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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Designing a Layout with POO!

In the vast ocean that this hobby is today, it can sometimes be challenging to come up with a train-layout that is fun to run, and operate at the same time.  Many manufacturers' boast layouts that are "fun", but how fun are they in reality?  For this, I came up with a simple test that applies to all layouts, big and, small.

My test consists of one thing, Points Of Operation, or POO.  The POO of a layout is the areas that make it interesting to operate.  POO is anything that requires switching maneuvers to store, swap, or service trains and train cars.  This list is only a fraction of things that count as POO, but these are most often seen on layouts.  Keep in mind that they are weighted equally as being one piece of POO each:

  1. staging yards
  2. stations
  3. RIP tracks
  4. Engine terminals
  5. grain elevators
  6. grain mills
  7. log landings
  8. yard tracks
  9. junctions
  10. container yards
  11. storage tracks that are not apart of any yard
  12. breweries
  13. factories
  14. vineyards
  15. any single part of an industry that is not directly linked to the rest of the same industry
  16. mines
  17. saw mills
  18. passenger terminals
  19. trolley and commuter stops

and is there anything I missed?

  After researching, I have found that in order for a layout to be effective for operation, three pieces of POO need to be on a layout.  Any layout, any size, that has operation potential has at least three pieces of POO.  Go to a track plan database such as here to test their layouts.  Some are good, some are bad, but that's for you to decide ultimately.  As an example from that website in the link, here are some examples of layouts with operation in mind.  Though I do not own these plans, they are excellent examples of basic layouts that feature operation.

This test carries over to micro layouts easily too!  As I said all layouts that have POO, are good layouts for operation.  In fact, micros have an advantage in that these points are easily put into their small space.
Visualize in you head that you have a model railroad, and you are thinking of key things that you want on the railroad.  My thoughts vary from everyone else, however I come up with a train in a yard: switching in a street line: and long, large trains rolling around curves on the outside of town.  that would mean that I like to switch industry, sort in classification yards, but at the same time, I like running main line trains.  What ever you come up with, is what you should have on your layout.
My main point with designing layouts for operation is that you need what you want on your layout, not a layout that some book tells you you want.  You should come up with your own plan if possible.  Now at this point some of your, even many of you, might say, "I can't design a layout my self, those plans in books look fine to me!"
Those plans that are on the Internet or in a book are not always the best but some are down right genius!  So when deciding what plan to use whether it is your own of someone else's, this test will help in your choice.

I know that I don't include enough of these, but here are some layouts that passed my POO test:
Lionel train layout from thortrains.net

Layout from thortrains.net
HO scale E-Z track layout from thortrains.net 

Lionel layout from thortrains.net
Here are some layouts that failed the test from thortrains.net:

The problem with this layout is that despite the small yard and siding, there are simply no more spots to add an industry in the available space.

This layout has no spur tracks or a straight section of the main line large enough to support any industry.

this layout has room for only 2 industries making it difficult to add a third on the main line 
These images are copyrighted to T. Sheil and A. Sheil as of 2004.  I do not own these images and can't give permission for any copying in any form of these images.  I give full consent to T. and A. Sheil.

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