Here’s an interesting real-World track layout for you…
It’s in the grounds of the massive Aurubis copper production and recycling facility in east Hamburg. It’s a sprawling site but this section of track in particular caught my eye because it’s similar to the track plan of a significant number of model railways…
…what do I mean by that?
Take another look at the map above, now imagine rotating that map about 90° to the right and you’ll end up with this:
A lot of exhibition layouts (in the UK at least) would feature a station or another key scenic element like a goods yard along the horizontal section of track where the large grey building outline is. Trains would disappearing into the fiddle yard through the back scene (the upper grey horizontal line) somewhere along the curved tracks whether that’s via a tunnel, under a bridge or behind some trees that act a scenic break.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that, it can be very effective when done well but how about using the same basic track layout to create something completely different. Like this:
Look at the potential for something really different in that scene! Zooming in for a 3D view really helps bring it to life.
The yard at the top of the scene is full of various pieces of copper, that’d be an interesting little project it itself; leave an area in the yard clear and you’ve got a spot where a wagon/s could be loaded with copper by forklift.
To the right of all the copper in the yard there’s a siding where tank cars are stored; I can’t make out any unloading facilities but they could always be added to a model using a little creative license. In reality the tank cars are probably unloaded further along the tracks in another part of the facility that’s not included in the track plan above but that potentially adds to operational interest as a mainline train entering on the left could come all the way round the scene and either push tanks cars off scene on the right for unloading or deliver the tank cars directly to the siding to be moved in a separate shunting operation by another locomotive. Either way looking at Streetview and satellite images there seems to be quite a variety of tank wagons of different types and in different liveries and most appear to be carrying acids of some kind (likely required in the copper production process) which itself is quite interesting, for me at least.
The curved building is another interesting feature. That curved section is a covered loading/unloading area. Plenty of spots for wagons there.
Now for the centre piece:
I’d love to have a go at scratchbuilding something like this and this track plan puts it right in the centre of the layout.
It’s worth having a look around the site using satellite images or Google Earth even if it isn’t something you want to model yourself as there’s plenty of interesting structures and features that could find a place on another layout.