Opinions and your input please :)

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by beamish, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer

    I just finnished moving into a new house and am planning to rebuild my layout. This will be a work in progress that will grow over the years. Currently space is limited in some aspects to things i cant control so i will work around them. Please give me your input on my design.

    Beamish Railroad
    Scale: HO

    Prototype: Canadian & Alaskan
    Era: 1960-1990
    Region: Saskatchewan, Canada with a few additions (ie mountains)
    Railroad: Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, Alaska Railroad
    Basement – mainline around the walls of basement
    Layout space 4' X 8' lower deck (36”) & 2' X 10' upper deck (60”)
    Relative Emphasis:

    Track/Operation Scenic realism
    Mainline Running Switching

    Typical operating Crew: One Owner

    Other Notes:

    This layout will consist of 2 decks an upper and a lower. The lower will contain a major industry with multiple spurs and a 18” Radius helix that winds up a mountain. The Upper deck will contain the main-line, mainline sidings, and a smaller industry which contains switching tracks for use as on track storage. Do to various space constraints this is all the space i have available at this time. In the future there is room to add various modules to different sections of the mainline. Minimum radius is: Mainline is 22” radius, lower industry is 15” radius, Upper deck and helix are 18”.

    Please see the attached layout diagrams. One shows the overall basement and the other shows the two decks. The upper deck will be positioned above the lower deck in the positions marked by the mainline.


    Thanks for the help.

  2. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Personally, I don't think you gain enough on your lower level to justify the helix. I'd just stick with the shelf, and have a couple of good scenes where you've got the space.

    I've never built a helix that tight, so I don't know how well it would work... typically you want a fairly broad curve to make it easier for the train to ascend the grade. In your case, you're looking at almost a 4% grade (if you use a 4" separation between the decks of the helix) and 6 turns - that's a lot to build, and I don't see you're gaining that much by the lower level. If you can do a run all around the basement (as you've shown it), I'd try to widen the shelf either side of where you've got it, and stick to one level.
  3. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Squidbait is right, for now just keep to the top level, you can still build it high enough so that later you can install a second level.
  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    For the era you have chosen, 15" and 18" radius is way too tight unless you really plan on restricting what you run. The 15" radius curves won't take anything more than 40-50ft cars and small 4 axle diesels (switchers and the like). No modern auto racks or intermodal carriers for you! Even 65ft pulpwood cars are going to have a lot of overhang.

    2nd negative - I agree with the others, lose the helix and the lower level. For the amount of time a train is going to be hidden in the helix, the limited operation that the lower level offers ain't worth it. Also, reaching the upper level while leaning against/over the lower level will not be fun. Build a single level high enough to put another switching area or favorite scene over top the desk.

    my thoughts, your choices
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I don't think a helix will work on an 18 inch radius. By the time you gain the needed elevation to allow 3 - 3 1/2 inch clearance between the rail top and the bottom of the benchwork on the next turn up, you have created a tight radius STEEP grade. You would probably need helpers to get 6 cars up it. When dealing with helixes, the minimum radius that equipment will handle is not an issue, it is how steep the grade needs to be to get the necessary clearance between levels.
  6. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer


    Thanks for the input guys. I initially wanted to go with the helix and make it visible as if the train was snaking up the mountain. I have done some thinking and now agree with you guys. Loosing the helix and lower level. I will widen the upper shelf to a 30" x 11 foot shelf. I have a track plan that i found online and modified that i think will work great in that space. It has two industries with room for a small town on the mainline siding.

    pgandw - the idea of putting small scenes throughout the basement like over the desk was what i had been planning from the start. those will be the future upgrades. Have to negotiate the space for some but i think the main shelf will keep me occupied for a while. then we can see where it goes.

    Thanks again,
  7. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer


    Ok her's what i am thinking. town in the middle, manufacturing industry on left, elevator/grain industry on right, I through in some example buildings to get a feel for it.
    also i have a small dummy track on the left side that separates the industry from the oil tanks. i will probably use this as a test track.


    Thanks again
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    I'm still unclear on what the controlling rolling stock (engines and cars) will be, and your intended train lengths. The passing siding on the section you show allows for trains of about 11-12 40ft cars, fewer longer cars. Is this what you intended?

    I'm always skeptical when somebody want to model Class 1 modern railroads in HO using 18" radius and short sidings. I begin to wonder how much they understand what they are trying to achieve, and how difficult and frustrating the layout may become if the understanding is not present in advance.

    Also, the run-around tracks are at the back of the shelf behind several structures. What type of uncoupling system will you be using? Do you need to reach those back tracks with skewers to uncouple? Are the structures too tall to reach over easily? Can you see what you are doing on the back of the shelf? I recommend mocking this up with some pices of track and cardboard boxes before you settle on a shelf height and final track and structure plan.

    The switchback spur and its servicing tail track at the bottom right is very lopsided in lengths. The switchback spur is only one car length long.

    What is the purpose of the short (one, possibly 2 car length) run-around track at the bottom left? Each of the 3 spurs is greater capacity than the run-around.

    I know all this is very negative, and I haven't given any positive comments. But don't take it hard. Work some more on describing what you are trying to accomplish, and how you plan on achieving the dream. Then we can see what problems and obstacles you are likely to encounter, and help you overcome them.

    yours in planning
  9. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm going to add to the good advice that Fred has given you. If this is going to be an industrial area that will eventually connect with the mainline going around the basement on a shelf, it will work, but would work better with some changes.

    Fiirst I would forget the tight radius test track going nowhere. You don't need a track to separate oil tanks from another industry. A berm around the tanks is enough, and generally required to contain all of the capacity of the tanks in case of a rupture.

    Second, presuming that the track at the top is the mainline, I would remove the runaround track off the main because using it will always foul the mainline. Put your run around on the diagonal going across the center to get your switching operations off of the main.

    Third, do you have room to extend the mainline on either end of this switching district right now? You have room for a train 5 feet long maximum on the switching layout, but you don't have room to get it in or out of the industrial section without more mainline.

    Finally, plan to use small sw or gp type engines to switch these industries. The trackage is just too tight and short to use modern 6 axle power to switch with.
  11. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer


    The preverbial run around track at the top on the mainline i was plannning to use as a passing siding for a small train. i believe it should hold a train about 5.5 feet long. my plan is to motly have trains that are only 5-6 feet long. with the occasitional longer one on the mainline.

    The track at the top is the mainline. The plan is to have it extend out both sides of the layout a few feet before rounding the cornors and circleing the room.

    To help clarify things i want to have the mainline for constant running for visitors as i get a lot of visitors to my home that just want to see the train run and two trains on the mainline could entertain them for a while. The layout portion is more for me to add the creativity and the industries that i want.

    Thanks for the help and everyones comments. I appreciate the feedback.

  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If the siding at the top is a passing siding, I would make it full length on the module, and still put my industrial run around track on the diagonal through the middle of the layout. You may not think you need that much passing siding, but I remember Tony Koester talking about the design of his Allegheny Midland. He figured he would run 15 car trains and planned passing sidings accordingly. After he built the layout, he found that 20-25 car trains looked a lot better and he had room to run the loinger trains, but he didn't have passing sidings to handle the 20-25 car trains.
  13. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Excellent advice, Russ. And poigniantly funny link, Squidbait. Fortunately there are many level heads around the gauge that can steer a newbie (or returnee) to the hobby in the right direction.
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I remember that. It was an interestingly complicated situation. He designed assuming old steam locomotive models that didn't have much pulling power. When he decided to go with diesels, that meant multiple-unit consists were normal, thus 15-car trains looked too short. Reminds me of some of my own issues with layout planning: not everything can be selectively compressed to the same degree, and this can create problems.

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