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Layout Expansion!

Planning and designing a layout can be tricky in the first place. Deciding on layout design elements that are must-have's vs. your wants vs. available space can be a real challenge. But sometimes constraints are necessary to push our creativity.

When I designed my layout I knew my space was extremely limited and I hadn't planned for any reasonable expansion. The space I have available is small and living in an apartment, I figured when the time came to move, I'd probably be ready to build a new layout anyway. Well, the housing market is a mess for first-time-would-be-home-buyers like myself, so I figured if I'm going to be in this space another year or two I'd like to make better use out of it.

So began the brainstorming process to figure out how I could get more layout out of the 11'x13' spare bedroom I use for my office. I'll spare the details but what I essentially landed on was to move the layout where my desk had been residing and move the desk to where the layout was. This allowed me roughly 45" of additional layout space. A total of 101" from one wall to the limit of my closet door. Just enough to model the north side of the yard along with some other key scenes from the prototype.

The addition is still highly compressed and some of the larger warehouses aren't even in the proper location prototype-wise. But as far as an operation standpoint, I gained a few additional yard tracks and 2-3 new industries. The layout now holds more than double the amount of freight cars it did before. The biggest change operations-wise is the ability to now pull an entire cut of cars off of the car float to the north side of the layout and perform the yard switching there.

One of the constraints I have to deal with here is that the northern yard lead is about two car lengths too short for a cut of 6 cars to clear the ladder. I'm at least able to pull roughly 4x 50' cars plus the engine past the ladder to shove into the yard and that's good enough for me. Yard tracks can only hold 4-5 cars anyway. The old maneuver required a runaround on the ladder with only 2-3 cars to access the yard.

The double ended yard tracks hold about 4x 50' cars each while the longest of the two stub ended tracks can hold an entire 6 car cut bound for the car float. I've been switching cars around in a very informal way but so far the entire design hits on all the points I wanted most out of this layout.

  • Lots of yard space for sorting and storing cars

  • On-layout staging (the car float)

  • Multiple industries to switch

  • Two tracks for engine storage

  • Lots of switching!

One of the things I love about this little layout is the additional car storage and sorting tracks. Since the layout is kind of a furniture piece in the room, I really enjoy having a place to look at lots of rollingstock siting idle. This isn't great practice for the prototype, but since the layout is idle most of the time it's nice to have some eye candy to look at over my computer monitors.

The biggest drawback in my design is due to space constraints and that's a lack of staging for trains to enter and exit the layout. It's not a deal breaker in this case though. The car float acts as on layout staging for 6 cars inbound or outbound. For outbound interchange trains, I simply build them in the yard and remove the consist from the layout between ops sessions. Same goes for industries that are just to the north off the modeled layout. I'll build the local during a session and remove the cars from the yard and replace them with empties between sessions. So I guess the entire layout also acts like a staging yard. So far this has been working well for my informal sessions. The rest of the modeled industries are switched out traditionally.

Overall I'm really happy with the design and I think it's going to satisfy me up until we decide to move out of this space. There's a lot of details I'd like to add to the city streets and all the new warehouse buildings will need to be either kitbashed or scratch built.

In the next few posts I'll cover the build process including benchwork, wiring and track laying. I'm pretty excited to begin adding buildings and scenery and can't wait to share that process with you all as well!

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