Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Micro Layout Design Part 6 The Traditional Oval

Aerial view of a traditional oval N gauge scenic model railway layout
Model railway layouts designed and built in the form of a traditional oval are popular for many reasons.  Often the traditional oval layout is built to provide continuous run with opportunity to observe trains running along a reasonably long straight length of track on two sides of the baseboard.

Whilst real railways tend not to be built in a circular or oval form, many model railway enthusiasts favour such designs as they allow the operator to sit back with a cup of tea and watch the trains trundle around a circuit of track.

I designed this minimum space N gauge railway layout a few years ago.  The challenge to fit as much operating potential and scenic interest into a small model railway meant that I spent a lot of time tweaking the design before construction.  The railway layout baseboard measures approximately 117cm x 56cm which is approximately 46 inches x 22 inches.  In order to fit as many features as possible into this oval design I used Peco Setrack components with first radius points and curves.

I designed this model railway to use with the level crossing at the front and the station area at the rear.  I planned the model railway with a definite front and back so that scenic development allowed rolling stock movements to be observed from the best vantage points.
Aerial view from the right of the N gauge minimum space model railway layout
Aerial view from the left of the N gauge minimum space model railway layout
Creating passing loops and sidings outside an oval of track is often tempting but can often lead to a design which is much larger than originally envisaged.  I decided to make sure a passing loop and sidings were incorporated within the oval of track to deliberately restrict design options.  This was both a practical way to save space and also made designing the track plan and model railway scenery an interesting challenge.
Passing loop in front of the N gauge brick effect railway station and platform
Gate at one end of the platform and access road for vehicles
Much of the space inside the oval of track would be needed for the passing loop and sidings.  It therefore made sense to position the station platform along one long edge of the layout baseboard.  I built the station platform for this scenic country branch line using Metcalfe PN100 brick effect card to the front and PN111 paving effect card to the top surface.  The matching Metcalfe PN109 brick effect card station building was constructed as a low relief model.  By reducing the depth of the station building more space was left on the platform for figures and accessories.  I added Peco NB-45 fencing along the rear and ends of the platform with a few imitation enamel advertising signs to add colour and character.  A gate was incorporated at one end of the station platform to allow vehicle access.

My first decision when developing the track plan was to position the passing loop opposite the area where the station platform was to be located.  This was to enable a train to be held at the platform whilst another travels around the circuit.
Point arrangement creating the passing loop headshunt and sidings
N gauge model railway goods yard viewed form rear left corner
View along the track from the headshunt towards the goods yard
I used the points very carefully to create the goods yard in front of the passing loop.  The headshunt is an important feature to enable rolling stock movements within two of the sidings to be performed without interruption of services on the branch line.  The ability to have more than one train moving at once is a way to create much more operating interest.

It can be annoying to constantly lift off a train of coaches when operating minimum space model railways or micro layouts.  It is worth noting that the siding directly in front of the passing loop is long enough to accommodate three 14cm long coaches or a diesel multiple unit when not in service.
N gauge model railway accessories placed in the goods yard
Yard next to the headshunt viewed from a field in the corner of the layout
I ensured that yard areas are present around all of the sidings when designing this model railway to allow maximum opportunity to create freight handling scenes.  The flat goods yard areas were made as large as possible to leave plenty of space for road vehicles to move around when detailing items such as yard huts, coal staithes and heaps of imitation coal, sand and scrap metal were added.  Details on how I created the N gauge scrap metal can be found in my blog post dated 13 August 2012.  The yard area which runs alongside the headshunt could be detailed as a locomotive servicing area using appropriate model railway accessories.
View over the imitation lake built into the N gauge model railway layout scenery
Close up of the scenery around the model railway lake
Railway station and lake viewed from the trees in the cornerof the layout
The main scenic feature on this N gauge layout is without doubt the imitation lake, a feature seldom found in such a compact design.  To make the water feature appear as realistic as possible the imitation lake is sunk beneath the surrounding scenery.  Imitation sandstone rocks and sandy areas have been added along the banks along with thick vegetation at the water’s edge.  The gentle waves on the realistically rippled surface of the water suggest a light breeze rustling the leaves of surrounding trees.
N gauge horses in a field on one corner of the model rialway layout
The restricted track plan left all of the corner areas of the layout baseboard free to be developed as countryside scenes.  I chose to model one corner at the rear of the layout as the edge of a field with N gauge model horses added to illustrate that the land is used for pasture.  The opposite rear corner was modelled as a rocky hill with trees added.  Scenery in both corners was raised to create elevated scenery and an irregular skyline.  A row of poplar trees next to the station building also helped to create a more pleasing appearance along the rear edge of this N gauge layout.
A corner of the railway layout modelled as a field with a crop growing
At the front of the layout the corner on the left was modelled as arable land with an imitation crop.  Next to the fence is a dirt track, often present where a tractor travels around the edge of the field.  The opposite corner on the front of the layout was again modelled as a rocky hill with trees added.  The imitation rock formations on this railway layout were textured and painted to represent weathered sandstone.  K&M model trees were added to enhance the model railway.  I created imitation bark texture to the trunk areas, painted and weathered to appear moss and lichen covered.  I chose trees of different shape, size and colour to create the seasonal appearance of late summer/early autumn.
Scratch built N gauge Second World War pillbox
Rabbit warren built into the model railway layout scenery
Even small scenic areas can present an opportunity to add an interesting feature or two.  When detailing the landscape between the headshunt and the branch line I added a model of a wartime pillbox.  The old Second World War pillbox was added to create a sense of history of the location as described in my blog post dated 07 January 2014 on restoring an old N gauge model railway layout.  Construction of a scratch built model pillbox is detailed in my blog post dated 08 March 2014.  The thin strip of land to the left of the level crossing at the front of the layout features a rabbit warren created beneath the trees atop the embankment.  Scratch built flowers dotted around the model railway scenery represent the last wild foxgloves of the year.
Peco ST-20 N gauge level crossing and scratch built building
Scratch built N gauge model flowers
Scratch built N gauge model flowers conifers and topiary
Scratch built N gauge model garden and vegetable patch
Scratch built N gauge building and garden viewed from the level crossing
The Peco ST-20 level crossing at the front of the model railway allows vehicles to cross the branch line when travelling to and from the goods yards.  Many level crossings used to have crossing keeper’s cottage close by.  A scratch built N gauge model garden and dwelling were therefore positioned next to the level crossing.  The plot for the property was designed with an irregular outline for a realistic appearance.  A fence surrounds the property with a gate at the roadside for vehicle access to the driveway.  Flower beds have been created in the front garden with scratch built dahlia and delphinium flowers, conifers and topiary.  The vegetable plot has a variety of scratch built vegetable plants, scratch built compost bin and garden shed.

This version of the traditional oval model railway layout baseboard might appeal to the individual who has very limited space but does not wish to compromise on visual interest and potential for varied freight and passenger movements.  By adapting the design lots of other scenic development could be possible, for example replacing the lake with a selection of model houses in order to create a small village.