Hello everyone, welcome to the layout design forum! This is a place where we can share layout design tips, and actually design layouts with input from all our members. Rich Melvin has asked me to kick things off with some parameters to try and point us in the right direction.

This part of the forum will not be about simply running trains in circles. It will be about how to design and build a miniature railroad transportation system. When a model railroad is designed with a purpose and it is designed correctly, a lifetime of enjoyment can be found on that single layout!

You may have heard of the Train Collectors Association train meet that is held in April and October every year. This meet is THE premier place for O and S gauge trains in the world. At this past April 2010 meet, Mike Taylor, one of our OGR forum members, suggested that we hold a layout design seminar on Thursday morning before the meet started. Mike arranged for a room in the Orange Hall (the main dealer hall) with the blessing of the TCA. Because of my involvement in designing many a layout and my experience in building prototype like track and switches at Ross Custom Switches for over 38 years, I was honored to be asked to give the opening presentation. 30 people attended with no other announcement than a notice on the forum! I think everyone including the TCA and OGR agree that the interest is such that a meeting will be held at each York. We also thought that a dedicated place on the OGR forum is warranted and OGR agreed, so here we are!

Here is a list of topics, some of which were discussed at the TCA meeting. We will elaborate on the forum as time goes by:

  1. JOHN ARMSTRONGS GIVENS AND DRUTHERS - WRITE THEM DOWN! (See information about John Armstrong below.)
  2. TABLE OR AROUND THE WALL - get up to 3 times the running space with around the wall!
  3. FINISH THE ROOM FIRST!

  4. LOOPS OR OPERATING RAILROAD
    a. LOOPS EASY TO CHANGE BUT GET CHANGED BECAUSE OF BOREDOM
    b. OPERATING NOT BORING BUT REQUIRES MORE PARTICIPATION

  5. DESIGN BEFORE BENCHWORK
    a. AISLE WIDTH 30” MIN
    b. REACH WIDTH 36” MAX
    c. BENCHWORK HEIGHT
    d. BEST HEIGHTS FOR VIEWING
    e. WORKING UNDERNEATH THE LAYOUT

  6. L GIRDER BENCHWORK
  7. MINIMUM RADIUS
  8. SQUARES RELATE TO TRACK DIAMETER
  9. MAXIMUM GRADES
    a. CURVES ON GRADES INCREASE EFFECTIVE GRADE
    b. DECKS
    c. HELIX

  10. HIDDEN TRACK = LONG DISTANCES
  11. S CURVES ON THE MAIN - THE GOOD
  12. S CURVES IN YARDS - THE BAD
  13. YARD LEADS
  14. DESIGN OF YARDS
    a. The LADDER TRACK
    b. Using #4 Switches
    c. Using 4-WAY Switches
    d. Using 3-WAY Switches

  15. STAGING YARDS
  16. REVERSE LOOPS, WYES, DOUBLE TRACK MAIN
  17. ODD SIDINGS CAN MAKE INTERESTING OPERATIONS

This is just a short list of things we will discuss. It ought to spark some constructive and thought-provoking ideas on building layouts.

For those of you who have never heard of John Armstrong, he was and still is considered one of the greatest model railroad designers in the world. I strongly suggest that you read anything and everything you can get your hands on that he published! I highly recommend two books to get you started; Track Planning for Realistic Operation by John Armstrong and Tony Koesters Realistic Model Railroad Operation. These are not the only books on the subject but they are a good start.

To get this new forum started, I will take you step by step through the thought process and design of a mid sized 3 rail layout. We will discuss the process and I'll add to it every few days until we get a workable design. I will be using the RR Track computer program to design this layout. I will upload the RR Track file to this forum for you to download as we progress through the build.

I envision many a layout being designed here, with folks submitting their space and givens and druthers for their dream empire and everyone chipping in their ideas!

Happy Railroading!
Steve President/CEO Ross Custom Switches
Original Post
Steve, thanks for kicking this forum off; I got to the meeting at York as it was breaking up... but I expect that this forum will become one of the most interesting and informative of the OGR Forums...

I have used John Armstrong's books for reference and found them to be greatly informative... I am interested in seeing how this forum evolves and how we develop "real world type" trackplans...

Jim Queenan TCA 99-50562

Boston Metro High Railers [BMHR]

BMHR Website:  www.bmhrc.com

 

 

quote:
Originally posted by RCSSTEVE:

For those of you who have never heard of John Armstrong, he was and still is considered one of the greatest model railroad designers in the world. I strongly suggest that you read anything and everything you can get your hands on that he published! I highly recommend two books to get you started; Track Planning for Realistic Operation by John Armstrong and Tony Koesters Realistic Model Railroad Operation. These are not the only books on the subject but they are a good start.


Hi, The San Leandro Historical Railway Society's HO layout was designed by John Armstrong. John visited the layout and commented that it was one of the few layouts that he designed that was actually built. The layout depicts the Southern Pacific Railroad's route from the SF Bay Area to Reno / Sparks via Donner Pass. John wrote an article about the track plan for the March, 1998 issue of "Model Railroader".

The O gauge 3-rail G&O layout is being built behind the Depot housing the HO railroad. You can find out more about the San Leandro Historical Railway Society at the website: SLHRS.org.

Joe
I have studied Armstrong's and Koester's work, but I think John Allen should be required reading also. His Gore and Daphetied layout is one of the all-time most famous examples of a layout that started small and grew over time to be one of the most revered layouts ever. I am planning on building a copy of the G&D in Z scale.

I think he best expressed the reason for hidden staging by suggesting the layout be viewed much like a stage in a theatrical production where the trains are actors in a play. The actors come on, say their lines and then exit the stage. Some actors are the "stars" and stay on stage most if not all of the "play". Others may have bit parts - come on stage, say a line or two (drop a few cars in a yard, pick up others) and then continue back off stage, only to reappear in the next performance. But the important thing is they all have "roles" in telling the story.

Having been a "student" of live theater, it is a concept that resonated deeply with me. In a stage production, the backdrops are frequently mere paintings on large canvass, usually with features exaggerated for effect. Scrims are used to convey depth of field and distance ( http://www.studio-productions-...p_scrim_effects.html ). Several blocks of a street scene are compressed in to 50 or 60 feet - selective compression if you will much as we do in a layout... Lighting plays an important role in setting the scene, as does sound. The individual elements may not necessarily seem realistic, but taken in as a whole, can be very convincing in the minds eye. I think it can be a concept well suited to our application, particularly if where the layout is viewed from can be controlled so that you don't see back stage or behind the sets so as to spoil the illusion. The actors are significantly dynamic so that the "illusion" isn't noticed but instead adds to the feel of the scene.

Don

I have a one track mind - and my wife says it has 3 rails!

quote:
I think he best expressed the reason for hidden staging by suggesting the layout be viewed much like a stage in a theatrical production where the trains are actors in a play. The actors come on, say their lines and then exit the stage. Some actors are the "stars" and stay on stage most if not all of the "play". Others may have bit parts - come on stage, say a line or two (drop a few cars in a yard, pick up others) and then continue back off stage, only to reappear in the next performance. But the important thing is they all have "roles" in telling the story.
Don, I could be wrong, but I think it was noted O scale modeler Frank Ellison who came up with the "stage" concept you describe.

Rich Melvin

quote:
Originally posted by OGR Webmaster:
quote:
I think he best expressed the reason for hidden staging by suggesting the layout be viewed much like a stage in a theatrical production where the trains are actors in a play. The actors come on, say their lines and then exit the stage. Some actors are the "stars" and stay on stage most if not all of the "play". Others may have bit parts - come on stage, say a line or two (drop a few cars in a yard, pick up others) and then continue back off stage, only to reappear in the next performance. But the important thing is they all have "roles" in telling the story.
Don, I could be wrong, but I think it was noted O scale modeler Frank Ellison who came up with the "stage" concept you describe.


I think you might be correct. Another author that should be required reading. I keep layout planning books on my night stand. My wife sometimes has cookbooks. I wish to someday have a layout that rivals her cooking.

Don

I have a one track mind - and my wife says it has 3 rails!

The 3 greats that I typically think of in terms of model railroad influence are Frank Ellison, John Allen, and John Armstrong. They each contributed in their own ways. Frank looked at a model railroad as a stage and the trains as the actors. He wrote on building and scenery and had many ideas for layout design. His track plan ideas I consider to be outdated though and this is where John Armstrong gets the nod. He was the first to suggest that each scene have a train run through it one time whereas Frank allowed trains to loop back through the same scene again but tried to separate that scene a little bit with buildings or scenery so that from certain perspectives you wouldn't notice as much. John Allen gave us the great switching puzzle the timesaver although I believe he got the idea for it while reading Frank's book. He also taught how to build a small detailed railroad that could grow rather than attempting a large one that never got finished. His scenery was also incredible.

The one thing I really like about all 3 of them is that while they each want realism, none of them took it so seriously that they complained about every last little detail being correct but rather concentrated on the overall feel of things. Frank Ellison and John Armstrong both modelled in outside 3rd rail at a time when 2 rail was already taking hold. Armstrong especially as 2 rail accounted for half of all model railroads when he started. Frank Ellison in his book wrote how he preferred the electrical simplicity of 3 rail to 2 rail. Admittedly 2 rail wiring wasn't as understood then as now but many were doing it. He also wrote that while realism was the goal, a 3rd rail wasn't so offensive to the eye that it couldn't be looked past and that if it comes down to absolute realism or operations that operations should always get priority. I respect him for that! John Allen used a strange type of coupler called the Baker coupler. Although he admitted they weren't prototypical in appearance, he liked the reliability of them. Sound familiar to Frank's logic? Both of them also have fictitious railroad names. You can get away with anything when you aren't strictly modelling a prototype. Only John Armstrong based his on a real railroad and even then he used outside 3rd rail.

Today we have many fantastic modellers that can rival or surpass anything these gentleman did. The internet age has made it easy to share information and techniques. These gentleman invented many of them though and opened the doors for us. I think everyone should study up on what these men did and the techniques they used. I feel that some of their techniques are forgotten but still quite relevant.
Thanks everyone! I will be starting a layout from beginning to completed plan soon. It will take awhile since summer is upon us, with updates on a semi regular basis. We will all have a chance to chime in on the progress, it should be fun! Big Grin Happy Railroading!
Steve President/CEO Ross Custom Switches
Steve,
Great intro for this forum. I have been "stalled" on my dream layout. The retirement home requirement was a dedciated train room. I have it and have been messing around with RR-Track design, trying to incorporate some of the layouts I've seen on the OGR forum. My four concentric ovals on an 8 X 8 have long ago got boring. One of my dilemmas is an odd shape room. It's a prow shaped room in a walk-out basement. That's great for light during the day with windows on one end! Essentially it is a 28'X25' rectangle with a 25x4 triangle on the window end.

An around the room layout is out becasue I need to have access to walls and want to avoid backdrops. I'm hoping that this layout forum will get me going!!!!

From one Illini (am I right?) to another, thanks for your numerous contributions to the hobby. Oh yeah the one decision I have made...RCS switches all the way!!!

Jim

Jim Rees

Salida, Colorado

The Heart of the Rockies

I have enjoyed all of them over the years in the magazines and such.

Andy also wrote a few layouts himself I think back in the 60's for MR.

Another person that I have been reading about is Ian Rice from over the water in UK. His smallish railroads (Compared to a giant US one) is worth looking into and possibly scaling up to meet O gauge.

I plan to use sections at a time with a specific purpose. At the moment my design has literally started with two tracks. The engine house and the one next to it. Now I need a switch and so on.

I tend to build within the space as I see a opportunity to do it.

I learned from my HO Layout that finished does not mean finished. I changed track work quite a bit when operations revealed issues. For example.. where is that short run around? Why do I have to drive it all the way over there to run around for example.

A living Steam Engine hauling a train with commerce, reaching across time and space; is a wonderful journey undertaken by Man.

 

A product of our fine College System that has been made redundant by imports of Foreign Workers willing to push a Keyboard for a living.

Guess I M a bit late, but scanning the posts and the leadin by Steve of ROSS, I thought Ross was going to regularly insert a topic of educational value to the List persons????

Any info from Steve by phone years past has been A1, all my track is Ross (or GG sorry). likewise turnouts all Ross.

Lars
Lars in Meeeechigan USA Originator of foam for model RR scenery, see article in RMC mid '74... favorite song " Imagination"... is funny, it leaves a cloudy day sunny...." just keep on 'imaginatin'... Support DIY model railroading, not China's economy. Build more, buy less.
Like L Larson on 1/11/2011, I'm very late to scanning the lead in by Steve of RCS. Have there been any topics posted by Steve/RCS related to the outline given by Steve at the start of this thread? I'm in the process of sketching out what I want my layout to incorporate and then using RRT to do the actual design work.
I believe I am enjoying learning about Ross via Pdf's and such along with track information.

Only one thing bothers me and needs clarifying.

If I order any switch in two rail, will the scale wheels of the Atlas freight cars still drop into the frog?

A living Steam Engine hauling a train with commerce, reaching across time and space; is a wonderful journey undertaken by Man.

 

A product of our fine College System that has been made redundant by imports of Foreign Workers willing to push a Keyboard for a living.

RCSSteve,
I really like Ross's new Tin Plate switches and I am thinking about using the 072 switches on a new FasTrack layout. I need to know whether the new Tin Plate Ross switches will accommodate my original Lionel and Reproduction MTH Tin Plate Engines and rolling stock. I also need to know whether the lighted remote control switch machine comes as part of the Tin Plate Switch, and if the controller can be switched from side to side on the switch.
Can you supply me with this information.

PCRR/Dave

 

Steve,

  Thanks for answering my questions on the Phone.

Dave

Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.

I have a question for Ross.

How come you do not make solid Nickel Silver T-Rail switches. You have such a wide selection of switch configurations that no one else makes (the large radius curve within a curve). Atlas only makes (1) and it does not accomodate large steam locomotives. I would certainly buy your switches if you did!

Bostonrrman, I have a pair of regular 100 and 101 switches from Ross to evaluate against one of my big engines. Those have pretty solid rails. As did the large curved switch.

 

I must say it's very well done. The only flaw I could see was that scale wheels drop down into the frog and requires a good guard rail on the other wheel to prevent derailments. Keep in mind it was a very long frog and don't know about the others.


The rails are solid to me. Now I do have some sectionals that are Tinplate and probably will stay with solid rails once I go into the building phase. (Gargraves phantom is one source)

 

It would be very hard for me to choose another vendor for switches now that Ross has shown what they can do with these switches.

A living Steam Engine hauling a train with commerce, reaching across time and space; is a wonderful journey undertaken by Man.

 

A product of our fine College System that has been made redundant by imports of Foreign Workers willing to push a Keyboard for a living.

Bostonrrman, I have a pair of regular 100 and 101 switches from Ross to evaluate against one of my big engines. Those have pretty solid rails. As did the large curved switch.


The rails are solid to me. Now I do have some sectionals that are Tinplate and probably will stay with solid rails once I go into the building phase. (Gargraves phantom is one source)

 

Lee - I believe Boston RR Man was referring to solid as opposed to hollow.  As far as I know, the rails on Ross switches are formed from sheet metal (steel) rather than using a solid T-rail like Atlas O and most track in other scales.

Hey Steve:  What brand of switches will you be using on your layout? 
 
Sorry...just couldn't resist.  I will be ordering a couple of your awesome 4-way turnouts for my hidden staging area in the next few months.  I'm hoping the convention may come to visit the layout when they are in Indianapolis. 
 
 
Originally Posted by RCSSTEVE:
Thanks everyone! I will be starting a layout from beginning to completed plan soon. It will take awhile since summer is upon us, with updates on a semi regular basis. We will all have a chance to chime in on the progress, it should be fun! Big Grin Happy Railroading!

 

Originally Posted by bostonrrman:

I have a question for Ross.

How come you do not make solid Nickel Silver T-Rail switches. You have such a wide selection of switch configurations that no one else makes (the large radius curve within a curve). Atlas only makes (1) and it does not accomodate large steam locomotives. I would certainly buy your switches if you did!

I have a question based on Bostonrrman's above post. Do Atlas 072-054 curve turnouts not work with scale steam locomotives? What is the problem?

Listenin' to the Burlington roll by...

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