Starting small

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by JimBrown, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. Hello fellow track planners. :wave:

    I'm not exactly sure where to start, so I'll just dive right in.

    I haven't settled on my Givens and Druthers yet, but that is not a problem. Why? Because I will not be starting on "the big one" for a few years yet. Most likely after I retire in five years. In the mean time, I wish to build a couple of small layouts to hone my skills.

    As I mentioned in my introduction message in the General area, I still have a 4x6 switching layout that I started back in the late 70's and worked on until the early 80's when I (temporarily) lost interest in model railroading. I had completed about 95% of the trackwork at that time, but never did run any trains on it. After pulling it out of storage, dusting it off (and cleaning 20 some years of crud off the rails) I started playing with it a bit. While one of my main interests is operations (switching,) I quickly discovered that I really do want continous running capability.

    A little over a week ago, I had an idea on how to work in a continous loop, and still have plenty of switching. And so I started ripping up some of that 20 year old handlaid track.

    In this picture, you can see the way the layout was before I started removing track. Not too bad for switching only.


    I then sat down at the computer and used 3rd Planit to print out track sections. Straight track, 18" radius curved track and #5 switches. I then laid these sections out until I had a new track plan.



    It looked good. And it looked fun. But then I placed some of my locomotives and rolling stock on the new track. And the more I looked at it, the more unhappy I was. The main stumbling block was the "switchback" to the two spurs in the foreground. There was only just enough room there for a loco and a car. Barely.

    So back to the virtual drawing board. This time, I redesigned the entire layout with #5 switches and included a passing/runaround siding. I also added a large engine service area. I printed the plan out and placed the sheets on the existing layout. The next pic shows the results of that.


    After studying that plan, and again placing locos and rolling stock in various places, I found a couple of areas that needed a bit of tweaking. Back to the computer, and here's the plan as it stands today.


    All curves are minimum 18". All turnouts are #5. All track will be handlaid.

    I'd appreciate any comments that anyone may have. I'd also be interested in ideas on industries/businesses I could place on this layout. I have decided that I will be modeling the Eastern Ontario area, specifically between Ottawa and Hawksbury, in the late steam/diesel transition era.

  2. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    I think I recognize the original plan from 101 Track Plans by Linn Westcott... or am I just imagining things?
  3. berraf

    berraf Member

    To me it seems like a layout with a lot of shunting possibilities and room enough for some interesting industries that needs wagons on a regularly basis. I would go for a paper mill for instance...
    It's really impressive with the hand laid track and turnouts :thumb:
    Good work so far and please keep us up to date with your work :)
  4. Railohio: Good eye! Thank you. I couldn't remember where I got the original plan from. I did modify it a bit when I built the original. The new plan still has some of the elements from Linn's original plan.

    Berraf: Thank you for the suggestion. I'll have to see if I can locate a small paper mill kit. The handlaid track that you can see now will all be removed and redone. As I mentioned, it is over 20 years old, and is not of the best quality. Part of the fun of this hobby is the never ending learning process!

  5. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    If you run with the paper mill idea there are two ways to approach it. First, though, it would make sense to do a little operations planning. For the sake of discussion let's call the two yards at the bottom A Yard (outside the loop) and B Yard (inside the loop). The industrial area at the top of your plan can then be C Yard.

    The first option, and the one most obvious to modelers, is to make the whole layout a paper mill's support trackage. Now, most large industries, paper mills included, like to locate where they can be serviced by multiple railroads. If we imagine that your paper mill is located between two mainlines, I'd guess Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, then we can introduce some operations. If we designate Yard C as the paper mill complex with its various spurs going to serve different functions within the mill, we still have the other two yards available. Presuming for a minute that they aren't side-by-side we can designate Yard A to be to the west and Yard B to be to the east. Every day the mill's switcher would make a run to each interchange yard to pick up and set off cars for interchange with their respective railroads.

    That, as I said, is probably how most modelers would operate a paper mill layout as they would want to model the actual paper mill operations. There is another way to do it, however, that requires a bit more imagination, but will introduce much more variety to operations. Instead of being a captive paper mill line you could operate the railroad as a shortline. Yard A is the interchange point with a larger railroad and trains operate clockwise around the layout. Yard C is a small city with its various sidings and industries. Now, continuing farther clockwise to Yard B the shortline can serve the paper mill which only exists, ironically enough, on paper. The shortline's train comes and switches out the small yard with cars for the mill and it's presumed that the paper mill's own switcher will shuffle them about within the mill while nobody is looking.

    These two approaches offer two different ways to look at the same layout. There's an option for the traditional modeler who wants to see the industry he's serving as well as an option for those with a bit more imagination in them. Either option would offer hours of operations, no doubt, and would fit well within the locale you specified.

  6. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    See if you can get hold of an article called "Shift Time" by R Thomas Cole, that appeared in a way-back model railroader -
    [SIZE=+1]Shift time - Don't be a slave to the 24 hour clock[/SIZE]
    <A class=normal href="">Model Railroader, April 1983 page 88
    It will work very well with your trackplan
    Shortliner(Jack) away up here in the Highlands
  7. Shortliner: Thank you for the article suggestion. I'll see if I can locate it (maybe at the library.)

    Railohio: Wow! Thank you for the detailed explanation of the operational possibilities. If I was to pick one of your suggestions, it would be the second one. My eventual large layout will be a point to point shortline (with outside connections at each end), so that suggestion fits well. I like your idea of having two yards. My original thinking was that what you named Yard B would be the engine service area. But I'll definately be rethinking that based on your suggestions.

    I'd still appreciate anyones comments on the track plan itself.

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The run around siding on the top right corner will work for the adjacent switching area at the top middle of the layout, but going half way around the layout to get your engine behind a train to work the industries in the lower quadrant would be a pain. I would put in another switch at the bottom of the lower inside ladder and another switch in the curve at the lower right corner to make a second run around to use when working the sidings in the bottom of the layout.
  9. Thank you for the suggestion, Russ.

    I'm not sure I can fit another run around in the area you mention. The curves are already at the 18" minimum, so I can't add a curved switch with a smaller radius turning inside. I also do not want to loose any space in the yards. I'll have a good look at your suggestion with the planning software though, and see if I can figure out something. You do raise a good point about having to back a train half way around the layout to switch the lower left yard. I didn't consider that before, as I originally intended that to be an engine service facility.

  10. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Looks like it'll be an interesting little layout. I was going to suggest the paper mill plan as well, it has interesting possibilities.

    Since you're handlaying your track, don't forget you don't need to be locked into fixed-angle turnouts - you can build custom-fit curved turnouts to shift things around, or add an extra switching lead, so that you don't have to back a train 1/2 way around the layout.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    What sort of locomotives and rolling stock will you be using? If you are running small enough steam or small diesel switch engines with short rolling stock, you can use a radius down to 15 inches without problems.
  12. csxengineer

    csxengineer Member

    If I'm correct..

    That's a Union Railroad MP 15? If so, How about modeling a single industry like a mill? I am starting over, making a 4' x 8' steel mill layout. It justifies having a continous loop and switching.
  13. Squidbait: You are correct that I'm not locked into fixed-angle turnouts. However, I have placed a couple of restrictions on myself for this layout. It is a learning tool for a future large layout. I will be using FastTracks assembly jigs (#5 and #6 on the future layout, #5 on this one.) While the future layout will have some curved switches, they will be on much larger radius curves. My intention is to build this layout rather simply, play with it for a few years, then build a larger 4x8 or 5x9 (which will include curved switches), play with that for a few years, and then finally build the "big" one.

    Russ: Another of my restrictions is a minimum radius of 18". I'll be running rolling stock up to 56', along with SW1200, MP-15, GP-7 and GP-9II locos.

    Csxengineer: Yes, that is a Union RR MP-15, good eye. I'm not really wanting to model a single industry. I'd rather have a mix of small industries and businesses.

    After Russ' suggestion to see if I could add another passing siding, I did a bit of work in 3rd Planit and came up with this:


    I'm not sure I like it though. The whole thing is starting to resemble the proverbial spagetti bowl. I had to move the outside tracks to the very edge of the layout. And I had to use a 17 3/4" radius curve in the upper right corner inside track.

    Off to do some more thinking and experimenting.

    Thanks to all for your suggestions. Keep them coming!

  14. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    I agree, I don't like it either. It's getting way too busy... unless you're modelling the Spaghetti Western :p

    The Fasttracks jigs are great, and they will speed the process, but that doesn't mean you can't lay a turnout without them. And you don't have to compromise your minimum radii with one either. I think one in the lower left corner would allow you to add a passing siding or switching lead so that you don't have to back 1/2way 'round the layout to switch the lower yard.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Instead of using the double crossover just put a curved turnout in the lower right corner to make your run around track for those industries there.
  16. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    A 15" radius is really pushing it in HO scale. Yes, the shorter equipment will operate, but not as reliably as with broader curves and it certainly won't look as good, either. The second run-around isn't really necessary at all. There are plenty of shortlines and branches that make do with long shoves. Just make sure there's a shoving platform (a "caboose" for you old-timers) available for the conductor to ride and you're good to go.
  17. hubba90bubba

    hubba90bubba New Member

    I must say that I like the plan with the one runaround track in the upper left corner better. Unless you put in a very short runaround in the lower right corner which might not be of much use, you get a lot of dubbel tracking, and in my oppinion the plan gets very cramped. I agree with railohio that it's not that bad a thing to have to do a bit of shoving.

    By the way railohio, I like your reply about operation plans, very well thoght out.

  18. Hi guys,

    Squidbait: I will eventually be laying some turnouts without the Fasttrack jigs where they are one offs that have unique diminsions. But I kinda didn't want to get into that with this particular layout. Adding a curved turnout in the lower left won't work, as that curve is already at the minimum 18" radius.

    Russ: I took your suggestion of a curved turnout in the lower right, and this is what it looks like:


    As you can see, the turnout is very long due to the small difference in the radii between the two curves. It's a bit better, but still pretty busy.

    So I went back to the original plan with the lower left "yard" designated as an locomotive facility, but this time using a turntable/roundhouse. Here's the result of that idea:


    Yes, I can squeeze it in there, but boy does it take up a lot of space.

    So, I'm back to the original plan. I've added some labels now to show how I envision it:


    The locomotive facility will have a two stall shed over two the tracks, with the third serving as MOW storage and/or RIP.

    As always, comments and suggestions welcome.

  19. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    What if you were to sacrifice one of the yard tracks in the lower yard? You could flip the left-most turnout around such that it split to a switching lead, rather than the extra track...

    Also, what are the radii in that curved turnout? I haven't used your software, but if it lets you do custom curved, try a 22"/18" curved turnout... it might fit better.
  20. berraf

    berraf Member

    A little bit late perhaps but an option would be to use a background divider to make two scenarios. One with the action round the loco shed and one with an industrial area.

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