Smallest Possible Oval Layout?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by RobertInOntario, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, this week my sons and I finally got started on a very small HO project (it's a British layout so it's OO, but OO is very similar to HO). I've had this project on the back burner for a few months. The size of this layout is only 3x4' -- it makes my 4x6' layout look huge!

    Here are some pix of it. I've included one overview shot so you can see the track plan, plus a few other shots. I hope to fully scenic this layout by adding ground scatter, a road and two industries for the sidings. I plan to keep the large country station and add a small station -- a halt or whistle stop.

    To my surprise, I can get almost all of my locos to run on this layout. The curves are 15"R so it's very tight. My largest British locos are Pacifics but even being able to run those is quite amazing.

    This tiny layout is actually well suited for many of my British locos -- quite a few of them are 0-6-0s and 0-4-0s, and the freight cars are two-axel four-wheelers (common in Britain in the 1930s-1960s). And just for fun, we also have been running Thomas and Percy around a few times.

    This is simply a side project for now, but I'm considering taking it to other locations to show other folks or (well into the future) possibly joining it onto my other larger layout.

    While working on this layout, I even think I discovered a way to tweak both Atlas and Peco turnouts, making them better for my older rolling stock (which has larger flanged wheels). So learning this is another bonus gained from this project.

    Open to thoughts and feedback!




  2. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Nice looking little layout.
    Are you sure you can't run a Big Boy or an SD80MAC on that?
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks! I think the Big Boy would be a challenge though ! :eek: :cry:

    I was running one of my Bachmann 4-6-0s last night and it seemed to be binding a little. Bachmann usually doesn't recommend anything smaller than 18"R curves so I hope I won't damage anything. I have two Bachmann locos (one is the 4-6-0 and the other is a 2-6-0) that I'm hoping I can get away with using on this layout.

  4. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    BTW, I was originally planning to make this a layout depicting a section of the Don Valley in Toronto -- which I still might. However, the radically small size seemed to make it more suitable for my small British locos, so I'm trying this option for now. Rob
  5. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Earlier this Summer, my step daughter was out at a local flea market and came across a Bachmann "Flying Scott" set, Mint condition in its box for $30. It came home with her, because though she figured there was something wrong with it, she figured the cars that came with it would at least be a good deal for my Hornby LNER 4472 model in my display case. I always did love the Flying Scottsman. I was pleasantly surprised though with the 4-6-0 that came with the set. Runs like a champ! The only problem with the shole set was the engine had a missing tire on the lead wheel. Bummer... I did manage to locate a replacement in my parts bin, a plastic dummy wheel from an Athearn diesel. Worked perfectly. Doesn't look like much, but with some silver paint, it looks *ok*. Never thought I would enjoy British trains as much as I do these though. Much fun! Your layout looks like a lot of fun to build and operate. I wish you Great luck with it!
  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Tom. Sounds like your step daughter came across a good deal. Usually, you can get parts and spares from a few locations in the UK that specialize in these.

    I've had to track down a few hard-to-find items that I couldn't get in LHS's, even ones that had a good stock of Hornby. One of my Hornby locos -- a tender-driven 4-4-0 2P -- uses traction tires and I needed some replacements for those. I found these online at "Abigail Spares" which stocks several rare Hornby items. Thanks again for your feedback.

    BTW, I also have an older Hornby Flying Scotsman which runs fine on this small layout!

  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    If you think about it, 10" is generally the smallest practical radius in HO. It requires switch engines only, small cars (40ft or less), and in all likelihood, truck mounted couplers exclusively.

    With a 10" radius, a 2x4ft oval layout is possible, and I have read of examples in Model Railroader. Motive power in the example was a Porter 0-4-0T, a railbus, and a steam dummy (0-4-0).

    Expand to a 15" radius, and a 3x5 oval layout becomes reasonable. Again, examples have been published in model magazines. A lot more small locomotives are useable (smaller 4 axle diesel, 2-6-0, 4-4-0 will all work, and some larger as well). Snap Switches can also be used, as can Snap Track.

    I don't know British prototype models well enough to comment on what is practical, so I'll stop here.

    Just my thoughts, your choices
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wow -- that sounds like an interesting layout with 10"R curves!! Can you actually by 10"R curves in set track or do you have to rely on using flextrack?

    It makes sense that other magazines would have published similar small layout plans. I basically based mine on a plan in a Hornby model railway book (a beginners' book). I also recently saw a very similar layout published in a copy of "Hornby Magazine" last fall. Both of these published layouts inspired me to pursue this project (and, because we have limited space in our house, I need layouts that don't take up much space and can easily be stowed away).

    I'm constantly tweaking and tinkering with my layout so I might experiment with using some curves that are tighter than 15". One thing I've noticed, is that it's tricky to get my coaches and freight cars to couple up, when placed on the tight curves, and often difficult to place the cars onto the track.

    As you say, you can run fairly large locos on these tight curves -- 4-6-0s and 2-6-0s as well as most of my Pacifics all seem to work fine.

    I'll keep my eyes open for plans of similar layouts. I'd be interested to see such plans in MR, etc.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I built a Trolley layout on a 2'x4' board. I think this had 8"R curves - might have been 9 or 10. I used a lot of MDC old-time cars and trolleys, but I managed to get some interurbans around it -- Walther's and Suydam's North shore cars.
    The older TriAng and Hornby Dublo came with 13" radius curves -- the same as Lionel O27. I have some Wrenn Pullmans with body mounted Kadees and these won't even take an 18" radius.
    Really sharp curves need flextrack, unless you can get Tyco's streetcar track at about 5" radius. sign1
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    There was an article on a kitchen table layout measuring 3x5ft in the last 3-4 years in Model Railroader. At one point, I was planning to install an elevated HO/On30 oval over the tunnel portion of a Lionel 4x8 layout. A 15" radius oval with a single 9" straight in each side. One side would have a Snap turnout and a spur to make things a little more interesting. Bought the track, but moved before I got to install it. I never did decide whether I was going to run HO or On30 equipment or both on the oval.

    I needed a test track for my new layout, since I have been unable to come up with a track plan I like with continuous run for both the HO and HOn3 lines in my small train room. None of my HOn3 and few of my HO locomotives are truly ready to run. I finally decided to lengthen a 46"x60" dual gauge design I had done to 49.5"x72" for a temporary and experimental layout. Eventually, the "final" layout will be started and the 48"x70.5" (actual surface area) will be stored vertically underneath until needed as a test track. The plan has been modified to have the HOn3 have a continuous loop instead to just point to point from the interchange to the upper town. The lumber has been bought; just waiting to assemble the benchwork and buy the Homasote. I imagine I'll kick things off with the existing 15" radius snap track and a couple of sections of dual gauge flex I already own. Half the fun of a small layout is continually changing it and experimenting.

    still having fun
  11. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks ... sounds good, keep us posted! I certainly agree that half the fun is being able to keep changing and tweaking a small layout -- I'm still doing that with mine!

  12. mikebalcos

    mikebalcos Member

    In the April 2008 issue of Model Railroader, they featured a railroad that took only 28 inches by 94 inches (or 2'-4" x 7'-10") of real estate. :eek: I think it was a work of art and wonder. You could even still reduce the length, I think. The minimum radius was 12", and the minimum turnout is no. 6. Switchers and cars less than or equal to 40 feet in real life worked well on the layout.

    This was a story that caught me. I used to think 15" radius curves were crazy. But the guy who made use of 12" radius curves and made a beautiful layout was incredible. :)
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I should track down that issue -- I might even have it here and missed the article ! :eek:

    I did see a layout at a train show last year where is was a long, narrow oval. I forget what radius the curves were, but he got around the problem by covering the ends of the layout (that had the curves) with tunnels and scenery. The sharp curves were hidden from view.

    All of this gives me more ideas! It would be neat to take a sheet of insulation that is 2' x 8' and cut it down to (say) 2x6 or 2x4 and create something similar. Hmmm.


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