My layout, when operational, is an island design. This style of layout was once popular due to the use of 4′ x 8′ plywood sheet. A more contemporary approach (for some years now) is a shelf style around-the-walls layout where the mainline run is extended and more prototypical than what the result would be when using the good ole 4×8. However, I don’t have a mainline as my layout is all yard. And yards can congregate operators closely making operating on it awkward. By building Fillmore as an island, my operators can stand on either side comfortably. The engine terminal operators are on one side and the passenger/express car switching operators are on the other. A nice benefit of this is that we can all face each other, which I feel is a more natural way to interact.
The picture below shows a typical operating session (with friends, left to right, Regan Johnson & Bill Nesbitt working the passenger car side, Steve Wood and Paul Thomson working the engine terminal, and Ace Staging Master, Mark Zagrodney, keeping the action going).
An advantage to an island design is no backdrop. Making a realistic backdrop can be challenging (whether as a photo or by hand-painting). The island is a slice of scenery taken from the “real world” and can be viewed from all directions. A disadvantage is that there is no backdrop. To take realistic photos of the scenes requires some “photo-shopping” – something I have yet to learn to do. And, there’s no cheating; the modeling has to be complete 360 degrees all around.