Friday, December 7, 2012

Omnivagant layout design

[Section of the Decatur, Jackson & Newton trackplan, Model Railroader, May 1940]

I’ve been fiddling with my copy of Model Railroader’s 75th collection to try and evaluate its search capabilities.I got a little sidetracked when I came across the May 1940 Layout of the Month feature about the Decatur, Jackson & Newton, an interurban and street railroad designed by Mr. Linn Westcott. I was struck by the word ‘omnivagant’ in Mr. Westcott’s description of the 4‘x8’ layout he had designed, “Provision is made for point-to-point, once-around, triple loop, omnivagant (wandering anywhere and everywhere), and switching operations.”  I’d never heard of the word omnivagant before, but I liked the concept he described. 

Mr. Westcott declares that “model interurban and street railroads have it all over regular model railroads when it comes to getting a lot of operation in a small layout without cramping.”  About the same time I came across the Decatur, Jackson & Newton I also stumbled across this slot-car video - shown below - on youTube. It struck me as very omnivagant. I don’t know if the Decatur, Jackson & Newton could actually be built; regardless, omnivagant is a concept that seems worth exploring.


  1. Great post. Got me thinking about 'omnivagant' operations. I read Westcott as meaning, 'operating without a preset plan', or, 'operating on a whim vs. timetable & train order'. So an ominvagant track plan is one that allows the operator to randomly choose where the train will go next. I'd think spaghetti-bowl type plans with many optional routes fit that bill nicely whereas something akin to an N-trak setup would be just the opposite.

    1. That’s an interesting point about operational possibilities – I hadn’t thought of that. It’s curious, the more places that are connected together with track, the more interesting operational opportunities – and maybe challenges - get presented. Small switching layouts, with I guess the TimeSaver being the most iconic, offer many operational opportunities too, but – and this is just my personal bias – often unfortunately without the B-side guilty pleasure of continuous operation via loops. All of the example trackplans have loops, but not in the classical spaghetti-fied sense. And as you mention, maybe this omnivagant ‘train-of-thought’ is best suited for N-scale. In N it’s easier to build loops in small spaces; it isn’t impossible with HO, but it does limit things to trolleys, streetcars and small locos.