Switchbacks for Thought

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by TrainClown, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Hello there, fellow train brains. Seems I just don't have a lot of room to build a decent layout. So I've decided to build some smaller layouts that I can move around more easily. So I like mining and I like logging and I like the idea of building a switchback railroad. This way I get lots of elevation in a small space. What I would like you guys to do is take a look at my plans and see what you think. I don't know if I should build mining or logging on these plans. Maybe there's something I'm missing. I'm interested in what you think. [​IMG]

    The first plan is 2' x 6'. The second plan is 2' x 8'. I've given you some 3D views so you get a better idea of the elevations involved. I have a Climax engine that's just itchin' to go up some steep grades. [​IMG]

    Thanks for your input in advance.

    TrainClown [​IMG]

    Attached Files:

  2. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Here's the 8 foot plan.

    Attached Files:

  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I am likewise limited to small shelf layouts. Given your width limitations, I would consider seriously limiting the number of switchbacks to 2. Personally, I don't think more switchbacks are any more fun to operate than 1-2. Limiting the number of switchbacks gives you more room for scenery, structures, and spurs for switching at either end. I think you will find the switching more fun than just straight back-and-forth running up and down the switchbacks.

    A little more fanciful than realistic is Chuck Yungkurth's (sp?) famous and much copied Gum Stump and Snowshoe. It has the upper switchback passing over top of the lower with a bridge. If you like to watch one train passing over another on a bridge (like I do), it's just the ticket. In the size we're talking about, the GS&S has some awesome grades - 5-6%or more - depending on actual space and scale. Gives your Climax a workout, and tests your ability to lay smooth vertical transitions to the grades - if they aren't smooth transitions, the trains will uncouple and/or derail.

    Use the planning software to locate a few small structures, and you'll see the advantages of restricting the number of switchbacks.

    Most of all, enjoy. This is a hobby, keep it fun by doing the things the way you want to.
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I agree with Fred. Whichever plan you chose, take away one of the switchbacks to allow for structures and scenery. The dominant feature in logging roads was the forest/scenery, not the rails.

    Having said that, if you choose the 6' version, I would plan the lowest level trackage more like the 8' version.

  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I'll have to watch this one, I'm freeing up 2' X 12', and want to do an On30 switchback. I like the idea of having the upper switchback go over the lower, either by bridge, or possibly tunnel. I also like the idea of having some curve in each leg of the switchback.
  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    For details of the Gum Stump and Snowshoe, see Sept 1963 Model Railroader, April 1966 Model Railroader and Carl's microlayout July 2005 scrapbook.
  7. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    IMHO I would go with at least 3 switchbacks on a STEEPER grade..The reason being shays and other like engines was built to climb steep grades where a normal rod engine couldn't go..A 7-9% grade is not unreasonable or unrealistic.
  8. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Thank you very much for the input, fellas. I will now try again to do something better. I like the idea of the trains passing over each other. It's true, I was more concerned with squeezing in as much track as I could, I was thinking that my structures would be just fronts mostly on the upper end.

    brakie, thanks for the info on the grades. I wanted to make them steeper but I just wasn't sure what an acceptable grade was.

    fred, that clue about the smooth transitions is a vital one. Thanks for pointing that out. I can see now that this is going to be even more challenging/fun than I first thought. I'm so glad you pointed this out. You just saved me a whole lot of headache and failure.

    Time to put my thinkin' cap on! :D

    TrainClown ;)
  9. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    TC,Keep us posted..I would like to see how this turns out because I am always interested in small layouts with different ideas.. :thumb: :D
  10. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    For info a guy called Des Norman of the Perth MRG was at the Glasgow show with his G&S layout in 7'6" x 12"in HO.- it features shay, climax, heislers, and is a US backwoods set in 1920 and runs superbly. Scenery is done very nicely too. There are a couple of photos herehttp://www.vfmdesign.com/perthmrc/display.php4?s=46 Also do a googly search for Vandalia Shortline, and Apple Bottom & Hemlock Acres.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  11. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Here's some more info on the Gumstump and Snowshoe:

    A couple of notes to keep in mind (I'm building mine in HOn3 myself):

    - It's really a self-contained operation. I couldn't figure out any way to operationally incorporate the plan into a bigger layout other than as an independently operated branch or company. You would then logically run an interchange with the main railroad at the lower terminal - in my case a narrow to standard gauge transfer facility.

    - By carefully controlling the capacity of each track (or setting useable limits during operation) you can have an Inglenook switching puzzle at the lower terminal. See the micro-layout web site cited for details.

    - Realize that the lower track climbing to mid-level is immediately behind the next higher level of track, and is virtually inaccessible. This section of track must be bullet-proof, because there is no room for the hand of God to reach in there to rerail a derailed car or engine. Good thing the turnouts at either end of this section are accessible, or I would have to turn this plan down. [​IMG]

    The rest of my notes apply to any similar shelf switchback design.

    - As designed, the G&S takes 2 locomotives to operate. Any switchback layout that has spurs facing opposite directions at the upper and lower terminals works the same way. Some have added runaround tracks at either terminal (or both), which eliminates the requirement for the second locomotive.

    -Train length and tail track length needs to be carefully considered. Iain Rice has written that the maximum length train that looks good on a shelf layout is 1/4 to 1/3 the shelf length, which makes sense to me. Train length is going to be limited by your shortest tail track, so there is little sense in making any of the other switchback tails longer without extenuating circumstance. Also, by extension, a tail track that holds engine plus 2 3/4 cars wastes space over one that holds engine plus 2 cars plus 1 inch for good measure. You have to know in advance how long your engines and cars are. [​IMG]

    - Smooth vertical transitions are critical to the switchback grades. The vertical transition is more important to smooth operation than the percentage of grade, especially when using geared locomotives. Decent transitions will make the peak grade steeper, but will pay off in the train staying coupled and on the rails. I recommend making a cardboard template cut to your minimum vertical radius or transistion profile to check your roadbed against. I have to get this right before I lay any track! Some more knowledgeable than I have said the vertical radius should not be less than the minimum horizontal radius, and that that should be 4 times the longest car length for looks and operation. For 40 ft HO cars, that means 24in radius in both horizontal and vertical. That seems too conservative for my tastes, but it does guarantee good coupler operation, even on curves. The standard I am going to try is eased 15inch radius (for up to 36ft cars with MT N couplers) both horizontally and vertically. I may try to run a 50ft combine for passenger service or as part of a mixed train. Not sure whether the 50ft combine will work with this standard; need to run some tests before I commit. Having a proposed standard in mind also helps me during construction of my kit Shay.
  12. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Okay now. After some thought and consideration, I have come up with a new plan. Seeing as I have a trackplan for a logging layout in the bag, I'm opting for a mine theme for my switchback. I can have shorter cars and the over all biz setup takes up less room. i.e. no ponds or elaborate boom loaders required.

    So this one is on a 2' x 8' space. The steepest grade is 9%, then 8%, then 7%. The track going up from the three way switch either goes into a tunnel or through a cut, so I can have the cross over effect. 3rd Planit makes it difficult to get a nice transition from level track to the grades so take it as it is and remember I will fix that detail when I build the thing.

    Here it is. What do you think? :confused:

    TrainClown ;) :wave:

    Attached Files:

  13. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Lookin' good TC... My comments might include:
    (1) does the three-way switch add anything except complexity? I don't think it would be prototypical either would it? not sure thought... but anyway...
    (2) it would be useful to have the lower runaround a bit longer, you might not be able to run around much there as most of it is in 'dead space' where the loco going round would foul a car left on it. You could fix both this and (1) above in one go... you only need room for a single loco on the tail track at the extreme front right.
    (3) It'd be really useful to have a runaround at the top, too. There's room...

    Just thoughts...

  14. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Thanks, Charles. Sure there is a prototype for three-way switches, as long as you use a stub-type switch. I got a photo somewhere of just such a thing.

    I'll work on the runaround at the top.

    TrainClown ;)
  15. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Oh yes, I didn't mean that there weren't such things, just that they had additional complexity, and the prototype wouldn't have bothered with it unless they had to -- i.e. much more likely in an urban setting where the real estate costs balanced the equation. In a switchback situation you're presumably talking logging or mining, not so high budget, slow speeds can cope with ropey trackwork, and sometimes only single-point switches to save cash. And presumably land is near enough free. Unless it was so sloping that a three-way switch meant that you only had to level enough space for a single track -- but then that doesn't sit well with a land profile that you can get three exits from a switch on... I don't know enough though -- perhaps some others here can point to them in real life logging industries...


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