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I am finally getting ready to build my garage layout. It's changed scales from my original plan as I no longer intend to build an N Scale empire, but I still want to be sure it provides years of enjoyment and doesn't necessarily take the rest of my life to complete. Haha ... I DO know that I want to have a small roundhouse (3-6 stall) and a few open-air roundhouse tracks to not only have some prototypical feel of a decent size yard but also to give me somewhere to display locomotives.

I started putting together a design in AnyRail for a double-main plan with a center shortline/branch line to allow for 3 trains to operate without interfering with one another. I would like both outer mains and branch line (inner loop) to be able to interchange to some degree in a 2-4 track yard. I'm going to try and stay in a 1955-1965 time frame to give myself a little more flexibility with motive power. I also am a fan of western roads, so I am thinking of a Southwestern Wyoming-Utah-California-Esque line so I can run power from UP, SP, ATSF, WP, CB&Q, etc. So I will need steam and diesel facilities to some extent and a turntable large enough for Big Boys. I am also thinking that I want to have the branch line (inner loop) higher than the outer mains to create a visual break of sorts, but I realize that the current track plan precludes this with the current access points to the mains. I would also like to have a few industries to serve along the various lines to provide some fun with local service and light switching. Basically... I want it all (HAHAHA) and I have to try to make it fit/work in this space.

If I were to keep everything essentially flat, what major drawbacks would this plan present? I realize many of you have been operating your layouts for a lot longer and I appreciate all advice and critiques. 

Thank you all VERY much in advance! 

- Elliott 


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  • GarageVER2
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Original Post

GVDobler thank you for the kind words of encouragement!

When you said "I would ask about access...pop-ups...etc." were you referring to accessing the middlemost areas of the layout? If so, as of now I don't have a concrete plan for that. I plan to have the base height at 42" to allow for storage under the layout. That, or I am going to need a good divorce lawyer.  So even at 6' 3" I SHOULD be able to crawl under in specific areas to access pop-ups. 

If reverse loops would maximize my operating experience I am all for it. Where would you suggest I incorporate them? 

Adriatic, copy that on the pop-up/hatches. Thanks!  As far as reverse loops are concerned, how would I incorporate those in the 2 outer mains? Would they really be necessary? I do see how that could add some interest to the alternative of just going round and round, but figured the turntable (crudely rendered like an asterisk to represent a 35" table) would serve to turn power when necessary. 

Any island style layout automatically constricts overall size and available curvature.  You many wish to try a walk in, no popup around the wall concept. 

Around the wall design automatically provides the largest track plan footprint for any theme in any room with space for generous curves.

Getting up on a platform or crawling on your knees gets real old real fast. 

Mianne makes a real nice rolling lift up.  Consider a design revamp.

Having done a few garage layouts something I found helpful was to seal off the garage door and stud a wall with two layers of R-15 fiberglass 3 1/2" insulation, 7" total yielding an R-30.  then drywall the inside.

12"  of insulation and a separate Trane HVAC in the ceiling with 6" of insulation in the  walls.

You can hang platform knees off the studs as in photo providing a leg free clear access / storage space wall to wall.

This is a 2 car garage with a 25 X 25  rear addition.

TT 3768 Copy of CV+Rework+024[1]


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Last edited by Tom Tee

I agree with the idea of an aroiund the walls with one or two peninsulas rather than a big island layout.    

Also if operations means just running trains around and aruond and enjoying a beverage, multiple loops are great.    But if operations means switiching and some prototype ideas and changing engines and what not, a longer single track line with passing sidings is much more fun, maybe twice around like a gigantic folded figure 8 over and under.

John Armstrong was the dean of track planning to fit interesting prototype ideas in exisiting space.     I suggest getting some of his books and reading them for ideas.      The best in my opinion is "Track Planning for Realistic Operations".     It does not have track plans of whole layouts that I remember but describes all sorts of things like engine terminals, yards, passing tracks, junctions and whatnot needed to build a layout.    

Right now I think you have not provided enough yard class tracks.  Also an independent yard lead , ie one that can allow working the yard tracks without interfering with the mains, helps a lot.

I agree with Tom: consider an around-the-walls layout. In that space you could have around-the-perimeter with peninsulas into the middle space providing an even longer route while still being able to reach all track from the aisle(s). All kinds of possibilities.

On Edit: also agree with Jim. Great minds think alike or some such. 

Last edited by geysergazer

You mention a 35" TT and round house.  That is a great feature but I have found them to really gobble up real estate.  Something to consider, do you want to model an engine facility or just turn an engine around?

Parallel tracks configured to conform to available space can be an efficient use of space. 


A one or two stall  engine house right next to the approach tracks keeps things tight.


Super short radial tracks helps with aisle space.


Finger modules with walk around ability can be a real asset.


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I'm going to try and stay in a 1955-1965 time frame to give myself a little more flexibility with motive power.

Not to be pedantic but, while Big Boys were still running in 1955 most Mainline steam was gone. According to Wikipedia by 1955 American railroads had retired 90% of their steam locomotives. The last Big Boy revenue run was in 1959. PRR (the Standard Railroad of the World) removed steam locomotives from service in 1957 as did the New York Central. Santa Fe retired their last steam in 1959.

Elliot, Welcome to O gauge and the Forum!  You have come to right place!  I can write from experience as I left HO and came here 8 years ago.

I like the general concept of your plan.  Of course you posted it here for input to tweek or completely redo it.  I did the same thing.  Others have mentioned the need for access.  I advocate the around the walls and peninsula format over access popups or, Heaven forbid!, crawling on top of it.   I see a great photograph on your profile of what looks like a father and son enjoying time with a steam locomotive.  I am thinking you are the younger man with your father, but can't be sure.  I'm 63 and am off and on building a layout that is around of the walls/peninsula design.  No area will be over a 30-inch reach, and there will be minimal work under the layout.  If you are younger and are able to crawl under for wiring and to get to access hatches that is great!  Just remember, you may have an accident and not be able to do it for some time, where you could have gotten back to the layout sooner if you had access.  I post on this Forum a lot, and many folks know my series of physical problems I won't go into that have kept me from continuous layout building over a 5-year period.  That is even with an 'easy access' design.

Keep posting and we will help you in every way we can!!!

PRRJIM, TOM TEE, GEYSERGAZER ... Thank you for the insight and the ideas. As much as I would love to seal off the garage that is not an option. The Boss Lady has already made it clear that I need to find a way to still make the garage as operational as possible WITH the layout in there. That's another reason for deciding on a 40"-42" base height. It will allow for shelves below to put all the large totes full of seasonal nonsense cleanly out of sight. Plus our HOA is a little out of control, and they have a stipulation in the CCRs about NOT making the garage a 'living space.' Plus I might want to open it from time to time for additional viewing capabilities from the backside/garage door side.

GEYSERGAZER I realize that by the mid to late 50s dieselization was in full swing, but that also means I don't have to win the lottery to have a full stable of big UP articulated steam.  Especially since I have to try to play catch-up with the acquisition of equipment. 

I'm officially obsessing over this and have been reworking this completely. I got this far and then it dawned on me... My locomotive servicing facilities are going to be buried behind the yard. (Although it's not that far back there) On the flip side, if I move it to the front then it would impede switching in the yard. 

The door at the bottom could be left inoperable for the most part, making that a seldom used lift out and the water heater should be fine for a very long time **knock on wood**, but just in case I need to have a way to change it out should the need arise. I'll either need to build extensions off of the two shelves on either side of the door at the top to support the 30" span of the Lionel lift bridge or find some sturdy 36" bridges.



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  • GarageVER4

Mark, thank you very much for the warm welcome. I am, in fact, the younger man. That is my father next to me, and the main reason I am in need of a 12-step program.  I have been lurking for a while, and have seen some of the awesome work you've been doing. There are A LOT of really nice layouts and very helpful people here. I am excited to be sharing images of the build with all of you who have been so gracious to offer ideas, tweaks, and things to consider. 

I would be happy to have that layout plan myself if I had the room.    You have access to your water heater, access to the door at the top I take it.  You also have a nice long run, passing sidings, a nice yard, turntable, some industrial tracks, what more could we ask for.  I'm sure those who have an eagle eye will have some questions and concerns, but I think you are well on your way to building a railroad!!

@Mark Boyce Thank you, sir! It DOES feel a lot more clean and MUCH less clumsy. I'll gladly sacrifice the ability to 'autopilot' 3 trains simultaneously to have the cleanliness and more interesting operation.

Is Lionel Legacy/TMCC and MTH DCS similar to DCC in smaller scales in the sense that as long as your power supply is adequate all you need to run multiple trains is additional cabs?

Elliot, yes you need a Legacy Or TMCC command base or an MTH TIU, then you can run trains with separate cabs/remotes and now you can buy wifi units and run trains from an app on a phone or tablet.  Personally I have a DCS remote and a TMCC cab.  I am able to run two trains from one remote by switching back and forth, but it would work easier if I  get another remote or go for the wifi.  I power everything with an MTH Z4000 with 2 fixed outputs and 2 variable outputs.

I like the plan.  But are you sure you want a single track main?  Your layout is big, but not that big-  on almost every circuit one train would have to stop and  wait in a siding, especially if the trains are running in opposite directions.  Would there ever be a time when you and a buddy would just want to run two trains continuously with no chance of collision?

Given your space and ample yard capacity, I would also be tempted to add one more industry, maybe somewhere on the right side of the plan.

I like Lionel's Legacy system.  It's the evolved second-generation of TMCC.  It's robust and not picky about how your layout is wired.  Cross-grading other manufacturers' locos is possible with aftermarket boards from Electric Railroad (ERR)  sold by 3rd Rail.  If all of your locos are Legacy / TMCC,  you don't really need any blocks.  Just a big stout power supply, and 18 volts on the rails everywhere on the layout.

When you build it, I hope you invite me over to run trains with you! :-)

@Ted S I would prefer a double track main. I was just having a tough time getting all to align in AnyRail using the MTH ScaleTrak. I would definitely like to be able to run multiple trains on the main and even have a yard job/hostler when there are enough bodies. I want to keep the largest radius possible with 072 being the minimum anywhere on the layout.

Oddly enough, I was thinking of adding something out there on at least one side of the peninsula. Maybe a stockyard! I think I might also work on an elevation change as I get further from the yard.

As far as coming over and operating... DEAL! Once I reach a level of reliable operation on the main/mains we can have a mini ops session/beta test run.

I was watching some YouTube videos about wiring the MTH and Legacy systems in-line with one another on the same power source. I was hoping that meant that you could use them both simultaneously. I'm not super confident messing with the internals and/or changing/adding boards, so I'll have to keep that in mind.



Personally I wouldn't introduce graded track just for the sake of having it.  You can make the trackside TERRAIN go up-and-down, with the track changing from trestle to fill, while keeping the rails mostly level.  This will be a convincing illusion, and is a lot more like what happens in real life.  Think prototypically... why would two adjacent mainlines be at different elevations?  Are the two lines part of a double-track route (logical), or competitors built at different times?

If you really want to have one track going over the other,  you'll need about 7" of vertical separation (and probably 50' of run to achieve that.)  With today's cruise-controlled locos and rubber tires, you can get away with unrealistically steep grades.  But if your goal is to host prototypical operations, you may find that an upper level limits sightlines and access to rolling stock needed for coupling, uncoupling, etc.  Operationally, three-rail couplers are pretty awful and will probably need a lot of help from the "hand of god."

IMO a better use of graded track might be to descend to a hidden staging area.  Of course, this part of the layout will be more difficult to build, and also to take apart if you ever need to relocate.  My $.02.

Last edited by Ted S

@Ted S Understood! Thank you very much for the response. I know that  having a headache-free layout means having an enjoyable layout. I'll use the scenery elevation changes to give the illusion. I'm sure less elevation will help with longevity as well.

I sincerely appreciate all that have taken time to share their experience and insight. I can't believe how much the plan has evolved... and for the better!!

I'm definitely in your debt. THANK YOU!

I can't run track software, but at the division wall/ circle to the right, tunneling through the division wall I think you could swing a single loop with exits/entrances for both directions.   Making rev.loops as large as possible so it doesn't limit train length is the big key to using them more.

Either way, switching or loops, each engineer has their own running style. You have some experience so think back to what you DID or couldn't do vs what you "wished"..... like art; what you need and what you want in your head may actually be two different things 😉

Elliott, welcome to the forum and you have a great plan brewing.  Glad to see another younger guy on the forum and in the hobby, where young and old can all act like kids.

Overall, it is very impressive.  I actually like that you have a single track main, with multiple passing sidings.  I think that will make it interesting to operate as a slow freight will have to wait on the siding for the passenger train to come through, etc.  I also like your industry spurs, and you have space for more in the corners.  The turntable and engine facility look very nice as well.  I like Adriatic's suggestion of reverse loops in the wall/divider section (if doable). 

Just a couple thoughts... how does the main line would traverse through the yard area?  It appears the main line would be the second track (maybe third) from the top of the yard area, with the top track being arrivals/departures from the station.  If it is the second from top, it looks like the train on the mainline would have to take the diverging route on 4 switches through that area.  If I were you, I would try to have the mainline traverse through only 2 switches (one on the left, one on the right) and on the straight route of those switches.  If the main is the third track from the top, that goes straight through 4 switches, that will probably work fine, although again, I would want to limit the switches on the mainline.

Secondly, with the space you have, I would want a "yard lead" that would allow you to classify rolling stock and build a train in the yard, without interruption of the mainline.  Perhaps that is what is to the left of the yard, curling up past the turntable, but it is not connected to the mainline for a train to pull out of the yard to the main and it snakes through a couple of switches which may be problematic.  I don't know what is exactly prototypical, but if that is the lead, it would seem a little awkward to utilize without pulling onto the mainline.

Just a couple of thoughts, it's your layout and you can build and adapt as you see fit.  I'm interested to follow the plan and build.  Good luck!


Last edited by JD2035RR

@Adriatic I appreciate your feedback, sir. I am not sure I am going to work reverse loops in. May change my mind... We'll see. 
@JD2035RR Thank you for the welcome. I am already enjoying all the brainstorming, information, and help you all have shared. It's crazy how these last few days have helped to improve my original concept. 

I cleaned up the yard lead. Looks MUCH better and less 'clunky.' I also tried to limit the amount of switches traversed by the mains within the yard limits.

I'm thinking that the peninsula industry will be a packing house. I like the idea as it gives me an excuse to have a few more stock cars, but also from a 'traffic generation' standpoint. I haven't been able to find an O Scale kit online, which worries me. Not sure THAT should be my FIRST scratch build attempt.  HAHA ... I also added a fewGarageVER4.2 additional industries that are TBD at this point. The one closest to the right side of the yard feels kind of forced, so I may take it out. Thoughts?

My JLC Challenger got delivered today and I think I'm even more in love with O Scale than I thought I was. I can't wait to get the FEF and get this 2D craziness going in the garage. 


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I'm not an expert on yard design.  But if possible, I would make the yard lead long enough to double a cut from one track to another.  The way it's drawn right now I think the lead is a bit short.  Personal preference, but I like the end of the lead to blend into the main.

Another thought... I see you are using a Ross 4-way crossover near the upper left side.  I'm not sure how prototypical these are.  On rural double-track, I seem to see crossovers made up of individual pairs of switches placed sequentially.  I recommend three or four crossovers between the mains in each direction.  Unless you want to be locked into right-hand running with one train per mainline, adding crossovers together with today's command control will give you a lot of operational flexibility.  For example a freight can work a siding on the opposite main, and you can cross a passenger or through train over to keep things rolling.  "Any train on any track at any time," at least CTC if not PTC!  

Last point... You mentioned a Challenger.  It sounds like you're a UP fan and it's inevitable that you'll eventually get a Big Boy.  Maybe a Veranda turbine too.  These locos have a LOT of overhang, so make sure you have adequate clearance between main lines.  The articulateds, especially, will look better if your curves are EASED.  If you don't want to sweat the spiral geometry with flex track, just lead into your O72 sectional curves with a couple of wider ones.  For example, make the first curve 096, then O84, then O72 or whatever the geometry requires.

Another observation: You have a lot of standing room in the middle.  Don't be afraid to leave a little platform area inboard of the track.  It might prevent your trains from falling to the floor in a careless moment.  It will also let you add a little scenery between the track and the inside edge.  But don't overdo it-- folks will have to reach around any scenery there to operate and uncouple.  Last point (yes, I have a lot to say for a guy who hasn't put hammer to nail since 2005!)   Try not to have your track run rigidly parallel to your benchwork.  Add a "scenic kink" for visual interest!

It's easy to sit on the sidelines and say, "do this, do that."  You're so blessed in that you have sufficient room to to it "RIGHT," and it's exciting to see it all come together for someone!!  Thank you for sharing your plan and enduring our criticism.  If you make no further changes I'm sure it'll be GREAT!

@Ted S I was wondering if I was too tight for the overhang in the curves. I'll DEFINITELY need to ensure that I have appropriate spacing. I appreciate the breakdown on the eased curvatures as well. Gets me headed in the right direction. 

I totally agree with added "safe" space inboard of the track. I figured I could always add a few inches here and there 'on the real thing.' I've been more focused on trying to squish all my grandiose "wants" into the layout. The double crossover was me 'cheating' to the side of operating more than being prototypical. I want a way to switch mains on the right side also, but with the s-curves I was thinking it would be more problematic. That way if a train needs to get into the 'receiving yard' track adjacent to the station it won't have to be crossed over WAAAY back before the lift out bridges. Is there a spot there, in your opinion, that would be less of an issue with that added. I'd rather rework this in a 2D program than finding out I've created an operational headache/nightmare for myself that is nothing but problems.

I know ... I know ... 

Just start with something already! HAHAHA 

So after watching several videos, and searching thread among thread here on the good ol' boiler overhang, I decided to kind of go back to the 'drawing board (laptop).' I went to the largest curvatures I could make fit and still keep everything relatively clean. I think I FINALLY have THE one. A little more pedestrian, but I want to be able to run trains and enjoy them. Longer straightaways will give me longer to visually enjoy the Bigguns without having to avert my eyes. HAHAHA

I tried it WITH and WITHOUT the yard drill track bleeding back into the main, and I think I like the additional challenge of it being isolated. Thanks for the idea though, @Ted S. I tried to straighten up the yard tracks. Before there were a few that were a bit out of alignment, and I didn't like that I was settling for 'good enough.' Get it RIGHT, d@## it! HAHA ... Added a storage track next to the depot for either ready outbound power/power swap/helper or a passenger/express car loading...  I'm not sure what would be most prototypically accurate, but I like it. LOL 

I decided this will be more my little 'slice of the main' and settled on the crossovers to help save space. They also worked as a guide, helping to keep the mainline tracks spaced as evenly as I could. Gone are the O72 curves on the mains. The tightest is now 45" radius (O89) and I HOPE with that and the more meticulous spacing I have ample clearance (Did someone say Clarence) to run dueling articulated locos. Not sure how often that will happen, or how soon I'll need to concern myself with that. I need more than one first, but FIRST I need to build them a home. 

Cleaned up the diesel area of the yard, and incorporated a shop. I also added a run-around for the caboose track. I lengthened the yard a bit to keep any switches from laying ON the edges of the bottom lift-out and added one near the house/garage lift-out at the top. The 'Superintendent/Road Forman/Boss Lady' said she wanted me to have an added way for friends to come into the layout/garage area without always needing to go through the house. 'Yes, dear!' :-) 

Ok... I'll zip my lip. HAHA ... Here we are, for your consideration/inside/critique. 



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@balidas Yessir! Thanks. It was over near the right side (closest to peninsula) but with the realignment I removed it to make room for the larger radius curves. :-) I appreciate you taking the time to offer a suggestion! Or did you mean the area out ON the peninsula? That could be cool too, but I wanted to have a few more industries to give the local/locals a fair amount of chores. :-D

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