As I was looking for inspiration for my first layout, I stumbled upon appalchianmodeler.com, and I am very glad that I did. I am a huge fan of coal railroading and this website is chock full of pictures, plans, and information pertaining specifically to Appalachian coal railroading. Although it is specific to this type of railroad, there is a lot that can be learned about planning and execution from the plans and explanations.
Each track plan that is posted has a clear concept going in, and it is easy to see how each plan follows its own guiding ideas. Some plans are compressed and free-formed because of limitations on space and information, whereas others are faithful reproductions of actual places based on plans. Either way, you can tell a lot of thought went into each drawing, and they often strike a great balance between modeling and copying. Additionally, there is a lot of historical information that I did not know going in. Perhaps my favorite part about the plans is that each has a “pros and cons” section where the best and not-ideal aspects are listed. This realistic view acknowledges that there are limitations to what we can do, and that we often will not get everything that we want all of the time. I highly recommend this website for anyone who is in the planning stages of their layout, or is really into coal railroading.