Track planning

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Tim K, Jan 5, 2006.

  1. Tim K

    Tim K Member

    Now that the construction stage has started I find myself scratching out a lot
    of different desighns on scrap peices of paper , is this normal :rolleyes: .

    I beleive I have a good idea of what I need and what I would like to do with the layout ( 12X4) but my biggest problem is not knowing what dimensions and widths will be needed to fit what I would like in that space.

    I have been playing around with a track builder program but I am not very
    good with it at this point ,so I need help.

    I will definately need two lines that run around the total diameter of the layout for the kids and for me the dad I would like to build a large yard on one side( preferably the left) of the layout and some type of old factory on the the other side.

    So for all you guy's out there that are good at drawing workable layouts I would really apreciate any suggestion or help.

    I am not affraid of wirring or experimenting and would like to have a lot of options in my yard and I would also like to have the option of adding on at some point on the right hand side of the layout as well.

    I know that there is a section for track planning but I wanted to keep this in the H.O. forum because this is were the exprience in H.O. layout is .

    Thanks for all your help or thoughts.

    Tim K
  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member


    When you say "left" and "right", are you referring to a "horizontal" 4x12 layout, or a "vertical" plan?

    Try looking at some existing 4x8 plans. No shortage of those; you'll be able to find some double-track ones. Then try expanding them by adding to the middle.
  3. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Track plans. Good question. I agree with Triplex look at some 4X8 plans for Ideas. I will say though make it yours, don't just copy. Find what you like uase it and trash the rest. When I built the layout I have now I drew it on graph paper. Many many times. I would draw it then in my mind I would run trains on the drawing. I know that sounds wierd but I have a vivid imagination. I drew the business's and yard. When I found a problem I changed it on the drawing am run imaginary trains again. I continued to do this until I was comfortable with my design.
  4. Tim K

    Tim K Member

    Yes I am talking a horizontal 4X12 layout.

    I have been looking at a lot of layouts trying to get an Idea just how much can be accomplished within a 4X12 size layout keeping with what I have in mind.

    I will definately continue looking for ideas and drawing sketches .

    Tim K
  5. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Consider downloading RTS, a free track design program, from the Atlas website ( It's a handy little tool that allows you to easily play with designs, and also to ensure you're being reality-based in terms of what will fit where...
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Tim: see if you can get copies of John Armstrong's books Track Planning for Realistic Operation and Creative Layout Design. Watch out for his more fanciful creations, but look at his "by the squares" planning method.
    By all means do a lot pf planning before you start. But you may want to lay bits out on the table to see how they work. Switches always take up more space than you think.
  7. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    A yard on one side, industrial on the other... Rather than trying to put them on opposite ends, put them on opposite long sides and run a double-faced backdrop down the middle. You'll get more room for the yard, and the layout will look bigger.

    I do like Armstrong books, but his "by-the-squares" method is best for layouts where the benchwork is undefined and only the room size is known. It's meant for walk-in plans more than tabletop layouts. Most of his advice relating to it is optimized for HO plans (which this is...)

    You won't find many 4x12 plans in books.
  8. 2slim

    2slim Member

    In addition to all the previous good ideas, I would suggest looking at the track planning forum on the Gauge, lots of ideas there. One thing you may find useful, I have a friend who downloaded Right Track Software, but found the learning curve more than he could get used to. He went out and got 4 HO switches, 1 each right hand and left hand #4 and #6 and photo copied about 50 copies of each. He then put butcher paper on his basement floor and played "paper dolls" with the track until he got a plan he liked. He drew the straight and curve tracks in with pencil in case he needed to change curve radius and such. He raved about being able to see the available space in "real time" (my term) he said it gave him a much better perspective on what he could do than the software did. He also had purchased some buildings and was able to see if they would fit first hand. Personally I like the software, but I can understand his point of view as well.

  9. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Be more specific as to what you want. I'll draw somethign up for you. DO you want modern diesels? do you want 1950's steam and early Diesels? This is important for determining track curve radius.

    Did you want a seperate railroad for the kids? or do you just want 2 mainlines?

    What kind of old factory?
  10. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member


    Another thought...DON'T put one of the 12' sides up against a wall...You'll never reach across that 4' section without dislocating your hip, shoulder, etc., or causing major damage as you spread yourself out all over the layout!!

    Gus (LC&P).
  11. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    There isn't room for curves much bigger than 18" if a double-track main is required. (Tim doesn't want a separate railroad for the kids, from what I see.) There won't be room for big power of any era.
    I don't think that's essential knowledge to draw a track plan...

    Tim -
    I'll go out on a limb here. A 4x12 tabletop layout (since you can't put a long side against a wall) requires more than 8x14 of floor space. What's the actual floor space available for layout and aisles? Maybe a different benchwork configuration will offer possiblities you hadn't thought of.
  12. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    thats not true. a double track mainline will fit on a 4x8 with bigger curves than 18" radius! besides, we don't know what type railroad he wants. maybe a point to point would be fine.

    Also, the type of industry is essential. it says How many spurs, how long, what kinds of cars, which leads us to the kind of restrictions you need in that part of the layout. and you have to find a factory kit thats a good size, ( i don't think new people want to go straight to scractbuilding/kitbashing) and tailor the layout so that all of that fits, and it fits realisticly. that way you get smooth operation. Its all very important. AS long as the old factory is something Tim K really wants, then it has to be worked into the track plan.

    if you ask me, thats important.
  13. Tim K

    Tim K Member

    Okay I will try to answer a few of your questions.

    My basement is very large and and completely open other than the area I use to work on my race boats.
    I will have this layout in an area 16X16 with only one wall open , is 4X12 not big enough for the proper radius needed to run a large engine ???

    So 4X12 will be a walk around table not against a wall , I may add another 4X4 section to one end to make an L shape but that will be in the future unless I am not satisfied with what I can do on the 4X12 layout.

    I like early deisel era I believe F3 ?? up to present day and we will probably be building the layout in the modern era with I am sure the occasional dinasour and army man visiting.:D

    My kids just think they are all cool.

    I want two continuios loops not point to point for the kids and the yard is for me ,I need the ability to run two trains at one time (seperately controlled )but want the freedom to run a single train on any part of the layout..

    As for a factory I was thinking a steel factory maybe abandonded or just run down and scratch building is not out of the question.
    I am new to MRR but have been constructing all types of models for years and I am not affraid to try .

    As for scenery not going to have all that much because nothing really grows well near a large yard and steel mill other than buildings and black dirt :D .

    I hope this answers some of the questions and thankyou everyone for wanting to help.

    I will start construction when I get home from work this afternoon with my Dad , so there will be three generations of us building the RR great hobby.

    Tim k
  14. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member

    Welcome to the hobby.

    Minimum radius on curves is very important. If you're planning a double tracked loop on a 4' wide table, your outside loop will be 22" and your inside loop will be 18". You will not be able to run long locomotives or rolling stock on the inside loop. This would include 80' auto racks, most passenger cars, Budd RDCs, some container cars, and most of the current generation of diesels (SD70s, AC4400s, etc.) Since you have the room, I suggest you make 24" your minimum radius, and make your outside loop 27".

    Also, if you have 16'x16' to work with, consider a less "linear" approach. You can build a U-shaped layout or an E-shaped layout or an L-shaped layout and have much more flexibility and a considerably longer running loop. You might want to consider staging, too, and where to put it.

    I second the suggestion to get the Armstrong books, before you start cutting lumber. I also suggest you become familiar with the Standards and Practices recommended by the NMRA. These cover things like separation between tracks, grades and curves, and a wealth of other finer points.

    You might also want to investigate DCC. A DCC system like the Digitrax Zephyr will allow you to control several locomotives at once and opens the door to many other features. It also greatly simplifies the wiring of your layout.

    A conventional DC system requires one transformer for each locomotive. Track must be broken into separately wired "blocks" controlled by switches, and you have to keep on top of the switches if you are running two trains. DCC eliminates the need for all that. Each locomotive is assigned a digital address and the instructions you send out through the controller are ignored by other locomotives, which can be running on the same track, even in the opposite direction. DCC works with AC current. Most locomotives sold today are "DCC ready", meaning that there is a plug on the circuit board inside where you can plug in a decoder, which is the gizmo that translates the digital signals received through the rail. More and more locomotives are coming on the market with decoders (and sound) already installed.

    The best advice I can offer is not to fall victim to the newbie's curse — haste. You're going to be doing this for a long time. Don't rush into it without thinking things through. Rather than repeat myself, I would encourage you to read this thread on teh Atlas forum:

    Scott Fraser
    Calgary, Alberta
  15. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Yes, I would suggest a U-shape along three walls with turnback loops at the ends. Maybe make it an E-shape, but the center section would probably have to be short.

    With this room and the desire for modern equipment, I'd use a 30" minimum radius on the main and #6 switches.

    A yard, steel mill, factory, presumably urban scenery... If you want, I can draw up this plan.
  16. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    If you widen your table by a few inches , you can fit 24" radius, which will work better than haveing 18 and 22 radius tracks. its also possible to use flex track.

    the curve restrictions aren't so bad on most trains. My AC4400 runs fine on 18"r curves, and appears fine to me, but it is unrealistcly sharp (but then again so are most model railroad curves, even 30"r)

    however, you make it sound like you have a huge load of room, and if you do, i seriously suggest going with the much larger curves. bigger is always better, as long as you can reach the whole layout.

    I suggest the Prodigy Express DCC set if you want DCC. it should be enough to handle what you are planning.
  17. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    how do you feel about 5x12? it will let you fit in larger curves.
  18. Tim K

    Tim K Member

    I think I will add a foot to each end of the layout giving it a bit of a U shape so

    four feet of the layout on each end will be five feet wide that should give me enough room.

    Thanks guys all of you are a great help and it is very appreciated.

    As I stated earlier we will only be temporarily setting up a track until we find what we like so keep the ideas comming.

    Tim k
  19. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    The extra foot is good Idea. I am a firm believer in flex track, it gives you freedom to go where you want. If you use it you will have to cut it it is important to get a clean cut on the piece you are useing the scrap don't worry about it. Xuron make good a cutter. But I don't have one I use Weiss tin snips(any home improvement store). They work but you have to be carful with them & experiment a little. I also recommend Peco turnouts. I feel there are 3 key things to remember
    1 Have fun
    2 Plan
    3 Take your time
  20. Tim K

    Tim K Member

    I had planned on using flex track as much as possible just to
    give me more options besides is any track really staight:) .

    Tim K

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