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Hello everyone,

I've been away from 3R for a while, but my son talked me into building a new 3R layout. I've been trying to design a good plan that uses our space well and accomplishes our goals. I think I finally have a plan that will work. 

I started by taking John Armstrong's "Nasmyth and Lake Michigan R.R." plan, which I've always thought was the most creative and functional use of space track plan that I've ever seen. Just 4x8 in HO or 8x16 in O scale, it is amazing how much is packed in there. I lengthened it by 2.5ft. and removed the branch line, opting for an open view from the middle portal as my son loves sitting in the middle. The main part of the layout offers continuous run, out and back, a station, coach yard, and small engine facility. There is a hidden helix that I'm sure will be a challenge to build, but it will be worth it. I added my own branch line built in modular, removable sections. The branch includes 2 interchanges, 2 run-around sidings, a 2 track staging yard in the adjacent utility room, and 9 industries.

I drew the plan in AnyRail. It uses Ross turnouts and track with some Gargraves flex. This isn't my favorite track system, but the variety of turnouts and sectional curves was compelling. I may go back and see if I can draw the same plan with Scaletrax or Atlas O, but the design will stay the same.

In addition to giving my son his continuous running, I think this layout will also allow me to run operating sessions which is something I've wanted to do for a while now. 

Basement-3RS

This should be an interesting journey, wish me luck. 

 

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  • Basement-3RS
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I really like your branchline plan.    The main part of the layout does get a lot track into the space.

How old is your son?    He may develop an interest in operation soon too and forget about continuous looping.   My grandson is 13 and has evolved in the last few years from having an interest in operating my continous run Lionel layout with a few routes and remote swtiches.     Now he wants to run/operate trains on my 2 rail layout which is point to point and totally focused on operations.     The operations have a through freight in each direction (from staging) which deliver/pickup cars at a yard.   Then 4 local freights move cars to and from the yard to industries on the layout.     This is all done with an automated car routing system that generates switchlists.     The point is once my grandson started running one of the locals and figuring out where and how to switch the cars, he likes doing that now and ignores the opportunity for continous running.

My recommendation is make getting the branchline trackage in a priority.    And from the style of that trackage, I think you could use manual switches since it is "walk-around:.    

@prrjim posted:

I really like your branchline plan.    The main part of the layout does get a lot track into the space.

How old is your son?    He may develop an interest in operation soon too and forget about continuous looping.   My grandson is 13 and has evolved in the last few years from having an interest in operating my continous run Lionel layout with a few routes and remote swtiches.     Now he wants to run/operate trains on my 2 rail layout which is point to point and totally focused on operations.     The operations have a through freight in each direction (from staging) which deliver/pickup cars at a yard.   Then 4 local freights move cars to and from the yard to industries on the layout.     This is all done with an automated car routing system that generates switchlists.     The point is once my grandson started running one of the locals and figuring out where and how to switch the cars, he likes doing that now and ignores the opportunity for continous running.

My recommendation is make getting the branchline trackage in a priority.    And from the style of that trackage, I think you could use manual switches since it is "walk-around:.    

Thanks Jim!

My son is 13 as well. Ironically, I was cleaning out the basement with him in preparation of starting my new 2R layout when he started to get nostalgic about running his RailKing stuff from when he was little. I definitely plan on having him run ops with me, and I hope he gets hooked like your grandson has. I am in a bit of a pickle as I sold off most of my scale 3R equipment over the years.  I will be using my 2R rolling stock and I might even convert some of my 2R engines to battery and RailPro so I can run them along with the 3R. 

You nailed it... I plan on manual turnouts to keep it simple. I was thinking card card system but I'd be interested in seeing your system for generating switchlists.  I am going to have to limit my locals to terminal style ops that go to and from interchanges or staging. P robably 6 - 40ft cars. 

I've always said that I'd run anything my son wanted to - as long as we were running together. Here's my chance, even if I do have to shelf my plans for a few years.

Personally, I'm having trouble interpreting your design from the picture.  It looks like the yard and engine roundhouse will be on an upper level with the mainline leaving in one direction while the branch goes the other direction.  Correct?  Does the hidden helix act as an intermediate level down to the lower level with an oval / reversing loop?  Any chance you'd be willing to post the Anyrail file for easier inspection of your plan?  It is very intriguing!

Chuck

Since you are interested in operations and want to keep the continous running.    You might consider changing your concept of the operations.      You have a yard area and terminal on the main table.    and  you have some staging off in another room.     Consider running "through" freights from staging to the main terminal.    There they would terminate,      Later a reverse move would be assembled at the yard and go back to staging.   

The cars that come in from staging would be classified into locals and a local engine (generally smaller) would take them out along the branch to deliver, and to pick  up outbound cars.     these outbound cars would them be assembled into the through freight (or transfer run) back to staging.

I'll try to sum it up for everyone... 

The mainline has no freight yard, just a coach yard. The two stubs in the upper left are station tracks. The hidden helix connects the upper level to the lower level which has a continuous loop and a reversing loop with a passing siding.

We will make up small passenger trains with a switcher, then bring out the road power and place on the point. We will run down, then run continuous loops to travel "mileage" until we are ready to "head for home" via the reversing loop. Once arrived back up top we will cut the road engine, service it, and turn it on the turntable to be ready for the next run. Running 2 passenger trains at once should be a challenge for 2 operators. We can also bring in passenger trains from a virtual station somewhere down the line via staging. Might be fun to bring one in, setup a meet at the siding, reverse direction and take it back to it's virtual station in staging - all while someone is running freight on the branch.

Since we have no room for a freight yard all freight ops will be done like a Terminal RR - Moving cars between industries, interchanges, and staging. The freight engine will come down from the engine facility in a light move, do its work, then return light.

As I mentioned, this is a virtual copy of John Armstrong's design, so I'm not messing much with the Master's plan.

I attached the Anyrail file, but just be aware that I don't have all the elevations done yet so it only works in the 2D view not 3D.

 

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@Jan posted:

You need to check your clearances with the various tracks cross.  The track from the helix exits at a 6" height after crossing under the branchline track which is also at a 6" height.  Modern locomotives can function very well on a 3% grade.

Jan

As I said above, The elevations have not been set. The 6"number is arbitrary and not what it will wind up being.

"I attached the Anyrail file, but just be aware that I don't have all the elevations done yet so it only works in the 2D view not 3D."

 

Jonathan,

You'll need about 12" of height difference between your lowest level and the uppermost.  I should have included this in my previous comment.  Twelve inches will allow you to have staging tracks under your modular sections.  I am planning only 9" between levels on my 2nd generation layout (a 14' by 28" around the wall).

Where did you find the original Armstrong layout plan?

Jan

@Jan posted:

Jonathan,

You'll need about 12" of height difference between your lowest level and the uppermost.  I should have included this in my previous comment.  Twelve inches will allow you to have staging tracks under your modular sections.  I am planning only 9" between levels on my 2nd generation layout (a 14' by 28" around the wall).

Where did you find the original Armstrong layout plan?

Jan

Hi Jan,

I have a book from Model Railroader/Kalmbach Books titled "The Classis Layout Designs of John Armstrong".

@jonnyspeed I downloaded your AnyRail file and hope to take a look at it soon.  I've been on a helix kick myself lately, and would be really interested in seeing the 3D version!

You have an opportunity to spend quality time with your son.  That's the most important consideration.  How nostalgic is he about the RailKing?  Maybe you could convince him to sell it and go over to "the dark side" (2-Rail)    I know it's theoretically possible to run battery-operated 2-rail on hi-rail track, but the smaller flanges may prevent your locos from reliably traversing the switches.  @AGHRMatt may have more insight.  Most diesels are easy to convert and then convert back; steam could be difficult or impossible unless you're a machinist.

I would have a real heart-to-heart conversation with your son, and whichever way he's leaning, that's the way I would go.  Probably in a few years he'll be out of the house, away at college, girlfriend, etc.  So you'll have the rest of your life to do what you want.  The next few years are precious, so if I were you, I would do whatever I could to keep him close!

@prrjim I would love to hear more about your automated car routing system (and different methods to generate switchlists, etc., in general.)  I hope to incorporate this type of operation into my own layout.  If Jon doesn't mind you could post it here, or maybe start another thread on this subject.

Once again I'm amazed, inspired, and touched to read about other people's endeavors in the Layout Design forum!!

Last edited by Ted S

Like the track plan.

As Ted S mentioned, I've had quite a bit of experience running scale wheels on hi-rail track down at the club. The two big issues you'd encounter with Ross turnouts are frogs and point radius. Ross turnouts are built pretty close to NMRA dimensions, except the frogs and guard rails are spread to accomodate hi-rail wheelsets. Scale wheels will dip in the frogs, so you should probably restrict yourself to 11-degree (#5) turnouts. I get very few derailments on the #5's and our #8 curved turnout has a "frog point" so there's no gap to worry about. Curve-replacement turnouts are sketchy for 2-rail use, but pulling a train through an O-72 at low speed seems to work. By the way, I take crossovers at low speed to keep things from bouncing around. Code 172 wheels (Intermountain, Atlas-O, MTH) work well. Code 145 wheels (brass imports, Lionel replacements) will be OK unless your track gauge gets wide (which we have in a couple of spots).

My testing with MTH ScaleTrax has been pretty successful. I like the MTH frog design and their handling of points is scale-wheel friendly (I have #4's and #6's). At some point I'll get my home hybrid layout built.

Don't buy the Ross-Ready turnouts -- use the "raw" ones so you can customize your wiring to energize the closure rails between the points and the frog. On our curved turnout, I wired the closure rails to change polarity depending on which way the points are thrown. This did two things -- extended the "Hot" center rail and extended the "Common" running rail which eliminated stalling on shorter locomotives and those with odd roller spacing. In a 2-rail context it would preserve the running rail power.

Another alternative is to do the build-out using Code 148 rail and add (and possible later remove) a center rail. I've looked at this as a possible solution. The catch is that you'd need to build/modify turnouts (I think Signature Switch will build them with slightly wider frogs and guard rail gaps).

Hope this helps some.

Last edited by AGHRMatt

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