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So I posted some pictures of the bench work that I've completed so far in the weekend pictures thread and I got motivated to share my track plan and solicit some help from the more experienced folks if they could be so kind.  The plan is pretty ambitious, and will require a lot of work to finish it, but I've split it into layers so that I can tackle one level at a time.

Let's start with the room and the "outline" of the layout.

The room is 30' on the long dimension and varies on width quite a bit.  At it's widest, it's just shy of 13' and about 9' at the narrowest.  I've left a couple of access aisles that may or may not have track over them... where-ever I end up with a hole in the trackage, I'll throw in an access panel.  On the top right of the framework I had to leave a cutout for an existing electrical panel, but this will allow for ~ 44-45" radius curves on the outer most mainline track.

I've tentatively given it the name "Allegheny, Conemaugh, and Cumberland" reflecting the area in which I was raised and that which I now reside (roughly).  We'll see if it sticks.  I'll mostly be modeling a fictional mashup of the PRR and Western Maryland that depicts a different path where the two railroads merged and covers the steam to diesel transition era.  That said, I'm not a strict prototypical sort of guy, so my CSX SD70Ace and SD60M with a slew of trailer train and spine cars in tow will surely get some run time here too. :-)

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Last edited by rplst8
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Now I'll take you through the layers...

At the very bottom is a staging yard and loop to turn trains around.  This level is where consists can be stored or be assembled from a chair under the layout.  There's actually a lot of room down here for yard expansion in the future, but I got lazy planning it all out to completion.  The whole thing is essentially a large reversing loop.  It includes a grade to get trains up to the next level... "the mine"

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The "mining" layer is basically a modified figure eight where the crossing is just a pair of switches that will let an ore or coal train stay on a loop if desired.  There are also some sidings where I hope to fit a tipple or something for foreground scenery in the lower left of the layout.  The staging loop connects on the far left of the layout, and then on the lower mid-right, you'll see some pink track that is the "lower slide" which curves round the mine loop and ascends along the back wall (top of layout).  This allows trains to climb to the mainline, or descend back to the mine level, and then continue down to staging.  They can either stop there or turn around and come back up.  Options... I like options.

 

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Next up is the mainline...  

This is a pretty standard double track with a reversing loop and a couple of interlockings that allow trains to change direction and/or change tracks.  Minimum mainline radius is 40" (O-80) with a handful of O-72 in the reversing loop.

I've left the lower slide layer turned on so you can see where it connects at the top of the layout, and then you can see in the middle is the "upper slide" that ascends to the "high line" and engine yards. 

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Last but not least is the "highline" and locomotive yards.  I have some sidings up here to allow for a diesel fueling area, maybe a partial round house over the TT tracks.  The crossover is again a pair of switches that allow me to turn trains around so they can go back down to the lower levels.  The empty area on the right will probably be a town or some industries.  I'm not sure yet.

The bridges on this level and the mainline below it will allow for some dramatic relief where trains running on the tracks near the back wall to be seen peeking trough.

So, whaddya think?  I'm sure it won't work out like this completely, but like Dwight Eisenhower said... plans are useless, but planning is indispensable - or something of that nature.

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rplst8 I think it is a tremendous use of the rather narrow and not so long space you have.  I like the tentative name, but mostly the concept of following the Western Maryland and Pennsylvania.  It always helps to model something you are familiar with.  I'll let others more experienced in analyzing work it out in their minds to see what could be done better.  I'll look forward to seeing what others say and how you move forward from the nice benchwork you have started.

I like the overall scheme and the flow.  Here's my 2 cents:

In the first post, you show a couple of access areas.  However, I don't see how they translate into the finished plan.  If you're planning to have a lift-out in the vicinity of the turntable, I think you'll find it cumbersome.

It looks like you'll have some reach issues, especially in the turntable area.

The turntable area on the highest level will allow for some nice display space for large locomotives.  However, having a turntable at the summit will require some suspension of disbelief.  Personally, I like it, but there will be rivet counters who will ask why you put it there.

It is certainly an aggressive plan. First and foremost, you need to be able to reach everything when it is all built. I also do not understand how the access areas work when they are covered with track.

I am not trying to be harsh but I know that once a layout is built and some areas cannot be accessed, the fun factor goes way down. At a minimum, all switches need access because at some point they will need maintenance.

Donald

Choose your target.  Ease of access or max your operation or a compromise. It seems you have chosen max of operation.  That can come with a price tag of access issues. 

That is exactly what I have at a few spots.  In one area I have ceiling banisters to grab as I walk over designated well supported zones.   Also I use removable protective cover plates with stub legs to temporally place where I step  over a lot of switches.

In my opinion, operation had a strong influence in my overall plan.

For this plan, that may mean in order to have access there must be means of reaching all spots, both with ability and stable climbing bench work support.

There needs to be temporary safe stepping areas much like that of an airplane wing.   Where ever the stepping areas are, that spot needs to be firmly supported by the wall attachment or direct leg/floor.

Nothing is perfect.  there are designs of extreme super access which sometimes may cause limited operation enjoyment. 

Your track plan is very interesting especially considering the space confines.

If there could be a reconfiguration of the mid level interfering diagonal track you could have a drop down turntable allowing upper level access.

As with any track plan, if you want to exceed you space limitations go vertical, above and below the bench work footprint.

I still go with a thumbs up.

Thanks for the replies.

Regarding access areas - or lack thereof.  The "access aisles" I have labeled are basically just places that I won't lay down any plywood/OSB at all.. all track in those areas will have to be elevated on trestles/bridges or inside a "mountain" and supported by wood risers.  The main issue is with the staging yard at the very bottom of the layout.  Let's assume that is somewhere else entirely for now...

With that layer turned off, you can see there are multiple areas that are contenders for access areas.

As you can see in the attached picture, the high-line track layer is fairly isolated over the aisle part of that middle area.  It's also elevated in with the grey sections.  It wouldn't be prototypical, nor easy, but If I make that whole area elevated on a trestle or bridge, there "valley" below it could be lifted out - or possibly left open.

As for the turntable area.  That will have to be dead flat to work correctly anyway, so one thought was to put the turntable and all tracks on a pop out panel.  If I shape it correctly, I can make it like a manhole cover that can come downward allowing me to stand in the middle.  As you can see in the second picture, even with the staging yard and staging reverse loop layer turned on, there is quite a bit of space available.  All the "hidden" track underneath will be on wood risers, so that can all be accessed from under the layout.

I will take all of these comments into consideration though, and I appreciate the pointers.  One of the options I've considered is to put the staging yard in the "work room" from the original post (Room Overview).  I think that will alleviate 99% of the access concerns (if access is done from underneath.  However, that requires a hole in the wall and approval from the spousal unit.

I did this original track plan using MTH ScaleTrax (hence the other posts over my concern about the potential loss of it) so I have to redo it with Atlas or Gar-Graves.  I'm leaning toward Atlas - but this will affect the curves and turnout placement quite a bit.  MTH has #4 and #6 turnouts, fantastic flex track, and  O-72 and O-80 curve sections, while Atlas has #5 and #7.5 turnouts, poor flex track (from what I've read) and O-72 and O-81 curves.  However Atlas does have larger diameter curves that may reduce my need for flex track.  That said, the nearest thing they have to match my flex 44" radius curves is O-90.  I haven't done a thorough investigation of Gar-Graves - but I know if I go that route I'd also need to probably use Ross turnouts.

Decisions, decisions... 

 

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Hey rplst8......I am looking a lot of track passing over top of each other. Wow. Keep clear vertical separation between layers around 7" or more to get your hands and rolling stock underneath each level. I will temper my comments with the fact I am 65 years old and walking on layouts or climbing underneath is just not a good design option for me anymore. 

I would still recommend that each and every switch be accessible for maintenance, either to replace if necessary or change out a switch motor, if electric.

Please keep us all updated. Thanks.

Donald

I also want to add one more thing than I will shut up. The closeup plans you showed above, the parallel tracks on the different levels seems awful close together. Have you given any thought to scenery, tunnel portals, etc? How it all ties together? You are going to have a lot of retaining walls and vertical scenery to tie between levels. I am having difficulty seeing how all the scenery flows at this point. Just my opinion.

 

Donald

Last edited by 3rail

Clearances in most places are at or near 7".  There are a few tighter areas, but those are usually limited to crossovers, not "parallel" operation. There are a few places that will have viaduct style elevated portions with a span or truss or something.


Here's an angle view where you can see the elevations. Note, Scarm does some weird things when tracks are near the edge of the board - the actual area is larger than this would show.  Also, It doesn't let me line up tunnel entrances nor do ganged tunnels (which I plan on doing in the real thing).

 

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Last edited by rplst8

RPLST8, I think it is a very imaginative and well thought out plan.  You are certainly using the philosophy when you want more track/layout in a relatively small room, build up.  It almost makes my head spin in the complexity, but I know that when you are the one designing it, you grow along with the plan.

I'm with Donald when it comes to access.  You look to be a relatively young man who will have no trouble going under, popping up, and lifting the pop up covers (turntable and associated trackage).  I'm only a year younger than Donald, so all of that is out of the question for my layout build.  I'm also like him, I can't crawl up on anything anymore.  I had to crawl under, on top of, and squeeze through small spaces during my working years, and now I wouldn't even think of any of that.  

As to track.  I am using GarGraves and Ross switches, and I think you can get all the sizes you mentioned that ScaleTrak has available.  I did not go with Atlas, because when I was planning and buying, there was a shortage of their track and I didn't want to take the chance that construction could be stalled because of availability.  From what I read, Atlas has resolved their issues.  I certainly like the look of their track, though I came from an HO background, so I had to get used to O gauge track offerings.

Do you have a friend, relative, kids, spouse who will be helping with the build?  An extra hand certainly would be useful.  I go it alone, since my wife is in worse shape than me.  

I'm looking forward to seeing this layout come to life as you continue on building!!  

Last edited by Mark Boyce

Wow, a complex plan!  Interesting!   I see that the lowest layer is almost filled with track, so no opportunity for access areas except in the center of the turnback loops.   Are you thinking you can get under the layout and reach up in those areas?

You may want to have the lowest staging level a bit higher, at say 42" or more, so that if you are working inside the mountains, you aren't so cramped.

Last edited by Ken-Oscale
@rplst8 posted:

Clearances in most places are at or near 7".  There are a few tighter areas, but those are usually limited to crossovers, not "parallel" operation. There are a few places that will have viaduct style elevated portions with a span or truss or something.


Here's an angle view where you can see the elevations. Note, Scarm does some weird things when tracks are near the edge of the board - the actual area is larger than this would show.  Also, It doesn't let me line up tunnel entrances nor do ganged tunnels (which I plan on doing in the real thing).

 

The lowest staging level is not shown in this illustration.  Will the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels be supported by piers with the staging level open beneath those piers?  So only the staging tracks under the two end mountains will be hidden? 

Can you do a 3d with the staging tracks visible, with tunnels into the end mountains?

If this is correct, sorry I did not understand at first - the piers shown are not regular in spacing or design, so they looked like an artifact of the 3d representation, not a design intention.

So, have you worked out the supporting pier placement for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels so that they do not come down on the staging tracks at the lowest level?

What are you planning for these elevated levels, spanning long distances in the air?  Plywood supported on dowels?  Trestle bents?

Last edited by Ken-Oscale
@Ken-Oscale posted:

Wow, a complex plan!  Interesting!   I see that the lowest layer is almost filled with track, so no opportunity for access areas except in the center of the turnback loops.   Are you thinking you can get under the layout and reach up in those areas?

You may want to have the lowest staging level a bit higher, at say 42" or more, so that if you are working inside the mountains, you aren't so cramped.

The framework sits at about 46" off the floor.  With one of the stools I have that has an adjustable height, I can roll under it pretty easily.

That said, after some of the other comments on the post, I've re-evaluated the staging yard and decided to move it out from the lowest level and into a work room through a tunnel in the wall.  I will actually probably work on that last as I don't want to commit to tearing into the drywall just yet. :-)  

I'm going to redesign this and I'll update this post, but my PC that had my SCARM license on it crashed (for unrelated reasons) and I'm waiting on a few parts to come via UPS to repair it.  One of the advantages of doing this is that it will reduce the overall height of the layout by about 7-8 inches.

@rplst8 posted:

The framework sits at about 46" off the floor.  With one of the stools I have that has an adjustable height, I can roll under it pretty easily.

That said, after some of the other comments on the post, I've re-evaluated the staging yard and decided to move it out from the lowest level and into a work room through a tunnel in the wall.  I will actually probably work on that last as I don't want to commit to tearing into the drywall just yet. :-)  

I'm going to redesign this and I'll update this post, but my PC that had my SCARM license on it crashed (for unrelated reasons) and I'm waiting on a few parts to come via UPS to repair it.  One of the advantages of doing this is that it will reduce the overall height of the layout by about 7-8 inches.

Thanks!   Cool - you have MORE space to work with!  Thanks again, and I look forward to more updates!  -Ken

A very small milestone today.  I got the plywood for my layout last weekend and moved it down to the basement where the layout lives.

Today I threw a few sheets on the framework and set up a loop of track. This is my first layout in probably 25 years, and the first O gauge layout ever for me.  Since I grew up between Johnstown and Altoona, the inaugural run just had to be a Juniata built Allegheny mountain slayer...

This will provide the much needed music while I work on the other part of the layout. 

 

@MELGAR posted:

Very nice work on a complex design with a lot of track. Will there be room for industries, structures or a town?

MELGAR

I hope so.

I grabbed a snapshot of the layout plan.  This is an older version from when I first posted this, as I'm currently redoing the plan with Ross/GarGraves track.  I was going to use ScaleTrax but since MTH announced their closing, I need a backup plan if I can't source all the ScaleTrax I need.  I heard a rumor that they may be getting in another large run of it this fall/winter but I hope to start before that.  We'll see I guess.

Anyway, The snapshot shows a spot for a mining town, possibly a mill that rises up between the elevated tracks, and maybe a tipple with an elevator that rises over the next layer of tracks.  I will probably ditch the turn table, or at a minimum reduce the number of tracks to leave some room for engine facilities and whatnot.

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I think that is a good move to redesign using GarGraves and Ross.  We have no idea what MTH track will be available.  I really like the plan and the name Allegheny, Conemaugh, and Cumberland tells me exactly where it is.  I have knocked around the area some, having lived in Butler but also Keyser, West Virginia.   I've been through a lot over my nearly 64 years.  I'm anxious to see this go under construction!

Wow, what an ambitious plan!  I also like the use of the room size as noted.  And I agree with the guidance issued by Mallard 4468, 3rail, and Tom Tee.   A few other points I would emphasize:

  • What looks great as a plan may not be practical "in person".  I've discovered that myself.  The planning software (be it SCARM or RR-Track or whatever) gives me the impression that I have as much room as I need to cram in that last bit of track or scenery.  It looks feasible until you go to build it.
  • Physical access is critical.  No "if's, and's, or but's" - remote components always fail first.  And everything will need maintenance eventually.
  • Simpler is better and more reliable.  Your track plan is very complex.  And as was pointed out, reduced reliability is reduced fun.

Your idea to re-plan with Ross and GarGraves is a good one.  As MTH slips beneath the waves, who knows what will and will not be available?  And anything from them that is electronic and that you depend upon should be given a critical look as to replacements, spares, repairs, and contingency plans.

I look forward to watching this unfold.

Best,

George

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