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Hi all,

I've created a layout in scarm that I would love some feedback on.

My "main" layout (with 060/072 curves) is presently a floor layout, and traditional toy trains don't look or feel at home next to the big scale-length locos. I'm also not in a position to do any scenery, etc, on this main layout. So I thought I'd create a second small-ish table layout that I can easily leave out for display or disassemble and store somewhere as life needs change.

I have a 4x6 wooden table that I am able to expand to a 4x8 with the addition of a table leaf to one end. I would like to use it to build a 4x6 layout that I can expand to a 4x8. It is two-track in 4x6, but if expanded to 4x8 it can accomodate three independently-running trains. The inner loop is 031 and the outer loop and upper bridge are 036. All switches are 036.

I am going for a more scenic, small forested mountain look with a small creek down the middle of the layout. Structures I'd like to include are a water tower (the brown cylinder), abandoned freight station or Lionel's Hobo Station (red roof building), and in the removable/expandable section I'd like to use the Cripple Creek Lumber Mill (gray building), although it might be too big. Comments and cautions are appreciated! I am not sure how I will go about building the upper bridge - I would like to do some sort of wooden trestle bridge but I think that might be too tall an order. I would love what the more seasoned layout builders and operators think!

Thanks for reading

Update: per request I have attached the track plan as well as a picture without any scenery.

4x8 Design 2 - OGCJ4x8 Render 2 - OGCJ4x8 Design 2 [no scenery) - OGCJ

Attachments

Images (3)
  • 4x8 Design 2 - OGCJ: A 4x8 layout that can be downsized to a 4x6 (yellow-brown segment is removable portion)
  • 4x8 Render 2 - OGCJ: SCARM render of the full 4x8 layout.
  • 4x8 Design 2 (no scenery) - OGCJ: Track plan with no scenery.
Files (1)
SCARM file for the layout (no scenery).
Last edited by 0-Gauge CJ
Original Post

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It is obvious from the picture that you are using some kind of track planning software.  Please identify that software and provide a copy of the plan file.  It would also help if you provide a "picture" of the plan without the scenery.  From previous discussions, I know that O27 doesn't fit well within O31, and I'm having trouble believing O31 will fit any better within O36 (primarily where your hidden curves are located).

Please note that each smaller diameter does "actually" fit within the next larger, but you can't run any equipment on both tracks without unexpected "track/train next door" collisions.

Chuck

Thank you, Chuck, I've added the plan file and a screencapture without scenery to the first post.

@PRR1950 posted:

From previous discussions, I know that O27 doesn't fit well within O31, and I'm having trouble believing O31 will fit any better within O36 (primarily where your hidden curves are located).

Please note that each smaller diameter does "actually" fit within the next larger, but you can't run any equipment on both tracks without unexpected "track/train next door" collisions.

I don't have 031 yet but when I loaded the render in the software I had a feeling what you mentioned would be a problem. To fix that, on the left-side of the layout I have added a 5" piece to the horizontal portion of the outer loop that extends beyond where the inner loop begins to curve, and there are are a 1 3/4" piece and a 5" piece vertically between each quarter-turn of 036 track of the outer loop. These are difficult to see in the pictures because of the second level loop, so I am specifically mentioning them here.

Last edited by 0-Gauge CJ

It sounds like you are building your layout on a dining table, which is confining your layout. If you are able to use more space in your room, a modular layout will help expand your layout and be better suited for break down and storage.

The loop of track on the second level is going to reduce the length of a train. A rule of thumb I like to follow is a locomotive shouldn't follow it's own caboose. Also, you will want to decrease the speed of the train so it appears less frequently. Try to use a view block (dense foliage/scenery height/backdrop) to help the train disappear from view. These tips will help hide the fact the train is running in a loop.

I would move the hobo scene up to the second level also. It will create interest in this area, and hobo's would be off the beaten path out of view of the raiload/law.

Instead of the siding to the mill being located inside the layout, try swapping it with the mainline so that the siding curves from the front edge to the right edge of the layout. I think the mill you want might be too big. It would be better to build one to suit your space. The water tank and abandoned station will seem a little unusual without supporting architecture to show why it was built in the first place, unless it was to service the mill. If it's a station to service the mill, I would flip it to the other side of the tracks. The mill would have a small area to service a steam locomotive with water before it set off from the mill.

Last edited by ChessieFan72

It sounds like you are building your layout on a dining table, which is confining your layout. If you are able to use more space in your room, a modular layout will help expand your layout and be better suited for break down and storage.

The loop of track on the second level is going to reduce the length of a train. A rule of thumb I like to follow is a locomotive shouldn't follow it's own caboose. Also, you will want to decrease the speed of the train so it appears less frequently. Try to use a view block (dense foliage/scenery height/backdrop) to help the train disappear from view. These tips will help hide the fact the train is running in a loop.

I would move the hobo scene up to the second level also. It will create interest in this area, and hobo's would be off the beaten path out of view of the raiload/law.

Instead of the siding to the mill being located inside the layout, try swapping it with the mainline so that the siding curves from the front edge to the right edge of the layout. I think the mill you want might be too big. It would be better to build one to suit your space. The water tank and abandoned station will seem a little unusual without supporting architecture to show why it was built in the first place, unless it was to service the mill. If it's a station to service the mill, I would flip it to the other side of the tracks. The mill would have a small area to service a steam locomotive with water before it set off from the mill.

I live in an apartment so I am space-limited. When I get my own place someday I would like to create an around-the-room layout. Until then, I'm planning on using the table. Modular has its uses, but I'm not in a position to go that route.

That is a good point that I've thought about. Because this table is for traditional O trains, I'm not planning on running lots of cars behind them. Longer trains will be on the lower loops while shorter trains (eg, lionchief sets) will be on the upper loop. But on the other hand, the upper section doesn't need to be there. While I would love a multi-level layout, I could do without.

That's a nice idea. I've always loved rolling hills and low mountains completely shrouded in trees, but I like your idea too.

I personally like having the longer mainline, but I'll take a look at moving the siding outside. I also like the idea of building my own lumber mill but I am not sure I have the patience for that. Maybe I could showcase a small portion of a larger mill (eg, stacks of logs and other lumber mill-esque scenery, with a road leading off the layout)

CJ,

My apologies, it takes forever to type out a response on my phone 🤣

Showcasing smaller scenes around a mill would definitely help in a compressed layout. Another idea may be to cross the mill siding from the outer main over the inner main with a crossover. This will allow you to run the two loops closer to the edges of the layout and open up more room in the middle.

Instead of running the river perpendicular to the edge of the layout, you could run it at an angle to give you more options. This could open more space for support buildings and allow you to keep the upper level.

In addition to the other good suggestions already made here, if your table space would allow you to make your layout about 1" wider, there are a few small changes that would close the 3/8" gaps at the ends of the outer loop.  These minor changes that you might want to consider are in the attached alternate plan.  In between the pairs of switches I added a 1 3/8" section between each switch pair (Orange color).  These 1 3/8" sections have a removable jumper underneath that when disconnected allow center rail isolation between connected track on either side of it.  The green colored track is what would now fully join the outer loop without gaps.

Unless you're already running all Lion Chief,TMCC/Legacy and/or DCS, this isolation of the inner and outer loops would allow simultaneous running of two conventional locos on the lower level (or a combination of a conventional loco with another remote controlled loco) from 2 different power sources.

I also thought it might be helpful for you to separate the upper and lower levels of you plan into separate SCARM Layers.  Please note in the attached image, that the red arrow is pointing to the button to turn on the layer control window.  In the layer window, you can "put a check" next to which layers you want to see at any given time.  You might also want to put your scenery on a separate layer too in your original file copy.

To move many things at the same time from one layer to another in SCARM, select all the items you want to transfer (by dragging the select cursor to form a rectangle around them and/or by Shift + Left-clicking to add more items to your selection).  Once all items are selected, first right click which brings up a sub-menu, move your cursor down to Transfer to Layer which brings up a choice of layers, then select the destination layer and left click it.

The highlighted circle in the image is around the track color controls if you want to change those.

This alternate scarm file is also attached.  Please let me know if you have questions about accessing these SCARM features.

small changes

One other SCARM tip, is that you can have more than one SCARM file open, each in separate windows.  If you copy something in one file you can paste into another.

Attachments

Last edited by SteveH

You have not indicated how you plan to support your "on the table" layout, but it's pretty clear you are planning to use FasTrack.  I strongly recommend you use some sort of foam sheet for your layout base, securely wrapped by a wood frame edging for stability.  Using foam sheet will kill two birds with one stone: 1) allow you to dig out a little for your creek/river, and 2) quiet the noise created by running trains on FasTrack with a wooden support system.  After all, you don't want the noise to cause the landlord to evict you.

Chuck

CJ,

My apologies, it takes forever to type out a response on my phone 🤣

Showcasing smaller scenes around a mill would definitely help in a compressed layout. Another idea may be to cross the mill siding from the outer main over the inner main with a crossover. This will allow you to run the two loops closer to the edges of the layout and open up more room in the middle.

Instead of running the river perpendicular to the edge of the layout, you could run it at an angle to give you more options. This could open more space for support buildings and allow you to keep the upper level.

No worries! The reason the inner loop pulls away from the outer loop is because I want to be able to pull away the right-most portion of the table (last two feet) but still have a functioning track loop. This is doable if I move the outer looper next to the inner loop and then move the siding to the outside, but it's not possible if I stretch the inner loop to the outer loop. Handy for if I need space for other things but still want to keep the table up

I don't think the location of the river is inhibiting the upper portion of the layout's placement? Regardless, I did think about that, but the switches are a problem: I was planning to buy girder/short truss bridge kits for the over-stream bridges, they won't work with the switches.

@SteveH posted:

In addition to the other good suggestions already made here, if your table space would allow you to make your layout about 1" wider, there are a few small changes that would close the 3/8" gaps at the ends of the outer loop.  These minor changes that you might want to consider are in the attached alternate plan.  In between the pairs of switches I added a 1 3/8" section between each switch pair (Orange color).  These 1 3/8" sections have a removable jumper underneath that when disconnected allow center rail isolation between connected track on either side of it.  The green colored track is what would now fully join the outer loop without gaps.

Unless you're already running all Lion Chief,TMCC/Legacy and/or DCS, this isolation of the inner and outer loops would allow simultaneous running of two conventional locos on the lower level (or a combination of a conventional loco with another remote controlled loco) from 2 different power sources.

The 1 3/8" pieces between the two switches is an excellent idea! However I can't expand my table workbase, and I just realized I might have a problem with my original layout. There is zero track clearance between the outer loop of track and the edge of the table. How do I construct the side of the mountain (and thus the tunnel wall) without any table to build on? I might need to get rid of one set of switches and close the gap so I can have some extra construction space.

And THANK YOU for those SCARM tips! I have been wondering what the layers tab is for! That will make life dramatically easier, thank you again!

@PRR1950 posted:

You have not indicated how you plan to support your "on the table" layout, but it's pretty clear you are planning to use FasTrack.  I strongly recommend you use some sort of foam sheet for your layout base, securely wrapped by a wood frame edging for stability.  Using foam sheet will kill two birds with one stone: 1) allow you to dig out a little for your creek/river, and 2) quiet the noise created by running trains on FasTrack with a wooden support system.  After all, you don't want the noise to cause the landlord to evict you.

Chuck

I posted a thread asking people what they used a few months ago and I was looking at using insulation foam board. Someone here on the forum recommended I read How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery by David Frary and I am waiting for that book to come in the mail now, so I am just waiting to read that and see what it says.

If it makes no difference what I use, then I was thinking of picking up three 1-inch sheets; the bottom sheet will form the base of the stream and allow the scenery to exist completely independent of the table; the other two I was planning on carving the stream into to give it some depth, as well as add some sloping topography to the layout in-general. And you're right, I don't want to be a noisy tenant - I've had to deal with loud neighbors and I don't want to cause the same problem to others. I had a Ready-to-Run set setup on the table today but even after turning the volume down, the train was still so loud running down the track that I just decided to take it down and put it on the carpet floor beneath the table. Much quieter!

Last edited by 0-Gauge CJ

Looks great and an added benefit will be membership in the 48 Club!!

The only suggestion I have is if you have the room to store it, make the mountain taller and have the train on the second level go through a tunnel as well to hide the shortness of the loop. The portals for this level can be set back from the portals below to follow the incline of the mountain. This basic device was used on some postwar Lionel display layouts

@Will posted:

Looks great and an added benefit will be membership in the 48 Club!!

The only suggestion I have is if you have the room to store it, make the mountain taller and have the train on the second level go through a tunnel as well to hide the shortness of the loop. The portals for this level can be set back from the portals below to follow the incline of the mountain. This basic device was used on some postwar Lionel display layouts

Yes, if I finish fast enough maybe I can be a Century Club member! I think my main concern with making the mountain taller is that I might ruin the aesthetic I want to go for (sloping, forested mountainside) - if I try to add tunnel portals I'm worried the mountain will look more like a cliff-face, which I don't want. At any rate, I may just get rid of the upper loop (I am just beginning to realize just how small a loop it is!), in which case both problems are solved.

@Long Hair posted:

Your original gap issue can be resolved by changing the 5" section to a 4 1/2" section, then adding a pair of 1 3/8" sections:

I don't know if I'll ever understand how the seasoned pros here can make the tracks on a layout fit together perfectly. Thank you for pointing that out!

@pdxtrains posted:

Looks good! I guess I’m not clear in my mind how you will support the upper track that hangs over the lower tracks. Where do the piers go?

Thank you! I was originally thinking of building a trestle bridge, but as has been pointed out that loop is actually pretty short, so I may just cut it out. I'll have to think it over.

Thank you all for your ideas and suggestions! If there are any more ideas I'll happily take them! It will probably be a week or two before I get started on building the actual scenery, so I've got time! Thanks again!

PS: Happy Easter everyone! He is risen!

Last edited by 0-Gauge CJ

Hi all, back a week later. I've since purchased foam board to put the track on, and the sound of just the train running over the track is much quieter now!

I've also placed some track on the table to get an idea of what things will look like and I've realized that I will probably need to restructure some things related to the track plan. I have a LC+2.0 Big Boy and I've realized that there is some significant overhang, particularly with the cab. This becomes a problem with a) the tunnels, especially the entrances, and b) putting the track right at the edge, particularly if of the table and track edges will be against a wall. To solve both issues, I thought I'd try simplifying the layout:

4x8 Design 3 - OGCJ - Copy

  • The tunnel portals will be moved from being parallel/perpendicular with the edges of the layout to being at an angle - it will allow them to be wider and accomodate additional overhang from locomotives
  • Reduced the width of the layout by going from two loops to a single loop with sidings and one double-track segment

The changes I decided on will solve/mitigate the overhang problem, but part of me still wants to be able to run two trains at once. I went back to the drawing board to give it another shot and now have another 2-loop plan:

4x8 Design 4 - OGCJ - Copy

The inner loop is 031 with 036 easements, and to give the inner loop some breathing room I've added 1 3/8" pieces to the outer loop's width. The inner loop can also be electrically isolated using some more 1 3/8" pieces on the inside of the two-track portion. I am thinking about putting an additional siding somewhere. The biggest problem with this is that I am not sure how I can get the tunnels to line up. Maybe instead of having two-track tunnel portals I'll have to use two single-track sets. In addition, the two-track segment is probably a little closer to the edge of the table than I'd like, but this is managable because the two-track edge will be facing the rest of the room. Bridges are roughly where I want a creek to lead into a small pond at the base of the hill/mountain, maybe I'll include a waterfall.

Am I trying to cram too much into one layout with the second design? Also, are there any clever ideas for transformer placement?

Thank you all for your input, the feedback I receive here has been very informative and helpful!

Attachments

Images (2)
  • 4x8 Design 3 - OGCJ - Copy
  • 4x8 Design 4 - OGCJ - Copy
Files (2)

You are making some good adjustments to meet your desires and available room.  If you're still worried about that front edge, you could try gluing some firm, clear plastic, that reaches about three or four inches above the level of the foam, to the edge of the foam.  That should help keep your engines on the table if it also doesn't interfere with turning clearances.

For your transformer and controls, you might try a rolling table (like those old kitchen microwave tables) so that you can slide it out of the way (under your train board) when not in use.  Just be sure to give the connections plenty of flexibility.

Chuck

Last edited by PRR1950
@0-Gauge CJ posted:

Hi all, back a week later.  Nice work!

I've also placed some track on the table to get an idea of what things will look like and I've realized t..

The changes I decided on will solve/mitigate the overhang problem, but part of me still wants to be able to run two trains at once. I went back to the drawing board to give it another shot and now have another 2-loop plan:

Am I trying to cram too much into one layout with the second design? This is really up to you.  There's usually a trade-off when designing a layout between track vs. scenery.

Also, are there any clever ideas for transformer placement?  I like @PRR1950 's suggestion.

Thank you all for your input, the feedback I receive here has been very informative and helpful!

CJ, Please see comments above in "quote.

For extra siding action, here a a couple of ideas which also include a 1 3/8" isolator for independent block control, and an Operating Track section.

I also considered adding your 4  x 8 "benchwork" but thought that might interfere with the way the 3D terrain is currently displaying.  Instead, there is a translucent 48 x 96" rectangle with one corner at the Scarm (0,0) origin.  I also moved the whole layout a just little in the X and Y to center it more on this virtual Plywood.

I think you're right that you'll probably need to use 5 different single tunnel portals with this plan.  With that in mind, you might consider shifting the far side inner loop tunnel portal closer to the bridge (in red below) to give both the inner and outer loop trains a little more hide time and it would give the hill/mountain a slightly bigger face.

Alternate SCARM files attached

Rev 4 Siding Alt ARev 4 Siding Alt B

Attachments

Here's a different take on your situation that favors the big boy plus one smaller engine.

The big boy gets a "mainline" with maximum curves and a tunnel, bridge, and grade up and around the back that frame the center of the layout.

The inner loop, which was already tight and small, has been broken up into a series of switches.  The big boy can drop cars on the front straight, a smaller engine could pick them up and move them about inside the loop while the big boy runs.

Increasing the curves also created the possibility of putting control equipment on the front right corner.

BigBoyIdea

Attachments

Images (1)
  • BigBoyIdea
Files (1)

Thank you all for the suggestions and feedback. I was thinking about what kind of scenery I would like to build on the layout and I've changed my mind about the siding and will just stick to the loops. If I change my mind again I can always sneak one in (probably like Steve's second alternative design).

I've laid out the outerloop of the track and I like everything about it except for the 1 3/8" vertical spacers on either end of the loop, I'm worried about overhang on the back edge of the layout again. If I take them out though, I'm not sure I'll have enough space for the bridge, unless I were to carve one directly into the foam (unplanned). I'll build the layout with the spacers and see how bad locomotive hang is, then see where things are then.

Thank you EVERYONE for your suggestions! They've helped me tremendously!

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