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Building The Right-Sized Layout

Now available from Kalmbach Media is my new book, Building The Right-Sized Layout, Designing and operating a small switching layout.

A couple of years ago the good folks at Kalmbach Media reached out to me and inquired if I wanted to write a book for them. I was honored that they would ask me, and began considering what I would write about. Because of my website and YouTube channel many model railroaders have reached out to me over the years and asked questions about my layout design, construction, and its operations. I am always glad to help other model railroaders and decided to put that information in a book so that others could use it as a reference when they designed their own layout. Based on this information, I presented an outline and proposal for the book to Kalmbach and they accepted it. Good news, I am going to write a book, bad news is I have to write a BOOK! Through the help of many good friends I was able to collect photographs and the information that I needed to write the book.

One of the main goals of the book is to validate that you don’t need a large layout to enjoy model railroading. It all comes down to your operational goals and what type of layout is best for your current situation. The biggest decisions a model railroader faces when they choose to build a layout is determining its operational design and size. What is the “right-sized” layout for you is a very personal choice. A right-sized layout is one that meets the modeler’s operational needs while fitting into the space they have allocated for their model railroad. Each model railroader has their own goals and objectives, which has an impact on their layout design and the space that it will require.

John Farrington's RSSX Railserve layout is a perfect example of a layout that fits his current living space and offers hours of operations in a compact space. Photo by John Farrington

Many times smaller layouts are not given the consideration that the larger ones are, and model railroaders wait to build their “perfect layout”. While this may be a reasonable plan, the time to build your skills is now so that you’ll be ready when and if that day arrives to build your dream layout. A smaller layout allows you to practice your skills, discover what projects you enjoy, and the areas you may need to improve. You may just find out that a “right-sized” layout is the perfect layout for you.

In the first chapter of my book, The Right-Sized Layout, I help you determine what your operational goals are, and review the advantages of different types of layout design and room options for your layout. Chapter 2 Track planning, discusses many elements of layout planning including staging considerations, design minimums, selecting industries, and negative space. Layout construction methods and factors to consider for your benchwork, including height, depth, and construction are covered in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, Prototype inspired track plans, I have designed track plans based on prototype locations for a standard sized bedroom. One additional track plan, designed by William Sampson, highlights the Hiawatha Elevator District in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The last four chapters deal with operating your layout once you have it built. These chapters include, Prototype operations, in Chapter 5, applying prototype rules and procedures to an ops session. Chapter 6, highlights Operational details that enhance and slow down your operating session making a small layout operate like a much larger one. Chapter 7 reviews different types Operating session paperwork to move trains and cars, and Chapter 8, Conducting operating sessions, walks you through setting up an operating session on your own layout.

In this photo taken by Keith Armes, Genese and Wyoming's Chattooga & Chickamauga Railroad locomotives #1700 and #1804, switch cars at Euclid Chemical in LaFayette, Ga. Short line railroads like this are excellent candidates for a model railroad.

The book features over 250 photographs and drawings, with many never before published photos. My good friend Keith Armes provided many of the amazing prototype photos that I used in the book and I greatly appreciate his contribution. Without the help of all my friends that contributed material and information this book would not be possible. I am truly grateful for all their help and support. I also want to thank the art staff and editors at Kalmbach that did an amazing job on the book. I am very proud of the end result. While the writing a book was a lot of work, I enjoyed the process and met many new friends. I hope you have a chance to read my book and let me know what you think about it.

If you would like to purchase a copy of my book, click the link below.


Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

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