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Hi folks

my wife and I are working on clearing space for an along the wall layout in our basement on a wall of about 28'.  Figure to make a kind of out and back or dogbone with DC Union station represented at one end that would be like a 6'x6'.  Couple of things that I don't know since I have been an HO modeler for many decades.

What track do you think will work best?  I have some MTH real track that I would like to use (at least in part) and have bought some transitions/adapters to go to tubular track where and if needed.  Using the track planning software like Anyrail or looking at CTT layouts shows me that I need custom lengths of straight track for just about any configuration like I would need for Union Station in miniature.  That looks impossible with MTH Realtrax as I need like 4&1/8" sections as an example.  Can I transition to Atlas track in the custom straight areas from tubular and is mth 3d generation tubular a candidate for transitioning?  I have the Atlas transition kits as well.  I am looking at Atlas just because of my HO experience but am open to suggestions.

For the along the wall segments that will be basically just two tracks and a possible siding or "interchange" in one of two spots how wide to you think would be good?  For HO I would do 2'.  Doubling that for O seem too much.  3' would waste like a foot of each 4'x8' bought so 2' would be nice but...  What is the experience of those that have made along the wall sections?

What do you all use to cut solid rail or tubular?  I use Xuron nippers for HO but I am not at all sure they would work with O gauge track.

Thanks is advance!!


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Theres no reason you couldn't use 2', just consider that your scenery might be building flats rather than full buildings. Ross makes a full track system, its quite nice and USA made. The switches can be had in manual, and work with caboose throws. You could do it all out of atlas at well. Its just a matter of availability when you need it. Cut track with a dremel and a cut off wheel. 3 rail track is too big for a Xuron to handle. I think the xuron says up to code 100, but it will cut code 148. Atlas 3R track is code 215 and it would stand no chance. Also most 3R track hollow (except Atlas, Scaletrax and early production Realtrax), so you'd just crush it. I wouldnt waste the time on the realtrax. Just use one track system for all of it and save the trouble of all the rough running track transitions. Hollow rail realtrax can be cut and spliced back together with gargraves pins and soldering, but you need to get it real straight when you cut it so it goes back together well.

Last edited by Boilermaker1

Use Gargraves Track (FLEX!) and Ross Switches--YES Ross Switches are more expensive, but are ABSOLUTELY the best!!!  Second to none!  If you buy something else you will be replacing those with Ross later.  Save yourself the money.  Ask me how I know.  The vast majority of serious experienced modelers use Gargraves Flex Track and Ross Custom Switches!   Yes...there is a reason why.

GARGRAVES AND ROSS BOTH HAVE TUBULAR RAIL--forget rail nippers!!!  You will require a dremel with at least a 1.5 inch cutoff wheel--that is sharp.  You must NOT crush the ends of tubular track--pins won't fit.

Yes, you can mix and match---Atlas has solid rail.  MY OPINION--I do NOT like the look of mixing tubular and solid rail.  And, Ross Switches were made specifically to mate perfectly with Gargraves track.  And, a piece of Atlas Flex track (made in China) costs $27!  Yes $27!!!  A Gargraves (made in the USA!) flex strip costs about $10 bucks.  I will let you decide if want to pay 2.5 times more per piece of flex track. :-)

If you get Gargraves, consider the wooden ties and "phantom" (blackened) center rail--looks like 2 rail track.  Ross Switches have wood ties through each and every switch.  Gargraves has switches on a solid plastic base which can warp and cause the throw mechanism to get stuck.  Ask me how I know.

SPACING:  3.5 inches on STRAIGHT track. If it is a place where you will physically couple / uncouple cars: 4 inches so your fingers will fit.

Impossible to give you a precise answer for curves.  Depends on the length of the rolling stock and sharpness of curve.

I've given you to much to digest already.

Last edited by John C.

I have to say, going to 2' deep to save one or two sheets of plywood seems short sighted. You are talking about building a large layout and severely curtailing your design options to save the price of a piece of rolling stock or two. Make the track plan you want and worry about the materials later.

I agree with Will that now is not the time to worry about some plywood wastage. You have the space so I would make the long narrow part three feet wide because that leaves room for future scenery and/or industrial sidings. I would not go wider that three feet because of reach. Part of that left-over plywood you will find uses for anyway .

You can cut any brand of track with a fine tooth blade in a standard hack saw as shown below.

rack was installed using a few short screws to hold it down.  Switches were installed as well as uncoupling track sections.  Insulated track pins were installed to form track blocks to allow every section of track between the switches and to form blocks for the coming relay and blocks for two train operation and for track sections with installed with isolated outside rails for relay controlled two train operation to come.  Wire pig tails were soldered to a track for each track section to provide power and ground and to each uncoupling track section and each outside isolated outside rail section.

Early on I made a Track Cutting Jig to help cut short sections of straight 027 track.

The jig  is made from a scrap of 3/4"  wood 2" x 2 1/4 " with a same size 3/8" plywood glued on the bottom.  Three slots were sawed, with a jig saw, 1/4" deep and 1/8" wide at the spacing of the three rails of 027 track.  A 1/16" wide slot was cut at 90 degrees to the track slots to accommodate a fine hack saw blade.


A piece of 1/2" plywood was made to act as a Track Hold Down.  Shown at the top of picture.  Groove was cut to go over the track tie if necessary


Picture of clamp holding Track Cutting Jig, track to be cut with hack saw with a fine blade and Track Hold Down.  The Track Cutting Jig is held in wood working vise.


I use a fine tooth hack saw blade and find the Track Cutting Jig makes cutting shorter pieces of track and easy neat job.

Since you are conscious of costs you should consider used standard O gauge track and switches.  Marx switches are lowest cost and Lionel, used, are easy to find.  Standard O track can be made to look more realistic by adding ties.


Post are from my OGR topic below which details construction of a low cost layout :

Building and Evolution of an Action Packed Fifties Era Lionel 027 Operating & Switching (31) Layout w/ Homemade $10 Turntable, RH & Wye


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

As far as cutting track to custom lengths, using a dremel and cut-off wheel can be tedious if you have a lot to do.

In addition, I'm not sure they make a cut-off wheel with a large enough diameter to cut across all 3 rails at once (someone can chime in if they know). That's important because trying to line up two or three separate cuts can result in an uneven overall cut.

You might want to check out the drillmaster line of small cut-off saws at Harbor Freight - one with a 2" wheel and one with a 6" wheel. They both have clamps to hold the track in place and an angle guide to make angled cuts. A little pricey, but quick and accurate.  

l use atlas flex track in 40 inch lengths, cut it to fit with a dremel, takes a bit of practice to learn how to make the length of curve you want.  I use two clamps and clamp it the the edge of a solid door that I have as a desk.  then It cuts easy, clean up with a file. Tip, buy a new file the size that fits in the groove of the track, always wear eye protection when using the dremel. I also use a dust mask.  I mark the cut with a marker.  I also use a headlamp as my eyes are not what they used to be.  Have fun.

60CE00CB-9C36-46FA-B426-5BE31AC75CAD@Robbin posted:

Thanks wb, I have heard of Ross custom switches but had not looked into them.  Do they by chance have manual switches that could work with caboose industry type throws?  Good to know they have track too.

Hello Robbin. We have used Gargraves track and Ross switches. We use the ground throw manual switch throws. They work perfectly. Let us know what you end up doing. Have fun!



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  • 60CE00CB-9C36-46FA-B426-5BE31AC75CAD

Wow!  Thank you all so much for your advise and time!  This is extremely helpful and appreciated.  I will definitely take all this in and make some changes such as going with 3' versus 2' (I just hate wasting wood, but that is silly as I also build or help build wood boats and you would not believe that amount of wood that ends up on the floor as shavings etc).

And the track advise is just great.  The pictures are fabulous and I am excited to see the incredibly well done layouts and the book via postings that includes construction of a turntable.  That is intriguing.

So thank you thank you for all your help everyone!  This is very exciting!

Thanks!  The waste was not explained well and is probably not an issue.  To save time and effort I am placing the narrow sections of plywood on Costco tables that were on sale.  I was trying to avoid making splices if you will that would cause the plywood to not be on the tables.  And elevating the tables by putting boards under the feet as I would like the height to be closer to 48".

I built the table and grids for my other layouts and was trying to go around that for now.

But reusing the 1 foot sections elsewhere by attaching multiple sections is probably an option.  I sometimes/often get tunnel vision once I have a set idea and I think that is the case here.

It took me a second to understand what ron045 was saying, but this is how I understand him:

Cut a 4' x 8' sheet to be 3' x 8', leaving one 1' x 8'.

Cut a second 4' x 8' sheet to be 3 x 8 foot, leaving one 1' x 8'.

Cut a third 4' x 8' sheet to 2' x 8', giving two 2' x 8' pieces.

Take a 1' x 8' and lay along side a 2' x 8' making it a 3' x 8'.  Do this twice.

The result will be four 3' x 8' sections made from three 4' x 8' sheets.

Reducing any waste

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