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Collector Showcase Track Plan.

Collector Showcase

A Layout to Showcase a Model Railroad Equipment Collection

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Scenic Railroad
Layout Type: Permanent
Size: 10'x11'
Scale: HO Scale
Era: Any
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 27"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: March 29, 2016

For a period of time, I had a growing collection of model railroad club cars filling my train room.  Many of these were acquired by visiting the clubs or attending events where they were available for purchase.  When I tore down my home layout a couple of years ago, these pieces of rolling stock were the few sentimental items I decided to keep.  As I thought about what layout I might build next, the thought occurred to me that since I liked these cars so much, maybe I should simply build a layout around this collection of rolling stock.  In a world relentlessly focused on designing model railroads based on prototypes, I began to ponder what the design needs would be for a layout of this style.

After some thought, I identified a couple of design criteria for a collector oriented layout.  The layout and layout room should be focused around the display and operation of the collection.  Unlike the true train collectors (like folks who collect 3-rail O gauge trains or brass equipment), there is no illusion that these model railroad club cars that I had were being collected for their monetary value.  Being able to run the equipment would be an important end goal.  In many ways, the fun in this style layout would be gathering and sharing the stories behind each piece of rolling stock - as well as simply finding the hidden gems for the collection.

A sampling of model railroad club cars and event cars. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


Since most of the hobby time for this style of layout would be spent building and maintaining the fleet, I wanted the layout to serve double duty as a test track.  This meant a loop of track so I could actually put the rolling stock through its paces to make sure each piece operated well.  If the workbench was setup in the closet or under the layout, it would be kind of nice to have a train circling around the room while working on the next project.

While I didn't have space at the time to build a layout when I developed this design, I imagined this type of layout would work well in a typical spare bedroom.  Most likely, resource use - like time and money - would be better allocated to working on the rolling stock collection, so a smaller, easier to maintain layout would be preferred to a basement filling empire. 

The layout room would most likely have to double as the display, work, and storage area for the collection.  Several display cabinets could be hung along the walls of the room to show finished pieces of equipment and extra boxes could be stored under the layout.  Ideally, one half of the closet would have a workbench - so the door could be closed when guests arrived to cover the mess - as well as store in process projects.  If there was enough room, on the other half of the closet, a nice photo booth could be constructed to allow for easy photography of finished models to document the collection.

A sample train case which was hung on the wall over my former Northeast Corridor layout. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


Speaking of photographing the equipment, the layout above was designed to include a couple of photo locations to serve as a background to photograph the equipment out in the "wild."  In the design above, a large bridge over a river, a tunnel, and a grade crossing on a country road all would serve as interesting scenes.  In addition, a typical small town passenger station - like a station on a tourist railroad with a display track - would round out the photo props.

As you'll notice in the track plan above, clearly the only way to access the center of the layout is through a duck under.  However, in this case, one of the improvements that could be made is to create a "roll under."  If you think about the logistics in such a small room, the workbench would need a nice rolling computer chair to sit in while working on a project.  However, when you are done working for the night, the chair will be stuck right in front of the room entrance door.  One way to make double use of the chair (as well as create a storage location for the chair under the layout), is if the layout is built high enough (about 50" - with a 46" clear height under the layout) - it would be possible to sit in the chair, slightly duck your head and roll under the layout.  This makes the duck under slightly less annoying - but also creates a space to store the chair (under the station area) when through with work at the workbench that is both out of the way and still convenient to use.

While I'm generally not a fan of duck unders (or in this case a roll under), the barrier presented by the roll under does provide a little security for the collection when visitors drop by.  Since most of the collection is along the walls - only accessible by going under the duck under - it would take a lot of effort for someone to swipe something.  Fortunately, I've very rarely heard rumors of things being taken within the model railroad community, but just this small barrier could help prevent a visitor who has bad intentions from acting upon those thoughts.

For Track Plan Tuesday's, I am digitizing all of my old track planning notebooks and sharing the designs here on the website.  To see all the plans, visit the track plan home page at: jimspavins.com/jimstrackplans.