My Dream Layout.... 

This diagram below is the way my layout is currently setup - or, the way it WAS setup.  I am in the process of taking it down.

In the beginning, I never really had a layout.  I dreamed of a big layout.  But, space was an issue and I had to think small.  My first layout was a 2 foot x 3 foot layout with two loops of track.  It worked well for my small empire.  But, I soon tired of it, and my empire grew.  I joined a local N-Trak club and built a module.  This was great as I could put my module into a HUGE layout.  But, this too became tiring as I was not able to run trains for very long (just at the shows).  Since I was still in a "space conserving" mode, my focus stayed on a modular layout.  This gave me the advantage of being able to take down the layout quickly.

I built a couple of N-Trak dog-bone turn-around modules.  This helped expand my layout, as I could now run trains on my module at home - although it only had 11 inch radius curves (a little tight for the "big" layout I dreamed of).

I added several more modules, and my layout grew.  But, the 11 inch radius curves had to go.

One day, I just happened to acquire a set of N-Trak modules that feature an Ore Dock.  This was perfect, since it fit very nicely into my 'theme" - which was the DM&IR.  These two modules were 16 feet long.  I had 4 modules of my own.  So, I placed the four I had, plus the two I acquired, back-to-back, and made end loops.  This gave me a three track main-line, and curves of 16 inch minimum radius.  Now I was getting closer to my "dream" layout.  But, something was still lacking.  I did not like walking around a peninsula layout, and the three main tracks were getting boring.

The layout in the diagram below is what I ultimately ended up with.  It still gave me large radius curves.  The three main lines were now more like a double track main with a siding.  It gave me plenty of track.  I did not have to walk around a peninsula.  It had plenty of yard.  This layout was my first layout using DCC as well.  But, something was still lacking.

Some of the things I found with my current layout:

  • Too boxy - the track is too square to the edges of the layout.  First a curve, then a straight, then a curve, then a straight, etc...  Too sterile and unrealistic.
  • The layout has scenery, but is is not "MY" scenery.  The parts of the layout that really shine - from a scenery standpoint - are the parts I did not make.  The "best" parts of my layout, I did not build.  Ugh!
  • Too confusing.  The way the track is laid out is confusing.  It is not easy for a new-comer to navigate the maze of track.

So, what do I do?

Well, I know what I do not want.  And, the only way I can see to get away from some of that is to take down what I have, and redo it into a layout that matches more of my criteria.

Here are my initial intentions:

I will be selling several modules.  The Round-House module, and the one across from it, are up for sale (although, I do have a party interested in the RH module).  I am selling these as the structures (and track) are not quite what I would like included in my layout.  And, since they meet N-Trak standards and I have a bit of work in each, it seems a shame to dismantle them.  I hope someone else can make use of the work I started.

The two 2'x4' yard modules (with out the large curved section) will be used for our clubs N-Trak layout.

The two large curved sections (yard and bridge) will most likely end up in my new layout - at least the structural part anyway.

The other modules are not really setup as N-Trak modules - so, these will get dismantled.  The actual frame-work may get used again in my new layout.

The two 8 foot modules across the back of my currently layout are the ones I am not sure about.  They are nice modules, yet they have some flaws.  They were built as N-Trak modules - to be used in N-Trak layouts.  But, they are too big to be easily transported.  And, for what they represent, they are too big to be included in my future "dream" layout.   They have three main tracks running across the entire length (N-Trak standard) that make these modules fairly inflexible for use in any layout other than N-Trak standard layouts.  The part that I struggle with is there are items on these modules that I would like to include in my "dream" layout.  So, how do I include them?  That is a good question, and one I am trying to resolve.

My Dream Layout:

Everyone that does Model Railroading will have different ideas of what their "dream layout" would be like.  I have two or three different ideas of what my dream layout would be like, and as time passes, these ideas change.  So, the idea of 'dream layout' is very subjective.  Subjective to person, place, time, etc...  What may be a dream for me might be trivial for the next modeler.  But, each person will model what appeals to them.  However, the older I get, and the more versed in the aspects of the hobby I become, I slowly narrow down what I would like in a 'dream layout".  

I do not have a design for my dream layout (DL)... yet.  But, there is a set of criteria this DL must meet - or, at least address most of it.

  • The layout must fit an area of roughly 9 feet by 16 feet.  I do have more space available.  But, I want to keep the layout size manageable.
  • The layout must have 18 to 20 inch minimum radius main-line curves and not have grades greater than 2 percent (although, I could possible go down to 16 inch radius curves).
  • The fewer the turn-outs the better - to reduce maintenance.  Although, I expect there to be a fair number anyway.
  • I want to reduce the amount of straight track - except for yard areas.  I hope this will reduce the "sterile" look of the layout.
  • I do not want a duck-under or table style layout.  A walk-in "around the wall" style would be preferred.
  • I am open to a multi level layout.  This may give me the option of adding on to my layout as time allows.
  • I would like to have the bench-work somewhat modular - in case I need to dismantle and move the layout in the future.

I will be modeling the Duluth to Iron Range area of northern Minnesota - mainly focusing on the Missabe division of the DM&IR.  I will include both Steam and early diesel eras (roughly 1950s to 1960s).  Although, I will take liberty to include locations and equipment from other eras as well.  I will mainly focus on the hauling of Iron Ore and passenger service.  But, I will also dabble into freight as well as logging.

I would like to include the following areas in the layout.

  • Duluth's Union Depot and a little of the yard area between the depot and the harbor.
  • The Duluth Ore Dock.
  • Proctor Yard - with Steam/Diesel servicing facility
  • Saginaw Depot with the Junction to the D&NE
  • Iron Junction
  • Iron mine - not sure which one yet.
  • I may include a few other junctions as well - to other roads.  But, that has not been determined yet.
  • There will also be a variety of industries the RR will service as well.

Of course, my layout criteria are subject to change.  But, as in all hobbies, they grow with the person doing the hobby.

I would also like to design my dream layout to "operate".  I would like to be able to operate it alone (by myself), or with a crew of about 4 to 6 people maximum.  I am not very versed at 'operations'.  But, there is a lot to learn in this hobby.  I have dabbled in a lot of the other aspects of the hobby.  Now, it is time to dabble in operations.

Because I would like to "operate" my dream layout - do I make it an "end-to-end" style layout?  There is a part of this that is appealing.  But, there is also the desire to just let a train run - without worrying about it.  So, I think I would need some form of 'loop' in my layout.  But, I also think a staging yard - off of the typical layout - is in order as well.

The task of designing an operating layout is not one I have done before.  So, I think I will be needing some help with this.

I will try to keep this site updated as my layout progresses.  But, as with any "lifetime" hobby - this could be a while.

More later...

(added May 1st, 2006)