I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals……..

I live in a condominium apartment.  I have a rectangular open space (9 feet wide by almost 19 feet long) in what would be my living/dining room.  Fillmore is 16 feet long, including my two staging modules.  The remaining distance is for an aisle at one end to get into the engine terminal side of the layout.  I am very lucky to have this rather extravagant space on hand!  Many railroad modellers have much, much less to work with.


Some time ago I had a thought: could Fillmore be done in only eight feet?  Well, not Fillmore as it is, but an engine terminal for someone who only has eight feet to work with.  By its nature an engine terminal has three big things going for it.  One: the shortest possible trains can be run, that is, single locomotives.  Two: there is a lot of operation in relatively little real estate.  And Three: there is more variety in operation per square foot than on any other compact layout I can think of.  For me, operation is paramount.

At the end of this posting there is a downloadable PDF file of a CAD drawing (dimensions are in inches) I made for an Engine Terminal in Eight Feet (ETEF).  It is not a refined plan, but rather it represents a concept.  I hope the notes are written well enough so that the design features are easily understood.  There is no direct real-world prototype location, however the layout is typical although naturally compressed.

Practically all of my scribblings include a staging elevator; ETEF is designed in two-levels to maximize space.  I don’t think this is a very common feature in small/compact model railroads here in North America.  To fine exibition/compact railway modellers like Oly Turner and Chris Matthews in Great Britain (I enjoy their blog – OTCM), perhaps an elevator may be a more commonly seen staging device.

In the ETEF, the scenic’d upper level is served by a multi-track staging elevator.  The lower level is all staging and it needs to be.  Since operation is key, an ample staging area is necessary for locomotive storage as well as specialized tracks for the switching operations (coal, ash, sand to the engine terminal and wheel/car loads to the wheel shop, as part of a larger off-layout railway shop complex).  I try to avoid handing locomotives, especially steam, and so this is why there are elaborate staging gizmos like the transfer tables and turntable.  However, these are simple wood blocks moved by hand yet have track power applied at all times.  I think it would be fun just to operate the lower level !

ETEF could be built up against a wall as a shelf-unit.  It could also be built as a free-standing shadow-box layout, in the exhibition style done so well in the U.K.    A fabric skirt could be applied covering the lower staging level from end-to-end, with the presenter operating from the public side and a “mole” for staging, keeping the action going, working from the backside.

Click here to download ETEF…EngineTerminalInEightFeet