I eventually settled on the Blea Moor to Ribblehead section of the famous Settle and Carlisle line, done to about 90% of true scale.
- either T or N scale, of a British prototype
- as large as possible, limited by what will fit in the back of the station wagon and what can be set up at home for testing
- single-handed setup and operation
- fully automated, with plenty of visible activity
- something very different from the normal run of exhibition layouts
The main options that were examined and considered in depth were:
- Ribblehead and Blea Moor in T Gauge, a lonely railway lost in a vast landscape, inspired by Paul Blake's Orbost
- Edinburgh Waverley in T Gauge, with about half the trackwork dummy due to the limitations of the T gauge points
- A modular and expandable layout in T Gauge, set in either Cornwall or South Devon, using my own adaptation of the T-TRAK standard
- Aller Junction in N Gauge, a medium-complexity mainline junction
- Norton Fitzwarren in N Gauge, a high-complexity mainline junction
- Hemerdon Bank (or similar) in N Gauge, with emphasis on pilot and banking engine working.
All of those layout options seem achievable, and I expect that l will end up building at least one more of them in a couple of years' time.
The track plan will be a simple double track oval with no points, with the return half of each loop hidden behind the backscene. The station trackage at Ribblehead and the Blea Moor loops will be modeled but non-functional, using 3D-printed dummy pointwork. If and when decent T Gauge points become available, the loops at Blea Moor will be relaid and activated. The initial plan for the control system is to use two upgraded copies of the system used on Sarum Bridge, one for each track, and completely independent.
The scenic section will be approximately 20 feet (6m) in length, built on 4 baseboards on a gentle curve, covering the full area between occupation crossing overbridges at the far ends of each station. The curve radius is accurate, but the overall model is slightly compressed (90% full scale). The model track will be level, even though most of this section on the prototype is on a 1 in 100 climb.
The main scenic highlight will be the Ribblehead / Batty Moss viaduct, which will be 3D printed (as all structures on the layout will be). There should be a small working road network at the Ribblehead end, and if I can manage it, the odd car will struggle up and down the access road to the viaduct and Blea Moor. And, of course, working signals.