Finally, my first layout - any advice appreciated...

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by SVLFever, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. SVLFever

    SVLFever New Member

    Guys and Gals,

    I am currently 36 years old and finally get to start on a layout for my HO collection that I have always dreamed about as a kid.

    Currently, I have a 11' 6" by 10' 8" area to build a layout. The theme is Erie Lackawanna (no specific place) in the late 60s early 70s in a semi-mountainous region (i.e. upstate New York). I have been reading MR continually for 9 years and am now ready to build (the room is done), but, I am stuck at a layout design. I know I want a somewhat hilly area, a city scene, and I like bridges.

    After many different attempts, I finally came up with this design. To be honest, I don't think I have nearly enough insight into operations to design a decent layout. I am hoping to find some valuable insight here and after reading many of the other posts, I know I will.

    FYI, in theory, the blue track would be a lower and/or hidden in spots track, with the pink track being the 'higher ground'. It is also possible that I may be able to extend the layout out the bottom left hand corner to create a loop for continuous running.

    Don't be shy, if this stinks, tell me and I will go back to the drawing board. I would much rather be close the first time rather then not even 'in the ballpark'.

    thanks in advance,

  2. DT1967

    DT1967 New Member

    I may a total dolt but I'm trying to help so bear with me. Could you add some of the industries or reasons that the railroad goes where it does? Then maybe the real experts on this forum could give you some insight.

    My first thought is maybe as less is more approch to tracks may be in order because I see little if any room for scenery. Also if each square is 12" then you have a pinch point in the upper right hand corner of the aisle.

    I may not be seeing your design correctly but those are my first impressions.

  3. SVLFever

    SVLFever New Member


    Unfortunately, you are reading it correctly. Originally, I had the layout designed as an around the room type of layout, but due to a door opening on the bottom of the layout (as pictured), I decided to try to compress it to 11'6" by 8', which is how I came up with what I did.

    Do you think an around the room would better utilize the space?

    In regards to your question involving the industries, I hadn't put much thought into that. I figured the 'town' would be a small town that was mainly worked by a local, however, your question is causing me to obviously reconsider. Should I focus on a on-line industry to generate a bunch of cars?

    Finally, I kept all the curves at 22" based on the premise that I would have better luck with reliability. Should I reconsider this?

    Thank you for your help,

    John aka Fever
  4. DT1967

    DT1967 New Member

    I meant the aisle is too small because I would tend to bump into the benchwork.

    I think less track with a reason for it to be there might be better long term solution.

    If you want layout the track on the benchwork or even on the floor with tape showing your benchwork.

    If you still like what you see do it. Most people have done more than one layout. :)

    Also think about Flextrack to get bigger radius curves.

    Also the bible for layouts and operations is John Armstrong's book which I forgot the title.

    Found it "Track Planning for Realistic Operation, 3rd Edition"

    Good luck

  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    John: where does the door come? If it's in the corner by the tail tracks, you could move the main part of the layout south.
    Are you interested in passenger or freight operation or both?
    The layout seems to be two stacked reverse loops, but no connection between them. Is the end of the tail track a dead end at a wall or does it continue out the door?
  6. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    I think the less is more theory would work here. Being it is your first layout, I would avoid the reverse loop. It really isn't difficult to wire, but it can be frustrating. Keeping is simple and building on some basic track work to get trains up and running would keep the interest up too. Maybe around the wall with a draw bridge at the entrance to the room would work. Then you can have some switching but also just let the trains run. Picking out some industries to fit your fleet of cars might help in the design too. If you have a lot of grain hoppers, a grain co-op with big silos would make a nice backdrop and give you a place to spot your hoppers. They could move onto the layout to the silos and later go off the layout from the silos. A loaded train would need more power than an empty train. Here is where a staging yard hidden on a lower level comes into play. Just some random thoughts here.

  7. SVLFever

    SVLFever New Member


    There is a small 18" service door which opens IN to the room (allows access to my water meter). There is a doorway out of the room into an unfinished bathroom right next to where the long straight section is.

    In theory, I could cut a hole in the wall and do a loop to connect the sections either individually, or have them cross-connect for one long continuous run.

    I would like to have both freight and passenger operations. Granted the EL was pretty scarce on passenger ops in the late 60s, but I have a modeler's license 'Phoebe Snow' full consist that I would like to run occasionally. I have a large number of box cars from a lot of eastern roads so industries could be somewhat general, I guess.

    This layout will be DCC controlled. I am planning on using foam for the base scenery. A question-can I lay track on foam (track over cork-type of roadbed), or should I have a homasote-plywood base to mount the roadbed to?

    Thanks for your help,

  8. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    What DT1967 was talking about too narow.
    IMHO I too think you have too much track.Fred

    Attached Files:

  9. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Hi John,

    The blue and pink lines are independent of each other right? It looks like you need to have a lot of track superimposed to make it work. I've been evolving from a modeller who tried to get as much track in as posible to one who is appreciating simpler schemes that allow for more scenary, industries, etc. If you abandoned either the blue or pink I think you'd have more space to create that UpState NY scenary and construct bridges as well. Right now you have an "out and back" plan. It'd be great if you could extend or widen that pan handle on the right so you had a yard for staging or actual train assembling. Not sure if continuous running is important to you but how about a continuous oval in that largest part of the layout with a branch that extends to that long panhandle where you could locate a town, mine, or other industry?

    Track planning can be a hobby of its own so have fun! :)
  10. Here's my suggestion, since you are a novice:

    Start SMALLER!

    Start with a 4x8 or 4x10 loop with a few sidings and build up to something like what you see there. You may be biting off more than you can chew at one time (cf trainsteve's post in the HO group). Start with a smaller, simpler plan that has room for expansion
  11. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

    I don't know if you are bitting off more than you can chew. The layout I'm building right now is my first one too, and it is 28'x28' double deck in N scale, with about 400' of mainline. It is a learning experience, but eventually, I'll have dream layout! If I had started smaller, I don't know if I could have expanded it later. Do what you feel, if you think you can handle it, then go for it! I do admit, if I did start smaller, it might be close to finished by now.
  12. siderod

    siderod Member


    If you started smaller, none of us (at atlas) would have been as "in-awe" of you, nor would you have the A-Board record for reads...about 50 000!

    Way to go mike!
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    What is the brand of your 'Phoebe Snow'? If it has "full size" 86 foot passenger cars, you will need a 30" radius for reliable operation. If you are running Athearn 72 foot cars 22" radius will work.
  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi John,

    Whenever I see a room about this size, I always recommend a look at Mike Hamer's Boston & Maine (MRP 2001 and GMR 2004 plus here.

    I have been to see/operate Mike's layout a few times, and the surround staging works very well. There are no grades, but the surrounding terrain is hilly/mountainous. There is only one diamond to worry about. The staging allows trains to "self stage" - that is no turning or running around in a stub-ended siding. The additional space between the edge of the scenery and the wall makes the layout seem larger.

    He has packed a lot of operating action into a relatively small space, but even 30 car unit trains do not look out of place. The added bonus of the round the walls is that if you do just want to sit and watch the trains run, you can.

    The only thing I would do differently, is go a little higher (I am taller than Mike) so the duckunder isn't as low. You could also put in a swing gate instead of a duck under if the trackwork was relatively simple.

    To answer your question about foam - yes you can put track on it, using adhesives like yellow glue, or adhesive caulking. Just test to be sure your chosen adhesive is foam-friendly... ;)

  15. SVLFever

    SVLFever New Member

    Geez, you guys are a wealth of knowledge....

    I also wondered if I was biting off more than I can chew, but, I think if I work in small sections, I will be OK. I have actually built two smaller layouts for my nephew. I have just finally gotten to a point in my life where I can build my own.

    I also am starting to realize that if I don't get it right the first time, it's not the end of the world. By my nature, that was a little tough to swallow as I tend to be a perfectionist. Don't we learn by making mistakes in this hobby? I just need to remind myself of that.

    In regards to the layout height, suggestions on how high it should be? I am 5' 10". I was trying to avoid duckunders, if possible, but I am more than willing to go that route if I need to. Do you guys feel that the space would be better utilized in an around-the-room type of layout? Originally, I tinkered with a 'backwards 7' type of design that would have required making a complete circuit by connecting the track in the next room.

    In regards to benchwork, is L-girder the way to go? If so, isn't there a Kalmbach book indicating how to build benchwork? My local hobby store doesn't have it if there is...

    DT, thanks for the suggestion on the cut. I will make that happen.
    I agree that I may have too much track...maybe I should go back to the drawing board.

    Thanks guys. Any more thoughts, don't be afraid to send 'em....

  16. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    I think I'll stick my clown nose in here

    Hi there. Glad yer getting started.

    IMHO :rolleyes:

    I see what yer trying to do and I have some suggestions for you.

    Scrap that plan. Go for the around the room design wih an iland in the middle of one side. Build a lift bridge to enter the layout. Here is a good web page on this subject.

    I would make the minimum radious 18" on your high mountain line. Yer talkin' about the high mountains and there are many sharp turns in such a place.

    If building a layout that services towns is your thing, then I say "Go for it". I think this is just as much fun as a RR that services industry. Some fellows decide to do both on there layouts.

    You could have a small town in the lower left-hand corner. Another small town in the lower right hand corner at a higher elevation. In the middel at the top could be an iland with the big town on it. (good size for the iland is 3'x6')

    Sometimes a track plan can look way to busy if the elevation of the track isn't included in the plan. Once elevation is taken into account then the vertical distance between the tracks becomes apparent and a better idea of what you have in mind can be had.

    As for the hight of your layout. This is a personal thing you should decide for yourself. Think about when it is done and running. Do you want to stand there, walk around and watch? Or do you want to just sit there and watch trains run? Is there some kids you want to share the layout with? Maybe having the layout at a level they could appreciate is most important? Maybe not. Choose a level that suits you best and makes you the most comfortable.

    I do not like to use the term "L girder" because it refers to just that. A girder shaped like an "L". A strong girder to be sure, but not needed on such small spans as you are considering. Call it "Open Frame" instead and make it out of 1"x4" wood. Make the frame with 16" centers and 2"x2" legs as needed. Add extra frame bits where needed to suport the track roadbed.

    I know guys who have layed there track right on the foam with no cork. They just glue it down with white glue. Then if they want to move it later, they soak the area with water and the glue dissolves. They swear by it and say they will never go back to corck roadbeds again. But I have not tryed this myself...........yet. ;)

    I know guys who build whole layouts just to run one train. A Super Chife or some such thing. I myself would build a layout with a general rule of thumb. Meaning, to me, the opperations of the layout are more important to me than what opporates on the layout. If some engine I have or may buy dose not work on my current layout, then it will look good in a glass case on display. I could take it to a meet or a friend's house and try runing it there. I could build a diorama in the glass case to give it some more intrest. Some guys I know have engines and cars they never run. They just like to look at them. :cool:

    IMHO ;)

    TrainClown :wave:
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The Kalmbach book is Model railroad Benchwork (Maybe How to build...) by Linn Westcott. I hope it's still available, because I haven't seen anything else.
    L girder doesn't just give you strength; it also provides a horizontal board to screw other supports to.
    I've commented on height in other places. My layout is approx. my underarm height; it's also about my wife's eye level. She gets an interesting view of it, but I find there's not enough clearance uner my arm for reaching across. I have small plastic step stools for the even smaller visitors. Height will depend on who you expect to come in and operate or view.

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