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admin 12.07.2014

Figure 1: Floor plan for the spare bedroom that will be home to our O gauge model railroad layout project. I made this decision based on the fact that it would require less prep work – the garage stall would need at least a temporary wall separating it from the cars. So, now that the location is chosen, how big of an O gauge model railroad layout can we cram into it? But there was a problem with this grand plan: The sills of the windows in the bottom right corner of the floor plan are only about 18 inches from the floor, much lower than the model railroad layout benchwork will be. My first solution (see figure 3) was to lower the benchwork in that corner to window sill height, and create a depression that the train would traverse on a tall trestle.
Figure 3: Low windows in the corner of the bedroom create a problem with model railroad layout design. But, you wouldn’t really be able to see it from the aisle along the other side of the layout, where model railroad operators would stand.
So I decided that a more realistic plan would be to extend the aisle along the wall from the closet door to the windows. This decrease in size now brought me into direct conflict with one of the major points on my layout “wish list” on page 1: 72” curves on the outer loop for my long passenger cars (see figure 5).
So, I started fudging the size of the layout to see how much bigger I could make it without resulting in bumps and bruises while trying to get into or out of my desk. This can easily be accomplished by making the layout benchwork slightly smaller than the actual size, and cutting the plywood top to the size you want the table to be. First, I experimented with shaping the edge of the table to a radius just larger than a 72” curve.
While I was pleased with the result, my frugal side kept pointing out that the table I already had could be used for the curved end of the longer leg of the “L.” When it comes to spending money on model railroading, I would much rather spend it on stuff that runs on the rails, than on stuff that holds the rails up. To see how much of my chair-backing space I’m going to lose, I put the layout drawing over the floor plan of the room (see figure 7).
While I was able to get the 72” curves on the layout, I can’t fit anything more than a simple oval of track using those curves.
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Also, the garage would require supplemental heating in the winter, and would be difficult to cool in the summer. As you can see in figure 1, the only area that still needs to be accessible is the closet at bottom left. The advantages of this would be that I could not only use 72” curves, but even broad 96” or 120” curves on the outer main line, which would improve the appearance of my scale 80-foot passenger cars (each about 20 inches long) as they rolled past. I really didn’t want the layout bisecting the windows, or the framework supporting it visible from outside. The difference in benchwork heights would be disguised with a desert canyon wall modeled in plaster after those in the area I live. So, it would be a tremendous amount of work on a part of the layout only visible to the nosy neighbors who were looking in my windows.
Now, not only wouldn’t 72” curves fit, even 60” curves would probably be out of the question. This created a nice shape without any shoulder-catching corners to bruise someone standing up from the desk. I may end up having to bring the curve to the short leg down the length of the long leg to add a couple inches.
When we get to constructing the model railroad layout and laying track, I’ll show you a few tricks to hide the fact the train is just chasing its tail around a loop.
There are a number of different track manufacturers, and each manufacturer has different product lines, most of which will not work together without an adapter.
Contact the seller- opens in a new window or tab and request a shipping method to your location. Luckily, it’s a straight shot from the bedroom door to the closet door, so we need only block off a 36-inch aisle. That would look much more interesting from outdoors than a bunch of lumber support framing.

My O gauge model railroad already suffered its first loss of right-of-way long before the first spike was driven! So, rather than put that 44-inch wide aisle to the windows to waste, I would locate them there, along the edge of the model railroad layout. To test, I got out a tape measure, and used sawhorses to simulate where the model railroad benchwork would be. I was now limited to 54” and 42” curves, still a lot better than the 27” curves of standard O-27 gauge track, or the 31” curves of traditional O gauge tubular track, but not what I wanted.
To maximize the space I could use without creating toe-jamming corners that would stick out too far out from under the tree, the front of the platform is curved. If you go this route, you can cover the edge of the plywood with a strip of medium-density fiberboard to give it a finished look.
I shaped the top to curve out the other way to join up with the end of the short leg, too, to add a little more table space at the end of the extra clearance aisle, where I would need the space the least for maneuverability, but where a little extra right-of-way might come in handy for the model railroad. It will easily save me enough money now to afford a used freight car at the next model railroad expo. So, the most straightforward way would be best to pick one kind of track and stick with it. And some manufacturers offer a wider variety of curve diameters, switch sizes, crossings, and other special track pieces.
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I realized I would need another 24 inches of space behind the desk to be able to slide the chair back to where I could get in and out with a little leeway.
I’ve seen some layouts where the MDF edge is cut to follow the changing terrain height and painted flat black to give it a very theatrical effect. So the brand of track will affect the track plan based on what the sizes of the different pieces are, and one manufacturer may offer special tracks you need for a specific design that you cannot get with another product line. Ideally, I needed about 30 additional inches of aisle width from the main aisle extending about 7 feet toward the window (see figure 4). This brought down the area for the layout to an L-shape 5 feet wide at each end of the “L.” It would still be 12 feet long on its longest side by 8 feet on the shorter leg.

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