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After a year of attempting to develop a track plan, of which there have been many, I feel I have hit a wall. Therefore, I’m looking for a fresh start with your input and guidance. The bench work is installed; according to my original thought process. It’s in a dedicated room built for this endeavor; which is a special blessing. I will be operating conventionally on O gauge tubular track. The time frame is during the transition years. My wish list includes:

maximum curves of 54 degrees, 72 if possible. Structures and scenes to have a reason for being there with the inhabitants of the empire able to access them. A good size town along with  some smaller villages. An engine yard/repair facility. Passenger car facility as well as freight. Also some industry sidings. Operational aspects are to have 3, or more, independent, but connected tracks; along with reversing capability. It is intended to operate 3-5 trains at the same time; or whatever is practical. It would be desirable for it to be operated by me, and have the capability of assignments for others. I would also want to incorporate a trolley line for my PCC and bump and go vehicles so that they can loop. Attached is an image of the scale drawing and one of the room.

Thank you for taking the time to consider the possibilities.


Images (2)
  • 0A83E894-F0BF-4ED3-98FC-A52F7E880051: Scale schematic
  • B91A4105-E3C4-4F0E-BCFE-E4B135D6EC9D: Train room
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Your wish list seems extensive given your space.  Engine servicing areas take up a great deal of space.  Running 3 trains plus a pcc loop plus a trolley, well you know, it will be tight.  You may end up with a bowel of spaghetti layout.  I would buy ken oscales book, look at what he has done and modify for you space as needed.


Consider bridging across the entrance of those aisles with dependable bascule bridges and go for 072 as a main line at a minimum.

If you ramp up and go over  you will double the run.

If you build it with a dual track main line and go up over for a folded "8" you will easily be able to at least four trains at the same time.

First, with your current benchwork design, you have no chance of running O72 curves, even through an oval on the main portion of your plan.  Your maximum width is 6' (72"), but to run O72 with clearance for engine or passenger car overhang, you would need at least 7' (84").  Second, given the width of your middle finger (of the 3 fingers), you can't even run O54 curves consistently through this layout unless you just run some stub-end tracks down that middle finger.  Finally, I agree with Rusty; at 15" aisle width, you and anyone else walking down that aisle (you won't be passing anybody, though) will have to penguin walk sideways to move.  And attempting repairs or working in such tight quarters will be just miserable.

I may regret saying this, but this is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse.  Construct a layout plan to fit your space first, then build benchwork to suit.  Squeezing a plan on to benchwork you've already built will be a very daunting task.


Last edited by PRR1950

Your input is greatly appreciated Tom, Rusty, and Chuck. Chuck you are correct in your assessment that the cart did get before the horse. However, in my defense, I had a plan(s) in mind that did not translate into reality. The aisles, while tight, are workable as I have a moveable step that I can use to lean in. Their purpose is primarily for maintenance and not viewing. I can get 54 degree curves on the outside and 42 on an inner loop. I have been contemplating removing the middle peninsula and perhaps extending the width of the remaining sides.
Again, thank you very much for taking the time to consider my plight.

@Tranquil Hollow RR  Sorry Jay - I totally agree with Chuck.  I think you would be better off taking the benchwork apart and starting over.   There are enough planners on this forum who can help pull a track plan together for you. Given your space you will also need to move away from a walk in to get the 072 dia curves. You will never regret having the big curves even if you are not going to run big iron. I also agree with Tom Tee on the lift ups. I got rid of my walk in due to limitations on track layout possibilities along with small space and ended up being able to have 072 curves and 3 lift out bridges to access the center of my layout.

Since its been a year - throw some track down in a couple of loops and run some trains while the plan comes  together.   

Tranquil Hollow sounds like it needs some verticality so you can have a "hollow" on the layout. Configured as is you are either flat or have to cut holes in the decking. Looks like you already have the foam risers, but you could simply build the sub-road bed to the desired grade.

I would get rid of the center portion to give yourself the luxury of sitting in a comfortable chair to operate. Second, widen the bottom portion of the remaining

extensions to run 72 inch or 80 inch super elevated or canted curves. Sometimes less is more.

I run an around the wall layout just for that reason. One can still add a lot of detail .

This side is only 18 inches including the road.

This side is 22 inches with the road.



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  • I%20H%200
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returning by steam

Thank you Ron and your layout looks impressive. Currently there is a a decent  amount of viewing space upon entering the room. I have been thinking about removing the middle and bumping out  a gentle curve to either side of the layout to change the geometry of the bench work away from the straight angles. However, I realize that I will have to test it on a computer program.


Next time down this way hit me up for a visit.  I would be glad to show you first hand how to make easy build outs and cut outs with curved fascia to accommodate genuine 1:1 full size typical 0 gauge waists in your close aisles yet comfortably provide for 0-72" curves.

Do all you can to utilize 0-72" curves.  That will leave the door open for anything in the future.

About 20 years ago when I was actively building bench work,  OGR did a product review on how I provided for 0-72 curves on a 4' X 8' platform.

Contact info in profile.


Last edited by Tom Tee

Back then I was making bulbous symmetrical and asymmetrical end caps to accommodate 0-72" curves.  These modules attached to 4' X 8' platforms and permitted running larger engines and cars with the simple addition of a switch added at each corner to run off to the large sweeping 180 degree plus return curve.

Not sure of the year.  I do remember it to be a product announcement or review, not one of my ads.  Some where around early to  mid 2000s.

I found the most success in doing local shows.  Magazine response was very good but it proved awkward to service clients in the manner which I preferred.   I did ship to the West coast but I like to micro manage the set up.

Since moving, closing shop, selling my molds and dropping my web site I took my cue from Matt Jackson and seek to share my experience and insights online.

I seem to remember that the article was center right on a left hand facing page.

One of the steps I would consider with your aisles would be to selectively cut back  into otherwise unused real estate to increase aisle capacity.  An example here is in an existing  8' X 8' peninsula that needed access.   Repositioning some legs and  using a Bosch jig saw I performed a natural shaped "water way".

Lionel lift bridge 001Pond & waterfall to provide sourceLionel lift bridge 003Stool & lift bridge clear nicely       


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  • Lionel lift bridge 001
  • Lionel lift bridge 003
Last edited by Tom Tee

So, you are looking for input...

Something I found helpful in layout planning and construction is to consider the balance between themes and the manner in which you wish to present them.

Some  like Pelle Soeborg go full natural with minimal trackage emphasizing scenery, others like George Sellius go for tight urban detail, many seek small towns, communities, ceiling challenging tall buildings, circus settings, etc, etc.  No emphasis   better than others, it is just what you want.

Personally, considering the overall size of 0 scale and the resulting space desired / needed,  I find angle corners and picture frame style straight edge benchwork lacking in efficiency of space utilization.

On my own RR I purposed to bypass industrial, urban or community scenes.  Considering my limited space and size of my modeling scale they simply took too much real estate.  Instead, I choose to only use scenes and structures that directly support the RR and it's purposes.  Following that I organically developed a track plan then built the benchwork with only the RR in view.   Much like prototype construction of an evolving branch line RR, I overcame or made obstacles as they were encountered or needed.

If the track went around a curve the benchwork went around a curve.  If I needed a station and public delivery REA  track the benchwork bumped out in that area alone then shrunk back to the right of way.  If the track went across a bridge the benchwork stopped or has a steep precipitous decline.

Using quality plywood decking, a brad gun, layout strips of Masonite or lath for cosmetic curves and polyurethane adhesive anyone can have easily formed sturdy benchwork which can snake around however you want and is easily adapted to accommodate needed bumpouts as the RR matures.

Another big consideration, basic layout style, island or around the wall.  IMO nothing beats around the wall for availability of wide curves.  A curve can not be too large in my world.

As a further consideration, no aisle behind the around the wall style benchwork, that only works to reduce the run along the  adjacent wall.  Most everything needs be accessible from the front fascia for me.

All just my opinion.

Last edited by Tom Tee

Tom- that’s a very well-written response.  As I have mentioned, the newer parts of my layout echo your around the wall “layout supports the railroad “ philosophy.  The earliest section of my layout is 4 feet wide, and is a pain to reach/maintain.  There is also much more area to  have to  “fill” with costly scenery .  My most recent section is  2 feet wide, as I have learned as I progress.  Also , on a narrower layout, the trains are closer  for viewing up close .  These ideas have worked well for me . JohnA

Thank you again Tom for taking the time to address my issues. Your insights and experience could easily make for a very valuable book. In the past I have commented that your bench work is amazing and it looks like fine furniture. Unfortunately, I don’t have any where near your level of expertise; nor, the necessary tools. My original goals were to have the maximum amount of operational/scenic area while allowing for access all around. In hindsight I thought I was moving on the correct course but obviously that’s not the case. As it is said, “the best laid plans…”.

Nonetheless, again thanks and appreciation to you and everyone else who took the time to share their insights.

If you use Ross O-54 track for an inner loop with one of their fitter pieces between the switches connecting the inner and outer loops and use Ross O-64 track for the outside loop, you can fit both on a 6 foot wide tabletop as I did on my last layout. 

Lighthouse Point RR Design 2007

The "fitter pieces" helped to make the curve clearance work perfectly for my locomotives (e.g., K-Line switcher, MTH FP-45 & ES44AC).


Here's a view at the other end of the layout where you can see the "fitter" piece between the two switches.  The fitter piece is the connecting track piece with no switch guardrails.  This was the key to getting the right curve clearance to fit O-54 and O-64 on a 6 X 15 foot layout.


I was considering an O-72 outer loop for my next layout, but since I'm not interested in the behemoth locomotives like Big Boys, I may stick with the O-64 outer loop. My arm's length is one issue as I found reaching to the halfway point on this 6 foot layout was a challenge, even on a step stool or step ladder.

I hope this info is helpful.

P.S.  I used Ross Roadbed with homasote and 3/4" plywood.  If you use Gargraves # 4 3/4" screws, they won't hardly show on the ties and will not puncture through both the roadbed and homasote to the plywood.  I never had the "rolling thunder" sound problem from screws going from the track through to the plywood.


Images (3)
  • Lighthouse Point RR Design 2007
  • 0222112108
  • DSC01827

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