Subway layout

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by tverskaya, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    Allright - I decided to start building a little layout. One which will fit onto a bookshelf, as I haven't got too much space, but I have some spare bookshelves, and it would be a shame to waste that space.

    As a theme for the layout I decided to build a subway, the Moscow metro to be precise, mainly as an excuse to model some of the magnificent architecture of the stations there.

    After searching the web for whether something like that had already been done there were very few results. There apparently is some NYC subway rolling stock available, but that's H0 scale, and given the space limitations, N seems to be the only option here. In a fit of insanity I then decided to scratchbuild the cars myself, and while doing that, decided to model in 1:169 given the large gauge used in Russia to be able to use N scale track and wheels.

    At the moment my greatest obstacle is designing a nice layout. Given the underground nature, there's plenty of room for unsightly fiddle yards, but getting even station or two (or a two-level station. The platform length needs to be about eleven inches to fit two cars) to fit seems to be a challenge (the space available is a mere 72x15 inch, pretty much in the micro region).

    So has anyone done something like this before and do you have ideas on how to tackle the problem of fitting an interesting layout in this space?

  2. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Assuming that you're going to model subway operation, you could theoretically build just one station, using a "shadow-box" technique--envision the layout like a "stage" with the "audience" viewing the station from the side of the tracks across from the station itself.

    If the trains are 11" long, and you have 72" to play with, you could theoretically have a hidden "wing" on each side, about a foot long. Each "wing" could hold one train, with up to four feet in the middle to model the station itself.

    Or you could model two stations, using about 18" of shelf width for each station, with a "tunnel" in the middle--in effect creating two "stages" next to each other with a tunnel section in between.

    Operation could pretty much be automated.

    For the two-stations variant, let's name the stages 1 and 2, and the tunnels A, B and C. A and C are the outer "wings" and B is the tunnel in the middle.


    Train starts out in tunnel A, on a timer. When the timer runs out, a hidden speaker plays a "Train arriving" announcement, with a recording of the "whoosh" you hear when a subway comes up a tunnel. The train enters Station 1 and stops for a timed interval. Another announcement, and the train departs.

    The train moves into Tunnel B, stops, and another automated timer starts. When it runs out, a similar announcement plays in Station 2 (although they could come from the same speaker) and the station enters Station 2 as above. Departure announcement plays, and the train leaves, entering Tunnel C.

    After a delay, the process reverses itself--C-2-B-1-A.

    Another option presents itself if you can figure out a way to get your cars to turn on a 6" radius curve: build the stations 12" or so deep, and make a loop track plan, so the trains loop through each station, then go around behind and back through the same scene. In either case the front panels to hide the "tunnels" would be removable so you can reach derailed subway cars, etcetera.

    Not the most varied operations scheme, but it would be realistic, match the prototype, and would make a marvelous conversation piece.

    I drew up a really quick schematic of this idea--hopefully it is fairly self-explanatory.
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Here's the diagram...

    Attached Files:

  4. johnny b

    johnny b Member

    That is very clever , very cool , like the idea !
  5. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    There was - a good while back - an article in Scale Model Trains, about a British Tube station model that had been done as seen from the back of the platform, which was built using cutaway drain pipe in two sizes. Also either Continental Modeller or Railway Modeller (probably the first one) had an article about a Paris Metro Layout, again some while back - don't have the issue, I'm afraid. Model Railroader did an April Fool issue about an Underground railway built under the floorboards a couple of years ago.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  6. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

  7. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    Thanks for the ideas.

    The one with the 6" curves would be more or less ideal, but somehow I think the trains won't agree. The solution to get them turn anyways, would be to have some guiding rails on the outside of the curve which would physically prevent the train from derailing (It's hidden from sight, so that wouldn't be a problem, but whether it works is the question. Also there might be paint chipping off the corners after a while...) From a practical point of view - can flexible track usually be bent to such extremes, or will the track have to be scratchbuilt? And what about building the curve at a slight angle to redirect some of the centrifugal forces down?

    An idea I had was to have the two station layout with double track stations with the 'wings' connecting the two tracks so that the trains could always depart in the same direction and when returning not reversing. I'm afraid for two stations this will be too large. With the aforementioned 6" turns all these operations might be moved to a shadow station beyond the turn - for a full 'wing', including a turnout, I'd need about 18" of space. Reducing this to the 6" of the turn, would enable longer stations and a longer tunnel B.

    Another, maybe a tad ambitious idea would be to buid a figure eight, with one station above the other. With this, as well as probably the previous plan, to have double tracks might be a bit too much to fit into a small space. The symmetry gained by that would be nice though (see link for what I want to build - the tracks are just beyond the rows of pillars on either side: )
  8. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Another suggestion - a tail track with a left-hand turnout at the left end which forms 2 tracks (a loop) with another LH turnout and a tail track at the right-hand end. What you have now is a central loop with a tail at each end. Your train runs out of the right hand tail-track, takes the turnout leading to the front of the loop where it runs into the station platform. It then continues into the tail at the lefthand end, reverses and takes the turnout onto the rear track ,and passes behind the station back to where it started. I'd make this an automatic operation with a shuttle and delay controls and biased (sprung) turnouts - or even what I call "magic" turnouts ( see and for details. If you wanted, you can have the train on the rear track stop at the station too, and be visible through pillars or exit passages to stairwells to the surface level. It might look good to show the surface level as well with shops, street traffic and pedestrians
    Hope it helps
    Shortliner(Jack) away up here in the Highlands
  9. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    Jack, I'm afraid I'm having trouble visualizing the layout you described.
  10. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    See my PM - Shortliner(Jack)
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    6" radius in N scale, using interurban equipment, shouldn't be that much of a problem--in HO scale, trolley equipment can manage 6" radius, and interurban equipment can handle 9-12" radius with no problems. I haven't dealt much with N scale interurban equipment, but a 6" radius should not be a huge problem as long as your equipment can handle it--if you're scratchbuilding anyhow, you can leave enough play in the trucks to handle such a radius. Guardrails on such a sharp curve would certainly be appropriate, and prototypical on a sharp curve if for whatever reason you wanted to show the curves.

    The problem with a Figure 8 layout that small is that you probably wouldn't be able to get the trains to climb the kind of grades you'd need to get the tracks elevated enough to do a bi-level layout.

    But....there's no reason at all why you couldn't do two separate loops ON TOP OF EACH OTHER, with trains arriving and departing out of synchronization to create the illusion of a busy, multi-level layout.

    If those photos are any indication, you're going to have your hands full with the station modeling part!
    [​IMG] be honest, I was thinking that a former-Soviet subway station would be a lot more utilitarian. The inset scenes of Lenin leading the proletariat are neat...I have a soft spot for Socialist-Realist art and art-deco-type architecture.
    Not sure if this is the sort of car you're thinking of making, but it shouldn't be too hard to bash from a Japanese transit car or even a Western heavyweight passenger car with a few side doors. There is enough clearance on the trucks to allow for fairly sharp curves--with few things in the way for the trucks to bump on, they can swing farther to make sharper curves.
  12. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    This is getting more interesting all the time - you guys are giving some first class advice here. If 6" should be possible, then that will surely be attempted. Are there any differences in the flexible tracks or can they all be bent to roughly the same range of curves?

    jetrock - that's exactly the sort of car I'm making, in fact, as the drawing you posted was the only blueprint I could find, I based my first attempt on that one - once I get the details done and painted I'll post some pictures. Cheated a bit on the round forms at the ends, but then, this is my first N scale modeling attempt. For better models, it'd be useful to have better drawings than this, as now some measurements were guesstimated based on this drawing and photographs. If anyone happens to know a good source, I'd be very happy to hear.

    And maybe the architecture will get more priority than the rolling stock on this layout - need to decide on a good material to sculpt the reliefs - mainly considering air-drying clay, though using something less porous for modeling repetitive forms and making some castings of them in say plaster or resin might help tremendously for getting a uniform look.
  13. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    By the way, the gorgeous architecture is only something seen in the old, Stalin era stations - stations built later are increasingly more sober, with less and less fancy murals and reliefs, but with the newest stations, and then mainly the ones in high value areas, have very sleek modern design, as opposed to the stations in new residential areas (blocks of very grey and dull flats) - they have just the basic design features.
  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Sounds very similar to American subway stations. Those older than around 1940 tend to be very ornate and elaborate, post-WWII stations tend to be very stark and modernistic.

    Just about any N scale flextrack should allow you to bend it to a 6" curve. Actually the curve should be like a very round ellipse, with the sharpest part of the curve in the middle and the ends gently transitioning to a larger diameter. Take your time and be prepared to bend a piece of flextrack or two the wrong way in learning how to handle it--but if HO flextrack will bend to a 6" radius, N scale most certainly will--I have bent N flextrack (code 70) to that radius for a mini layout.
  15. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    A first picture...

    Trucks will be redone, some lights will be added (probably not working), roof will be painted. A few little details here and there. If you compare the model with the photos and the drawing you'll spot some errors, but I can live with them, as long as I keep telling myself this is just an exercise.

    Attached Files:

  16. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    Very nice subway car! How did you construct it?
  17. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member


    Apart from the wheels - 1mm, 0,5mm, 0,25mm styrene and 0,5mm transparent sheet.

    The main problem with sheet styrene are round surfaces which many engineers of rolling stock seem to be fond of (just the subtle, irregular round forms, which I for convenience's sake, left out of this model)

    And as for the construction process, it's just a matter of cutting and stacking the parts onto the floor of the car..would love to get my hands on some better drawings (the one included on the collage is the one I used)
  18. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Can I suggest something before you get commited to 1:169 scale? Measure the outside width of some N gauge wheels and see how they compare to your Russian prototype wheels. Since the wheels are so large (wide), they might be large enough to let you use standard N scale, and then the regular N scale accessories. (I know that nothing commercial beyond people and track may fit.) You'll be using slightly narrow gauge track, but it may not be noticeable from the side. (This now puts you in the position of British modellers with OO scale on HO track.)
  19. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    60103 makes a good point: there are plenty of off-the-shelf items in N scale you can use if you're willing to compromise the track width by a few scale inches. Standard-gauge N scale track is close enough to Russian gauge where nobody without calipers will be able to tell the difference. If someone does complain about it, do what I do--punch them in the nose. Most people can't judge prototypical accuracy quite as well when they're bleeding from the nostrils.
  20. tverskaya

    tverskaya Member

    Well, it's true that 1:169 would be something at a trivial level of detail. The difference lies in the order of half a millimetre on the width of the tracks (8,99 or 9,5mm), so even when measuring, one would need very exact instruments and numbers to back any claims of inaccuracy. :) As apparently sometimes it's unwise to put the same type of rolling stock in the same train because of minute differences in different manufacturer's points of view about what's the right scale representation of something, I could probably get away going either way for now, and only when I would, for example, decide to make castings of the material which other people might be interested in as well, I'd need to make a final decision.

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