On Sheet – Wye not?

On Sheet – Wye not?

‘ve recently seen some fusses online about small layout designs. While some critique should always be welcome, criticism shouldn’t be.

I’m a big proponent of small layouts. Sure, if your house is located on an division-sized bomb shelter, you can afford to throw out your minimum radii and ladder-lengths. But for the rest of us, it’s all about cramming as much railroad as we can in a tight space.

In a sense, it is an art form. Anyone can do the Sistine Chapel with a roller-brush and a Sherman-Williams account. But doing a Wedgewood portrait pin takes a certain attention to detail. The devil (as well as the divine) is in the details. And if you are planning a small layout, it is very detail-fixed.

When I was building my own Tuscarora, I looked over dozens of small layout designs. I looked for ways to arrange spurs, to align tracks and to make every inch count. I had to go with #4s rather than #6s on my turnouts, simply because I could not afford the extra inch or two they would cost me. No, no single plan was my take away. I considered each plan and became very aware of where my first eye focus went to. What appealed to me? What did not?

I think the earliest time I saw this was in an Atlas N-scale track planning book. I don’t remember the name of the layout but there was a very nice twice-around. While pretty much every other plan in the book used sectional track, this plan used something new called “flex track” to put some sweeping curves down the back run. The rest of the plan was sound, but the use of those tracks, in that way, really had appeal. I never built it but I did use those ideas and others on my layouts I’ve since built. You can seem the influence of this in my own Cuesta Grade, below…

So yes, next time you see a small layout plan, don’t just stand twenty feet back and judge. Look at the sweep of the curves, the placement of the turnouts, and operational whole. Find the bits that appeal and file them away. Someday when you are designing your own pike on some CAD program, you’ll find yourself drawing out these little bits from that little layout plan and trying to arrange them to fit your own uses.

Always remember that big things sometimes come in a small packages. And that some of those crazy plans you might see each contain, in some way, a seed of genius.