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Stan has given us some very basic steps in building a layout. But I think he left out some important considerations.

First he says to select a size and gives 4'x8' and 8'x10' as popular choices. These were indeed popular choices for many years... based on the availability of plywood sheets in these dimensions.

Today however, the "around the room" layout is much more frequently found. This is a narrower layout built along one, two, or three walls of the basement, garage, or whatever space you find available. Sections of such layouts can actually be very narrow, as long as the ends are wide enough to accommodate 180 degree turns. So how big should the ends be?

Well, Stan tells us that the minimum radius of popular tracks is 18". What he doesn't point out is that this is for HO scale trains. Many people with limited space select smaller scale N or Z trains. N scale starter sets commonly turn in 12 3/8" radius, meaning you require just under 25" to turn the train around. But the minimum radius for turning most N scale trains is actually smaller, and curved track in smaller radii are available.

The first decision, before you ever start to build, is to decide how much space you are going to allocate for your layout, and how it will laid out. This will affect your choice in scale. Only after making these decisions should one invest time and materials and begin fabrication.
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