This one surprised me and discusses the method used to control the layout. I brought this into the mix not so I could discuss the merits of DCC as compared to batteries and RC but more to express a thought about the shear size of the system used to control a layout so small.

Whatever method of controlling the trains the system itself should be in line with the layout in terms of:

How much space does it require?

If the layout is small, for example around four square feet, should the controller be some massive big block like the old H&M or MRC controllers? My current is a small handheld throttle that uses an external transformer. I like that it takes very little room to store between sessions and most of it can be easily concealed within the footprint of the layout itself. I thought of this when looking at the little Sprog 3 DCC command station and how it takes relatively little room and could be completely incorporated into the layout – almost invisible to the viewer.

And about as complicated…

Does a four square foot inglenook-style layout really need DCC controlled turnout motors and even sound? Is the viability of these requirements a function of the size of the layout? It seems so simple that it almost doesn’t even need to be said but then why not since we’re here anyway.

Categories: How I think

9 replies

  1. Like the location post this has been a topic on my mind recently as well but specifically to the need of sound on a small layout I’m remind of Prof Klyzlr’s Brooklyn 3AM and his use of sound (as described in the Model Rail Radio Chez Prof Special which shows up in the feed but oddly not on the website).

    So in short I agree that sound isn’t really needed but in my opinion it’s easier to do more profound things with sound in a small layout than a large one :)

    • When I mentioned sound, I’ll confess that my thoughts were more centred on the train itself and for a moment I’d overlooked the potential of sound for the rest of the layout. The Prof’s example is outstanding. Thank you for bringing it into the conversation. On a small layout it’s easier to think about injecting sound from the non-train aspects of the layout to help guide the viewer through the scene. Of course, that same small layout doesn’t host as much rolling stock and I’m intrigued with the potential of sound for the rest of the train too – not just on the engine.

      With respect to the control aspects though as much as I’d like to add sound it’s a variable that I’d avoid if the hardware to support it starts to feel more complex than the layout it supports.



  2. I think for an Inglenook layout, you could go with DC, but sound adds a lot of play value, and you want to maximize the play value fore every element in a small layout.

    I am going with a wireless option on my layout in a shared space. This helps to keep the fascia clean. More importantly, wireless keeps a wire from dangling below the layout onto the shelves below where it will get snagged by someone trying to get a book (or work on their models in my case).

    • I like the wireless option too for the same reasons. I want that same clean fascia and presentation.

      You raised a good point about the way this decision relates to the space around it (wires dangling everywhere). It’s a point I’d like to think more about:
      – how much work should it take to get the system online?
      – how much should it be contained within the layout?
      – beyond the train what else does this system need to do?
      – what are my expectations with regard to maintenance?

      I’m looking forward to thinking about this more.



      • It should take no more effort than turning on a switch to bring the system online, and it should be completely contained within the layout or in a cabinet above or below the layout. Having storage next to the layout also helps keep the mess down if you can be disciplined about putting things away at the end of each work session.

      • I agree on one switch. One plug to the wall and one switch to everything’s live.

        I also agree on integral storage. I’ve been thinking of a painting box style where the layout is on top and underneath are storage drawers:
        One for control and tools
        One for extra rolling stock not needed on the layout.

        Great stuff again. Thanks.


      • Don’t forget about space above the layout. I actually have my control system in a cabinet above the layout. I hardly ever have to touch it (the plug is controlled from a wall switch).

      • That’s an excellent point that hadn’t occurred to me. I have, on my list, some form of valance to carry lighting. With that space already in place, it would be a great place to place any control gear.

        Great point



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