An excellent website to check out if you are low on space is carendt.com. It is chock-full of ideas for small and “micro” layouts that could inspire you to build your own. There are many neat concepts for layouts that people attempt to execute in a small space. Narrow-Gauge lines, mainline terminals, switching puzzles and self-contained railroads are all seen in the pages of the small layout scrapbook. Since the death of the creator of the site, there have not been many postings, but there is a ton of pages going back years to dig into. Some of the most interesting things that can be found on the website include the classic switching puzzles and shadow-boxed layouts.
The classic switching puzzles include the Tymesaver, Switchman’s Nightmare, the Piano line, the Inglenook, Box Street Yard and others. These are small layouts that use the tight space to create challenging switching puzzles for operators and can make a small layout seem much bigger by the complexity of operation. Not only do these provide a lot of enjoyment, but they also are easy to construct, allowing the modeler to focus on detail and create a great-looking scene.
Another concept that I found very interesting on the website are the layouts that are shadow-boxed in so that light is at a minimum, and the scene inside depicts a night scene. The cool part about this is that it makes it easier to disguise the small size of the layout because it will be so dark, and that lights play a big role in the presentation of the layout. The downside being that you can’t see some of the details of the modeling work that you have done, and that shadow-boxing requires a lot of cubic space around the layout to be complete. The effects that shadow-boxing creates when done right, though, is certainly worth the effort. A perfect example of this type of layout is “Prof Klyzlr’s” Brooklyn: 3AM.
I highly recommend that you check out carendt.com, as there are so many good ideas for micro and small layouts that could spark your interest in building something both enjoyable and manageable.