Track Planning for Beginners Part 1
This is how I am carrying out my track planning.
1. Prepare the available space. At a minimum clean the area where the bench work will go.
2. Measure the space available and use a piece of graph paper to make a map of the area.
3. I used handy panels which are 2'x4' and I made the bench work follow the wall. Going wider than 2 feet around a wall makes maintenance and operations more difficult.
4. Make a list next to your map of the possible configurations - even some you know you don't want or are impractical. Consider using a 4'x8' sheet that you can walk around both long sides.
5. Start the Design Process.
I. Visualize what you want out of your model railroad. Imagine the things you really like and how the look and feel of the layout will make you happy. Imagine showing your layout to your friends. Imagine how things will look at sunrise, sunset and night.
II. Describe your vision by making a list of the coolest things you could think of - the look, the feel and how you would explain it to a friend viewing it for the first time.
III. Start drawing your best guess on your map.
6. Armchair modeling is when you make track plans on paper and imagine how they will function. This is a hobby all to itself - you can make track plans on paper just because it's fun. I like to keep these things in a Composition Book Quad Rule. You can find these in many stores and even the dollar store. Try laying out a simple industry with 1 track and a run around track. Then bend that configuration in many different ways and see if you can imagine dropping off and picking up cars.
7. Assuming you decided on a tentative plan and have prepare the space then build the primary bench work. I personally do not use foam tops because I nail my track in place. I do this on purpose because I like to lay down track and test it, redo it and retest it. I like cork bulletin boards squares on top of particle board. That doesn't mean you should do that. Particle board can be very tricky stuff to work with because of the numerous scenery techniques that involve putting a liquid down for scenery which will be soaked up by the board causing it to swell. I've been using it for a very long time and know its properties and how it reacts to water and temperature changes. The cork squares just so happen to be 1'x1' making it very easy to draw accurate maps. It also makes it easy to put some track on it and see if it actually lines up the way you think it will.
8. Start putting track and your favorite cars on the benchwork to see how they look. You can nail down some track, test it and go back to your map. Keep refining your plan using the new information from your tests. Also start small - get little parts to work and build on them, i.e., don't lay down a huge yard first. If you have an industry or a single track somewhere put that one down first and start building out from there. Many people like to lay down the mainline first and make everything fit after that. I like to lay down simple pieces and build out which then creates a mainline which only has to be completed.
9. Test and Retest. Rebuild and test again.
metal pencil sharpener