A Big Change to the Tiny World of N Scale

XTrkCAD N Scale Layout

A lot has happened the last two weeks. I went to Salt Lake City, UT on a business trip and managed to get time to hit up the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, UT. That was a very cool place, but I’ll talk about that in a future post with some videos. When I got home I was playing around on XTrkCAD and messing with the basement layout design. I renewed my Model Railroader magazine subscription and saw the videos on the 2015 Model Railroader project layout, Red Oak. The concept of this project layout was a small N scale layout built on a hollow core door. I actually have two hollow core doors in the basement that are acting like a table and holding all the boxes of HO supplies. So I asked myself if a simple N scale layout in the home office would do?

Our home office is fairly large, it is probably the largest room in the house by square footage, about 13′ x 12′ plus a bay window area. It is also immediately above where the basement layout would go. It has one long wall that backs against the stairs upstairs so it’s window free and no major furniture on it. This would be a great place to put a small N scale layout. Like most of my ideas, they evolve and grow. How could I make this layout bigger than the standard 3′ x 7′ door? Modular wings that could be stored beneath the core layout sounded good. I could build and run the operation and put it away when I wasn’t using it or we had company. Sounded like a great plan until I started designing in XTrkCAD. It didn’t matter what I did, I just couldn’t get the elements I wanted into such a small layout area. It was appearing that my idea of a simple N scale office layout would just never work out. I guess it’s back to the basement… or is it? We do have one, barely used room in the house, the guest bedroom…


I was easily getting ahead of myself. This is a room that our guests sleep in and we store stuff. My parents when visiting from Florida, my sister, etc. all use this room. It would eventually become our first child’s bedroom. There is no way my husband is going to approve this, but I quickly grabbed a tape measure. The room, which is directly above the office, has a large closet and no bay window and luckily very little furniture yet. It is 13′ wide by 9′ to the closet doors, a perfect box to build a model railroad layout. Similar to the basement, I have some limitations to my layout plans. It has to be modular, we are going to eventually move. Our stairs are narrow and steep. The max width of a module should be no more than 4′ wide and that will require being tipped on it’s side. Below are the designs, in the order of how they evolved.

N scale layout attempt 1

XTrkCAD N Scale Layout

N Scale attempt 1 of the layout in the bedroom.

I think because n scale has the space, I decided to go with a roundhouse and turntable. I originally had said I would avoid it for space reasons. In HO scale, that makes sense, especially for prototyping the modern era. Threw in some city buildings in the back.

HO scale layout attempt 1

XTrkCAD HO Scale Layout

HO Scale attempt 1 of the layout in the bedroom.

Bigger space, bigger layout. I decided to see what I could fit into a layout for HO scale. Unfortunately it did not really come out with any real definition or flow.

HO scale layout attempt 2

XTrkCAD HO Scale Layout

HO Scale attempt 2 of the layout in the bedroom.

This version of a HO layout came out better than the first, but I still don’t love it. It lacks any graceful curves or unique features that could make it a cool layout.

N scale layout attempt 2

XTrkCAD N Scale Layout

N Scale attempt 2 of the layout in the bedroom.

The second attempt at the layout I increased the size of the benchwork in an attempt to fit in some more track. I also moved the yard and roundhouse. I increased the size of the roundhouse from 9 stalls to 12 stalls. I’ll probably adjust the benchwork modules to allow the roundhouse and turntable to fit all on one table.

So what’s your opinion on the model railroad layout designs? N scale layout attempt 2 is by far my favorite. I will probably continue to adjust it and imagine some more scenery and industry features to really figure out how I want this layout to work from an operational perspective. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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