Do You Compress Scenes and Features on Your Model Railroad Layout?

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Section Hand
I really appreciate the size of Montanan's, SantaFe Willie's and Mark's layouts and the room the guys have to construct cityscapes and scenery. I'm sure I missed other equally as large layouts of the Forum membership. My layout unfortunately is not as large as I would of like the layout to have ended up to be in size, but the bar area and the wife's Green Bay Packer room came first and the layout location moved around the basement from several areas until it ended up as the CM&N in the former workshop area of the basement as its now permanent location.

The size limitations of the CM&N required me to make some concessions in size like roadways, city scenes and other features commonly found on model railroads. There are four roadways on the CM&N and actually none of the roadways lead to anywhere, but merely suggest that there is a reason and purpose for their existence. City scenes and industrial areas are primarily background buildings with photographic backgrounds. Again, due to space limitations. Water features are small ponds or swampy areas, no lakes or rivers are to be found.

-This road actually ends at the tracks and at terminal building to the right. To the left the road sort disappears into the landscape.

-This roadway ends at the freight yard just beyond the green truck and ends at the edge of the layout.

-The industrial area of Waupaca, mainly kit bashed background buildings. This scene is barely two feet wide and has five tracks between the buildings and the water tower. I like to "spill" the landscape down the front of the fascia to expand the layout's appearance.

Perhaps if I would redo the layout (that's not likely to happen) I would model in N scale rather than HO to open more layout possibilities.

Did you find in planning and constructing your layout that certain concessions needed to be made due to space limitations and what were these changes?


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Whiskey Merchant
I try not to compress scenes, but I did compress my main line.

I try to keep roads as close as possible to scale width and this presents another problem. I didn't want a spaghetti bowl of track looping over and under itself and the track only passes through the layout one time. I only had room for four towns and the distances between them is fairly close, but did try to isolate them with scenery breaks.

My layout is built mainly for switching and having the main line only pass through the layout one time leaves me more room for industries and other rail customers.


Well-Known Member
I fully agree that compression is a necessary concession in modelling. Especially if you want some tractor-trailer scenes and parking areas, these take up a lot of real estate.

I have seen some nice looking layouts that ignored the access to the buildings, etc but would still display automobiles or trucks. Everyone has to settle on what level of realism is acceptable.

I will bounce things off my wife to see if I am going overboard. I usually am. Even in planning a huge layout, just a bare minimum of buildings at each townsite must be settled on, unless maybe the whole layout is dedicated to one town.


Well-Known Member
All of my layout is between 24" and 32" wide, so I go with compression in two areas. While I keep the distance between parallel tracks to a scale 14' - 16', my right of ways are way too narrow, 10' - 15' scale feet between track and adjacent structures/fences in many cases. And since switching carries more weight with me, my towns are too close. In most cases, the engines are entering a town while the caboose is just leaving the previous town. This doesn't bother me since I cannot stand back from the layout far enough to see this with the average through freights of 22-24 cars. Switching consists are much shorter. I do try to have some degree of scenic dividing in many cases. Like Chet, my rail lines only go through any scene just once. I am a bit more anal about parking lots and clearances. My roads while a bit narrow usually have 9' - 10' lanes, which was more common 50 years ago. I am always amused to see very detailed layouts where the front doors of residences and businesses butt up to the ballast of the track passing by, without any access in between. But as Dave posted, "Everyone has to settle on what level of realism is acceptable". is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to