Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Club Layout
Layout Type: Modular
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 83 or Code 100
Min Turnouts: No. 6
Min. Radius: 34"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: August 25, 2015
When starting a modular railroad club, there are several paths to follow when approaching how the club will design its layout. Some clubs take a laissez-faire approach, where the club sets the module standards but all the construction, maintenance, and ultimate ownership of the modules is completed by individual club members. This minimal approach keeps the structure of the club simple as there is little in the way of money or space the club needs to acquire to maintain operations. The drawback, of course, is that the group is completely reliant on a set of members to have modules built and ready to operate for shows in which the group wishes to participate.
On the other extreme is a club who decides to build a modular layout in which all of the modules are owned by the club itself. This offers some advantages in that the end layout is owned by the group and there will be some uniformity to the final project. However, this approach can fall into the same trap many permanent layout clubs succumb with a small group of members doing the work or directing the ultimate outcome. In addition, the club needs to find the funds to build and maintain the layout as well as acquire space to work on the railroad.
For many years, my modular railroad club fell into a bit of a hybrid situation between those listed above with the majority of the group's modules owned by individuals and a handful of modules owned by the club. These modules tended to fall more into the utility type - like a lift bridge to enter and exit the layout and a staging yard. These are modules which one wouldn't expect an individual to invest in but offer more efficient layout operations. We also found from experience that it helped to have the club own some corner modules as these tended to be the type of module which individuals shied away from owning. These are also the most used and critical for the typical continuous running operational style of the setups used by our club.
Over a period of years, the group's club owned module list began to expand beyond these essential modules and include a number of other scenic and switching modules. Mainly, as members moved away, they would donate their modules to the club so as to not need to move or maintain the sections. This began to skew the ownership towards a majority club owned layout and also started to drain the small club treasury the group had saved up with maintenance expenses.
At this point, we had a bit of a crisis summit to determine what should stay and what should go. Part of this discussion was around the idea of what is the ideal set of club modules which would cover the needs of a typical modular layout but not stretch us so far as to end with the club in bankruptcy. After many evenings of debates, the group settled on an ideal module list as follows:
- 4 Corner Modules
- 1 Lift Bridge
- 1 Staging Yard
- 1-2 Emergency Module Sets
Over the last couple of years, our club has slowly been retiring old club owned modules and has reached the point where we actually only own a lift bridge and a staging yard. This seems to work for us at the moment as we have seen an influx of members who want to build, maintain, and own corner modules. This is a great advantage to the club in the near term but we still needed to be prepared if any of these members decided to leave. So a year or two ago, I developed the "Ultimate Modular Club Layout" - one that was designed with the groups ideal module list but that could be used as a standalone layout or broken apart and the various pieces used at shows as needed. This resulted in a kind of hybrid approach which would allow for a layout to always be setup for a show if any privately owned modules can't make it but also be open enough to allow for private modules to take over if the group grows large enough.
The layout consists of four corner modules, a staging yard, lift bridge, club info module, and a factory complex. Two corners are just scenic modules and would include scenes from various club activities through the years - like our railfan trips. The other two corner modules would feature an enginehouse and an industry. One end of the layout would include the lift bridge and the opposite end a four foot club information module. On this module, a display board with information about the club would be included along with a passenger station scene. On the longer sides, an eighteen foot staging yard would allow for the setup and tear down of trains to run along the mainline. On the opposite side of the layout, a switching type module featuring a large industry would give some operational interest to the layout. This module would fall into the "emergency" category and could be setup as needed. It is small enough to not cost a fortune to initially construct and simple enough to maintain. This would give new members a chance to try their hand at operating on the layout as well as a teaching module to show how the modules are put together.
This layout was also designed around the idea that it wouldn't take up a huge amount of space to store and leave open the possibility of setting up in a club member's basement or garage. When not in use, the corners and six foot modules could easily be stacked along with the four footer. The lift bridge module would just sit next to the pile to keep the needed storage space small. Worst case scenario, a smaller storage unit could be rented to keep the overall club expenses low. At the moment, there are no plans to build this layout but it is always good to have a backup plan in place for the future.
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.