I realised that while I've spoken at length about the locomotives and rolling stock I can run, that I haven't talked about the actual layout I'm running them on since it was a basic oval with a single siding. So I thought I'd show you the current layout and use this post as an excuse to tell you about a piece of software I've found really useful.
There are quite a few applications that can help you design a layout but of all the ones I've tried only one has turned out to be easy to use and flexible enough to be useful; AnyRail. AnyRail supports most common makes of track in almost any gauge you could want to model in. It also allows you to mix and match track within a single layout which is useful if you have multiple makes of track in the same gauge, or if you want to use different gauges within the same layout (maybe you want to model both a standard gauge line and a narrow gauge branch line). AnyRail isn't free, although you can use it with no limitations for layouts consisting of 50 track pieces or less. Given how good it is I don't think £35 is too much to ask though and I've happily bought a license. It's currently only available for Windows but it runs perfectly under Ubuntu using Wine.
Currently the layout is still only layed out temporarily on the dinning table, so I'm limited to settrack (I'd need to pin flexible track down for it to maintain it's shape). Fortunately that means I'm free to experiment and I'm sure I'll be able to reuse most of the track when I eventually get around to building a more permanent layout. Anyway with this layout I was aiming for a number of things. Firstly I wanted to be able to run more than one train at once and as I'm not using DCC this means two separate loops. I also fancied the idea of turning the sidings into a small shunting puzzle. Finally I also wanted a long continuous run for a single train.
Now given that I'm currently limited to a 6 foot by 4 foot board this was asking for quite a lot. In the end I've actually managed to pack everything in. The sidings are very short but using the pug I can actually shunt without moving out onto the inner loop. The two loops can be run independently for two separate trains, but if I set the points correctly then I can have a single train run around one loop and then the other before returning to where it started for a longer continuous run (hence the title of this blog post -- I can have two loops or run twice around). This also has the added benefit of allowing me to easily move trains from one loop to another when required.
I'm not sure how much more I could possibly pack into a temporary layout on a 6 foot by 4 foot board but I do have some ideas!