Friday, December 11, 2009

The Layout Design Questionnaire

Layout Design Service
2711 Reflection Drive
Buford, GA 30519

Customer Survey for Layout Design Project
Complete and return file to Scott Perry at

Steve Berkheimer's B&O Railroad Cumberland & Mountain Division in HO Scale

Rev 01/13/06

Designing a layout is a very personal event, and I want to understand as much as possible about what you want in your layout so that I can give you the best possible design. I want you to be happy with your railroad! So to better identify you, your needs, wants and vision, I am providing a questionnaire for you to complete. This is very long and difficult, and you may not have all of the answers. However, the more I can learn about you and your dreams, the better we can put together a design that you will be happy with. If you don’t have an answer (any you won’t have all the answers) or don’t understand a question or term, just skip it and you and I will address it later when we review your answers together. If you can answer in a different color, that would be great. Remember to save the file under a different name.

Customer Info

• Name: Steve Berkheimer
• Address: confidential
• Phone Number: confidential
• Email Address: confidential
• Location of layout if different from Address
• Best time to reach you: anytime talking about trains is good!

Personal Interview

• What is your vision of a layout? Please be as detailed as possible and take as much space/time as you need. The more detail the better. Imagine that you walk into your dream layout and are going to run trains. What do you see, hear, think, and feel? Take some time with this as it is very important. Take a copy of Model Railroader and look at someone else’s layout. For instance, “I see a run down, old logging layout just making it by with rusty equipment hauling huge logs out of the Washington State wilderness. I have a DCC throttle in my hand and the trains run flawlessly. There are lots of tunnels, and none of those terrible passenger cars.”
• How long have you been a model railroader? Intrested since I was a kid. Serious – about 25 years. Actual modeling since 1991.
• Give a brief history of your model railroad hobby experience? Received the usual Lionel for Christmas in the early 60’s. Lived in a very active area for class 1 railroading and historically significant area. Family members were RR employees including Dad.
• Have you built a layout before? If so, please describe. Small N scale in an apartment in Germany. Helped build a club layout in San Antinio,TX. Now owner of HOR model railroad and member of NCI operation club.
• For benchwork dimension calculations please provide your height, length of arm from armpit to fingertips and your body weight.
• Do you have any physical impairment (poor eyesight, bad knees, respiratory issues, etc.)? Nothing significant
• What is your favorite thing about model railroading? Building my own world
• What is your least favorite thing about model railroading? Rivet counting – I am in compliance for a living I don’t need it in a hobby.
• When working on this layout, what jobs will you enjoy the most? Friendships of others, planning, working on benchwork, wiring. Getting there is half the fun!
• Do you like to build model railroads with friends, or prefer to be by yourself? Others
• Are your spouse and family supportive of the hobby? Yes
• Do you have a hobby budget? Yes
• Have you considered the cost of building a layout and have discussed it with your family? Yes
• Is cost of construction a major consideration? Not major but I do have to get a job.
• What personal professional skills do you possess that might be beneficial to the hobby? (Artist, Engineer, Electrician, Railroad Employee) Compliance, MR hobbyist,
• Is there anything else about you personally that someone needs to know that might affect the design of the layout?
• Do you have email and check it frequently? Live on it!
• Do you have computer access? Yes
• Do you have access to 3rd Plan It CAD Design software? Yes
• Are you an NMRA member? Model train club member? Yes to both
• Do you scratchbuild? Some
• How much time will you allocate per week/month to work on the layout? 8 – 10 hrs
• Will others help you build the layout? What are their skills that you are relying on? Yes. Significant skill depth via NCIOG.
• Do you understand that even the most perfect layout design will need some adjusting and correcting, no matter how complete it is? Yes

Skills Assessment

Please let us know what modeling skills you have by selecting a number between 0 (no experience) to 10 (highly experienced).

o Structure assembly - 5
o Rolling stock assembly and detailing - 7
o Locomotive detailing - 5
o Locomotive maintenance - 5
o Electrical control systems (DC) - 6
o Electronic control systems (DCC) - 5
o Benchwork construction - 7
o Scenery construction - 7
o Computer Use – General Use: 9; Within Hobby - 5
o Track work - 7
o Operations - 3
o Room preparation - 5
o Electrical wiring (lights) - 5
o Painting and weathering- 5
o Layout Design - 4
o Photographing skills - 7

Preference Assessment

Please let us know what is most important to you have by selecting a number between 0 (no preferred) to 10 (highly preferred).

• Scenery - 6
• Watching Trains Run - 9
• Operations - 4
• Research - 7
• Duplicating a Prototype - 7
• Electronics - 5
• Construction - 8
• Model Building - 7
• Train Friends - 9
• Other (define)

Dreams and Heroes

• Which layout(s) in the model railroad press do you admire most? No particular favorite comes to mind. Not big into magazines.
• Which model railroaders do you like the most?
• When would you like to start on your layout? Soon
• When would you like to complete your layout, if ever? 3-5 years
• If you could own someone else’s layout, any layout in the world, who’s would you have?


• What is the name of the railroad are you modeling? Baltimore & Ohio RR
• What will you call your layout?
• What time in place/era will the layout be set? (today, 1930’s, June 4 1945) Transition era
• What country? See earlier document
• What is the theme of the railroad? (Narrow gauge ore mining, etc)
• What is the purpose of the railroad? (Hauling coal over the Alleghenies, etc) Highlighting train operation in the Cumberland MD area.
• Are you modeling a prototype(s) or freelancing? Combination? Will probably to a combination – artistic license for ease of construction and operation.
• How closely do you want to model the prototype(s)? see above
• If freelanced, do you have a profile or history written for the railroad in mind? Something that tells about the railroad and its purpose?
• If freelanced, is there a railroad similar to your freelanced one?
• Do you just want the flavor of the railroad, or do you want to be very precise in duplicating the prototype?
• What season? (winter, spring, summer, autumn)
• What weather? (sunny, cloudy, rain, snow)
• What time of day? (morning, noon, night, variable)
• What area of the country? (the more specific the better)
• What railroads does your railroad interchange with? WM RR and PRR
• Is the railroad mostly steam, diesel, electric, or a combination? combination


• Have you researched your railroad? Can you provide written information? Yes
• Are you familiar with the geography of the region? Yes
• Would you describe the line as Class 1, 2 or 3? (Union Pacific is a class 1, a small short line is usually a class 3) Class 1
• Is it a heavy mainline, a branch line, a switching district? Heavy main
• Do you have information that you can share such as books, magazines, CD/DVD’s, photographs, timetables, stories, etc? Yes
• Do you belong to a historical society? Yes
• What books on layout design and construction have you read?
• Do you have a trackage map of the railroad? Yes
• Do you have track schematics, railroad blueprints, or track diagrams? Yes
• Do you have copies of railroad documents such as switch lists, rulebooks, or other documents? A few
• Do you know anyone with information or expertise on this railroad? Do you have contact information for them?

Layout Preferences

• What scale? HO
• What gauge? standard
• What layout design types do you prefer? (point to point, loop to loop, switching district, other.) p to p, with loop and switching.
• What benchwork designs (train tables) do you prefer? (walk around, aisle, table top, shelf, mushroom) all applicable
• Single deck, double deck, combination? yes
• Hidden staging or special operations trackage? yes
• Modular construction? Dominoes? modular
• Should scenes be unique? (Train passes through only once)
• Do you have a benchwork height preference? Same as HOG
• Is continuous running of trains required? no
• Are helixes ok? yes
• Is destination staging (hidden staging) ok? yes
• Is hidden storage trackage ok? (This is for holding cars, and not for staging for operations.) yes
• Do you have a preferred aisle width? no
• Are duck-unders and lift out sections ok? yes
• Do you want to maximize layout space, or keep plenty of operating comfort space? Comfortable maximized layout space
• Are there any specific layout design elements (LDE’s) that you want to include? (Intermodal yard, lumber mill & cutting operations, passenger car service) Please specify.
• Do you want the layout designed to NMRA specifications? yes
• Name 10 things the layout absolutely must have designed into it.
• Name 10 other things you would like to have, but are not necessarily critical.
• Name 10 things you do not want on the layout and will not consider even looking at.
• What railroad materials do you already have in your collection? (Not detailed, just general. If you have specific models/equipment you want to use, please give details.)

Railroad Room ( you have knowledge of these)

• Where will the layout be located?
• Can you provide a drawing of the room?
• Do you have ACCURATE measurements for the room?
• What are the rough dimensions?
• Is the room finished or does it need finishing?
• Are their any HVAC, plumbing or electrical fixtures in the room?
• Does the room flood or have moisture?
• Does the room have climate control/HVAC?
• Is dust, dirt, mold, pests a problem?
• Is there adequate lighting and electrical outlets for construction?
• Do you have drop ceilings or hard ceiling?
• Is the floor bare concrete, painted, carpeted?
• Is the electrical wiring in place?
• Do you have plans for a crew lounge?
• Ceiling height?
• Do you want curved back drops?
• Number of doors and windows?
• Do you have photographs (digital) of your future train area?
• What is the total square footage available?
• Is there anything you CANNOT do in the area? (breach a wall, block a window, run tracks over the dryer, etc.)
• Do you have/want carpeting?
• Do you want the layout to be segmented for easy removal?

Track Plan Design

• Have you drawn an initial track plan for the layout already?
• Have you done any initial design work?
• How many square feet of layout are you expecting to build roughly?
• Do you have any specific designs or configurations in mind?
• How do you prefer to turn locomotives; turntable, wye, loop, other?
• Does the layout need to be portable?
• Are interchange tracks needed? If so, with what railroad?
• How large do the yards need to be?
• Will yards be used to store unused rolling stock? Or strictly for operations?


• Is operating the layout important to you?
• Will you be operating the layout? If so, what operation systems are you familiar with? (TT/TO, Car Cards, CTC, etc)
• Do you have experience in operations? Describe.
• If you operate, will it be alone, or with friends?
• How many operators do you foresee operating your layout?
• What jobs do you see on the railroad? (Engineer, yardmaster, dispatcher, etc)
• Will you have an out-of-room dispatcher?
• Do you have enough fellow operators for a session?
• Will operating session be formal and regulated, or relaxed and un-structured?
• Will rules, rulebooks, switchlists and other documents be needed?
• Is heavy mainline operation or switching type operation preferred? Or some of both?
• Will operators communicate by headphone, radio, verbally?
• What type of operation control will be used? (CTC, TT/TO, Track Warrant, Verbal Block)
• Will you be using CTC machine or software?


• What kind of track do you plan on using? (flex, sectional, Walthers, third-rail, hand laid, etc)
• What rail height (code 83, etc)
• Do you have any NEW track in your collection that has not been used?
• Do you have experience laying track? If so, describe.
• What type of roadbed do you prefer? (cork, Homosote, etc)
• Do you have soldering skills?
• Do you have a minimum mainline radius for curves?
• Do you have a minimum non-mainline radius for curves?
• Do you have a minimum turnout size number for mainline track?
• Do you have a minimum turnout size number for non-mainline track?
• Do you have a maximum mainline grade?
• Do you have a maximum non-mainline grade?
• Do you need clearances larger than NMRA standards?
• What is the preferred distance of separation between parallel tracks?
• What types of locomotive service do you want? (Coal, repair, ashes, diesel fuel, none)
• Any special yard tracks? (Run around, wye, hump yard)


• What types of trains (be specific) would you like to run on the layout? (Passenger, Slow Freight, Unit Trains, etc.) List all that you want.
• What do you expect the average length of the trains to be?
• What commodities will be hauled? (Be specific)
• What types of locomotives will you run? (Be specific)
• Will they need decoders installed?
• What types of rolling stock do you want to run? (Be specific)


• What types of structures do you expect to see on your layout?
• What key structures do you see as a focal point? (bridge, building, tunnel)
• Do you have any kits that you expect to put on the layout?
• Do you have a list of key industries?
• Do you have an in/out list of raw materials going into industries, and finished goods coming out?
• Produce a list of necessary passenger stations.


• What kinds of scenery elements do you like the most? (mountains, water, etc)
• Do you have photos of specific scenery elements that you have in mind?
• Do you have any specific scenic elements that you want to provide for?
• Do you want a backdrop?
• Will you paint or use photographs for you backdrop?
• Do you need a backdrop surface, or will you be using the wall?
• Any preferred scenery techniques? (Hardshell, screen wire, geodesic?)

Control Systems

• Do you prefer DC, DCC, or other method of train control?
• Do you have experience with your preferred method?
• Do you have a preferred brand of control system (MRC, Digitrax, etc)
• Will you be using sound systems?
• Do you want walk around control?
• Do you want tether (cable), infra red, or radio control?

Signaling Systems

• Do you intend to use signaling?
• If so, what type of system?
• What type of signals do you need on the layout?
• Do you need fascia signals as well?


• Is lighting already installed?
• Will you be doing photography or video on the layout?
• Will you be using a locomotive mounted camera?


• Do you plan to have a workshop or workspace?
• If so, what size space are you allowing?
• Where will it be located?
• What large tools do you have?
• Will you want a paint booth?

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