Jim Spavins Track Plan Logo
Valley City, ND

Welcome to Jim's Track Plans

Model Railroad Layout Designs

Hello fellow layout designer,

Over the last twenty years of my involvement in the hobby, one of my favorite pastimes (besides building modules) has been designing layouts. A long time ago when I started on this model railroad journey, I kept notebooks filled with sketches and ideas for layouts. As computers have taken over everything, these sketches moved to CAD drawings. About a year or so ago, I started a process of trying to organize all of these items and move them into a digital format which would be easy to share. After compiling a list of these plans and ideas, I decided to go back and digitize these plans and share them here on the website. The process is taking a bit of time as many of the old sketches need to be drawn in CAD and some ideas need a little more work before they are ready for prime time.

Experiments in Publishing

As you may have noticed, this portion my website has been setup essentially as an ebook - with each plan presented sort of like a chapter in a book.  I wanted to try something a bit different from a blog format and more in line with how I enjoy writing - which is a bit more long form with lots of text and graphics.  By publishing the book online and in real time, I am taking a bit of a hybrid approach between a blog and traditional book. 

One of the nice quirks about the speed of building a website verses publishing a book is that chapters can be posted as they are completed as opposed to waiting to publish the entire work once all the designs are completed.  In this case, my plan is to post a new designs until sometime in the future when I run out of ideas.  At the moment, I plan to announce each new plan on Twitter, and Facebook page.

About the Designs

As you look through all the trackplans, you'll notice the designs are only taken to a conceptual design level. This means there is enough detail (like the basic track arrangements, major structure or landmark locations, and general dimensions) to understand what the final layout could look like. However, much of the final design choices - like benchwork style and more specific details - are left up to the builder. I am making an assumption the folks reading these articles have enough experience with model railroad layout design and construction to be able to determine the nuts and bolts of what it would take to build the trackplans as presented.

With that said, I tend to view these trackplans more as case studies as opposed to designs one might actually build (although any trackplan certainly could be constructed as shown - and several have.)  You probably noticed that the trackplans presented on this website cover all sorts of layout types from the unapologetic round and round display layout to the basement empire designed to keep the most hard core operations fanatic satisfied. Each design is more a case study about design ideas and processes used in constructing that particular design than about the trackplan itself.

As an aside, one of the things I have learned about layout design through the years, and a recommendation I would have for anyone who wants to become a better designer, is to look across the entire spectrum of layout styles. By digging a bit deeper into a variety of trackplans, it makes you a bit more appreciative of the spectrum of ideas that go into designing and building each style of layout. For example, as a lifelong module builder, one of the more difficult aspects of a module's design is figuring out how to move the layout sections from place to place so that it can be setup and taken down quickly and run for hours on end flawlessly - all while not damaging delicate scenery, equipment, electronics, structures and details. For this reason, the factors heavily influencing the module design revolve more around transportation and material choices than on the track arrangement itself. If you've only looked at model railroad design from the traditional fixed layout approach, you'll quickly discover just how different (and potentially complicated) the design requirements for even a simple, round and round, portable layout can become. Now, this isn't to say you need to become a module builder if that isn't your interest - but you might gain a few ideas which could be applied to your next home layout.

Note About Copyright

All the contents of this website are free to read - however, that does not mean they are free to take.  All the contents of this website are still under copyright which means that it is not permitted to repost the images or the text onto another website or into another format without my permission.  (For example, if you have your own website, don't just repost an entire article on your website without asking first.) In general, I like to think I am an approachable guy so if you have a desire to use the works contained on this website for another project, feel free to get in touch and we can probably work something out. 

Sharing as Patronage

Part of this publishing experiment is to see how many people are willing to pass these idea along in its free format or simply read and move on.  If you enjoy the trackplans on the website, I'd hope you'd consider sharing it with other modeler's who might appreciate the designs and articles. 

As I continue the process of digitizing all of my designs, each new plan will be posted on the Jim's Track Plan index and announced on Twitter and Facebook.

So with that, feel free to head back to Jim's Track Plan index and take a look around. If you decide to build any of these plans, I'd be interested in hearing about the experience - just send me a note on the contact page.

Thanks for stopping by!