Hello all...I've been reading thru all of the great posts on this forum and decided to join in...some great stuff on here.  My son (8 years old) has a couple of MTH Realtrax starter sets and it's time to move to a real layout...we plan to stay with the MTH and grow off of them.  As a kid I had HO trains...we both love trains so excited to do this with him.  We're limited in space in my Miami condo but we decided we don't really need a dining room so the train table has taken it's space...I purchased the benchwork from Sievers (great experience)...the table is 5'x8' along the back with a 3'x4' piece at the end creating the "L" shape.  The triangular piece will be water with a train bridge going over it.

The layout goals are:

1. Longest possible continuous loop around the perimeter

2. Ability to run two trains at once.  And want the trains to be able reverse direction without picking them up.

3. Some grading...don't think I can get high enough to run trains over trains but some grading for interest...may add an elevated trolley line at some point.  Is   4% grade too steep?  That's what I'm currently showing and allows cars to enter the scene thru a tunnel at the high point of the track...don't expect that we can run very long trains in the space we have.

4. Operable actions of some kind...passenger station...industrial area...some sidings for storing rolling stock.  Also want to create a little small town "downtown" area

Been working on Scarm to create a variety of layouts...would love to hear what you guys think...criticism is welcome along suggestions, thoughts on which layout works best, etc...from what I've seen in other posts you guys have lots of great ideas.  Haven't gotten to the point of laying out structures in the layouts...that's my next task.

Thank you in advance for you time and input...really looking forward to hearing what you think.

VR_Unit 2007

Train Table - Sievers BenchworkOption 5A_Grades_3DOption 5A_Grades_PlanOption 5F_Grades_3DOption 5F_Grades_PlanOption 6B_Grades_3DOption 6B_Grades_3D_TrolleyOption 6B_Grades_PlanOption 6D_Grades_3DOption 6D_Grades_Plan

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I like all three variations, but I see one thing on all three that could use tweaking. Those dead end spurs are not very easy to reach. I would move them on plan three to the large empty space for better access. It would be a good location for some operating accessories.

All three versions look good from an operating perspective, with two independent loops and the ability to turn a train in either direction with reverse loops.

Hi Canes RR, Seeing that photo of the boy sitting at the trains, I would suggest you consider having a second level over part of the loops. That would give the trains, in his imagination, somewhere to go to1a and somewhere from which to return.IMG_0852 [2) Even being out-of-sight for a few seconds nourishes the imagination, in my opinion, for adults as well as children.IMG_0885

FrankM, Moon Township, USA

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge has limits.     Dr. W.Dyer

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...and...P.S.

I'd have a good old time of making the most I could (I have had bridges on the flat main-level, too) of that under-bridge area (I like that a lot what you have planned there), such as:24IMG_8798AAAAAIMG_4992HHIMG_4851_edited-2IMG_4990

FrankM

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge has limits.     Dr. W.Dyer

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Thank you for the quick replies...I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my plans.

Elliot, I hear ya about the spurs...as I get into my next step of schematic layout of structures and how the railroad will function I'll keep that in mind as it will be relevant.

Frank...thank you for the pics and thoughts.  I totally agree on the importance of some sleight of hand/imagination especially with a small layout like this.  Far as I can figure out l can't get the trains to transition to a 2nd level without crazy grades (my understanding is not to go over 4%)...but I was thinking of an independent trolley line over the main line with a bi-level passenger station serving both.  Disappearing trains is a great idea...I originally shied away from tunnels because of track cleaning concerns but that would be a good way to add a level of scenery too...now that you have me thinking of it, I could do a tunnel in the back corner against the wall and leave it open in the back for service.  How do you guys handle track cleaning with tunnels?  Love the detailed modeling in the pics you sent...looking forward to that part of this as well.

Canes RR posted:

Thank you for the quick replies...I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my plans....

Frank...thank you for the pics and thoughts.  I totally agree on the importance of some sleight of hand/imagination especially with a small layout like this.  Far as I can figure out l can't get the trains to transition to a 2nd level without crazy grades (my understanding is not to go over 4%....

Hi CansRR, When I first constructed the first version of my layout, I considered having graded tracks to get trains from one level to another. If I recall correctly,  somebody had advised that the ratio for such a connection between levels is 1 foot of graded horizontal track for every inch of vertical rise. Since my second level is a foot above the first (determined by the height of the tunnel portals), and the same is true for the distance the third level is above the second, I decided making long grades of track to have trains go from one level to the next, was not worth it, not for me, at least. So, the solution was simple: each level got its own separate tracks, with no connection of track among the levels .

The result is that my Second Level has 4 closed-loops that are for trains on that level; the Third Level has 1 train traveling its own closed-loop, with no connection via any track-grade to the second or first levels. I just, simply, did not want to dedicate that much real-estate to ramps.

Perhaps, my explaining my decision will offer you something to consider as you make your decisions. And hopefully, these two shots of part of the layout will afford you a further perspective on how the three levels have their trains operating separately, with no ramps connecting them.IMG_5534xMullen_10-2

FrankM

 

 

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge has limits.     Dr. W.Dyer

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From your floor plan, it appears that you have room to shift your layout a foot toward the sliding glass doors,  That would give your son access to that back corner and the end of the spurs,  If you can see your way to move it away from the rear wall that would be great and really help in the building and scenicing.

Jan

Great pics Frank...my little man lives in Orlando, so with the travel back and forth with him every other weekend, UM football/baseball/basketball games, work, etc. it's could take us years to build the single level with the elevated trolley so will likely stick with that for now...but I love what you're saying about the 2nd level not having to connect to the 1st...so perhaps I can find a way to factor a 2nd level into the plan so that it makes sense for future expansion.

Carl, currently we're just using the transformer and wireless remote that the sets came with...we bought the sets a couple of years ago.  We'll need to upgrade for sure to run multiple trains.  The reason there are two trains running now is that one is the Lionel Polar Express and the other is either the MTH Norfolk Southern freight train or the Sante Fe passenger train.

Jan, I have those furniture mover/slider things on the bottom of each leg so we can easily pull the table out and push it back in when we work on it.

Moonson posted:

I would suggest you consider having a second level over part of the loops. That would give the trains, in his imagination, somewhere to go to and somewhere from which to return.... Even being out-of-sight for a few seconds nourishes the imagination, in my opinion, for adults as well as children.IMG_0885

FrankM, Moon Township, USA

I agree with FrankM that even a short tunnel, such as the four-footer on my 10’-by-5’ layout, adds great interest, especially to a small layout. It’s not just that a train is out of sight for a few seconds but that it is interesting to watch it pass through the portals entering and exiting the tunnel. But it’s important to integrate the tunnel into the terrain so that it doesn’t look artificial. First three photos show an overview of my four-foot tunnel, the east portal and the south portal.

MELGAR_2019_0513_01_TUNNEL_OVERVIEW

MELGAR_2019_0513_02_TUNNEL_EAST_PORTAL

MELGAR_2019_0513_03_TUNNEL_SOUTH_PORTAL

OP Question

Canes RR posted:

.... Disappearing trains is a great idea...I originally shied away from tunnels because of track cleaning concerns but that would be a good way to add a level of scenery too...now that you have me thinking of it, I could do a tunnel in the back corner against the wall and leave it open in the back for service.  How do you guys handle track cleaning with tunnels?

My tunnel sits in a corner at the rear of the layout. The interior stone walls extend to all parts of the tunnel that are visible when looking into the tunnel from the portals. My solution for track cleaning was to cut an opening in the rear corner wall of the tunnel through which I can get my hand and arm into the center of the tunnel to clean the track using alcohol on a rag. I clean the track near the entrance and exit by reaching through the portals. The entire tunnel and hillside are a single structure that can be lifted off the layout if necessary, although I rarely do that. The last two photos show the interior of the tunnel as viewed through the rear opening. The rear wall helps to support the hillside.

MELGAR

MELGAR_2019_0513_04_TUNNEL_LOOKING_EASTMELGAR_2019_0513_05_TUNNEL_LOOKING_SOUTH

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Thank you Melgar...looks like you did a lot with a 5'x10' layout...inspiring as we delve into our small layout.  Do you happen to have a plan of your layout that you'd be willing to share?  What radius curves do you have going into your corner tunnel?  You and Frank have definitely inspired me to try and include a tunnel in our layout.

Canes RR posted:

Thank you Melgar...looks like you did a lot with a 5'x10' layout...inspiring as we delve into our small layout.  Do you happen to have a plan of your layout that you'd be willing to share?  What radius curves do you have going into your corner tunnel?  You and Frank have definitely inspired me to try and include a tunnel in our layout.

The track is just an oval. The curves are Atlas O-54 at each end with five feet of straight track along each side. There are two O-54 switches at the end opposite the tunnel but they just go to the edge of the layout to provide for possible expansion...

MELGAR

You need to consider exactly where the tunnel portals will be located. It's better to have them on a straight section of track to avoid clearance issues on a curve. I used a Scenic Express product for the East Portal because the soft material (urethane) allowed me to widen the opening slightly to 5-1/8 inches so that my scale-sized engines and passengers cars had clearance on the O-54 curve. I used an MTH plastic portal for the South Portal which has a 4-1/4 inch opening and is placed slightly beyond the end of the curve and therefore did not require as wide an opening. A Scenic Express portal (9-1/4 inch width) would have hung over the rear edge of the layout. The MTH portal (7-1/2 inch width) did not. And I needed to accommodate only a single track. I don't know what you are planning. Some people carve their portals out of (pink or blue) foam and in that case you can make whatever sizing you need. You can also purchase double-track portals from Scenic Express. I suggest that you get more than one type of portal and experiment with location, track radius and track spacing by checking actual clearances on the layout using your largest cars and engines before committing to the build.

MELGAR

The portals will be located on straights or at the end of straights before the turn begins...here I looked at having two runs going thru tunnels on different levels.  I'm sure there wil be some trial and error involved in this.  I did a 2nd version using 42" curves on the outside perimeter line but not sure that's needed.Option 6D_Grades_31_Tunnels_3DOption 6D_Grades_31_Tunnels_PlanOption 6D_Grades_42_Tunnels_3DOption 6D_Grades_42_Tunnels_Plan

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As a thought, if you design some switching into the layout, The operating interest and challenge of this particulaar layout may last longer.    A fellow named John Armstrong wrote a lot of books on track planning for operation.    Most of his published plans are quite large, and not applicable, but his concepts and ideas on operations translate very well into the smallest of layouts.

 

Thanks for the reply, Canes RR. I worked on the second plan the posted and another concept, until I realized that the table was built.

I took that plan and tried to stretch out the runs for less herky-jerky movement and create more space for some scenic items. The plan ticks all your boxes except for the siding. I have attached an alternate plan that extends the left side less than a foot and creates space for a siding when you want it. I could figure out how to solve the reach issue in the front for little man, but most of the switches are in reach.

Here is my modification of your plan. 

 

Canes_RR_Modified

Just right-click on the SCARM files and save them to your computer. Then, you can work with them.

Have fun! It is a great way to spend time with the boy. Let him help when you can.

Carl

Arctic Railroad

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Thank you so much Carl...very much appreciated.  It happens that I was working on the same version today...it's my son's favorite version.  I hadn't yet figured out how to clean up some of the runs...if what you did where the bridges cross the "water" really works that would be great...tomorrow I'll try to incorporate that into some of the things I was doing today and see how it works out.

Thanks again!

Canes RR posted:

Thank you so much Carl...very much appreciated.  It happens that I was working on the same version today...it's my son's favorite version.  I hadn't yet figured out how to clean up some of the runs...if what you did where the bridges cross the "water" really works that would be great...tomorrow I'll try to incorporate that into some of the things I was doing today and see how it works out.

Thanks again!

I was thinking that a block could be attached to the each table side frame and a piece of 1/2 ply could be cut to support the over the water crossing. I would place the transformer/controls on the left side facing the table. 

There is a train simulator feature in SCARM. It really helps test the "play value" of a track plan. This one has some good routes. 

Is your Polar Express the LionChief version? If yes, that would permit you to run both of the trains simultaneously off of constant track power using the MTH supply. Then, there would be no need for electrically isolating the two loops.

I would put something like a Lionel 317 bridge under the track on the table in the back. I reverse painted 4 mil vinyl for the water and placed it under the bridge. Then, you don't have to elevate any track.

If you want to elevate, here is a version showing a bridge at 2.5" high at the rear. it would take almost half a set of the MTH 40-1113

Canes_RR_No_Sidings_Short_Grade_3D

Plasticville Station, Lionel Diner, 317 bridge, some trees  

File attached

Carl

Arctic Railroad

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Late to the table, your reverse loops set the limit on length. I don't have software to know how possible this may be with the 90° & curve from switches, but this does add a little length.1557921280810

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





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You guys are amazing spending your time to help like this!  I'll be trying to find time to incorporate your suggestions between today and tomorrow...driving to Orlando tomorrow night to pick up my little man and bring him down for some baseball this weekend.  Very excited to show him all of the layout possibilities for him to choose from...I think he's going to be thrilled.

I'm curious about the MTH trestle set...I went to the link you sent Carl...it says they're 4.7% grade.  The guys at Ready To Roll were advising me to not go over 4% and preferably even less if possible.  Some of the grading I'm looking at is on curves where I assume the grade should be a little less than on the straights?  We'll likely use trestles in some areas and Woodland Scenics stuff in others with an average grade of 4%...I also assume that transitions at the top and bottom are necessary to avoid bottoming out.

Thanks again everyone...looking forward to progressing with this and continued interaction on this forum...hopefully some day I can be as helpful to someone as you all have been to me.

I recommend trying to keep 10-12" spacing between tracks.  If you want to add operating or animated accessories, you're going to need a bigger footprint for those items.

Also something to consider is keeping all track within arm's reach (about 3') especially switches.

Good luck

George Bailey: You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles!

It's a Wonderful Life, 1946

 

Check out my Lionel and MTH auto trains

http://gwpreisch.wordpress.com/

I see your point Garrett about the room those things take up...perhaps we can at least squeeze in the Lionel Gantry Crane and a freight dock...the crane can straddle one of the siding tracks...I suspect there will be some trial and error with the sidings and what can fit and how it operates.

I took what Jan and Carl worked for me and used some of what I was working on and came up with these.  I think it's getting there...now I'm trying to lay in some buildings to get a sense of scale in terms of how much room is left...probably squeezed in about as much track as we're going to get in here.

At the end of the main road would be the passenger station...maybe two levels if I can get the elevated trolley line in there that I'd like to do.Opt 7_3DOpt 7_PlanOpt 7_Sidings_3DOpt 7_Sidings_Plan

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be careful! Don't make the build more complex. The result needed is a railroad that is up and running. Little guys get bored when the trains aren't running. keep the spending down, too. You will grow out of this layout.

The latest version looks good. Keep your focus on scenic items now. 

You need an uncoupler track at the start of the spur(s).

Select all the track between the switches of the smallest reverse loop. Right-click the highlighted track and select "length of selected track" That will give you the length of the longest train that can run everywhere.

Have you tried the simulator? It is under the Extensions heading. Easy to get it working. 

Carl

Arctic Railroad

I think we're in pretty good shape to start laying out with real track and run some trains!  We already have a bunch of track so just need 4 more switches and some of the straight track so we can lay it out and see if there are any issues, tweak some things, get a better feel for how much room there is for scenery/accessories, etc...grading, tunnels, etc. can be down the road.

Perhaps a stop at Ready to Roll will be in order this trip.

I just downloaded the simulator thing...hoping to find time to look at that with my son this weekend.

Thank you again everyone for all of your input and help!!!  Really, sincerely appreciate all of you!

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