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Hi All,

Im just getting into this hobby and looking to build a 9 1/2 x 12 ft layout using 060 & 072 Fastrack curves and looking for some ideas and advice. This is being built in a spare bedroom, and I will be running a mix of scale and semi scale - I currently have a scale GG1 and Hudson, and will be running a mix of 16" & 18" passenger cars along with a mix scale/semi scale freight.

I'm thinking two loops at a minimum with sidings and would like some elevation to break it up a bit, but not really sure how to go about achieving this.

Any ideas/advice about a track plan would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,

Steven -

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I did a plan (haven't built it) for a similar space. It's 054/ 042 but offers a lot of what you're looking for.

Top wall is 12'/ left is 8'/ right is 10+"

Yellow and green lines are baseboard level, blue is up and over. I've got hidden storage below the green yards too. I can send you the SCARM plan if you like, email is in my profile.

Test Plan 1.0.1

v1.0_sim2

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Last edited by RSJB18

@RSJB18 - yes, that is a really nice plan ... especially like the up and over. the scale GG1 that I have needs to run on 072 ... but I think I read somewhere that the Williams scale GG1 could run on 042 curves, so I will definitely need to look for one of those. I have a set of 18" K-Line Aluminum Passenger Cars, it doesn't say on the box what the minimum curve to run on would be, but, I'm guessing they would be fine on 042/054???

If you could send me over this plan I would greatly appreciate it ... definitely would like to try and build this!

Thank you,

Steven -  

@RSJB18 - yes, that is a really nice plan ... especially like the up and over. the scale GG1 that I have needs to run on 072 ... but I think I read somewhere that the Williams scale GG1 could run on 042 curves, so I will definitely need to look for one of those. I have a set of 18" K-Line Aluminum Passenger Cars, it doesn't say on the box what the minimum curve to run on would be, but, I'm guessing they would be fine on 042/054???

If you could send me over this plan I would greatly appreciate it ... definitely would like to try and build this!

Thank you,

Steven -  

Hi Steve- sent you a PM.

@PennDoggieExpress  Up and over is going to require 3% grades and greater and your track will have to move up and down from a centerline reference. In other words you do not have room to start with a base level and go up. The upper lever will have to go down to meet the lower level which will rise to meet it.  That's if you want to have reasonable grades. The other issue is the layout will be mostly curves which means it will need curved turnouts to make best use of space.  Check out my TwinPines1 layout (link below) - which was a 9x13 and had 072 curves and an over and under bridge. It also made use of 042 curves and smaller in the yard areas. I picked up an engine that required 072 so I added track to run it.  Think in 3D to create your layout.  @Mark Boyce is in a similar space and has a many page thread on his build.  @RSJB18 plan is good too. 

@ScoutingDad  yes, I looked at the Twin Pines Railroad link you sent - really amazing! Having just getting my hands into this hobby, I'm definitely in awe and amazed at the layouts I've seen on this forum, and at the same time, quite overwhelmed. I saw in there where you mentioned that you grew up in Chicago in the 60's... I grew up in Chicago (Edison Park) in the 70's, and fondly remember my dad taking my brother and I to the Museum of Science and Industry and being absolutely amazed by the layout there, and thats where the love of trains began for me.

I definitely want to have some variety as to the route the trains are running, and don't want them to just keep going around in a circle/oval, as that will get boring quickly. Would ideally like to have two or three main tracks ... at the same time, since I am new to this hobby, I'm not exactly sure about how to create a smooth grade going up/down to make the upper and lower levels connect. I've seen some layouts that use foam risers and some that are blocks of wood. is there any benefit to one over the other when it comes to making up/down grades, or is it more of a matter of preference???

Again, any and all help/ideas/insight that can be bestowed upon me is greatly appreciated!

@ScoutingDad  yes, I looked at the Twin Pines Railroad link you sent - really amazing! Having just getting my hands into this hobby, I'm definitely in awe and amazed at the layouts I've seen on this forum, and at the same time, quite overwhelmed. I saw in there where you mentioned that you grew up in Chicago in the 60's... I grew up in Chicago (Edison Park) in the 70's, and fondly remember my dad taking my brother and I to the Museum of Science and Industry and being absolutely amazed by the layout there, and thats where the love of trains began for me.

I definitely want to have some variety as to the route the trains are running, and don't want them to just keep going around in a circle/oval, as that will get boring quickly. Would ideally like to have two or three main tracks ... at the same time, since I am new to this hobby, I'm not exactly sure about how to create a smooth grade going up/down to make the upper and lower levels connect. I've seen some layouts that use foam risers and some that are blocks of wood. is there any benefit to one over the other when it comes to making up/down grades, or is it more of a matter of preference???

Again, any and all help/ideas/insight that can be bestowed upon me is greatly appreciated!

No set method for doing grades. The key is getting the start and the end as gradual as possible to keep engines from bottoming out and causing a short. You should always try and be at a mid point in a section of track, not on a joint. Also depends on if the grade will be an exposed set of trestles, or a hill that will be covered with scenery.

Bob

Get a copy of Linn Wescott's book on layout building. He goes into making different elevations. The trick is using gentle transitions especially for the larger cars (072 required) and in my experience the steamers with the large drivers are most temperamental to steep elevation transitions.  What works for me is to enter the transition using the same piece of plywood for the transition as the straight track. The plywood will naturally bend at the joint and provide a nice smooth transition. I have never be able to butt sections together and obtain a reliable transition. I talk about it in my TPRR thread.  I was able to work in 3 interconnected loops. Could run 3 engines under transformer control or interconnect everything to operate under DCS. I would not recommend trying to make everything 072, it will take away too much layout flexibility. Most 18 inch passenger cars will run on 042.

If you have SCARM you can see the transitions we did for my RR and Mark's. As well as Bob's plan, there are lots of others. There is enough variation in these plans to avoid "looper syndrome".  If you have decent carpentry skills, you do not need the foam risers.

The other thing is I do not have any Fastrack, so I cannot comment on how easy/hard it is to build this type of layout. I had RealTrax for a temporary layout but got rid of it mainly because it was so difficult for me to assemble and disassemble. So I am Ross and Gargraves, with a dedicated Atlas loop.  I like the flexibility and broad availability of turnouts.

Yep I grew up in Hillside in the 60's. Loved the train exhibit at Science and Industry. The Chicago area was a great area to grow up, even with all the social turmoil of that time. We used to take the "el" all the time from Forest Park and then later Metra to get into the city.  My family home was next to the Aurora Elgin right of way - which later became part of the Illinois Prairie Path. I only remember a few trains running down its rails before it was mothballed and the rails removed. The Proviso yards were not far away.

@ScoutingDad posted:

@PennDoggieExpress  Up and over is going to require 3% grades and greater and your track will have to move up and down from a centerline reference. In other words you do not have room to start with a base level and go up. The upper lever will have to go down to meet the lower level which will rise to meet it.  That's if you want to have reasonable grades. The other issue is the layout will be mostly curves which means it will need curved turnouts to make best use of space.  Check out my TwinPines1 layout (link below) - which was a 9x13 and had 072 curves and an over and under bridge. It also made use of 042 curves and smaller in the yard areas. I picked up an engine that required 072 so I added track to run it.  Think in 3D to create your layout.  @Mark Boyce is in a similar space and has a many page thread on his build.  @RSJB18 plan is good too.

Hi, @PennDoggieExpress.  I hadn't seen your thread until Jeff @ScoutingDad brought it to my attention.  Yes the questions I asked back nearly 7 years ago ended up in a 'many page thread' as Jeff cited.  Your layout is in a similarly sized space as mine, so if you want to have trains pass between more than one level, steep grades are necessary.  My current level has two grades of probably over 5% with 054 curves at the top and bottom of each.  After a lot of coaxing, I got trains to operate smoothly.  Coaxing as Bob @RSJB18 mentioned making sure the vertical easements are gradual and smooth.  Steam engine pilots and pilot wheels are the most unforgiving when I needed to make adjustments.  I had a lot of input from a number of Forum members over the years, with Jeff's suggested changes finalizing the plan.  Here is a SCARM capture snapshot of the plan.  I used GarGraves track and Ross Custom Switches, but FasTrack The layout covers 11' x 8' with a 30" x 30" extension in the upper right.

Mark Back to the Drawingboard jrw5c mab2

Here is a link to the entire thread Blackwater Canyon Line  As you can see, we haven't posted much in a few weeks.  There are various tangents from the main discussion, but I can aid you if you want some help sifting through 103 pages.

Please ask any specific or general questions.  The main thing, in my opinion, to get more folks giving input, we need to keep the thread in the forefront of the 'Recent Posts'.  Thank you for posting and welcome to the O Gauge Railroading Forum!!!

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I need to add, I grew up in the '60s like Jeff, but I've never been to Chicago.  I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and lived in Central Virginia and West Virginia in the mid '80s to mid '90s then moving back to Western Pennsylvania, so I am used to hills in real life. 

I agree with Jeff that it may be easiest to use good plywood for roadbed cutout as Lynn Westcott described in his books written in the '50s and '60s.  I wore out my first copy of his "HO Railroad that Grows" during my teenage years.  I have it and the book Jeff suggested.  That method gives you natural easements from level to grades.  I tried Woodland Scenics foam for inclines thinking it may be easier for someone with minimal carpentry skills and basic tools, but had to shim so much at the top and bottom of the grades, that I went back to the plywood with risers as Jeff suggested.  The layout I am building in my link is my first multi-level layout in 25 years.  I could have fit 072 curves in my room, but would have had to rely on a lot of curved switches and a lot of finagling to do it.  Since nearly all my equipment is scale but all engines run on 054 curves, it works for me.  I had a scale GG1, but sold it to another Forum member a year ago who's son was tickled with it.  That was worth it to me.

@ScoutingDad what's the exact title of the Westcott book that goes into detail about vertical transitions?  I am hoping to follow your method of using a long piece of plywood to achieve a smooth, natural transition.  But it would be nice to have a formula or lookup table showing the theoretical height of each riser vs. the run distance.

I know how to calculate a grade--rise over run.  However as you explain, even if you are targeting a 3% grade, you can't just go from flat to 3%.  There have to be some sections of perhaps 1%, then 2%, and finally 3% or more.  The same thing is true at the top--it has to taper off gradually.  Otherwise the tip of the pilot will touch the center rail, wheels will leave the track, etc.

I even tried to figure this out by analyzing the heights of the piers in Lionel's 110 graduated trestle set.  Unfortunately, I can't find the heights of the individual piers posted anywhere on the web, and I don't have a set of my own to measure.  Help!!

Last edited by Ted S

Title is "How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork"  Linn Westcott.  $6 to $10 You may want to take a look at his 101 track plans book. Most of the plans are made to be able to be scaled. I use this as a reference for layout ideas. He is a proponent of 3D layouts - minimize flat.

The Lionel trestles are not a good reference as they are intended for the semi-scale trains of the day.  Those trestle grades run from 5% to 8%. If you want the look of traditional toy trains then they are fine. If you want something more realistic then 1% to 2% is the common recommendation. However is small spaces many of us compromise with steeper grades. I have not had any problems running the big iron up 3% grades. That said if you are running conventional with 10 or more cars in tow, you will see a noticeable speed reduction going up grade and speed increase going down. One of the many issues and compromises necessary with limited space.

I do not bother with the calculations necessary - the thought makes my brain hurt. And to think I used to know how to solve differential equations.  Let the ply find its natural bend starting at least 6 inches away from the turnout.  Then make sure the elevation change is no more than 1/2 inch over the first 24 inches. Basically you have parabolic curves entering and leaving the grade, the rest are "flat" but at an angle.  In order to find my grades over my 36 foot incline, I dumped everything into an excel spread sheet to make sure I did not have any outlier grades. An example is in TPRR. The other goofy thing is my incline has 3  90 degree 072 curves  - the roadbed has to twist to make the turn.  I did not want to jig saw such large sections so pieced the curves together with trapezoidal sections. With each section having a ~5 foot arc length, I just made sure the ends were at the proper height and adjusted supports as needed. This is where Westcott's L girder construction comes in handy. Really easy to get the supports the right height, the twist right and even easy to adjust for fine tweaking of the entire section.

If you want to do some light reading look up how to build "spiral transition curves"  sometimes referred to as easements.  Also just to be clear this is for 3 rail with either traction tires or magnetraction.  Scale wheels do not like grades above 2%.  Depending on the type of cars you run, make sure you have enough clearance from the top of the rails to the underside of the overhead roadbed. This will add ~3/4 inch to the desired clearance - and increase the resulting grade.

@RSJB18 - yes, that is a really nice plan ... especially like the up and over. the scale GG1 that I have needs to run on 072 ... but I think I read somewhere that the Williams scale GG1 could run on 042 curves, so I will definitely need to look for one of those. I have a set of 18" K-Line Aluminum Passenger Cars, it doesn't say on the box what the minimum curve to run on would be, but, I'm guessing they would be fine on 042/054???

The Williams GG1 will indeed run on O42, I have a couple of them.  The K-Line passenger cars will do fine on O42.

Steven, In my opinion, Jeff ScoutingDad has just about said it all!  I’m with him on not worrying about calculating much.  Yes, I usually got ‘A’s in math; but now it makes my head hurt as it does his.  John has a good observation about access to the rear of the layout.  Maybe you have that concern taken care of.  We will be waiting to see how this all plays out in your thinking.

@Mark Boyce

Yes, I agree with you and @ScoutingDad in regards to not over worrying about the calculations. To everyone that has given their advice/ ideas/ experience/ input - thank you! I greatly appreciate it, as it  definitely gives me a better sense of how to approach this. When I think about it, I think the correct thing as it has been pointed out, given the amount of space I have in that spare bedroom,  I should go with a mix of 036/042/054 curves. I will keep the scale GG1 that requires 072 for a later date,  when I might be able to have additional area to build. I did purchase last night a Williams scale GG1 that will run on 042, so I'm excited about that.

Yes, @gunrunnerjohn, you're absolutely correct, I really didn't give it much thought as to accessing the layout other than crawl under/ over... hey, I was on a roll and I figured why stop, ha ha! The 4x8 section in the foreground, I'm going to cut it in half length wise and move it to the right, and it will fit in as an "L" section to the 2x8 section up on the right wall.

The other thing that I have discovered last night is that SCARM doesn't work with Mac O/S ... does anyone have any suggestions for a program that will work with Mac???



Thank you again to all of you for your experience/guidance!!

Steven -

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