top of page

Layout Design Journal Challenge

2019-20 Railfan, Display, Scenery & Fantasy Challenge

Attention layout planners! For 2019’s challenge we’re asking designers to create track plans and stories for publication in the Layout Design Journal as in years past. But unlike past challenges, we’re not specifying a particular space. Instead, challengers may use any dimensions – from a few square feet to a large basement (or any one of the past challenge spaces).

And the theme this year is (we hope) broad and inclusive – layouts whose purpose is one or more of the following: model railfanning, public display, scenery presentation, and/or fantasy-inspired. This could encompass anything from a single-scene display layout (as featured in LDJ-64) to a scenic railfan prototype layout supported by dozens of staging tracks to a Warner Brothers cartoon, Middle Earth, or Discworld motif. The use of animation and other creative techniques is welcome – and readers will want to know how you would practically approach these features. For display and exhibition layouts, tell us any unique suggestions you may have for portability and set-up.

Entrants need not be members of the LDSIG. Although the theme and space for the challenge are wide-open, we are still asking designers to work to-scale and within a (self-)defined space – show us walls and/or benchwork edges.


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. Because the appearance to viewers is an important part of each of these themes, images of cross‑sections, imagined views from the aisle, etc. may help communicate your vision. Our readers will be interested in the ideas, techniques, and elements you are suggesting to make the layout effective. 

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 ideas. Our target date to receive entries is January 31, 2020, but later entries will be accepted and may appear in future LDJ issues. [We’re still accepting and publishing articles from past challenges.]

Any locale, scale, gauge, era, planet, or time-line may be used as the subject of your design and text write-up. We’d like you to be creative with the theme of your design, but practical in execution in this space-time envelope. So keep reasonable standards for access, curve radius, frog #, etc.

In addition, your track plan should 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 one of the described themes 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.

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. Track plans and other graphics 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 are preferred, but hard-copy only is also fine. 

Your text file should describe your theme, layout concept, trade-offs, and key signature features, along with any other viewing, operating, or design ideas. It’s expected that the text will 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. Send entries to LDJ Editor Byron Henderson (contact info at bottom of page).

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. Hand-drawn plans are fine (if to‑scale), see below for ways we can use these plans.

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. 

For CAD files, please also prepare a standard output (such as .dxf, .dwg, .png, or .tiff) 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, or we can scan your hand-drawn plans.  

Volunteers may be able to re-draw your track plan if none of these options work for you. Contact Byron with questions – we want your entry and will work with you.

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 had a great response to previous Design Challenges, so we look forward to your imaginative entry this year – surprise our readers with something new!

The Challenge was published in Layout Design Journal #65, Third Quarter 2019.

bottom of page