Am I Crazy?

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by green_elite_cab, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Many of you know that i've been trying to find a new HO scale railroad to build, as my 4x8 is just not working for me anymore.

    I've been constantly stuck between build a Freight themed conrail layout based on the "Chemical Coastline", or building the Northeast Corridor and its commuter operations in the same region of NJ, of which i have a childhood connection to.

    However, It just occurred to me, why not build both? I've recently gotten the idea of a double-deck layout to fit over the space i have. I figured i could streatch out another 2 additional feet, giving me 16' of length, but the width is still out, i'm not sure how wide i can build (the whole room is 13 feet wide, and i need to leave an wide aisle on one side because people frequently travle through the area, as well as the fact that there are pipes and electrical boxes in the way).

    Both decks would be in a long "island/doughnut" configuration. The layout would face outwards, being about a few feet deep at most points. the doughnut hole in the center can be used for storage or staging.

    Anyway, I figure I can model the freight i want to do on the lower deck, so that it is level with my current layout (which is also lower than originally planned). that way, frieght can interchange easily with the old (since i don't plan on tearing down my old layout, its not technically finished enough for me to feel good about doing that). I think i can add a small staging area inside the doughnut hole, so that some trains can be staged, or maybe even add a "third" deck below for a staging instead, by just dipping the mainline down in a gradual descent. It would add exta "miles" to the train's run, and it wouldn't show up all the time.

    The upper deck would house the NEC layout. I don't plan on connecting the two decks, since they have no reason to intrude on the other (i might build an elevator for an "interchange" so that maybe a small freight train can run on the NEC. its an excellent excuse for a blue caboose!). I think i want to stay simplistic with the NEC. the NEC itself is a pretty straightforward rail line: its catenary with fast trains!

    As a result, i'll probably be content with a 16 foot long 4/6 track oval, with maybe a little variation, and some believeable NEC scenery. The railroad wouldn't have to be to thick on the upper deck either, just wide enough so that some secenery can be put into it.

    THe two decks in my mind kind of have different purposes in my mind. The lower deck satisfies my hunger for operating the trains and interesting industries to switch, where the upper-deck is all about "race-tracking" the trains. I don't think i'd even put staging into the NEC, although i have thought about selectively compressing the interchange with the North Jersey coastline and having a few long tracks that dead end inside the doughnut hole, so that push-pull commuter trains can pop in and out of the layout.

    Does my plan sound viable? or am i thinking to loftily?
  2. sgtcarl

    sgtcarl Member

    loftiness is next to.....

    Golly! Doesn't sound too lofty, to me! It sounds like you will have a great layout, that will be fun for you to work on. After all, isn't the main idea to have fun??:thumb:
  3. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Yes, you're crazy. :p

    I've decided, after several layouts and abortive attempts, that less is more.

    Until you get a full basement (or bowling alley, from the sound of your aspirations), you should shoot for something small, manageable, and not too complicated. You'll enjoy your layout a lot more, and find the hobby is relaxing, and not a chore.
  4. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Chris, i think this plan sounds like it would work. Not connecting the 2 levels will make things alot easier. Also the 3rd level for stagging is kinda like what i did on my shelf layout, although it does take a lot of room to drop down a decent amount of space needed to reach into he stagging tracks.

    Keeping your old layout is also a plus :thumb: :mrgreen:

    I wish i had a 13'x16' space to work in lol
  5. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Yeah, but by my nature i'm an extreme planner. even though my idea here is so vague that no one could really give me any valuable insight, i'm sure if there is any conceptual problem, someone might catch it....

    ... just like squidbait. I'm curious what you have in mind by small and manageable.

    Unfortuneately, while my old layout is small, it certainly isn't manageable. Without getting into a huge trashing of my current layout, it is a chore to run. I built it back in 2004. I was a freshmen in highschool. It was my first, and there was no way i was even capable of realizing just how things would work and fit. In reality, i out grew my layout before i even finished laying all the tracks.

    Small is another thing i can't do. By the nature of the commuter trains and industries i want, they are all going to need more space to stretch out. It just cannot be done in a 4x8 space, unless the whole layout was dominated by one thing, and even then, i'd like to see a good commuter layout built in a 4x8 area. I cannot enjoy a 4x8 railroad. It will be either hopelessly compact, or have scarcely anything on it. forget about running any real passenger trains.

    I've got the skills and resources to put this thing together. money, supplies, and time is all that stands in my way.

    Yeah, i'm only thinking of the third level if i absolutely need more staging tracks, which i doubt. I estimate i'll need about 4-5 staging tracks on top of the mainline, and even then, they don't have to be that big. I figure I could use two staging tracks as east and west bound storage for large conrail trains that "pass through", and the other two for local freights, and maybe a 5th that runs to the old layout. Given the length, i think i've got some space for that.

    I don't really have 13 feet. I have more like 7'6", because room needs to be made for people to get through, and for an aisle along the back of the layout. That still means that i'd have room for some pretty broad curves (certainly broad enough to run my challenger without having to worry to much about boiler swing), and if each scene is between 1'6"-2'6" deep, then that leaves a lot of space in the doughnut hole. the NEC upperdeck wouldn't even have to expand into this area, so it is fine.

    I think i'll try to plan out some track plans, and then how i can get it to fit. I can't really continue studying the possibilities until i have a good idea of what i might want to build.
  6. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I think I would use the word eccentric...? :mrgreen:

    "Database Error" followed by notification of a "duplicate post". @#$%&*!
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    In your situation, I would be tempted to build a true doughnut layout - something along the lines of the HOG Better Beginners Layout (see Make each side 18" wide, instead of 1ft, with double track main, and some switching areas. Change it to 7ft by 10ft, with 2 sides against the wall. This will leave a 3ft aisle around the other 2 sides of the layout. The HOG features 26" radius curves and reasonable operation, at the cost of operating from a center pit.

    Best part of a GEC version of the HOG would be its achievability in a reasonable time frame. And if you really liked it, it could double decked fairly easily for 2 separate layouts in the same place.

    my thoughts, your choices
  8. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    "Truly inspired" might be even better! It's a thin line between genius and insanity! :thumb:
  10. Dave1905

    Dave1905 Member

    The main problem I see is that the NEC has a HUGE volume of trains. So you either need an Enormous staging area or you have a commuter, a corridor and an Acela train for each direction and you keep running the same 6 trains around and around. they also run at such high speeds that you could literally become dizzy watching them if the room was small.

    An alternative is to have one layout with two levels. an upper level that runs around 3 sides of the room on a raised viaduct or embankment (the 4th side is a staging yard behind a low backdrop or row of buildings) and a lower level at street level that is industrial switching. Basically the upper level is just a big loop you fire up one or two trains on and just let them orbit as scenery while you switch the industrial area on the lower level. Very east coast, very typical. I used to live in Phillie.

    Dave H.
  11. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    While i know the volume of trains is large, to be honest, i never see that many trains on the NEC when i pass it. (i've even sat down for a while within viewing distance and didn't even see a train for a long time). I think that just running whatever will be fine. I don't need to shoove to many trains on there. some Arrow IIIs on one track, an AEM7 on the other, it will be fine. the volume of trains at any one point is not that bad.

    I really don't think i have the space for staging for passenger trains either.

    I've tried making layouts with this arrangement, and they do not satisfy. That, and I don't model near Philadelphia, i model more between Edison NJ and Newark. There is not much in the way of street running bellow the NEC, atleast nothing still functioning. All the Conrail lines i'd like to model pass over or under it, and don't loiter nearby. Besides, I want to model mainline freight as well.

    Your plan would probably work for a philadelphia based layout to, except that SEPTA equipment is nearly impossible to get. The AEM7s show up, but the walthers Comets are nearly impossible to find, and IHP's Silverliners are ridiculously expensive.

    To me, any layout based in philly is not worth it because of equipment aquisition problems. It would probably cost me more to get a 4-6 car train of Silverliner IVs or IIIs than it would for the entire benchwork of this railroad.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    How far into the room do the pipes and electrical boxes extend? Are they all on one side and is that the side you wold put the aisle in or is it the other side? The hallways in my house are all 3 feet wide. If the boxes are on the same side as the aisle, add the amount of space they stick into the room to your aisle width. Where are the doors or doorways? If they are on the side of the room that the aisle will go on, you have no problem, if they are in the center so that the aisle will have to angle to one side at each end, then you need to plan for an easy way around the end of the layout to avoid people running into the layout. In addition, are people likely to carry bulky or heavy objects through the room? That could also impact the space available. Finally, how low do you plan to make the lower level, and how high do you plan to make the upper level? How will you access the pit?
  13. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I suppose i can describe my space as a 16 (north/south) by 13 (east/west) foot area.

    they extend about a foot out on two sides, going across a corner. One side of the corner is accounted for (which is why i say 16 foot length, as the "north/south" boundaries are clear).

    the "west" wall would be the trouble wall. the pipes and breaker box are there.

    I've done this, but i do not get the feeling it is wide enough. It might be, i'll have to check.

    Where are the doors or doorways? If they are on the side of the room that the aisle will go on, you have no problem, if they are in the center so that the aisle will have to angle to one side at each end, then you need to plan for an easy way around the end of the layout to avoid people running into the layout.[/quote]

    Nope, no door ways to worry about.

    That is the one problem. while the stairs to my basement come down in the middle of the basement, the popular route from the stairs to our freezer is past my layout, and often times groceries and things are carried by. there may also be a need to move heavy things through, but the layou area does not get in the way of the large bilco doors, and there are other wider routes from the basement stairs down. Still, i get the feeling i will have to fight for a wider layout area.

    Attached Files:

  14. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Just a thought...
    My Baltimore and Potomac RR is going to represent a scaled down version of the original PRR line from Baltimore, Md to Alexandria, Va (Potomac Yard). It will likely consist of PY of the RF&P being represented by staging, Benning, D.C. being a modeled 6 track yard, and some single track main ala Popes Creek Branch. My plan for the Union Station/Washington Terminal to Baltimore (NEC) was to model a short portion of 4 track main line which would be a double track dog bone with a 16 track hidden staging yard. The double dogbone and staging would be controlled by a computer that would run through a programmed cycle until each train has been run north and south then the sequence would repeat. The consists would have different numbers on the left and right sides, in some cases different paint schemes as well, to represent different trains when going different directions.

    The rest of the layout (PY-Benning, Bowie-Popes Creek) would be operated independently of the computer controlled NEC.

    This way I could operate my freight trains and the NEC would be constantly active just like the real one. You could even interrupt the computer sequence and run a freight out on the NEC. Computers can do anything nowadays.

    Sorry to interrupt your thread, just thought I would present my idea to you, I am also very interested in the NEC and have been contemplating how to represent it effectively in a small space and that is what I came up with.

  15. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I'm thinking steel studs can be used for benchwork to make this all easier, faster, and cheaper. I think i just need to form a solid plan. I've been throwing ideas around in my head, but i have yet to start sketching something out.

    Right now, i need to figure out how to fit an oil refinery and it's yard in an area that is two feet wide without making the scene to cramped. I'm thinking i might be able to "cut and paste" parts of my previous All-Conrail track plan. the double track mainline with 36" Curves will work fine.

    The only other major industry i wanted was an automobile transfer facility. Its possible, but i think it would either end up deepening the scene (which is bad for the benchwork) or expanding to far away from the benchwork, isolating the upper deck. I'll probably start sketching and scanning plans by tommorow.

    Nah! you didn't interupt it, since i'm all about trying to find ways to model the NEC.

    I've thought of this to, except i think the return loops take a lot of space, and in my particular case, even if were to build a purely NEC layout in the space available, i think that I would get so little mainline that it just would not be worth it. if i stuck to 24" curves, that would mean that it would take about 6 feet each end to get the tracks back together, which would be 12' out of my 16 foot space. 4 feet of NEC is barely enough for a layout.

    In this case, i think it might just be better to have a "race track". Since i plan to build a solid back drop, atleast now you won't be able to see the other side of the layout, so no matter where you stand, it will look like trains are zipping past. It might be the same one, but then again, all passenger trains look the same (unlike freight trains of which no two look alike).

    i'll sacrafice the operations for a good looking NEC. besides, operations is what the lower deck is for.

    a computer controlled NEC though sounds amazing! How will you do that?
  16. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    I hope you get a good workable plan going and hope to see plenty of photos!

    I'm not really sure, I am going to research the different computer programs and layout interfaces on the market. My thought is the dogbone would have 8 staging tracks on each loop for 16 total. So really it would look like 4 tracks but it would only be 2 loops. The inner loop would have only passenger trains staged, the outer loop a mix of passenger and freight. The computer would just run a sequence out of staging, when the train on track one made a complete loop it would go back into staging and the train on track 2 would go, etc. The computer would have to have occupancy detection and control of turnouts. One thing I was also thinking is when I had a train to run from Benning to Bowie I would need to utilize #1 track of the NEC, so I would have a button to push to interrupt the computer sequence. Once the last train to be dispatched before I pressed the button went into staging the signal at the entrance to NEC would turn green and I could proceed to Bowie. Once off the NEC at Bowie the computer would resume it's sequence.

    I'm certain that this could be done with a computer program, there are already computer/layout interfaces and programs, but it might be asking too much of myself to make it work!

    Thread hijack over. :rolleyes:

  17. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I started designing the lower deck, but i have't really got a final plan yet. I decided to bow in the "front" of the lower deck's mainline, so that it does not always travel completely parallel to the edge of the layout. I think i can still fit an oil refinery scene in there, but it might be just a little harder. Clearly, a tank farm will be nearly impossible, but i do have room for other structures if i decide to fill more in. I might be able to pass pipes under the mainline and have some tanks on the other side of the tracks.

    I've tried to fit the George Roberts printing in crease of the "bend", and while it looks like it will fit, i think it will also be to to close to the end of the table for it to look good, so i might not put it there (might put in a lumber yard or some similar industry that doesn't have or require a large foot print). I'm even thinking of drastically reducing the amount of industries in the interest of scenic possiblities. the area of NJ i want to model has lots of little bridges over creeks in marshes and such, and it might not be a bad idea to not tray and cram to many buildings in one spot.

    even though there would be less operations, the look would be better in the long run. I'll have to see how it all fits.

    besides, the back of the layout will have an industrial park. I plan to make a branch come off the mainling before it dissappears into "staging", which comes in the form of a tunnel under the industrial park. It might not match the prototype (i don't think there are any freight tunnels in that part of jersey), it is conveniant for what i want to do. I can't think of a good way to hide the staging tracks.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Something to consider to break things up a bit is to put a cut away building in front somewhere. You basically model 1/2 of a building like a machine shop, packing house, warehouse, etc. and then do a fully detailed interior. Another idea is something Jack Burgess did on his Yosemite Valley Railroad. He built a model of the Merced Depot next to the edge of the bench work and built a periscope into the bench work that had a view out the depot window at the tracks. The station was fully detailed inside, so that when you looked through the periscope on the outside of the bench work, you saw the train through the depot window as though you were an ho scale lpb looking at the train.

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