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It depends on the size of your various radii and how long your longest cars are, but I have spaced my track anywhere from 4"-5" apart for realism.  I run scale equipment sizes though so 4" spacing on  072 and 080 curves does not work as two 21" cars will come into contact with each other with other.

I learned that the hard way.

Traditional sized cars and locomotives are a little more forgiving.

The minimum recommendations I’ve seen are 3.5” in yards so you can fit your fingers in to lift cars manually. On straights, it’s 4.5” to let trails pass at scale speeds. It’s also the distance of the Atlas dual-track truss bridge and the Ross double-crossover. On curves, it’s whatever your engines need. Many get away with 4.5” there too, but some large scale articulated engines can require upwards of 6” when passing a train with long passenger cars.

This varies with the radius of the track and the nature of the equipment.  Tubular track comes in 31, 42, 54, 72, 96, and 120" circles and maybe more.  Scale equipment (like a scale bigboy) swings way out on smaller radius track.  Longer passenger cars overhang the inside of the curve.  Smaller equipment like O27 engines and short cars are less of a problem.  What radius track are you using and what type of equipment are you running?

I run scale equipment and 2 rail.    I maintain 4 inches overall.    I do this in the yards to allow fingers to get in rerail cars if needed.    I have found any less, and some larger cars, is just too tight for me to work.

I do not have any articulateds, but I do have  80 ft passener cars.   My minimum radius is 52 inches (104 diamter) and I have not issues with things hitting on curves.    My largest loco is a 2-10-4.   

So I have gone slightly larger than NMRA recommendations on straights, and slightly less on curves for the radius I use.

By way of comparison, the toy-size equipment on my layout barely overhangs the edges of the Fastrack at all, so it is essentially impossible to collide.  As long as the tracks physically fit, I could probably consider them far enough apart.  Beyond that minimum spacing, more space buys you more options to run whatever you want on whatever track you want whenever you want.  The extreme would be a club setting, where this is exactly what happens.  In a home layout, you probably want to be somewhere in the middle.  Decide for yourself how much room you want to leave for the trains based on the space you have, what looks good, what you want to run, and the operational considerations mentioned above.

@zhubl posted:

If your looking for operational aspect over prototype at our club we do 6” center to center and that keeps us from surprisingly smacking a passing train. On O-72 and wider it should keep say a scale big boy from remodeling a 21” passenger car

I can tell you with certainty that on O90 curves at 5 1/4", the VL-BB will take out 21" passenger cars on the outside track.

@DoubleDAZ posted:

The minimum recommendations I’ve seen are 3.5” in yards so you can fit your fingers in to lift cars manually. On straights, it’s 4.5” to let trails pass at scale speeds. It’s also the distance of the Atlas dual-track truss bridge and the Ross double-crossover. On curves, it’s whatever your engines need. Many get away with 4.5” there too, but some large scale articulated engines can require upwards of 6” when passing a train with long passenger cars.

Doubledaz you say the ctc spacing on the Atlas double track truss bridge is 4.5 inches. I have seen other posts that say it  is only 4 inches. I was going to purchase one of those bridges but definitely need 4.5 inches. Are you sure thats what the ctc measurement is? Do you actually have one of those bridges?

I once measured the overhang and under hang  of the longest equipment I have (18" passenger cars, RK Big Boy, scale PRR T-1) and determined that 5.5" was sufficient on O-72 and O-54.  1/4" clearance.

My club's 3-track modules are 4.25" between centers but we avoid running long scale equipment on the middle track.

Lionel's Fastrack curves are 6" between centers.  A safe distance on curves.

As one can ascertain from the thread, it depends on minimum curve radius/diameter and what equipment you will run.  The longer the rolling stock and the sharper the curves, the wider the required spacing, due to overhang.  I experimented with different spacings, using loose (Ross) sectional track and my longest rolling stock (21" passenger cars and 8-drivered, non-articulated steamers) before settling on the spacings I will use - and recommend doing that before planning to get a feel of how things will look and run.  $100 of track that ultimately might not be used (and can be readily resold) is a far smaller price to pay than the frustration of not being to run certain rolling stock on the finished layout, or, alternatively, wide track spacing that has too much of a "toy" look.  No articulated steamers were ever used in my region/roads of interest, so I don't have the Big Boy / mallet issue.  I planned 3½" for yard tracks and 4" for visible mainline (minimum 0-104).  There are two partially-hidden spiral horseshoe curves with a minimum O-72 curve at the hidden apex thereof, where the track spacing was increased to 5".

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