Beginner's Headaches When You Go Beyond The Simple Loop Layout!


[Note: Blogger has finally broke! And won't allow me to text format. I'm looking into maybe changing to Squarespace.]

Pre-Planning, Where to begin?

First off, and as any model railway enthusiasts will already know if they have watched any of my MilgeekAchoo! videos, I am playing this all by ear and what I don't know I am making up! 😐

My primary goal with this hobby is *fun* and I am not too much of a stickler about authenticity. I just want to see pretty trains go round! So, although I could have joined a local club on one of the online groups and done some really intense research about this hobby... I haven't, and I'm having a lot of fun finding stuff out for myself (without anyone saying 'achtually...' over my shoulder and spoiling it)!

N Gauge Railway - Taking Stock of Track
Above: Let's just throw some track together, I'm sure it will work! Maybe?
Spoiler: It didn't!!! (See solution pic bellow!)

That all said, I'm not a complete numpty and know that a judicious amount of sensible planning and thought is necessary even if I just want to have some 'fun'. So, where to begin?

For me, thing have started to get a bit serious as I have now got to the 'I better start putting my first layout together'! This is because putting  even a modest model railway system together is a bit of a puzzle and pieces have to go together in the right order for it to realise the design you have in your head.

As I have found during my first couple of aborted attempts, track does not just magically all fit nicely together in whatever mad little sketch plan you made on a scrap of paper!!!

Squaring the Circle...

Oh, I had such a lot of 'good ideas' to begin with, from day one I was scribbling complicated little ideas for layouts which - when it came down to laying what little track I had - just didn't work!

Above: Typical early doodle for the design of a first layout.
obviously I had no clue! LOL

A pencil line has the magic property of being elastic in it properties, while set lengths of track do not and without a degree of planning you can end up with unsolvable gaps in your line - as I did on my first two attempts. Sure doing a simple loop works nicely, as does throwing in a siding or two, but when the lines start to intertwin or merge in a slightly more complex fashion things can start going wrong really quickly...

Above: A typical beginner's problem when 'freestyling' a layout
design. You connect all your track in the loop and invariable you
end up with an frustrating little gap that you just don't have track
to be able to fill! You either a have a piece that too short or one
that is too long!!! The solution I found was the KATO S78S
*expanding* piece (top). Problem solved!

Two things came to my aid when I started getting 'serious' about my layout design... Layout design software - which is quick to point out that my over ambitious designs were stupid and wouldn't work - AND a reasonable knowledge of just what track lengths are available.

Fun is great, but the fun quickly wears off when you can't do want you want to do because your 'riffing it' with random track pieces just hoping that they will all go together by sheer luck!

Let's Get Serious-ish

OK those first two paragraphs are really just covert disclaimers for why it's taken me this long to actually start getting down to working with the track. I'd gotten distracted by collecting pretty little locos or building fun little model that - in truth - I didn't really need at this point.

So, this weekend I did the first serious bit of model railway work that I've done since I started on this adventure... I took stock of what track I have, sorted it out and catalogued it.

Above: To help identify track sections I'm writing on the KATO
*part number* in Sharpie. Confusingly, they come with a *code* on
them - R216-45 - but most store go by the part number! Grrrr!

I haven't done ANY specific buying of track to meet a specific design, my collection of KATO Unitrcack has just grown organically based around a couple of started sets that I got first which allowed me to set up a beginner's loop of track. To be fair, I guess this is how the majority of model railway enthusiasts start... With 'the loop'.

But now I'm seriously planning, I need to nail down what I have and what I need... So STOCKTAKE time!

Above: This is the first time I have laid out all my track to make
an inventory. I had more than I thought!!!

Whilst track that came in the starter sets I have are easy to identify, I also have a large number which my brother snagged from eBay. This, of course, came with no packets of labels so I had to sift through these to find out exactly what they are. 

Once I successfully determined their product code (which wasn't straight forward - see above picture about labelling the track) I could then add these items into my ANYRAIL software...

Above: All my track entered into ANYRAIL surrounding my 153mm x 70mm
table size. Now, what can I make from this?

In the next part of this mini-series I will start to play around with these parts in combination from some sample track plans I have downloaded. Can I make a connected layout in my target table size? We shall see!

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