Operational switching layouts

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by KCS, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. KCS

    KCS Member

    Hey guy's, A while back before I moved when I was last here I was getting into track planing. A couple of you posted a couple websites with some really nice designs for 2x8' shelf layouts and now I can't seem to find them. They were in this section of the forum. Anyone know where they might be?
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

  3. shortliner

    shortliner Member

  4. here's a small N-scale layout in 6 inches x 48 inches. Would scale up to 1x8-ish in HO.


    the blue mainline has a rerailer behind the fuel and oil as a fiddle yard area. Its best for a small 4-wheel switcher (RS1, SW-series, Plymouth Diesel) and 34 foot tankers and 40 foot boxcars.
  5. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    I've never understood the point of a layout of that type. I think I'd be bored with it within 10 minutes.
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    It really depends on what part of the hobby you like. If you are into operations and switching, it can be challenging to switch a puzzle. But it can also be frustrating or boring. However, there is the planning, researching, building benchwork, modelling structures & scenery, acquiring and detailing locos and rolling stock, wiring operational signals & turnouts, etc, etc, to keep you interested. It all depends on what aspect(s) of the hobby you like most. If you want trains running through scenery, then I agree this is not for you... ;)

    The local NMRA club has a 2x6 TimeSaver-based module that gets plenty of attention at the area shows, and is very entertaining to run.

  7. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    I think switching layouts are fun. But I want it built into a layout with a 30' loop :)

    Having small enough cars and locos is probably the most challenging aspect. Are there many good two axel HO locos?
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    My favorite is a derivative of the Gum Stump & Snowshoe. Original plan is:


    My version (to be built in HOn3 when we move next summer) will be 2 x 8 ft. The extra width and length is used for the following modifications

    - create space for slopes and scenery between levels instead of retaining walls
    - make the front track at the lower terminal (right end) a pier serving a dog hole schooner
    - end the back 2 tracks at the lower terminal in a 9" turntable. The turntable gives me a run-around at the lower terminal if I want it, but I don't have to use it as one.
    - will probably add a track coming off the left side of the turntable going into a single stall enginehouse.
    - set the length of the tracks in the lower terminal to be an Inglenook puzzle
    - at the upper terminal, the front track will likely be a logging landing, with the "main" line proceeding on a diagonal to the back corner of the layout for future expansion and/or tie to cassette staging. The second spur will be present at the upper terminal; I'm thinking of the Woodland Scenics tie and plank mill here.

    A couple of cautionary notes about the layout.
    - If there is no run-around (like the original plan), making up and getting a train to the upper terminal requires 2 locomotives.
    - Train and locomotive length are severely constrained by the length of the switchback tails. The original used 15-16" tails, meaning a very tiny engine and 2 cars in HO. My version will have 20" tails, which depending on size of engine may allow 3 car trains in HOn3.
    - Grades are extremely steep, peaking at close to 8% if you provide effective vertical transitions. They will also limit train length, and the engines chosen must not only be very small but good pullers as well.
    - If the 2nd spur is added to the upper town, make sure the tail to service that spur is at least the length of an engine and one car.
    - Access to the back upgrade track behind the bridge is problemmatic. One has to reach over and down to get at anything there. I will have to ensure that space is at least wide enough for my fat 0-5-0 to get in. It will also limit how high on the wall I can mount the layout. I have learned from seeing this plan in real life that having back tracks at a lower level than front tracks will almost always create access problems, even on narrow shelves.

    Andrew, well put answer. I can enjoy rail fanning, too. And I'm a little worried about not having a continuous run. But I plan to get by with a small portable table loop (perhaps 44"x36") to use as a test and break-in track, and for my continuous run fix when I'm feeling too deprived. Table top loop will be stored vertically near work bench when not in use.

    Most published 4x6 or 4x8 layouts focus too much on continous running for my taste. About 15 minutes of watching a train circle the layout, no matter how well scenicked, is plenty for me. After that, I need some switching action, or its back to model building for me.

    my thoughts, your choices
  9. JAyers

    JAyers Member

    Wonder how you named those industries? :thumb:

  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It all depends on what "floats your boat." When we set up our modules for a train show we may be as small as 12'x 20' or as large as 20'x40', depending on our space allotment and the number of members able to bring modules. No matter how big the layout, after I have run a train around it a couple of times, I'm bored. One member has a pair of 5 footers that go together to make a 10 foot modified version of the Gump Stump & Snowshoe. His version has a diagonal run around pair of tracks in the center of the layout. He has industries with room for about 12 cars. I can bring a train into his module, and proceed to breack it up and set out cars at all of the industries. Some sidings are facing point and some are trailing oint, so the run around is needed to get the locomotive in the right relationship to the cars to be spotted. A 12 car train brought onto that module can take an hour to break up and spot all of the cars in the industry that needs them. It can take another hour to pick up all of the cars from the various industries and assemble them into a train to go back on the main line.

    Sometime when Ted and I are both at the show at the same time, we'll work together. One of us will run a mainline train, drop the caboose on the mainline and back the train into the module and drop off 8 or 10 cars to be spotted at industries, and perhaps pick up 8 or 10 other cars that have been assembled into a train. A few laps later, we'll repeat the process.

    Sometimes the club will organize an operating session with cars prespotted at industries, and each participant will take their engine and pick up 8 or 10 assigned cars and a caboose from the staging yard. We then head out on the mainline and stop at various modules droopping cars and picking up cars at various industries until we return to the staging yard with the same loco & caboose, but a different set of cars behind.

    I find operation a lot more fun than just watching trains run around in circles no matter how big the circle is.
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Nice-running two-axle switchers are kind of rare. The Roundhouse Mack switcher has a good reputation as a smooth-running tiny switcher, far better than, say, an Athearn Hustler with rubber-band transmission. My own 25 tonner is kind of finicky and isn't really heavy enough to be reliable. The Bachmann Spectrum 44-ton switcher is about the smallest two-truck HO scale loco to be had, and it is quite reliable--get the newer 1 motor "DCC ready" version rather than the older two-motor version. The same goes for the Bachmann GE 70 tonner. The Proto 2000 S1 is also suitable for such chores. In each case, the length of the locomotive is less than a 40' boxcar, providing room for switching in tight corners.

    My preferred mode is to use two six-foot modules, a yard module and an industrial module, butted against each other. I assemble a train in the yard and bring it out to the industrial area, switch cars, and return. I use a wheel report form but car cards or a switch list or even just grabbing a few assorted cars at random seems to work, and it feels like actual work is being done. I'm not big on loops--eventually I'll have one all the way around the room but I'm in no hurry to get there.

    If you're a scenery/watching-the-trains-run kind of person then this isn't your kind of layout. The other kind of mini layout, sometimes called a "pizza," is typically a circular plan that goes 'round and 'round, sometimes more than once. The small traction layout plan I posted recently is an example of this kind of plan. Typically the tight curves require very small equipment that can handle such bending: HOn30 four-wheel locos, single-truck streetcars, etcetera.
  12. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    In HO steam, Bowser still makes an improved Varney Docksider (0-4-0T) in both RTR and kit, and with or without superdetail and full valve gear.

    Either Lifelike or Bachmann made a P2K/Spectrum 0-6-0T, which although 3 axles was supposed to be quite a nice runner. Both Roundhouse and Mantua made both 0-6-0 tank and with tender switchers in kit form. These can still be found, both built and unbuilt. Mantua also made 0-4-0 and 0-4-0T versions as well.

    The tiniest HO steamer (about 2" long) commercially made had to be the Porter 0-4-0T that was imported in both RTR and kit form by Ken Kidder in the '60s and early '70s. They do have a speed problem, but are easily modified and rebuilt to suit your whims. They are also available on eBay occasionally.

    Enjoy steam 'cause diesels stink :)
  13. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    Very true.

    For me, it's all about watching trains run. The more trackage I can squeeze into a tiny space, the better, scenery be damned. As such, small layouts are not my thing, which is one reason I'm unlikely to build any layout until I can liberate a proper 8 by 14 feet expanse upon which I can unravel a fiendish web of interlocking levels, unrealistic constructions and more sidings and yards that you can shake a polecat at.
  14. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    Ha ha ha, that hits pretty close to home over here. Though I'd be a bit more interested in watching them run through some unfinished foam hillsides. It doesn't have to all be track for me.
  15. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    If you don't like switching, what do you do with all those sidings and yards? My dad is my polar opposite when it comes to layout design: his 5x10 layout is a three times around super Figure-8 layout. He has a couple of passing tracks and alternate routes but currently there are no sidings or yards, although he thinks he may add some later once he gets the main trackwork in place. He likes to watch 'em run all over the place, ideally through craggy mountain scenery although currently his scenery is all plywood and L-girder. I'm supposed to help on that project, I've been his scenery painting and detail guy since I was ten.

    I'm all about squeezing trackage into a tiny space: the two modules I mentioned above are a four-track yard with RIP and caboose tracks and a switching area with a passing track, a three-track loco storage/freight house yard and three two-car sidings (well, one fits three cars if I block the street, but that violates the rulebook and can only be done during short switching moves.) But I have a couple of modules planned that will just be straight track (single or double) running through scenery--in one case the "scenery" will be a residential street, in the other case a trestle running through a floodplain.

    Personally I don't like starting on a new module until the previous module is at least marginally scenicked, although "scenery" for me typically means city streets, buildings, sidewalks and scruffy alleys. My Achilles' heel is backdrops...
  16. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    Well, strictly speaking, I don't really need the sidings and things per se, but what I do consider essential is a degree of complexity far beyond what you normally find in home layouts.

    I suppose it comes from the fact I have approximately zero interest in prototype operations and as such, am unable to amuse myself with simple switching.
  17. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    What is the purpose of this complexity if it is not used? If you're just watching trains run around, doesn't that make complex trackwork just a particularly finicky sort of scenery? The majority of any railroad is a single or double track with no switches--ideal train-watching spots. If you love to watch trains roll, why bother with the stuff that you don't need? I have done the opposite on my layout--I have done away entirely with the mainline!

    You mention "simple switching": are you differentiating this from more complex schemes like timetable/train-order dispatching and complex multi-person operation schemes, which perhaps might hold more of your interest?
  18. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    Well, I suppose a part of it is just for show. I can't have a station in a layout without there being at least some semblance of sidings, industry spurs, etc. I might not need to use it, but I need it to be there, because if they're not, what I have is nothing more than a glorified oval, which is the height of tedium.

    The word "simple" is actually a typo. It should be "simply", which makes possibly some more sense. What it boils down to is that I'm the sort who could not derive any enjoyment from most European-style home layouts.
  19. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Have you built a layout yet?
  20. Agamemnon

    Agamemnon Member

    No, I've been without one for the better part of five years now. And until I can get a lot more free space, I'll be stuck without one, I think. Our old one was about 5.5 feet by 10 feet, a zig-zag-zug trackplan that meandered over and under like a straight line in an Escher painting. The best parts had 4 tracks intersecting on different levels. Tight corners, four or five different continuous loops all blurring together.

    I was insanely fond of it as a wee lad, it was the first and last time me and my Dad ever had a common hobby. It's also the reason why I don't think I could ever be satisfied with the classic "single oval plus some fiddly bitz" layout that's favored by newbies and those pressed for space.

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