Help - Before I start to build

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by BigJim, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. BigJim

    BigJim Member

    I think this should be close to the final layout. Thanks to all of the helpful suggestions on The-Gauge I think I have avoided most major mistakes but would like to get further comments to help avoid at least some of the minor ones.
    50 years ago my wife took a trip (alone at nine years old - can you imagine that today?) from Minneapolis to LA on the GN so she wants a GN passenger train (8 or 9 - 85' cars) running on the main line. Hard to do much switching with that so I want to have hidden reversing loops so the train goes out in two places and comes back on the same track to at least avoid a "round & round" running appearance.

    Overall track is 8' x 20' - front & side edge will follow track contour.
    DCC control (Digitrax Empire Builder ?)
    Gray line is a room divider to hide reversing loop. Opening in wall will handle entire layout.
    Room wall does have a 45 degree hard wall (30" x 30 in upper lefthand corner)
    Lots of space to front (bottom of drawing) and right side. "Lake opening is 30" x 20".
    Adjustable height (42" > 66")
    Caster mounted to move out from wall and pull through room divider when needed.
    Reversing loops 24" radius - main line 30" min, most of track 24" min, Absolute minimum 22"
    All main line turnouts long Peco - all others medium Peco.
    Plan to add more switching yards later.
    2" extruded foam base.
    4" clearance on stacked loops - cookie cutter construction.
    Sensors on reversing loops to automaticaly switch polarity and turnouts.
    Switch motor controlled turnouts in most locations.
    Main line passing tracks and station area (on the right) to be level.
    Maximum grade approx 2 percent.


    If I use 2" extruded foam do I need a plywood / chipboard base or can I just use an open frame 12" or 16" on center?

    Should I bury electromagnets in a bunch of locations?

    Best switch motors?

    Other hints & tips?


    Anybody is more than welcome to use part or all of my layout design. Please send me any improvements you might consider. It was done using the free XTrkCAD program. If anyone wants a copy of the layout file e-mail me and I will send the *.xtc file.
  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    1. If I use 2" extruded foam do I need a plywood / chipboard base or can I just use an open frame 12" or 16" on center?
    Open frame will work. I'd be careful about where you might have to use part of the layout for support while reaching for something.
    2. Should I bury electromagnets in a bunch of locations?
    Electromagnets are fine anywhere, as they only provide uncoupling when they are activated. Because of cost, I'd plan where they would be best used, just to keep the expense down. They are easier to install before the track is layed.
    3. Best switch motors?
    Any slow motion switch machine will work. Stay away from the double solenoid type.
    4. Other hints & tips?
    Get the track layed right the first time. In other words, take your time, make sure everything is straight, and aligned, with no kinks in the curves, and no humps, or dips in the track. I would recommend not trying to use superelevatiion. It may look great, but doesn't always work well. Run the layout extensively before ballasting the track. Troublespots are easier to fix when there's no ballast. I would also recommend laying track on roadbed, not directly on the foam. Roadbed will glue down to the foam better than the plastic ties, and with roadbed, the track can be spiked in place, and, more importantly, can be unspiked and shifted if there is a problem. (foam doesn't hold spikes well) Biggest tip?...........Have fun !!
  3. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member


    A few words of friendly advice. I know, if I have to call it friendly it probably isn't, but trust me, it is. I just don't want to see you build something that you're not happy with in the long run. Everyone here on the gauge is so encouraging, and please read this as encouragement as well.

    SLOW DOWN. From our brief conversations and the high number of posts you're putting up here it is clear you are chomping at the bit to git r done. But unless you've got money to burn and all the time in the world you may want to sleep on these plans at least a few more nights before cutting any timber or laying any track.

    You may probably be happier with the result if you take more time when planning and it may provide much more enjoyment when built carefully. This is why there are so many "track plans for beginners" books and articles out there. One, you aren't making a major investment of time, space and money when you build that first 4x8 and learn many of the critical lessons about track laying, reliable operation, etc. Two, you can get something up and running quickly using a plan that some designer probably put some considerable thought and time into.

    I know Steve (Nazgul) has done a great job with his layout and it has been an inspiration to many. Steve is an exceptionally gifted modeler (he's got the knack natural, somehow)I'm flattered that my plan is part of that. But go back and reread that thread, as long as it is. He didn't use the first plan he drew or the first one I drew. And I put alot of time and thought into the second plan (drawing on 20 years of experience).

    You're on the right track (pun intended) asking for advice here. So here's my advice again. Slow Down. Also, reconsider building something so large right out of the gate.

    Here's a constructive thought. Buy a 4x8 sheet of 2" foam and a sheet of 1/4" lauan ply. Laminate these together with paneling adhesive. Get some 22" radius track (like the bachmann easy track with roadbed already in place) and a few straight sections and set up a loop. With whatever control system you can find (DCC, DC, 0-5-0, whatever) start running trains. Then go from there.

    Really, please don't take this as agressive or intended to be hurtful in any way. I'm just trying to save you some potential heartache in the future. Some lessons will just be learned along the way...that's part of the fun of the hobby. But some mistakes can be prevented with just a bit more planning. An ounce of prevention, or a pound of cure? You decide.

  4. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    If I use 2" extruded foam do I need a plywood / chipboard base or can I just use an open frame 12" or 16" on center?

    Yes I would use at least 1/4 inch plywood because the first time someone leans on the layout [and it will happen] they will snap it like a twig. Foam is hard but brittle.
    You also need to support the plywood every 2 feet at least [once the foam is glued to it it is stronger so 2 feet is fine] to prevent sagging. As for HOW to glue foam to playwood check out my site.

    Should I bury electromagnets in a bunch of locations?

    You can do this or better still, buy one magnet and try it out in various locations and see where you will need them. You can get the kadee 'between the tracks' version and just plop it down where you think you may need it.
    Once you KNOW then instal the permanent ones.

    Best switch motors?

    Tortoise, although I have not used the modern ones. But tortoise has been around for decades and all I know is it works. Period. :)

    Other hints & tips?
    Read a lot, Go to the library, go to sites like mine and click the links for free info [so much free stuff out there no need to pay for it :D]. Then read some more.
    Ask a ton of questions here :D

    I hope that helps. :)
  5. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    I'm going to agree with Galen on this one.

    There are many talented people here at The Gauge, and no one would steer you wrong on a track plan. However, this is an expensive hobby, and planning is a key element that will save a lot of headache later. Personally, I looked at hundreds of plans, designed some of my own, and got lots of input from the folks here. Make sure your layout has everything you want before commiting yourself.
  6. BigJim

    BigJim Member


    Even the Ancient Chinese knew "A journey of a thousand miles (or 727,559 inches in HO) starts with a single step". This was and still is true.

    Had I not committed to running the 8 > 9 car GN passenger train first I would strongly consider making a 4' x 8' with 22" radius curves. From what I have heard I would have a lot of trouble getting it to run in this situation.

    I am almost positive I want to have hidden reversing loops. Since their 24" radius will be the most difficult for the GN I was planning on making them first as two separate modules and connecting them end to end for testing. By the time I get them working (assuming I can) with automated switching I will have received a lot of additional input and be ready to start the benchwork. I won't be cutting any timber or even deciding on the final layout for quite a while.

    I doubt that I will ever come close to Steve's talent at realistic mountains, cliffs, water, etc. but I do have some talent and a very nice shop area for woodworking and a background in home remodeling, electronics & computers.

    Wish me luck and keep the suggestions coming.

  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have a couple of questions about the GN passenger train you want to run. Have you got it already? Does it have to be full length 85 foot cars, or could you be happy with the Athearn or Concor 72 foot "shorty" cars? I ask because we have found on the Orange County Module Railroaders set ups that 85 foot passenger cars do not like anything smaller than a 30 inch radius curve. You might be able to coax an 85 footer around a 24 inch radius, but I think you will also have a lot of derailments. When model railroads do a lot of derailing, a lot of the fun goes away.
  8. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member


    Glad the message was well received...and here's an off the wall suggestion I wouldn't ordinarily make. Have you thought about N scale? (I can hear them now...rabid N scalers releasing a collective hurrah). If running long trains with long equipment through vast vistas of beautiful scenery is appealing and you really can only squeeze it into the space in HO, and if you aren't financially or emotionally committed to HO with a large collection, then give it some serious thought.

    I second Russ' suggestion (as I am kinda still a member of the aforementioned club)...with this caveat - way back when I first joined up, I had just purchased a set of N&W streamlined passenger cars...can't remember the maker...anyway, the wheelsets are metal and I replaced the couplers with kadee truck mounted conversion kits. They aren't as long as 85' cars and aren't weighted to NMRA standards. Still, I was able to back them down through a crossover, through the club's wye, and down a yard ladder into a staging track, shoved all the way by a Bachmann J 4-8-4 (not spectrum...the version just before that) without any derailments. Just had to brag. But what I really wanted to say was that what he said was and is true. 36" looks and performs so much better.

    I've got another sketch besides my own on the drawing board right now...okay, actually my dining room table, until I get a better garage heater...before I can get to any ideas for you. But there's one floating around in my head as we speak so we'll see. If I can't make it out of here due to icy roads tomorrow morning then I may have time.

  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    If there is a wall to the "top" and "right" in your drawing - can you reach all the track at thte back, especially the turnouts, to operate them, and/or rerail cars? If it is indeed up against a wall, I would suggest you "flip" the trackplan so that all the moving parts are close at hand.

  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Stick to your guns, and build the layout you need to run your GN passenger train. At the same time, consider the advice offerred here. If you have never done something before, you need to try it first on a "practice" project. Make your mistakes on a "throwaway" before you do the work on the main layout. It's even better if you make your "practice piece" something that can be built into the layout, if it turns out too good to waste. We learn from our mistakes. Sorry, that's the human condition. We're all just asking you to make your mistakes where they won't hurt. You've chosen a large project, make your goals, smaller parts of the project, and enjoy completing each one.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The other thing you could do is to cut out the benchwork in the big curve in the front (bottom) of the drawing. Then you can walk in far enough to work the rear tracks.
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I think Jim intended to do that, but I am still not sure whether he can reach the turnouts "north" of the lake, or the ones "southeast" either...

  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I looked at it again, and your right. He could reach the turnouts from the access in the "drop down lake", but I think he intended that for emergency access, not normal operation.

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