Sorta-newbie asking for layout help/suggestions!

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Twindad, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Hi Gauge members,

    First post, so please forgive all the lengthy exposition!

    While visiting my parents over the holidays, I dismantled my old 4x8 HO layout, packed it up in boxes and brought it back to CA to give to my 8-year-old sons (hence the handle). I have been reading tons of postings on this site, and it has been really amazingly helpful in more ways than I can articulate. Thanks to all of you for your help so far!

    We'll be setting up our layout in the garage, and have already begun our benchwork--it's been a great project for the kids to saw, sand and help do the woodwork. I definitely plan to make this a family affair (even my wife wants to get in on the scenery action!). I've been wracking my brain trying to (re) educate myself and figure out what to do with the layout...much has changed in the past 30 years (or so it seems). No more 15" radius curves! And unfortunately, all that brass track has to go...

    So far, I've come up with a roughly 6x9 layout, attached below. Forgive the tracks leading to the yards--they're really just placeholders, as I honestly don't yet know how to lay out yards well. I figure that can come later. This is a quick'n'dirty RTS drawing, with the following to help guide you:

    --The right side yard would start at about 2" above the base, with the outer loop track rising to 4" to clear the lower track. After the bridge, it would descend to meet with the other tracks.
    --The very outside dead-end spur would climb a mountain and plateau.
    --The inside loop would lower from the 2" elevation on the right side to 0" under the bridge and into a tunnel, and then when looping back up, would rise again in elevation to meet the tracks coming out of the right hand yard
    --The other yard would be at baseline elevation, giving the two yard different elevations.
    --I put space for a small cutout since it seems like this size layout would require an awfully big reach.

    I'm not certain of the gradients--I believe they're ~4%, but I really should go in and check it out again.

    My boys are really, really eager to use my old engines and rolling stock, which frankly are a mishmash. I have a Mantua 4-6-2 B&O steam engine, a small Tyco ATSF switcher, and a few other things that unfortunately aren't working anymore. That's OK--this will provide grandparents with Birthday/Christmas present ideas! We're not going to try to recreate a real line...the creation, scenery development, and running of the trains is what it's all about. Thus, that B&O engine will be running on some very decidedly western US scenery! (the kids want mountains, rivers, waterfalls, tunnels etc...Nazgul's thread has been a huge inspiration!)

    So, I'd be most appreciative of any feedback, ideas, suggestions. As I mentioned, this layout is 6x9. I also did a variation on Nazgul's layout (which I think is so much more elegant than mine!) that is a sort of horseshoe that's roughly 5x11. I'll attach that one also.

    Thanks so much in advance!


    Attached Files:

  2. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    My first question is, assuming that those are one foot grids on your proposed layout, will the little guys be able to reach the back side of the layout? It will be a stretch for you too.
    Will the upper edge of the layout be against a wall or will it be accessable? It's inevitible that you will have derailments and in the most hard to reach place. Murphy's law.
  3. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Thanks for your reply, Jim.

    The layout will be accessible on all sides.

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The second layout can only reverse one direction of traffic. If you use it as an out-and-back from the yard, there is no reversing facility at the yard for engines, cabeese, and passenger cars.

    Neither plan works well for continuous running of 2 trains. Would this be a requirement with the 2 boys?

    Both plans suffer from a lack of run-arounds (passing tracks) near the proposed switching areas.

    Some suggestions:

    1) define your normal long train length in inches. All your passing sidings, at least one yard track, and every reversing section should (must in the case of reversing sections) be at least this long.

    2) define what type of operation you are looking for. Do you want to have each boy running his own train without interference from the other? Or is one train rolling through the scenery at a time sufficient? Are switching operations important? Remember locos have to run well at low speed, cars have to be able to be backed without derailment, and couplers have to couple and uncouple for switching to be successful.

    3) Will you be using walk-around control or a central control panel? Either is possible with DC or DCC. But if you use a central control panel, will you be able to see to perform switching operations on the far side of the layout? But a central panel is generally easier to wire and operate, and is fine for watching trains roll.

    4) What era equipment are you going to be using? While your old equipment will run fine on 18" radius curves, models of the BIG modern diesels and cars do not (or if they do, have lots of overhang). Typically modern era main line equipment works a lot better on 22-24" minimum radius. On the other hands, if you stick with model of the '50s and '60s era prototypes, smaller steam engines, and shorty passenger cars, 18" radius will work.

    Take a look at "Givens and Druthers" thread in this section to get some ideas as to what your priorities are. Then we can work together for a plan that will satisfy you (and not necessarily us).

    my thoughts, your choices
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Another thing that's changed in those 30 years: more modellers are building around the walls. Large freestanding layouts, especially if they require access holes like the 6x9, are "out". Now, I don't believe that any style of planning is useless, but I don't like it when modellers build any one style of layout without knowing and considering the other options available.
    I consider "modern era requires more space" to be a great oversimplification. Modern freight equipment is larger, true. But passenger cars have been long since at least the early 1900s, and there were many large and stiff steam locomotives, especially in the late steam era. In general, 18" curves and matching turnouts are too small for general use, at least when modelling a mainline anytime in the past 100 years. There are exceptions.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think your Mantua Pacific is a good running locomotive. It might be improved with a modern can motor, but probably any operational difficulties with it are the result of lubricants drying out in the gear box. If you can disassemble it and clean out the gear box and relube with fresh lubricant, it will probably run like new. You probably also have dirty wheels if it has been packed away for a number of years. If you want to run passenger trains with the boys and don't mind the cars being a bit short, Athearn and Con-Cor both make 72 foot "shorty" passenger cars and I think MDC makes 50-60 foot passenger cars. Of course MDC also has their Overton cars which are 36 footers. 18 inch radius will work, but you don't want to get steam engines bigger than 2-8-2, and I would reccomend running 4 axle diesels only.

    I would also second Triplex's suggestion to give an around the walls layout consideration. It will give the trains a longer mainline run while using less space in the room.
  7. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Thanks Fred. Thanks Triplex. Thanks Russ. All great thoughts and suggestions, giving us plenty to think about.

    While I can't address everything you 3 raised right now, I can hit a few spots:


    Your #2: It doesn't have to be so that both boys can operate completely without getting in each others' way. Yes, we'd like to run 2 trains, and that's a nice concept, but they can figure out how to work around each other. They're really good at it--been doing it their whole lives!

    Operations--some switching and pretending they're dropping/picking up loads is important, but so is just running the trains and giving them options of different paths to take. So I'm trying to balance the two (along with all of the other things on their wish list, mentioned earlier). Great advice about length of yard lines/sidings/reverse tracks.

    #3: Walk around vs central control panel. Hadn't even entered my consciousness until now! Can't answer completely yet. I'll have to look to see if there is a thread on the pros/cons of each.

    #4: Given the space and multitude of desires, we'll probably run shorter trains/cars. From my understanding, the transitional era is probably what we'll go with--smaller deisel and steam. When I first went to the LHS, I was floored by how big the new freight cars are. While that size would be fun and more true to scale today, it's less important to me.

    Triplex and Russ:

    Around the walls: I did consider it, and unfortunately, it's impossible to do. Thus, some sort of island structure (on wheels) is what we're going with.

    Russ--thanks for the suggesetions on engines and shorter passenger cars to look into. I had the local LHS clean the Mantua (I'm pretty handy, but I didn't want to screw it up so early in the process!), and it's running beautifully. It's my sentimental engine--a gift from my grandparents when I was 10.

    Thanks guys. I'll look into the givens/druthers list, and update over the next day (life sometimes gets in the way of planning the layout!).

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the transition era is a great choice. F-units, Gp7's & 9's, maybe some Alco Rs1's, 2's or 3's, and small steam should work fine. I would also reccomend with the boys being 8 that you run Athearn blue box, Accurail, MDC, & other shake the box rolling stock with molded ladders and grabs rather than craftsmen kits. I've found the P2k, Intermountain, Red Caboose, and other craftsman kits are very delicate.
  9. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Russ--Great stuff to keep in mind--thanks! Don't feel like having fragile/expensive things take a dive. More importantly, I don't want the kids too nervous to touch anything!

    We really have grown attached to the shape of Nazgul's design, which we can't do much justice given our space constraints, but one has to make adjustments and make do, right? The boys and I talked about it, and they thought it would be more fun to work with each other when running two trains simultaneously on a layout like this as opposed to one with 2 separate main lines--figuring out how to operate them smoothly without any head-on collisions!

    I added a passing siding on the top left that also doubles as a connector from one loop to the other, providing more variations for running (see updated pic). Will running through all these #6 switches in a row be a problem? (And BTW, I'm hoping to use a few curved turnouts where appropriate and possible, but RTS doesn't have them in the library).

    I also threw another spur into the yard from the opposite direction. The way I'm thinking about it, we can disconnect the engine from the rolling stock, and then go back out onto the line, and back into the yard from the other direction. Does this make sense? I have erased my pathetic attempts at yard design, and would eagerly welcome any and all suggestion on what to do there (as well as elsewhere on the layout). Plus, feel free to poke, prod, suggest, laugh, whatever. I certainly don't have my ego tied up into this!

    Thanks guys.


    Attached Files:

  10. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Just wanted to update you on some track plan changes so far. All thoughts are always welcome! The latest drawing is attached below.

    I've added 2 passing sidings, and on the right side, have taken out the elevated spur (the blue tracks are ~4" above base foam), and instead routed a passenger station line that comes out of the yard and joins the main line through one of the sidings.

    The idea is to have a (very!) small village in the valley on the RH side of the layout, with mountains beginning again on the far right (the reverse loop in blue is elevated above the brown tracks, and will either be in a tunnel or riding along the edge of the mountain...or both!). As the layout works toward the left, it gains in elevation, which will be some sort of coal or lumber industry, along w/mountain scenery (one of my kids wants snow and an ice skating pond).

    I've changed all the turnouts to customline 8s and 6s on the main line, with #4s in the yard and spurs. I also plan to use 3 of the Walthers curved turnouts, which I have rigged up in RTS using 18" and 20" curves--it's not 100% precise, but gives me a rough idea. Any problems that anyone can foresee?

    I've tried to increase the curve radii as much as possible, and so I have only 1 true 18" curvethat does a 180 on the reverse loop--the rest are bigger than that, which I think gives the layout some more sweep than it had in my earlier versions.

    The yard...well, it's a mess of a different sort! My current plan is to do that last, so there's lots of time for messing arount with ideas. The kids were very keen on using some crossing track, so that's why I've put them in there.

    On a more tangible note, we're busy building the benchwork--about 2/3 done! I just ordered a slew of track from NHS, so we're gettin' underway...

    Thanks again for the thoughts and feedback--it's been really helpful.


    Attached Files:

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