Hello everybody,

During the last couple years I built a layout of 38 x 24 feet without really doing any research on running and prototypical railroading. I think I might want to start over and can use some suggestions on how to start a layout that I want. I would like to run my MTH and Lionel trains post-war and new I may possibly want more prototypical Railroad I would like to get information on where to start from scratch and good layout design help. Any help would be appreciated. I would like to build the layout myself.

Thank you very much, Jerry



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First edition:


Second edition:


Third edition:


Only edition of this one?:

These books might be right up your alley.  I see used books quite frequently at train shows for very reasonable prices.  I've picked them up in reasonably nice condition for as little as a dollar or two.

The original "Track Planning for Realistic Operations" book was first published sometime in the late steam/early diesel era, if memory serves.  Subsequent editions were then updated as history advanced.  For instance, you won't find intermodal yards or stack trains in the first edition, nor will you find much if any steam or cabooses mentioned in the third edition.  I believe the current third edition may still be in print.

Not sure if the "Creative Model Railroad Design" book is currently being reprinted.  But that's why I mentioned about being able to find at train shows.  All 4 of these books are worthy of having in your train library if you're the least bit interested in their subject matter. 




2 Rails?  3 Rails?  Doesn't matter, I can't count that high anyway.

I love the smell of fresh-brewed creosote first thing in the morning.


There is no easy answer to your question, as many others will attest.  But here's a few things to think about for starters.

1.  Do you want to model a specific prototype, free-lance something, or proto-free-lance (a mixture of the first two)?  If modeling a specific prototype, you will have to drill down to a comparatively smaller version or maybe only a segment of your favorite railroad to think about a trackplan.

2.  Do you want to model freight only, passenger only, or some combination.  Freight requires customers to serve, yards to marshal cars into trains, and best of all, interchange with other railroads to get your customers freight offline.  Passenger operations will also require yards or ways to reverse direction, but you will want more station stops to acquire and deposit more passengers.  Having a "union" station will also permit some passenger transfers off layout and allow you to run more road named trains.

There's lots of other factors to consider.  Try a search for "givens and druthers" and you will get more ideas.


OK, then why not build a series of diorama modules that will allow you to connect in different sequences and allow you to "remodel" at your discretion while still running some trains instead of tearing down a "complete" layout due to boredom.  Who knows, you may find a combination of dioramas you eventually want to keep!


I suggest a trackplan that provides a lot of switching. The prototype tries to avoid switching when possible because it is a very labor-intensive ($$$) process but  on a model pike it provides variety and visual/mental stimulation. The Plywood Empire route does provide continuous operation with one simple loop around the perimeter of the room and I do indulge in some railfanning  (the D&RGW Royal Gorge rolls through daily and the daily freight makes a couple circuits on both the incoming and outgoing run) but the bulk of operation is the purposeful set-out of deliveries and pulling of empties/loads with subsequent makeup of a train. Interchange is a return-loop in the next room. I too love construction and tinkering but I find operation satisfying as well. About 30 cars are in-play as is one engine and one crummy. ON EDIT: plus the Royal Gorge, made up of an F3, Grill/Lounge and Coach/Dome. A PW Lionel Gantry Crane provides operation of a different kind: the loading of actual scrap steel into Standard O gondolas. Once at interchange the old 0-5-0 handles the return of scrap to the scrapyard.


I find Frank Ellison's book a must wrt trackplans and prototype-like operation:


From time-to-time one comes up on eBay in the 15$-25$ range.


Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.


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