Shelf Switcher Shortline Help! (HO)

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by wayerst, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. wayerst

    wayerst New Member

    I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to get my little N gauge shelf switcher into some kind of working order, but I'm fighting a losing battle. I realise with the space I've got I'm never going to get a nice long run, even in N gauge, so why try? N gauge was too fiddly with the knuckle couplers and HO is more robust and has a bit more 'heft'.

    What I've got:

    Just 3 Lengths of Peco Code 83 US-style flextrack, but all the tools I'll need.

    I'm 21, living in London and probably moving in the near (but not immediate) future (more than likely into a house without a 'spare' room) I've got a couple workday evenings, and two or three weekends each month to 'play trains'.

    What I want:
    My main aim in all of this is to do industry switching and that has to be the focus, either with a 'shunting game' like the Inglenook Sidings, or Timesaver, or interestion prototypical operation, a short run from one end to the other to see it all come together is also on the cards too.

    I think I'm pretty set on a sleepy backwater town served with a few industries on their own spurs with a single-track mainline. The wide boards are to allow more empty scenic area for a more realistic look than a shelf full of parallel tracks!

    Givens and Druthers

    Scale: 1:87
    Gauge: HO
    Prototype: None
    Era: 1965-75
    Region: Arid ?
    Railroad: ATSF + some kind of shortline

    Max Space:
    10' x 2' along a wall - could possibly be extended into an L with 'sticking out' part of the L as 5' x 4' for a helix or return loop.

    Governing Rolling Stock: Suitable freight cars

    Relative Emphasis:
    50% Operation / 50% Realism
    10% Mainline / 90% Switching

    Operational Priorities:
    1. Local Freight Operations
    2. Engine Terminal Movements

    Typical operation Crew: 1 (just me!)
    Eye level of Owner: 5' 2" maybe?. I'm 5' 5" tall

    Minimum Radius: 18" hidden, no real curves otherwise
    Train Length: 3-6 cars
    Maximum Grade: 8% (short trains!)
    Primary Trackage: Peco Code 83 Flex and Streamline Points
    Couplers: Kadee knuckles
    Power: Initially DC, progressing to DCC upon completion
    Duckunders / Liftouts: -
    Distance between decks: 9" track-to-track

    Favorite Aspects of Modeling:
    (1) Operating trains,
    (2) Building benchwork and laying track
    (3) Scenery creation
    (4) Building locos and cars.

    I have 10(ish) hours per week for model railroading.
    I have $200 per month for model railroading.
  2. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    Nice to see someone using JA's Givens and Druthers!

    There was a layout in Model Railroader in the March 1995 issue called the Arcadia Terminal, I beleive. It sounds much like your description of the turnback-loop style.

    The issue:

    This layout was built for an apartment, so he also had some unique ways of supporting it without damaging the walls and etc....

    The biggest problem I've found with small switchers is deciding how they interact with the outside world. With an itch for at least some mainlien run ever present, it's hard to do just "one" town.

    You can either run the layout into a hidden staging or fiddle track, run it into a visible fiddle/staging track, or dispense with staging all together. I chose the latter route, and replaced the fiddle/staging with tracks representing a junction. Between sessions, I swap the cars on these tracks out by hand. With only 15' of run, it seemed silly to do any other option, as higing 7' of staging tracks would be throwing away half of my layout!

    As a matter of compression, I could not fit the wye in that I wanted, so I just modeled one throat of the wye with two legs showing, peelinf off wider as they run to the edge of the layout.

    A few other handy ideas:
    * Fewer longer tracks are more cost efficient than more shorter tracks. It saves on switches. Switching time can still take just as long as you may not have a full "draw" on the main to access the spur, so you may need to make multiple moves to do the work.
    * Car spots add to complication without requiring addditional switches. By locating and numebring car spots, you may require other cars already spotted to be temporarily moved in order to access the correct spot for the cars you have to switch.
  3. cnw1961

    cnw1961 Member

    Attached Files:

  4. liven_letdie

    liven_letdie Member

    I started on a version of the Timesaver Plus which was featured in the Model Railroad Planning 2003 version. It is kind of a timesaver/inglenooks but with scenery and a different operating idea. I believe as planned it was 2x8 in HO scale but you could easily put a staging yard off to one side where the trains would come from and go to. I am part of the small layout design group on yahoo and that would be an excellent place to post your question as well. Good luck!!!

  5. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    Forgot to post my plan:


    15ft x 1ft, HO.
  6. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Wil. for small switching layouts and its sister groups links on the homepage and
    go down to "layouts smaller than 4 x 2" and look at the one that is two from the end of that section - it is a great switching layout, with an i/c track and works VERY well in 6 x 1 in HO, and can be expanded very easily. I know 'cos I built it!
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  7. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    There was an excellent article in Model Railroader April 1983, called Shift Time (Don't be a slave to the 24-hour clock, by R.Thomas Cole, Explaining exactly how you can run a "shift day" on even an 8x4 roundy-roundy layout, with other things happening whilst you are at home in bed. This really does let you operate a switching layout without needing a huge area.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  8. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    About the track plan above: It doesn't look like there is much room to the left of that runaround track. If there is space at all, it won't fit much more than a 44-tonner or two-axle critter. Ideally, even if you deliberately decide that you want to limit room there to only having room for the locomotive, make sure it is enough room for a long locomotive. On this layout you have no sharp curves, so if you wanted to use long motive power you certainly could--as long as that Big Boy has enough room to get around on the passing track. Scooting the passing track closer to the grade crossing would free up a little more room for a locomotive--and if it was a short loco, maybe a locomotive and one car. You have both facing and trailing point spurs so you'll want to make sure the passing track is functional, unless you will be working it with two locomotives.

    The grade crossing adds potential too. One of my layout's rules is that cars can't be spotted on a grade crossing.
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you should want to run a Southern California prototype on you layout, 2 short lines come to mind here. Los Angeles Junction Railway is a subsidiarry (spelling?) of the BNSF, and was a Subsidiarry of the S.F. in the era you want to model. Their power units at that time were exSanta Fe Cf-7s painted in blue & yellow war bonnett with block letters "LAJ" on the sides of the long hood. Athearn recently released their Cf-7 model in LAJ. The other short line here is the Pacific Harbor Line. It was the Harbor Belt Line back in the 60's & 70's. It services some of the docks and industries in the Los Angeles & Long Beach Harbors. If you go to there are a number of good shots of the line up of Pacific Harbor Line motive power plus BNSF & I think the U.P. both runthrough PHL's territory. I don't think you have enough space to have a long enough staging yard to do a realistic looking BNSF or U.P. freight run through. I think on your proposed layout, if you put a crossove track between the 2 sidings at the lower right corner with enough room on the tail for your longest locomotive, you would be able to run around your train at both ends to work both trailing point and facing point switches. I'm going to do an "L" shaped switrching layout in a spare bedroom based on LAJ, and bought Ikea Ivar unfinished pine modular shelving units to use for a base for my layout. It gives the advantage of book shelves under the layout, or a place to store trains when not in use, or ?
  10. wayerst

    wayerst New Member

    Ok - I've decided (after some advice above!) to set it in SoCal - it'll allow me to run Santa Fe, Los Angeles Junction, and occasional BN and BNSF locos if I so desire.

    I've decided to keep it simple so it works without the Great Hand in the Sky, doesn't cost a HUGE amount to make and will hopefully keep me entertained!

    Here's the layout plan:

    As you can see, it's a simple inglenook arrangement with two of the spurs joined to form a reversing loop. There is a 2'6 long sector plate on the right off-scene which provides the headshunt for the inglenook and also feeds the lower-right storage track (for a loco or stock I'm not currently using). The top-left spur will run infront of a low relief warehouse, btw. I was thinking of a shut-up passenger station building in the middle-front and having most of the ends of the layout hard-surfaced for road traffic going front-back/north-south.

    I'm thinking that the general theme will be semi-urban - lots of dust and baked tarmac.
    It'll be a bit run down, with an older black Santa Fe switcher (SW9 or something) heavily weathered and a nice new warbonnet liveried mainline diesel.

    I can't really think about what to put in the front-left to hide the transition to the staging area though - any ideas? It could just be a substation or warehouse, but wondering if anyone's got any more inspiring visual blocks :)
  11. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    Jet, are you referring to my plan?
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Vernon has a bunch of large warehouses, cold storage plants, meat packers, & grain elevators. Any of those choices would make a great view block to hide staging. There are also chemical plants, and various other industries there, but I can't think of any others that would be big enough to creat a view block.
  13. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    kitsune: yes, specifically the switch on the very far left.

    wayerst: I understand that British nomenclature calls that track arrangement a "loop" but a "reversing loop" (or "balloon track" to real railroaders) is a circular arrangement that allows a train to turn around--what you have there is either a loop (british) or passing track (american.) Otherwise it's a lovely simple switching plan.
  14. kitsune

    kitsune Member

    Jet, the drawing is not 100% to scale accurate as far as the track drawing goes, thanks to it being cobbled togetehr in a cheap graphics program. According to my measuring tape, that tail track measures 13.25 inches from the ends of the points on the switch to the wall.

    This layout is built and has been operated a few times, though not often as it's still in a construction phase. However, prior to beginning scenery, I gave it a "fatal flaw" op session, to see how it really worked, vs. how it worked in my mind. The tail track gave me no problems; I only use a single unit for power and have no need to pull a car with it during runaround.
  15. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    13.25 inches sounds like plenty of room, then. In looking at it again, I didn't realize the layout was 15 feet long...lots of nice open space. My own layout is about that big, but is a lot more busy.
  16. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Will, if you haven't already started building - take a look at
    It is set in Wisconsin, but could just as easily be moved to the West Coast
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  17. wayerst

    wayerst New Member

    Nope, I haven't started just yet. Overtime at work has meant I've still only got what I started off with - an 8' x 8.5" baseboard and 3 1-yard lengths of tracks!!!

    I've had a long think about theme, and I'm thinking of looking back to what got me interested in American prototypes. Flicking through one of the railway magazines a in the early 90's and seeing a grimy dockside layout in N gauge. Using probe/stud to motorise points with lights all over the place and lots of grot it was worlds away from the quaint branch-line terminus archetypical of so many UK layouts.

    I'm thinking that a more urban scene would make it easier to disguise transitions onto the 'fiddle' area and a more realistic boxing in of space. So how about setting it in the New York dockyards in the 70's. Freshly painted Conrail GP30's rubbing shoulders with Penn Central RS-1s switching box cars and reefers amidst the urban decay of the docks.
  18. wayerst

    wayerst New Member

    How would I wire up switch motors? I'd like to TRY using them since I've only got 3 switches!

    I'd want to have one toggle that flips both ends of the loop on the 'main' line - can I just hook up both motors to a non-locking SPDT and to my controller's AC output? or will I need a CDU or some other fangled piece of equipment?

    I want to run this layout with DCC a.s.a.p. so if it was compatible with that it'd be good!
  19. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    What sort of switch machines are you using? If you are using twin coil switch machines ike stock Atlas, a cd unit would provide protection against accidently holding the switch down too long or having a switch stick and burn out the coil on the switch machine.

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