Custom Design Process
Easy steps to a design that reflects your vision
The very first step is determining your vision of the model railroad that best suits your interests and needs. Some clients define this vision with sketches, others with words, still others with copies of prototype photos or magazine clippings. This vision is your picture of what you would like the layout to be and it may be very detailed -- or simply stated.
In addition to this vision, I encourage clients to look through these questions on this website. Obviously, I don't expect detailed answers to all of these questions, but it might help you focus your ideas so we can work together most efficiently. It works great to send me an email with the ideas these questions have generated along with any sketches or doodles you might have and a dimensioned sketch of your layout space showing windows, doors, obstructions, etc. (scanned or surface-mailed).
I spend a little time on this background info you provide to get some ideas in mind. Then I prepare a formal (one-page) proposal with a firm price for your agreement.
Dimensions to begin
Your project is scheduled when you send back the signed agreement and initial refundable deposit (usually 10-15% of the total). When work begins, I provide you with a scale drawing of your layout space for your agreement with all the key measurements.
Finding a footprint
The next step is the preparation of a rough CAD conceptual design footprint. This locates key elements, such as yards and staging, but does not yet have the detail of a finished design. Occasionally it takes a couple of revisions on the conceptual design, but usually the initial footprint works well. A progress payment of roughly 20% of the project fee is due when we agree on a footprint.
First full CAD version
After your approval of this rough design footprint, you next receive the first detailed to-scale full CAD version of the track plan, usually within a few weeks. 50% of the project fee is due at this time. Often there are suggestions for changes and enhancements, so additional modest revisions may be needed -- but usually we are pretty close at this stage.
The final product is a set of Adobe acrobat (.pdf) files and hardcopy printout on (typically) multiple sheets, along with a CD that includes .pdf and native 3rd PlanIt CAD files. Click the image at right for sample views from a custom track plan. The remaining fee balance is due with delivery of this final documentation.
Design work is priced based on the research required, layout size, number of decks, and complexity (essentially determined by number of turnouts or other complex layout elements).
Existing plan that might need some ideas or advice?
I am happy to offer a "second opinion" on existing plans, analyzing your current design for potential construction or functional problems, exploring ways to add more operating interest, increase realism, or better reflect prototype scenes or practices. The cost is based on my estimate of the time to analyze and write a detailed evaluation that often includes diagrams of suggestions for improved track configurations, enhanced staging, etc.
There's no time like the present ...
Please contact me and let's get started on your design today!
Answers to frequently asked questions
I am often asked, but I don’t personally have the construction skills to build quality layouts for others. The only custom builder whom I can recommend without reservation is Lance Mindheim. (Rick Fortin, whom I recommended in the past, is not currently accepting new projects.) There are a number of other options found by a search of the Internet or the ads in commercial publications.
I also don’t offer wiring diagrams or consultations, but my friend Seth Neumann offers that service.
Inspiration takes many forms
Layout footprint alternatives
Full CAD version
Click for example final documents