No. 130: Moving from Albersbach, and Maybe to a New Layout

Labor Day

In my last post I whined about how hard my summer has been.  It was, but today I’m happy to report I’ve still got all my fingers and toes, and the rebuilt shoulder is better than ever.  I played soccer the other day for the first time in 5-6 months and came away unscathed.  The family is doing great.  What is there to complain about!

Trip to Dwingeloo

To accelerate some relaxing, last month, over Labor Day weekend, I got away with my kids to the northwest corner of the Netherlands near a place called Dwingeloo National Park.  This is a lovely, quiet area, with clean forests, hiking, and plenty to do, and the locals are very friendly and speak excellent English.  This isn’t the kind of place where “Ami’s” (Americans) tend to vacation.

One afternoon we visited a small town called Giethoorn.  Giethoorn is near the coast and naturally, there are canals everywhere.  The main attraction here is an intricate system of small canals that run right through the center of town.  You park your auto outside of town and walk into the town center, and if you want to get anywhere you can walk—or—take a boat.


Naturally, we took a boat.  The kids and I rented a ship with an electric motor and boated around town for a couple of hours.  The little canals go all over the place; the locals even have private canals up to their houses, like driveways, with little boat-houses.  No cars or garages.  I had to resurrect old boating skills but managed to navigate the canals without causing any accidents.  The whole experience was too cool for words.


Meanwhile I am under more stress these days with the move from our old, very large, very overwhelming rental house in Albersbach to another place closer to work.


In my current house I have a big upstairs den, roughly 22 x 22, for all my modeling stuff. The new rental home will have a much smaller modeling area—just half of a 13 x 13-foot room.  I will take only two 13-foot walls, maybe less.  My workbench will have to go in a closet in another room—that’s not a big deal—but the Ackley layout at 21 feet will definitely not fit.

The great thing about the new room is it’s on the main floor near the family room.  Half will be “the train room” and the other half will be an office/study/computer room.  I like playing trains in the same room where the kids are studying and internetting, so this works out perfectly.  No hunkering down alone in the basement.  I’ll be right there with the family where I should be.

Thoughts on the Next Layout

I have been considering a new layout for about 18 months.  Ackley was 95% complete and I was running trains a few times a month, but it had some problems.  Chief among them:

  • I’m tired of point-to-point; I’m a fan of continuous running and want a loop
  • The layout was too wide, requiring a whole lot of extra scenery work.  I did not heed Bill Darnaby’s advice to make the layout as absolutely narrow as possible
  • The layout was still too heavy and unwieldy to be moved reliably
  • I was unhappy with the scenery; I really wanted the scenery to be “cleaner”, like what I see built by Chris Nevard, the famous British modeler (as seen below)

If you haven’t spent any time looking at Chris Nevard’s work, check out his site at  Go to his Flickr site–there are folders for each of his layouts there.   Be sure to allocate plenty of time for this–you will be impressed and inspired.  Photo below used courtesy Chris Nevard.


I also considered a city switching layout, like this—the Terminal Railroad Association’s West Belt Line in central St. Louis.  Look at all those tracks and industries!  This is a 1958 photo.

RI Belt Line Large

I’ve also put some thinking into building a small British layout, and even something smaller, but bigger–like something in 1/35th scale.  My 1/35th scale inspiration comes from seeing the German Feldbahn layouts here, and also those seen on Claus Nielsen’s Flickr site.  Look at and go to the Nystrup Gravel folder.

I’d like to build them all someday, but for now I’m considering replacing the Ackley layout with a similar layout that offers more in less space.  Ackley was close; I’d like a similar layout but one with turnback tracks on each end going to a loop of track behind the layout. Much like the show layouts you see here in Europe.  Here’s a drawing…

New Layout Map

This kind of design isn’t anything new or innovative, but it allows continuous running.  The scenicked layout at around 16 x 1-1/2-feet would be smaller than the Ackley layout but the whole layout itself would take up a lot more space than that.


Before we found the new rental home my thinking had focused on repalcing the Ackley layout using about the same footprint, hence the drawing above.  I was looking at Farmington, Minnesota; it was close to our summer home and I had a family connection there growing up.

Farmington is about 25 miles south of the Twin Cities on Milwaukee’s single-track, north-south Iowa & Minnesota (I&M) Division, and was sort of a grand junction of Milwaukee Road lines.  The Milwaukee’s east-west Hastings & Dakota (H&D) line crossed there, and a branch to Mankato originated there too.  I liked the notion of a crossing and also a branch line connection, as that can drive a lot of interchange and connecting traffic.  Rock Island used the I&M to reach Minneapolis so the line also hosted many RI freight and passenger trains too.  Who doesn’t like the Rock Island!

Here’s a postcard view below of Farmington circa the late 1930s.  Love that WP single-sheathed car on the left!


Farmington would make a pretty attractive small-town layout.  Mainline Milwaukee Road passenger and freight trains, Rock Island passenger and freight run-throughs, Mankato branch mixed trains, and lots of local traffic.  Yet, despite my best planning efforts, I wasn’t able to get all the major features of Farmington into the old Ackley layouts space, which was 16 x 2.  It just won’t fit.  And it definitely won’t fit in the new 13 x 2 space.

Still Thinking

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as I’m still a month away from being in the new house.  This photo of the Milwaukee Road in Minnesota, from the Milwaukee Road Archives site on Flickr, is giving me something to think about.

Minnesota Lake Town

Maybe something like this would work.  A station on the left, an interchange on the right, 18-inch radius curves on each end to behind-the-backdrop-staging and loop tracks.  The whole layout could be kept around 38-inches max, with the scenicked layout no more than 16-18-inches deep.  And a 48-inch radius mainline curve on the scenicked area, of course:


I know you’ve got ideas for two walls, each about 13 feet long, so send ’em!  As always I will learn a lot from your advice.  – John G

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