Layout Plan Critique



I would appreciate any comments positive or negative on this design that has had many revisions. I have included multiple prints of the design and photos of already completed areas. Included also is the digital file.  If you have RR Track v5 you should be able to open it, if desired.


The trains are in my barn that is heated and cooled with controlled humidity. The inside dimensions are 43.5’ x 28.5’.  Trains occupy most of the barn, but some space is used for a shop, a kitchen area and a storage area for a riding lawn mower.  The Train area limits are east wall (the top of the drawings), south wall (right side), north wall (left side), and the bottom limit is indicated by the 2nd (lower) horizontal green line. I am trying to not go beyond the 1st green line if possible to preserve the wider aisle.


Layout Goals 


My wife strongly suggests that we have large aisles ideally 36” wide but not less than 32” because we don’t know what the future might bring, wheel chair accessibility.


I want to complete this while I still am agile enough. It might not be that long? I like to run multiple trains, multiple eras, and multiple RR lines, but heavy on BNSF’s heritage and the Indiana South Shore.  Most of the trains that I run have TMCC or DCS.  I stay away from running my traditional trains that are not remote controlled.  I like to have long consists as do many of us, for examples; I am trying to complete the Atlas CZ set of 12 cars.  We currently run multiple articulates, actually considering the New Lionel Big Boy, diesels, electrics, and service machines. The inter-track dimension becomes important.  The distance that we feel is appropriate is 5.25”.  The consists are of coal drags (15 cars), ore drags (26), passenger trains (7-12), a container train, billboard refer trains; etc.  Current design allows 7 active trains to run at a time fairly comfortably. Staging areas allow 11 trains to be parked.  The hump yard allows additional activity along with activities serviced by the South Shore (SS) tracks for mill operations, intermodal yard, and the engine servicing areas.


I have a small Christmas layout 4’x10' that will run my traditional trains. It rolls out from under the big layout into the shop area elevation 30".  The shop tables fold easily to make room. I have been contemplating the completion of the layout for over 5 years. Included is a picture of my original mock up model.  The model is a little tired and was probably too complicated so I simplified it.


 Below is the redesigned plan

 Full Layout


During the last five years I have constructed some of the areas and have included those photos also.  I do not really know if I will ever really finish, but I do want to get the track phase finished in the next 6 months.  The track is GarGraves and Ross.  Most of the switches and track have been purchased.  Remaining items that need to be purchased are a Lionel 213 Lift Bridge and a custom made 7’ double main line bridge.  I plan to construct a lifting passage between the station area and the main layout with vertical slides and a hand crank or lift motor. The clearance will be 70” high to walk under and 36” wide.


Eventually we want the layout to be a signal indicated control system.  Each operator would be responsible for following signals indications of his train(s).


The hump yard is also very important to us, but is compromised by its short length. It has an 8” drop and will only have a master retarder at this time.


The minimum curve is 72” other than the lead in and exit from the hump.  There are three elevation levels, 30”, 40”, 48”, and then the layer that varies from 48”to 62” and possibly higher.


The background on the north wall is a Chicago type city, the north east corner is a Steel Mill, the east wall is an industrial area that will an have oil tank farm, Ford Motor factory, an auto carrier pick-up facility, and an Air Products company.  The southeast corner will be an intermodal facility with 2 cranes and transport road.  The southwest corner will be a diesel engine facility with a transfer table and South Shore Interurban repair site.


I have considered a logging branch line, high and in the middle of the layout.  I would like some rocky countryside along with a quarry, and a BNSF service facility near the hump yard.


The general plan is to make it easy to keep switching trains in and out of the station and storage areas.  I would like to switch from steam trains to modern diesel trains and transition trains between those two eras easily.



Completed areas

1. Staging Area (lowest level) at 30” elevation at the north side (top of the drawing) with a ramp that goes up to the station area along the north wall ending at a 48” elevation at the station area.  The staging level is completely covered by 40” elevation of the South Shore (SS) layer except by the river that will be exposed for a river scene.  It also serves as a reversing loop function.  It has been my temporary mainline with the adding of the temporary loop that may be seen in one of the photos.


2. The Station Area 48” elevation will have an higher elevated station above the tracks with steps going down to the trains at 48” and then continue down to the 40” level of the South Shore and CTA Lines.  The station will be just a facade on the north wall. The station’s tracks will be covered by a city scene and only the exit will be visible showing the engines waiting for departure orders.


3. South Shore Level (SS) is 40” H This level will be electrified by overhead cantenary system to serve the interurbans. It will serve as the South Shore Electrical line, the Chicago Transit Authority line (CTA), and an Indiana RR Industrial line that will service a steel mill, Air Products, the Ford factory, the intermodal area, and the South Shore diesel servicing area. There is also a branch that follows the east wall and then the north wall to store ore cars that will be mostly unseen until pulled out by a Yellowstone on the east wall.  The double SS line crosses a river and uses a double track operating bascule bridge. There is a Lionel lift bridge (yet to be purchased) that is a branch off the double main South Shore to service the mill.



 Currently Completed in pictures and RR Track 

 Current State






























Uncompleted area 

The right side (south side) of the South Shore 40” level is not completed. This includes an engine facility, installation of the transfer table, South Shore repair facility, intermodal yard, Ford plant and car carrier facility. It is also one end of the South Shore Loop double main.


The main level is a 48” elevation to a 62” elevation. The 62” height is based on what I feel is need for the duck under 7’ long bridge. I would like and very much appreciate suggestions and comments on the proposed main layout and the associated hump yard with pull out tracks.  The hump has an elevation of 56” ramped down to 48” in about 12’.  The plan is to use one mechanical retarder.  The yard is as long as I believe I can make it.  All aisles are to be wheelchair accessible.  The center has a step up for youngsters to crawl under then climb up in the middle as marked (Look Out).  Track is GarGraves with Ross turnouts.  Switches are currently to be controlled from multiple points and large wall-mounted indicator boards for various switch area positions.  I am very interested in controlling it by use of iPads with LCS if practical. 





 South Shore Level to be completed





Added Main level and hump yard






All tracks and levels are designed to be interconnected and have access to reversing loops.  The design is also to allow the main lines and the Staging area to be run as a single main line controlled by individual operators guided by the signal system when completed.  The switches can be lined so that operators will be able to run over the entire system as a single track.  Trains will not be controlled by the signals (i.e. not PTC) but by the operators that will have to follow the signal aspects and be continuously alert.


Not drawn is a separate loop for the CTA.  It will be interwoven in the station area on the north side and will be seen only as it passes over the work bench area just south of the station tracks.


I would appreciate any thoughts and comments you might have.


RR v5 Track File could not design the hump yard or use the grading option.  The top of the hump is 56” H and drops to 48”, three feet before first switch.  The software also has problems rendering 3-way & 4-way switches in perspective view.
















Photos (19)
Files (1)
Original Post

Hi tplee,

Quite an endeavor! I have two suggestions.

  1. Enlist some help-at least one non-family member and hopefully one family member to learn the layout and it's intricacies. See this post: My dream\nightmare layout
  2. Complete the around the wall area to framed, decked, track down, wired and trains running. This will provide a stage of completion and fun because you'll have trains running while you work. Check out the progress since April 2013 by this forum member: New layout progress It appears that you are more than half-way there from viewing the photos.

Please post your progress. It should a very nice layout when completed.


PS-SC-2's should allow you to use the iPad. Adapting the sensor track is another story.



Arctic Railroad

I'm amazed, impressed and envious. While I know what 1,200SF of space looks like (the McCormick-Stillman layout is 1,250), I can't imagine having that much space all to myself or the funds to do something of this magnitude. Your layout is way beyond my ability to critique it, but I'm having a lot of fun running simulations in RR-Track v5, so thanks for including the rrt file. This is one time I wish I had a 25" monitor because the layout is so big that it's a little hard to see all the routes on my 15.6" laptop. I may have to connect the laptop to my TV and I really wish RR-Track would allow multiple trains in simulation mode. It looks like you've got a good start on the layout and it will be something to see when it's finished. I hope you'll post further photos of your progress.

Cheers, Dave

USAF E-9 (Ret) Aim High!

DoubleDaz and others thanks for the comments.  But, actually you are the kind of member that could help me the most by actually running trains on the computer.  Please let me know if you find issues that you would personally find an improvement .


I rough sketched some ideas here in the attached image turning the SS layer off, if the south wall SS layer and staging turn around area can be eliminated off the south wall and just turn around in the south east corner, the yard can be turned at an angle possible allowing for:

- longer bowl tracks 2+feet

- 3 (could be more) track R&D yard 

- hump lead that can be worked with out causing issues on your mains

- additionally the entrance and exit to the yard attaches to the same main

- possibly eliminate the 0-54 on the lead to O-63 

- Possibly room to work in a diesel facility?

Layout suggestions


Photos (1)
The Track Planning and Layout Design Forum is sponsored by

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653