Temp Table Top Switching Layout

Life seems to be rather hectic at the moment and progress on modelling projects has been slow again. In order to keep the mojo going I decided to go back to basics and relive those childhood memories of setting up the train-set on the kitchen table also I thought it would be fun. I’m not sure why I haven’t done this before as all of those years of saying I didn’t have space etc and yes while technically I didn’t have space for a traditional layout I could have had a micro table top setup. The table top was/is the answer to temporary ‘playing’ which in my view is one of the most important parts of railway modelling. So often I forget this and this is when I drift away from from my hobby. I would be playing even if I had a big layout; we can argue that is is all very serious and that we are reenacting the real world and using real constraints but after all we are just playing trains . It helps that in this case I am using N scale as the bigger gauges may be a problem to operational enjoyment but its not impossible to replicate something with interest.

As you can see this is a very simple inglenook though not the traditional 5|3|3 but a 3|1|2 but still enough to keep interest going for as long as one wants to spend. Typically this can be run on a simple system just marshalling cars to different locations but can be extended into a more complicated operations based, and I use air quotes around this word “layout” as at the end of the session it gets packed away again ready for the next time I feel I want to unwind or have an innovation to the process. I have very briefly looked into car cards and operational layouts but wanted something flexible enough to be able to spend two minutes or two hours, well maybe not quite that long but you get the idea. It’s amazing what the imagination can conjure up as a non existent world. Something not even Virtual Reality can compete with.

All I needed was a board, some cards, and a toothpick to make my  imaginary world animated. First of all I tried using some very tight radius (150mm) Kato curved track but found that the loco pushing would just derail the first wagon and then subsequent ones in rather spectacular fashion and that no matter what I did I couldn’t get a train round the curve. It’s no real surprise really and I kind of knew it wouldn’t work but never harms to try these things out just to make sure. Plan B was to then run have a straight layout but the problem then was how much space did it need to have three wagons in staging and a loco. Sitting next to me there were some bits of 6mm plywood which are 19″ x 36″ long from another ditched idea, that might do? It was a bit of a squeeze with over hangs diagonally at both ends but it did fit the required wagons and loco all be it at a jaunty angle as you can see.

I then thought about how I would marshal wagons around the yard and thought about flipping coins, rolling dice or using online random selection selectors! But then I remembered a card system that I had seen over on rmweb by an exceptional modeller John Flann and thought that I could utilise this for both wagon and spots. After a few trial runs I decided to ditch the cards for the spots as there are not really enough different locations to make it worth the extra complexity. I guess if this idea ever expanded it would be more suited to the multiple sets of cards. Then there is the possibility of computerised selections, but the purpose of this table top set up is to be able to just play and not too complicated. All of the selection could also be easily done with a dice as it nicely coincides that the spots and wagons add up to six. Yes I could pop down to the local D&D store and get multiple sided die but…. I settled on the pack of cards method. Now that the method of selection had been decided it just needed a loco.

I have four locos to choose from and they are all from the North Eastern part of America where my interest lie. Don’t ask me why as I am not sure my self but I guess it was something to do with the shortlines and the covered bridges, oh and probably the greenery. I would hate to add up the hours browsing nerail pics. I am not one for the desert sceneries and long block trains I much prefer seeing the odd wagon rumble by with an older loco in charge. Rather the ol’ Geep than the massive new breed of modular engines. I’ve always had a fascination for the covered bridges as I could never work out why you would go to all that effort, as hereabouts plain old simple limestone bridges dating back to pack horse trails are widespread and build with no frills to withstand wind and rains straight off the Pennines. One day I would like to attempt building a covered bridge but then I would probably need a layout to put it on! Back to locos, they are all NE roads as I said and at the moment pristine clear, bog standard, out of the box. I have yet to build up the courage to plaster grime all over them but feel this time is coming once I have learnt some weathering skills on a sacrificial wagon. At some point I was planning to DCC them, but when the decision was made to downsize my eclectic collection I decided that the US stuff was no longer required. Looking at it now I am starting to think I might have been a bit premature and that I don’t have a whole lot of stuff, i.e. 4 locos and 25 wagons, so maybe.. I would keep hold of them 🙂 I have always like the freight handling part of the shortlines which can be replicated for railways in the UK but you have to go back to pre-nationalisation to achieve this and for the moment I am not so interested in that period. So with the stock currently I have a bit of variety but without needing huge amounts of storage space. I also love the smoothness of the US stuff over cruddy UK locos, yes I know things have come on a long way since I last messed around with N gauge but the disappointment in those early years hasn’t left me, still. The more I talk about this the more I think “hmm just a little layout” But for the moment I will be happy to pack away my temporary layout till the next time I want to get it out and play… oh operate!

I am adding some websites I like and follow for possible ideas and resource. This website was the first I came across and for information about Ingelnook definitions and layouts it is a good place to start. Of course there is the evergreen site from now sadly passed Carl Arendt, however this is being resurrected over at carendt.com I believe. Here are a few more to peruse;


Until next time..