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. 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.