the wall vs the center of the room. I’d like a engine area of some kind. As well as a station and an industry. Ideas are very much needed for placement and size


For access to the center area I thought about a lift bridge for easy in and outs.

Something similar to this.


(please forgive the quality. Made on my cell phone)

Now this is where I need your help! Suggestions, ideas, tips. And most importantly designs... I lack the software to design a proper layout setup so any help would be greatly appreciated. I’ve only ever run conventional trains on tubular tracks on carpet using the same transformer from a 2004 Lionel Set.

So anything from power to track planning would be greatly appreciated


See you on the high iron

  • Bellcaptain.




Images (2)
  • 1CBC4FED-6D3C-464D-9C08-EA6926D5A47F
  • 811F86CA-E154-4299-BCE0-23E6DE36DB5C
Original Post

Congrats on the new home.  Search for "lessons learned" on the forum.  There are several threads and first hand accounts of what worked well and what didn't.  

From bench work, trackwork, design, room uses, lighting and more.

Not sure how old you are, but don't think now.  Think 10-15 years from now.  I did not want to crawl around on my hands and knees and everything had to be within arms reach.

Have fun.


Requests for help like this appear from time-to-time and usually draw the same responses.  First, you have to be a little more specific in your "givens & druthers" (i.e. what your limitations are and what your preferences are).  Examples include are you planning to run steam or diesel or a combination?  What era do you choose to model?  Following any specific prototype?  Any particular industries you want to model?  As far as power, how many trains do you want running at one time?  Are you planning analog or digital control?  Anyone wanting to help you will need more details of your "plan."

Second, spend more time reading this and other model railroad related fora.  There is a section here (and on other fora) dealing specifically with track planning and sections dealing with electrical control of layouts.  Synthesize what you learn into your own plans, even if just a rough sketch, and then others will provide advice.  Another option is to hire somebody (there are many vendors) to plan and/or build your layout.  Please note that even a basic around-the-walls plan doesn't have to be purely circular.  With your size availability, you could run point-to-point, point-to-loop (often referred to as out-and-back) or loop-to-loop, either by way of stacked (needing an upper level) reversing loops or stacked dog-bone designs.

The combinations may seem endless, but you have to narrow it down for yourself while seeing if you can fit what you want (those druthers again) within a chosen design.  Then, you will get more help.


Well, from somebody who just finished his first layout design in O gauge I can assure you that you don't need a computer.

Go the center of the floor and put painter's tape down, in the outline of your chosen layout board dimensions.

Buy a bunch of really cheap, old, rusted track and switches in the gauge and circumferances you want, get down on the floor on your hands and knees in the middle of the tape area , with your tools and track saw, and just start cutting and fitting the stuff together in a creative fashion that you like.    Design as you go.   Start with the inner sections first, as they must be tight enough to fit inside your outer curves and track.  What you are doing here is building a cheap template, just to get the layout planned and properly fitting together.  The tape outline shows you how to keep it inside the dimensions of the layout board.

Yes, you will do alot of head scratching, and shuffling, and moving the small curves and loops around to get everything to fit, as well as cutting some straight and curves to custom lengths, but when you are done you will have a unique layout of your own design. (Unless you are really up to speed on the electrical aspects, make sure you don't accidentally build any reverse loops! )   Hook up a transformer and use a test engine and cars to make sure they stay on the tracks and switches.

Then, go piece by piece through your track, throw out the really bad pieces, clean up thoroughly the so-so pieces, and buy brand new pieces as needed to complete it.  

When done, then build your layout table, move your track onto the table, and screw it down.  If you are going to put down cork bedding, then put the layout down on the table, trace the track, then remove it to put the bedding down.  Then put the track back on, and screw it down

I don't know how old you are, but if you played with Legos as a child, did you need a computer or book to show you how to build  a neat custom building on the building platform?  Nope.  

For me, copying a layout from a book or computer printout, and then just buying the list of track pieces they tell you to buy, and then just snapping them together, isn't building a railroad.  It just snapping a plastic model together.

To each his own.

Have fun.










Bellcaptain - - - (my father-in-law is as retired bellcaptain)

Congrats on the house.

While they did build things like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pyramids without one, a compute might have helped them a bit. 

There are several trial programs available like Anyrail and Scarm. You are limited to how many pieces of track you can use without buying the software. (usually about $40)

There are many track plan ideas out there and a software program will save you hours of crawling around on the floor.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress. 

Start with spending on power, ZW, ZW-L, etc. depending on how deep you plan to go with electronics, the ZW-L might be worth the extra loot. You never hear someone complain they bought too much power; just that they want more

I surely wouldn't go smaller than a KW on 15x20 . (maybe an LW for each loop)

Try SCARM (capable/3d) and Anyrail (simple) free versions if you have Windows.

You don't "need" a computer, but it is fun, doesn't wake everyone at 3am, can save time and effort, and are pretty accurate. It saves pencils too.

☢️Save the pencils!☢️😬🙃

Look at GarGraves track. It's worth it to most folk. Ross turnouts maybe. Harder wiring GG/Ross turnouts, but that's mostly so it is easier to customize; they work real well..... except on pre-war fat drivers like Marx.  Prewar/tin thoughts mean a plain loop(no switches, no uncoupler tracks(need skinnier magnet/ custom) or using Marx 0-27 prewar turnouts or importing larger curve ETS track from Czk. (keep in mind while pricing GG/R/etc , not all turnouts include the sw. motors and linkage. Many motors also mount under the layout and take extra work over others)  

Im not a FasTrack fan. 

Do check out Miane benchwork kits, or at least mind their style. 2x4 overkill isn't as good as thinner wider boards cut and fit to specific functions.

Use a thick foam +3/4" and/or real Homasote as a benchtopper to cut down on noise.  Tons of threads on sound deadening too. Lots of cross brace supports, foam & H-sote are the effective things you can start now.

  (Trains are much louder on a table than on a floor. Carpeting/rugs will help tons for absorbing sound from the underside that the floor will deflect back up at you. A thick curtain along the front edge, down to the floor, also helps trap sound (and hides all your junk).

Menards track would be a lower cost alternative for new tubular rails.

New track is worth the price. Old works; sure. But on new track your stuff, old or new, will run better period. 

Lift ups and drop downs are a PITA IMO. We did a wide one, then narrower, then gone. I'd avoid it unless it's a must for design; and you seem to have an open slate.

I'd use reverse loops or bent dogbones, turning around at the doors/steps/whatever. Islands at these ends can be wider than benchwork along the wall for wide curves on the rev.loops.  Reverse loops are nice as you never have to touch a loco to turn it around.  (this assumes you are looper, and not as interested in a more prototypical switching layout)

Another option might be to make each rev.loop a regular loop. "Two towns with 2 (?) mainline connection(s) between them".

The other post above has a geat point, How do you run your trains? Looper? Totally proto logistics, distances, etc? Switching?   Knowing your habits and yeilding to them is a better way to build that some "dream" you'll never use as envisioned. 

Maybe add another island on the 20' wall for a yard, another loop etc (or keep it in mind for a later extension)

Put the controls where you can overlook it all, on the outside edge facing in.  Otherwise, the whiplash effect to look behind you at the train is a PITA, especially when you already have a little kink in the neck that day 😧


Add Reply

The Track Planning and Layout Design Forum is sponsored by

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.