How small can a micro layout be in HO/OO scale, using ready to run locos and cars, and standard track, and still be interesting to operate?

A lot of Micro layouts I’ve seen on the internet that cram a lot of operating interest into them seem to require either narrow gauge, and / or custom built track turnouts and / or custom built or modified motive power and rollingstock. But I (probably) don’t have the skills to customise some motive power and / or rollingstock, and I’ve never tried building a custom turnout to fit a space. However I did find a plastic storage box that is 28.5 inches long x 13.5 inches wide which I thought would be an interesting venue for the smallest model railway I would have built to date – those measurements total 2.67 square feet. But to be a viable layout for me it had to be able to have standard track, and run standard motive power and rollingstock.

The original plan was to build a ‘tuning fork’ tram layout, using 1:76 scale models of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) trams that are available already built. But the price for the 2 trams was a bit more than I was willing to pay – upwards of $500. Then I saw a Hornby OO scale model of a Ruston and Hornsby 48DS, a very small shunter somewhat similar in size to an American “Trackmobile”. And at the right price. I mulled over a track plan to allow me to have reasonably interesting operation with minimal track, a 48DS for motive power, a single short 4 wheel passenger coach (or railbus), and a few 4 wheel freight wagons. I came up with a track plan, and purchased a Hornby 48DS with short wagon, and 2 left hand Setrack Peco turnouts.

The Hornby 48DS and flat wagon on my 2×2 foot Pizza layout
The Hornby 48DS by itself on my 2×2 foot Pizza layout.

I had thought of using a single double slip instead of 2 turnouts as I thought it might have provided longer sidings, but as the double slip would cost more than double the cost of the 2 Setraack turnouts, I decided on the 2 turnouts instead.

The track plan I decided on is basically a flattened ‘and skewed X’ as shown below.

Track Plan

The ‘prototype’ of this little railway is a standard gauge light railway somewhere in England, that interchanges with British Rail, and runs a single car passenger shuttle and freight movements to and from the fictional town of Ruston. Yes, I did chose the name of the town from one of the names of manufacturer of the 48DS locomotive! Not very original, I know. Maybe I will change it later on. The layout will represent both ends of the line but not the trackage in-between.

So far, I have created the baseboard, worked out where the track is going to go, connected the bits of trackwork together. I haven’t decided what buildings or scenery would go where on the layout yet although I do have some ideas for where the passenger and freight buildings will go. But once I’ve got the layout operational I can concentrate more on the scenery.

One thing I will have to do is work out a way to make the 48DS speed a bit more gentle at start up as with the controller I have it starts pretty suddenly. I’m not sure whether it’s the controller or the loco itself, but from what I’ve seen on YouTube of the same model it is probably the controller.


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