Layout Design
Model RR Blog
Layout Design
Tips & Ideas
Design Gallery
Fees and Schedule
Contact Me
Why seek layout design help?

For some model railroaders, layout design is a fun and challenging activity. But many others find it an unpleasant, even frustrating, process.
If you:
- feel trapped in "the armchair"
- have difficulty making choices and trade-offs
- want a "second opinion" on your current or proposed layout
- need help in turning your basic concept into a "buildable" plan
... let's work together to help you make the next step.

Four "Cornerstones" of layout design

Most layouts will benefit from including these important concepts:

- Prototype Inspiration

- Staging

- Major Industries

- Interchange

Read more about the cornerstones

What's included with Layout Design consultation?
Depending on your needs, I can provide detailed plans in a variety of formats if you are beginning from square one. If you already have plans or an existing layout and  would like ideas on ways to better meet your vision and requirements, I can also work from your materials and make suggestions. Every engagement is different and I'll work with you to provide the information and level of detail you need. Read more details on the layout design process.

What kind of documentation do you provide?
Track plans are delivered as detailed 2-dimensional color CAD renderings, both in electronic and hard copy formats. Rough scenery sketches and structure footprints are usually provided to aid in construction. Separate views show details such as curve radii, turnout location and type, track elevations, etc. Click the image at right for sample views from a custom plan. (Please be patient for the downolad, occasionally my ISP is a bit slow.)
track plan sample views
Click for sample custom plan views in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format


Layout Design Gallery

Click here for examples of custom model railroad HO and N track plans for a variety of room sizes.

Prototype-based HO switching layout on 6'X7.5' shelf
Many small switching layouts are built based on the Timesaver or Inglenook schemes, but these layouts are rarely based on the prototype due to their small size and limited track configurations. The HO scale shelf layout at right could be built on a couple of roughly 6' X 18" sections and replicates the activities and track layout of the Pacific Electric's "Orphan Branch" in the San Fernando Valley (Southern California). Read more on this layout.
This compact model railroad layout contains all four of the cornerstones -- Prototype Inspiration; Staging; Major Industries; and Interchange -- albeit very simplified and compressed. With a full 10 foot wall along the top, the layout will be much more versatile. If you are interested in an operations-oriented switching layout design that will be fun to operate, drop me a line.
Click the image for more on this HO shelf switching layout

Click image for details on this layout

Proto-freelanced N scale multi-deck (about 12’X16’)

Sometimes all the elements one wants aren’t together in exactly the “right” places. This proto-freelance N scale multi-deck design brought together several different features typical of the Ohio Valley such as a steel mill, river shipping of commodities, and coal mining in a plausible layout design. The plan provides plenty of operating potential, including a fairly complete (for a model) steel mill with related facilities.

A key to practical multi-deck designs is allowing room for human operators and providing for their reach limitations and sightlines. All too often, folks design multi-deck layouts that look good in CAD, but can’t actually be constructed, viewed, or operated very easily. Some of the subtleties of these designs include determining where operators will stand to work the various scenes and how they will move past one another when necessary -- it’s a lot more than just stacking decks!

What information do you need from a client to begin?
Very accurate measurements of your layout space are important, but this need not be drawn up in a CAD program. A simple sketch is fine, as long as the measurements are accurate. I'll ask you to look over these questions to help you focus your vision of what you'd like your railroad to be. Then we start talking and it goes from there.
How much does this all cost?
Perhaps less than you think! Click here for specifics and more on how an investment in a custom layout design can pay great dividends in your hobby enjoyment.
Can you build a layout for me?
Unfortunately, I don't have the modeling skills to build layouts for clients. There are several services that advertise in Model Railroader and other publications. There are only two of these builders whose quality I can vouch for personally: Lance Mindheim and Rick Fortin. They each do beautiful work.
I'm not really interested in a custom design .. I just want to know what CAD program to buy
In case you are wondering, I work with 3rd PlanIt layout design software. I have used a number of different packages and 3rd PlanIt works well for me, although not one of the currently available packages is what I would call "easy to use". Here is some information on model railroad CAD software.
Copyright © 2004-18 by Byron Henderson

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