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My situation has changed and it looks like I will not be getting the addition I was planning. So I have to come up with a new track plan to fit the space I have and I come here seeking help and advice on how to get something like this  working as this will most likely be my last layout so I would like to try to incorporate what I like to do on my railroad

I have been working on a 3 level in scarm for awhile now. but as always I have a lot of track in a small space and don't know if it will work so I am looking for help and suggestions. What I would like to have is at least 2 or 3 trains running unattended while being able to make up and/or switch cars. I would also like to use my atlas turntable and some of my scratch built bridges. 

  The plan has the top level with a 109" inch long bridge at 54 inches off the floor which is the highest level I can go without the bridge hitting something  ( plumbing,duct work etc.). It also has a 45" bridge on one wall. I plan on the top level being used for passenger trains with a passing siding on the center of the bridge which can hold 8 16" passenger cars which is the longest passenger cars I have. It also has a small siding for storing  engines should I want to change. 

    The Middle layer has most of the industrial spurs and a long passing siding and a 45"inch 3 track lift bridge, It also has the connections to the top and bottom levels  so trains can go up or down in both directions (something I consider important being able to go between levels in both directions).

   The bottom level is a loop to loop so that entire trains can be turned ( another key point that I like to have) it has a small yard and my turntable. 

  I will have cutouts on the 18' wall to access any switches along that wall and all other switches need to be no more than 40" from the bench because that is the farthest I can comfortably reach.

Bridges I have 2 that are 109" and can accommodate 3 tracks (10 1/2"wide)

3 that are 45" long and can be made for 1 or 3 tracks

5 that are 19" and can be made 1 or 3 tracks wide

3 that are 30" and can be 1 or 3 tracks wide.

On the scarm file there is a hidden yard but I don't know if I will use it or not. I already have almost all of the gargraves switches and some ross switches. I also have 15 left and 15 right lionel 0-27 42radius switches. but I don't know if they can fit in this small area.

The biggest issue is there is very little room for any scenery. 

So I am asking for help in designing a layout in the area with at least some of the criteria. A real challenge.

I have put the scarm file and some pics of the bridges.

Top level

Top level

basement middle level


basement bottom level


basement complete



The bottle of jack will be used to ease any frustration and make the world look good.





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  • basement middle level
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Original Post

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It has been a very hectic 4 or 5 months with illness and deaths in the family.  I've been working on this plan a little every now and then adding a piece of track and taking some away. Its now a totally different plan but except for the turntable it fits what i would like.  It has a small yard several passing sidings that can be used for storage tracks, quite a few sidings, I can have trains running unattended while switching cars and i get to use some of my bridges.

  I am still looking for suggestions and opinions noting is definite as of yet. I would like to start my building possibly next winter  if the good lord willing and the creek don't rise.


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  • upper level
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Hopefully your family health is on the upswing!  Thinking out loud . . . To free up scenic space and highlight those great bridges, potentially fewer turnouts and fewer passing sidings, with off-layout storage of extra cars.  (Or a version of the hidden yard for storage.)  (My thinking is influenced by Lance Mindheim's "How To Operate A Switching Layout")  It looks like you can run 3 trains uninterrupted (red, purple, and green) while switching in the blue and green.  The gold yard doesn't have a long lead, so it wouldn't be available for switching if the purple train was running loop-to-loop, right?  But you could still have 2 trains running their loops while switching in the gold yard.

It seems like there is a lot of yard for making/breaking of trains.  I wonder if you can set up a virtual operating session and determine if you need all of the yard trackage?  By virtual I mean paper cars on a print-out of your layout, but maybe you're better at software than me and can do it on the layout design program.

One other thought - what are your thoughts on the transition between the layers?  Is it 3% grade or less?  I like the plan - making and breaking trains in a yard (or two), and an industrial area to service, as well as area for trains to just run.

The stunning visual feature that you have so far is the bridges - that is what will draw in visitors.  Certainly draws the admiration from us modelers!

Last edited by Hannibal-St Joseph RR

Adding to what's already been suggested: I really like your plan and your attention to the details.  Excellent work on the bridges too.

About your Atlas turntable, it seems like it might fit within your existing plan like this under the Red track.


Unsure of which of the Atlas turntables you have, the one in this example is the "older" (SCARM description)  26" dia., 23 position.  If you also want engine sheds around the turntable, it seems like the turntable position could maybe be tweaked to accommodate a couple sheds on the upper right of the turntable.

Another thought about the duct clearance, if you might be inclined, to gain some additional headroom (above the bridge).  I'm guessing it is either lowered from the ceiling joists there in the middle to clear some obstruction, or perhaps because of some unnecessary reason.  If for the second reason, you could have it changed out for a new duct fabricated to replace part of what is there now (outlined in red).   As long as the cross-sectional area of the replacement duct is the same it could be wider, not as tall (itself) and up higher overall.



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Last edited by Rich Melvin

Wow Old Toymaker, I totally missed seeing your posts last year, and I frequently check the Track Plans and Layout Design section.  I'm sorry I didn't see the earlier posts.  Your bridges are really great!  The design really has been well thought out.  Building this may drive me to a bottle of Jack Daniels, and I don't drink.  I agree with others, something should be done to attract less attention to the duct even if it is just painting it black.  I agree with others, if you want more scenery then some sidings will need to go.  I may have gone too far the other way with my layout wanting scenery and not providing for more operation. 

I also hope you are coping with the family illness and death.  You seem like a man if faith who can go to God in prayer.

Just from a scenery perspective,  I would suggest some strong complimentary elements like large buildings to go with the massive bridges, particularly the 109" long one.

This has nothing to do with the track plan, and is just my first impression.  But whatever you do, I would say this is a space begging for the flat black ceiling treatment.

Last edited by Will

Wow First off thanks for all the compliments  I have not been on the forum for a while things have been a bit hectic these past few months.

The designing of the bridges was a lot of fun but the manufacture of them was very labor intensive and I do believe that they would be terribly expensive to mass produce however I am trying to design them to be 3d printed which would possibly make them more affordable but I'm getting old and really don't want to get into starting a business, Running my trains and possibly helping out here on the forum will be enjoyment enough for me.

     I would like to make the yard a bit smaller but I still would like to be able to make up 12 to 15 car trains  and removing the purple leg from the loop and making it part of the yard and using the blue line for the other section of the loop but I am just trying different track layouts when I get time to work on it.

       I am planning on revamping the heat duct Like Steve suggest I believe I can do it and still meet the building code as far as clearance from the furnace. besides I may be replacing the furnace when I don't burn wood anymore. The turn table is the newest that atlas came out with and i may try incorporating it in again.

      Mark I haven't been on here much these last few months but I have been paying attention to the progress you have been making on the black water canyon line it is looking really fantastic I hope i can do as good a job, I'll probably have to lay off the jack till its done.

       I am considering painting the ceiling black  and possibly some large building flats around the walls but I have a lot to do before starting on this layout I'm trying to get my paperwork in for my retirement this December and I have some remodeling to do on the house. I have acquired  most of the track and switches for the layout so that I will be ready when the construction starts. When i get a chance I will post the revised layout plan hopefully soon.

Again thanks all



Your layout design skills are top notch and I doubt you need much help from me.  I love multi layered layouts and you’ve got that down pat.

I’ve taken the liberty of marking up one of your pictures to highlight a couple things that I noticed. First if you see the areas I circled in yellow these are two sections where there’s a crossover in both directions. I found with my layout more flexibility was offered by using a Ross double crossover in these situations.  They are roughly the same price as four switches and they look really cool.  

Another suggestion is that since you’re going through a wall now that you could open that up and make it sort of like a window to the other side. You can see where I have highlighted with red, this could be one large opening so you could see through.  If the wall is load bearing you can alternate with open and solid spots and put tall flats of skyscrapers on the wall in between the holes that you make.

Lastly, I’ve colored part in green on the left.  I don’t know what’s in this room but I would recommend putting more of the yard tracks out there keeping a few industry sidings for switching in the main room.  This would leave more space for scenery and smaller buildings on the main part of the layout.

All that said I really like your layout designs and I think they will be very cool to look at and watch in person. It looks like there can be lots of activity going on, and for me it’s all about the trains and the scenery takes a backseat. I also really like your bridges. You did a great job!



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The reason for using the switches for the crossovers is because I have all the switches on hand, Any switches that I don't have will be Ross.  The open area that is on the other side of the wall is where most of the utilities are (hot water heater, water tank, freezer etc.) Making the cutouts in the wall actually sounds interesting and the wall is not load bearing. I have made a few slight modifications to the plan removing a couple of sidings on the blue line and I compressed the yard a little. I've enclosed the scram file that I have so far.

    As far as getting into 3d I have been drawing and programming CNC equipment for the last 30yrs so drawing is not a problem for me in fact I do enjoy designing different things. I suggest to anyone who thinks about getting into 3d to try downloading Freecad and play with it. It is a lot like the expensive commercial program solidworks but free and there are a lot of tutorials on youtube.


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  • new working yard 1-3
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