BranchTrack Sample Layout

BranchTRAK Shows

Show Operations

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Branchline
Layout Type: Modular Layout
Size: Linear 16.5"x48", Corners 30"x30"
Scale: HO Scale
Era: Any
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 24"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: March 8, 2016

The BranchTRAK modular system is designed to be easily displayed at train shows and other events.  The smaller size and table top style allow for faster setups and easier transportation needs than a traditional modular railroad.  In addition, due to the nature of the table top style and uniform module sizes, there is a limited number of potential layout footprints which actually makes pre-show logistics a bit easier.  If handled correctly, a show with a BranchTRAK railroad will be a relaxing day of train running for all the participants helping with the layout.

Show Setup Needs

For a typical display, the following is a checklist of items needed to setup a layout:

Show Participant Needs

Modules - When it comes to shows, it is expected that each attendee will only be allowed to display one 16.5"x48" module with the layout at a time.  Any individual may build more than one module section - however, each module must be able to operate independently of one another and each individual will only be allowed to bring multiple modules to a show if all other individuals who want to bring a module to a show have been included in the proposed layout plan. This will allow as many people as possible to participate in the show.

Show Badges - A lot of big train shows have limits on the number of badges they will hand out to various groups displaying at the show.  For the most part, this is usually spelled out in the contract as one person for every four linear feet of module.  For this style of layout, the number of members will be the number of linear modules plus two additional members for the corner.  Since most members should be displaying a module, this won't be a problem.

Equipment - As will be mentioned later, it is recommended everyone participating with the layout operates a train during the course of the show.  Due to the smaller sizes of the possible layout, trains should be limited to twenty cars + two locomotives + one caboose.

Layout Footprint Options

Based on the size of the modules and the standard folding table footprint, there are six realistic layout footprint options.  Obviously, the layout could grow a lot bigger than the table below suggests - but at that point - other modular styles become more practical.  The largest option below - 10-A and 10-B - allow for at least 18 members to display modules.  This is a fairly large group of people and, most likely, more than most modular clubs have participate at any given event.  From a practical perspective, if you had more people and modules, it might make sense to setup multiple layouts - like a transition era layout and a modern layout - simply to give each individual participant more opportunities to run trains.

As can be seen in the chart below, each possible arrangement lists the number of tables required, the table footprint, the total footprint if a barrier with three foot wide aisles is added around the perimeter of the layout, the total number of linear modules, and the total number of members who would be able to participate by displaying modules (assuming one linear module per member and an additional member per two corner modules).

Table 1 - List of Possible Table and Module Arrangements

Alternative Number of Tables Table Footprint Layout w/Barriers Footprint Number of Linear Modules Number of Members
4-A 4 10.5'x10.5' 16'x16' 4 6
6-A 6 10.5'x18.5' 16.5'x24.5' 8 10
8-A 8 10.5'x26.5' 16.5'x32.5' 12 14
8-B 8 18.5'x18.5' 24.5'x24.5' 12 14
10-A 10 10.5'x34.5' 16.5'x40.5' 16 18
10-B 10 18.5'x26.5' 24.5'x32.5' 16 18


BranchTrack Layout 4A

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 4A. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

BranchTrack Layout 6A

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 6A. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

BranchTrack Layout 8A

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 8A. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

BranchTrack Layout 8B

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 8B. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

BranchTrack Layout 10A

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 10A. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

BranchTrack Layout 10B

BranchTRAK Layout - Number 10B. | Trackplan by Jim Spavins.

Layout Operations

During a show, there will need to be two main roles to staff the layout - train engineers and layout spotters.  As the names imply, train engineers run the trains and the layout spotters help watch over the railroad and fix problems as they arise.  In general, for a very small layout, one person can fill both rolls but as the layout becomes larger, it becomes a good idea to break these roles apart in order to keep an eye on everything. 

It should also be noted, that the operators of the layout and the spotters will be stationed on the outside of the layout.  Since there is no provision to duckunders to the inside of the layout, it is expected that no one will be inside of the layout. 

Table 2 - Recommended Roles and Operators On Duty At Any Given Time During Show

Alternative No. of Tables Table Footprint Potential Operator Pool No. of Train Engineers No. of Spotters
4-A 4 10.5'x10.5' 6 1 1
6-A 6 10.5'x18.5' 10 1 1
8-A 8 10.5'x26.5' 14 1 2
8-B 8 18.5'x18.5' 14 1 2
10-A 10 10.5'x34.5' 18 1 2
10-B 10 18.5'x26.5' 18 1 2

Train Operations

There in nothing complicated expected for operating trains - just keep 'em rolling at a scale speed round and round in circles.  To break up the monotony, a schedule should be prepared before the show to allow individuals to signup to run trains at various intervals throughout the day.  This will ensure traffic is moving at all times for visitors and no one is stuck spending running trains around all day.

Of course, since the expectation is that only one train will run at a time, it is possible if an operator desires, they could run around the layout acting like a local - switching out various industries along the line.  While it might not satisfy the most ardent operations fan, they at least can bring a bit of prototype discipline to modular layout merry go round.

Table 3 - Sample Train Show Operator Sign Up Sheet

Time Operator Train Name Origin Module Spotter
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Joe Smith New Haven General Freight Freight Yard Sara Smith
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Jane Doe Central Vermont General Freight Freight Yard Jack Doe
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Dan Murphy Amtrak MOW MOW Facility Danielle Murphy
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Sara Smith Housatonic NX-12 Canaan Enginehouse Joe Smith Jr.
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Jack Doe B&A Passenger Train Chester Station Janice Doe
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM Danielle Murphy Flagg Coal No. 75 Murphy Station Dan Murphy
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Joe Smith Jr. P&W NR-2 Niantic Lumber Joe Smith
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Janice Doe Shorty Tank Car Train Freight Yard Jane Doe

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