Big Dreams Small Layout - HO - Ward Stolk

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Big dreams, small layout, that should about sum up my situation


About me:

I'm a student and hence have little room and virtually no budget for model railroading, but I still enjoy it. Since I got my first train set when I was five (some secondhand trains, track and switches, of Lima in H0) i have been putting together railroads, on two large plywood boards. When I was 13 or thereabouts I decided to be ready for the bigger work, designed a small railroad (local tramway in the steam age) which should be able to fit under my bed (hence it was something like 2x1 meters large (sorry guys, I'm continental European), with a 1x0.5 meter extension to form an L-shape. Track laying was finished on that layout, but was done poorly (hey, I was only a kid), radius were far to small, and the electric wiring was also not very good. Nowadays, it still lies at my parents place, waiting to may be someday taken up again. Growing up, I gained wider interests, but never really lost interest in railroad modeling. I would like to pick it up again, but being a student I have very little space and an even tighter budget. This however does leave me with enough time to plan a small railroad, that needs to be interesting to operate and build and might even have the possibility of being extended if space and money allow for it. Building and planning might (I think) even give me more satisfaction than the actual operating, so I don't want to be finished in a year or so. Ok, time to set some demands on the railroad

Demands (or givens):

-Layout must be small and modular, to allow for storage when it is not in use (and for possible movement) -Layout must be cheap to build (go easy on the amount of turnouts and trains needed for normal operations)


I have been as much fascinated by the great example as by model railroads itself. I want my model railroad to allow for realistic operations, or formal operations as they are called on this site. Passenger trains have always attracted me more than cargo (I guess that comes with being European as well). Hence a passenger station is a must. What I like best about the great example is the long distance express trains, still long distance train traveling captivates me. I think I have a somewhat romantic idea of train travel. This seems hard to be combined with my givens, I know.


Imagine Great old Britain in the first half of the 20th century. Rivalry between different companies is extremely high. Each company tries to capture it's share of the market. One does so by providing long distant passenger service, the other by local branches, that provide critical links between the country and main lines. The Grand Northern Railway (yes, this story is fictitious) is one of the big competitors. Center of operations is a large metropole (whose location happens to coincide with London), large express trains are send far north into the country, but also to the east, where a luxurious boat connection to France exists. Since the city is far older than the railroad, there was no place in the city center to build a large terminal. The GNR is forced to build its terminal on the city borders. And a magnificent terminal it is, grandeur everywhere. However, the GNR is not entirely satisfied and wishes to provide its passengers direct access to the city center. Therefore, from the large terminal station, a single track is extended into the metropole, ending in the in a small terminus. A regular shuttle service is provided from the main terminal to this small terminus. However, since GNR puts high value on its long distance passengers, it does not want them to have to switch trains on the city border to travel to the center. Therefor, the express trains, coming from and going to the far north and the express trains that connect to the boat service are extended to the city center terminus, really stretching the limits of this small end station.



Space is really of issue in this small terminal, only one platform, with a single track exist. Besides it are two tracks, one for stalling some coaches and one for running the engine to the other side of the train. These three tracks end in a turntable, that also functions as a switch on that side of the station. Further more, there are two dead end tracks that allow for some cargo to be shifted around (cargo transport will be limited to supplies for the station itself and for some stores that are in the direct neighborhood of the station (this is additional cargo. The stores simply (ab)use the fact that the railroad is so close)). Finally there will be two tracks that lead two a single track engine shed and engine refreshments etc. The 'rest of the world' will be represented by a fiddle yard, which will consist of at least 5 tracks on a sliding (or rotating) board, to save space. The layout is supposed to be standing for a few days, to enjoy operating, and building and then to be stored in a corner again. The total size I had in mind was 2.4x0.6 meters (that would be about 8x2ft) for the station. It should consist of two separate modules that are easy to assemble and disassemble. The fiddle yard should be slightly smaller (let's say 2x0.6 meters (7x2ft)) and also consist of two parts.

The station is located in the middle of the metro pole, thus surroundings also need to be placed in this small area. The idea is to add three streets, that surround the station, but on a higher level (placed something like 10 centimeters (that would be around 4") higher than the tracks). The streets are building-less on the station yard site, but have buildings on the other side (these will be mere facades, saving space). In the middle of the street paralleling the the tracks, the main station building is located. Strangely enough, this building also faces towards the spectator/operator and connects to the lower platform via a staircase inside the building. The street in front of the station is crowded, but widened a little directly in front of the station building to allow for a very small station square (or circus actually). I plan to eventually have a streetcar in the streets and I want to create space in advance for a subway below the station tracks. All in all, it has to be a crowded city place, without looking overcrowded and toy like.


Now would be a nice time for operating. Yes, operating without a single track being laid. A dry run, so to say. This will help in checking if the station meets the demands, and if bottlenecks exist (bottlenecks need not necessarily be bad, they can be a adventure as well, especially to keep a small layout interesting). What would I, the manager of the Grand Northern, like to run in this station. As said before, some express trains, a regular shuttle to the Grand Terminal at the city border and a local very small freight train, to provide the stations with its necessities and to provide some of the direct surroundings of the station. This leads to the following train list:

Shuttle service:

This is a regular (say once an hour, or maybe once every half hour) shuttle service to the Grand Terminal. It is a local passenger train, just a few wagons (three or so) and pulled by a small steam locomotive (I own some already, but they may need replacement eventually).

Silver Express:

This express train runs up north in the country, all the way to Scotland. This luxurious train ends in this small station to deliver its passengers to the city center. The steamengine that is supposed to pull this train is already in my possession, a Silver Fox of the LNER (similar to the famous Mallard). Two carriages (I hope to have 5 or 6 in the end) are also in my possession, and one is even already painted silver. The mail wagons, attached to this express have already been left at the Grand Terminal. It thus consists only of passenger carriages. I still have to decide whether the passenger carriages will be overhauled in the station or are returned empty to the Grand Terminal and to be overhauled there. The first option requires a dedicated track and some building, which might act to the liveliness of the station, the second option leads to some extra activity on the main line . A same consideration should be made with respect to engine service, although I intend to let that take place here, at least the most basic refreshments (coal and water refilling and maybe an ash pit).

Paris Express:

The Paris Express is the train connection between the metropole and the boats to France at Dover. This is the other express train that I intend to let end in the terminal. For this one, the same considerations have to be taken into account as for the Silver express. The train consists now of two wagons that I own and needs to be expanded to 5 or 6. I do not have a suitable engine yet for this train, although I do own engine that could do the job, but are way out of place on this track (but as a start, who cares).

Local Freight:

This is supposed to be a small freight train. It should contain coal cars, to provide for the coal supply at the station. In the return run, these could take the ash from the as pit. Also a car with supplies for the station buildings (refreshments for the crew, spare parts of stuff, supplies for the passenger terminal etc.) should be contained in this local freight. Furthermore some local stores etc, also use the railroad as part of their supply chain, also some local mail and packages are delivered with this train

Yard Engine:

The yard engine is just what it says, it serves the yard, shifts cars around and stays out of the way of the big boys.

Assigning tracks in the station:

The station contains 3 main tracks, that are reachable from the main line and the turntable. I will number them 1-3 (starting from the platform) for the time being. The two dead end tracks that can be reached from the main line will be called 11 and 12 (seen from the platform) and the two tracks in the engine service area being 21 and 22 (the shed track being 21), the track leading from the turntable to the engine service area will be called 20. Ok, now I can start drawing up a simple schedule, with the above mentioned trains running.

The incoming passenger trains should always arrive on track 1, since this is the only track with an adjacent platform. Likewise outgoing passenger trains should also leave from track 1. Track 1 is to be completely reserved for passenger travel and is not to be used for other purposes (unless maybe a run through of an engine, but this should never become a standard use). Once the passenger train arrives, there are two possibilities, the train leaves fairly soon, and the cars require (almost) no service, thus the cars can stay on track one, while the engine receives coal and sand on track 22 (a water hose must be available both on track 22 (and 21) and between track 1 and track 2 (for fast turnaround engines that only require fresh water). Passenger cars that stay in the station longer (e.g. the Express trains) should either be serviced on track 2, or be transported back to the terminal, this remains yet undecided

The incoming and leaving local freight train should come in on track 2, leaving track 1 free for passenger trains. Thus track 2 should be free when the local freight arrives and leaves. The cars of the local freight must be sorted by the local engine and stalled on track 11 and 12. Some freight cars might need to go to tracks 21 and 22 to deposit there loads.

Track 3 should be kept empty at all times, since it will be used as runaround for the engines.

Track 11 and 12 can be freely used as stalling for freight cars, and maybe also, occasionally for passenger cars.

Track 21 will be in use as the overnight place of the yard engine. Also small repairs of the yard engine take place here. Maybe also some small repair of freight cars can take place here.

Track 22 is the track were engines are serviced. It will provide coal, sand, water and an ash pit. Other suggestions are welcome

The main line will also be used as yard lead, due to space problems (and the main line directly ends in the fiddle yard, so there is simply no space for a yard lead.

Suggestions on forgotten tracks, track that are used for too many purposes etc are more than welcome.

The Fiddle Yard:

The above schema mentions 4 trains for regular operations, that go on and of the scenic layout. Since I don't want to take of and replace trains all the time during normal operations, the Fiddle Yard should at least have four tracks reserved for these four trains. Furthermore, since the main line (which directly evolves in the Fiddle Yard is also used as Yard Lead, there should always be a free track on the Fiddle Yard to be used as Yard Lead, thus the minimal amount of tracks on the Fiddle Yard is five. Two more tracks might be advisable, in case I want some extra train runs in the future and for the set up of occasional special trains.

Building the model

The building should take time. This has several reasons, I will longer enjoy building it, and the money spend on the project can be spread over a longer period. However, one also want to run trains, occasionally, before the model is finished. Therefor, I hope that, after constructing the base, the first few tracks can be laid quickly, and then gradual expansion can be made, both in the model as in the available cars and engines. Thus it should be possible to enjoy running trains and building at the same time.

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