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 offer a rough concept for a small switching layout: 12” x 48”; well actually about 61” including the staging.  I call this Switching in Four Feet (S4F).  I wanted to see how small I could go (within reason) for apartment sized spaces.  And since operating is very important to me, it is designed with that in mind.  I doubt that this is an original idea although I have not seen it before (my sincere respects to those who have already designed something similar).

At the end of this post there is a downloadable PDF file of a CAD drawing with notations.

No staging elevators here.  🙂  Basic construction is apparent, but the key element is a staging traverser.  It is dismountable from the layout for convenient storage.  This mechanism makes for compact staging while eliminating space-robbing turnouts.  This is simple to make with ball bearing drawer sliders just like the ones used for Fillmore’s staging.  The design uses two drawer sliders for stability.  There is a means for shimming to obtain the right rail heights – this may compensate for any movement of the wood as it ages (I have found that Fillmore staging changes through the seasons and does need adjustability).  However, as this is a small layout perhaps dowels can be used to locate for assembly.   Attachment is with “C” clamps to hold it in place.

At only 4 feet, the layout itself is small and light enough to be hung on a wall (bedroom or laundry closet?) for storage. It could be deployed on a wall shelf, or with short legs for standing on a table, or could have full-sized legs although I’m concerned about the height-to-width ratio as far as stability goes.

I don’t get worried over specific prototype scenes – as long as it looks right to me that’s fine. So this could be anywhere.  The industries are suggested; many options are available.  I’ve tried to keep the frontal scenery low so that access for coupling/uncoupling and for the switches is easy.  All structures fit into shallow pockets and are removable for storage in a sturdy bin.

The tracks are PECO Streamline 83 along with their No. 5 turnouts. Of course, this could be all hand laid as well.   However, the PECO track is very nicely detailed and the turnouts have over-center springs that eliminate the need to devise some means for keeping the points over where they belong.  For DCC it is simply a matter to add Frog Juicers to set the track polarity – these items are very easy to install.  I would move the points by finger (like at Fillmore) so no push-pull or electric motors would be needed.

IMG_0672Operations appear to be straight forward, but can be very detailed. It begins on the traverser; the locomotive can be leading or trailing.  As this is a short layout, it is designed for a very short train.  An EMD SW1 or Alco HH600 with one forty foot car is the maximum train length.  There is enough space to off-spot cars on the layout.  The cross-over and the traverser provide a run-around to get to the switch points.  I would stop-and-pause at all turnouts to allow the brakeman to dismount and move the switch.  The roadway has two operating purposes: for using the locomotive horn and for pausing to allow the brakeman to dismount and protect the road traffic.  Horn and bell discipline help extend the operating enjoyment.  Switch lists and waybills can do this as well.  Blue flags can be applied once the cars are spotted.  Hmmmm… sounds like a full-sized layout to me.

Click here for the downloadable plan (S4F)