13 October 2022
There are a few trackplan types around which model railways are based. Here's a look at the most common...
If you find the terminology of 'continuous loop', 'end-to-end' or 'fiddleyard to terminus' a little baffling, don't worry, the chances are you're new to the hobby. Read our 'crash-course' guide below as we explain the differences between each, with layout examples as inspiration for your next project.
What are the different types of model railway layout?
Usually lending itself to the larger layouts, a continuous run or loop is one of the most popular choices, which, as the name suggests, enables trains to carry on running around a circuit of track. This is popular with first train sets and allows operators a chance to 'zone out' while a train laps the circuit.
A continuous loop – or 'roundy-roundy' as some might say – can have one track, or multiple tracks, plus include stations and sidings. Ultimately, what sets it apart from others is that there is no start or finish, perhaps only stops at a through-station. The trains can carry on and on, and on, (and on some more, if the operator falls asleep) until the operator wakes up and stops them.
This type of layout is traditionally associated with an oval shape, however, the track can be laid in many shapes, including a figure of eight. It's best for running express trains at speed, too, providing enough track for trains to build momentum.
There are many great continuous run/loop layouts, here are a few examples…
Featured in the November 2022 issue of BRM, this large home layout features a complex trackplan, where the layout can run prototypically with different operating sequences.
An exhibition favourite that majors in operating sequences, 'Wimborne' offers continuous running with two shunting yards.
'Shenston Road' is a BR Western Region EM gauge layout based in the Black Country in the late-'60s early-'70s. The project started in 1999 by building a 30ft by 10ft purpose-built brick shed. Featuring in the February 2022 issue of BRM, this incredible layout is a continuous loop with hidden sidings on the lower level.
As the name suggests, an end-to-end layout runs from one end of a layout to the other and comes back again. As the examples below show, layouts can vary massively in size and design, which is why it is also one of the most popular options. An end-to-end layout will have a fiddleyard at each extremity, and requires less width than a continuous loop trackplan.
Appearing at The Festival of British Railway Modelling in 2023 and our cover feature in the August 2020 issue of BRM, this curved twin-level layout, where lines cross bridges and disappear to hidden sidings, makes for entertaining viewing and engaging operation.
Another layout that featured in the November 2022 issue of BRM, ‘Freshwater’ is a very conventional end-to-end design, with the station at one end and the water tower and goods shed at the other, with much scenic detail in between.
This EM gauge layout appeared in the October 2022 issue of BRM, and its trackplan is bookended by fiddleyards, an approach for many end-to-end layouts. Depicting a small station and nearby factory/sidings on a Western Region branch line, this exhibition layout offers plenty of operational potential.
Fiddleyard to terminus/sidings
In its simplest form, a fiddleyard to terminus or sidings design is a train that arrives on the layout, stops at a station or siding and then departs the same way it arrived. They are usually smaller than a continuous loop or end-to-end, and have limited operational capacity. That being said, they still offer plenty of entertainment and modelling potential and are a popular choice, especially for those who don't have a dedicated space for a model railway. Shunting puzzle layouts where rolling stock is sorted into the correct order are often based around the concept of a fiddleyard to terminus or sidings trackplan.
The rural beauty of an East Anglian backwater, with a little decay, is the subject for Rob Gunstone's latest instalment in his 'sheep-themed' layouts. Also featured in the October 2022 issue of BRM, the compact nature of this layout is perfectly balanced with some excellent scenic details.
This sizeable fiddleyard to terminus layout offers much in the detail department, with an abandoned wharf, rusty military equipment and station office just some of the fantastic features on display. Set in the 1950s, this picturesque scene has been a regular exhibition attendee over the years and featured in the April 2022 issue of BRM.
There’s a lot to like about this layout and it differs massively from the previous two examples, which were set in the peaceful countryside, ‘Camel Quay’ depicts a bustling town scene with a pub, barge and station all featuring. Measuring over 11ft wide, it shows that this type of layout design doesn’t always mean you have to downsize.
World of Railways Plus members gain access to our Trackplan Archive, home to a mass of trackplans of many of the country’s best model railways. Find inspiration and essential information for your next layout build on all gauges, including OO, N and O.
More useful guides
Still tied up with the model railway terminology? Visit our Glossary section.
Undecided on which railway era to model? We explain the key eras of railway history used when modelling in our guide.
Looking for trackplan inspiration? - Our guide explains all.
If you're thinking of tackling water on your layout? Our guide on how to model water here should be your first port of call.
Need more advice? Take a look at the Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.
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