Help me with a layout brainstorm!

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by stormfather, May 23, 2007.

  1. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    So here's the short version of a long story: I've wanted to build a model railroad for ages, and finally decided to do it a few months ago. The going was slow, since I was finishing up college, but now I've graduated and I have more time to devote to my railroad.

    When I first started, I wanted something small and simple, and was considering a continuous running setup. I didn't know much about model railroading and dove right in, building some terrain and getting the hang of how everything's done.

    Recently, I've become more interested in making a more complex setup. However, I want to use a portion of my original layout, a desert canyon that I like too much to discard.

    Ideally, I'd like my layout to be 4x8, but it can grow a little larger or a little smaller. I'd like to see what kinds of ideas people can come up with for possible layouts? I'll be using a 4-4-0 and 40' cars moving at slow speeds, so the turns can run on the tight side and the grades can run a little steep. The image below is a somewhat rough sketch of my layout, each red square is 1' wide, and the darker elevations are higher than lighter ones (there is about a 2" difference between shades.) Blue lines are places I'd particularly like to lay rails.

    Secondly, where should I go to learn more about operations? I don't know much, honestly, but I'd like to learn. Particularly, how do steam engines handle point to point operations? Would they run backwards over a portion of it, or would there be a turntable (even a small one, like an armstrong) at the far end?

    Attached Files:

  2. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I don't have the ability to draw and post a plan but I think what you might be trying for is a point to point that rises in elevation so trains traverse both sides of that canyon module. We have a number of creative folks who I'm sure will be interested in proposing a few possibilties.

    I picture a meandering line from a small yard or interchange placed along either the top or bottom edge of your plan that leads up hill via a series of curves to reach that elevated section in the lower left corner of your plan. It looks a bit tight there for spurs or sidings so maybe that length of track can serve as a switching lead beyond a siding or spurs located more in the middle of your space. Trains would pass by your industries, proceed toward the end of the line, and then back cars into the siding or spurs. I'd vote for the turntable if for no other reason than operational fun!

    Welcome aboard!
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    A turntable would be the most compact way of turning a loco; a wye might take up half your table. The prototype might get away with running backwards on a small branch and some tourist lines (Strasburg for one) don't turn them at all. This can be a problem with models as a lot of steamers, especially the older and smaller ones, don't have a front coupling.
    Running backwards was unpopular with crews as there was usually no protection at the back of the cab.
  4. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    What is a good resource for learning about operations? I'd like to see what various sidings look like and how they operate; how would a small siding (perhaps servicing one industry) shuffle cars, as opposed to a larger one (serving an industrial park)? Especially in the steam era, before the arrival of the GPs and Uboats?
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

  6. wickman

    wickman Member

    As for designing the layout for operations first thing I would want to do is decide how many industries you want that will be involved in the op sessions.For my layout its designed in such a way that near every industry utilizes wood or coal so each industry has a purpose. River , mountains maybe bridges ? for a 4x8 if you like scenery I wouldn't suggest more than 4 industries at most and use the rest of the realestate for scenery and town buildings. Then again unless your considering a logging layout and thats an entirely new can of worms.:twisted:
  7. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    What industries are you interested in?
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    In addition to the sugestion above, take a few minutes (or more) to read Loren/grewsome's thread There's a lot of discussion there about how to add operations to some common industries - including ones you'd easily find during the steam era.

  9. Dave1905

    Dave1905 Member

    I wouldn't have steep grades with small steamers. They lose a lot of pulling power on grades (as did the real thing).

    If you MUST have a turntable, one option is a "links" turntable. One turntable serving two places. Put a backdrop (divider down the middle of the layout, stopping about a foot from either end. You not have two separate scenes, one on each side. On one end of the backdrop, put a turntable. You can now access the turntable from either side of the layout, but neither side can see the other scene.

    Another option it to build a loop of track and then on the one side, put 2 or 3 double ended tracks (both ends tie into the mainline). On the other side put a junction town with a branchline going up to a town or larger industry. The 2 or 3 sidings become a staging yard.

    You can run around the loop with a train if you want to or you can come out of staging with a train, work the junction, run up the branch and work the branch. You could put a turntable on branch and then run out of staging up the branch, turn the engine and return the other way.

  10. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    Thanks for the links about operations, that first one has a lot of information and I'm slowly putting a plan together of what I want and what I can realistically expect to be able to do with what I've got.

    My main industrial line will start in town, and head north, then west, along the way passing a ranch (Cattle), a quarry (Limestone), and finally, a copper mine (Chalcopyrite ore.)

    Eyeballing my plan, I'm looking at a rise of 4/80, or 5%. Would this be a problem for an HO Bachmann 4-4-0 pulling about 4 cars?

    The town will have a passenger line running through it (for further expansion), a freight terminal that handles LCL freight, and either a cement plant or a pulverizer to handle the limestone. There might also be a mill to grind the raw copper to powder for further processing down the line (future expansion.) The town will also have a small yard, and hopefully a enginehouse, water tower, coaling station, etc.

    I noticed in that link posted by MasonJar that the trackplans were drafted up as straight lines to clarify all the industries and switching. I've been using this to try to sort out my yard and the town itself.

    By the way, the railroad is a freelanced railroad, set in Arizona in the early 50's, on the eve of deiselization. Most of my power is going to be coming from steam engines, eventually if I expand the layout to include the larger mainline, it will likely have a shiny new F-series or two.

    The key to the first rough map below, showing the general overview of the industrial line:

    A. Chalcopyrite Mine
    B. Limestone Quarry
    C. Ranch
    D. Engine House, turntable (?), coal, water, sand, ashpit, etc.
    E. Yard Body

    The southern track is a passenger line, the northern one is a freight line. The grey building on the passenger line is a passenger station. The cement plant, LCL depot, etc. would be on the freight line, between the yard and the ranch.

    The freight line and passenger line are connected, to allow:
    a. The switcher to briefly get out of the way of the departing train
    b. A passenger train in need of emergency service to get to track C.

    Attached Files:

  11. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    Of course, there will also be sidings at the ranch, quarry, and mine, and the radii and grades are going to have to be worked out. The shortline will be serviced by a 4-4-0, and the trains will likely be 4 to 6 cars long.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have a couple of questions for your consideration. Do you have a space or a room dedicated to the model railroad? I think beginners often think in terms of a 4x8, starting with a sheet of plywood for benchwork, but it is probably the least effective use of space that you could devise. Presuming a minimum of 24 inches required all the way around a 4x8 for you to have room to walk around it results in a minimum space requirement of 8x12! A loop of track on a 4x8 board gives you a maximum mainline run of @14 feet. Put a shelf 1 foot wide around that same 8x12 space and leave out the 4x8 table, and you have a mainline run of 40 feet! If the room needs to serve more than one purpose, a layout on top of a set of bookshelves leaves the room free for other purposes when the railroad is not in use.

    My other question concerns your choice of locomotives and rolling stock. You mentioned operating a Bachmann 4-4-0 in a time frame just before dieselization and perhaps getting some f-units at a later date. The only 4-4-0's that I know of made by Bachmann are 19th century prototypes. They would not be in use much past the turn of the 20th century a full 50 years before dieselization took place. IHC makes a 4-4-0 and a 2-6-0 that are more modern (probably 1920's or 1930's), and Bachmann Spectrum makes a 2-8-0 that would be a 1930's prototype. All of these units would run on 18 inch radius curves with the only compromise being that the spacing between the engine and tender would be a bit long.
  13. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    After reading your post, I've begun considering a longer, shallower layout that runs along shelving on the walls.

    I was originally thinking of perhaps building a pair of large tables towards each of the two ends of the wall to represent the two major towns on the layout, Perdition (Ajo, AZ) and Stillwater (Yuma AZ / San Francisco, CA), and connecting them by a shelf that ran through some open desert (although likely the shelf would have been pretty short...)

    Looking back on my draft of Stillwater, I could probably straighten that track out some to facilitate a narrower layout. This would also get rid of the giant 'dead spot' in the middle of the layout. However, it would stretch the layout out by a few feet and eat up more wall space in the process and gives a shorter run on the industrial.

    The room is an large, irregularly shaped finished basement. I've gotten 'right of way' to one wall, which is about 20 feet across. I'm going to get more precise measurements soon. I can't really expand onto the other walls (yet.) Thus, I don't really know if a shelf is the best way to go, unless, of course, I incorporated a peninsula to extend my layout out away from the walls a bit.

    Attached Files:

  14. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    As far as the loco goes, you're right, it's a 19th century model. Originally, my layout was going to be set in the late nineteenth century. I'm going to use the (heavily weathered) bachmann 4-4-0 in the layout, even if it's somewhat of a parachronism, because I think it will help give this portion of the railroad a 'wild west' feel, even though the town of Stillwater is enjoying modern conveniences of the fifties. However, I did take a look at those IHC models you pointed out, and they would be more historically accurate, and are still within my price range. Once I get this board up and running, I'll likely pick up that 20's Mogul and add it to my (not yet established) roundhouse.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    There is another direction you could go with that Bachmann. The Nevada State Railroad Museum has a few of the old V & T wood burners from the turn of the 20th century. The reason they have them is because just as the V & T was ready to scrap those old locos, Hollywood bought a bunch of their old equipment to use in the movies. I don't know exactly how many movies the V & T equipment appeared in, but the best known movie featuring V & T equipment was Union Pacific. A few years ago, after the trains had languished on a back lot at Warner Bros, if I remember correctly, the movie company wanted to get rid of the equipment. They donated it to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, and 2 or 3 of those old locomotives have been restored to their former glory and are used for tourist rides on Nevada Railroad Steam Up Days probably 6 weekends a year. Polish up that Bachmann and set up a short section of track, put some period coaches behind it and a couple of automatic reversers to make it operate automatically and let it give tourists a ride.
  16. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    The tourist railroad idea is a good one! I've been planning on building some cliffs and mountains up against the wall along the back edge of my layout; I could probably weave the scenic railroad up through them, perhaps to an abandoned gold mine, ghost town, or anasazi ruin? The only problem would be turning it around up there, space would be tight but I could probably expand part out to give the train enough room to make a relatively tight loop up there.

    I've looked up automatic reversers, and I was able to find details on how to build a reversing loop for a DC setup and found references to automatic reversers, but didn't actually see any of them for sale (except for some DCC only ones.) Is there a company that makes them for DC layouts? If not, I could always make the line a big loop and leave it on continuously.

    If I insulated a section of track and wired it independantly of the neighboring sections (but with the same polarity) and then spliced resistors into the wire leading to that single section, would I be correct in assuming that I could slow a train down considerably? If so, I might be tempted to make a 'gold mining museum' somewhere in town, perhaps a converted stamp mill, and have the train run into the mill itself, where it would hit the insulated track and would slow down long enough to make it appear as though the train had stopped inside the mill? I know I could just wire a piece of track with an on/off switch, but I think it would be pretty cool to have the whole line automated while playing around with the layout.
  17. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Or, putting it another way, if you can dedicate the room, then 2' wide shelves all around make a 4x8 open space in the middle. By swapping layout and aisle, you've doubled the layout square footage from 32 to 64, while simultaneously creating a wider operating space better suited to 2+ operators. This does require a duckunder.
  18. wickman

    wickman Member

    This was suggested to me last year and is why I now have the type of layout I now have. I just went a bit extreme on the depths of the corners and ends, but its basicly what ever works for each of us :mrgreen:
  19. stormfather

    stormfather Member

    I've been putting some ideas down on paper, this is my latest layout. I really like the way its coming along. I'll put a port/industrial district on the far left side, with all those spurs, and the main portion will have a town. The spur on the far left will be remote and mountainous, with a small town and a mine. There's an overpass on the northern part of the main table; the train headed into the tunnel goes under the other track. Can anyone propose any improvements to the trackplan? I know it's far from perfect, in fact I know that the industrial district needs a lot of work and probably a runaround at it's most northern end. The two spurs on the sides will be mounted like shelves, the central part will be a table. The spurs can get bigger or smaller as I see fit. It's a freelance, loosely based on the SP in central and southern california. The spur to the left will some day run through a long run of mountains and then drop down into the desert. Please critique my work, Im still new and not quite sure how this layout stacks up.

    Ah. forgot the dimensions. As pictured, those shelves are 2 feet deep and ~ 6 feet long (length isn't a major limiting factor for either shelf, the layout is going up in the corner of a big, relatively unused basement) The square in the middle is made from a 4x8, the red boxed in area is 4x6, the two triangles on the ends are each 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. All the wood from that part will come from the same 4x8. The shelves will come from a 4x8 with a Y cut so they'll fit well with the main layout. Hopefully, I can keep everything somewhat modular so the layout can be moved in the future. The southern yard spur got a bit cut off, but its not missing anything important, just the ends of those sidings. There's an extra piece of wood tacked on it in the diagram below, I doubt I'll include that in the final build.

    Attached Files:

  20. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    My concern would be the huge reach to the corner.

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