track plans (Long)

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by oldtanker, Nov 15, 2006.

  1. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Sorry this is long but I wanted to provide as much info as possible.

    I posted pictures the other day of where I'm at now on a layout and could use some help with track planning. Please keep in mind that my experience with model railroading is limited due to being an Army brat and then serving 20 years myself. All the moves really prevent a good layout. I have disabilities to work around, mostly back and knee problems. Now that I'm retired, and VA has rated me at 100% I have the time, sometimes the money and a permanent palace to live.

    I have had several 4x8 layouts for HO and built several small N layouts for my boys over the years (one son still has the Atlas engine he got for Christmas in 82 and now runs it for his sons). Nothing other than flat board with a little grass. On the last ones I did for my boys I did do a little block wiring. I have made some building kits and weathered them but have never kit bashed anything or did anything to locos or rolling stock until the last several months. In the last several months I have built 3 car kits (want to do more) and one dummy engine kit, added Kaydee couplers to my rolling stock and locos. In the next couple of weeks I'm going to try to depower a F7 unit and power the SW1500 dummy engine, Both are Artearn locos, the SW1500 has the geared trucks I just hope the motor from the F7 will fit. Then I will try painting the F7 shell (from the John Deer collector set) because I'm not interested in it and when, not if I mess it up.....

    I have an area about 13x10 to work in. It has to be grand child proof, there are currently 8, 6 that visit ages 2 to 7 and 2 more on the way. I am using LL locking track because I'm not good a laying Atlas track and it works right the first time. The current track plan I'm working with is the one from the Worlds Greatest Hobby vid with mods to make it more interesting. I have built a 4x10 table and will be adding a 4x4 extension in the next month making it L shaped.

    Any help that I can get would be great. I have tried to find model railroad clubs but there is nothing local. I am 90 miles from a decent hobby shop way out in west Mn. I will be going to the train show/swap meet in St Cloud Mn on Dec 2nd.

  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    As I always say: In this size of room, you're better off with 2' or so wide shelves around the walls (note when I say shelves, I don't necessarily mean they''re supported entirely by the walls) and a couple wider areas for turnback curves.

    What do you want the layout to be for/about? What theme/era?
  3. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Trip, I would only have 3 walls to work with and one has water and sewer lines right above it, thats why I'm only using 2 walls.

    The theme will be a modern short line operation.

  4. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    You can't put 4' wide benchwork along walls. It'll be impossible to reach.
  5. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Trip, if i knew what I was doing I wouldn't have ask for help.....I really don't see any other way to do it with the buildings that I would like to have. I will be able to pull it out from the walls a little while running it.

    I forgot to add that I need the area under the table to store my wife's totes too.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    You can't reach to the back of a 4 foot wide bench from the front, but if you design the layout so you don't have trains running in areas where you can'treach, it could be workable. If you have some large structures you want to display, they could be put in with scenery in the areas that you can't reach very well. You do the scenery first in the back, and then model and scenic the front of the layout.

    Another trick you can use is to realise that your benchwork does not have to be rectangular with 90 degree corners. If you curve the front of the benchwork to alow you to walk into the front of the bench in the center so that you can reach the back areas by walking in, you will pick up some extra room for the railroad while still allowing you to reach the back.

    Regarding your locomotives, I don't think you can use the motor out of the f-7 in the sw because the motor for an sw is shorter. The good news is that Athearn motors are readily available for about $10.00 or so. You might find a deal on a good one for the sw at the St Cloud show.
  7. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Thanks Russ, my problem then will be track planning. If it isn't an oval I can't plan it....and I've had the Atlas program for a while and still don't have it figures out. As far as curving the front of the table I would like to but on something like that I need plans too. I can do rough carpentry with strait lines but don't ask me about curves and angles. I was a good tank platoon sergeant, and a good mechanic but wood working has always been a bit beyond me.

  8. jasbourre

    jasbourre Member

    Morning Rick, I have a little solution to your reaching issue, I have an 11 by 6 layout arround three walls and I can reach everything, reason why I have a 4 by 2 hole in the middle.

  9. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Somehow, I don't think a "doughnut" plan is the best thing to advise to a modeller with limited flexibility.
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I thought of access panels, but he mentioned disabilities consisting of back and knee problems.

    Rick, curves would look neat, but aren't necessary. You could make 90 degree corners so that you would walk into the layout. In effect make a squared off "U" shape. You mentioned using the LL locking track. I presume that is the track with the built in road bed? If so you will have either 18 inch radius or 22 inch radius. If you have 18 inch radius the minimum size square you will need to fit a circle of track and still allow extra room around the edges so the trains aren't perilously close to the floor is 40" if 2 sides are against a wall, 44 inches if the sides are not against a wall. With 22" radius, you will need a 48" square. Since you don't need to fasten the track down to make it work, you don't need to draw a track plan, just lay it out on the benchwork for a test fit. You should also make the 4x4 table before you start laying out track, because where the 4x4 joins the 4x10 you will have a reach in problem to the back corner. Now layout the track pieces on the table. Your maximum mainline run will be a folded "dogbone" shape with 1 loop at one end of the layout and the other loop at the 4x4 extension. If you start laying out your track it will be apparant to you right away where you can't reach from the floor! Now to get the benchwork in the shape that you can reach and still get all of the track in, make a 3/4 circle on one end instead of a 1/2 circle. Put in a straight section of track to avoid an "S" curve problem and then turn the mainline to go parrallel with the front of the table at a depth where if you cut out the front of the bench work you can reach the back. If you need to move the front track back a bit to reach the back of the layout, put in extra straight sections at the end of the curve to shift the track back a bit, then put in curved sections going the other direction to bring your mainline parrallel with the front of the benchwork. If the track roadbed has holes for mounting, tack it down with some long thin nails that you can pull easily without damaging the track. Now get a marking pen and trace the inside and outside of the curve you have laid out on the edges of the roadbed. If you have enough straight and curved sections to mock up the entire mainline, go ahead and mock up the entire mainline before you trace it. If you don't have that much track yet, trace the curve at one end, and then remove the track.

    Now go to the 4x4 table, and layout another 3/4 circle +/- 1 or 2 curved sections of track at the end of the 4x4 "L" section. Continue the straight sections off the back of the 3/4 circlke to the back corner of the layout and install enough curve sections to make your 90 degree turn to return to tha previous curve on the back side of the layout. Tack down the track and measure the distance in inches from where your previous curve ended at the other end of the benchwork to where you 90 degree curve begins. If you divide that number by 9, that will give you the number of straight sections of track you will need to complete the back part of the mainline run.

    Now go back to the other end of the curve where you left off, and add at least one straight section before you put in your reverse curve to bring the front of the mainline out parrallel to the front of the table. Tack down the track at that end and measure the distance from the end of the curve to the end of where you left off at the front of the curve on the other end of the table in inches and divide by 9. This will give you the number of straight sections you will need to do the front straight.

    Now, trace the inside and outside edge of the roadbed for the curve at the "L" end of the layout, and remove the track. If you have a chalk line use it now, if not, they are cheap in the tool dept at your local home supply center or Sears. Put a drywall screw at the end of the back line of the curve (outside oline of the roadbed) and run your chalk line to the corresponding end of the other curve, and snap a line. Repeat the process untill you have four straight lines marking the inside and outside of the back straight and the front straight.

    Now take a different color marker and mark straight lines with 90 degree corners a minimum of 2-3 inches out from the outside line on the front section of where your track will go. This will be the new edge of your benchwork. You are going to cut along this line to remove the part of the benchwork that prevents you from reaching the back of the layout. Before cutting, screw the plywood to the framework INSIDE of the line marking the cut to remove the front part of the existing bench. The plywood and cross members will provide support for the benchwork so it doesn't cave in when you cut. Using your circular saw, cut the benchwork along the line you drew, and remove that part of the benchwork. Be careful of course not to cut through screws or nails. You might support the benchwork you are keeping and the part you are cutting out with saw horses, or temproary legs. After you have cut out the extra benchwork, take the framing off the plywood, and use the lumber thus saved to build a perimiter frame around the walkin access.

    You may still find that you have some difficulty reaching the extreme back corners. If that is the case, mark out a square for access where you can neel to reach the corner. Build the benchwork in that location strong enough to support your weight, and keep a small step stool or ladder to climb onto the layout to reach the back corners. Paint those areas black with parking lot striping, or make a removeable structure with a big enough foot print to hide your standing/neeling spot. You might want to get a small pilow to use to neel on to protect your knees in case you need to use that spot to rerail a train. Finally make sure you donot put any delicate scenery details between the front of the bench and your neeling spot.

    This post is getting long, but bear with me, I'm almost finished. Buy 2 right hand turnouts and two left hand turnouts. I think the curved section of the turnout will replace one curved section of track, and the straight section of a turnout will replace one straight section of track. You can put down the turnouts and trace around them to get locations for sidings and spurs. What you will have done is trace out your railroad with the track pieces you will use. You will then be able to total up the number of pieces you will need to buy to make the layout and put down your track. You should then operate the layout without scenery, and without having the track nailed down. If need be, put cardboard boxes down on the layout with names of structures you will replace them with written on the boxes. What you want to do is operate the layout and see if you have some "bugs" in the design. You may discover that you need a run around track here or there to help you work an industry. You may need a longer lead to clear the mainline while working an industry. You may discover that some spurs need to be a bit loinger than you originally made them in order to accomodate the number of cars you wish to spot at that industry. Once the track plan is working, you can mount it permanently and start your scenery. Just remember that if you have any areas where you need to climb on the benchwork to gain access for rerailing to have all delicate scenery details easily removeable.

    I just thought of 1 more detail. If you cut some tempered masonite or luan to make fascia boards, you could have them stick up 1 inch or so above the benchwork and they will function as barriers to keep trains from taking the big drop to the floor in the event of a derailment near the edge of the benchwork.

    I hope this helps.
  11. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Thanks Jasburre, that is a lot better track plan than what I've been looking at!

    Trip you are correct on the knee thing. I have my table on 40" legs too to make better for my back.

    Russ good ideas. With the track I have, with what little I've done in the past found that having too much track is way better than not enough!

    Thanks guys!

  12. Old_Bob

    Old_Bob Member

    Regarding your disabilities; I can sympathise! Could you cut that 2x4 hole in the center and use something like a mechanic's crawler to get in there? Or a mechanic's rolling stool?
  13. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Bob, the stool, would more than likely work, great idea!


  14. Old_Bob

    Old_Bob Member

    If you don't have such a stool, I got a cheap one at Harbor Freight. Not terrible fancy but it does work. Has a plastic tray underneath for tools, etc and a padded seat.
  15. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Bob, thanks again. We have a farm supply store near here that has the stools for around $20.

  16. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    OK, here is where I'm at.

    I've put in a double loop with extras. Sort of a modification to the plan that Jas posted above. I still need more track to work out the details yet. Guess if I have enough track so I can lay it out I can do some track planning. I still have to add the 4x4 extension and may have to widen the table to allow for a cut out in the center.

    We are leaving here in a bit to check out a new hobby store that opened and is only 45 miles away!


    Any suggestions?


  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you want to lay out more track to see what will fit; but don't have anymore track, use a laundry marker to draw outlines of the track you have put down. Then just pick up your track and start laying the track all over again from the lines you have drawn. You will see what fits the space without having to buy more track than you need to build your layout.
  18. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Russ true, but we did go to the new hobby shop (mostly slot car stuff) and I picked up more track. If I'm going to lay out much more I'm going to have to build the addition.

    Thanks for the tip.

  19. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    We did get to St Cloud Mn over the weekend. I scored a grain elevator and a modren water tower! I also found an HO garden tractor (I collect Wheel Horse tractor too!) !!!!! I picked up some odds and ends but the rolling stock and loco selection wasn't very good. Guess I'll have to get back to Fargo soon.

    We will be going to the train show/swap- meet in St Cloud on Dec 2.

    I did get a picture of a bill board that I'm going to have to make for my layout, it's just wrong!

  20. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    That is a great sign!

    One approach you may want to consider (if it is not too late) is a modular or sectional plan. Working with 2x4 foot sections that are lightweight means you can move them without too much difficulty, and you can wire them ahead of time, instead of having to crawl under the layout.

    I assume that continuous running is a requirement, as you approve of the ovals that have been drawn up. Again, if it is not too late, you can go "around the walls", but it may preclude continuous running as you do not have a lot of space for turn back loops.


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