Designing the layout


So, I came to the fun part – the actual designing of the layout.

I prepared a ‘Must Have’ list of the items I really wanted to see on my final layout with as close to an LNER-style as possible.  These were as follows (in no particular order):

  1. A twin track mainline with long straights for continuous running of the big passenger trains.  I like the stop / start of shunting and sidings, but I don’t think there is anything much better than seeing a passenger train in full flight  (like a Mallard or Garganey – yes, I have them in my A4 collection).
  2. A mainline station to accomodate an engine and at least three coaches.
  3. A tunnel.
  4. A signal box and level crossing.
  5. A single track branchline with both passenger and goods traffic.
  6. A central well to allow access to the inner areas of the layout during both construction and operation.  It would have to be a good size hole to allow me to stand up and therefore mean less space on the baseboard for modelling.  However, I felt it necessary given a 12 foot by 8 foot layout would mean I’d be stretching more than 4 feet in places to get things done.  Certainly not ideal.
  7. Electrified points.
  8. Steam era loco sheds to allow for at least four engines.
  9. A goods yard with at least six decent length sidings.
  10. A brewery.  This is after seeing one featured in a Hornby magazine and how great it looked on their layout.
  11. Coaling facilities.
  12. Ash removal facilities.
  13. Coal merchant.
  14. Space to model a village – shops, a pub (or two) and housing to be determined, but similar to the terraced housing I used to live in back in England.  Fortunately, Hornby did the exact range I was looking at using on my layout.
  15. The small details which transform your layout to something much more true to life – trees, bushes, grass, people, vehicles, signals, signs, lights…  All the little things that would require hours of internet research to find the best stockists.  I already had a few in mind thanks to my Hornby magazines.


Then, given that I hadn’t started the actual drawing up of the layout, I came up with a “Would Like” list, space and time permitting, which included:

  1. Snow.  I grew up with the romance of it snowing every winter, loved sledging and snowball fights, building snowmen.  You get the picture.  But modelling in snowy scenes, hmmmm.  That’s a hole different ball game.
  2. A branchline station.
  3. A second track branchline with local traffic of smaller engines and wagons.
  4. A turntable.
  5. A coal mine – I am from Worksop, coal mining is in my blood.
  6. Split level to add a little more feature and dimension.


I already had a certain amount of track which didn’t include too many points or flexi-track.  Wanting to maximise the space I had available to me (but not wanting to just try and fit every little thing into that space) would mean that drafting accurate track plans was pretty important.

It is failry difficult, if not impossible, to manually draw up track plans.  I did some research, trawled the internet, and found a superb computer software by AnyRail.  It was a very simple program to use, included many different manufacturers and most importantly was very cheap for the job it was intend to do.  It also made the whole track planning process more fun as you could fiddle around with ideas, save them and come back to them at a later stage.  If you’re at the track planning stage I would highly recommend checking the AnyRail software out.

Go to:

I designed everything except the goods yard and engine sheds sections of my layout with this software.  [No, I don’t get commissions from AnyRail.  I just highly rate this software and think the sooner you can get the track planning process finalised you can then get on to building your layout which is what it’s really all about.]  Also, knowing the cost of track and other model railway accessories I’m sure it has saved me a pretty penny which I may then put to good use elsewhere – like detailing my rolling stock.


The AnyRail software allowed me to print out my draft track plans, so I was then able to start sketching ideas on what and where I could add detail (must have’s and would like’s) and scenary.

It was apparent right from the start that I should be able to fit in my 14 Must Have listed items.  Fantastic!  There would probably have to be some major compromise on the Would Like items and these would only really be known when I got down to actual constructing my layout.  Best leave them on the back burner for the time being and come back to them when I have a better idea on space availability and whether or not they should be on my layout.  Snow, yes.  Others, maybe.

I noticed perhaps by skill or just good fortune that my draft plans seemed to split the 12′ by 8′ layout into three reasonably sized and distinct sections – (1) village / brewery on the fist 8′ by 4′ section, (2) mainline station / operating well / mainline straight in the middle section, and (3) goods yard / tunnel in the last section.  It seemed to add more feature and realism to what life would be like in Garys-Large-Shed-Village.  I haven’t come up with apt names for the village, brewery, station and others at this stage so I would be more than open to suggestions.

Time to get building…

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