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It Started With An Itch – Part III

It Started With An Itch – Part III

Part III Of Gary’s Blog Looks At Designing His First Track Plan…

With some reluctance I repacked away my train set. It had taken quite a lot of effort to put together and it made me think, do manufacturers really expect harassed parents, possibly nursing a hangover, to be able to perform this task in front of their excited offspring upon a Christmas morning?

Finding somewhere to store the big red box would not be a problem.  But as to where to spread out its contents with at least a degree of permanence to them, most certainly was. I had just seen how much room was required and basically what my house needed was an extension! Now, given that it is mid terrace with a back garden so small that the neighbourhood cats have had to learn how to do three-point turns, my options were limited.

I know that you are probably shouting out “Loft, loft”, but my abode is an ex council house. A council that had employed some quite imaginative architects. And, in a doomed social experiment, they had linked all the houses together such that they could all share a common, coal powered, heating system. Guess where all that, now unwanted, piping runs through! However, I did have a room, currently filled with various bits of old furniture and stuff. So why not clear that out, most of it was rubbish anyway, and then work forward from there.  So that is what I did.

I also thought that it was about time that I emerged from the undergrowth and so admit that I kind of liked this model railway thing. The response from my mates was predictable, as are their jokes to this day. But, as I had found out when I first opened that red box, I needed help, not the type that my friends were suggesting, but real help and advice from people that had travelled down this track before me. And, just a few desks away from me in my office, I found it in the form of an enthusiast that had been in the hobby for years.

Laurie, it has to be said, is not a conventional railway modeller. It’s not that he simply thinks outside the box but that his box extends to way beyond the known universe. You may have seen a couple of layouts, either in the flesh at a show (One’s booked for Warley), or displayed upon a magazine page. The first is named ‘Ripper Street’ and it is set in London around about the time of the infamous Jack, and comes complete with realistic screaming. The other ‘’Cato Pass” is based upon some futuristic planet where an underground bunker harbours rocket as well as trains, all crewed by trolls! So, if it was conformist advice that I was after, I had possibly come to the wrong place!

In his calmer moments though Laurie had put together a number of instructional videos and these proved to be my introduction to the world of model railways as viewed via YouTube. What a rich source of sound advice, and entertainment, that has proved to be! My ‘training’ (Sorry, but I do enjoy puns) had begun; starting with the need to design my layout upon paper before committing it to anything like wood and screws.

“Great”, I thought, “Grab a sheet of A4 and a pencil, job’s a good un!”. Laurie though said that although there is nothing wrong at all in doing it that way, I might prefer to use a free computer program that was named ‘SCARM’ ( . Of course I jumped at it.

Since then I have stumbled across other similar software, ‘AnyRail’ for example, but somehow, I always come back to SCARM. It’s simple and straightforward to use although, certainly with regard to the free version, there are a few quirks that you need to take onboard. It was also frustrating!

Not to use, but because all of my wonderful layouts kept proving to be too big for the available space. And, as no one has got around to invented flexible walling as yet (Please hurry!), I was forced to keep on redesigning and re-planning. Actually, it was a process that I found to be quite additive and it remains one of my favourite parts of creating a new layout. Nevertheless, two or three dozen absolutely awesome, but definitely oversized, designs later I had to accept that, as moving home was not an option, I had to become more realistic.

My ambitions curtailed, instead of just laying down pieces of track all over the screen, I first drew a box that represented the dimensions of the actual space that was available. By fitting my track plan inside that at the start, rather than at the end, a more achievable outcome could become possible. Well that was the theory anyway!

I had never before considered four connected lines to be so annoying or indeed restrictive in nature. But try as I might, my dream layout just would not fit in-between them. It wasn’t even as if there was ever that much difference. I mean what’s an inch in todays inflated world? That word ’Compromise’ kept popping up in my head and that was annoying me too. I didn’t want to. I wanted my trains to run around a track that looked like that, but the four lines just kept on saying ‘No’, make it fit this!

I had hit a brick wall, literally! and something had to give. Which of course was my desire for an unachievable design.  So, breathing in deeply and burying my disappointment, I eventually condensed my ideas down into what was to become known as ‘Bartlow End’. My very first railway layout. And now, it’s planning complete, it was time to get building !


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About The Author


Favourite Scale: OO / 1:76 Likes: Making small stuff on the laser cutter Dislikes: Counting rivets Other info: Starting to dabble with the world of 3D printing a bit to enhance the products we create on the laser. Layout: Whitwick Grove


  1. Tellem_Noot

    Agatha Christies got nothing on Gary. Where will it end, “in the library with the lead piping?” can’t wait for the next chapter.

  2. Dan Pick

    Great read, thanks for writing. I might try and map my existing layout just for fun

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