Beginner to Model Railways

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Dingo69, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I took a look at your track plan: it definitely needs some development (a lot of the curves look really really sharp, even for N scale, and you'll need more space if you want a yard) but it sounds like you have given some thought to industries and purpose: it looks like you're planning a city on the left-hand side, with a passenger station (and I assume industries) and a harbor on the lower right, with some open country in between and mountains in the background.

    One thing to consider is how this will all look when put together--it's easy to map out vast spaces on paper, but on the plywood (or foam, I suppose) things somehow shrink. One possible solution would be to put a backdrop or other scenic divider in the middle of the layout--the city on one side, the country/harbor on the other. That would create the impression of vast distance between the two regions, and give you more backdrop space.

    Like I said, the actual track planning is obviously in its earliest stages, but you've got a good basic idea for what you want to do with the layout...bonus points for including a local tram in the city!
  2. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Thanks Jetrock,

    Well as mentioned this would be my aim for end product, I am not one to sit and watch something but to interact, that means for me to set up a basic layout at the start and then as the train is running continue to work on other parts.

    The dock idea came to me from view other sites, and like the idea of an industrial area to work with cranes to load and unload both ship and train, but before I proceed I need to be sure that the products are available on scale "N", I have seen a lot on scale HO.

    At the moment I have no intention of setting up something model a real existing railroad and no doubt with have a mix between German and Swiss products as they are easy available in the area. (Thanks for the Trix comment, I was a bit worried about the comment from 60103 dated 5 Jan 05 about Marklin products not going with other brands).

    This will be one of my last post in this topic as I will start posting specific points as I proceed to build, starting with the base.

    Thanks for your help, I am still not 100% sure what size to go, and will no doubt build a table to the maximum size possible and see how this look. If scale N does not have the variety of products I want then I might have to go for a simpler plan with HO, maybe mountain and harbour area only, would a scale HO fit on this table with only a mountain area and Harbour?

    Its very hard to work out what room HO really needs.
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    A table that small would be pretty crowded just with a small harbor--it would be pretty difficult to manage mountain and harbor in such a small space. However, there are ways other than mountains to disguise your layout's size--a row of tall buildings (modeled, flats or painted on a backdrop) would serve just as well. Unless somehow the harbor was right up against a steep mountainside...

    That size of layout would be fine for an HO scale "switching layout"--one set in a single physical location, rather than representing multiple towns--but you would have room for a loop of sorts in back in order to create the impression that trains are departing and arriving to exchange goods with the port.

    Of course, as I mentioned elsewhere, if you put a divider down the middle, one half could be the mountains (where your railroad picks up its goods to be delivered--I'd assume lumber or some kind of mine as one typically doesn't find too many other industries in the high mountains) and the other half the port city and harbor.
  4. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Thanks Jetrock, not a bad idea of port and harbour together no idea why I did not think of that, probably for the reason you stated moutain to port is good for only wood and mine stuff where as town to harbour could have a lot more. Suppose a little town in the mountain near the mine could be good.

    Regarding not much industry area in the mountains, you obviously have not visited Switzerland (where I live) you would be surprise what they build where due to lack of space.
  5. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Dingo69: Okay, it all makes sense now...for some reason because of your handle I assumed that you were Australian.

    The issue isn't really what you can or cannot ship from mountains or ports or towns or whatever, but how much room you have to model. If you are building a small layout, your options are limited by the space of the layout. This isn't really a bad thing, in fact it can make things even more challenging.

    I suppose I can describe my layout as an example of what I mean: my layout is based on a real railroad. It is in HO scale, and currently 12 feet long by 1 foot wide, with a 2-foot extension in the middle. If I were to model it in N scale, using metric measurements it would be about 2m long, most of the layout 30cm wide, except for a 60cm stretch in the middle which is 90cm wide. It's kind if like a very, very wide capital T.

    The left part of the T is a yard, which is where trains are made up and broken down. The right part of the T, and the bottom leg that sticks out in the middle, is an industrial area. The entire layout simulates a real railroad--but only about an actual mile of real railroad. Rather than going from town to town, the train goes from a yard in town to industries which are all within the same town.

    If you want to build a layout with two dramatically different types of scenery (like high mountains and ports) in a small space, it's going to be rough going because you might not have room to do both properly. But if you build a small layout of one of those two places, you can later build an expansion. The nice thing about a port layout (or an industrial switching layout in the mountains) is that there is plenty to do moving cars from spot to spot without worrying about long-haul travel.
  6. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Thanks Jetrock,

    You where right I am an Australian but living in Switzerland.

    You have seen the size of my table and going on your measurements you have about 1m more the me in lenght but I have more body as I have no T but a full table, I am also using N (sadly I was so looking forward to HO still trying to find same way to do it, but until then going ahead with planes of a N scale) what I learn now can be used on both.

    The more I think about the more I might give up the city and have a larger port and (lets say) country side due to the fact that a a 3% grade the "mountain" could not be that high anyway.

    Also just a quick question, as I am going Digital when it comes to the actaul tracks is there different (ie digital set do not go with non digital)?. Just been looking on E-bay and there are a lot of tracks for sell, just what to learn what I need to watch out for so that they work.

  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The track has nothing to do with dcc other than being used to carry the signal. I think live frogs may be prefferable to insulated frogs on turnouts, but I don't know if that is even critical.
  8. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Track is track. The most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for track is that you want the same "code" of track for the whole layout, ideally, or you will have to get several types of rail joiners to connect them.

    By "code" I mean the height of rail--for HO, the most common codes are Code 100, 83 and 70, for N I think it's 80 and 60. The code stands for the height of the rail in thousandths of an inch, and generally smaller code rail looks more realistic.

    But no, you can run digital (DCC) or analog (DC) control on any type of two-rail track.

    If you really do want to model mountain railroads, keep in mind that you don't have to model the whole mountain--by modeling a mountain town or industry, the mountains can be all around the layout (essentially using fairly vertical mountains for backdrop instead of a flat sky backdrop) and the track itself can be relatively flat or with a mild angle. On actual mountain railroads, trains take the "path of least resistance" to avoid steep curves. The thing to remember is to model an isolated space, not the whole railroad--or maybe a couple of isolated spaces, visually separated by mountains/tunnels/view blocks or other obstructions.

    Oh, here's another website that should provide some inspiration--especially take a look at plans labeled for HOn30, these are HO narrow-gauge plans but they run on N scale track, and are thus immediately convertible to N scale layouts:
  9. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Well this evening I spent most of my time learning RTS 7.0 software. Went pretty well, and looks something like I want. The confusing thing is that I set the track width for HO (4cm / 1.6") and it fits, or did it ignore my setting.

    Please have a look the measurements are as in my earlier post, the top left part is not finished, as that is where I would like the turntable and work sheds, the other point to notice is top right tracks cross each other the straight one will be going through a tunnel under the other one which is going around a type of mountain.

    It seems I am going to try and do it in HO as here in Switzerland the store mainly have HO product, scale N needs to be ordered in which cost more (still cheaper than HO) but in general I like the details on HO better.

    The table is 250cm long, 180cm wide, down to 100cm at the smallest point.
    Each square is 12cm*12cm (or 4.7"*4.7" I think that is right).


  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Hi, I'm jumping in this thread a bit late, but looking at your layout, do you really want to do that? You have no way of running trains around in a loop.

    Just a passing comment.:wave: :wave:
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I see a couple of problems here...the first is the sharpness of curves. In N scale, the sharpest standard curved track piece is 9.75 inches--about 24.75 cm--in radius. This means that a 180 degree semicircle would be aout 49.5 cm across (24.75 twice. If that scale of 1 square =12cmx12cm is accurate, those curves are about 18cm radius--so sharp that all but the smallest four-wheel N scale equipment will literally pop off of the tracks! Are you sure about the scale you used in this software? 18" radius is a very common HO scale minimum radius of track--are you sure you didn't accidentally use a scale of 12 INCHES by 12 inches instead of 12cm by 12cm?

    Second problem--in the upper right-hand corner, you have a wye switch with another track running directly through the frog. This means you are doing one of two impossible things: either the track changes about 4cm in elevation in 60cm of run (about a 7% average grade, not counting grade transitions) or the track on the straight bit is sitting directly on top of the switch, making use of the switch impossible--the track laid over it would derail any train that tried to use it! Tracks can cross each other on the same grade using a grade crossing, but they are impossible to use in the middle of a track switch, because the moving parts of the switch are located there.

    Problem three is that you have basically made two return loops: trains run out from the lower right-hand corner, run around, and end up back where they started, facing the opposite direction. With the short passing track provided at that end, there really isn't room for a locomotive to run around and place itself on the other end of the train unless you're only hauling two or three cars, so basically you'd have to run the train backwards and forwards.

    Problem four is that there doesn't appear to be a yard. You mentioned "work sheds" but I suppose I'm not quite sure what a "work shed" means in American railroading. I assume you mean a mantenance facility of some sort, but what railroad cars need more often than repair is sorting--done at a yard. A yard is basically a collection of long, straight tracks where cars can be switched (shunted) to make up trains. So far as I can tell, you don't have provision for one. While a yard on a small layout isn't particularly necessary, if that is one of the things you want to model, you'll have to make space for it. You'll also need space for a turntable--turntables in N scale need a circle of about 15cm in diameter, not counting whatever space you want for a roundhouse. Although considering the fact that you have two nested reversing loops on that plan, there is no need for a roundhouse--running a locomotive around the mainline will reverse its direction. Also, I'm not sure why the end of the line is in one corner of the layout and the locomotive facility is on the exact opposite end--ideally, you want to park your locos close to where it is going to start and/or end its day.

    But I am pretty sure that if you set the RTS software for HO, what you have just done is design a layout for a space of 14x21 FEET, not 250cmx180cm.

    I really, really highly recommend taking a look at some published track plans, and then picking up a book or two on track planning--if you can get Kalmbach Publishings TRACK PLANNING FOR REALISTIC OPERATION, get it. Then, start doodling.
  12. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member


    Before I even read your replies, I realised on the way to work this morning what I did, I set the table for 250 long which after working with this program for a while I should have realised that meant 250 inches, therefore about 750cm a bit long than I have, must have been pretty tied when I posted that post as well.

    Again sorry for wasting your time.

    Will now read your replies in embarrassment
  13. Dingo69

    Dingo69 Member

    Yes jetrock you are correct as mentioned in my above mail those squares are 12" x 12", I need to get my mind in the inch format or find a way to change the setting to cm.

    The second problem, in top right where the track crosses "under" the wye, the wye section would be on top and the long straight is actual under ground goes through a tunnel under the wye section.

    Problem three, got you , you can tell I new at this right as pointed out be ezdays this is also not a good play as I can not just let the train run around and around while I fiddle on other things.

    Point Four understand.

    I have tried some tracks and had problems finding on the uses my land space available. Yet again once I learnt how to use RTS, I should have then grabbed an already designed track and adjusted it to me area.

    Thanks and again sorry for wasting your time :oops: , even though I did get 2 very good hints from our both (ezdays: continuous track and your yard comment) will find a design and see what I can do.

    Currently in discussion with the wife, as there is another spot I could build but that is her work room for ironing and storage, but she does not seem to egger to give it up :D , it has 2 walls which are both just under 3m long which I could build a triangle desk in and a man hole in the middle.
  14. modelsof1900

    modelsof1900 Member

    Hi Dingo,
    today I read diskussion in your thread first time and it nice to read like you find to our hobby.
    But when you live in Switzerland and you have problems with space for your layout and when you like to model with bigger models (Ho scale) then you should tink about the very fine narrow gauge railroads of Switzerland. Look for products of BEMO and other lines and these railroads run finest express trains through the Alps and you have HOm gauge (metric track) with sharper curves and you can realize many more ideas with a very interesting landshaping. Look for a few calendars of railroads in Alps and you will understand my suggestion.
    I'm living in Germany and I travel to friends in Switzerland from time to time - by trains. Each time pure enjoing!
    And if you would like to model in a mix of German and Switzerland's railroads than try to find a model railroad club near of your city, you will meet many friends.
    And if you are living near to Zurich - American Railroad Friens of Switzerland will held their 13th convention in Adliswil in October - This is That US-Railroad event of Europe!!! Look for their website - also in English.

  15. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I do see a way to turn trains in a complicated Y. I assume this is multiple elevations and not cross overs. Also if it is multiple levels it appears you may have some very steep grades. It appears as though you may have some 12 inch radius turns.


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