Track Layout Ideas for Your Model Train


For the model train enthusiast, purchasing the rolling stock is only the start of what will become an extensive, and possibly life changing project. It may be very costly, certainly very time consuming, but thoroughly enjoyable.

The major part of establishing a model railroad project is the design and implementation of the layout of the diorama with scenery, structures and appropriate scale track for operating the trains.

The size of the layout you can design, build and operate depends on the amount of room in which you have to set it up. Some layouts can be quite small shelf-top designs that can be accommodated in a very small space. Others can fill part of a room, or even a whole room or basement.

For a small, simple layout, a table will usually be adequate but most model railroaders aim to establish larger, permanent layouts. These will usually require construction of suitable benches, often fixed to the walls of the room to provide a high degree of stability.

An important aspect of any model train setup is the arrangement of the track itself. There are at least four basic layout patterns for setting out the track, and countless variations of both track configuration and subsequent station placement. Four of the more common basic patterns are:

  • point to point this is merely a straight line of track with a station at each end, with trains going from the station at one end to the other station;
  • continuous loop in its simplest form this is either a circle or an oval and the trains move around it continuously, but it could be modified into a “dog bone” shape by pulling two opposite sides of the circle or oval together, giving a double track appearance in the middle with a smaller circular shape at either end;
  • out and back where the train leaves the single station, travels around a pear-shaped layout and returns to the original station;
  • station yard only where a single station is surrounded by a number of short, interconnected tracks, providing great opportunities for shunting.
  • From these four basic patterns, there are countless variations. Some possibilities are:
  • combining two or more of the four basic patterns, for example adding an “out and back” at one or both ends of a “point to point” layout;
  • adding double track to any of the first three basic layouts to allow two or more trains to operate at the same time;
  • adding branch lines, allowing an increase in the number of stations;
  • arranging a continuous loop as a figure-of-eight, even elevating one track over the other rather than having the crossing at the same level;
  • using multiple levels, allowing the use of more track, and thus more activity, in small areas;
  • adding station yards, with adequate standing tracks, to any of the configurations.

The number of possible variations you incorporate into your track layout will only be limited by the space you have available, your time [and your patience] and, of course, the size of your wallet.

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