At home I do not have a permanent train layout. There’s no room, no time, no $$$ but I do have a box of EZ track and another box of equipment that myself and my boys enjoy using. So here are my tips on how to keep a simple floor layout entertaining for both kids and parents.

Be creative

An oval is boring, you can only watch the train go around in circles for so long before this gets to you. The children may take a bit longer to tire of it but the eventual result is the same. A train going around in the same circle over and over is BORING. First I did some dog bone set ups which at least made the course it was taking interest but really what you need is a couple turnouts. A couple turnouts can take your simple oval to the next level.

Small yard

For me I have 2 LH and 2 RH turnouts so what I have started doing is I make the main oval for the boys so that they can get a train that’s going around entertaining them and stopping at a station I place for them. For myself with a small yard I build I can set out the trains for them to take out. I build the first train out of a full yard (which can be a challenge) the next one is a drop off/pick up and so on. This keeps the boys happy and gives Dad something to do besides get dizzy watching a circle.

Switchlist for Mac OS X

Eventually randomly making up switch jobs in my head even got a bit tiresome so I went looking for some simple Model railroading software for basic (extremely basic) operation. Most of the stuff out there is fairly complex so the goal was to find something quick, simple and would work for a simple oval + yard set up to keep Dad entertained along with the kids.

Then I came across Switchlist for Mac OS X and it fit the bill perfectly. Switchlist made it very easy to add my small collection of freight and set up 3 dummy stops (Start, Stop, End). This allowed the program to spit out switch lists that made the train session with the kids entertaining for everyone. Switchlist also supports several formats for output and is extendible with your own customizations. I was happy with PICL format as it matched what I was used to at train club.

Another interesting feature of this software is it has a web mode which lets you pull up your switchlists and reports on a mobile device.

Keep it fun

Getting into model railroading can seem like an impossible mountain to climb these days. You look at things like Model Railroader magazine and feel instantly intimidated by the layouts and Top line products featured but in reality with a moderate amount of track, an open floor and some equipment you can have just as much fun. You don’t need a massive sprawling layout to enjoy the hobby just a little bit of time and creativity.

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