Want to build a layout but don’t know where to start? Want to improve your layouts into masterpieces? This guide will give you the answers to making truly wonderful layouts!
The goal of this guide is to give you the tools necessary to take your layouts to the next level. While it is by no means definitive, and the skills employed by some of the layout masters in the community take a lot of time to perfect, hopefully you will come out of this guide with a different perspective on how to build your layouts from the ground up. Before you even boot up a session of Rolling Line to a final product that is ready to go on the Workshop, this what you should keep in mind to take that idea that in your head and turn it into an awesome creation you can be proud of. Whether this is your first ever layout in Rolling Line or you are a seasoned model railroading veteran, this guide will break down the essentials of good modeling into easy to understand language that will hopefully have you coming back again and again as you continue to grow as a builder. These are the fundamental building blocks of great layout designs. Let’s dive in!
(Layout in thumbnail: Kita-Kaigan – [steamcommunity.com] by Detroit_)
Jamaica Rail – [steamcommunity.com] by Microcosmologist
What is the Layout About?
Before you start laying track or placing props you should ask yourself a couple questions. These questions will help you refine your purpose with this layout, and determine what makes this layout unique and worth building. While these questions are more guidelines than hard rules, a successful layout will try to stick to the answers that are decided here. Most importantly, these questions will help you avoid the creative block of not knowing what to do next, or straying too far from the end goal of the layout. The best way to think of these questions is as a way to build a story, because ultimately that’s what your layout is. If something doesn’t add to the story of your layout in a meaningful way maybe it’s best to keep it out. This is not to say don’t get creative and have fun, but don’t get sidetracked with ideas that take away from the purpose of your layout.
Passenger or Freight?
The first big question to ask yourself is if you want to build a layout focused around a passenger line or a freight line. Maybe you want the layout to feature both types of trains, in which case you should ask yourself if you want both passenger and freight trains running on the same line, or if you want separate lines for these different types of trains. This may be a vague question and you may be wanting to build a subway or streetcar layout. Either way, knowing what kind of train you are building for is an important question as it will have a big impact on the way you design your layout. For example, a freight line should focus on industries and yards and moving goods from one place to another, while a passenger line may have a couple stations to pull into and focus on a detailed, interesting scenery.
Diorama, Model, or Activity
The next big question to ask yourself is what is the function of your layout? Is it a way to show a specific scene, a layout to set trains running and watch them make their way through it on their own, or an active experience where the user controls what happens on the layout? None of these options are bad, and each offer a different experience, and create unique building challenges.
A diorama (like Hallowed Cove) is a great choice if you want to highlight a specific area, scene, or event. In most cases a diorama would remain stationary, but if movement makes sense and adds to the scene it can be a nice addition. A diorama may not even have trains in it! Either way, a diorama is all about telling a story through carefully chosen details. If it doesn’t add to the story it probably won’t find it’s way into the diorama. Generally a diorama will be a smaller, more concentrated build, but it can grow in size if the scene dictates it. If you really want to flex your building abilities this is a good way to go.
Dioramas from the Snowglobe Jam
In the context of Rolling Line I don’t know if a “model” really makes sense, but that is what I am going to use for now. A model is a great choice if you want to have a train line in your layout, but you really want the star of your layout to be the scenery and the details in the layout while one or multiple trains work their way through the build on their own. There may be a couple switches to move trains onto different lines to take a different path around the layout, but ultimately this type of layout should be set and forget, allowing you to follow the train through its journey and see the interesting details created along the way. This is a particularly good layout choice for passenger trains, and a good way to test your imagination as a builder. Adding in funny details that require a keen eye or easter eggs for the close observer fit well here. These types of layouts can be of any size or shape, but they should always run in a loop so the train can run continuously. If you are trying to tell a story about the location or railroad you are presenting this could also be a good choice as it allows the observer to read things while the set continues to run.
Another choice is an engaging interactive layout that requires the player to have an active role in controlling where trains go and making sure there won’t be collisions between trains. This type of layout lends itself well to a layout centered around a freight train where goods need to get from one place to another. This can also be used for passenger trains if you want to have multiple lines branching off each other with different stations to pull into. Due to the involved nature of this type of layout it doesn’t lend itself particularly well to having a player read a story or descriptions of places like a diorama or model does, but a well designed layout can be equally compelling at telling a story of how industries interact with each other, or how an area influenced what went where. Similar to video games, this type of layout conveys its story by showing, not telling. An interactive layout benefits from a larger layout size that gives players the space to move trains around and create distinct areas and industries, and is a good choice if you want to focus on the design of the tracks themselves. Scenery is a nice addition and helps to make layout the feel more complete, the interactive nature of this layout means that an interesting track design can be sufficient to enjoy playing on the layout.
The final type of layout is the puzzle layout. Whether this can even really be considered a layout is debatable, but it can be interesting to play on. A puzzle layout is exactly that, a puzzle. It isn’t necessarily about telling a story or having interesting scenery, it’s supposed to create a challenge for the player of how to move cars around to get them from one place to another or into a particular order. The name of the game here is limiting space and setting rules that the user has to follow to accomplish a goal. Generally these are small layouts, and lend themselves to freight trains, although saying freight trains may be being generous, as really the point is usually about shunting cars in a small yard. Details and scenery are nice additions, but generally add little more than context to why the player is moving these cars around in the first place. These types of layouts can be fun if you want to practice shunting cars around, but are not the layout to try if you want to build interesting tracks or scenery.
In the end your layout may incorporate elements of each of these, but a good layout will try to stick to a single type of layout. The only wrong choice here is the one that doesn’t end up with the layout you wanted when you started.
Layout Purpose Continued
Real or Fiction
Monument Valley – [steamcommunity.com] by KingNathanthelll
The final big question is if this layout will be based on the real world, or is totally fictional. There is also the option to copy an existing model railroad, probably one that exists in the real world, such as the Milwaukee Beer Line layout already on the workshop, but if you are going that route you probably don’t need this guide right now. Either way, the choice of a fictional or non-fictional layout will have a big impact on how you design your layout.
If you go the real world route you can either base your layout off of an existing rail line, or if you want a bit more creative freedom you can choose a real world area and create your own rail line on top of that. In both cases, you will be limited by the real world and the area that you choose. You can choose to highlight certain parts of the line or area and disregard other parts, but buy and large the layout you create should resemble what exists in the real world. This can involve replicating entire freight yards and cities. This is a good way to start building layouts if you’ve never built one before because it can offer a lot of inspiration and guidance when you aren’t sure what to do, but the challenge of creating something that looks like a real thing should not be underestimated. That said, this can be a nice way of sharing a story you find interesting, or showing people a train line or area that has a significant value to you.
A fictional layout allows you to have total creative freedom. You can create your own landscapes, your own train lines, the sky really is the limit. This is a chance to let your imagination run wild. Check out The Kool-Aid Railroad – [steamcommunity.com] by Microcosmologist and company to see what can happen when you let go of the rules of reality! The challenge with a fictional layout can be finding inspiration and staying focused on the intent of the layout. A fictional layout will benefit from preparation and organization. Answering questions like the one in this guide, writing down those answers, and sketching out iterations of your layout before laying track can go a long way in keeping on target. The same way that movies start with a script and a storyboard before ever getting to filming, you want to have a pretty clear idea what you want your finished product to look like before you get started.
Working Out the Details
Notice how none of the those questions you just answered didn’t really have any specifics about your layout? Despite being so “important” they didn’t tell you what exactly your layout would be. That’s because designing a layout is kind of like writing a book. Before you can actually get to writing a book, you have to know what kind of book you are writing. Are you writing an autobiography or a sci-fi short story? The who, when, where, what, why and how can all be figured out after you know what kind of book you are writing. If you dive straight in and start writing whatever comes to mind you are going to end up with a very confusing book.
Don’t worry though, this next part is where you get to start letting those creative juices flow and get into the nitty gritty of what your layout is going to be about. Depending on what type of layout you chose earlier not all of these questions may apply to you, so don’t feel like you have to come up with an answer for everything, particularly if it doesn’t feel like it’s relevant to your layout. Again, these are guidelines, not rules.
One of the first details you should come up with is what era your layout is from, and how old your line is now. Every era of trains has different technologies and different styles and techniques they used for constructing their railroads and yards. Different eras of trains faced different challenges, and workers had different tools at their disposal to build tracks. Unfortunately I don’t have enough space here to break down the changes between eras for you, this is a great opportunity for some research about the era you want to tackle with your layout. As a general rule you can break down your eras into three broad categories, steam, diesel, and electric.
We can tell this is a Depression Era layout from the Model T truck, steam locomotives, and turn table. DM&G – Mesa 1928 – [steamcommunity.com] by Dark Derby
Similar to the era you are focusing on, it is important to keep in mind how old your line is in your layout. You can think of your layout as a photograph, capturing a specific moment in time. If you want to get really creative you can design your layout in a way that it spans it’s way through multiple time periods to show the growth and evolution of your railroad. Most layouts though only need to be set in one time period, and this will have an impact on how you build your scenery. An older track will have overgrowth and rust on the tracks, and may be in a poor state of repair, while a new track will be clean and nicely maintained. Just because you are building a railroad from the steam era doesn’t mean it needs to look like it’s 150 years old, you could build your layout to look like it was finished yesterday.
If you don’t quite understand what the difference between the era and the age is, think of it this way, the era is how the track and it’s supporting elements are designed, while the age is how old the scenery around the track looks.
The next detail to consider is how big you want your biggest train to be on the layout, as this will impact the size of the layout you make. You can of course have smaller trains than this, but once you have decided how long your biggest train is that shouldn’t change. A very long train with 20 cars sure looks impressive on the track, but if you build your layout too small it may look horribly out of proportion and crowded. The worst case scenario is that it would take up the entire visible layout so all you see is train! You can make your train as long or as short as you like, but you should make sure that you are comfortable with how big your layout might be because of that. Sometimes a train with only a couple cars can be just as interesting and compelling as a train with a lot of cars, it all comes down to the use of the space.
Along this line, think about how many extra cars and trains you want on your layout at a single time. You can add more variety to your trains and cars that you use by including a staging area that is out of the way, but if you want all of those cars and trains on the layout at the same time your layout should grow with that. Even though extra trains and cars can add life to your layout, you probably don’t want sidings with trains and cars every 6 inches.
Scale and train size kind of go hand in hand, but it is something that can and should be thought of independently of each other. When we talk about scale here we mean a couple of things.
The first is the size of the layout you want to work with. A smaller layout can be nice to work with because it can be finished quickly, and doesn’t take as much work to lay down tracks and add in scenery, there just isn’t as much space that you need to fill. Larger layouts take longer to build and require more resources to complete.
The Milwaukee Beer Line – [steamcommunity.com] is a good example of how much work it takes to develop a detailed large scale layout. The project was led by Microcosmologist, the same person responsible for The Kool-Aid Railroad earlier, but has a credit of 17 other people on it’s Steam page that helped build it into what it is now. This is probably around the top end of the sweet spot for size in layouts with high quality details. Rolling Line allows you to build larger layouts than that, DeathRowTull’s Nevada Arizona Utah – [steamcommunity.com] was enough to make the Developer of Rolling Line improve performance just to allow such a big map to be playable. However larger, more detailed maps push the limits of what the game can handle and require a great level of dedication and determination to complete.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you can make your layout so small that you don’t actually have enough space to include everything you wanted to include in your layout. Just like with everything, there is a balance, and you want to think about what the right balance for your layout is before you become too invested in the project and can’t turn back without restarting.
Nevada Arizona Utah – [steamcommunity.com] by DeathRowTull
A piece of paper and a pencil can be a good idea here for running through ideas and iterations before loading into the game, just keep in mind that unless you have a lot of experience with drawing or drafting what you think might fit on paper might not work out in practice. Proportion and scale for drawing and drafting is a learned skill that can take time to do correctly. Still, understanding how much space you would like to dedicate to areas of your layout can help you in the long run.
If you need help figuring out just how much space you need as a minimum, start by mocking up a rail yard if your layout will have one. It’s exact location doesn’t matter, all you are doing is grasping how much space you need as a minimum. This yard can have as few or as many track lines within it as you want, but it should be close to how many you would want in your final yard. The key detail in this practice is that the shortest stretch of track should be long enough to fit your longest train entirely within it. Once you have this preliminary yard completed you can begin to picture how much space you need for the rest of the layout, based on the proportion this yard will occupy in your layout compared to the rest of the layout.
The other thing to consider with scale is, well, scale. Model railroading, which is effectively what we are doing, gives you an opportunity to have some artistic license in how you represent your layout. What you really need to think about here is how your trains will feel within the world that you are building for them. We talked earlier about how a long train in a small layout can feel crowded, or how a small train in a large layout can feel empty. This is generally true, but these same principles give you the opportunity to finely tune just how big or small the layout feels. Consider the size of your layout, and the track you place in it, as a journey that your train takes. You can use scale to make certain parts of your journey feel as though they are taking a lot of time to get through by making them a bigger part of the layout, and if there are areas that you want to feel like you are flying by make them smaller. Likewise, if you are replicating a real world line maybe there are parts of that route that just aren’t interesting, or are so large that they wouldn’t fit properly onto a model railroad. This is a common approach in real world model railroading, where this is a finite amount of space, so to make the world feel detailed but accurate modelers will focus on big and detailed hubs of activity with smaller gaps in between to resemble passing through otherwise barren or uninteresting terrain. Scale is simply another tool at your disposal to tell the story that you want to tell about your layout in an interesting way. There is no right or wrong way to use it, there is simply what works best for your application.
Enough with all the high-brow talk of “story” I hear you cry! Look, I get it, all this talk about these weird details adding up to create “a story” is starting to sound a bit like an art critic explaining that the way an artist used a special brush stroke on a painting of a sunset is suppose to tell us that they once ate an apple on rainy Tuesday as a child. So let’s get to something that actually has some substance, the location of your layout.
The location of your layout may seem like a simple enough decision to begin with, and there is no right or wrong decision here, but whether you are making a real railroad or going off the book with a fictional layout you need to choose a setting. Maybe you want to build your local railroad because it has a special sentimental value to you, or maybe you want to imagine what it would be like to have a railroad on the Moon. The important thing here is that you use your location to consider how that location impacts your railroad. What will the track look like on the terrain you have in mind? How does the climate of the area affect the wear and tear on the buildings in your layout? What industries does this location limit you too, and do you want to work with those industries? These are just a couple questions to ask yourself, but will hopefully give you an idea of how asking these types of questions will help you create accurate details in your layout that are true to the location you are reproducing.
Helvetia-Viadukt Switzerland – [steamcommunity.com] by Trackmeister
Generally in railroading an industry is any part of the line, usually a terminal, that acts as a destination for a train or its cars. For a freight train this would be actual industries that send and receive goods, but for passenger trains this can also be stations to pick up and drop off passengers. In this case though, we are talking about the industries themselves, the actual functions that are served by each industry. The industries that you include in your layout will play a crucial role in telling the story of your railroad. You thought we were done with the story nonsense didn’t you! That thing earlier about being done talking about story was only to subvert your expectations. To get back on track though no industry in the world is totally self sufficient. If you are producing something that you need to get your resources from somewhere, and if you are collecting resources you need those resources to go somewhere. In your layout is it critical that every industry be supplied within the scope of your layout? No, and that’s not always the way the world works. While generally an industry that requires a certain resource will be located near the source of that resource, sometimes this isn’t the case, or other resources will need to be delivered from other far off locations. Either way, you want to understand in your head how various resources are getting from the location they started at to the place they need to be. You can have as many or as few industries as you want, and they don’t all need to be related, but the more industries you have in your layout the more complex your rail network is going to be to support all of them.
An example of possible industry layout could be as follows. The main industry in the layout could be a coal mine. That coal mine could supply a power plant and steel forge. The power plant only needs coal to operate so it has a single line between the mine and the plant. The steel forge however requires coal and iron to create steel, so the steel forge can have a line that goes to the mine, but also a line that runs to the edge of the layout which would represent a line going to a mainline that connects to other industries. That main line connects to an iron mine a couple miles away which is where the iron can come from to go to the steel forge. That steel forge and coal mine can also take advantage of that mainline to not only receive goods, but also send goods as well, as surely that coal and steel will be useful to other industries along the mainline. It also wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that near this power plant and steel forge is a machine shop that turns that raw steel into products. Now we have a large array of goods coming in and out of this layout which should go through a yard to be sorted for inbound and outbound freight. From a single resource we can now build 4 industries on our layout that all make sense to be in the same area and interact with each other, a freight yard, and a line that connects us to the outside world. Maybe the iron mine is in the same vicinity so rather than have a line connecting to a main line it goes to the iron mine and now we have a completely self-contained layout of industries. From resource to final product every part of the process is on our layout.
Your industries will also dictate the cars that you use on your trains. A coil mine won’t need oil tankers, but it will need open hoppers. A passenger station won’t need logging cars, but it will need passenger cars and maybe a mail car. Before you place a type of car on your track ask yourself if it makes sense for that car to be on your railroad. What purpose would that car serve within your railroad? Not only that, but ask yourself if the style of that car matches your era and location. If you can’t find anything in the game it might be time to try the Workshop or make some custom rail cars.
Your layout and the industries within it can be as self contained as you want, but understanding what is going into your layout and how it all interacts with each other will give everything on your layout a purpose, which will create a cohesive story. The same sort of logic can be given to passenger trains. Where is your train taking people? Is it connecting a major city center to a major city center? Is it taking people to a vacation destination? Is it moving people around a single city like a street car or subway? The ultimate goal here is to understand exactly what it is you are transporting with your trains, where it is coming from, where it is going, and why it is moving in the first place.
So, you’ve come up with the era and age of your layout, you know what kind of train you are building for and where it is from, you know what it’s delivering and where, you know how you want people to interact with your layout. It seems like it’s about time to start laying track and placing props. But there’s one more thing you should think about before you start laying track. The layout itself! We’ve answered all these questions about what the layout is about but we didn’t think about what the layout actually is. This time, we are going back to primary school and talking about shapes!
To give credit where it is due, this part of the guide is largely inspired by this wiki article in the Design Primer of the Layout Design Special Interest Group (http://www.ldsig.org/ – [ldsig.org] ), a special interest group of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA, https://www.nmra.org – [nmra.org] ), the Introduction to the wide variety of layouts possible – [ldsig.net] by Drew Hackmeyer. The LDSIG, while old (that particular article was copyrighted in 1996), is still a great resource for model railroaders, which means it’s a great resource for Rolling Line players as well. If you want to read more about improving your layouts I highly recommend you comb through their libraries of information they have posted online for free.
ClassicFanatic uses a wall to help break up a layout in SoCal Display – [steamcommunity.com]
What is the Track Shape Anyway?
Every model railroad has a general shape to it. It may not look exactly like that shape, but if you look down at the track from above, what is referred to as a plan view, or birds eye view if that helps, it will resemble a certain shape. The shape of your layout can have a huge impact on how you build your layout, and the use of building techniques can make an otherwise simple layout feel far more diverse than it might actually be. This guide will try to give you a wide range of layout shapes to work from, but like almost everything else in this guide, these are only guidelines. The final shape of your layout may incorporate elements from many different shapes of layouts. If you are building a perfectly 1:1 layout then this section may not apply to you, as the shape of your layout will determine the shape of the railroad you have in your head. If you are not building a perfect 1:1 layout what is discussed here can be a way to get creative with how you package your layout.
In Rolling Line we are lucky in that we have a near infinite amount of space to build in, but these shapes come from the real world of model railroading where more often than not builders have a limited amount of space, and still need room to move around within that space, so they must think outside the box of how best to utilize their space. These differences do not mean these design ideas are useless to use in Rolling Line however. While we do not face the same constraints as the real world, these same principles can help us create interesting and immersive layouts that feel like they could exist in real life.
Two Types of Layouts: Shelf vs Table
There are two main concepts to grapple with before you really start narrowing down your shape, and that is what you want the track to sit on. Generally speaking any layout could sit on either a shelf or a table, but some shapes lend themselves to one over the other.
Old wisdom starts us with putting the layout on a table. A table can be nice because it is always near the center of the room, meaning you can always see a majority of the layout, scenery notwithstanding. You also get a 360 degree view around the layout, every possible angle of the layout is visible. If you’ve ever looked at a beginners plan book for model railroad layouts you will be familiar with the concept of a table layout. A table layout isn’t perfect though, it takes up a lot of space in the room and isn’t easy to access the inner parts of the layout, requiring the inclusion of cutouts, pits, or access holes.
This is where the shelf layout comes in. Rather than using a table in the center of the room, a shelf layout moves the track along the walls of the room and opens up the center of the room to have free movement. You don’t have the same 360 degree view of the layout, but instead you are enveloped by the layout. It can also offer a lot more workable layout space for the same room size compared to a table layout. The flexibility of a shelf layout is also a nice bonus. With a table layout you are mostly limited to the initial table, with a shelf layout you can start with a single wall, then expand to the next wall, then the next wall. Run out walls? Start building a second layer of shelves.
Of course you can mix the two and have a shelf layout that uses a table peninsula to have an area with more viewing angles. The choice is up to you, but knowing if you want a table or a shelf or a hybrid should be a decision you make before any track in the game.
Layout Shapes Continued
Point to Point
The absolute basic a layout can be, a straight which terminates at both ends.
Point to Loop
Take a Point to Point and add a loop on the end to reverse the direction of the train and you now have a Point to Loop layout.
Out and Back
Like a Point to Loop layout with the proportions changed. The loop becomes the main part of the layout, the main line if you will, while the point simply becomes a destination.
Loop to Loop
Add another loop onto the Point to Loop layout and now you have a Loop to Loop. This is great for having a city or industry as the centerpiece in your layout that your train can run past continuously.
Add another side to a Loop to Loop layout and now you have an Oval, take the sides out altogether and you have a Circle. Now your train can run around your layout all day long without any intervention. This is where most starter model railroad sets begin.
If you twist your oval in half you get a Figure 8 which gives you a cross to deal with and two inner sections to work with instead of just one.
Twice Around, Triple Around, Spaghetti Bowl
Go back to the Oval again and turn it around on itself and you have a Twice Around. Do it again and you have a Triple Around. You can keep doing this until you have an effective spaghetti bowl of track.
Squeeze the sides of the Oval back together and you create a Dog Bone. Great for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it looks like you have a double mainline but still have a continuous loop without any extra space.
Folded Dog Bone
Fold a Dog Bone and you end up with a Dog Bone with a bit of shape to play around with. Play around with how folded it is depending on your layout.
Add another fold to the Folded Dog Bone and you end up with a Waterwings Layout, or something resembling a “C”.
Other Letters, Shapes, and Tables
If you accept that the waterwings layout can look like a “C” then you can start to imagine how you could shape the track to look like other letters to create interesting layout options. All across the alphabet there are ways to create layouts that resemble these characters. Break away from strictly resembling these shapes by turning straights into bending curves and using elevation to create multiple levels and now you are starting to create some truly unique and fascinating options.
Beyond that, think about how these same ideas can impact the tables that you start with. A table layout doesn’t just need to be a rectangle. You can cut bits out, extend bits, add curves, put holes in the center. A shelf layout doesn’t have to just stick to the walls. Make some parts wider, some parts narrower, higher, lower. Leave sections out or have parts wrap into the room. Cross empty parts of the room with bridges. Now you are starting to see how your tracks and your layout can fit anywhere and everywhere around the room. The only limit to the shape of your layout is your imagination.
Remember that all of these are general shapes. Within and around these shapes you can still include other parts of track such as multiple lines, sidings, industries, spurs, stations, and yards. Add lines that run from the edges or walls of your layout to show your layout connecting to a mainline and allow new trains to enter the layout. Some of these layouts require some imagination when running trains on them, pretending that a single train coming and going from the same place is actually different trains, or running around a loop multiple times to simulate a journey taking place. In this way a single industry on the layout can function as multiple industries given that the train does so many loops around the layout. All of these elements are as you might have worked out by now simply another way to help tell the story of your layout, so think about and play around with different layouts to figure out which feels the best for what you want to show off.
Additional Techniques, Extras, And Where To Go From Here
Playing Tricks With Your Tracks
If you really want to take your track designs to the next level, think about how you can play tricks with your track. Hiding your train can add a lot more interest to your layout with a small amount of additional effort. Tunnels can be a great starting place for this, allowing your trains to go into a tunnel on one side of the layout and a minute later magically appear on the other side of the layout. Take this a step further and you can use scenery to hide your train for short moments, allowing it to pop in and out of view as it moves through the layout. Finally, play around with viewing angles and how you can split up your layout. Even a simple Oval loop can be made very interesting if you stick a wall in the middle of it and have two different scenes on each side.
Add visual interest to your layout by playing with elevations on your layout. Having one side of your layout up high while the other is down low can be fun to play around with, but adding multiple tracks at different heights next to each other can really add a wow factor to your layout, especially if you can have multiple trains passing on these different tracks at the same time.
Gain even more space to expand your layout by building additional levels stacked on top of each other. These other levels can be totally independent from each other, or the trains can travel from one level to the next through the use of a helix, or spiral, or even large elevation changes from one deck to another.
Are These Kicking In Yet?
A multi-level layout can be made even more exciting by making what is known as a “mushroom” layout, where two levels are blocked off from seeing each other with opposing walls to create a “mushroom” shape if seen through the cross section for each level. You can also think of this as making an “S” with the different levels and walls.
Think Outside the Box
Imagine your layout is an actual model railroad. Add details around the outside of the layout to match the size of the player that make it feel like you are looking at a real model railroad with props like coffee mugs, chairs, controllers, switch boards, descriptions, and other supplies.
Everyone loves a good easter egg, and model railroaders are no exception. Whether it’s a funny little scene, a risque piece of graffiti, or a building paying homage to your favorite donut shop back home, get creative and have some fun adding your own personal touches to your layouts for others to find later.
The Custom Shop
Want to really take your layout to the next level? Get some custom liveries or a custom train and cars, or custom props. Tiny details like these take your layout from being something that looks like it was pieced together to feeling like it’s picked straight out of real life. This can also extend to things like custom walls or backdrops to make it feel like your layout is a lot bigger than it really is.
The Forecast This Week Looks Like…
Few things in this world are perfectly clean, particularly if they are near a railroad. Give your layout some drama by adding some weathering to your trains and props. This may be as simple as adding some correctly placed and colored props, or it may take as much as custom liveries and prop models. In real modeling this can be as much of an art as the layout design itself.
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall…
Few places around the world truly look the same during all four seasons. Make your layout unique by building in an interesting season that compliments your location. Don’t know what you location looks like during different seasons? Look it up on your preferred search engine. Some locations can look run-of-the-mill one season but then explode in color the next season, while others have seasonal characteristics you wouldn’t expect. Get in tune with nature and figure out what time of the year your layout looks best. If your location has really dramatic seasons this could be an opportunity to make multiple versions of your map at different times of the year!
German Winterdream – [steamcommunity.com] by Trackmeister
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again
Practice running your layout before you get to heavily invested in building out the rest of your scenery. Start by simply testing the track design itself. Is it an interesting layout to watch? Do you have the space you need to operate your trains the way you want to? Could it be improved? Once you have a layout you feel is ready to take further add the big, important parts of your layout and test it again. Are there walls, big sections of terrain, or parts of the scenery that play an important role in the layout? Now is the time to make sure that they work with the layout and that the layout works with them. This is not the time to rush. Take your time with your testing to get your layout running just how you want it to. Your first iteration of your layout may not be the one you end up with, so taking the time to try it out now will save a lot of hassle down the road. It is a lot easier to make changes to your layout now, big or small, than it is when everything is in it’s place.
Deja Vu, The Feeling You’ve Been On This Train Before
Don’t be afraid to do a layout just because you see that someone else has done it before. Everyone brings their own touch to their layouts, and the features of a layout one person decided to highlight may not be the same as your idea. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. If you have an idea, run with it! As long as you don’t copy everything the other person did, use your imagination to create your own version. Maybe you can even do it better than they did!
Inspiration From Odd Places
If you find yourself stuck and don’t know what to do next or even where to start, try looking for inspiration elsewhere. Sometimes the brain needs a jumpstart to find that great idea. Look at what other users have created, look at real world railroads, look through model railroad magazines, or just see if something interests you in the real world. A simple question could be the beginning of a great layout, like walking past a clothing store and wondering what a clothing supply chain would look like in railroad form.
There is still plenty to learn about making layouts in Rolling Line. Advanced techniques like complex switch yards, multi-track lines, fine detail and prop building just to name a few. These are all things you will learn along the way as you build your tracks. Outside of this guide you can check out other guides here on the Steam Workshop or join the official Rolling Line Discord server which is full of wonderfully smart, talented, and helpful people to share your layouts with and ask questions.
The most important idea to take out of this guide is to have fun! Do whatever you want with your layout, it’s your vision and your story to tell. This is just a resource for you to use to make your layouts more enjoyable to build and to use. Hopefully it is something that you will come back to as you grow with your layout building skills to find different ways of thinking or new ways of finding inspiration. The job of this guide is not to tell you what you can and can not do with your layout, it’s job is to give you the tools you need to take that idea that is in your head and create something truly spectacular with it!
If you have any techniques that you use when building your layouts that you didn’t see here, share them in the comments below! Everyone has their own approach, and this is certainly not definitive, so let’s hear what other tips and tricks people have for building their tracks.
This is all about Rolling Line – How To Create A Layout Masterpiece; I hope you enjoy reading the Guide! If you feel like we should add more information or we forget/mistake, please let us know via commenting below, and thanks! See you soon!
- All Rolling Line Posts List