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Modifying my first post with some changes to the plan options.  Hoping to get the awesome advice found on this forum on a layout.  I have two young daughters that will love doing scenery so we are going to move from the carpet and build a layout together and really look forward to it.  Using Fastrack. Size is 11X9.  Originally was doing 036 curves but thought we better go 060.  But wondering if we should just go with 072.  We have some buildings and 6 operating accessories we need straights for.  Thought is to do industrial area on top, residential in the middle, city surrounding with a farm and county fair on the two kickers.  One MAJOR issue is going 072 I have to make the main island about 78" to fit the curve!  It will be a 39" reach to the middle of it.  That too much?  Will we regret the reach or will we regret not doing 072 curves? I also will need to extend the one kicker 6" but i think i can make that fit if necessary.  If staying 060 everything fits in the dimensions.

Last edited by Sparty1225
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Looks good - you might want to consider adding a few sidings at a couple of locations on the layout, especially the industry area. It will also help as storage for your engines and rolling stock so you don't have to continually take them on/off the layout when you want to use them.

Depending on what track system you plan on using, most have a little flex and wiggle room so that the sections can be made to physically connect when you actually lay the track out, even if the track plan shows them slightly off.

When calculating reach you need to keep in mind that, although you may be able to physically reach to 39", can you really do any significant work at that length ? Will standing on a chair extend your reach ?

Another consideration would be that, if the table will be strong enough to hold your weight and there are small areas where you can put a knee on and you are physically capable of climbing up, then 39" may not be out of the question. You can also buy a top-side creeper which will increase your reach.

My guesstimate is that only 10%-20% of engines need O-72 to run on and most loco's fall into the O-48 to O-60 category or smaller. That's not to say that all engines don't look better on larger diameter curves, but if we're talking minimum curve, then O-60 should be enough for just about all but the biggest iron.

Hello. The first rule is "Plan, Plan, Plan". It delays the build, but helps avoid design mistakes.

There's a lot of debate about "around the walls" vs. "Island" type layouts.

Around the walls layouts allow for the best access and better viewing because you can only see part of the layout within your field of view. It also allows for wider curves. It comes at the expense of depth -- usually 24" to 32" is about the maximum for your benchwork. You also need a duck-under or lift-out bridge section to access the interior of the room/layout. I'm currently working on several 12'x12' designs for an anticipated relocation in a few months. This one has 42" radius (O-84) minimum on the curves and will handle any piece of equipment I currently have. The lift-out is at the lower left.

12x12_Around-the-Walls

The "Island" type yields a bit more space for accessories, but creates a reach problem if placed against a wall or an aisle problem if placed in the middle of the room. It also limits your curves to the width of the table less six to eight inches. Here's an earlier concept I had worked on several years ago. It's 10'8" x 7' and the buildings were placed in the interior in such a way as to prevent seeing through to the other side of the layout when viewing from track level. It featured 36" radius (O-72) curves.

10.8x7.0_Simple_Oval_3d

Hope this helps.

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Most folks are fixated on minimum radius...my recommendation is to go as big as possible no matter what kind of layout you have, as long as you can still fit most of what you want on your layout.  Trains not only look better they run better too.  My 1st 3-rail layout had 054 (27" diameter) curves, now I have a 2-rail layout and the curves are 81 and 90".  I could have gone a bit bigger but I wanted a long yard and sidings.

I agree with the go as large a curve diameter as possible. When I started building my layout, I thought I would never need anything larger than 42 inch as that was the minimum for the larger passenger cars. Then I found myself buying a Burlington Zephyr that needed 72 inch curves. Fortunately I was able to fiddle around and managed to get in the larger loop. I now can run 3 trains on separate loops, or I can run almost everything through all 3 loops. All squeezed into a 9x13 space.

Of course then I decided it would be much easier to be able to leave passenger trains on the rails requiring some sort of staging yard or siding. With a 5 car passenger train being plus or minus 10 feet long, this has become a stopping point for me because I do not have the room to add this length of track. This is where an under table yard could have been a real solution to my space issues - if I would have thought about it at the very start. As it is, I can keep a couple of short consists on the sidings and just add a 2 or 3 coaches when I want to run a particular road name.

Lastly make sure you add the extra yards or sidings to hold your rolling stock and engines.  Looks to me you have enough room to fit in a lower level yard (at the front left) if you put in a turnout around the top right and run the decreasing slope yard track to the left and then under the mainline. You probably would need to gain an inch or so of height on the main at its top left location to gain enough clearance to keep the grade around 3% or less. After that you could work in a decent sized yard.

As Matt said - plan, plan, plan ... then I will add figure on changing it again because you will decide there are better ways to run your layout than you originally thought.

Have fun - Jeff

So are you trying to stick with the general track pattern shown in the plan?

If so, I have to assume we are only talking about the large oval in the top section as being either O60 or O72, correct?.  The curves making up the lower sections can't possibly be since O60 is 5 feet diameter and O72 is 6 feet (and the largest dimension of the table is only 11 feet), so there is no way those curves can be making up the lower paths that come back up to the 90 degree crossings.

If so, that might be fine, as long as you don't ever accidentally take large engines through the switches towards the smaller diameter curves.

You mention the kids and being excited about scenery.  So does the larger curve ability mean more here, or the ability to maybe have more room for scenery/building creativity?  Most of us here agree to go with O72, but that's pretty much from a hardware capability point of view most of us have lived through.  If you won't care about the large engines, maybe you should stay smaller to have more working space for the creative scenery and structure designs?

-Dave

In a general way island layouts have more room for scenery/buildings at the cost of tighter curves and access/reach problems. Around-the-walls layouts can have broader curves and no access problems at the expense of less scenery and buildings. I am happy with an around-the-walls "shelf" pike because I am more interested in operating a miniature railroad than I am in creating a miniature World. For me scenery and structures are the stage in support of the actors, the trains. I suspect for the OP and his two young daughters the miniature World is the attraction and the trains will add animation.

I do think access is a real problem whether the reach is 36" or 39", most especially for the two young model railroaders.



Several pics of my......somewhat spartan Pike. Looking West:

        IMG_1400

My helper occupying the futon.

The Southeast corner:

         IMG_1314

The Southwest corner:

        IMG_1313 [1)

The Northeast corner:

        IMG_1385

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Correct, The large oval is the only thing I can do 060 or 072.  The rest will be 036 to allow for more scenery and layout space. 

Thank you all for the comments and help! 

I was kind of thinking the same thing, go for 072.  I'm sure i can figure out ways to reach the center for scenery.  I can walk around the whole layout to get access so just the very middle will be hard. 

We don't have anything that runs 072 but I feel it will be nice to have an option to run or get one instead of ripping up the layout or starting over.

@ScoutingDad posted:

I agree with the go as large a curve diameter as possible. When I started building my layout, I thought I would never need anything larger than 42 inch as that was the minimum for the larger passenger cars. Then I found myself buying a Burlington Zephyr that needed 72 inch curves. Fortunately I was able to fiddle around and managed to get in the larger loop. I now can run 3 trains on separate loops, or I can run almost everything through all 3 loops. All squeezed into a 9x13 space.

Of course then I decided it would be much easier to be able to leave passenger trains on the rails requiring some sort of staging yard or siding. With a 5 car passenger train being plus or minus 10 feet long, this has become a stopping point for me because I do not have the room to add this length of track. This is where an under table yard could have been a real solution to my space issues - if I would have thought about it at the very start. As it is, I can keep a couple of short consists on the sidings and just add a 2 or 3 coaches when I want to run a particular road name.

Lastly make sure you add the extra yards or sidings to hold your rolling stock and engines.  Looks to me you have enough room to fit in a lower level yard (at the front left) if you put in a turnout around the top right and run the decreasing slope yard track to the left and then under the mainline. You probably would need to gain an inch or so of height on the main at its top left location to gain enough clearance to keep the grade around 3% or less. After that you could work in a decent sized yard.

As Matt said - plan, plan, plan ... then I will add figure on changing it again because you will decide there are better ways to run your layout than you originally thought.

Have fun - Jeff

Curious, what do you mean by an under table?  A Table below it with track to set the trains on or display shelves?

@Dave45681 posted:

So are you trying to stick with the general track pattern shown in the plan?

If so, I have to assume we are only talking about the large oval in the top section as being either O60 or O72, correct?.  The curves making up the lower sections can't possibly be since O60 is 5 feet diameter and O72 is 6 feet (and the largest dimension of the table is only 11 feet), so there is no way those curves can be making up the lower paths that come back up to the 90 degree crossings.

If so, that might be fine, as long as you don't ever accidentally take large engines through the switches towards the smaller diameter curves.

You mention the kids and being excited about scenery.  So does the larger curve ability mean more here, or the ability to maybe have more room for scenery/building creativity?  Most of us here agree to go with O72, but that's pretty much from a hardware capability point of view most of us have lived through.  If you won't care about the large engines, maybe you should stay smaller to have more working space for the creative scenery and structure designs?

-Dave

Correct, 060 or 072 for the main oval, the rest will be 036.  This way I have a walk way in the middle to access the center from both sides.  I suspect we will primarily focus on 036 trains but would be nice to have the option to run 060 or 072 if we ever need or want to. While they are young I think i will make sure only 060+ engines, for now, have dads eye hahah, good point. 

Well, an 036 oval made a lot of sense at first, big open area and straights.  Added the kickers to get reversing loops which we love.  Was ready to build it.  Then being on this forum (which is great!) and all the cool trains there are, got me thinking wellllll...maybe should do 060.  Well 060 to 072 isn't that much more of a jump..and now here we are hahahah.

Scenery space and changing where things were going to go was my major concern with changing the curves, will it take away scenery options, make it not flow and be as realistic.  So I messed around with the buildings in the spaces and think I can fit what we have envisioned and and make it look like it makes sense.  Also i think i can keep enough straights for operating accessories. 

The reach is a concern but really not much more going from 060 to 072 already.  I think if we do our scenery from the inside out could help since we can lean/stand on the layout. Agree also with the reach for the little's...but i can get stools and they reach around all three sides of the kickers and most of the track.  Just the center will be tough! But I bet they will be the first to volunteer to sit on it and go to the middle haha.  All but maybe one accessory will be reachable right at the edge.   

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet (maybe because the older crowd doesn't like to do it - a crowd that I am joining some day, I'm sure ), but if you are comfortable with bending under the table when needed, you could always make a removable pop-out section smack dab in the middle of the loop.  That's almost the center of the table, so your reach is now not an issue if it's only a rare occasion that you can't reach something near the center from the outside.  You wouldn't want to put something like an accessory you would have to tend to a lot right in that spot (so no icing stations, coal loaders, etc), but you could easily put some sort of non-operating building on the removable panel.

This of course assumes the table is not yet built.  It looks like you are playing with all these ideas digitally, so if you haven't started cutting wood (and you weren't planning on using some table you just so happened to have handy as your starting point), it's easy to add such a thing.

-Dave

Sparty - under table - all I meant was to locate a second level beneath the main track level. It could be as little as 6 inches between the top of the rails and the benchwork above - depends on what rolling stock you have. You would need about 5 inches extra space (track width) at the top of your layout to make the grade drop. Gunrunnerjohn's layout has some similarity with yours but has two levels. I find the back edges of the layouts provide the most linear feet to get a reasonable elevation change.

I think the configuration you have developed will work nicely, especially having the reversing loops. For access to the center a pop out is a good solution. Just make sure your "table" is more than 30 inches above the floor like mine. I have to be a bit of a contortionist to get into a kneeling position to be able to pop up through the opening.

On my layout, I started with thinking about track on a flat table and realized too late (after the tables were built, plywood screwed down and track laid) I should have thought about multiple levels. I would have built the benchwork much differently. The photo shows a 3 track yard under what will be a station and town area. Since I tend to run with transformer control, the 3 tracks are independently powered. I can position 3 trains in the yard and selectively bring one out to run on any part of my layout. When I want to change trains, I can back one back into the yard and bring out another. You have space for a much larger yard. The compromise below is the inner track is 31 inch diameter the other 2 are mostly 42. Because I did not want to tear everything apart and start again, I could only take advantage of the unused space toward the center of my layout.  Jeff

IMG_2474

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My $ .02- (often through inflation- being $2):  modeling trains is more "suggesting" things than duplicating things in scale.  Everything appears better on the biggest turns you can fit in the layout.  The extreme would be to go to flex track- and make "scale turns" - the Horseshoe Curve in SCALE would be great-looking.  That would be 27 feet across in your spare room (1300 feet in 1:48).  BTW the Horseshoe Curve is considered as very TIGHT in real railroading terms.  See: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...-curvature-or-radius

So- go with O320 curves to model a "tight" curve.  (That's a joke son!!)

Most model O locomotives REQUIRE (to avoid derailing), either a 054 or 072.    BUT, I have compromised:

There are a LOT of locomotives that are OK even at 036. This especially if you are willing to accept a "traditional-sized" smaller than full O SCALE engine.

On 036, many times 048 even 060 turns mean you cannot run modern-era or even 1950's SCALE six-axle diesels, or WWII prototype articulateds, since they might derail.  Go with the manufacturers' recommendations on minimum radius turns.  Also consider the clearances required for tunnel entries and the like.  I have a 773 Century Club Hudson- 4-6-4 and I had to trim the back corners of the cab for this reason. 

But, you can,  (in Lionel) run postwar traditional-sized locomotives, smaller SCALE steamers like a Pacific, or a first-generation 4-axle Legacy diesel - F3's, F7's GP7's, GP9's RS-3 etc.   In passenger cars- SCALE are 80' or 20- 21" cars that might RUN on smaller-radius turns- but the overhangs make them look silly.  I run 16" cars and nobody  even notices.

In freight cars- these can be tricky-   50-foot scale cars or "traditional" cars- can look good even running together.  The length I have found looks best is no longer that about 12-1/2" actual length.  Then run longer cars behind a larger engine or as a group instead of mixing them into a bunch of "traditional"-sized (usually 10-11") cars.

- my 048 section is hidden under a tunnel and mountain- the "in your face" sections of the layout are 072 for appearance.

- I set my era as 1950- so shorter diesels look right.

- I bought 16' passenger cars, and;

- I gave up on having articulated engines.   

The one thing you cannot put up with (I think) is difficult or impossible maintenance or reach, taking into account the persons doing that.  So- for you (using a duck-under as you get older) and our family (now), a duck-under requires good knees, and clear, clean wiring so you don't snag and disconnect anything while you crawl.  And a lift bridge allowing entry to the center of a layout might be a difficult engineering project, expensive, or a pain- all just to reach a car that slipped off the tracks causing a short.

I have not regretted my choices, EXCEPT- I should have had 072 easement curves leading to 060.  And I have been VERY happy that I purchased a topside creeper.

Last edited by Mike Wyatt

A few things to think about:

This is not your final layout. This is a project with your daughters. Someday, when they are older, you will build a more mature layout, with them, or by yourself, depending on their level of interest at that time. So there is no need to try to have everything on this one.

To you, how important is it that the trains be models? I say "models," because most toy trains are more like caricatures. Over the years a wide variety of wildly-inaccurate traditional-sized trains have been issued with paint/details suggesting many of the real-world engines. Want an L&N "Big Emma" 4-8-4? Lionel's got you covered, as long as you can look past the obvious fact that it's a NYC engine with different paint. Williams even issued a N&W J-class in two-tone blue and called it the streamlined ATSF "Blue Goose." Does stuff like that make you smile, or make you retch? Can you look at a BNSF boxcar with a roofwalk without rolling your eyes? If you need accurate models, then you need O-72 to run them on. But if you just like toy trains, then you can be happy with caricatures running on O-36 track, while your imagination does the rest.

Someone said that there is poetry in limitations. Model railroading must be the most poetic thing you can do. If you limit your curvature, you will limit your possible roster of locomotives and rolling stock, while opening up the possibilities of what you can do in your space. Smaller curves = more trains per square foot, or more operating potential per square foot. The converse is also true, of course: the wider your curves, the wider the variety of motive power, but, paradoxically, the narrower your possible uses for it.

I think it would get frustrating to have a situation where you had locos or rolling stock which could not traverse the entire layout.

Curves always look better when viewed from the inside. In your current track plan, the viewer sees the outside of the O36 curves, while the O72 curve is hidden within the layout. If you are going to have larger curves, you should take visual advantage of them by making them more prominent than the sharper ones. The pop-up in the center of the layout would allow the viewer to see the larger curves closer, and also from the inside.

FWIW, I am a toy train guy, and my own layout has O-31 minimum curves. Almost everywhere, I use O-36 or larger for the sake of appearance. The small minimum curve limits my roster to the "classic" toy trains, and items compatible with them. I'm fine with this, because I like these trains anyway, and tight turns make possible a lot of complexity which I could not do with O-72.

When you say 'young' daughters, how young are we talking?  If they are old enough to provide their own thoughts I'd ask them what they want to see in the layout and make sure you include that.   One thing is for certain is that I strongly recommend all operating accessories be within their reach to make sure the play value is optimized.  I would also recommend changing your design to better incorporate the accessories more along the lines of what you would see in the real world.  Additionally, I would think long and hard about using your current design as those crossovers just get in the way.  Remove them and you could create a layout when you can run trains on independent areas of track - you could have 1 mainline loop and a separate switching line to work all the accessories.  Heck, you could probably sneak in a double mainline.  Now if your thing is to just watch trains run all over the layout then by all means go with what you have.  There's more than one way to enjoy the hobby.

-Greg

Thanks again for all the recommendations, incite and comments.   To answer a few of the questions:  Daughters with bdays around the corner will be 7 and 4 so pretty young.  But i'm realistic that their interest in this will probably only last for a short number of years so want to build/work on something together now.  If they help create it maybe they still interested in it longer.  Great suggestion and Yes I do ask their input on buildings, cars, smoke fluid smells and so on.  My currently 6 year old actually likes messing around with SCRAM on the computer haha.  She is the one that tells me what makes sense on the layout and scenery and what doesn't.  She has told me, "well it doesn't make sense to see the train from the city all the way to the farm" lol.  She needs a 30x30 space lol. 

I do very much appreciate prototypical and realism like with my 1/16 scale ertl precision tractor models I operated on my Uncle's farm.  Very cool to see every single detail as it is in real life and for those models I want that correct detail.  Like you should be able to jump on them add diesel and start them up, and they have it.   

With trains for me it is about play value mostly, the jaw dropping smoke effects and swinging bells, sounds, operating accessories, neat buildings that light up, neon signs, neat operating cars, cool holiday aquarium cars and cool flat car loads and so on. I could see myself creating some some trains that would be pulling era correct loads matching the locomotive though.

I think the 072 wins and I will try to make it work.  I would love for the whole system to be 072 so a train can run everywhere if we get one that large. However space restraints/scenery priorities allow for the 036 curves everywhere else which I'm good with, fitting the 072s in is last minute design change bonus. 

Have fun with planning, building, and operating your layout, whichever plan you choose. For our layout (in a 12 x 16 shed building) we have an around the wall plan with all curves being 072. Our two largest engines are SP cab forwards (“Mallees”), so with the wide curves we can run anything. At the entrance door to the building we have a truss bridge that we put in place when we run trains. We decided that this plan provided many benefits for us: wider curves, easier to reach all parts of the layout, etc. All of the advice people are giving you is good, and you will choose what works best for you. Share photos when you can  

I have a U shaped layout with two 7' wide sections. One side has no access hole. I put a road in the center that I built off the layout. I worked on buildings off the layout and then placed them. The other end is a yard, so little work needed to be done in the center. I can reach the center using a two step stool, and so far do not regret making it that wide.

Last edited by John H
@WP posted:

Have fun with planning, building, and operating your layout, whichever plan you choose. For our layout (in a 12 x 16 shed building) we have an around the wall plan with all curves being 072. Our two largest engines are SP cab forwards (“Mallees”), so with the wide curves we can run anything. At the entrance door to the building we have a truss bridge that we put in place when we run trains. We decided that this plan provided many benefits for us: wider curves, easier to reach all parts of the layout, etc. All of the advice people are giving you is good, and you will choose what works best for you. Share photos when you can  

I'm sure I'm not the only person here who would love to see a thread about your Pike with pictures, both inside and out.

Here's my plan:  about 240 running feet, and I like a more realistic track to scenery ratio.  The dotted line is 048 under a mountain.   The city is raised about 5", and the terminal has tracks and passenger facilities below.  The portion marked "lower level" is unpowered - just a set of tracks that are on a slide-out for storage.

TrackPlan Final [2)

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