Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Bob Collins, Mar 26, 2002.

  1. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    I'm sort of curious about what all of you think about the place of a turntable on your layout, assuming you have one. Do you want it to be a focal point of activity, or is it mainly just something you have to have if you want to turn an engine around?

    I really think that on my layout I have the opportunity to do either. I have a space that is large enough to have a nice set up with a turntable, enginehouse, service tracks, etc, or I could use that area for something else I haven't yet thought of and move down to the other end of the layout and put in a smaller turntable that will be there to just really do what it is intended to do.

    I suppose the logic is that if you are going to run steam you ought to/need a turntable and if you ought to have it you should try to make it a central part of the layout. And also, the area I would use is not large enough to put in a wye, so that really isn't an option.

    I'm just curious how some of you think this sort of thing through to a decision.

  2. RI541

    RI541 Member


    I put my turntable in front of my round house.

    Now that you mentioned it I'm going to have to make a siding that can run right to the service yards. If I dont then a loco will have to go out of the service yard around the round house onto the mian to the switch then back down the tracks to the turntable get turned around then repeat the same route back to the service yard.seems a little too much.

    Rip it up:( :(

  3. kettlestack

    kettlestack Member

    As I run steam on an end-to-end pike I needed a turntable. I don't consider myself good enough at carpentry to install a sunken turntable (and I sure wouldn't pay the asking price for the kits of these) so ... I bought the Atlas table primarily because it is inexpensive with the motor drive and a piece of cake to install.

    BUT .... I got it before I bought my spectrum 2-8-0. The 2-8-0 is about 1/4" too long!!! (Hapless Errol!:mad: ). All other steam locos fit it.

    It is there because it is necessary, it is plain to look at and needs a Gallows built to enhance it's appearance (another scratchbuilding job I have to do) and the timber platter needs painting to look like weathered timber (heavens knows how I will manage that!!). There is absolutely nothing prototypical about my engine facility as space does not permit much to be located around it (see my track plan in the thread "Progress at last!" in the HO topics).

    The Atlas is a very nice self indexing unit but beware of getting one if you intend installling a roundhouse .... the angles of each track is not standard (I found out the hard way as my Walthers roundhouse bays simply don't line up with them). that's what I get for rapid thinking while shopping in the states from memory!

    All my stuff was bought before I knew anything about these web forums. In future I'll be asking questions here first :) .

  4. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    And once again you all are proving why real railroads got rid of steam!!!!!:D :D It is also why I don't have steam on my layout, nor to I have turntables, wyes or reverse loops and boy am I one happy camper:D :D :D !!!!!!!!
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I have 2 turntables on my layout. They're both Peco. They're pit models with British details (but that could be changed with a little work.) They come manual and the table is 12" long. The only special carpentry is cutting a somewhat round hole -- and moving the supports under the benchwork.
    I put a commercial motor on them but it hasn't worked as well as I'd like; I think I'd go for manual if I did it again.

    Up front or in the back? If you build it yourself and it turns out nice, definitely where you can admire it. From any that I've seen: near enough the front that you can get at it for maintenance.

    My nasty question: How do get away with just one turntable?
  6. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Tyson's argument is sort of like saying they got "rid" of horses. Diesel proved to be more efficient, no question about that. But I don't really think you model steam or diesel simply because you only "like" one or the other, that doesn't really seem to me to be the point. I might just as well say that the only reason someone models only diesel era is because the motive power is all painted fancy bright colors. I don't believe that for a heartbeat, although it may be true in some cases. We each model something because we like it because it catches our fancy.

    I like the steam era because I can personally associate myself with it. Although it was at the end of the steam era I remember well while working in the UPRR yards in Omaha when I was in college and stepping up along side a 4-8-4 Northern and how amazed I was at the size of the drivers (82" as I recall).

    Maybe I should have asked my question in a different way, maybe... if there is space available do you think a turntable should be a featured part of a steam era layout? My layout is loop to loop with a branch and three reverse loops. I happen to like the reverse loops because it gives me an opportunity to operate more trains and because it allows me to bring the same train into a specific area on the layout from the oppositer direction if I wish without having to cease operation of the train. That isa great feature for this layout because I have several different yards and a long spur and it changes the method of use by reversing the direction. Actually the same situations hold true whether I am operation steam or diesel, so it makes for a lot of diversity of operation, which I like.

    Whatever the case, I am slowing beginning to make up my mind what I will do., but then I always make up my mind slowly:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

  7. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    My original plan calls for two turntables and it could easily be done. The second one whould be at the end of a long point to point (approximately 60'). It is more back out of the way on a corner, but could also serve a usful function if installed. I think I could eliminate it by being creative in operating through one of my reverse loops, but ???? I'm not sure. I will wait until the very end of my construction to make up my mind on the second one.

    Of course as Errol mentioned, one of the critical decisions if you are to install a turntable is the size. 1/4" to short makes for a good deal of frustration:( :( :(

    If Iwere to install according to my original plan I would have a scale 135' one in the spotlight position and a scale 90' one at the end of the point to point.

  8. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    I'm the same way, Bob. I have one planned for my layout, mostly for turning engines around. However, there may be room around it (I hope) for a little extra - i.e., perhaps a repair shop, or even a small roundhouse (crossing fingers). But I'll decide that after all the track is laid, and see. A passenger station needs to go pretty close nearby too, soo.....
  9. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Hi Mike;

    You hit on my "other problem" regarding the passenger station. The placement on my original plan just doesn't seem to be right as I work on the construction of the layout, but I'll be darned if I can visualize where I might put it. I originally was planning on something more of a station like you would find in a small city, but I think before it is all said and done I will have one more suited to a small town. I'm not inclined to build and set a lot of buildings where I could have more open terrain, so I will have just a small villiage sized built up area. If it goes as I usually operate I probably won't see the "right" place for the station until late in my constuction efforts.

    I really haven't given the station or the turntable a great deal of thought until tonight when I got to thinking about wiring and then I wondered about the turntable. If I built and installed one I would be able to lift it out so I don't think I have to be concerned about any wiring for it now. I need to stick to my DCC efforts and get that up and rolling and then I'll figure out the next step. Just one at a time or I become confused easily:D :D :D

  10. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    A few random thoughts about turntables, I haven't tried to organize my thoughts prior to typing, so I might ramble on. First off, the question of whether a turntable "should" be included in a steam era layout is really a question of what the owner likes and wants. In Bob's case, having seen his trackplan, it is not really needed as he has the capability to run continuous and to turn a loco on a reverse loop if he wants to see it run the other way. A point to point or point to loop would be a different story. Also, a point to loop is one situation where only one turntable would be required. A generalzation: Most people relatively new to the hobby prefer continuous runs, later they become bored with it and want to augment it with switching, and other operating schemes. For this reason, my advice to Bob would be to build the rest of the railroad and leave the proposed turntable area alone for now. Wait until you have developed a sense of what you want. Other peoples wants and desires more often than not will not be yours. So now I will tell you mine! I regard a turntable as a stage for my steam locos, almost a shrine! Along with other loco servicing requirements such as water, coal and ash pit. When detailed to the nines, an area such as this will become the focal point of an entire layout. Now when I speak of a turntable in this way, it requires a visually correct turntable, which to my knowledge means one of the craftmen style ones , not the Atlas one. To be honest, I have a Diamond Scale turntable kit I haven't yet built, it will require precise workmenship in order to operate smoothly, I am not really looking forward to it, and I am following my own advise to build the rest of the layout first. I did see an article on using the Atlas turntable mounted beneath the layout with a bridge placed on top allowing a pit (and enabling it to be lenghtened, I would think.) I believe it was in a Model Railroader, don't remember which issue. As Errol stated, the indexing is such that only the Atlas roundhouse will fit properly without modification. One more thought: For turning steam locos in a hidden staging area (I have stub ended staging in an adjacent room) you can use a lazy susan. Doesn't matter what it looks like, and it is cheap.

  11. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Turntable Thoughts

    My comments are strictly "from the mind", as I do not yet have a layout up and running. My plan, however, is to have a pike that features switching and operations. Therefore the yards and turntable will be "up front" as a major feature. I have already purchased a large turntable (big enough for my largest steamer, I hope) and am plotting how and where to incorporate it into the overall picture. Just recently, I have decided to "move" the engine facilities from where I had originally planned them to be "around the corner" and have the roundhouse backed up against a wall with the turntable in a prominent place in front. Now my problem is where to place the passenger terminal, as the turntable and roundhouse are now where the terminal was originally going to be. Oh well, since it's all in my mind, at this point, I guess I have the luxury of moving things around to fit without a lot of reconstruction!
  12. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Whether or not one should use a turntable might also depend on what the layout depicts. Is it a line that includes a major yard where one might expect to have a turntable? Does it depict a town at the end of the line where a turntable might be needed for the return journey? (Keeping in mind, of course, that sometimes engines would just run backwards if the line wasn't very long.) Or is the layout a slice of a larger mainline run that doesn't really feature major yards, but the area somewhere between two major destinations?

    Of course, it's YOUR railroad. So if you want to have a turntable, then go for it!

    Another solution is to run nothing but diesels or tank engines!

  13. billk

    billk Active Member

    Errol - You said:
    Just out of curiousity, is there really a "standard", or did you just mean that Walthers and Atlas are different? I'm sure the Atlas roundhouse and turntable match.
  14. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    First of all my sincere thanks to all of you who have responded to my question. When you consider the amount of space used by a turntable and all of the associated things you would find in the area of the turntable we are talking about a significant chunk of the real estate on the layout.

    Like Gary (great minds and all that) I too have a Diamond Scale turntable kit (mine is the 135') and just too look at the detail involved in building it sends a shivver up my spine!

    I think in my case Gary has provided a key piece of advice and that is to wait until later to make a final decision. As he knows, it is in an area where if the turntable does go in it will basically be in an area where there will be a turntable and engine house, with water tower, some sort coal tipple arrangement, ashpit, etc. I think it will be easy enough to work around it and come back later. Another side to it is that after working on all of the other things to be done I may gain the confidence and some additional skill in trying to go it right.

    Another thing for me to consider is whether or not I want to spend the loot to add an indexing unit which I understand if you get a good one can cost double the cost of the turntable itself. Having just paid for my DCC I think it prudent to wait:rolleyes:

    Gary. I also wanted to say that I think the instructions that come with the Diamond Scale turntable are very vague in some critical places. It may just be my limit knowledge about such things, but I think they assume right off the mark that you know a lot more than is true for some of us.

  15. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    It's true that turntables and roundhouses take a lot of space (tho if you're modeling a branch line you can get away without the roundhouse which is the real space monster) but to my mind engine facilities are really one of the most interesting features a layout can have --- one of the advantages of modeling the steam era --- and are really worth modeling.

    Of course I'll admit right here that as I model the 1880 period, my turntables are really small. So small that on my new HO layout, my turntable will be a pit type placed over a N scale Atlas turnout to simplify the the mechanical indexing and the track power feeds.

    There certainly is no "standard" indexing angle. The Atlas units use 15 degrees, which is pretty easy to work with. (The old, original Atlas HO turntable used 30 degree angles, which really needed improvement.)

    One thing worth considering --- I've never done it, but always thought it was a great idea: Twenty or so years ago there were several track plans in Model Railroader in which the turntable was located close enough to the table edge that a large diameter plywood (or whatever) "wheel" mounted on the turntable shaft below the benchwork had it's circumferance just about at the table edge. All you needed to turn the turntable was to rotate the wheel by hand. Track alignment was by eyeball. Like so many simple and easy solutions, it may be the best.....

  16. billk

    billk Active Member

    Just went out to the Atlas site and checked out their turntables. Their N scale turntable is, according to them, 7-1/2 in diameter. This scales out to only 100 ft. The HO turntable is even worse at 9 in, which scales out to only 65 ft! (Maybe you are supposed to turn the locomotive and its tender separately?)

    You could modify either turntable, ala the Model Railroader article, to increase its diameter. This introduces another potential problem - the "outside diameter" of the turntable has to be less than the "inside diameter" of the roundhouse. So you would probably have to scratch build the roundhouse.
  17. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Yes as I recall, the kit is not one for beginners! I know one person at a club who attempted to build this kit, he was, how can I say it, not particularly proficient at constructing kits, and he didn't get to far. His ring rail wasn't laid correctly, it broke some of the cast plaster mounts. The bridge assembly wasn't square so it bound when turned, the soft metal castings for the bridge "trucks" were bent so they couldn't follow the bad ring rail. There are a lot of things that need to be correct to have the unit work correctly. The ring rail really shouldn't be a problem. Building the bridge square is vital and is one of my concerns. I am an average modeler and like Bob said, I hope that by waiting till I have finished most of my railroad, including several scratchbuilt structures, that this aspect of my modeling will be improved. One thing for sure is you don't want to rush construction of a model like this. That's another reason to wait till mostly everything else is done, so I won't feel hurried to get on with other things. As far as the instructions go, I believe they are sufficient to tell the steps that need to take place, you need to know the "how" yourself, there are no helpful hints provided.

  18. kettlestack

    kettlestack Member

    Yes Billk, It was during one of my senior moments when I bought the Walthers roundhouse! I was stupid enough to think that Walthers made stuff for the popular lines.

    I know there are no "standards" in track exit angles from turntables but because the Atlas unit is "densepack" with exits I stupidly made an assumption that the angles would be close enough to what I needed.

    Understand that when we vacation in the states, RR models are not our top priority, but .... when we get into Caboose Hobbies, the mind bogles and it's easy with $$ in your pocket to start thinking about ALL the things you could be doing with. Also, I have to contend with my wife pulling on my sleeve coz she want's this, that and the next thing (Coz she also goes nuts about model RR's). Little wonder I get easily confused huh?

    I've seen me go in there for a single Spectrum loco, and come out with with an HOn3 brass loco, an Athearn and 2 spectrum locos, and my wife alsobecame the proud owner of a ... wait for it! .... G gauge doodlebug!!!!!! Then I wonder if I'll have enough money for a coffee at the airport! However, I'm a happier guy than most.

    Well, I guess you know me a little better now. :D

  19. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Bill K

    More reasons why I like old time stuff. My turntables only need be 55 to 58 feet!

    About roundhouse kits: Seems to me any roundhouse kit could be bashed to fit any track angle. Mount the fronts at whatever distance from the TT that makes them butt together, mount the two sides 90 degrees to the fronts they join. The back walls and the roof won't fit, but if the back walls need to be shorter, that shouldn't be tough --- longer would take a little more work of course (unless you've cleverly planned for the rear walls to not be visable to spectators.) Roofs are about the easiest thing to create, and shouldn't tax the skills of even a beginning modeler.

    Bill S
  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Another possibility: If you want the TT and roundhouse for display, you could stick it in a corner and put extra long tracks between the TT and the RH, and just build the front and a minimum amount of roof for the roundhouse. Then you display the locos out in the open.
    John Allen had (I think) a small roundhouse and a number of open tracks on the G&D.

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