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My wife has presented me with an empty bedroom that she would like me to build a permanent layout, for myself and our grandchildren, The room is approx. 11'x12', I have created stay out zones for the window and closet, the door opens in from right to left in the lower right corner. The bridge is an Atlas 2 track that will be modified for lift-out. My largest engine is a MTH Premier Blue Comet with associated passenger cars, I also will be running K-Line scale K-4s with more MTH premier passenger cars. The layout was developed using SCARM, blue track are mainline. I would like the mainline to be elevated, the problem I'm having is trying to get to the yard, station, and service tracks without too steep an incline from both directions. I would also like to have a way to create a level below the yard tracks for train storage only. From my limited experience I think the layout will allow three trains to be operational simultaneously, two on the main and one working the yard. I wanted a 2 track mainline but don't know if I'm better off with the 2 mainline loops or if it would be better to have a single line folded over itself.

Any and all comments, suggestions, or modifications to the files are greatly appreciated!


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Looks like a good start!  I would think you'd stick with the double-mainline if you want to run multiple trains at a time, especially if young grandkids are involved.  You could then still have an engine operating in the "green" yard & service area.  I'm not sure how far you want the mainline elevated, but you can probably do a couple inches relatively easily, that would make it easier to see over the service area, especially for the grandkids.  Would you have to access any of the "stay-out" zones with any regularity?  Could be a nuisance. 

I've noticed you're really close to having a reverse loop built into the service area of the layout.  You may want to consider re-working the switches on either the top of left side to create this so that you can turn trains around if desired.  You could also attach the far-right spur to the inner mainline as well. 

I've heard that the curved switches can be a bear with smaller engines with a shorter electrical footprint due to electrical dead zones in the rail.  I'm planning on needing a couple in the layout I'm designing, but something to consider, especially if smaller switcher engines are to be run. 

Can't wait to see it develop!  Good luck & have fun! 

Thanks for the comments Fridge56Vet, I didn’t realize I don’t have a reverse loop in the yard. In addition I just realized I only have access to the 3 track freight yard from one direction! Goes to show you sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. That’s why this forum is so valuable!

I have modified the layout design after reviewing the suggestions presented. I decided to do a folded loop which allowed me to reduce the grades to less than 3 deg. I now have a reverse loop as part of the yard area, I kept the loop with 054 minimum curves. The freight yard has some 031 curves but this area will be serviced mostly by 0-4-0's, 0-6-0's, and SW-1's. Someone asked if the stay-out zone would need to be accessed, maybe twice a year so not an issue for me. At some point I'm going to see if I can return to the two main loop design if I can figure a way to reduce the grades.

I have a few questions: 1. Is there a SCARM repository somewhere for buildings and operating accessories? I'd like to see if I can place a water tank, water columns, coal tower, etc by the turntable. Would like to see if I can fit a op corral, op forklift, milk platform between freight & passenger yards. I have no idea how to create these on my own and would have to guess on sizes because they're packed away. 2. I have read comments that Ross curved turnouts can be troublesome for small engines, I just don't have enough room to use standard turnouts, am I going to regret this design? 3. I have an 8" elevation at the folded loop crossover, is this adequate or do I need another inch or so?

Thanks for all comments and suggestions. Please continue to provide input. SCARM file is attached.


Rich883 I went to your website, WOW what a beautiful layout! In reading thru the pages of posts, you talked a little about how you constructed your steel girder elevated section. Can you please provide more info on the HO girder bridges you used? The brand, how you supported them inverted and how you made the walkways with railings. Thanks.

@Trainmstr I'm impressed with your skills using SCARM and how you've fit all this track together.  I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into it.

I opened your most recent SCARM file.  At the back of the walk-in open area in the middle of the layout (in the picture top right) where the tracks run side by side around the inside corner (O-32, O-42, O-42), they are so close together that passing trains and cars on adjacent tracks will likely hit or scrape each other, especially longer locomotives and cars and ones with overhanging ends.

You've mentioned wanting buildings.  When planning my layout, I got all my buildings and larger trackside accessories  out of their boxes and wrote down their dimensions, noting the length as the side that would be facing the track.  In SCARM, I created simple rectangles and/or circles (using Figures) to represent placements for the buildings I wanted to include on my layout.

Deciding which industries you want to include will help guide your layout plan. Like most of us in this hobby, you may not be able to include everything you want.  Only you can decide what to include and what might be swapped out later for something else.

At this point, my suggestion is if you want more than a purely loop running and switching layout, as in, if you also want to have industries, consider scaling back the yard and/or the turntable, placing the buildings and industries, then fill in around those with track.

A tip for working with a complex layout such as yours in SCARM is to separate sections of track into Layers.  Doing this allows the different layers to be active, visible only, or hidden.  Some examples: main level outer loop, yards, TT & whisker tracks, upper level, alternative ideas that you may not want to delete, but just hide temporarily.

SteveH, it is luck not skill that I have gotten this far. I guess I do have the luxury of being retired so I can spend hours at the laptop. I thought I had different parts of the layout on different layers, I’ll take a look at that and modify as needed. The area you commented on is the freight yard, this area will be serviced by 0-4-0’s, 0-6-0’s, & SW-1’s. With 4” C to C at the curves I thought this would be OK, it then tightens to 3.5” in the straights. From what I‘ve read on the forum I assumed this was acceptable. I’ve only built simple tabletop layouts using Lionel “O” track, this is my first attempt at Gargraves/Ross trackage, so I’m really flying blind. The Atlas TT was a Xmas gift from my little grandchildren (see video in Blue Comet thread), so I’d really like to include it. If I can figure a way to add a lower level for train/car storage I could simplify the freight/pass yards on the right side. So far I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it. I agree it’s packed with trackage, since it will be DCS & CAB-1L I was hoping the grandkids could be running on the main while I work the yard area. Believe it or not my 4 yr old grandson is fluent and 2 1/2 yr old granddaughter is semi-fluent using DCS, I haven’t told them they can run my trains from their IPads yet!

You might consider removing the turnout on the lower left from the main that heads to the green, or add another turnout to the green just beyond that turnout, and extend that green line onto a removable section under your double track bridge and tie it the the left most  green track in your 5 track yard.  That would give you a run through flat switching yard you could work and not have to deal with the long path around the turntable to do it.  If there were 6 tracks there, I would say put a turnout on the end of the 2 left most green tracks, and run a single track back to the main line/green line turnout.  Really nice plan as it sits though, looks like it would be a lot of fun for the grands, and you too.

I agree that the biggest issue that you'll have is the track congestion on your layout.  Since you really want the turntable to be featured, I have moved it slightly and tried to open up some space.  You should be able to put a coaling tower over the entrance track and the 20" spur running parallel, maybe a yard office, etc.  I used Gargraves Flex as some slight curving is needed on each to get them straight once away from the turntable, with 4.5" separation.  You should still be able to have at least four 18.6" spurs off the turntable, plus a 15" spur, and one in between if you like (not sure why it won't let me put another spur there).  You may be able to play with the positioning some to optimize things.

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I'll see if I can come up with anything to simplify that yard & create some additional space, though it will probably mean sacrificing 1, if not 2, tracks.  I've heard that the double-curved turnouts can cause electrical pickup issues for smaller engines (not sure if newer vs. older engine makes a difference), so I'll see if I can eliminate those as well, though it may be difficult.  If we can't, then you may want to purchase one of the O72/O54 switches, connect it to some track, and see how your engines run through it.  If there are electrical pickup issues with any consistency, then you'll want to re-design. 

Also, in SCARM the Atlas O54 switch has a much smaller footprint than the Gargraves.  It appears to simply have less straight track on either side of the switch.  Can anyone confirm this in the real world?  If so, that may be a better option if needed. 

As SteveH mentioned above, try to calculate the dimensions of the buildings you're interested in (should be available online in the product description on the mfg. site, if not retailer), and create rectangles in SCARM to see how they fit on the layout.  That way you can re-work things if needed before you start laying track. 

That's all I can come up with for now.  Take care & good luck! 

- Neal


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@Trainmstr posted:

Rich883 I went to your website, WOW what a beautiful layout! In reading thru the pages of posts, you talked a little about how you constructed your steel girder elevated section. Can you please provide more info on the HO girder bridges you used? The brand, how you supported them inverted and how you made the walkways with railings. Thanks.

Thank you for the nice words.  

I used atlas girder bridges ho scale, I think they only make one.  I used a piece of 1 x 2 wood as the support and then placed the gorged bridges upside down on the board. I used black attack screws to connect the bridge to the wood.  I did pull the two rails out of the bridge first so is fit better up against the wood.  The base supports we’re MTH stone elevated supports, some were from the graduated set as I made it in a grade.

to make the turn, I cut the ends of the sections using a razor saw from hobby lobby to make the mitre for the curves.a puce of plywood was used, cut to the curve I wanted and about 2” wide to provide support.

the walkways were 1/4 square dowel inserted under the track between ties and extending about an inch or so beyond the tiles in each side.  The walk way was some strips of scale lumber - bass wood.  The railing is from plastruct and glues to the side of the walkway strip wood.  After flying together I pained flat black with a spray can.

now that being said I recently replace that section with the elevated sections made by east cost enterprises and their custom model railroads products- Stan worked with me to get the right size.

I hope this helps.

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