1:1 Track Planning With Large Paper – Part 1


The bridge on the Yosemite Valley RR near Bagby, CA over the Merced River.  (Postcard in Author’s collection)

I own an old pencil and graph-paper style track planning template, and I enjoy using it.  I’ve drawn many plans through the years with that tool, and I don’t think I’ll be retiring it any time soon.  However….


Some of the 1:1 planning tools, including a roll of paper, clear tape, a tape measure, square, pencil, track templates, and my Trains to Yosemite copy for info on the subject.

There is a good deal of fun and excitement that can be generated with a large piece of paper and some track templates.  Really seeing what things look like, full size (for the model) is my greatly preferred method of planning a scene.  I can translate a drawing into a full size plan, or use a printed version of something drawn on CAD, but doing the planning with the templates, a few pieces of rolling stock, and seeing what it’s going to look like…. In my book, I can’t beat it.

I’m still on the fence about Bagby or Merced Falls as a subject to build.  I received some great comments from my last posting that were spot-on.  Notably, (and I’m paraphrasing) constant planning can be paralyzing.  This is true.  My only response to that is to share a phrase that we use at home;  “when it’s right, you know”.  Perhaps all the planning has been indicating that what I was planning was not “right””

I wanted to see if I could fit the trackage in less than 2’ x 8’.  I have a couple of different sections of benchwork built, one is 8’ x 14” and one is 2’ x 8’.  If the trackage fits on the 14” deep benchwork, that’s my first choice for this.  If not, the other is just fine.  There would be more scenery room in that space.  I also have the material available to expand either section if I need to.


After measuring the 8′ length of paper, I used my square to cut the ends straight.

Step 1:  Having decided on a size, for Bagby I’ve selected 2’ deep by 8’ long as the maximum size of the space for Bagby, I unrolled a piece of paper, then cut that to 8’ long.  The paper that I’m using is cut from a 75’ roll of “Melissa & Doug” 18” wide Finger Painting paper. With the paper 18” wide, if I restrict the track work to that space, even if I’m right at the edge of the paper on either end, I have lots of room for scenery and to keep motive power and equipment away from a layout edge if I wind up using the larger benchwork section.


The paper turnout templates laid out to represent the trackage at Bagby.

Step 2:  Using paper templates of #6 turnouts (from Fast Tracks), I then laid-out the four turnouts on the paper, starting with the two that form a passing siding and the East end of what was a double-ended house track at Bagby in 1939.  The turnouts were then moved around until sight lines “look” pleasing with the West and East turnouts pointed straight off the sides of the layout to make connecting to staging easier.


Connecting the turnouts, I used flex track to find the best looking and eye-pleasing curves.

Step 3:  Using a couple pieces of flex track (in this case, Atlas code 83), I connected the turnouts and traced the track locations, making sure that the curves were natural.


Making structure templates.

Step 4:  With drawings and measurements of the station and other buildings at Bagby in hand, I made paper templates in color for those structures.  Using them, I then set the structures in place to match-up with maps to the best of my ability.


Checking sight-lines using templates and actual cars.

Step 5:  Once the “arts and crafts” as I call it were finished, I tried out some nightlines with actual equipment.  I like how things fit, and can shift the paper models around to change how they sit to improve clearances.

Up next time in Part 2, I’ll show you what the plan looks like on the benchwork, and how to translate this plan into the benchwork and actual track.

Time to get back to the workbench!



2 thoughts on “1:1 Track Planning With Large Paper – Part 1

  1. Pingback: 2017 Departing On Track 1 | 78 Miles to Yosemite

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