Please help with my layout design

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by popeye, Apr 24, 2007.

  1. popeye

    popeye New Member

    Hi. I have been reading this forum for over a year, and I have finally built my benchwork in my available space. It is an "L" shaped layout, with a 4x8 plywood table at one end, which forms a penninsula that is reachable from both sides. Each section of the "L" is 8 ft long and 2ft wide.

    I am modeling HO scale. It will be late steam/early diesel era, set in eastern Ohio. The primary RR will be Pennsylvania. It is not a proto-type. I just want something that is fun to run. I want it to be both DC and DCC. I would like some continuous running along with some switching.

    I want a coal mine somewhere on the layout, along with a tunnel and a bridge. Other than that, I really have no idea. The layout is a plywood base, with 2 inch foam on top of that. I will be the primary controler, but eventually my 1 yr old son will as well. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Can you draw up a sketch of what the benchwork looks like? Even something in MS Paint (save as a jpg) will do.

    Is there any reason you wnat both DC and DCC? Not that it is hard to do, but usually people choose one over the other. Be aware that it is difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to try to operate with both at once...!

  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Be aware that to run both dc and dcc at the same time, you will need to have the tracks totally isolated from each other so that a dc locomotive cannot access a dcc track section and the dcc locomotive can't access the dc section. If a dc locomotive gets on a section of dcc track it will find 14 volts dc on the track at all times and immediately go to max speed in whichever direction the polarity is set and be completely uncontrollable. If a dcc locomotive goes on a dc track, it may destroy the decoder.

    We also need more details about what you want to model and run. The larger your radius, the longer equipment you can run, but you will have more restrictions on what you can fit in a given space. Tighter radius curves will give you more layout for a given space, but will restrict the size of the equipment you can run.
  4. popeye

    popeye New Member

    I have tried to post a drawing of my benchwork, but the file is too large, and will not post. I am not very computer savy, so I do not know how to resize the image. I can email it to anybody who is interested. Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

    As to what I want to run, I just want to run mainly coal trains and some freight trains as well. I do have a few passenger cars as well. Like I said before, I am not all that concerned about true prototypical railroads. However, I do not want some kiddie looking layout either. I guess I would like it to look as realistic as possible, but still be easy to run.

    By the way, I have enclosed the open end of my benchwork, so it now looks similar to a big "O" shape. It is now a duckunder, and I have no problem with that. Again, if anybody would be willing to look at it and give me some help with the layout design, please post your email address, and I wil email you the drawing of the benchwork. Thanks!
  5. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    popeye....You can email it to me
    Check your personal messages
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If your passenger equipment is shorty type cars like Athearn, and you either run a K-4 Pacific or f-units (4 axles) to pull the passenger trains, youshould not have a problem with 18-22 inch radius. If you want to run full size (85 foot) passenger cars and longer steam or diesel engines, you will need a larger radius. With the freight trains if you are running steam no bigger than a Mikado(2-8-2) or for diesels f-units or gp 7 & 9's you can run the tighter radius. For 6 axle power like Fairbanks Trainmasters or Sd9's, 22 will work, but 18 might be a bit tight. I think your biggest concern radius wise for transition era is really big steam like T-1's or Q-1's ( I think those are the designations I'm thinking of, I'm not a Pennsy modeller) then you will need 30 inch radius or even bigger if the models are built like the prototype (no articulation).
  7. popeye

    popeye New Member

    Benchwork Drawing

    Here is a drawing of my benchwork. I have added the possible addition section. A big thanks goes to Nazgul for resizing the picture for me!

    Attached Files:

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It could be tempting to add that additional section to get more realestate for your railroad, but then you would have a fairly wide duckunder. I would suggest a relatively narrow draw or swing bridge to cross that opening either one or two tracks wide. That would give you a continuous run without needing a turnback loop allowing for a larger minimum radius, but much easier access to the operator's pit.
  9. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    From the look of that diagram, it appears that you're going to have a loop (for continuous running) on the larger table section, with a branch line running out to the left? It looks like you have made sure that no point is farther than about 30" from the edge of the table--smart move.

    Let me give it some thought--there are some neat tricks to do coal mining railroads that will allow you to pull full coal loads out of the mine and put them inside of the powerplant at the other end of the line, then pull empties out of the powerplant and carry them back to the mine (basically, by having a tunnel between the two.) The branch line could be a line to a nearby city with lots of switching, or a division-point yard. Hm.
  10. popeye

    popeye New Member

    Jetrock, I like those ideas you have. I would like to see what type of a track plan that you could come up with. (Whenever you get the time):-D Again, thanks for any and all ideas. Like I said before, I am new to this, and I have never built my own layout before. I definitely want to have my track plan ready BEFORE I start laying any track. Thanks!
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Something like this. Scale isn't exact (I did it in mspaint) but it should work out using 18-22" radius curves and #4 switches.

    The 4x8 loop on the right features a scenic divider down the middle. Double-tracking the northward loop gives you in & out tracks for traffic going through the mine/powerplant. The portion on the right side of the divider is the mine, in a more mountainous area. Coal trains start from the mine, passing through the industrial trackage and around the curve--this would be a good place for a mountainous cut, although a tunnel would be possible (but hard to justify unless it's a big view-blocking hill.) The train comes out of the cut into a more industrial area with more switching trackage, and ends up at the powerplant, where the coal can be dropped off. Trains, including some of the coal and the cars picked up at the industrial sites, can continue to the left through more territory--personally my tastes lean towards lots of peddler switching, but you could certainly get rid of some of the switching areas if you prefer more mainline running. Things end up at the division point yard/interchange area on the left--here trains can be broken up, with outbound traffic left on an interchange track. The optional connector can be a very long bridge on a swing-out (to avoid duck-under-itis of the headbone.) Note that this return across the bridge makes a reverse loop, and it will have to be wired as such, but it provides an easy way to get your locomotives back to the starting point at the coal mine to begin the whole process--and your coal train (with full coal cars) will be sitting in the coal mine waiting to be extracted again!

    Attached Files:

  12. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Hmmm...on second thought, the two switching areas on the 4x8 section (to the right) should be reversed, so there is a runaround to let you spot the coal hoppers into the powerplant spurs.
  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    You've really pretty much hobbled yourself by building your benchwork before having a track plan.

    It looks to me like you have an 11' x 12' area with a notch out of the upper right corner. You could have had a water-wings style layout that would permit larger-radius curves, and areas for switching and scenery.

    The benchwork you have now really limits you to the sort of plan that Jetrock has drawn you. How attached are you to your benchwork? ;)
  14. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    When you say you want to run DC and DCC, do you mean you want to run both together, or you want to run DC OR DCC, but not at the same time?

    If you want the former, there are only a couple of DCC systems that will let you run analog (DC) locos on address 10... OTOH, if you only want to run either/or, you can wire the whole layout to a DPDT switch so you can flip from one power source to the other.
  15. popeye

    popeye New Member

    Unfortunately, I am stuck with the benchwork that I currently have. This is the only space that I CURRENTLY have, although I should be able to expand sometime in the future off of the 4 x 8 table, near the notched area.

    Concerning the DC/DCC issue, I still am not sure about all of this. Ideally, I would like to run just DCC, but the vast majority of my engines are DC. I have never attempted to install a decoder, and I am unsure about how to do that in the first place. So I guess my answer to this question is that I just dont know what I want. It will depend on how difficult it is to install decoders, and of course the cost of them as well.:confused:
  16. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    OK, my first point was not overall space, but use of the space you have. I don't think the benchwork you built will let you take best advantage of that space, but hey, what's built is built.

    Second, if you're going to go DCC, you pretty much have to decide to take the plunge and do it. Figure about $15-20 per loco to add a decoder. It's not hard to do, especially with the new locos that have decoder plugs built in.

    If the majority of your fleet (overall size?) is not DCC, and you don't have the sheckels to convert a good portion of them, you're better off wiring the layout for DC operation. It's pretty easy to switch over when you're ready to do it.

    I'd give up on the idea of flipping back and forth... it's too much hassle. Some DCC systems will let you run 1 analog (DC) loco alongside the DCC locos, but that's more for someone in the reverse situation you are in.
  17. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    DC, and DCC wiring can be virtually the same, and wiring a layout for cab control, can be very easily converted for DCC. Just do not operate both DC, and DCC at the same time. Your DCC system simply replaces a "cab", and the select switches for cab control, can be used to isolate sections of the layout to aid troubleshooting problems when DCC is installed, and your DC throttles have been removed. Loconet wiring is completely separate rom track power, so this can be installed a bit at a time, while the layout is still in the DC phase.
    Your locos can be wired for decoders, and a dummy plug installed until DCC operation is affordable. Then, You can use one decoder, swapped around your locos, to operate any one at a time. It doesn't have to be an "all at once" thing.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Regarding your older locomotives that are currently wired for dc, I would suggest starting another thread either in the dcc section or in the tech forum describing what locomotives you have and who made them to find out how to install decoders. Decoders are not difficult to install, but there are various designs of locomotives from different manufacturers that willl require different methods of installing the decoder.
  19. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    I know this is not the main topic of this thread, but since the subject was brought up, this is one of my problems with DCC -- it's an all-or-nothing proposition. And the "all" ain't cheap, especially if you have 80 locomotives. I've been thinking about building a 2' x 8' switching-style layout, wiring it for DCC from the get-go, and converting locomotives one by one that I can run on the 2x8 until they're all done, then tackle the "big layout" conversion project. If anyone has any other ideas about this transition process, please chime in! (Maybe this discussion would need to be a different thread, probably in a different forum, but like I said, it got brought up here...):???:
  20. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    As long as you have the room for the 2' X 8', it sounds like an excellent idea!
    You can work out all the bugs there, before you attempt the bigger project.
    DCC discussion, as long as it is directly related to the planning of a layout, is acceptable here. Once you start the conversions of your locos, you should open that thread in the DCC forum. It's not just ettiquette, you will get more responses, more quickly, in that forum.

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