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Layout Design Journal 2016 Switching Operation Challenge

The goal of this design challenge is to ask designers to create track plans and stories for publication in the Layout Design Journal. Entrants need not be members of the LDSIG.

The space for this design challenge is a spare bedroom of roughly 10’ X 11' with some real-world challenges (see sketch below). The theme for this challenge is switching operation. Prototype-inspired designs are often interesting to LDJ readers, but well-thought-out freelanced designs are also fine.

Design articles

We'd like you to prepare an article describing your design: a hand-drawn or computer-rendered to-scale trackplan and accompanying text describing the plan and concept. For graphics file formats and other important information, see the end of this article.

We can help!

LDJ volunteers are available to help with text and graphics, so don’t worry if you’ve never been published before – we are most interested in your design concepts and how you achieve them in a given space. Our target date to receive entries is January 31, 2017, but later entries will be gladly accepted and may appear in later LDJ issues.

Layout Concept: Switching Operation

The primary concept for this challenge is switching operation, broadly defined. Typical industry or yard switching themes are very welcome, but also slightly more esoteric concepts such as passenger or engine terminal switching, intra-plant operations, etc. Multiple decks are OK, but practical access and aisle space compatible with the chosen concept should be maintained.

Any locale, scale, gauge, or era may be used as the subject of your design and text write-up. Staging and or moveable benchwork may be included or not, but if used must be contained along with the layout in the room.


Space: Reasonable access must be maintained to the sliding window at the top of the drawing for cleaning and occasional opening. The closet at the bottom of the drawing must remain “mostly useful” for storage. Challengers may make use of some portion of the closet space (or not), but must also maintain some sort of usable access to the balance of the closet. Consider this a political agreement reached with the cohabitants of the home. Ceiling height is 8 feet. You are welcome to use all or part of the overall room for your design. (Note that the back closet wall is deeper than the wall containing the door.)

Trackwork: Minimum radius, turnout number, maximum grade, aisle widths, deck heights, number of decks, etc. are left to the challengers' discretion. Commercial or hand-laid track geometry is permitted.

Reasonable standards
: Please ensure that reasonable access, track radius and aisle width standards are maintained consistent with reliable operation, the era and types of rolling stock, typical size of operating crew, etc. Vertical easements are expected, horizontal easements are suggested, but optional. Choices for minimum radius, grades, track spacing, etc., must be appropriate for the scale chosen. Duckunders and lift-outs are also permitted at the designer's discretion.

In addition, your track plan should be reasonable and must be to-scale. This does not mean that CAD is required, but you should take care through the use of templates and careful drafting to ensure that your plan is plausible.

Publication of designs

Entries will be incorporated into one or more LDJ articles. Designs that are judged to not meet the described layout theme may be considered for publication separately.
The Layout Design SIG is a volunteer organization and all contributions to the LDJ are made gratis. You will receive a by-line, of course. Multiple authors may also work together on their entry, all will receive author credit.

 Click image above to download this page as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file

 Contact LDJ Editor (email below) for a 3rd PlanIt (.3pi) room template

All entries may be edited for length, usage, and style. Entrants may be asked to make changes to their text or graphics for easier and more readable publication.

Preparing your entry

Designs may be in color (preferred) or black-and-white, hand-drawn or electronic. Track plans need not be "works of art", but they should be clear and complete enough to allow our readers to understand and appreciate your concept. Electronic information packages with hard-copy are strongly preferred, but hard-copy only is also fine. Examples from recent color LDJs may provide an idea of the types of art that work well.

Your text file should describe your real or imagined prototype, layout concept, trade-offs, and key signature features, along with any other operating or design ideas. It’s expected that the text would be about 1000-2000 words in length, but thoughtful entries might be shorter or longer.

Do not include any copyrighted material in your submittal unless you are the author, artist, or photographer or unless you have specific written authorization from the creator of the material for publication in the LDJ. Additional graphics, such as maps or system routes, are welcome, but not required.

File formats

Text should be provided in MS Word or plain text formats. Don’t worry if you are not a wordsmith, we can help! Typewritten (double-spaced) text is also OK.

Track plan files: Our primary interest is in 2-dimensional plan views, but supporting 3-D renderings may also be interesting to our readers. Some native CAD files, such as 3rd PlanIt and CADRail, work fine. Please provide versions with- and without text and a plain text file of the callouts. Email the editor (address below) for a 3rd PlanIt (.3pi) room template if you wish to use that program.

Please also prepare a standard output (such as .dxf, .dwg, .png, or .tif) of at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 8½” X 11” for these or any other graphics programs. Clear scans of hand-drawn track plans are acceptable at similar resolution.

Hand-drawn to-scale track plans are also welcome. You may scan these at high resolution or mail us a clear, sharp paper copy.

Volunteers may be able to re-draw your track plan for publication if none of these options work for you. Please contact Byron Henderson with questions – we want your entry and will work with you. (Email address is below as a graphic to foil the spammers)

General graphics files and photos: An uncompressed direct digital copy of the original in color is preferred, 8" X 10" and preferably RAW, .tif or .png format in at least 300 dpi or better. Compressed formats such as .jpg are acceptable, if high-resolution. If your plan is for a layout that is under construction or has been built, our readers would enjoy photos.

We look forward to your entry!



Click image above to download 2015's Mountain Design Challenge as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file
Entries were published in LDJ-57, -58, -59

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