to thine own self...

Solid reference material like this article on Byron Henderson's blog, will get most people moving down the right track in terms of their own layout planning. Note: make sure you follow along to the subsequent parts of the article series to get full benefit of the material; it's well worth the time invested in reading it.

Having spoken to a number of people (of various experience levels) about their layout plans, I've noticed one very important factor. The more honest you are with yourself with respect to an analysis of your own abilities, disposable cash, and overall goals, the more likely you are to build a satisfying layout. This seems like a "duh" point at first but, having now seen the results of the planning and execution of several layouts - and getting the back-story of a few more layouts during operating sessions, a definite pattern is emerging.

Those people who ignored finances (I never have enough money for gas, but I'll need 33 extremely rare brass locomotives for this plan to work) skill level (despite the fact I can't tie my own shoes, I'm sure I'll be able to cut my own offset mitre gears for an N scale Climax one day) or goals (I'm a confirmed and grumpy loner but my design requires 7 to 9 tightly-knit operators to make the sessions work) have generally built layouts that make them unhappy to own and operate.

Notice I've used the qualifier "satisfying" instead of "good". A good layout is not necessarily one that receives critical acclaim for its clever use of materials or 100% adherence to prototype track arrangement, but it certainly is one that brings you joy to use and is not a unbearable burden on your time, a regrettable use of your space, or an onerous money-pit that can't be finished without depriving yourself of food & clothing.

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