Layout 101

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by kutler, May 15, 2008.

  1. kutler

    kutler Member


    I've recently obtained a suitable sized basement to proceed with plans for a layout of about 25' X 40' in size. Interestingly it's been so long since I've operated on a layout I've forgotten some basic points.

    I'm interested in building a circa 1975 layout generic in nature in order to run equipment at different times from a diverse range like CR, MILW, and even Canadian prototypes.

    While extensive switching is the basis of the plan, a mainline capable of handling long trains, perhaps on a moderate helper grade is desirable.

    How many cars do you suppose two or three average model units could pull on a level track, through curves maintaining about 40mph?

    On a 1.7% grade?

    Is it realistic to plan a layout in this size of room for trains to handle 45-60+ cars?
    Dynamics of train weight and equipment going through several curves at once

    Should all tracks and the signal system be built and debugged prior to starting to scenic the layout?

    If the layout was built in stages what pitfalls might be encountered building a second level over a finished lower level, updating a CtC or signal system, or DCC system?
    to avoid the plywood central appearance for several years it might be practical to finish an area for photography and inspirational purposes.

    Do hand built switches and DCC go hand in hand?
    Using commercial turnouts are not only expensive they are less flexible when planning a prototypical yard.

    Can separate sections be conventionally operated and the mainline DCC?
    i.e. branch, spur, yard

    Is it difficult to upgrade a conventional portions to DCC at a later time?

    Does evolving technology cause frustration for layout builders or have all the major improvements already been made?

    Yard Planning

    My intent is to plan a yard with a large capacity to perform switching. At least 2 tracks should exist for the longest trains which might be 45 feet!
    In addition to the main tracks and a long lead a this location an impressive 5 track wide signal bridge might be accommodated here. To wards the bulk of the yard an additional 6-8 receiving/departure tracks in the 20' range are for locals and block swapping. Perhaps a 9-18 car small gravity hump will be experimented with by tinkering with bowl elevations to test the rolling qualities of models against prototype rolling stock. (this is where I remember the model least resembling prototypical qualities such as drifting). It may be required that this class yard be rebuilt as a flat switching yard and equipment shoved to rest instead of kicked or humped. Getting 20+ tracks wide in such a confined space may be difficult. Slip switches and multi yard leads may need to be employed to branch out quickly so the shortest tracks are at least 10'. A 3-6 track local yard would likely be built elsewhere on the layout as congestion in the main yard with hump, trim and yard engines, road arrivals/departures precluding locals time for blocking their trains.

    The Staging Yard

    Tying all together is the staging yard. It is where offline traffic is sorted , stored, or waits to appear on the modeled portion. A rather simple explanation for perhaps the most important part of any layout. Some staging yards have wyes or loops for turning power or passenger equipment. Mine might have multiple entrance points to store local freights simulating being out on the road before returning to the yard (this layouts focal point)

    Any advice in planning a staging yard would be greatly appreciated.

    Thoughts about selective compression.

    At one time I thought about modeling a branch line hub with 25 car trains, 4 axle power and a walk-around theme. The main yard a 6 track affair had a passing track and 5 tracks for switching a storing trains. It scaled out at 30 feet which is correct for a 2000' yard. Problem is a branch line terminal while fun to build to scale, it is not as interesting to operate. Limitations in equipment, frequency and length discourage the realistic use of 6 axle power, yard engines, passenger trains, eclectic mixes of traffic and long trains prevalent in my era of modeling. It also seems to be suited to a one man operation.

    Planning to operate a moderate sized city yard exponentially increases the satisfaction level of operating a complex and constantly bustling model layout. The potential for failing to convey the feeling of a realistic yard
    however is also exponentially increased.

    It might have to be conceded that to model in it's entirety a yard large enough to handle and switch 60 car trains is very difficult in this confined space. Some thought might be given to modeling only a portion of the yard. A realistic CR yard in Pennsylvania might be 5 miles long due to the limited space the prototype has between a river and a mountain ridge. So an argument could be made for a layout which has an arrival/departure yard but no classification yard (visible). Conversely one might only build the class yard and have yard engines tote off transfers to the A/D yard (not visible) having no real trains modeled. These concepts does not appeal to me.

    Another thought might be to model one end of a large yard, effectively compressing it's length by up to 50%. The main tracks and long arrival/departure tracks might carry through to staging. The class yard instead of being double ended might be operationally stub ended, a bridge or view blocking structure helping to disguise this limitation. Yard and hump engines typically predominate one end of a yard anyway, particularly when a roadway exists at the other end. Can the operation of this type of yard can simulate quite realistically normal aspects of a double ended yard? Trains operating in both directions can yard in the long tracks. Yard engines either remove the caboose and switch out the train from the tail end or the power removed and yard engines tack onto the head end. Trains built in the class yard are doubled up and brought back to the departure yard. Transfers are likewise built and sent to satellite yards elsewhere on the layout(or to staging). Short locals might depart directly from a class yard track, placing a caboose in this era being the only complication. Trains destined to wards the unmodeled portion of the layout can be likewise built and placed onto departure tracks only to be run into staging.

    At the present time this concept appeals to me the most. I can built the yard and staging first. Until a mainline plan is developed switching, blocking and building trains that proceed to staging in a simple loop can accomplish some mainline running. Eventually a second level, perhaps a seven mile grade with helpers can provide more viewing action, grinding upgrade at 15mph lengthening the run time. Perhaps 3-4 long trains can be accommodated on the layout, one or two in the A/D tracks, one going upgrade and one down, perhaps waiting at a control point for a yard track to come available. Into this mix place several local freights and a transfer which traverse a portion of the layout, swap cars in the staging yard, lay over and return at the end of the day. I hope it could be very interesting for several people to operate such a layout.


  2. BobGui

    BobGui New Member

    Wow.. Quite a list.

    Going to assume that you are modeling HO so the perfomance aspect of the equiptment I'll leave to the experts but i think you'll be OK running your trian length.

    DC (conventional) and DCC do not mix. You have to stick with one type of control unless the sections of track are totally isolated from each other. What type of system you will use is your personal preference but I would look into a DCC system right of the bat.

    Hand laid track and DCC work just fine.. just have to wire everything correctly.

    Staged building..... personally I think this is a good way to go. I have recently started my new layout building the staging yard that will be below the main deck. Started this way because I don't have a finished track plan but do have the yard location and a paper mill design that I can work on in the meantime. I'll have to fill in the blanks as I go.

    Didn't answer all of your questions but hope I helped a bit. Goodluck.
  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I don't think there is a well-defined average for model units - there are just too many variables. A Hobbytown of Boston model will probably pull more than the prototype; a Proto2K with sound may struggle to pull 25% as much. Weight, drive wheel material, rail material, weight of cars, and how free rolling the car trucks are - all are factors in the length of train per model locomotive, and all vary considerably from one situation to the next.

    Personally, I buy into Iain Rice's guidelines. A train of 13ft will appear to be long when viewed from normal distances because it exceeds our peripheral vision. Longer than the 13ft or so wastes space, IMHO.

    Also, trains that are in more than one town at once don't look "right". Distances between towns should be at least 1.5 times train length.

    Finally, for shelf layouts, Rice recommends longest train length be 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the shelf. In your space, I would again consider limiting train length to about 13ft to give some sense of traveling distance.

    How long can you stand to be working on the layout without having the ability to operate? That's really the answer as to the sequence of constructing a large layout. Some folks (pretty rare IMHO) can spend years constructing a large layout without having to stop construction for operations. Other of us can only go a day or two of construction between operations sessions.

    Reality is systems and standards are likely to have changed considerably in the decade or 2 required to build a large layout. But the market probably will demand a reasonable amount of backward compatibility. Just accept that portions of the layout may have to be done over with the new systems, methods, or materials 10-20 years down the road.

    Handlaid turnouts work just fine with DCC, especially if preferred wiring is used. In general, handlaid turnouts are more reliable (fewer derailments) than commercial turnouts, but are more time consuming to build/install. Commercial turnouts can be shortened, curved, and otherwise easily altered to better fit the situation and required geometry - it's just that most modelers are reluctant to make the alterations.

    DC and DCC are not compatible. Locos and cars with metal wheels bridging gaps between the 2 systems can cause damage. If operating with both systems simulataneously, you must operate as if there are 2 separate layouts. Usually, most layouts are switched to all DC or all DCC for a given operating session to avoid possible problems. Even that tends to get old, and the layout becomes all DCC in pretty short order.

    Converting a properly wired DC layout to DCC is very simple. Converting a layout where inappropriate wiring shortcuts were taken (too few feeders, inadequate wire gauge on runs, etc) can run into DCC performance issues. If thinking of converting to DCC at a later date, common rail wiring will require more conversion work.

    I don't have enough experience operating larger layouts to comment much on yard and staging design.

    just my thoughts, your choices
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Here are my thoughts (your choices, as Fred says) on the first part of your message:

    Congratulations on your space! Sounds like a lot of fun…
    In the past several years, MR has added the theoretical pulling power of engines it has reviewed. You might look to see if the engines you proposed to use have this sort of information available. Most newer engines should not have trouble moving anything from 10 to 20 cars, so 3 powered units gets you quite quickly to 60 cars or more.
    An HO scale mile is about 60 feet. 40 scale mph is therefore 2400 feet (60x40) per hour, or 40 feet per minute. At 40 scale mph, you can make it around your space in about three minutes. The train will occupy at least one full side of the layout at a time.
    Maybe half of whatever number is realistic on a flat. Don't forget that curves also reduce the effective pulling power, and curves on a grade compound this effect.
    I think this would be quite a challenge. Almost certainly because of the very point you raise above. Negotiating several curves and possibly a grade at once will reduce the length of a train you can run. There are also other factors to consider. Running trains this long requires perfect trackwork, and highly tuned rolling stock to prevent derailments and unexpected uncouplings.
    Despite the fact that we have up to 14 miles of mainline running at HOTrak modular set-ups, the “record” train is something like 50 cars. Most of the time, “operational” trains are held to less than 10 cars.
    One last point to consider is how long are your planned passing sidings?
    Yes. Well, if not all at once, at least in functional sections. E.g. the yard, or a certain section of mainline.
    Talk to doctorwayne about this. This is the exact approach he is taking with his layout. Pitfalls include: damaging anything that is below - trackwork, benchwork, structures, scenery. If you can live with this risk, then proceed! ;) I think that proper planning ahead of time will help you avoid most troubles.
    A number of places I operate at use handlaid track and switches along with Digitrax DCC with no problems at all.
    Yes, this is possible. You will need to plan things carefully, so you have isolated the sections completely. I know of at least one railroad that operates this way. A DCC controlled train will pull onto the arrival track and the engine will uncouple and run to the engine house. The yard is then flipped to DC control, and the yard switcher track will also be turned on, allowing the switcher to come out and break up the inbound consist.
    No, but with a layout this size, why not go DCC from the beginning? The cost of wiring such a layout with block control (all the extra wiring and electrical switches, etc) can go instead towards the DCC system of your choice.
    If you like being on the “bleeding edge” it may cause you some frustration, but no more than with your computer, home entertainment system, car, or whatever other technology you can think of.
    That’s ambitious! A 45 foot train in HO could be at least 80 cars, a significant increase beyond what you call for above… (45-60 cars). There will definitely be challenges in moving this size of a consist, and there will be real estate issues too – the yard will have to be wrapped around at least one corner of your space. And don’t forget that you need a drill track that is as long as the longest track in your yard…!
    The difficult thing with a hump yard is modelling the braking equipment. Getting a grade and free rolling stock is relatively easy. But preventing the car from slamming into an ever-changing consist at the bottom of the hill may not be. I am not sure if there are any commercially available plans or equipment for this.
    I really like the surround staging concept as promoted by Mike Hamer in the GMR and MRP issues a few years ago. However, I don’t know if that will work on the scale that you envisage. It is more likely that you’ll need a whole level for staging, with the requisite helix or other grade for separation. You might be able to do the surround staging, but only if the “operational” part of the layout is fairly narrow.
    If you back date a bit, the increased frequency of trains can add the “bustle” you seem to want, even in a smaller, branch line hub. Look at the work that went into Richard Wakefield’s Orangeville yard. This yard was busy with multiple trains per day, including a mix of locals, through, and passenger ops. There was historically no yard switcher (the road engines had to do their own), but you could assign one if you want.
    Check out his list of all the commodities and trains required for them. It’s quite a good resource for operations in a prototypical manner in the 1940s & 50s.

    I hope that helps. I'll try to get to the rest in a bit...!

  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    If this was an earlier era with predominantly 40' cars. 3 6-axle diesels, 60 50' cars and a caboose will be over 40'.

    It seems you're unwilling to accept much selective compression. That's rather restrictive, but at least you've recognized and clearly articulated your goals. I think trains close to 40' should be workable on a layout this size. Some advice: Run your peninsulas down the long axis of the room. If you're going to run really long trains, allow them to straighten out. I'm not talking about operational reliability here, but simply so you can get a chance to see a whole train more or less at once.
  6. kutler

    kutler Member


    Interestingly, It was Orangeville I was preparing to model. In the 1975 era it was unfortunately not a bustling place. The passenger trains were gone. The branch jobs were abolished and their work performed by road freights making a side trip effectively reducing crew starts. The whole area became so predictable that the Train Dispatcher could rig up orders for the whole division in less than 5 minutes, literally! Trains 90 and 91 regularly met at Markdale, and the Moonlight ran into Orangeville (or HO) before 0500 leaving at 1900. Power assignments were pretty stale, but still better than the 8100 era of the late 60's.

    Next I considered St Johnsbury Vermont seriously enough to walk the yard and sketch out it's significant lengths. Alas nary a six axle unit can be found here either.

    Having had a lot of time to think about the matter, while compiling vastly differing rolling stock, I'm taking a hard look at a generic layout. Double track to avoid dispatching ills and highlighted by the operations of, by model standards, a large yard. If I were to build in stages I'd build first the yard, the staging, the mainline, then a spur or a short branch.

    I shall have to sacrifice a long walkaround mainline. I hope a short helper grade will make my mainline run interesting and not too brief. (perhaps I will have to alter my projected train length).:eek:

    I developed these preferences while belonging to a club 20 years ago.
    My regular position was yardmaster, a greatly satisfying position. I rarely got to see operations on other parts of the layout because of the continuous bustle of my position.

    I'd like instead of a train dispatcher to have a yardmaster oversee operations of the layout. It's not that far fetched an idea really. The yardmaster doesn't handle any throttle, supervising yard and local crews which only work 8 or 12 hour shifts.

    A hypothetic example:

    Night hump engine is assigned to hump 3 tracks during their shift. Most of this traffic is for local day assignments. Night switcher builds two road freights and 3 locals from class tracks humped during the previous two shifts. The road freights are doubled together and placed onto departure tracks, the locals have cabooses attached, all but one depart from the class yard due to length.

    The day switcher is instructed to switch a local industry as the locals depart from the yard in secession. Then two trains arrive, one caboose is instructed to be placed on the end of the through freight built last night as the road crew will turn out on it. The other will be in the yard for a while until another crews rest has expired.

    Mainlines are envisaged to be mostly two track signal indication or branchline which sees one through train daily. Other movements may be governed by Yard Limits often the domain of the Yardmaster anyway. (not to be confused with the operating rule itself.)

    One of the locals goes all the way on the branch. It was instructed to leave first. The second local went towards the branch too, but only has significant switching at an elevator inside yard limits as their day's assignment. The third local went off on the main, switching several small customers modeled on the layout , the majority of traffic sent to staging (an offline foreign road interchange).

    The day hump engine has been instructed which tracks to switch which will be built into road freights by the afternoon switcher. The yardmaster instructs the third local into a staging track and to take their power to the shop.

    A road freight has come off the shop (staging, not visible) and wishes to tie onto the train with the caboose placed by the day switcher. The yardmaster instructs the road power to use the Eastbound Main which is clear to get towards their train. After a brake test this train will be OK to leave, providing the hump engine hasn't a long cut of cars out on the main.

    A set of light units comes off the hill and waits in the pocket near the station for the roadfreight to get underway. The roadfreight's pull by was successful it stops clear of the pocket, and the helpers are tied on the rear. Train and helpers head for the hill. Helpers come off at the summit and roadfreight is instructed into staging track 2, pigs to set off into track 7.

    Meanwhile the day switcher picks out a caboose for the second road freight which has been called to run in an hour and a half.

    The action never stops

  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Interesting! How do you know Orangeville?

  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    My apologies for not understanding your priorities for your layout correctly. Ignore most of my previous post, which was built around more conventional concepts and vision.

    Based on what you have said, I might suggest the layout be oriented around the yard, staging, and the branch (I think you already said that...). Train length needs to be sufficient for perceived realism.

    But the driving force for your layout configuration is going to be the mechanics of a working hump yard. Because working hump yards are not common in the model world, operating parameters are going to have to be devloped as you build. As has been mentioned, the primary issue of a model hump yard is finding a way to simulate the function of retarders.

    The retarding mechanism used and how it works and how well it works is going to determine how long the hump yard tracks can be, and how many there can be. This in turn will impact train length and the rest of the layout.

    I would suggest that because the final working parameters of the hump yard will have such influence on your layout design that the hump yard should be the first phase of construction.

    Again, my apologies for not understanding your vision better. You are worlds apart my experience, so what I have said comes from my background as a design and project engineer, not from personal experience.

    back to lurking
  9. kutler

    kutler Member

    It seems there are at least two types of hump yards. The conventional being that which gets lots of advertising from the rail companies themselves; Retarders, pulldown towers, long hump leads etc. The lesser known type of hump is the "rider" hump. Once common in the era before electronics, pneumatics, and power switches, the rider hump generally has a low crest and was very manpower intensive. Riders rode each car or cut down , through switches sometime handled by switchtenders, walking back to the "hill" for another trip. It took lots of riders to hump a complete train.

    I know of a converted "rider" hump. There are power switches, but I believe no retarders (or very quiet ones). There are of course no longer riders, so the cars are essentially treated like kicked cars.

    The problem with model trains is that they don't drift as well as prototype cars. Whole generations of modelers don't switch properly. They do what is called "shoving to rest", which in the prototype world is reserved for Special Dangerous commodities and fragile loads. Prototype roads kick or hump cars.

    In the prototype world most cars are designed to couple into standing equipment a 4 Mph.

    I'll certainly agree that the issue with a working hump albeit a small hump, should be addressed early in the building of the layout. Hump height , creation of a bowl to prevent cars from getting away and yes some type of retardation must be tackled. Having been out of layout building for some time, I was hoping that the collective thinking of hobbyist's might have worked this out, and I'd simply have to use this data when building.
    Alas it isn't so. If by trial and error it doesn't work , I'll simply convert the class yard to a flat switched yard, which incidentally was the fate of most "rider" hump yards.

    Regarding train lengths, power and grades. I was hoping a factor had been developed to explain model railroad adhesion sufficiently to build without trial and error, but I'm afraid that will have to be tinkered with too.
    I'd like for my train to truly be on it's knees going up the grade, mainly because it won't look like much of a grade anyway.

    Thanks for you input. I don't want to become guilty of building myself into a corner.:rolleyes:

  10. kutler

    kutler Member

    Born in TO, I once obtained extensive information on cars handled through the terminal in 1961. My job once involved knowing the railroad around HO, I mean Orangeville. I once rode the wayfreight up the grade to Fraxa, very exciting.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One thing to keep in mind when dealing with a "hump" yard or even "kicking" cars is that different brands of trucks have different rolling characteristics. I have some Kato Cement hoppers that will roll away on the slightest grade that won't effect anything else in my roster. I also have some Intermountain Santa Fe reefers that roll so bad, they are almost impossible to push! You may need to experiment with different brands of trucks to see which ones roll best, and retrofit all of your cars for those trucks.
  12. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Please don't take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you built a layout? By yourself? To "completion"?

    You're proposing a very ambitious project here, and your questions suggest (in spite of your mentions of being in a large club 20 years ago) you don't have much experience with layout planning and construction, or newer MRR products.

    Might I suggest that you build a small layout first (something in the 4x8 - 10x12 range)? The benefits to you will be threefold. First, you will exercise and develop some perhaps long-dormant or rusty (or nonexistent) building skills, honing them before you start on the dream layout. Second, you will be able to experiment with different products for different applications (a lot has changed in the MRR scene in the last 20 years) and be able to best choose what you want in your dream layout - consistency will make building/maintaining a big layout much simpler. And thirdly, you will be able to see how DCC operates, and get a feel for what you do and don't want in the system you are going to use on your dream layout.

    If it appears I'm implying you're going to go DCC, you're right. Unless you plan on only operating one locomotive at a time (and your mention of helper districts suggests this isn't the case), you'd be mad (IMHO) to not go DCC. For a $200-$400 investment up front, you will be gaining the advantage of a system that will greatly simplify your life when it comes to maintaining a large layout. Yes, you may have to upgrade your existing locos, but the cost of basic DCC decoders is only around $20, less in some cases, and for most diesels, the job isn't much more difficult than pulling the loco apart for a complete cleaning.

    I'll also strongly suggest you get XtrkCad, a computer CAD program (free). While it has a steep learning curve, once you are comfortable with it, you will be able to design your dream layout, tinker with track arrangements, and (best of all) run trains on the layout to see how well your layout works operationally.
  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Oh, as previously mentioned, mixing DC/DCC=bad JuJu in my books. Too many opportunities for chaos. Go all or nothing. If you're worried about the cost of converting your entire fleet, don't. By the time you have enough layout built to use more than a dozen locos at a time, you could convert one every couple of weeks (takes less than an hour at the bench with older locos, once you've got the knack).

    The simplicity that DCC gives your physical plant, plus the opportunities for advanced operation (block detection, signalling, automation) without major under-layout infrastructure more than outweigh the higher start-up cost over conventional DC.
  14. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Physics doesn't scale exactly, and that's the world we live in. Model rolling friction is considerably higher than prototype, and far more variable. But material strength is far greater. You could couple into most model cars at a scale 20MPH without damage. Coupling at a scale 4MPH is a piece of cake, but very, very few modelers are willing to run their locomotives that slow. And most cars will not roll consistently at that speed. 5 scale MPH in HO is 1 inch per second. At 5 scale MPH it takes a 40ft box car 6 seconds to pass a given point (same as on the prototype). And N scale speed is visually much slower, although it takes the same 40ft box car the same 6 seconds to pass a point at 5 N scale MPH. How many model flat yards actually get switched at 5 scale MPH?

    It's the same factors in the model as in the prototype. It's just that more factors are held constant in the prototype. Rolling and static coefficients of friction are pretty consistent from car to car (especially with today's roller bearings), with total friction varying with weight. As stated by others, model trucks vary widely in their coefficients of friction - you will need to pick a combination that works for you and retrofit.

    Model locomotive traction equations really are the same. But the prototype only contends with steel wheels on steel rail, with sand available to help. Adhesion varies widely with rail and wheel material, with nickel silver on nickel silver being among the worst, and (surprise!) steel on steel being the best. But modelers don't want to contend with the rust issues of steel, so nickel silver is the most common substitute.

    Weight of the locomotive is a key factor in both models and prototype. Here the shift from die cast shells to plastic shells, and installation of speakers again hurts the model case. Compare the weight of a Hobbytown of Boston diesel with a metal Cary body to today's P2K plastic version. Is there any wonder the pulling power of the P2k is 1/3 that of the Hobbytown model?

    Finally, vibrations/cogging in the gearing and the drive reduce model traction, as do rigid frames and trucks.

    General rule of thumb is that a model locomotive's traction is around 15-20% of its weight instead of the prototype's 25%.

    Helper grades are certainly achievable in the model case. But it takes attention to planning (the prototype does its planning, too - long before the train crew gets to the grade). You have to determine a consistent combination of train lengths, car weights, trucks, grades, and locomotive weights that will work - just like the prototype. The difference in the model case is that the layout owner has to do this planning instead of a railroad's engineering/operations staff.

    Joe Fugate's Siskiyou Line (see Joe Fugate's Siskiyou Line: content / home page) is a great example of planning for helper and other operations. And Joe willingly shares much of what he has learned - and his pay-for videos are equally outstanding.

    Your dream is achievable. But it will take some effort on your part to make it happen. Lots of reading and planning and experimentation. I look forward to reading about your progress.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the solution to this "problem" is to use David Barrow's "domino construction method." Experiment with your hump yard to see what works, and build it first. When it is done, functioning reliably, and scenery is finished or close to finished, build the next section. If you build and perfect each part of the layout as you go, you will be building a big layout one small section at a time. Using this method eliminates the need to build a small, throw away, layout before starting your dream layout. I would also recommend that you experiment with methods of keeping your track clean. When the final dream layout is completed, you don't want to need to be constantly cleaning track to keep it running. Dcc is great, but it is very fussy about dirty track.
  16. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    Regardless of your layout parameters, I agree with Russ about building your large layout using Barrows' "dominoes". When I acquired my current 31' x 29' layout space, the sight of that huge empty room was exciting ... and somewhat intimidating. Breaking the whole project down into 2' x 4' segments and literally playing around with 1:12 or 1:6 scale domino pieces on a grid to the scale size of your train space will let you explore the options before you commit to bench work, track, scenery, etc. which is a lot more expensive to tear out than the cost of some graph paper and card stock 'modules'. :twisted:
  17. kutler

    kutler Member

    While I'm certain there must be benefits to building a small layout to gain experience with new technology, I can't find it working for me. My issues are of long trains, proto switching, and selective compression. In 8 X 10 layouts long trains cannot be operated, switching is limited, and selective compression is at a comical ratio.

    I did consider designing a yard lead of about 8 tracks 15' x 2', strictly switching while I was waiting for the right basement to come along, but that now has become pointless.

    If I build a hump classification scenario, it will certainly not be scenicked, nor will the upper portions of the benchwork be anything but temporary in nature until I've got it working to my satisfaction. At that time integrating it into a larger portion of a yard or modifying it to a flat switching class yard would be a better use of the time and materials.

    Like someone mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that this approach will be overwhelming if it's completed in stages. While I certainly agree that DCC might be the way to go, it may be some years before I need to run more than 1 engine, nor might scenery grace the project until the very last phase. Perhaps a thought to hard to bear for some, I've not had anything spiked down for over 10 years and I find it quite reasonable. What I find unthinkable is to build and rebuild many layouts until I find something that works for me.

  18. kutler

    kutler Member

    This comment has me more concerned than anything else. Does the technology yet exist or is it on the verge to eliminate this basic problem?

    Can a capacitor or battery be integrated into a locomotive to overcome momentary losses of power?

  19. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Well, it's your funeral :p

    Seriously though, either way you are going to wind up building and rebuilding. The choice is going to be between several small, learning-steps layouts or dominoes, or the same large layout.

    Perhaps your interests are in running long trains, but if you can't learn to lay decent, bulletproof trackwork, your interests are going to shift to re-railling and picking cars up off the floor ;)

    It's much easier (IMHO) to hone one's skills on smaller projects, where not much time and money and effort are invested, than in building something large, with many flaws, that will have you spending your time chasing problems rather than enjoying the layout.
  20. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    In reading more of your posts, I seem to sense you expect newer technology to bail you out of age-old model railroad problems. For the most part, it hasn't happened. While model diesel locomotive drive design seems to have locked in on a "standard" way of doing things, and DCC has revolutionized control and wiring for the masses, not much else has changed significantly.

    Dirty track and wheels are dirty track and wheels. They have maximum impacts at switching speeds on DC and continuity in DCC. Some solutions address the symptons; some address the problem directly. All wheel pickup in a locomotive helps. Flywheels (the bigger the diameter, the better) help a locomotive coast past a spot of dirt. Running heavy trains with metal wheels frequently polishes and cleans the rail. Controlling the humidity, temperature, and especially dust in the train room also makes a big difference, including in comfort levels for human occupants.

    To date, the longest lasting track cleaning procedure (called "gleaming") appears to be burnishing the rails with a smooth metal washer, then applying a metal polish and buffing.

    There is one DCC decoder (Lenz Gold) available with a large capacitor to keep things running for an inch or two. Some other decoders can have similar capacitors fitted. Most newer sound and regular decoders have a capacitor to prevent decoder reset during a momentary power interruption. But these smaller capacitors and decoders don't have the energy storage to power the motor, too. Batteries have issues (besides space) because DCC combines the control signal with the power for the motor and lights, which is separated inside the decoder.

    Since our model cars have no brakes, you are forced to set up a retrader-based humpyard. Or develop remotely controllable brakes for each car! In the past, humpyard builders have used controlled air jetted from nozzles in the track to retard the rolling cars. The difference in end-on cross section between box cars and flat cars has made this system difficult to operate with consistent results - and this assumes all cars have been modified to roll consistently.

    I might suggest that magnetic retarders might be a feasible alternative today. Hanging small rare earth magnets on the underside of a car, and using electro-magnets in the track to control/retard/accelerate a rolling car might be a more practical solution than air jets. This is just conjecture on my part in thinking about the issue; I've never done any work to develop such a solution, nor do I know anybody who has.

    In any case, you have a fair amount of development work ahead of you, no matter what technology you select. But that's how dreams are achieved, one step at a time.

    yours in dreaming

Share This Page