I need help...

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by iis612, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I have been trying, with no good results, to design a track plan. I have tried Xtrk, RTS, hand drawn (which I came close to success with but a MRR guru at the LHS looked at my plan and said it would never work but it looked cool).wall1wall1wall1wall1:curse:

    I have basement space in a room that measures 17'x18' roughly. I will not be able to use all of that space because of storage and residential maintenance needs.
    Attached is a drawing of the space which is not to scale.
    This drawing indicates the useable space, which is inside the blue line. The area to the left of the drawing needs to have 48" for storage, and the area at the top needs to have 40" for breaker panel access and a work area. The window can be covered. I do not have the measurements pertaining to the load bearing post. I will add those tomorrow.
    Here is the Givens and Druthers:
    (Railroad Name) Pere Marquette, Saginaw, Flint & Eastern, C&O
    Scale: Gauge: (Std, Narrow) HO

    Prototype: Pere Marquette, C&O, Chessie, CSX

    Era: 1947
    Region: East/Central Michigan
    Railroad: delineated above

    Space: Basement, see attached pic 14’x15’

    Governing Rolling Stock: Regular passenger service, 40’ – 50’ freight cars, 10000 gallon tank cars.

    Relative Emphasis:


    Scenic realism|_____________________V____________________________|
    Mainline Running
    Operation Priorities:
    Passenger Train Switching: Yes
    Helper District Operations: No
    Main-Line Passenger Train Operation: Yes
    Long Freight Train Operations: Define long?? Perhaps longest of 12 freight cars or 8 in a passenger drag
    Engine Terminal Movements: Yes
    Local Freight Operations: Yes
    Typical operating Crew: _1-5_ Eye Level (Owner) _42__In.
    • desired minimum radius: 30”
      • absolute minimum radius: 26”
    • desired normal train length: 12-15 40’-50’ freight cars or 8 passenger cars
      • minimum normal train length: 10 cars
    • maximum acceptable mainline grade: 2% if a helix is used
      • maximum acceptable grade: 3.2%
    • primary track system? sectional, flex, or handlaid: Mainly flex track, with some handlaid and sectional to supplement
    • couplers/uncoupling system: Magnet and Coupler pick
    • DCC or DC? DCC
      • Willingness to pay extra for walk-around control? Yes
      • Wired or wireless? Prefer wireless, but realistically, wired
    • are duckunders acceptable? No
      • Willingness to build liftout, hinged bridge or gate? Yes
    • acceptable distances between decks: 8”
    • my favorite aspects of model railroading are (list your top up-to 3 in order; 1, 2, 3)
      • operation of a scenicked layout: 1
      • building locomotives and cars from kits and scratch
      • detailing locomotives and cars to exactly match a prototype: 2
      • building structures: 3
      • building benchwork and laying track
      • adding electronic gadgets and gizmos
    • I have __25+__ hours per week for model railroading
    • I have __TBD__ $$ per month for model railroading
    • I can go _as long as I need to___ weeks without being able to run my favorite loco on a continous run of track.
    Also attached is a photo showing the main yard that I would love to have as part of my layout. This photo is from 2005, 58 years after my era. In 1947 the area on the left side of the phot was drastically different. There was a passenger yard there consisting of between 8 and 10 tracks. 3 were passenger arrival/departure tracks with the rest for storage, RIP, etc, etc. The station was nearly identical to the Walther's "Milwaukee Style" station that is soon to be released.
    I want to include the Dow Chemical plant which had a 3 track staging yard. GERN which needs to be placed along a river close to the main yard. A scrap yard, a grain elevator, cement plant, and some smallish stock yards should be included as well.
    Whomever can help me, I would be very appreciative. I plan on building whatever design suits the space, and operations priorities I have in my head. If this layout is ever featured in any publication whether online or in print, I will gladly credit whomever has come up with something.
    I am not asking for someone to take the time to design this whole thing, but rather someone who has the talent and passion for layout design that is willing to throw some of that talent and passion into a colaborative effort with someone who is "design challenged".


    Attached Files:

  2. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I forgot to mention, this is HO scale.
  3. iis612

    iis612 Member

    Here is a picture of the Potter St station that belongs on the left side of the yard...
    This picture is actually an old postcard from the early 1900's

    Attached Files:

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    I think you have a great vision already of what you want to do. Your 8 passenger car train is going to be controlling and drive the design. Such a train will be 9-10ft long in HO, depending on motive power to pull it. But since the passenger operations are your focal point, that's easier to plan for.

    Given the size of the space, the desired minimum radius curves (a good selection IMHO), and the passenger train length, I think you are going to be pretty much forced into a doughnut type arrangement with a swing gate of hinged bridge on one side for access. The yard and passenger station should be on a long side.

    Some simple calculations come up with:

    passing siding/yard track length (at least one this long): 10ft plus 2ft for 2 turnouts.

    turns at either end of space: 2 times 30" = 5ft

    So just putting a passing siding down a side and making the corners takes 17ft.

    my thoughts, your choices
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Remember, a passing siding doesn't have to be straight. It opens up many more possibilities to wrap them around corners.
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you follow the donut idea, you may be able to cross the window, and cross (or go under - depending on height) the breaker panel with a very narrow, removable shelf. Might ease the curves a little bit...

  7. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I am considering this design for the benchwork. I don't have it situated in my head where, if at all, I am going to put the helix.
    I can't even situate in my head how I am going to compress that yard to fit onto this. I am considering changing the 4' section to 3' and increasing the 3' to 4'.
    I need to take my pain meds and contemplate that.

    Attached Files:

    • pm5.bmp
      File size:
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  8. iis612

    iis612 Member

    That didn't work.
    Can anyone tell me how I can convert a Xtrk file to gif or jpeg?
  9. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    File->Export to Bitmap
    Then use a graphics manipuation program to change it to a jpeg.
  10. iis612

    iis612 Member

    Thank you Baldwin
    Alright, let's try this again.

    Attached Files:

    • pm2.jpg
      File size:
      116.7 KB
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Are you wanting to duplicate the triangular sahpe (wye?) of the yard, or one side of it? Since you seemed to have sided with scenery in your operations/scenery slider, you may want to consider "selectively compressing" that yard...

    14x15 (or is it 14x17) is a relatively large space of a railroad. Even so, you will want to select what you really want to do. In your notes above, you seem to indicate a preference for running trains in realistic scenery, building structures, and detailing locos and rolling stock.

    Modelling anything close to that yard will take a significant chunk of real estate, and is somewhat at odds with your desire to build (and presumably populate) your layout with scenery and structures. Simply put, a yard is lots of track, and not much opportunity for structures like that awesome station.

    Remember also, that a large, visible yard is not necessary to run lots of trains. You need staging for that, and that can be hidden behind the layout, or on another level.

    Besides the yard and station, what else do you have planned? Let us know, and we can certainly work on something. There are a number of great layouts that now exist as a result of collaboration at The Gauge...! ;)

  12. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I am trying to find a way to selectively compress that yard without sacrificing the general shape, and allowing for 2 railroads to operate out of it.
    The backstory for that is my freelanced railroad (SF&E) enjoys use of the Saginaw yard, and trackage rights south to Flint, and east to Port Huron.
    I am also looking to include a very compressed Dow Chemical, a 3 building GERN complex (which transfers materials from a river barge) a small grain elevator, a small stockyard, and a cement plant.
    I have thought about cutting the length of the passenger train so that it is around 6 feet, rather than 10 which will aid in designing the passenger side of the yard.
    I am willing to build 3 levels, but would rather only build 2.

  13. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I would suggest that one constraint be that your interior operating "pit" be one continuous aisle. Ducking under or opening gates or bridges during operation of a layout is torturing one self, IMHO. Having to duck under or fasten a section at the beginning and end of operations is the absolute maximum pain I am willing to inflict on myself. Personally, I am setting up my "donut" design so that it can be operated with the lift out section(s) removed. The only purpose of the lift out is to provide continuous operation.

    Another reality check: multiple layer layouts do NOT double the layout in a given space. Generally, you gain 1.5 times the single level when you subtract out the space for the helix or other method to get from one level to the other, and resolving other issues. Also, keep in mind that with multiple decks, deck height and often deck depth is always a compromise from the optimum. Finally, multiple decks take double the time to construct and cost twice as much.

    Just want you to go in with your eyes open.

    my thoughts, your choices
  14. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I had considered that the helix would chew up more real estate than I wanted to part with. I just don't know that I can fit everything that I want, between passenger and freight operations into a single level. However, I can create another 8'x3' off of the main level for staging.
    I have also considered making the helix in an offset fashion, so trains have to be routed through a switch to enter the helix. This also opens up operating possiblities. I can use the main level in continuous running, and it reduces the overall time before I can get the passengers moving.
    I may be so far out of my mind though...
    This is exactly the reason that I reached out to the talented people here. At least there is someone to keep me honest in my pursuits.
  15. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I changed the benchwork picture. Narrowing the top throat of the center section. If I can manage to get the design out of my head and onto Xtrk, or even paper, the narrow throat can be left as an open lift out during operation.
    I need to change it again to show the entire rooms dimensions and include the 8'x3' staging section that could be utilized.
    I should probably make the narrow throat at least 30", but I don't know how to mark the benchwork by 6" rather than 12.

    Attached Files:

    • pm5.jpg
      File size:
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  16. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Have you considered that you might use the entire room, and configure your storage to go under the layout? Gary S put his round-the-walls shelf layout on brackets so that there aren't even legs to get in the way...

    Perhaps you can approach this from another perspective. Since you do not need to construct your benchwork to any particular standard (i.e. you aren't joining a modular club), you should try thinking about the trackwork first.

    Since you seem sure of the industries you want to have (Dow, Gern, etc), sketch out their track plan requirements. Then you can start to move them around like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. If you make two or three versions of each, an overall plan may begin to suggest itself. The versions could be mirror images, or a "long/narrow" and "short/wide" versions, or all of the above.

    One other thought that occurs to me is if one part of the yard could be staging? I don't know if that would work, but not having to accomodate one side of that triangle would free up a lot of room.

    Hope that helps!

  17. iis612

    iis612 Member

    Perhaps I am trying to get too much into a small space. Maybe the yard will eat up more real estate than I can "afford" to part with.
    Here is a story about that yard, line, station, and supporting structures.
    In the mid 90's I worked there. I started as a railroad cop, went into train service as a conductor trainee, then ultimately as an engineer. That was my home yard.
    On that yard is the remains of the station which stood well preserved for over 100 years until an arsonist's match claimed a large part of it. I was a volunteer on the preservation committee. I also volunteered at the railroad museum. Both of which are housed in that yard. CSX has since sold that yard to Rail America.
    So yeah, maybe I am trying to cram too much into too little, but it is my history. Perhaps the era is different, but post WWII is when that yard became a huge economic force on the local and state level. Post WWII is when that yard took on most of it's unique shape. That is when the auto manufacturers used that rail line to expand production outside of Flint and Detroit.
    The era is 26 years before my birth, but is the single most important year for that line.
  18. iis612

    iis612 Member

    The most recent benchwork idea...

    Attached Files:

    • PM.jpg
      File size:
      117 KB
  19. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    You may be on to something there... If you go with the double layer, I think that's a good spot for the helix. And the orientation of the yard looks better - you may be able to achieve the triangle shape needed.

    I note that the space is bigger... have you negotiated more room...? ;)

  20. iis612

    iis612 Member


    I haven't offically, at least to the point that I would publically admit...negotiated...per se sign1

    I had a friend point out to me that I am dreaming if I think I can do justice to the prototype by cramming it into this space.
    I think I am going with the last benchwork creation with an additional hidden staging area that is 8'x3'. I will use that staging to support the freight side of the yard. I will use a 6-8 track arraingment for the passenger operations, and add a few engine servicing items.
    I think I am going to ditch the cement plant and add a small interchange with the GTW.

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