New Layout Feedback/Recomendations

Hello,

I am in the process of designing my second permanent layout (first one was dismantled for the move to a new house).  My first layout was 4x9 using RealTrax (O-36 curves) for two main lines and two sidings.  Now that I have more space, the new layout will be 16x10 using ScaleTrax.  This time, I'd love to have 3 main lines, a yard, and a reverse loop.  I've been toying with some ideas and have come to the design iteration that you see in the attached SCARM file and the screenshot.  I really wanted to incorporate a reversing loop and dedicated yard since I didn't have space for these on my first layout.  The spurs on the left side of the S curve in the middle are purely experimental and are in no way finalized.  I've tried to keep the track spacing fairly considerable so that I won't have to worry about interference from larger engines and rolling stock.

Some general info for the attached screenshot: all curves are O-72 and some spans of FlexTrax are used.  Also, all of the yard switches are #4s and the ones that aren't yard switches are O-72.

My main concerns are that I have too much going on in the space given and that there will be too much train/track action to leave room for ample scenery.  Any thoughts and suggestions regarding any part of my current design would be greatly appreciated as I am new to this forum and typically get stuck inside my head!

- Victor

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Original Post

That plan is a lot of trackage!!! 

I think anyone building a new O Scale/ O Gauge layout needs to choose:

1.  Model railroad??  So you have to realize what you are creating is a "caricature" of real railroading.   So you need to have abundant scenery to even simulate "real" train environments.  In 1:48 and in 16' X 10'  you are not going to simulate a full scale railroad in actual scale.  So you do the best you can, using visual tricks to hide the reality that you are stuck with.   Just build it and enjoy it, but IF you want to do the whole hobby including scenery and buildings, then you can't have a lot of trackage.

OR

2.  Toy Train layout??  In this case you are recreating a "train set", like you might have loved as a kid.  So a lot of trackage with out of scale accessories, is fine.  But that's fun too- and you should do it if you like it.

I just think to try to do BOTH is fruitless- I don't see that much trackage looking like a real railroad. 

Mike Wyatt posted:

That plan is a lot of trackage!!! 

I think anyone building a new O Scale/ O Gauge layout needs to choose:

1.  Model railroad??  So you have to realize what you are creating is a "caricature" of real railroading.   So you need to have abundant scenery to even simulate "real" train environments.  In 1:48 and in 16' X 10'  you are not going to simulate a full scale railroad in actual scale.  So you do the best you can, using visual tricks to hide the reality that you are stuck with.   Just build it and enjoy it, but IF you want to do the whole hobby including scenery and buildings, then you can't have a lot of trackage.

OR

2.  Toy Train layout??  In this case you are recreating a "train set", like you might have loved as a kid.  So a lot of trackage with out of scale accessories, is fine.  But that's fun too- and you should do it if you like it.

I just think to try to do BOTH is fruitless- I don't see that much trackage looking like a real railroad. 

Hi Mike,

I agree with you that the size of this layout is most definitely not enough to simulate the real railroad in this scale.  My main goals with this are just to have fun running three trains at once with a little bit of yard storage on the side.  The spurs in the middle will most likely be gotten rid of and the entire center of the layout will be left for scenery or one industry of sorts.  I think in the end this will wind up being some sort of combination of the two categories that you described.

Thanks for the insight and the reply!

- Victor

Visual tricks: all of these disguise the fact that my "Gotham" is 6 feet square.  It is more necessary to do this, the smaller the layout.  And, excessive trackage does NOT hide the fact that it is a small caricature of real scenes.

1.  Background or "front only" buildings around the edges.  Wall backdrops.

2.  Try to simulate a city by making it impossible to look through the layout from any vantage point.  So, you use streets that zig zag,  and no buildings that can be seen through (blanked windows or lighted interiors) and place the taller buildings so as to block the line of sight.

3.  Mirrors- a mirror that is not in the direct line of sight visually doubles the size of whatever is in front of it.

4.  Put something to distract the eye from things that are not part of the scene- a support pole in the basement?? Paint it flat black, then build a 6" square X 7 story building around it, or have the "ground" slope up to the building making it even higher up the ugly pole.  Put detailed scenes on a lower, adjoining section next to the pole, to draw the eye away from the pole.

5.  Details- the more detail in the layout, the less the viewer can notice how "small" it really is.  Have lighted buildings with interiors, so the viewer (voyeur) looks into the buildings instead of at the storage shelves of your train room.   Have shadows of people showing through the shades.  Distract the viewer with great-looking vehicles, or people doing things as in real life - a car pulled over by a police car, and the cop writing the ticket- the viewer won't see the support pole behind the scene. 

 

 

 

Victor D posted:

My main concerns are that I have too much going on in the space given and that there will be too much train/track action to leave room for ample scenery.  Any thoughts and suggestions regarding any part of my current design would be greatly appreciated as I am new to this forum and typically get stuck inside my head!

I agree with Mike, but only to a point. I'm a runner in that I take no pleasure in switching cars around, dropping them off and picking them up from make-believe destinations, etc. I like to watch multiple trains run in opposite directions, over/under each other, etc. However, I also like somewhat realistic scenery, whether it be a crowded cityscape or the country side between faux destinations. but that has to be tempered by the available space.

That said, the biggest problems I see with your design is it's ALL track because like so many you want to use O72 curves. RealTrax doesn't have O36 curves, so I assume you meant O31 or O42. I can understand why you want to change from RealTrax to ScaleTrax, but don't know why you want to change to larger curves given the space you have. IMHO 9x16 is not enough space to support such large curves. Search for "Seneca Falls Model Railroad" to get an idea of what you could do in the same space using O31 curves. Even though I'm a "runner", I appreciate visual interest. I get the crappy look of engine overhang, etc., but if you fill the space with things that draw your attention away from that, you end up with a very pleasurable experience watching trains run.

I also don't know why you want such a large table where you're going to have problems reaching all the track to deal with derailments, etc. If you have room to walk around a table, then your available space must be larger than 9x16. If that's the case, have you considered an around-the-room or another type of design?

As for the design itself, the biggest problem I see is you only have a single reversing loop and once you go through it to turn a train, you have no way to turn the train again without backing all the way through the loop. The same is true of the storage yard where you back in to pull out or you pull out and then have to back in. I have the same problem with my space, so I'm just going to leave the trains where they are after a running session and forego the hassle of backing trains in for storage not to mention the cost for the switches and track. And then there are the totally useless spurs,so I get your comment about removing them. A couple of spurs with buildings are okay for visual interest, but filling them like you have will only waste more money on switches and track that won't look right or get used.

DoubleDAZ posted:
Victor D posted:

My main concerns are that I have too much going on in the space given and that there will be too much train/track action to leave room for ample scenery.  Any thoughts and suggestions regarding any part of my current design would be greatly appreciated as I am new to this forum and typically get stuck inside my head!

I agree with Mike, but only to a point. I'm a runner in that I take no pleasure in switching cars around, dropping them off and picking them up from make-believe destinations, etc. I like to watch multiple trains run in opposite directions, over/under each other, etc. However, I also like somewhat realistic scenery, whether it be a crowded cityscape or the country side between faux destinations. but that has to be tempered by the available space.

 

Hi Dave,

I am a loop runner myself and love to just railfan the trains as they go around.  I agree with you and Mike that there is too much going on in this space, I got too excited because I've never had an unfinished basement with open space at my disposal.  I was really hoping to step up to the scale train models and run some better detailed pieces, but with a plan like this it seems to not be feasible to have a good track/scenery balance. 

I think what I'm going to do is see if I can't come up with a larger layout plan since there is a lot more space than just the 16'x10' that way I can run the higher end stuff.  If that doesn't work out I'll either simplify the plan here or downsize the curve radii and stick to the Railking stuff I have already.  I really have no issue with this dimension table since I'll be able to walk around all sides of it.

Just a plan in progress for now and I really appreciate your perspective on the track plan itself too.

- Victor

Mike and Dave,

Having taken your advice into consideration, I came up with new L shaped layout plan attached below.  I feel that it offers a bit more breathing room for scenery and some longer mainline runs than before.  I did realize that the yard was not worth the space on a layout this small for O-Scale trains, so I got rid of it.  I simply added on an 8' square portion to complete the L shape to extend on mainline and to have the double reversing loop function.  Also, I'll able to walk around the entire table in the space that this would fit, which is a plus. 

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DoubleDAZ posted:

Thanks.

Hi Dave, I was doing some more tweaking and came to this configuration. Have two mains go around the perimeter of the layout instead.  The outer loop here is all O-80 curves and the inner loop at the bottom uses some flextrack set to O-66.  Just some more mainline action in this plan in comparison.  Also, the black circle is a support pole that would just have to be worked around. Doesn't seem to interfere with the track at all thankfully.

Cheers

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Dave,

As subtle as those changes are the difference in the curve smoothness is definitely much better, that's really great.  Along most of the track I believe the center-center rail spacing is almost always between 5"-6".  Do you think this enough? Just trying to keep any possible tunnel and large engine clearances in mind.

To be honest, I don't know. Atlas track is designed around 4.5" spacing and that seems to be the standard most use as the starting point. I don't know of any stat that says what the largest overhang is for any given engine for any given curve size. That said, your tightest curves are around O66, therefore you are somewhat limited to engines that will navigate O54 curves. You could run O72 engines everywhere except the lower inner loop that comes off the wye where the O66 curves are and some might even make it around that loop. Maybe someone else can be more specific. Me? I'd set up test tracks and see what the overhangs are for the engines I have. Just remember that the tighter the curves, the more overhang there is, so my guess is you'll be just fine. Also remember that manufactured tunnel portals are only so wide and that is another gauge regarding how much clearance is acceptable. I don't know what the dimensions of the portals SCARM uses for it's 3D rendering, but there's an example of multiple portals on the straights and around curves. Lionel portal openings are 5" wide x 5" tall and the base is 7" wide overall. I think the ones in SCARM are smaller. The 2nd photo shows the basic footprint of 3 portals (yellow) side by side, so they'd fit there, but I can tell you they won't fit everywhere. And if you put them on curves, I'm not sure how they will affect the clearance from the overhang.

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I actually have no scale engines or rolling stock since this is my transition into that world.  I see myself running mostly diesels with possibly a few steamers. As for the tunnels I think one large portal for the three tracks or one portal for two and then one track with it's own would probably work too.  I thnk I'm going to shift my focus to figuring out what scenery I want and where I want it.  You have been a great help, thank you so much!

Here's a version with minimum O72 and 6" clearance throughout, only 1 flex cutting (curve in center) and 3 other cuttings (though I'd cut longer tracks to replace a series of shorter ones). The original tracks are still there in layers Track 1, 2 ,3.

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Well it sure looks like it checks off a lot of boxes:

072 Minimum, Double reversing loops, Turning Wye, Cross-overs between all loops

What goes in the centers? Is this going to be a duck-under to the center section, or will this will be for scenery? You may want to plan for three access hatches in the center.

 

What goes in the centers? Is this going to be a duck-under to the center section, or will this will be for scenery? You may want to plan for three access hatches in the center.

Yes I was planning on doing scenery in the three circular areas.  A town to the left of the center reverse loop and a mountain with a waterfall going into a lake with a park at the bottom on the right side.  Then on the bottom I was thinking some sort of RR industry, but I left it blank since that's probably the last area I would work on.

And Dave that looks great, certainly seems to be less and less to worry about with all these tweaks.

Greg Houser posted:

I'd lose the second reverse loop as the wye makes it completely unnecessary.  I'd use that space for industries or other scenic elements.

-Greg

I'm sorry if I just don't see it at the moment, but how would I turn the train around again without backing it through the same loop? Wouldn't you need the second reverse loop to turn the train around again all while going the forward direction?

You are going to want more than six inches of clearance in the tunnels.  If you ever want to run husky stacks and large auto carriers, they would hit the top and some other cars might hit the tunnel entrances.   I agree with others on this thread, simplify. I am currently removing track to make room for buildings and structures.  I too was given half my basement for a layout. I jammed as much track on it as I could.  It was an expensive mistake as I now have enough extra track to almost do another layout.   Regardless of what the people on the forum say, It is your layout.  You do what you want to do.  I put my two cents into a maybe version.  The green reverser will turn trains back so the wye reverser will work again without backing a train up.  It also reduces switches(cost) and gives room for a siding for industry. I had a small loop on my layout and took it out as I only used it for parking.

  Walnut JPG

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Have you ever considered an open grid type of construction with grades to add interest to the layout? Go on to Amazon and check out a book on Model Railroading benchwork by Linn Westcott. It's a classic and priceless. A flat top layout can be nice but it cannot compare to a graded layout with hidden storage yards and all kinds of possibilities for scenery. All you will need is 1/2 inch plywood and 1x4 pine boards. No 2x4's, no 3/4 inch plywood, and no homosote. And, while I'm at it , Gargraves track and Ross custom switches. Have fun. Building the layout is the very best part of the whole hobby.

The outer loop is already O80 and the switches are #4's, so I'm not sure I follow the suggestion.

Here are some examples of elevations:
The 1st has a 7" rise in the "L" and lower loop.
The 2nd has a 7" rise in the "L" and around the left side loop with the crossover moved to the lower right.
I wanted to try to split the crossover, but even separated, they only fit along the top and the right side IF you change from #4's to O72s. Even then, the grade along the right side is 4% with a 4" rise, so I don't think it's worth it.
The 3rd shows a combination of the 1st with the changes to the inside loop, though I did make some minor adjustments to the reversing loop.

I'd have a hard time giving up the inside loop, but it is on the expensive side. I just like the options it provides for multiple routes and variety. However, if you do get rid of it, you might consider using the space and money for some storage, one thing that is completely missing. Of course, the storage can be added to any version.

One thing to note is that with access all around the table, elevating the outside loop obstructs visibility to some degree. Also, given that it's an"L", the assumption is the operator would generally be inside the "L" section and not walking around the perimeter except to deal with problems.

Walnut 2018-01-10-3a3d-dazWalnut 2018-01-10-3b3d-dazWalnut 2018-01-10-3c3d-dazWalnut 2018-01-10-4-3d-daz

 

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I would have a hard time giving up the inner loop too, as it lets me run three trains at once which was one of the main goals here. 

I did consider elevating the outer loop, but I wasn't sure how tall I could really go in the "short" lengths available for the rise.  Like you show Dave, I thought anything above 2% was pretty steep too.  I considered a small elevation of maybe 3 or 4 inches just to give some vertical separation and still maintain shallower grades. 

As for the spurs in L, I left that area blank since I really didn't give it much thought.  A dual engine shed and refueling area would be cool.  

I just did some Googling about the open-grid construction method and from what I can see it  seems like a less restrictive starting point.  I can certainly see how it would lend itself to building scenery and track in either vertical direction from the nominal bench height.

So many great suggestions and ideas here, thank you all so much for the great information.

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