Piedmont Division Blog

Dream big, start small and plan for the future


Dream Big, Start Small and Plan for the future

September 4th, 2008 · No Comments

I was inspired by the MRH forum discussion thread "Is there a right way to model railroad?" started by Irv (aka feldman718 ), and this thread got me to formulating and rethinking the herald slogan catch phrase for my Piedmont Division site and I came up with:

"Dream Big, Start Small and Plan for the Future"

I like the sound of it and I especially like what it represents for all aspiring model railroaders, particularly those who are just starting out with building a layout or who are new to the hobby. So, let me break it down for you here in the three sections of the slogan! There are a few things you want to do first when starting out and here are a few of them to keep your focus without being overwhelmed. There are no tried and true formulas to starting out in the hobby or starting over with a new layout, but this slogan will provide you with some focus in the early stages or even when reworking your plan or layout.  

  • Dream Big ~ Shoot for the stars when you dream of the final layout or Railroad Empire and you want to have your end goal in mind. Then break the goal down into parts and pieces and start to think of the entire layout as a puzzle. Once you figure out the pieces you can identify one area to start and make this your first area to build on, remember to start small. Everyone has their dream layout, and making it a reality will take some considerations, so dream big and start small and plan for the future. 


  • Start Small ~ In the early stages of getting started with a new layout or even in the beginning of joining this hobby it can become overwhelming with the amount of information overload to absorb and it gets hard to maintain a clear focus.  Start by concentrating on one aspect of the hobby since there are so many areas that you can choose from just focus on the general aspects of the model railroad you want to have.

1.      Scale- On of the first things to consider is the scale you want to build on, and while HO is the most popular, it is not for everyone. I choose HO because my grandfather was into it back in the 1950's to 1960's and that was what I was most exposed to as a child growing up. But for some folks N scale is a great choice because you can model twice the real estate in the same given space for an HO layout. If you are new to model railroading give all the scales a preview, heck, even G garden scale might be your cup of tea, even if you don't have a green thumb there are many G scalers out there who started small too!

2.      Road name and era- Then think about what railroad or railroads you want to model. Are you interested in the B&O, or is our heart set on modeling the Union Pacific? Heck, maybe you really like the steam engines that the Southern Railway used until the 1950's. Whatever your railroad or railroads you pick you also want to consider the time frame somewhat, but there are also many folks who don't worry about this so you can decide later on about that one. Some folks like the steam era only and this would include any railroads that ran until the mid 1950's to early 1960's. For the steam to diesel transition era you can model the time-frame from the 1940's to the 1970's. And for any modern modeling it would be anywhere from the 1970's to today. This is a general guideline and some folks would argue about the time frames, but these are just guidelines.

3.      Build one piece of the puzzle - You don't have to build the empire all at once. In fact, it is better to start with a small area of the layout first and concentrate on that small area and then branch out as you build your skills and techniques. Maybe start out with a 2' X 4' area that will be the switching yard or staging track area. Build the bench-work, add the sub-roadbed and roadbed and then put in the track and turnouts. Then hook up your wiring and start testing out a loco or two with a half dozen rolling stock cars. After that practice with ballasting the track and then adding some scenery base here and there and then a structure or two and some trees.  

4.      Expand as you grow - Once you get the hang of the basics you can start expanding your empire from one edge of the module to create a branch or main line along one wall. 


  •  Plan for the future ~ Remember to keep the future in mind when starting out. Will you be moving a lot, will you have more room to build the layout, and will you have less space later on? These are some of the considerations when starting out with a new layout plan and by thinking through all the factors involved it will be smoother later on down the path to building your dream layout.

This is my plan so I'm stickin' to it, and if you can dream it you can believe it!


I believe I'll go tweak my plan again so I can be ready for the future!


Tags: Informational

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.