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Back in the Old Days (70's and 80's), my Dad and I set up the trains in the basement for the Thanksgiving -> New Year's time-frame -- then back they went until the following year.  At the height of the train holidays, we had this:

80s Layout

It was great to have all eight sets running at the same time, but I never was able to recreate this particular layout in my own home due to space constraints.

Fast forward to today -- The kids are (mostly) out of the house, new shelving has cleaned up the basement floor, and my wife has given the clearance for a permanent layout.  The walls and floor have a new coat of paint, and it looks like I'll end up with about a +/- 12'x16' foot area to play with.  My goal is to have fun, and I'm not modeling any particular railroad.   At the start, I'm planning for three concurrent trains, with a connected double reverse loop.  In theory, any train could run on any track.  There will be a small yard to hold another set or two on standby.  Here's the plan so far:

Layout v9-7-1

The layout is made with Ross track.   The outer loop is O72, the middle loop is O64, and the innermost loop is O54.  I have a recent GS4 that can only run on the O72, but that set will have the longest cars.  Everything else is shorter, and I don't plan on getting a Big Boy any time soon.

The colors are as follows:

Yellow - Either a tilt-up or a swing-open bridge to get into the control area.

Blue - The control area.  It's about 36" wide.  The Blue area is drawn smaller so, the effective width could be larger.  This is the area I'm most concerned about -- will it be too cramped?  Will I get tired of opening and closing the bridge?

Red Circle - I'll be putting a small layout for one or two sets inside the Red area.  These will be shorter pre-war sets, and the layout will be built with my stash of Lionel O tubular track.  The base of the Red area will probably be slightly recessed within the outer circle.

Orange Oval - My HO layout(s) will go here.  I haven't designed what the track will actually look like yet.

Green - "Z Town" - I have a few Z gauge sets and I think it would be cool to put them into this small area.

In addition to the size of the control area, there are concerns about reach.

Layout v9-7-1 with Reach

The Grey circles are 32" in diameter, and anything not covered by a circle (other than the Yard) may be an issue.  I have to figure out how to address derailments in those areas.

In addition to the control area, the primary viewing area will be from the bottom left, to the bottom, and up around the right side of the layout.  There will be an approximately 22-24" walk-around for the remainder of the layout, but that will primarily be for maintenance as opposed to viewing.

Unseen in the above plans is my back-burner idea for a multi-level layout.  During the benchwork build, I may plan for a subway around the perimeter.  A second level above this one may hold additional, smaller O or HO lines.

So what does everyone think?  Is this a doable layout?

Thanks for looking!



Images (3)
  • 80s Layout
  • Layout v9-7-1
  • Layout v9-7-1 with Reach
Original Post

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Just wondering about access at the upper left corner and left side. Can you walk around most of the red circle area? It looks like there are walls there but maybe I am incorrectly assuming that. Seems like a lot of derailments occur at switches and you have several that would be difficult to get to on the left side. Looks like a fun layout to run trains around!

Jim K

I have to say this is an unusual approach, mixing all the scales. From this I can assume the main idea is to run trains and not worry about scenery-sort of a floor layout on the table. The O gauge track plan looks very flexible with the two wyes and the two crossovers. The only minor tweak I might consider is making some of the shortest yard tracks a bit longer.

I also assume you have access to the outside on all sides, hence the gray circles? But I am not sure why they are placed where they are. Are they to show your reach? If so, why are they not over the yard? Don't you have to reach over the yard to get to the area in the middle of the wye there? That's the only area  I see as potentially hard to reach. If the circles went all the way around the perimeter, including the yard, that area of the wye would not be covered by them.

At one point, you talk about putting HO stuff in the orange oval, but unless you are content with just more concentric ovals there, you may have reach issues.  With respect to your "reach ovals," I'm curious how they work all the way around your loop in the upper left corner but can't also work for the yard going down the left side?


@E-Unit-79 - Thanks!

@Bogart - Yes, there's about 21" between the benchwork and the shelving along the left side, and just a tad more around the top side (I'll see if I can add the other basement "fixtures" to the layout for illustrative purposes).   The entire layout will be in the middle (more or less) of the basement, although the top and left sides are not intended to be young-spectator walk-around areas.

@Will - It's amazing how much a "large" basement shrinks once all the "home" stuff is put away neatly in boxes on shelves.  Then adding even a small walk-around path for containment purposes eats into the operating area.  I'd love to go corner to corner, but then that cuts into the shop area, etc.  I have to make the best with the space I have (I'm sure we all want bigger!).  The same goes for scenery -- the plan is to be able to run as many trains as possible, and I'll fill in scenery as space permits.  Thanks for your support of the two wyes -- the O72 double turn-around takes up a lot of space, and it took a while to come up with this particular setup.

@PRR1950 - You're correct about the circles -- they are to help me see where my reach limits would be.  My bad on the yard -- I added the yard after placing the reach circles, so yeah, that'll be a potential problem as well.   My intent is to make the yard as long as possible once I see how everything looks in the real world.  This is iteration 9.7 of my design, and the first with even a hint of a yard, so I was quite happy.  Of course, more is better, so we'll see.

Thanks everyone for all the helpful advice so far.  I'm going to try tweaking the layout based on the feedback.   I know a lot of this layout is just a lot of circles, and that's why I added the crossovers and turnarounds -- to change things up a bit.  If anyone has seen plans that fit into the same 12ish x 16ish is space, and lets you run at least three simultaneous sets, I'd be VERY interested in trying to adapting it to my layout.



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