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N Scale 4x8 Layout Feedback

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  • Member since
    April 2014
  • 3 posts
N Scale 4x8 Layout Feedback
Posted by ESzczesniak on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 4:02 PM

I'm posting here hoping to get some feedback from those with more track planning an operating experience than myself. Growing up, I've tried to make a layout a few times. None of these made it beyond incomplete track laying because of combinations of time, money, and poor forward planning.

I'm intending for this to be my "final" adult layout (not that I'm old enough for that yet!). A few principles to start:

  1. This will not have a place to be permanently set up, so I've made it a modular design based on a 4x8' format. The modules are largely already made with a 2" deep tray to allow for scenery below track level. They are also 18"     deep, as in my starts, I found 2' to be excess in this scale.
  2. This is N scale
  3. The layout is intended to be a group of 4 scenes with backdrops seperating each module. I don't have room for a large layout with all the features I'd like, so I     decided to make it a series of large "dioramas".
  4. I expect to operate this alone and primarily as a "rail fan", but don't want to leave this with no operational interest
  5. I'd been planning for double track mainline throughout to allow simple two train operation, but have     been quiestioning this a bit recently.
  6. This is intendend to be effectively modern era, but with aging infrastructure so it wouldn't be absolutely odd to run 60-70's equipment on the layout. My equipment is mostly BNSF and UP, with some CNW. I grew up in Chicago and live nearby, so I have a decent Amtrak and Metra group as well.
  7. Mainline minimum radius is 15", there's one 11" radius on the siding on module 1. The layout will be laid with flextrack, but I've planned it with sectional     track keep clear radiai and avoid something too sharp. I left the 15" radius to allow some room to keep the track away from the edge an allow room for scenery between the track and the edge.  Otherwise I could have probably made it up to a 19" radius.  There are no grades on the layout.     

So here is the fairly early track plan that I'm hoping for some feedback on:

Some explanation of the areas:

  1. This is intended to be the main switching/industrial area. I don't have a particular industry selected at this time. I've considered a generic warehouse that could "change". One day it could be Boeing getting 737 fuselages, the the next day it could be a food plant getting tank and hopper cars. It's intended the sidings would run in to some structure, whether warehouse, grain elevater, etc as a way to disguise heading in to the back drop. I don't have great solutions  yet for hiding the mainline passing through the backdrop, but some combination of buidlings, trees, and may equipment overpass. The only requirement for this section is to have a 3 track siding to feed in to module 3 (see below) to accomdate trains passing through.
  2. This is the simplest, planned to be San Bernadino station. I'll scratchbuild the station along the backdrop and by measurement will not need to be condensed much. The staging/yard tracks at the station have been simplified to just two for space. These tracks can also form some staging for other modules for operations. And I have some consideration of making the station "lift out" so it could be replaced with a generic station, or even some other industry to add variety. My primary reason for thinking about this is so UP equipment isn't completely out of place all the time.
  3. This is intended to be a complex big city scene. The 3 tracks off the mainline are planned to be a passenger station modelled loosely at Chicago Union station. So the station would actually sit above them at street level, disguising their entry. I've made their join to the mainline a bit complicated on purpose with the crossing to capture the look of this type of railroading. I've also included the only two crossovers on this section.
  4. This has been planned for the classic mountain scence of some sort. I had been planning to have the ubiqutous bridge here as well, but am not entirely sure if that may seem out of place at the moment. I've also toyed with trying to make this a river crossing in theme of the Mississippi River, as I really like these type of bridges. But I can't think of any good way to disguise the track entering and exiting this flat type of terrain. This is where I've thought about making this single track and making it on a cut in a river valley. Thinking Feather River Canyon style. The tracks on the bottom would enter with a small river with scenery on the "aisle" side blocking the tracks entering, then cross the river on a bridge, and then exit through a tunnel. Moving this to single track mainline adds some challeng to a short "hidden" transition, but adds operational variety with required meets that technically would never be necessary with a double track all the way. To keep a more realistic appearance, I'd likely make the tunnel appear that it is going straight while the track actually curves back to next scene.

Where I'm struggling the most I think is modules 1 and 4 to make the end loop appear realistic, which it really isn't for railroad operations. I'd appreciate any and all feed back.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,239 posts
Posted by cowman on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 7:59 PM

I'm no track planner, but I'll make a couple of comments to bring this back to the top.

If I am looking at this correctly, you have pretty much double track all the way around, more in several places.  It looks cluttered with track on 1 & 3, what's the purpose of each track?  

You say you primarily want railfanning, but with some operations.  To do that I think I would add a few more sidings.   Since 4 is a mountain scene, how about a mine or quarry or just a gravel pit?  On the 1 & 3 sections have less through tracks and more sidings serving industries, a team track or a warehouse.

As I said, I'm not proficient at planning and not to familiar with how N fits in a given area.

Hope some of our track planners get to see this and give you some better ideas.

Good luck,


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