Saturday, July 10, 2021

LDJ-69: Coal-hauling and Compact Layouts

After a much-longer-than-expected wait, I'm happy to have Layout Design Journal #69 published, complete with three terrific layout stories which happen all to be written by friends. I hope that LDSIG members will enjoy reading the magazine as much as I did putting it together.

This issue includes: Pro Railroader’s room-sharing proto-freelanced shelf switching layout inspired by a Northwestern Pacific terminal. Bigtime coal hauling in HO on the Western Maryland and Baltimore & Ohio. Compact multi-tier German-outline layout in a California Basement (garage) reworked for ops. Ten-Turnout Design Challenge announced. Updating the Layout Design Primer. LDSIG Annual General Meeting Report.

You may download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-69 at this link.

To begin or renew your LDSIG membership, visit this link.

... and work has begun on LDJ-70.

Friday, June 25, 2021

5 Days $49, Then 4 Weeks Free

 There’s still time to sign up for a terrific on-line event: the 2021 Rails by the Bay NMRA Convention. Clinics, panels, layout tours, even SIG activities like the Layout Design SIG’s free Design and Ops consultations. Speakers come from across the US and the world, including many leading names in the hobby. (Oh, and me.)

The five-day event runs from Tuesday, July 6 through Saturday the 10th. Clinics are pre-recorded and combined with live Q&A with the presenters. And the pre-recorded portions will be available for registered Convention attendees for four weeks after the Convention closes at no additional charge. So you don’t have to choose between competing clinic schedules – watch ‘em all!

No travel, no hotels, no overpriced parking – enjoy high-quality Convention activities in your bunny slippers. (You might want to put on a clean shirt, though – it is two-way Zoom video.) Learn more and register today at:

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Make Only New Mistakes Video

A recording is now available of the LDSIG’s Make Only New Mistakes clinic offered via Zoom last November. It’s a distillation of the four-hour Layout Design Bootcamp featured at most NMRA National Conventions, including answers to some of the participants’ questions.

Here’s the abstract of the session: Discover how to refine vision, concept, and purpose; select layout footprints and schematics; draw accurate and useful plans; create efficient and engaging yards and industrial areas; make best use of staging tracks; maintain space for people; and avoid common track planning errors. The session was presented by me and other members of the Layout Design SIG. 

The LDSIG expects to present this again live at some time in 2021, along with a number of other sessions, some of which will be for LDSIG members only. Start or renew your membership here.

Monday, December 28, 2020

LDJ-68 – Railfan, Display, Scenery, and Fantasy Themes

After a much-longer-then-expected delay, Layout Design Journal #68 is being distributed now. It includes: Beautiful On30 display layout recreates Disneyland classic in 5’X7’. Large HO layout focuses on Santa Fe and Union Pacific in Victorville, CA in the transition era. Grand Scale (5”-to-the-foot) fantasy design for rugged desert landscape. Remembrances of Jack Ozanich. And more!

Sam Towler's article on his On30 display layout of Disneyland's Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland was a favorite of mine this issue, just as the original attraction (please don't call it a "ride") was one of my top E-Ticket experiences. To see more of Sam's work, check his blog and the layout's Facebook Page. But I enjoyed learning more about all of our authors' ideas.

To download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-68 and other recent issues, visit this link:

To begin or renew your LDSIG membership, visit this link:

Thanks to the authors and volunteers who made this issue possible. We're working on LDJ-69 now and expect to distribute it in March.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

LDJ-67: Multi-deck layouts large and small; Manitoba branch line; more

The most recent Layout Design Journal published by the Layout Design SIG brings together a nice variety of articles (including a couple of my own).

Articles include: Compact HO switching multi-deck layout based on prototype car-ferry service between the US and Canada. Pro-railroader’s multi-deck HO design uses spirals and loops to climb through four tiers with no multi-turn helix. An alternative history breathes new life into a Manitoba branch line. HO Passenger switching action in 10’X11’: Somewhere West; The Family Room; and the Keyhole. Modern transload Layout Design Element includes single-car switching for a variety of commodities and railcar types. LDSIG upcoming meetings: St. Louis NMRA; New Jersey

To download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-67 and other recent issues, visit this link:

My article contributions were the HO passenger switching layout and the modern transload facility, which is based on a real-life California site.

Even if you are not a SIG member, we welcome contributions  on layout design topics, including from first-time authors.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

LDJ-66: Structures and Switching; Bridge Selection; G&D Challenge; more

I enjoyed working on the latest Layout Design Journal, being delivered to Layout Design SIG members by surface mail and email now.

This issue includes: Compact HO switching layout shares home office space and boasts scratchbuilt structures based on real-life buildings. Pro railroader describes lessons learned from choosing the “wrong” bridge for his layout. Mountain challenge design by real-life railroader replicates elements of John Allen’s Gorre & Daphetid. Four mid-sized switching layouts in N and HO. As seen on tour: More Benchwork and Human Factors ideas from NMRA SLC LDSIG tour. Design Challenge: model railfanning, public display, scenery presentation, and/or fantasy in any space. LDSIG Annual General Business Meeting Minutes and upcoming events.

To download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-66 and other recent issues, visit this link:

We are now working on LDJ-67 and expect to distribute it in February; so renew soon if your membership is expiring. To begin or renew your LDSIG membership, visit this link:

Friday, November 01, 2019

New LDJ Design Challenge: RDSF

Attention layout planners! For the next Layout Design Journal Challenge we’re asking designers to create track plans and stories for publication in the magazine. The theme this year is layouts whose purpose is one or more of the following: model railfanning, public display, scenery presentation, and/or fantasy-inspired ("RDSF").

Challengers may use *any* dimensions – from a few square feet to a large basement (or any one of the past challenge spaces).

Entrants need not be members of the LDSIG. Our target date to receive the first entries is January 31, 2020, but later entries will be accepted!

Read much more in LDJ-65 or on my website.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Changeable Plates, Building Rooms, more in LDJ-65

The Layout Design SIG's Layout Design Journal #65 is in the mail now. On-line delivery emails are also going out now.

This issue includes: Changeable plates allow a layout to go back in modeled era and/or change prototypes for photography. Tips, tricks, and surprises in specifying a layout room in a custom-built home. Design Challenge: model railfanning, public display, scenery presentation, and/or fantasy in any space. Modern-era Switching Challenge layout based on a long-ago Fallen Flag. As seen on tour: Benchwork and Human Factors ideas from NMRA SLC LDSIG tour. Free on-line US topographic map source and use. LDSIG News and announcements, including Board of Directors Election.

You may download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-65 and other recent issues.

To begin or renew LDSIG membership, visit this link.

The new Design Challenge is open to anyone, not only LDSIG members. I'll post it here in the next week or so.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Death of Expertise, Part 2

For those keeping score at home, we can now add “International Trade and Tariffs” to the list of things that people on Model Train Forums think that they know a lot about – but don’t.

Another depressing example of the Dunning/Kruger Effect brought to us by the Internet.

Monday, June 10, 2019

See You in Salt Lake City

I’m excited to be participating in the Salt Lake City NMRA convention beginning July 7. Seth Neumann and I will be presenting the Layout Design SIG’s four-hour Layout Design Bootcamp "super clinic" Monday morning July 8 beginning at 8am. I’ll also be presenting my one-hour Small Layout Design – Beyond the Timesaver clinic Tuesday evening July 9 at 6:30pm. (Clinic handouts are on my website here, I may have slightly updated versions posted after the convention.)

In addition, I’ll be offering help sessions as part of the LDSIG’s free help program in the SIG Room. Sign-ups are on-site beginning on Sunday. All of the LDSIG activities, including the Wednesday General Meeting and self-guided Layout Tour, are found here.

As I have said here before, I hate that the NMRA continues to schedule Conventions at the peak summer heat times. It’s a dumb practice both in terms of that being the seasonal nadir of model railroading interest for many as well as offering unpleasant weather pretty much anywhere in the US. I’m not sure how many more years I’ll put myself through it … but SLC in 2019 is a go!