Locomotive Length and Curve Radii

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Christopher62, Jan 18, 2007.

  1. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    Jet, et al...

    When you're right you're right! (Not that I doubted any of you...) I spent a lot of time online yesterday looking at prototype locomotives - all the modern stuff is much too long to be realistically replicated on an 8x4 or even 5x9 HO scale layout. Still, I'm just not sure I want the shelf-type design. No particular reason, just personal preference; I'd like to see my trains actually go around in a continuous circuit instead of just back-and-forth. Now my dilemna is do I want to build a larger layout or switch to N scale? I've been "starting" my layout for a year now and I haven't done anything except research! Aaarrghhh!
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I understand your frustration, I was there myself...! If you are really anxious to try some things - start experimenting. Track can be taken up, and dioramas can be incorporated into complete layouts (look at what TomPM has been up to).

    If you want continuous run right now (it has great therapeutic value ;)), then by all means put a loop of track down. If you tack it in place, it can be reused. The 4x8 plywood table can be sliced into shelf sections later.

    If your diorama doesn't turn out, it can be trashed. But if it is fantastic, then it can become part of a future scene.

    Did we ever get a look at your space? Or initial ideas for a track plan?

  3. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member


    Thanks for the encouraging words. No, I don't have any photos yet... nothing to photograph really. My space is ample - more than I will ever need or use. No ideas for a track plan as of yet since I keep waffling back-and-forth on the table size, and more recently I'm considering going with N scale so I can get the sweeping curves and run the modern locomotives and rolling stock I want. Decisions, decisions!
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Why don't you try the "Givens & Druthers" form (link in my signature), and post a drawing of the space available (with all relevant dimensions). A good discussion can help move things along...!

  5. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    I'll check it out. Thanks!
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you decide to throw out some givens & druthers with a scale drawing of your space, I would suggest starting a fresh thread, so we go with a blank sheet of paper so to speak.
  7. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    I greatly appreciate everybody's input. After much thought and careful deliberation I have decided to take Andrew's advice and put up a small HO scale layout with a basic loop, maybe a few switches and sidings; just to get some trains running and experience that "therapeutic benefit". As I am planning on moving next year I don't want to start something I can't finish, or that if I finish can't be easily moved and added on to. I just want to see if I can do it and how it turns out. Get my feet wet so to speak. Thanks again for all the suggestions!
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Take a look at Iain Rice's book "Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans". The problem with the Atlas plans is they tend to be fairly clunky, and in the end - boring. Those plans came off the Ark with Noah - ideas about layout design have changed a lot since then.

    Just because you have a huge basement doesn't mean you have to fill it... if you can take a corner, a 10x12 dogbone layout that you can walk into will have a nice mainline run, room for scenery, and you don't have to fill it with track. You'll also be able to run larger locomotives than you could on a 4x8.
  9. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    Have you considered European prototypes? Average car length is noticeably shorter and manufacturers routinely employ design compromises to make their stock roll through short curves. I suspect expense over on your side of the water would be prohibitive, though.
  10. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    European does not interest me. The one thing I do know for sure is that I want my track and locomotives to be based on North American prototypes. I may switch to "N" scale and see how I like that.
  11. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Given your space constraints, I was going to suggest that. There's a lot of great stuff in N these days and now that almost everyone's using finer flanges and knuckle couplers, they look really good. If you use the Atlas code 55 track, it'll look great too.
  12. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    I know Squid, I know. Believe me when I tell you I've been driving myself crazy trying to decide HO or N. Literally, I've been waffling back-and-forth for a year now. With N I like the idea of running more realistic modern locomotives and curves and train lengths, and with HO I prefer the scenery and buildings and figures. We have the Great Train Expo coming to town here in March. I will likely attend that and make up my mind once and for all.
  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Well, scenery can be well-done regardless of scale. While you don't have the huge selection of structures that you do in HO, there are a lot of good kits available for N, as well as detail parts and figures.

    It's not hard to do a good-looking N-scale layout, but it puzzles me why so few people take the little extra effort required.
  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    One bit of recent model railroader doggerel is "HO is the new N." As mentioned upthread, in the 1950s (when those Atlas HO scale layouts were designed) cars were generally 40 feet long and diesel locomotives were shorter. There were big articulated locomotives, but the locos more often found on 4x8 layouts were little 0-4-0 switchers and the like. 40 foot boxcars and the older diesels were, on average, about 6" long, about half as big as O scale equipment, which was about a foot long.

    Today, for those modeling modern equipment, the cars and the locomotives are closer to 80 feet long--which, in 1/87 scale, means that the cars and locomotives are about a foot long. In N scale, a 40-foot boxcar is 3 inches long, but an 80-foot autorack or large locomotive (steam or diesel!) is about 6 inches long. They are, therefore, about the same size as HO equipment of 50 years ago!

    A side effect of this: those Atlas 4x8 plans, while cramped by modern HO scale standards, are wonderfully broad-curved and spacious for modern N scale equipment. So while you may still be debating scale, the "N is the new HO" argument may help you make a decision.
  15. Christopher62

    Christopher62 Member

    Thanks for the input Jet. Good stuff!

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