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Four keys to believable, engaging layouts

Prototype Inspiration


Whether your vision of the perfect railroad scene is a transcontinental Class 1, gritty industrial switcher, or tropical cane hauler, choosing scenes and elements of prototype railroads for inspiration adds authenticity and atmosphere to your layout. Prototype, freelance, or something in between -- any railroad concept can benefit from a dose of real railroading. I'll help you distill the distinguishing characteristics of the prototype road that can add realism and flavor to your layout.




What separates model railroading from other miniatures is the sense of movement and purpose. Staging (hidden, visible, or implied) helps suggest that the visible scene is somehow connected with the commerce of a larger outside world. All but the tiniest real-life railroads are too large to model in their entirety -- together we can find ways to suggest that the layout goes beyond the benchwork.


Major Industries


Generations of quaint little structure kits led to layouts populated with industries barely larger than the single boxcars spotted beside them. But the meat and potatoes of real railroads is the revenue that comes from serving major industries that load (or receive) railcars in quantity. Even the smallest layout can provide some flavor of this hallmark of the real railroad.




Interchange with another (prototype or freelence) railroad has been called "the perfect model railroad industry". These tracks can terminate or originate many kinds of cars and loads, take little space, and can be added to nearly any plan. What's more, they can suggest locale, era, and character of your layout just by the choice of interchange partners. Let's find a way to add this boost of realism to your plan.


Copyright 2004 by Byron Henderson

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