Track Plan Evolution

Like most people I like to draw up track plans before beginning construction. Now that all the track is laid on my layout, I’d like to show the evolution of the track plan for this layout. Remember that I model in HO scale.

My train room is 20’6″ by about 10′ but is not quite a rectangle. Version 1’s track plan  shows the dimensions plus a very basic idea of how the track would flow.

Version 1

Version 1
Version 1

I was trying to make use of most of the room’s area. A few things to notice:

  • Walkaround plan
  • “Sincere” – no running twice through the same area
  • Continuous running possible
  • Duckunder at the door
  • Not a lot of aisle space

Version 2

I added a lot of detail to show both CN and CP. I was trying to model the area around Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Version 2
Version 2

A few more notes:

  • CN and CP run side by side, just like the prototype
  • Some attempt at trackage in Portage (bottom of image) but it’s not a “real” plan as nothing is really connected and it won’t fit
  • Large staging areas for both CN and CP
  • CN Gladstone is intended as a short staging area

Version 3

I made an attempt to detail Portage in a more do-able way, and added some detail to the peninsula.

Version 3
Version 3


  • I really really wanted a wye in Portage
  • That peninsula is a real space eater

Version 4

This was an attempt to make it more like the prototype.

Version 4
Version 4


  • Added a siding at CN Oakville
  • Moved CP Simplot and added CP Burnside, much  like the prototype was a few decades ago
  • CN and CP cross at West Tower, like the prototype

Version 5

This is what was actually built. You’ll notice it is quite different from the plan!

Version 5 - As Built
Version 5 – As Built

Many notes here:

  • I gave up on the wye – there wasn’t enough room
  • CP actually climbs over CN at West Tower, as the CP staging is on top of the CN staging
  • I added the CP Minnedosa subdivision as staging
  • The huge peninsula is now a narrow one
  • CN Gladstone disappeared
  • CN Oakville was removed, as it is behind my computer desk and would not be accessible

So there you have it – the evolution of my layout plan.

Planning for the New Layout

It’s time to start planning for my next model train layout. Hallelujah!

In my life I have had two serious layouts: the Nova Scotia Eastern and CN in Bathurst, NB (circa 1975). The NSER was torn up in 2004, and the CN layout lasted until 2009. Both were removed prior to moving.

As I write this, workmen are in the basement putting wallboard up. Soon my train room will be boarded, painted, and carpeted, and I’ll be ready to start pounding spikes. Thankfully I am not doing the room preparation this time.

I don’t have a track plan yet, nor even much of an idea where and when the layout will be set. I think my next step will be to update my givens and druthers list.

Here is a diagram of the room and an idea of how the mainline will run. You can see the room is not exactly rectangular. It is a little over 20′ long but only 8′ 6″ wide at the smallest, or 11′ 11″ wide at the widest.

Train room diagram v1

I would like a peninsula to use more of the space in the middle of the room. This track layout gives 80′ 10″ of mainline running.

So… any thoughts on track plans? 🙂

Track Planning For The New Layout

With my new layout room, I needed a new plan. My initial thought was to continue with the Dartmouth Subdivision idea that the NSER used.

This plan is basically a single-level dogbone with some around-the-wall staging. No doubt you can see a number of problems with the design, including restricted aisle space. On the plus side, I would have had a wye for turning and fairly good switching opportunities.

I decided I wanted to try something fresh. Based on my own railfanning experiences, I settled on a layout loosely based around the Bathurst area in the early 1980s before CN started ripping up the old subdivisions. The layout would go from “Moncton / Miramichi” (staging) through Nepisiguit Junction, Bathurst, and Belledune before “Campbellton” (staging). It would feature run-through trains that just went from one staging yard to another, switching along the way, as well as VIA’s Ocean and local passenger service.

This is a very rough around-the-walls plan just to get an idea of where the stations would fit. I kept the around-the-wall staging and obviously designed for continuous running. Time to flesh it out.

It’s almost the same plan, with more detail. Notice how the staging for both “ends” is in the same place. This is still very rough as the space allocated for switches is not realistic. One must always use real switch dimensions to ensure you don’t get impossible angles.

I had this idea that I could get more track into the same space by doing a twice-around layout, spawning this plan.

This time the staging is on both sides of the room. The twice-through idea does give long main line runs but I decided it would not look realistic.

Next time I’ll show you the “final” version. It does away with the twice-through idea but looks a lot like this one.

Room Preparation

I tore the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway up in the summer of 2004 to get ready for our move to a larger house. Being a good railway baron, I ensured I would have (more) space for a new layout in the new home. I ended up with a 10×16 foot room, which is about double the area of the NSER.

Empty roomThe first trick was to get the room ready. It had four walls, if you could call them that. Two of the walls were the concrete foundation, and the other two were framed but had no electrical work done. There was one heater in the room and one single-bulb light fixture. The floor was concrete and there was no ceiling. Clearly a lot of work needed to be done!

Empty roomMy father-in-law and I put the framing, insulation and wallboard/gyproc up. The ceiling is gyproc as well. I painted the entire room light blue, including the ceiling. I had a flooring dealer come in to install dark grey carpeting with an underpad, for comfort.

We put in six electrical outlets, two each on the long walls and one centered on each of the short walls. I wanted to have plenty of light, so we put in four two-tube flourescent fixtures on one switch plus provision for a track light on a dimmer. The baseboard heater remains on one of the walls, controlled by a thermostat in the room. There is no telephone connection in the room yet, but I plan on installing one as well as a network port for a future computer.

Finished roomI think the finished product looks pretty good. I’m glad I decided to go with the four light fixtures. It may seem like overkill but I like being able to work without having shadows in the way. I think it will work well when it comes time to take “railfan” photographs. I still haven’t put the track lighting in, but that will come in time.

Finished roomI should mention the two floods we had in the basement. We had a problem with the drain tile around the house, and in the winter of 2005-2006 our basement flooded several times. There were two times in particular where the train room was flooded enough that the carpet became saturated. Both times I had to rip the carpet up and bring in blowers and heat to dry it out, after sucking up whatever water I could with the shop vacuum. Fortunately no model railroad stuff was damaged and the carpet seems to have survived. Even though our flooding problem is fixed, I still don’t leave anything on the floor – just in case.