I had been through the book a couple of times at this point, focused mainly on the larger layouts in the later pages. So I decided to take a look at the smaller plans in the front of the book. Loop. Loop. Loop. Hey, wait a minute. Maybe it was my somewhat febrile state, but I started to see something different in plan #6, Linn Westcott's "Switchman's Nightmare".
Although the fever (both literal and model railroading) passed, the concepts of the Switchman's Nightmare layout stayed with me. As I learned more about multi-spot industries and prototypical operations, I began to see possibilities for more complexity and interest in Westcott's compact shelf switching layout.
Part of the appeal of this layout is its structural simplicity: runaround; yard tracks; and industry tracks, creatively overlapped to make the best use of the limited space. This basic structure has been used in hundreds (maybe thousands) of layouts, including John Allen's more-famous but less-realistic (in my view) Timesaver switching game. (It's interesting to me to note that the Switchman's Nightmare predates the Timesaver by about a decade.)
I've used similar configurations in a number of small layouts or as part of larger layouts, including the 1'X6' N scale Alameda Belt Line design from Model Railroad Planning 2005 shown below. Another interesting adaptation I've done was an HO version sized and configured much like Westcott's original but set up as a diesel service facility for a client with only a modest space but a mess o' engines to display.
That a very simple trackwork configuration could offer such richness of operation was, and continues to be, a delightful surprise and ongoing inspiration. Just proves that "there's almost always room for operations" -- and that definitely places Westcott's little gem in my list of Inspirational Layouts. When the series returns, something completely different.