When planning construction of a model railroad there are all sorts of possible track configurations and plans to consider.
It really depends on the space you have at your disposal and what type of train operation you would most enjoy.
Real railroads (prototype) run from one destination to another rather than go around in a circle. In reality, real railroads usually have hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of track to work with.
Full size trains often run for long stretches over monotonous landscape, which if reconstructed on a model layout, would be rather boring.
To give you an example, the Ghan Train in Australia, runs 1,880 miles across mostly barren desert. Imagine replicating that on a scaled down model railroad – it would probably stretch from one end of town to the other!
The main line begins at one point, and travels to another point, and stops, hence the term – a point to point railroad.
Although a point-to-point layout is necessary on real railroads, the format is not generally practical for the average home (or club) model train layout.
To make things a little more practical (and interesting), prototype railroads have branch lines, sidings and other subsidiary systems. Adding these to a model layout can be a good idea.
Before departure, the trains are turned around at terminals using yards, loops, wyes, and turntables. A single or double-track main line usually stretches from point to point.
When planning your point-to-point layout, you might want to include switches and yards at one end of the layout, and a turnaround at the other.
Most small layouts would not have enough space for two terminals, so use an “out-and-home” track configuration. An out-and-home layout accommodates only one terminal and is like a point-to-point layout double backing.
The train journey would start at the terminal and it would pass through various landscapes, possibly a small town, and eventually arrive back at the same terminal.
Constructing an out-and-home layout usually enables a little more mileage between terminals. The train will still arrive back at the terminal in a reasonably short space of time.
You could add more realism and interest by combining an out-and-home, and point-to-point, format with continuous pikes. You would need a fair amount of space though.
Many model railroaders prefer a continuous layout because it allows for varied train movements which make operation more interesting.
Whatever track plan you decide, the important thing is to have fun.
If you’re just getting started with model trains, you should know that a quality locomotive is key. A good one will make all the difference in the world. Here are 5 tips to pick a good locomotive.
I’m not made of money. So I like to save when I can. My wife calls it being cheap. (I would call it being sensible.)
However, if you’re getting started with model trains, don’t skimp on the locomotive. Nothing is more frustrating than having a locomotive that you need to push to get going. It’s worse if it suddenly speeds up and falls off the tracks.
A locomotive runs by picking up the electricity from the track through its wheels. The wheels transfer the electricity to the motor, which then turns the gears to drive the locomotive.
A locomotive with poor pickup on the wheels or a poor gear set up will give you lots of problems. As with most things, you get what you pay for… but this is one area you do not want to skimp on.
A great operating locomotive is 90% of the way to having a fantastic model train layout.
When buying a locomotive these points are critical:
Most hobby shops will let you test the locomotive on their in-house test tracks before you buy.
Test the locomotive forwards and backwards… Check for a nice smooth take off and a nice smooth stop when the power is ramped up or down.
I usually go into my local hobby shop after doing my research online, test the locomotive, and then I negotiate the price. That tip has saved me nearly 30% of the retail price in some cases.
Buy quality when you buy your locomotives… I guarantee the investment will be well worth it.
If you would like more info or are looking for a good starter Resource, check out this website on Model Trains for Beginners.