Spacing between the tracks?????

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by XavierJ123, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    I purchased the book, How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork by Lynn Westcott and on page 9 he didn't answer my question. He said, " ---spacing between tracks in critical. If you don't have data to guide you here, try your longest cars and locomotives by placing them upon your plan to be sure they don't sideswipe on parallel routes and curves". Let's assume I don't have any cars or locomotives. A model railroader was selling his passenger cars on eBay because they were too long and wouldn't work on his layout. I don't want to be like that fellow in the future. I would like to be confident that I have planned ahead. I would appreciate any data on this subject from your school of hard knocks.
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    The NMRA ( has standards for both straight and curved parallel tracks. At our modular club, we use 2" spacing for straights, and 2 1/4" for curves, which I think is close to the NMRA standards. (HO scale).

  3. richhotrain

    richhotrain New Member

    I use 2 1/4 inch spacing on straight track and 3 inch on the curves. That permits cars to pass each other without touching. A lot depends upon the radius of your curves. Anything less than 22 inch is problematic and anything less than 30 inch does not look prototypical. Those who have the space, not many of us, use a minimum 40 inch radius on the curves.
  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Andrews answer is what I use. I use 2" on straight and on curves 30" or greater. 2" on a 30 and 32" curve may be a bit too close for articulated steam tho. It is fine for 80' passenger cars, and flats. I only had articulated steam o the layout once, when Pete visited, and we had no problems, but we didn't run every possible combination of equipment by each other. I have 23 7/8 and 26 1/8 spacing on a helix. It was originally going to be 24 and 26, but passenger cars did touch. I didn't have much room to change since the helix was built, but the extra 1/4" gained by moving each track 1/8" made all the differance. Still close, but this isn't horseshoes! Visually, one might say the passenger cars passing so close doesn't look right, but I think its ok. I've been on trains when another has gone bye, and they are close! Also, the amount of time you look at track there are not passing trains, and a wider than needed spacing doesn't look right to me. 2" is still wider than prototype.

  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    I use 14' scale centers in my yards..Here is what 14' scale centers look like.

    Attached Files:

  6. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    How radius effects track spacing---

    It is very interesting to read the data on the track spacing. I appreciate Andrew and Gary bringing up the subject of radius and how it can affects the spacing. That is certainly good to know. I saw a big ole 2-6-6-2 steam locomotive at the July Cincinnati Train Show and it certainly looked like it needed a lot of room. I would rather be safe than sorry. I think you have to leave room for scenery too.
  7. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    I was looking at some pictures of layouts this morning and one guy had a beautiful double track coming around a hillside and there was no way a 80' passenger car could make it. I could just picture that passenger car side swiping the hillside. Or maybe even a 50' boxcar! Check it out. What do you think?
  8. richhotrain

    richhotrain New Member

    I'll stand by 3 inch separations on curves, particularly on tighter radius such as 22 inch or 24 inch. On 30 inch radius, 2 1/2 inch separation will do just fine. The big issue is the 80' and '85' rolling stock in addition to articulated steam.
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Very difficult to tell. There appears to be some telescopic compression which would make the curve appear tighter than it is. This type of compression is a factor of the length of the lens used to take the picture. The bigger the lens (i.e. the longer the focal length - e.g. 200mm telephoto), the "flatter" the picture appears. When you get into the really big lenses, it can look as if there is almost no separation between foreground and background.

  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    On the modular club that I belong to we use a 36 inch minimum radius with a two inch center to center track separation. Virtually all plastic locos and cars work fine on our layout, but we had some visitors one time at a mall show who brought some brass locomotives including big biys and challengers. We had to run the brass articulated locomotives on the outside main because, even on a 36 inch minimum radius, the front of the engine would hang over the outside of the outside main! I would estimate the overhang on those engines on a 36 inch radius was 3 inches! If you are not going to run any brass, I would suggest buying a couple of 85 foot passenger cars, or 85 foot flats and test them on your proposed minimum radius.
  12. n5vei

    n5vei New Member

    The seperation distances you guys are talking about... are those between the two closest rails or the center lines of each track?
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    In my post, I was referring to center to center spacing. I think that is the normal way to express track spacing dimensions.
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Bill: All track layout measurements and lines are given to the track center. This can make track laying a touch harder, but that's a different department.
    Note, however, that track spacing can also be measured between the two north rails, which is easier.
  15. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Unless you live below the Mason-Dixon line, then you'd measure between the two South rails.
    On the "Right Coast", between the two East rails.
    On the "Left Coast", between the two west rails. :D :D :D :D

    Oh, in the geographical 'center' of the continental United States, you're stuck with measuring between the rail 'centers' ;) ;)
  16. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Personally, I prefer the terms "Least Coast" and "Best Coast". Keeps politics out of it as too many of my comrades resemble/resent your "Left Coast" label. :)

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