Smaller HO Scale Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Clark A., Nov 20, 2005.

  1. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Anyone have any plans for a smaller,about 7'X5' or similar layout. It could have a pass under and hole in the center, built for passenger trains incorporating a few small towns.
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    there are many books of plans for 4x8 layouts - maybe you could adapt on of those. If your 5x7 is situated such that you can walk around all sides - 5' is not so wide that you need an access hole in the center. 2.5' is a long reach, but if you keep the tracks out of the center, you won't be reaching that far that often. I woulld keep the plan simple - an oval with a town on each long end separated by some sort of scenic divider - a backdrop or mountain. If you are running passenger trains - keep the curves as broad as possible - I'd go with 22 or 24 inch mainline minimum in for that size layout.

  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Do you have a preference for era? That small of a layout with passenger train operations is going to be so crowded as to be almost comical under normal circumstances. I would reccommend modeling late 1800's with 4-4-0 Americans for locomotive power and a set of Roundhouse Overton shorty passenger cars. The Overton cars are about 30 feet long in scale which is less than 1/2 the length of a standard passenger car. I would suggest walk around control. Then build your layout with a backdrop divider down the center that could divide the layout into two scenes of two towns. I think a 4-4-0 with three Overton cars will be about 2 feet long, maybe 18 inches. The other way you could do it would be to put the divider diagonally from one corner to the other. Hide the each end of the divider with a mountain and a tunnel. Each town would be in a small valley. I see room for an oval with a passing siding on each side. You could have a small town with a little combination freight/passenger station. You could use a second 4-4-0 or an IHC 2-6-0 with a some Roundhouse Old Time freight cars for a freight train. You would probably have room to put an industrial siding to a small industry in each town. The siding would end near the backdrop on each side. The old freight cars would be 36 footers as well, which is the advantage of using 1870 to turn of the century steam on a small layout. The Overton cars are a bit short for passenger service anywhere, but the prototype was used by the Sierra Railroad in the Sierra Nevada foothills of the California gold rush country. Depending on what year you decide to model vehicles could consist of horses and wagons, or early antique trucks.
  4. shortliner

    shortliner Member

  5. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Well I was thinking more current times, but with older trains working the passenger lines.
  6. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    A few? In that space, don't try for more than one town, or two if there's a scenic divider. Which sides of the 5x7 are accessible? Curves will be somewhat tight for passenger cars, but length may be more the issue. Full-length passenger cars are almost 12" long each. You won't be able to run significant-length trains.
    What sorts of locomotives will haul freight and passengers respectively?
  7. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Ok, it seems like I could getr more out of an industrial setup so any usggestions there? Im kinda in the dark as to waht is needed in a layout, differeent components with the industry etc.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you want to do industrial switching, make your layout one huge city crowded with tall old brick buildings, mixed in with some modern concrete tilt up warehouses. You can hide the fact that it is a circle or oval by using "urban tunnels" (tall buildings that hide the trains.) Then run your sidings in alleys between buildings and even into some buildings. Athearn, Atlas, Kato, Lifelike Proto2000 (Abrv.P2K)and I think BLI all make quality modern small switch engines, or switchers that are still in use even though they may have been originally built right after WW2 in the late 40's. You could also run any of the modern 4 axle road switchers from gp9's to gp60's, but they would take up a bit more space on a switch lead. If you run auto racks, 89 foot boxcars, or 89 foot flats, you will have the same problem as you would with passenger cars. You can find 40' high cube and 50' modern boxcars. I would say the longest cars to run would be mill gondolas which run near 60'. The mill gons might operate on 15" radius. You would have to layout a 15" radius and see how they work. You can make the "mainline" 18 " radius if you are running this small equipment. If you are going to run this layout by yourself, you don't need to bother with passing sidings other than to use one that is train length on each side of the layout for run around tracks. If you want to have a staging yard to change out cars on the tracks, I would suggest runing a spur to the edge of the layout on one corner. You could then build a small yard on a utility cart that could be rolled up to the layout edge to change out cars leaving town, and arrivals. You could even eliminate switches on the cart all together, if you have swivel casters that would allow you to move it sideways so that it could be used like a transfer table. If the legs of the cart were telescoping, it could be stored under the layout. Using an 18" minimum radius your basic oval could fit on a 3' x 7' table. If you use a 4' x 7' or 8', you pick up a bit of extra real estate for industries. One thing to keep in mind with a track plan is that the industries should be bigger than the sidings. You can "cheat" a bit with an "invisible" divider down the center. You make the opposite sides of the industries down the center, different industries. Put sidings inside the buildings side by side so that only one siding can be seen from each side, but you can work each industry from it's own siding. Maximum train length will be determined by what looks good and what fits on the passing sidings to use for a run around track. I think probably something around 5-6 cars will be a maximum that you could handle on this layout at one time. This is where the "staging cart" mentioned earlier would come in, because you would need to pull cars off the cart and switch them into industries. Pick up cars previously spotted in industries and take them back to the staging cart, and then continue until all of the industries were switched out. Start with an oval with a passing siding on each side , and industrial leads going off both ways from each siding. With a four " wide layout, you can also fit an industry on each end going crosswise, and use them to hide the fact that industries down the middle are two sided.
  9. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    You're thinking Clark's trying to design some bare-minimum-size layout. That's not true; 5x7 is in fact more area than 4x8. On a 4x8, I've certainly seen people run more than 5 or 6 freight cars in a train. As I said, the 7' length is a huge limitation, but maybe it can be worked around. Maybe it will even be possible to get in passenger service - think a steam-era local; a 4-6-2 and 3 or 4 cars, running on 24" curves. Then some tighter-radius industrial trackage farther in, for the local freights to work.
    What's the access situation? Is this an island or doughnut?
  10. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    Everyone's giving you good suggestions, but if you diagramed the room size and layout area they could help you better, and maybe offer some ideas for the shape of your layout. I am building a module approximately your size which is downtown Baltimore in the 50's with emphasis on B&O industrial switching, 15" radius track running down the middle of the streets, wharehouses all over the place. around the edge will be Ma&Pa 0-6-0's, interburbans, and GP's pulling short passenger/mixed trains on 18" radius.

    You could do something similar, maybe even have a small river running cattycorner through the layout to break it up.
  11. shortliner

    shortliner Member

  12. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    John Armstrong once wrote an article in Model Railroader (in the '50s) which pointed out that most model railroaders generally operated their layout in one of 3 ways, depending on their personality and preferences. Particularly in a relatively confined space such as yours, you'd probably be better off aiming for one type of layout instead of a hodge-podge which doesn't satisfy any operational style well.

    The first type is the spectator. He likes to see his train run through a beautiful (to his eye) scene of some kind. The spectator is not particularly interested in doing a lot of switching or dispatching multiple trains around each other, although on occasion that's fine, too. His particular interest is watching and photographing his models in a realistic setting.

    Second type John Armstrong talked about was the engineer. This guy sees himself as a one man show running a train from start to finish. He makes up his train at the yard, simulates the selection and servicing of an engine, takes the train out, switches industries along the way, then breaks up the train, and puts the engine to bed. The engineer enjoys switching, doesn't mind a lack of a continuous run capability as much, and generally is a little more accepting of crowding to get operational features than the spectator.

    The third type discussed was the dispatcher. The dispatcher prefers to be the director and coordinator of multiple trains, each having a part of the action. Often, he will have other operators join him to be the individual engineers of their trains while he assumes the dispatcher role. Very much the operations-oriented model railroaders of today.

    Obviously, very few of us are hard-core matches to any one personality type. But each of us usually tends to favor one style over the others, even if slightly. Knowing which one suits you best is important for your choice of track plan and long-term enjoyment.

    In the space you have, a dispatcher-type layout is the most difficult to achieve. To achieve mult-train operation in your space will require careful planning and a fair amount of crowding. But I've seen it done in 4x6, so take heart. At least 2 passing sidings, multiple routing, and some industries to switch are the order of the day.

    The spectator layout is usually easier to plan. Look for uncrowded plans - or blow one up from a smaller space - that feature a particular scene you want most to see. Whether it's one train crossing over another on a bridge, a train crossing a spindly trestle, a busy harbor scene, a locomotive emerging from a tunnel - whatever scene strikes your fancy should be the highlight of your layout. The rest of the layout should be staging to repeat the desired scene. Dummy tracks, continous runs, separate ovals on different levels, double track, staging tracks are all acceptable means to achieve the spectator's goal of recreating that vision or memory. If you can fit 2 of your desired scenes in, so much the better, but the spectator will be happier with one memorable scene done well than 2 crowded scenes that aren't quite what he had in mind.

    The engineer layout has to have a little "yard" and some industries to switch, which pretty much limits what can be done in a small space. Because continuous run is not essential, you can, as an alternative to the oval, view your space as 2 separate 30in by 5+ ft shelves joined by a semi-circle for planning purposes.

    Your reaction to various published track plans will help identify your leanings. I tend to the spectator/engineer combination, with very little dispatcher interest at all. Others are very different than me, and that's great.

    Hope this helps.
  13. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    How large do all think I should have to have a layout that could have a few towns?
  14. hminky

    hminky Member

    You can have two distinct towns on a 4x8



    If you have an 10x11 room you can have 4 towns in a room that will support a 4x8

    Just a thought
  15. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Yes, please say this so we can help. A rectangular table is often the worst use of space.
  16. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    Well I cant say I have a definite room size, it will be in the basement once its cleared out some, and it will just be in whatever size I make, which will not be huge.
  17. brakie

    brakie Active Member

  18. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    What I meant was, a layout running around the walls is usually more space-efficient than a tabletop layout with aisles around it.
  19. Clark A.

    Clark A. Member

    I now know that putting a layout around the edge of a wall is a good idea, but about how long should that be to have about 2 cities? Reall I'd like both passenger operations in each and an industry in each. I like either: Brewing, Sugar Refinery, Power Plant, or Dairy.

    Any links to layouts of medium size around a wall would be appreciated.

  20. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Model Railroader has done a few articles in the past on "Model Railroad Sized Passenger Trains." There were a number of trains run with one loco and less than 6 passenger cars. Something like that would probably fit a small layout better than a full length "Super Chief" or similar train. If you run Athearn shorty passenger cars, it will work better in a small space.I think you could model a small passenger station and a few industries in a space 6-8 feet long. If you use a 4' x 4' turn back curves at each end and then put an additional 2-4 feet dedicated to a town, it would just be a matter of putting enough space between to make a believable run. If you can get 10 to 20 feet between the two towns, great. If you are running around walls on with the towns on two opposite walls and the run on the third wall between them, that will make it believable.

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