Hello and questions

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by zener, May 27, 2008.

  1. zener

    zener New Member

    First off, hello, this is my first post to the forum. I've recently decided to take the plunge into model RR.

    Call me naive, but for my first project, I'm deciding to go free-form right off the bat. I'm at the point where I want to start matching what's in my head to the realistic world and have some questions.

    I'm working in HO and the system will be DCC.
    • Incline
    What's the steepest grade one can get away with for straight aways and for curved track?
    Also, is there a certain type of track or method for bending track to start an incline? I noticed that track is not easily flexible for bending up and down. I was wondering how do you bend the track to start that incline, or is it that you don't bend the track and rather the incline is at the joiners and you increase it at each joiner?
    • Base & Modularity
    Maybe I'm mistaken, but I believe some people go with foam while others go with plywood for a base. what are the pros and cons of each? for myself, I'm looking at doing an 8x6 (feet) layout. However for ease of transporting, whatever base I get will probably be two 4x6 sections. Seems to me plywood would be easier. I would think that foam would be suspect to buckling and snapping with a populated scene on top adding too much weight, thoughts, myth busting? As far as modularity, I'd like to construct the layout such that it can "easily" be separated back out into the two 4x6 sections. By easily I mean minimal involved work and nothing involving the word saw and worrying about breaking it down a handful of times in its lifetime. Seeing as how the track is to across the two sections, are there ways wiring and rail wise to design for this? I.E. not solder the rails together at that point and have plug(s) for wiring to allow the two sections to be detached and moved separately?
  2. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    welcome to the gauge,and im glad you have some legitamite questions to ask too,ill try to answer some,but im sure more people on here will have more to add.
    1.depending on the railroad a grade can go from minimal to 8% all depending on rollingstock and loco choices,a mainline class 1 road would normally have a much lower grade (say 2%) than a branch logging railroad with steep inclines and switchbacks.
    2.most people use flexible track nowadays as it is easy to bend.but if your grade starts in a turn you want the turn to have an easement,or a muc shallower curving of the tack then the actuall radius to allow locos and cars to more easily adjust to the grade and radius change.the easement should also be used verically so the train has a more gradual start to the climb ahead.as for where to start it i never really had the poblem as i solder joints so the flexible track acts as one with no kinking at the joints.
    3.most layouts of any reasonable size are made up of 1/2in plywood bas AND foam as a sub-base to allow land contours to be cut down into the foam for rivers,canyons,etc.you can also stack foam to add large mountains and hills.
    4.your layout size is also kind of strange,will you have an access pit in the center cause im telling you now,it is almost impossible to reach to the center of a 8 by 6 table.but you COULD build 2 4 by 6 sections as long as you build them sturdy enough to be moved with lag bolts attaching the 2 together.and have legs with enough bracing to hold casters of some sort.and id still add atleast a pit for snagging derailed trains and rolling stock (this assuming you have a good back :D )
    5.wiring the two sections together is easy,all you need is some wire quick disconnects of a good quality (as DCC is a little picky on electrical) so that problem is relatively east to fix.
    anyway,i hope i helped.--josh
  3. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Will you be running steam locomotives? How much are train lengths being compressed? Do you mean a grade that can be run through without trouble, or one that requires helpers?
  4. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Triplex's questions are good.

    A 2-6-0 on a branch line can get away with realistic looking trains less than 10 cars (or even 2 for passenger). Same holds for modern 4-4-0s, 4-6-0s, and 2-8-0s. The equivalent for diesels would be GP diesels or road switchers. Such a layout could easily accommodate 4% grades.

    Now if you have a double loop, and plan on pulling 20+ cars with a single locomotive...then you'll need something more like 2% grades.

    Will the layout be moved only when you move, or will it be for covering the kitchen table? If it is going to be moved every time you run trains...such as the kitchen table...then you might want to consider a foam base without plywood. If you are going to be packing it around, then foam and plywood. If it is only to be moved when you move, heavier plywood and try both foam and hard shell scenery to see what you prefer (hard shell is made with hydrocal plaster).

    I recommend Atlas's Code 83 flex track...unless you have a sizable budget for the project...in which case I'd look into Micro Engineering flex track (Peco and Shinohara are well regarded as well).

    Nice Avatar.

  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have never worked with Woodland Scenics foam risers, so I can't comment on how much of a transition they will give you going into a grade. I have worked with plywood, and when you do a "cookie cutter" with plywood, it bends into a natural transition.

    In case you are wondering what a "cookie cutter" is, it is a system of benchwork where you draw around your track layout and then cut the plywood with a jig saw along the outside edges of the road bed. When you are done, the plywood can then be bent up grades and down. The only thing to be careful of at that point is never to begin or end a grade at the end of a piece of plywood.

    The need for transitions in curves is different with grades than it is with curves. All of the books for beginning model railroaders warn of the need to transition into curves, using a wider radius to "spiral" into your minimum radius. They all point out that long wheelbase locomotives and long rolling stock will have less tendency to derail going into or coming out of curves with a proper transition. I've never seen anything in print about the importance of transitioning into or out of a grade. The problem that arises when you fail to transition into or out of a grade has to do with the couplers rather than derailing. Virtually all rolling stock manufacturers have dropped the old horn-hook coupler in favor of functioning knuckle couplers. If your train goes abruptly into or out of a grade, the coupler of one car will tend to ride up just as the coupler of the adjacent car dips. The result is the train uncouples. I found out about the need to transition into and out of vertical curves the hard way.
  6. RonP

    RonP Member of the WMRC

    Welcome to the Gauge,

    Ask more questions as they get answered. There are many of us willing to jump in when needed.
  7. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Welcome to the Gauge.
  8. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Hi Zener, Glad you could join us. Looks like you're already getting some good replies.
  9. zener

    zener New Member

    Thanks for the responses. I plan on running modern diesels. I plan on running several trains, nothing more than 10 cars. I don't think power will be a problem as the main engine that will run the incline in question is going to be an Atlas Dash-8.

    I'm thinking the break down of the unit is only when I move or a couple of times a year.

    I wasn't planning on doing a pit. While 8 feet is hard to reach in on, I wouldn't think 6 feet would be too bad seeing as howI will be able to stand on either side, which reduces the reach to just over 3 feet (figure some overlap).
  10. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    that 3 foot reach is still a stretch,i have a 28in reach on my logging layout and i can just barely make it being 6ft tall.my second layout has 3 ft reaches but i do have small access hatches for maintenence and not for operation.you must also take into account that if you CAN reach 3 feet that most of your upfront detail will be lost in your stomach :D --josh
  11. CSXect

    CSXect Member


    Sounds like you have put some thought into the layout and are asking the right questions:thumb:

    I myself am building a 10'x16.5' table(actuly 4 tables 5'x8'3") will be a flat surface be cause I have trains in more than one scale and want to run them all so scenery will be basic and generic. I have G,O-72, O-31,S and On30. I could not make up my mind what scale I wanted to do a layout with:eek:

    There are no wrong ways to enjoy the hobby although there are some approaches that are better then some:cool:
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think you would be wise to consider an access hatch for the center of the layout to allow you to get in to rerail cars. As has been mentioned, if you lean over the outside edge to reach too far in, your body will tend to damage any scenic detail on the outside edge. If you are careful with your track work, you may not need to remove the hatch more than a few times in a year to access the center, but if the hatch isn't there, count on Mr Murphy to do you in!

    For the transitions between the tables, I would suggest that the most realistic method would be to make joiner tracks about 1 inch long at each point where the tracks cross the table joints. I would not use any sort of sectional track, rather I would put in wood ties, roadbed, and ballast up to the edge of each table 1/2 inch beyond the end of the tracks.You can then put two rail joiners on each section of rail 1 inch long and just drop the rail in place in top of the ties and ballast and slip the joiners onto the adjacent rail to hold the short pieces of rail in place. The other method that will work as well is to lay flex track right across the joints, and cut the rail right at the joint. The rail must be well secured so that it doesn't move out of gauge where it is cut. A method some of the members of the modular club have used in such situations is to remove one tie from each side of the joint, and install a brass flat head screw directly under each rail end and then solder each screw to each rail. The result is that the rails are held in positive alignment by the screw anchored into the bench work. There is one other essential precaution needed. When the bench work is separated for moving, the rail going right to the edge is EXTREMELY vulnerable to damage. If it snags on anything, it will bend or kink and need to be replaced! The solution is to go to your local home center store and buy a piece of aluminum extruded angle. Cut two pieces for each joint just long enough to cover the railheads. When the railroad bench work is split for moving, position the angle over the ends of the rail as a protector and screw them into the ends of the bench with wood screws. Now you can move the bench work without fear of the rail ends snagging and doing damage to the rails. If you cut the angle only to the width of the roadbed, then it will not interfere with scenic details like a cut that comes to the edge of the bench.
  13. zener

    zener New Member

    Russ, sounds like you've done that before with the rail:) Yeah, I've been doing tests, and 3 foot is around the edge of my reach, so a center re-railing hatch may be in order.

    As far as track, I see nkp174 says code 83. After talking to my local hobby store, they recommend code 100 for less chance of derailing, code 83 if I want realism down to the rail. If it helps avoid derailing, I'd rather go with code 100 and sacrifice that smidge of realism.

  14. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    zener:wav: , I've used code 100 for years, never had a problem with it. its just a personal preference between the rail sizes, personally, the size of code 100 doesn't bother me:winki: . just my 2 cents.

    [​IMG] -Deano
  15. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I've used both. Old Rivarossi engines from the 1980s will hop a little on Atlas's code 83 turnouts...this is the issue your LHS was talking. But, Atlas's code 100 turnouts have always seemed to be far more derail prone to me...as they are of lower quality design and construction. Also, their snap switch line is junk for both code 83 & 100.
  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm a member of a modular club. I don't have a home layout, yet, so any operations I do are at a show with the modular set ups. The recommendations I've made regarding joiner tracks are based on experience with what various members of the club have done for joiner tracks to put between the modules. We probably do about 6 to 8 shows a year, and the modules are taken apart and put together for each show.

    As far as rail size is concerned, If you aren't running old style European equipment with the "pizza cutter" flanges, how well the track is laid is more important to eliminating derailing problems than the size of the rail. What you need to be careful about in addition to transitioning into and out of curves and into and out of grades, is to avoid any dips or humps in the middle of curves. If your Atlas dash 8 is a 40c rather than a 40b, it will have relatively long 3 axle trucks rather than the 2 axle trucks. If you have a dip or a bump in the middle of a curve, the truck will tend to go straight instead of dipping or going up to follow the dip or bump. Since the curvature of the rails is the steering if the truck stays straight as the track falls away from the wheels, then as the track curves, the front axle will go straight and when the rails come back up, the wheels are off the track to the out side of the curve.

    By the way, here is a tutorial I wrote for the "Tips & Tricks" forum to try to be as comprehensive as possible about why trains derail and how to fix the problems.


    I would also second what nkp174 says about Atlas switches. Peco and Shinohara are both much better than Atlas. If you want code 83, the Shinohara code 83 track is sold under the Walthers brand.
  17. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I've mentioned this before so if you have read it in another thread, consider it old info. I suggest that you don't start a grade with a rail joint. You will find that you end up with a sharp change of grade rather than a gradual increase. Play with a piece of flextrack on the table so that you get an idea of its capabilities and limitations
    The table size, as others have mentioned, is going to be difficult to work with in the center. If you are young and supple it may be OK but if you are of advanced years ,like me, you will find it difficult.
    I think your table size will determine what your minimum grade can be. If you are just looking for clearance for a crossover between tracks, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting a reasonable grade. Do some measuring for clearance on your highest piece of rolling stock and that will give you a basic idea of how high your bridge/ overpass/ tunnels will have to be. I believe there are NMRA standards for this. The NMRA website has lots of info by the way.
    I am building a 2 foot X 6 foot module using 2 inch foam as a base with minimal wood reinforcement and it is quite rigid.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you find that your grade is starting at a rail joint, put in a rail joiner and solder the rails and joiner together to make one solid rail. Then bend it into the grade.

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