The Santa Maria Valley in N Scale
Building from an island, finding an "X"
A more complete story of this layout (and much better artwork!) are found in Model Railroad Planning 2004. A friend had built a small boat-shaped N scale 4'X10' layout in a smaller home, but upon moving to more commodious digs wanted to tie that layout into a larger around-the-walls shelf layout configuration. Since he was already interested in the California central coast region, the Santa Maria Valley Railway was a logical candidate for the expansion. I drew up the original plans with paper-and-pencil in 1995, but converted them to 3rd PlanIt for the MRP article.
I called the stub-end staging tracks facing each other "X-factor" staging in the MRP article, but I'm sure others have used them over the years. The handy part about the staging yards was being able to quickly back a train that had just finished its run into one of the staging yards back across the X into the opposite staging track quickly and easily -- restaging it for the next run.
The resulting 18'X20' plan was nearly all constructed and worked well. The X-factor staging tracks (which I stumbled onto in the first place) were a key to the design fitting into the space -- but we often wished that I had left space for a couple more staging tracks at each end. We had a great time building and having simple operations on the layout, but it was lost due to another household move.
If you'd like to try your hand at operating the SMVRR, this layout has also been converted into a version for the Trainplayer program and is found on their website. Information is available on the current real-life SMVRR, and there is an SMVRR Historical Society.
And if you would like help with designing your own prototype or freelanced model railroad, let's talk!