New O Gauge Layout in 130 Square Feet - Blackwater Canyon Line


I agree that planning for it now is key, if I am ever going to do it.  I know I will be working in the train room only for a while, so I would never get to that yard until after I retire, which could be the end of next year, or later.  Yes, with the 042 switches the shortest track is mighty short.  I could go the whole way to 027 switches if I was to use switcher engines only, like my 0-4-0 or my SW-9.  That would make the tracks a little longer.  

One thing too is that the height of the window is way too low for the yard table.  The 46 inches window sill is barely high enough to clear the control panel of the washer and dryer.  My wife and I each do about half the wash.   Whoever sees it needs done, does it.  However, if I make it too awkward to get to the controls, I'll be doing all the wash myself and being mad at myself for having to be a contortionist to do it.  The the track height at the upper level would have to be at least 50 inches.  I have had layouts that high before, but didn't want to go that high this time.  Always compromises!!  

I'll fiddle around with this some more; I don't feel very good today, not wanting to do some work outside I wanted to.

Thank you for your observations!


IF you do actually use the laundry room, I have a much better idea for you than a switch ladder which eats up space quickly!

Build a "cassette" system.  I would make the cassettes about four to six feet long.  These cassettes are single 2' by 4s' that have one strip of straight track down the center.  The length would be determined by the reach spread of your arms and your confidence/comfort level in picking it up loaded with train cars.  You wouldn't be moving it far because the idea would to build one single lane of "fiddle yard" that connects to the rest of you track.  The shelf this lane would be sitting on would be about two feet wide.  You could place four other cassettes on that same shelf; each having the capability of being placed into the single lane of "fiddle yard" that connects to the rest of you track.  When you want to change consists, you could simple arrange the cassettes into whatever order you need.  This will save you a lot of money from buying the additional switches for a yard ladder which end-up eating away at your space quickly!

Lastly, if you want to go the switch route---bite the bullet and buy a manual Ross 4-way turnout!  I have 2.  These awesome space savers spread out from one to four tracks in the space of 2 feet!  You can't beat that.    


You know, we talked about the cassettes way back in the winter.  Yes, I think that could work.  I get a one track mind sometimes, so I am glad others are here to remind me or to bring up new ideas.  Yes, I think a yard in the laundry would be awkward for trains and laundry.  I agree, any savings of money helps.  

I have seen the 4-way turnout, and that is a good idea too.

John, how would he fit a 4-way in his example? He has to come through the window and the switch needs to be away from the wall. From what I see, that would put the switch about where the turnout track is on the 2nd switch below the window. That doesn't leave much room for yard tracks.




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The 4-way switch is a good idea for saving space, but I agree and in fact, I don't think any yard switches would work in my situation.  As you point out, the trouble is the window is in the middle of the wall, so however I would do it, I would loose almost half the narrow (just over 9 feet) room anyway.  Also, there is no way to turn the corner because a necessary door is on one side, and my wife's needed cabinets are on the other side.  Ah, the challenges of building in O gauge in a small house!!  

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Mark, my personal opinion says adding a yard in the laundry room is too much trouble and is not going to pay off in the long run. I think your original idea to build some drawers or shelves to store rolling stock and manually build new consists is the way to go. If it were my layout, I'd probably add the hidden yard I mentioned some time ago, but that has it's own challenges with only 8" clearance, especially if you'd want to move cars around and not just store alternate consists.




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Dave, I think you are right!  8 inches will work okay, because like you say, I'll just store alternate consists there.  I'm not much for making up and breaking down trains like some of the series operators are.  On the other hand, I want to do more than just run trains in circles.  This plan will let me do that.  I can figure a way to keep other consists on cassettes on shelves like John suggested.

One last note on the laundry.  I took off the two brackets that held the heater shelf above the dryer.  Then I put the first  spakling in the holes from the lag bolt holes.  My wife said she really likes the shelf and window panes gone.  I think that confirms it.

I like the idea of storage shelves.  Even when you have a basement, the space for storing cars in yards goes quickly.  On the Glacier Line, we have a fiddle area under the basement stairs landing that holds approximately 125 cars on shelves.  We have three bookcases in a hidden area that hold roughly 200 cars.  These are fiddled on and off the layout.  If every car was on the layout, the layout would be overwhelmed and you couldn't operate.

In my book, I wrote of this subject for small layouts.  For whatever the reason, people don't consider using fiddle areas on small layouts when it is the wisest thing to do!  People are stuck in the mindset that you must place all your cars on your layout.  You do not have to.  In Great Britain, many modelers use the fiddle yard because on average they seem to have much less space than we do.

Yesterday, I saw a rolling "shelf" at a store.  It had 6 drawers and was 38 inches tall.  The drawers were 15 inches deep and 12 inches wide.  I thought to myself how perfect something like that would be to store cars under a layout yet have easy access to roll out and trade cars!

Do NOT get your wife upset, but IF and I mean IF you decide to use the laundry room, it would be an ideal hidden fiddle area.  All you need is one track. and shelves for the other cars or cassettes.  

I lost track of the fact that that window is in the middle of the wall.  The 4-way switch or switch ladder isn't worth the expense for the small extra yard you would get.  I'd still give some long serious thought to a hidden staging lane with shelves ONLY if the wife was really okay with it.... 

PS:  Mark....stick with the smaller scale stuff on the Blackwater Canyon Route.  Get yourself the 0-4-0 and 44 tonner...I think both come in Western Maryland.  The smaller stuff makes a layout look bigger.  Even on my layout, the smaller stuff looks better.  When I use the Premier engine 4-8-4 and it's pulling those awesome passenger cars you sold me that train is 12 to 13 feet long and while looking great really shows how small the layout is...really!  

You should focus on running older-time trains that were generally smaller and shorter than the monsters of today.  My 0-4-0 is my favorite!  I pull a string of wooden stock a custom painted bobber caboose!    


I have seen photos, articles and videos of the fiddle yards the English do.  Where a lot of Americans setup large ovals of continuous running at shows, sometimes with a yard in the middle, I see the English often setup just one highly detailed town, and the idea is watching the different trains that are made up in the fiddle yards, go through town, as if we were standing at trackside with camera in hand watching for trains.  It is a good idea.  I think I like the cassette idea, and the rolling "shelf" with several drawers of individual cars or cassettes with a few cars together would work well.  All of my hoppers are two bay, all my boxcars are 40-foot, my tank cars are short, and all my log cars are short as well.  Thank you for the ideas!!

Well, it has been almost two months since I last wrote.  I haven't made any progress on the layout, but have spent a bit of time on a 2 x 4 module to try some techniques and to give myself a nicer backdrop for photo shoots of rolling stock until the layout progresses.

I made the base of scrap 1 x 4s and some 1" blue foam I had.  I glued down the riser for the track and the cork roadbed.  I sanded the cork smooth, but the track is just sitting there for now.  I plan to spray paint it with Testors CreateFX Gravel Gray.  I want to see how that looks for a temporary ballast, as I am thinking of doing that on the impending layout.  It takes me so long to get ballast down, I think this will be a good temporary stand in.  I also bought the Pennsylvania style tunnel portal and wings last week.  I just have them leaning in position to get an idea how I want to build up my mountain.  I bought them at Hobby Express in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, and thought the manufacturer's name was on the wrapper.  I'm thinking Woodland Scenics, but don't know for sure. When I got home, I saw there was only a price tag on the shrink wrap, so I am not sure who made them.  They are a slightly flexible foam.  So, with my Legacy F7 set and an Atlas 2-bay hopper, you get an idea of how I envision this for photo shooting.

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I did get a chance to start accumulating some wood for the layout.  More on that later.


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briansilvermustang posted:

looking good Mark !  like them W M engines...

Thank you, Brian!  They are sharp!  If you consider the set of 3 as one engine, that is the most I have spent on an engine.  I bought the A-A from Forum member Alex M and the B unit from a guy on a FaceBook Group.

Just a thought, as I finally get to planning my own layout, which will be roughly in the same space as yours (mine is more like 10x12 roughly).  It is hard to meet all the requirements we might want in a relatively small layout, for example having a yard or something like an engine facility with turntable). 


One of the things I have been thinking about is using stagecraft to allow me to have elements I wouldn't have space for. For example, if you want to have coal hauling capability on your railroad, to have a mine modelled takes a lot of space. Yet you could do something like have a painted backdrop at the end of a siding, and have the tipple portion modelled over the tracks physically (compressed likely), whereas the rest of the mine complex could be represented with a painting of the mine complex and/or a flats of the buildings on the backdrop (I am no expert on mines).  For something like logging, a painted backdrop behind a partial mountain covered in trees with a portal to a staging track (looking like a tunnel through the mountain) could represent a logging area, basically a train would go through the tunnel portal to the staging area with empty flat cars, and come out with loaded flats with lumber. It isn't the same thing as a logging branch with geared engines and a logging camp and the like and an interchange to it, but it allows you to get the flavor without taking the space (nice part is you could have a staging area behind a backdrop and at one end of the backdrop have the mining scene, and the other the logging 'portal', sharing the staging area).  Like you I also face the dilemma of having some engines that require at least O72 in a relatively small space

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person


That is an excellent concept, and the ideas you shared to indicate logging and mining in the area are great.  There is another I want to use.  Since I worked at the power station near Thomas, back in the '90s, and worked at other power stations dating back to the mid '70s, I want to include that.  Originally that power station was built near the Laurel Run Mining Company in the '60s, which was owned by Virginia Power also.  By the time I got there the right type of coal, low carbon I believe, was mined out, and they were hauling coal in by rail and truck from Maryland.  The coal was dumped with the rotating car dump mechanisms.  Too bad I don't have room for one of those.  The real thing is cool to watch.  But I do plan to put in some suggestion of the power station and of course, there is a destination for coal hoppers.

I have partly solved the dilemma of trying to run large locomotives in a small space, by selling two of them, and investing the proceeds into smaller locomotives and GarGraves track and Ross switches.  I still have one left that can run on 054 that I am going to keep.

Please clue me in to anything you post about your layout planning, and thank you very much for your comments.

Glad my thoughts were helpful, I think with my layout planning it likely is going to be "trial and error" more than logical planning per se.....but because I don't have a great big space (darn 1950's split level houses with half basements!) I kind of have in terms of space the champagne wishes and bottled beer resources. I am leaning towards a "horseshoe" layout where the open end would be bridged by a removable bridge. By running track that way, I could go for O72 curves (or more) in the 10' approximate width. I also have been toying with a second level, possibly with the lower "country" and the upper "city" (including the hair brained notion of modeling street tracks and something like the High Line in NYC)...but just thoughts. Nice part is I can create my own domain, and if I don't like the approach, can stop and try something else, I have a lot of patience, and if an approach doesn't work, I try another one. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

We aren't much better off with our house.  The only saving grace was my in-laws replaced the broken down deck with an enclosed sun room, the room below on the walkout level was only built to support the sun room.  Now that we have owned the house 6 years, And our girls are married, i finally get the afterthought room as a train room.  I thought very similarly as you when I started this topic.  I shape, with an 072 loop bridging the gap with an upper level.  However some folks here pointed out my high line would over power the lower mountain coal mining, lumbering rural and small town area.  Of course there are newer high lines over older winding rural railroads, but how was I going to pull it off in 130 square feet?  Many modelers do, but I couldn't envision how I would with the ideas I wanted to do for over 20 years.  I actually sold the long locomotives and 72" passenger cars I was going to run on the proposed high line.  I just used some of that money to buy more Ross switches and a Legacy 990 recently.  I also got a couple shorter engines a while back.

That is no to dissuade you from your idea, because I have seen many layouts like you proposed done convincingly.  

I have the concept of what I want to run and what towns, industry, and terrain I want.  The track plan is basically ready, but I know there will be changes as I go along.  Nothing is etched in stone.    We will see how it progresses.  Thank you for sharing your ideas.

One of the nice things about all this is there are no 'right' way to do a layout, and thankfully that is true because people come up with all kinds of clever solutions no one else thought of. I can understand what they mean about the high line overwhelming the lower level, that can be a big problem with multi layer layouts, especially where you want the lower level to be the real focal point. I might very well switch to narrower curves if I find having O72 curves is impractical, I only have one engine that would have problems with it, and if it remains a shelf queen while I will be somewhat saddened, it still is a great looking model. My original thoughts were a lot more intensive, I have given up having a big yard/engine facility (would love to have a turntable and roundhouse, not with my limited space), but I'll find other ways around that. It will mean compromises big and small, but whatever I come up with, definitely better than what I have now, an almost complete basement

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

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