It begins...

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Wiredup, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    So I got an idea for my first layout... and I have to admit, I am a little hesitant about doing something so 'complicated' for a first timer.

    My first problem is that I am SURE that the RTS software I used from Atlas is building my layout in HO track, and the layout translates into 13 feet by 9 feet for HO. So I'm gonna try and figure out how to convert it or rebuild it in N scale to see if I can compromise or get it down to a 4x8 table. Or even 4x10 would be okay.

    The scene is a small mountain rail town in the mid/late fifties somewhere in the Canadian rockies. Mostly freight service passes through, but passenger service does run through at least once per day.

    The idea is that the layout would in theory be a giant double tracked oval. Where the North West corner of the layout the 'double track' would split abit and intertwine through a 'mountain' mostly in tunnels, but with bridges showing where the train is at. It would only be 2 9" loops really. The north to north east of the track would be primarily straight, mostly a tunnel I think to give me more room for scenery.

    I got a turn-table in there, and on either side of the double track for about half of the Southern side I got a switch yard going on, with a turn table. I'm going to be putting a engine mtc shed to the eastern side of the turn table. Only 6 of the turn table 'bumper' sections will be covered. And I really don't know what I was thinking with the switch yard to the west of the turn table, but I KINDA like it. I might try to do something like a freight loading area there.

    This is a first draft, so any and all comments would be nice.


    I also did inventory of my current 'on rail assets' so to speak.

    Bachmann 4-8-2 Spectrum light mountain unmarked (on the way from ebay!)
    Model Power 4-6-2 Pacific CPR (need to get a DCC for it)
    Model Power FP7 CPR (barley runs, kinda damaged. Might scrap it and get something better)
    3 CPR box cars
    1 CNR box car
    1 CPR caboose
    1 BC Rail caboose
    1 Texaco short tank car
    2 uncoverd hoppers of diff road names
    2 covered grain hoppers using Heritage Fund roadname

    not much

    I want to get some passenger cars (Pullman style) and definalty more covered grain hoppers of Canadian roadnames. Freight is going to be pretty mixed tho. Mostly grain and oil. But I'll be getting whatever I can with the MT magnetic couplers, and do as much as I can for conversions with my current rolling stock and locos.

    I also plan to acquire the following locos, keep in mind that while I primarily want to keep things CPR/CNR, I am not restricting myself for the sake of 'realism':

    Bachmann hvy Mountain
    Bachmann 0-6-0 swithcer
    Bachmann 2-6-2 Paririe
    Bachmann 2-8-0 Consolidation

    I want two more locos, a F series of some kind, and a Hudson 4-6-4.

    I will be wiring all the switches up (and there seem to be many. I might make less cross tracks though) to a 'dispatchers' plate mounted off the layout, but attachted if that makes any sense.

    I want to also go DCC, which is something I know very little about. I only plan to run one of the smaller locos, and two trains on the main line at any given time. If that! So I'm curious what the cheapest 'kit' to go with is.

    I've been looking at the EZ-Command by Bachmann to get me going. Did some searches here on the forum and people seem to be happy with it. (and I can get one NIB for $50 right now)

    I don't plan of doing this all at once of course. I'm going to building it up over the year. The first thing I want to get done is to complete the oval and get the height correct. Then build the rest of the switch yard around it. Once all the track is laid and grades are correct I'll start doing scenics.

    I plan on only adding one more loco (the 0-6-0 or 2-6-2) and some more grain cars within the next two months or so. The rest will be added on over a while.

    Money, while an object, is not a HUGE concern as I can budget (once the holidays are done with) aprox $100-$150 a month to the hobby. Which I'm sure will be more than enough if I can keep finding killer deals (in my eyes) like I did on my Mountain 4-6-2 today ($70 shipped, NIB, DCC ready)

    According to the RTS software, my track should run me aprox $280 US. And the prices listed in there are a little more expensive than my local hobby store, and I used lots of straight track instead of flextrack just for measurments sake.

    My questions are:
    1: I got Atlas N80 track right now (lots of 11' and 9' curves lots of 5' straights), should I stick with N80? The track I have is worth less than $20, so it's not a HUGE loss to me. I can alway use it for a 'mini' setup at a later date.
    2: Just how good are the spectrum series from Bachmann? It seems most (if not all) of the locos I want are Bachmann designs.
    3: EZ-Command. How good for a 3 loco run?
    4: Please recommend some good solid, affordable F7 or F3 locos
    5: Please judge my layout and give me suggestions and ideas.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    You asked for comments and suggestions - please take them in the spirit in which they are offered - friendly advice, but nothing mandatory. Ultimately, it's your layout, and I can't possibly read your mind to know what your vision is. All I have is what you have said in your post.

    1) Your larger steam locomotives - the Hudson, Mountain, and possibly the Pacific - are not going to like the 9" radius curves. And the full length heavyweight passenger cars might not even like 11" curves, depending on make. If you want to run big steam and passenger trains, you'll be a lot happier in the long run with 13"+ radius curves in N.

    2) You select the track line used in the RTS software by loading the correct libraries. Both the N code 80 and code 55 line libraries should be available. If not download them.

    3) There is also a pretty good flex track tool in RTS - using flex track, especially in non-critical areas, will allow sweeping curves, far fewer rail joints (where things go wrong), and will allow you to get rid of the little fitter pieces of straight and curved track. You don't need to use flex track everywhere, especially during the design process. Using the fix radius curves for turns of 90 degrees or more will be easier while designing. Then you can use either flex or sectional track on those curves when building.

    4) The yard design seems somewhat convoluted and difficult to operate. Take a gander at Yard Design. The 10 Commandments of Yard Design are not hard and fast rules that they are implied to be, but if followed they do provide for a more efficient yard in making up and breaking down trains.

    5) There are virtually no opportunities for switching outside of the yard. Many model railroaders enjoy way freight and freight car switching operations at industries. If you are one of those, then you need to make provision for this.

    6) Which leads to another design issue. Your design appears primarily aimed at watching trains run through Canadian Rockies scenery. It is not even set up well for watching 2 trains simultaneously because of the stretch of single track, and the location of the passing sidings. Some get bored in minutes with watching trains run through scenery, others do not. Knowing which type of operation you favor will help determine the best "type" of layout for you.

    John Armstrong divided operation into 3 types - dispatcher, engineer, and spectator.

    The dispatcher favors multiple trains running on timetables, and several operators. The idea is to enjoy juggling the multiple trains on a schedule, and working together as a team to pull it off.

    The engineer tends to favor sequential type operations. His job is to do all the tasks associated with making up a train, attaching the road engine, performing the train's mission while out on the line, breaking up the train at the end of the run, servicing the engine, etc. Engineers operate successfully solo, or can be part of a larger layout operation like dispatchers.

    The spectator likes to watch trains roll through particular scenes or places.

    Now there is a some of each in almost all of us, though most of us will favor one type of operation over the others. The smaller the layout, the less able the layout is to serve all 3 types of operation, so it becomes more important to know which type of operation you favor.

    Staging is a critical element for spectator and dispatching layouts, but not so critical for engineer layouts. A good quick read on staging is Space Mouse Rail Systems. Point-to-point designs can work well for engineers, but the turn-around times don't work so well for spectators and dispatchers. Leaving space for the desired scenic elements is a must for spectators, but dispatchers are not as concerned with scenery and will accept more track per sq ft for increased operating density.

    7) From what I hear (I don't own one), the Spectrum steam locomotives strike a fine balance of detail, good running, and price, and are quite desirable. Quality control is a little spotty - every run seems to have a few "lemons". However, Bachmann does stand behind their products very well, and will usually replace a lemon during the warranty period.

    8) The Bachmann EZ DCC will run 2-3 locomotives/trains simultaneously just fine. It's big limitations are: 1 amp output, only 10 locomotive addresses available, and it cannot read/write CVs. The latter means you cannot tune locomotive decoders - doing things like setting starting and maximum voltages, or changing momentum. The decoder will use the settings it came with from the factory. If you can live with these limitations, the EZ DCC is by far the cheapest solution.

    The rest of your questions are better answered by other forum members.

    my thoughts, your choices
  3. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    Thanks a lot Fred, here are some responses.

    1) The pacific seems to handel the 9 radius pretty good with no issues of derailments, slow downs, or excessive body lean. not even at full throttle does it look like it's going to tip. I try the Mountain on the 9 and 11's as soon as I get it. If the Mountain gives me issues I'll have to rethink the plan as the Pacific and Mountain will be my primary forms of locomotion on the layout. Thanks for the foresight though. Before I build I'll definalty check my primary loco's abilities. Coaches will mostly run on the outer curves and will rarely been seen on the 9' theory. :)

    2) I thought so...but it still seems to take up more space than I expect it too. I may just 'tape off' a section of floor in an 4x8 or 5x10 zone and map out the perimiter oval and compare it to RTS

    3) Yea, I totally get the flex track idea. I'll use sectional track pieces to accuratley lay roadbed or trace my layout, and then replace with Flex where applicable. I messed with the flex a bit when using RTS in the above layout, but definatly not to it's full potential (worried about too tight radius curves)

    4) Yea the yard sucks. Especially that leg to the left of the round house. Totally gotta fix that

    5) I'm not sure I want a lot of switching outside the yard. I really wanna build something senic for the back area, that will be interesting to watch. But I also want something fun to mess with limited space/assets in the foreground where most of the action will happen.

    6) I'm going to change this up a bit... I'm going to run a double track all the way around so I can have at least one train doing a continous curcuit, have a switcher doing its job, and have another train being prepped for its run.

    I'm definatly more of an engineer type of person when it comes to your three discriptors, but I also want a healthy bit of scenery in the back (bridges, creeks, inclines), and a little bit of the distpatch micromanagement...but not a whole lot of micromanagement...just enough to border breaking out of the engineer shell. :)

    7) Every mfg is going to have a lemon shoot up somewhere..but as long as I'm seeing better results than Model Power I'll be happy.

    8) I'm okay with only having 2-3 loco's at a time, especially on a layout of this size. 10 address is fine as well, as I don't plan on having any more than that. How hard is it to upgrade DCC systems when it comes time to expand the layout?

    Thanks a lot for all the opinions, you opened up some eyes here and are definatly helping me not make some mistakes.

    Going back into the research...will be back with a new foundation for this layout soon...
  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Upgrading DCC is simply a matter of removing the Bachmann unit and replacing it with the new unit of your choice. Bachmann has just come out with a new wireless DC system, but I'm not sure there's any upgrade path between the EZ DCC and the Dynamix (sp?).

    The Digitrax systems are probably the most expandable by adding on to existing components, although Lenz, NCE, and MRC (Prodigy Advance only) have pretty nice upgrade paths as well.

    But the EZ DCC is less than 1/2 the cost of any other DCC unit. So, if it meets your needs for a while, use it, and then sell it, use it in a minor role on a large layout, or trash it. As I said in the earlier post, please make sure you can live with the limitations for a while. I would hate to see you have to sell/junk it after a month or two and replace it with something 2-3 times the price.
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The Canadian cylindrical grain hoppers were introduced around 1972. Grain moved in 40' boxcars in the steam era.
  6. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    I'll be fine with the limitations to get me started. I won't have the room to expand anything past a 5x10 table at the largest for at least a year or more, so I doubt I'll be needing to expand on the DCC's capabilities till then.

    Triplex: I'm aware of the change over. Which is unfortunate. But I'm bending the rules of 'time' and location so that I can use what I want to use. I got a story for being able to implement the Paririe loco into a mountain town as a switcher, but I'm still trying to figure out how to incorperate my n scale 2004 VW Toureg, my n scale Audi A4, or the Cylindrical grain hoppers. :)

    Unless it's a private rail that never got enough money to upgrade.
  7. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    Getting closer to convincing the wife that building an 5x10 layout in the middile of the spare bedroom would take up more room that building off two of the walls. So I'm getting a bit more space to play around with.

    It's making things a lot easier, I got a branch line idea and a main line. The branch line kinda just runs through the middile, but has more 'scenic' route to it.

    And someone on here gave me the idea of looking at google Earth to get ideas on how its really done, and I got some great ideas.

    I got a rough draft layout I'll post a lil latter on in the day.
  8. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Herewith a couple of really basic idiot-level questions:

    1. What are you putting in the huge blank area?

    2. What industries and/or destinations are you considering?

    Depending on what activities your railroad supports, you can manage quite a bit of local small-scale switching, if only to allow trains to pass each other as they go about their business. Sidings to a mine, factory, quarry or what-have-you, for example, or even just a siding to allow helper engines to be cut-in.

    3. How do you plan to access that center space?

    I have to say, for your "beginner" layout, that's a doozy! :thumb:
  9. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    Well the layout plan is changing due to the changing in space restrictions (I'm getting more!) but for this one I planned on building a mountain range for the back area, and the big open space is/was going to be for a small town.

    I'm basing this on Revelstoke in the mountains, and they had some coal operations up there when they ran steam. But the whole layout is going to be a fictional road name.

    The new layout is a little bit more realistic, but still has an open space for a small mountain town. There will be two mountain towns on this layout when I post the redesign and a coal mine and a loggers camp. There will be two routes. A double tracked main route for the passenger service. Another smaller branchline that will use a smaller loco for the loggers camp and coal mine.

    Instead of a roundhouse I'm going to have an engine storage/mtc shed with a turn table at each end of the branch line to turn the loco around.

    My story is that I'm modeling mid 70's and this is one of the last railroads to change over to desiel, and bought some canadian steam before shutting down operations all together. This way I can utelize a lot of different technology.

    Locos that will be working on this line are: pair of lt-mountain 4-8-2's, a 4-6-2 pacific, a 2-4-2 prairie, and I'm going to have a desiel in there too... F series of some kind, havn't decided which one yet.
  10. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I know the feeling... steam feels right, but so does newer freight equipment. The obvious excuse would seem to be the oil crisis, and there was in fact one railroad that used steam because of it. The (semi-)famous Crab Orchard & Egyptian had regular steam freight service from 1977 to 1986. However, before then, it hadn't been a freight-hauling dieselized shortline. Instead, it was a tourist operator running over ICG tracks. In 1977, they bought the track they ran on, thereby becoming responsible for freight service as well. The passenger service was abandoned inthe early 80s, and the line dieselized in 1986.
  11. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member


    This is my new plan. Any thoughts and opinions would be great!
  12. roch

    roch Member


    "So I got an idea for my first layout... and I have to admit, I am a little hesitant about doing something so 'complicated' for a first timer."

    You sure you really are a first timer? No offense. That just looks way to complicated for a first time layout. :eek:

    It does look really cool, I must admit, and I would love to see the progress. :thumb:

  13. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Just a quick comment - you might want to fit in a drill track for the yard. Pulling or setting a cut of cars will clog the main in the present draft. Take a look at Yard Design for ideas in planning a workable yard.

    my 2 cents, feel free to ignore
  14. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    drill track? as in a longer passing siding? I think theres a couple of place to throw a longer train while it's waiting for another to pass or whatever near the main yard. I guess I don't fully understand.

    it might be complicated, but I take my time when I do this kinda stuff and I want something thats going to allow me to run larger trains and still have something other than a big oval. :)
  15. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I'm wondering about some of your grades... Would it be possible for you to add elevations above table level and also... I can't for the life of me figure out what's going on with that mess of lines on the right hand side. In the software, is there any way to designate what's in tunnels?
  16. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Drill track is another name for yard lead. Ideally, the yard lead is separate from the main, and is a longest train length long. In reality, these ideals are seldom met, yet not having a separate long yard lead will slow yard operations down. The yard lead is where the yard switcher pulls the arriving cut of cars (on the arrival track) to before classifying the cut of cars into the yard classification tracks. See Yard Design for how a classification yard works.

    Now, if you normally operate by yourself, tying up the main while you switch the yard is no big deal. But if you have several operators trying to operate on a timetable, making up and breaking down trains in the yard tends to be the bottleneck. Anything you can do to speed the process will mean less waiting for the main line engineers.

    If I misread your intentions for the yard, then my apologies.

    yours in having fun
  17. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    OK, certified curmudgeon here, Mr. Cold Water himself.

    First, congrats on taking the plunge and deciding to build a layout.

    Now for the bad news: you're nuts. :p

    Well, OK, not nuts, but if you're a total newb, green as the grass in April, you're setting yourself up for frustration and failure.

    Your track plan is one that I (and other curmudgeonly types) refer to as the "Spaghetti Western". Way too much track, way too complicated. There's no room for scenery (and you said that was important to you), and by cramming that much track into that space, you're using the minimum possible radius curves you can.

    Will the equipment run on 9" curves? Yes. Will it do it reliably? Not likely. Will it look good doing it? Nope. It'll look toy-like.

    If you've never built a layout before, you're much better off starting slow, and building your skills up with more modest attempts before diving whole-hog into such a complex project.

    Also, you haven't said anything about the room this layout's in. Can you walk all the way around the layout? If you can't, I hope you've got 5' arms, because you are going to have to eventually reach something near the back, whether its scenery or a train.

    If you truly have more than 5x10' of space, you can build a layout that gives you what you're looking for in scenery and operation without being a total maintenance headache.

    Give us some more detail about the room you're putting the layout in. How big is the room? Where will the layout be in the room?

    There's lots of expertise at building model railroads here (not just me... there's nice people too! :p ;) ) you'd be crazy not to take advantage of it.

    Ultimately it's your choice, but I think other people have already tried to suggest you scale things back a bit, but more politely than I did. You can build what you planned, and it might even run, but I seriously doubt you'll find it particularly satisfying.
  18. Wiredup

    Wiredup Member

    seems like I'll scale it back a bit from what I've been reading.

    I want a small yard, ability to run passenger trains, and a turntable... but I also want some decent scenic zones.

    the room is a small extra bedroom...but it's also a storage room.

    you got the two long walls, the short wall and then the closet on another wall. it's about 6 ft wide and 15 ft long on estimation. But along one wall is a stack of guitar cases. a bunch of boxes of the wifes and I's things will be underneath the table. the table will be at least a foot away from each wall. one of the 4ft sections will be flush against the closet.

    in regards to the latest layout I've posted, I can see why it would be spagetti like. it does seem like a complicated layout, but it is one layout that I've liked the look of when I flip through layout books and magazines that fits onto a 4x8 table. the actual layout is in 'Atlas nine N Scale railroads book #7. It's the Atlantic Longhaul line.

    seeing as how the 4ft section (most likely east side) will be against the wall, I won't be making the cutout as indicated in the book, and use the area for my turntable and engine mtc facility. I believe I can still get a good amount of scenery over on the west side of the layout, and if I take out the switch yard in the lower west side I turn it into a smaller town it might make it a bit nicer to look at and more fun to operate.

    While there are quite a few 9 3/4 sectional track pieces in this layout, they are also intertwined with some 11 or 19 radius sectional pieces. which does make me wonder how things will look on it. So I think i'll get some 19 radius pieces and make some of these curves and test and see how some of my rolling stock navigates it.

    I just hate the look of a regular oval..... and it seems thats what most 4x8 layouts are. :(
  19. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    You should check out some of the layout kits from Woodland Scenics... Scenic Ridge in particular. Might give you some ideas or give you something to start with and could expand on later.
  20. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    OK, since it didn't seem fair to criticize and run, here's a suggestion.

    It sounds like you've got a long, narrow room, and you need to negotiate right-of-way with the management.

    Rather than build an island-style layout in the middle of the room with a 1' aisle around the outside (what are you? Gumby? You'll never be able to walk around that!) why not build a shelf-style layout along 2 of the walls? You'd be able to walk into the room, store stuff under/over the layout, and still get a fair amount of railroad in place.

    If your room is 6x15, here's a suggestion. 12" minimum radius, #7 turnouts on the main, #5 elsewhere. It's just a quickie, to suggest what you could do in the space, but hopefully it'll give you some ideas:

    Attached Files:

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