A layout on the front porch? Check this out

I’m really pleased to share this link to Eric Gagnon’s Trackside Treasure blog:

This evening he posted a terrific article chronicling his new layout. The layout itself is based on Shortliner’s Harlem Transfer layout from the Carl Arendt Website. Harlem Transfer was based on one of the fascinating railroads that once dotted the New York’s waterfront and is, itself, a terrific small layout for HO scale that presents a terrific amount of operating potential in a small space without feeling like a tiny board crammed full of track. Eric’s is inspired by this plan and also Linn Wescott’s Switchman’s Nightmare layout. I love how Eric has designed the track to flow through a series of arcs as opposed to the more linear arrangements that are more typical of micro layouts (mine included!)

More than just a micro layout, Eric wanted a layout that could be used in the main part of his house or even outside on the front porch.

Why remain consigned to the catacombed confines of the layout room when shady afternoons and cool evenings await, on the front step?

I had the pleasure of exchanging emails back and forth with Eric about the potential for a layout designed to be shared in more common areas of the house. Building a layout in the attic or the basement certainly offers the modeller a terrific amount of space but it also isolates you from your family. It’s such a shame to build a beautiful layout but then hide it away from view where so few will see it and appreciate all that great work. More than that, these model railways are things that we’ve made that should be displayed with pride in the same way that an heirloom furniture item or new home theatre would be. As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be building my layout in our living room and Eric’s been taking his line to the front porch. Wherever we run these lines, we’re indulging in this awesome hobby in the company of others. It’s a chance for the non-modellers in our families to really experience what we find so fascinating by providing a firsthand, “live” opportunity to show them how we do it and perhaps even pass the throttle to someone who might not venture into the basement.

What else do I like so much about this layout? Where do I start?

I like how Eric planned it using real track and cars. I’m a strong believer in actually staging track and scenes on that sheet of plywood as aids to design. You should set up some track, a few cars or any details that you consider critical to the finished plan in your space. With those elements in place, relax in a chair and ask yourself if this arrangement is as enjoyable to look at as you’d like? If you can, set up some track so you can even push a car or two through it and see if trains will move through the space in a way that’s equally pleasing to watch. We operate our model railways for our enjoyment and entertainment so we should consider those elements during design.

I think we should focus on the user experience when designing our layouts so that we engineer scenes we’ll enjoy running trains through and simply watching trains operate within. We often know exactly what style of railroading we are trying to represent. We should invest time in understanding those scenes so that we really understand why we like them so much. Armed with these elements the layouts we design and build will begin to tell their story almost immediately as wood, foam, track and trains appear and not be pending that final layer of scenery or complicated signage. The right equipment operating in a well-composed scene will finish the scene for you. Scenery only fills tiny voids to bridge between stories. We’re model railroaders after all, let’s design great railroads that can speak for themselves.

Thanks Eric for providing us with such a terrific example of a model railway in it’s finest form.

Categories: How I think, Track plans

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