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Lately my wife and I have been discussing our living situation and upcoming retirements.  I love our home, (although at 2,000 sq ft first level a little large for two people) great neighbors and a great location.  My main hang up is the way I finished off our basement.  I was planning on HO scale in a separate room.  I am now 100% committed to 2 rail O scale.  I took my wife out to supper last night and to my surprise she said "why don't you put your train in the rec room?" I think she wants to stay in this house and she finally has realized maybe she needs to make some concessions.  So with that being said, I have a rec room no longer being utilized for kids that I figure I can build a 9'X 32' table.  This would allow for walking around the entire layout. The room itself is just under 14' wide and with the doorways and window access I figure max width of a potential table to be 9' yielding a 48" radius.  I did have a thought that if I installed a duck under on each end I could bump out the width to 11-12' and add an isle to the inside of the layout.  I could then go as wide as to the window.

Would you guys opt for a 9' x 32' table?  Or would you opt for a 5 1/2' x 32' section, a 3' aisle spanned with a duck under at each end and the remaining 2 1/2' section right next to the wall under the windows?  Each method has its positives and negatives.  One method provides for a larger radius and easy access but requires two duck under points.  The other method allows for walking around the entire layout perimeter without a duck under but limits the radius to 48" and I would need access hatches due to the reach over challenges.  The purist would say well it depends on your track needs.  Agreed but I don't have any specific track needs at this time.  Since one way or another I am going to have to crawl under the layout for access maybe the duck under method is not the worst choice?


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Think about an around the walls RR with duckunders or swinging gates at the doors.  This would give you the opportunity for the largest radius curves and a more realistic view of the trains.  You could even go double-deck.  Check out some layout books for what is possible in your area.  A few hundred bucks for books now could save you thousands in heartache later.

Just a thought.


I would recommend the around the wall setup as well. You didn't mention your age but assuming you're at least 60+, you might have begun to notice that they seem to be accelerating!   Try to avoid duckunders if at all possible. A lift bridge or similar will be much appreciated as you age...

Nice room!

That is a fantastic room, it will also be great for an O scale layout. I also recommend an around the walls layout with a swing gate for entry/exit. I faced this decision 10 years ago with my layout and am pleased that I did this. When figuring a minimum radius it is critical to know what equipment you will operate. Assuming it is more than small engines and 40' freight cars, easements are also necessary. I operate S scale. With true scale equipment, things scale up to O as 64/48. The short easements I have add about 2" to the diameter of a curve. In O gauge figure 3" effective diameter increase for reasonable easements when planning the space needed.

I have 30" minimum radius (40" in O), but there are a lot of scale engines I cannot run. 54' boxcars work with body mounted couplers. Full scale 84' passenger cars work but only with truck mounted couplers. The problem is the large offset of the two car ends when entering and leaving the curve. It would take a much longer easement or an increase to 40" radius (54"R in O) for body mounts to work on the 84' passenger cars. If I were building the layout now I would use longer easements.

Swing gates are not easy to build but they can work with any track plan. For example I have 5 tracks on 3 levels that cross the swing gate. It works as simple as opening and closing a door.

I feel the layout is more enjoyable when I am inside the train layout with the trains circling around me. It looks, sounds, and feels more realistic and all the nice O scale car and scenery details are close to the operator to be appreciated and within arms reach.

Lot of room, but I'd avoid any blockage of any door or at least minimize that from happening thinking forward on your physical limits at some point ducking under or even using lift out sections (they get old faster than you do...).  I'd also limit any width that exceeds your comfortable wing span of being able to reach into to pick up an engine.  I'd also suggest that you build it high enough that you can get under it reasonably on a roller stool and then also have that same space under the layout available for movable storage.  And, you might also design it to be reasonably disassembled at some future date, e.g. w/o the need for a Sawzall.

With 2-rail O scale you don't want to limit yourself to a narrow table and tight radius.  I would strive for 50" or 56" (10 ft diameter) with gradual easements.  Since the room is 14' wide, I would definitely go "around the walls."  Mianne Benchwork makes a motorized lift-up section so that you don't have to stoop or kneel to get inside the ring.  Oh, and don't forget to thank your wife!!

Classy Woods,  I have a similar size room as you and my layout is a “island style” layout. The main layout room is 16’x42’ with areas up to 18’ wide.the far side of the table has a 30” isle way. I wish it was 36-48” wide but two poles that hold the house up on the main viewing side prevented it.
        My table is 10’x 32’ (Mianne Bench) with my outside curve being O108. My goal on this layout was to have wide gentle curves so all size equipment looked good going around the track and  run long trains. The second goal was to have all track within arm length while walking around the table. The center of the table is left for scenery, buildings, towns and ect. where I don't need access frequently.
     I don’t think you can go wrong with either type of layout. As others have mentioned around the walls have many benefits. The biggest thing is don't rush into building a layout just to have one. Think about whats most important to you and what you want to get out of it.

My first thought was around the walls. But it looks like you have a lot going on with doors. Not really sure looking at the photos where they all go.  Lift ups and duckunders will work but are a hassle. If the layout is high enough a single or double track duckunder is doable. Anything wider soon becomes a crawl under. Especially as you age and you also have guests to consider.
I’m with Bob on the folded dogbone. I think you can still get your wide radius curves and the ability to reach almost everything without ducking under or lifting multiple bridges to access doors.

Last edited by Dave_C

Personally, I'd consider against the wall under the windows and the blank wall end, then leave a walkway where all the doors are on the other two walls.  I'd also second Sam's recommendation for the power liftbridge, I'm certainly glad I went that way!  Trying to put the layout against the walls and deal with all the doors looks like an exercise in futility!  After all, you'll still have room for decent curves and long runs.

Nice space, lots of good comments above. I agree with gunrunnerjohn on the walkway on the door side of the layout. Make sure its at least 36 inches wall to layout. I assume the furnace and water heater are down there. I have a much smaller space to work with but still need to leave a 36 inch walk way due to providing access to the utilities. The corners can be space eaters, but the straight sections can be as little as 12 to 24 inches wide. I would put up some benchwork and track to get a feel on how it will match up with the room.

With big curves you will end up having very little straight track on the inner section if you use a folded dog bone. Lay that out on a track drawing program and take a look at the space needed.  Off hand a 10 foot diameter circle will need 30 feet to make and join the two circles. I've tried doing this (a walk-in) for my 3 rail layout and its still needs a lot of room with 6 foot diameter circles. Just takes up too much room - in my opinion. 

I agree with those who suggested an around the walls layout. That’s what we did in our 12’ x 16’ shed. It works very well. We are glad we did it that way. In particular, you can reach all parts of your layout that way.  Whatever you do, though, have fun and share some photos now and then.

The purist would say well it depends on your track needs.  Agreed but I don't have any specific track needs at this time.

Congrats on acquiring the space for your "Empire to be".

I too am coming from HO to O.  From my HO and N days I learned what I did and didn't like about the layouts.  I am using that to Plan my O layout.

I recommend planning the track BEFORE building the bench work, if you don't like wasting your time and money.  This makes even more sense in O since you are going to using more material.  If it is your first layout go look at other layouts and if possible operate on them.  Try to figure out what you want before spending hundreds of dollars and many hours of time.  It takes minutes to change a line on paper.  It takes hours to change built benchwork.

You do what you want, how you want, it is your layout.  But measure twice cut once makes sense to me.

I recommend planning the track BEFORE building the bench work, if you don't like wasting your time and money.  This makes even more sense in O since you are going to using more material.  If it is your first layout go look at other layouts and if possible operate on them.  Try to figure out what you want before spending hundreds of dollars and many hours of time.  It takes minutes to change a line on paper.  It takes hours to change built benchwork.

You do what you want, how you want, it is your layout.  But measure twice cut once makes sense to me.

I agree.

The funnist way to determine a track layout, and the size and shape of a layout, is to lay the tracks (or homemade paper track patterns if you currently don't have track) on the floor and fiddle with the design. Once done you'll know the size and shape of your platform.

Worked for me when I planned my last expansion.

From experience, something drawn out on paper always changes as it evolves when actually doing track work.

Hi guys I generally agree with planning with software first or laying track on the floor.  What always happens with me is spending time on the computer model, beginning benchwork and then realizing the plan - sizewise - does not look how I thought it would.  (I did not do what lionelski suggested with the paper - probably would have been a big visual help) That said the model sure helps to understand the size of curves and whether its even possible to fit into the space and whether there is enough run to change levels at 2% or less grade.

Its super easy to build basic benchwork especially with the L-girder construction. Do not need the plywood at this point. Once the height is decided the legs and L-girders are easily modified if needed. To me there is no extra or wasted expense here. But just my opinion. BTW I've built and rebuilt my layout at least 6 times including an interstate move over the past 6 years, so I've picked up a few ideas along the way. And I am reworking my layout again. But the truth is "its your layout, do what you want to do."

BTW here is a SCARM image of a dog bone using 60 inch radius track (120 dia in my world). The idea of having a walk in with this large radius and trying to work around the 10 foot lobes does not make a lot of sense given the space available. Plus it will need more than 30 feet to make the turns.  The base in green is 15 x 30 feet.  Just trying to be helpful not argumentative. 

15x30 dogbone


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100% agree on the L-girder construction; only way to go. L-girder lends itself nicely to cookie-cutter construction for grades and raised areas, not to mention ravines or gorges, if that's in  your plans. No matter how much thinking and planning you do, you will make changes almost as soon as you get the track laid. no big deal, you need to be happy with it.

This 32' long space has plenty of room for a 2% grade to another level. Quick math shows the distance needed to climb 6" is about 25 ft at 2%, or 31 ft at prototypical ruling grade of 1.6%. Its all personal preference but I  like a layout with at least 2 reversing loops and/or a couple of wyes. Add to that a couple of yards, maybe a turntable and roundhouse (depending on the era you are modelling), a town with track through or near it, 2 track mains if space permits, and you are well on your way. But thats just me, YMMV. I like 42" main bench height, but I am 6'-3", you may want higher or lower. Have fun!


The attached is an idea for a simple layout with yard and turntable.  The gray outer line is 14' x 32' (room).  The layout fits in 10.5' x 32'.  The mainline is green the sidings are blue (sorry hard to distinguish).  Track radius is 60".  The purple shows the "table" surface for the track to mount on.  It has 2 large open areas.  Max reach is 42".  Duck-unders 6" wide.  The diagonal track allows for reversing direction of travel around the loop (sometimes requires backing up).   The track is flat no hills.  Of course more sidings could be added.  Could be reworked slightly to add a second Mainline Outer Loop.  Overall width would increase about 9" if maintaining 60" radius on inner loop.  It has long sidings so that longer trains can be handled easily Shortest Yard track 93" longest is 152".  That's what I like, you may not.  Will handle 4-8-4 Locos.

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Last edited by MainLine Steam

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