Like most layouts, the design of Laramie Engine Terminal went through many iterations before the final version was reached.

March 2011

Having decided that the layout was to be built in O-scale and that the key features were the inside of the roundhouse, the turntable and the coaling tower and having already gone through many versions on CAD, I decided the only thing to do was build a full sized mock-up to ‘see what it looked like’.



Celotex insulation sheeting was used as temporary baseboards (delaying the insulation of our roof space by a month or two!) and, since at this stage none of the buildings or the turntable had been built, they were mocked up using a ‘lazy susan’ ball race for the turntable and foamboard for the buildings.

  • This version included a section from both ends of the roundhouse (three full lanes and 3 part lanes from the longer ‘Big Boy’ end – lower photo – and four full lanes and 2 part lanes from the other end – upper photo).
  • The coaling tower was the full sized Laramie coaler with 4 locomotive coaling lanes and a hopper track.
  • Three tracks were included at the back of the layout, one to act as a diesel/turbine refuelling lane (see oil fillers and aerosol can acting as the diesel fuel tank) and the other 2 to be filled with hopper wagons and box cars to act as a 3-dimensional backscene.

At this stage it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be better (or even possible) to view the layout from both sides – it was still a very traditional ‘view from the front’ design though with the added interest of views into the roundhouse.

Already the design was quite large (not meeting my design criteria to be able to be transported in my car!!) at about 15ft long and just under 5ft wide without fiddle yard/staging!.

June 2011

Three months later and the design had firmed up somewhat (and the basic structure of the turntable had been built):


The main change was the replacement of the 3 O-scale tracks at the back with two O-scale ones plus 2 further ones filled with box cars at reducing scale (S-scale, HO) to produce some forced perspective:

Laramie June 2011

The plan was to have a backscene depicting the townscape of Laramie which would produce a great scene with real depth but at the expense of further increasing the width of the layout. By now it had occurred to me that, at this width, problems of access occur – derailments or engines stalling towards the back of the layout (particularly in the middle) would be hard if not impossible to reach. So, on several counts this design, despite looking good, didn’t really work.

August 2011

Light bulb moment: how about viewing the layout from both sides allowing both the inside and outside of the roundhouse to be viewed. This would:

  • Give a whole new view point (literally) as well as
  • Doubling the number of people who could view the layout at once (often a problem at busy exhibitions) and
  • Solving the access problem.

IMG_1308 IMG_1310

This thought prompted a more radical change to the design:

  • The tracks running the full length of the layout (initially in O-scale but later in O, HO and N) have gone.
  • The coaling tower has been replaced by a water tower (a considerable width saving)
  • Both ends of the roundhouse have been narrowed by one lane – the thinking being that this saved about 6″ in baseboard width without any real loss visually or operationally.
  • This meant the view from what had been the front was largely unchanged (apart from the removal of the backscene)
  • But a whole new vista had been opened up – as can be seen in the photos above
  • The layout was now a much more manageable width – less than 4ft and with access from both sides so everything is now within easy reach.

But there were still many issues to resolve:

  • There was no way this design could be built to fit in my car so either the layout had to get smaller or an alternative ‘transport solution’ had to be found
  • I hadn’t addressed the issue of where the engines come from or go to (fiddle yard/cassettes/staging)
  • The coaling tower (one of the key features I wanted to include in the layout) was no longer part of the design
  • The layout was still quit long (15ft) – was there any way of making it shorter to emphasise the size of the engines without loosing anything visually or operationally?

At this stage (late 2011), the whole project was put on ice as I couldn’t see a way through these various problems and my attention moved to other things (another story/website)

More to follow……..