Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

New layout, posted for impressions/opinions/criticism

1495 views
14 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
New layout, posted for impressions/opinions/criticism
Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 3:24 PM

Hi all,

This will be fairly lengthy, so by all means feel free to skip ahead to the posted track plans in the next posts if you're not interested in the background and/or bored to tears.

For the last 6 months or so, I've been in the process of redesigning my spare-bedroom layout to rectify several fundamental issues with my current N scale layout. Some major design criteria for the new layout were: 1) Less cluttered track plan, 2) Better scenic opportunities afforded by a less cluttered track plan, 3) Operations focus, and 4) Longer trains (20-25 cars, vs the 10-12 of the current layout) on a longer mainline run.

I've been through a few major iterations of a new plan, but I think I've now zeroed in on an overall track plan, which I present here in order to get some first impressions and, hopefully, criticisms/concerns from the community.

It's effectively a 3-deck point-to-point layout in a G-shape around 3 1/2 walls of the room, with balloon tracks at each end to facilitate continuous running. N-scale, code 55 for the most part, with some code 80 in hidden areas. Minimum mainline radii is 16" on the scenicked portions of the layout, about 12 1/2" in hidden areas and some sidings. Due to the small-ish size of the layout room (9 ft by a hair over 11 ft), in order to get the longer mainline stretches I desired I utilized two main scenicked decks, with a third deck on the bottom for staging. Decks are connected by dual-tracked helixes, which had to be narrow with 12.5" and 13.75" radii in order to keep a minimum aisle width (about 25", which works well for me as a lone-operator); to keep the grade as low as possible, I stretched each helix into an oval by inserting 24" of straight sections between the end, resulting in 1.57% uphill grades on the outer track and 1.67% downhill grades on the inner track. Testing has determined that double-headed trains of 25 average-rolling cars is not a problem with such an oval incline.

The layout models a section of the Lehigh Valley mainline from Packerton to Penn Haven Junction in the Lehigh River Gorge, then the Hazelton Branch from Penn Haven Junction through Weatherly to Hazelton. The increase in mainline run allows me to model some real-world locations (with a varying amounts of artistic license needed), such as Jim Thorpe/Mauch Chunk, Glen Onoko, Nescohoning Junction, Penn Haven Junction, Black Creek Junction, possibly a bit of Weatherly, Ashmore Yards just east of Hazelton, Hazelton yard, and finally Hazelton coal breaker.

The plan is fundamentally divided into two distinctly feeling regions, with a dual-track river run on the middle deck from Jim Thorpe to Weatherly, with interchanges at Penn Haven Junction and Black Creek Junction (Weatherly). Envision lots of trees, sections of the river, deep valleys, etc. Some provisions for on-line freight/passenger stops (via Doodlebug/RDC) have been made, but except for occassional set-outs/pick-ups at the interchanges this deck is primarily intended for it's scenery potential.

The upper deck is largely industrial, being comprised primarily of Ashmore Yards (an engine service facility), Hazelton Yard (the terminus of the branch here, but not in real life), and Hazelton Breaker. Industries are places along the wall behind the yard. The breaker is within the balloon reversing track past the yard. The balloon track allows continuous running across the entire layout utilizing the mainline past the yard, which I can make into a 100% hands-free route if I send trains up one of the A/D tracks and part of the main yard lead (which is part of my plan to keep background traffic rolling as "interference" during operations).

Operations are planned as a baseline with 3 mainline trains scheduled daily northbound, with at least one general freight and two empty coal drags traveling from Packerton (staging deck) to Hazelton Yard. Extras can be added as needed. Power to tie-up at Ashmore following their run. Industrial switching will either be handled by the yard switcher directly as a Local, or a dedicated road switcher stationed at Ashmore. Coal empties will be taken from Hazelton Yard to the breaker by a dedicated breaker road switcher, and loads reurned, effectively another Local run twice daily. Southbound mainline trains will therefore consist of two coal drags and at least one general freight daily. I think that makes 9 primary regular trains, plus at least two phases of Hazelton Yard switching and two phases of breaker switching. With a mainline run across the layout (from middle of staging yard to middle of Hazelton Yard, excluding the balloon tracks) being a little over 6 scale miles and taking an estimated 12.5 minutes at a scale 30 mph, I figure I could run a full operations "cycle" in about 4-6 hours.

A few gross stats:

  • N scale Atlas code 55 (scenicked areas), Peco code 55 (some switches and staging yard) and 80 (helixes), some handlaid
  • Mainline crossovers #10; sidings/yard #7 or Peco mediums
  • Total mainline (excluding balloon tracks) = 205 ft = 6.2 scale miles
  • Total "continuous run" length (one lap) = 450 ft
  • Total hidden trackage in helixes = 282 ft (both tracks)
  • Max grade=1.67% (downhill only), 1.57% uphill
  • Total scenicked area = 105 sq ft (estimated)
  • Basic shelf width = 12"
  • Era = Late 50s/early 60s, with some limited steam in a slightly anachronistic alternative timeline (LV discontinued steam 1951)

Okay, enough jibber-jabber. On to the plans....

-Jason

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 3:27 PM

Lower deck staging yard. Orange track is northbound uphill mainline, purple southbound downhill mainline. Lots of space to add extra stub tracks if needed. Basic storage tracks about 110".

Lower staging yard

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 3:38 PM

Middle deck, scenic run up Lehigh River gorge. Orange northbound main, purple southbound. Non-labelled track in Penn Haven closest to the aisle is the CNJ mainline, which had a freight station at the south end of the junction in real life, but I've not been able to determine if it had interchange ability with the LV mainline, either directly or via shared platforms.

Liberties were taken at Penn Junction. The trackage as I've modeled it is close to real world, but the interchange track which disappears into the southern wall was in reality the start of the Hazelton Branch, with the mainline crossing the CNJ and the river to the east side. In my model, I reversed this so my branch line goes over the curved through plate girder bridge over the river, and the mainline vanishes. The odd structure at the CNJ/LV diamonds is the tower as it appeared before burning in the 1910s or 20s. 

Weatherly may or may not get model as a small town. Black Creek Junction is a simple spur track to stage some hidden loaded coal heading south.

Crossovers and interchange trackage not 100% determined just yet. Any suggestions, particularly for Penn Haven, are welcomed.

Middle deck

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 4:07 PM

Upper deck/Hazelton terminus

Upper deck

This area is only partially completed. Hazelton yard and the primary trackage I'm pretty well set on. The blue tracks are the 2 A/D tracks. I could get away with one given that I have only two classification tracks, but I plan to use one of the A/D tracks as part of a hands-free continuous run scheme. The A/D and class tracks are all about 120" in length or more, so no doubling-up will be needed for 20-25 car trains. The yard lead stretches around the lower right corner alongside the orange mainline, with a secondary lead that leads to a small industy at the north end of the right wall (maybe; if it seems I won't bump my head on it coming in the door). The red track is a caboose track, which will have associated servicing structures alongside in the bigger gap.

The industries along the wall and it's feeder trackage (light green) are still very alterable. The industry lead is separated by about a 2-lane road width from the classification tracks to provide some visual separation scenically. I haven't yet decided on what I'll model as industries, so the track has been left with plenty of wiggle room pending structures, etc. I'll probably have more substantial industries in the lower left and right corners, with one-three backdrop industries along the left wall.

A hillside for the coal conveyor creates a tunnel on the northside of the breaker facility primarily to hide a portion of the balloon track.

I'm happy to receive any criticism of my basic yard plan, but a few things to keep in mind. I put the yard lead on the southern and eastern wall end of the yard intentionally. I'd really prefer not to put anything in the far northwest corner since the benchwork for the helix is 32" wide and reaching in there would be a problem. I may still drop from 2 A/D and 2 class tracks to 1 A/D and 3 class tracks ... haven't decided yet. If I do, then the industrial lead (light green) would become my continuous hands-free run option. If I keep 2 A/D tracks, I might not connect the north end of the industry lead back to the mainline coming out of the helix ... again, haven't made up my mind yet.

Anyhow, that's the plan. It meets all my goals, and offered me some modeling abilities that were more a happy coincidence than anything specifically looked for (such as specific cool-looking real world areas, like emerging from the tunnel immediately over a bridge at Glen Onoko, and the through-plate bridge after diamonds at Penn Haven with the unique tower in the background).

My specific concerns are that I worry a bit that my middle deck is perhaps not complex enough and that the upper deck might be too complex. Finding that balance between trackage, scenery, and operations, especially on a basic shelf only 1-ft wide in most places, has been a great challenge.

If you plan on offering any criticism/advice, please draw your attention primarily to the upper deck. Might I be better served by confining Hazelton Yard to just the left wall by adding more class tracks but making them shorter, and moving all industries to the south wall area? I've been playing with that idea as a final major revision, but haven't quite hammered in something I'm happy with just yet. I'll try to finish something up and post it as an alternate upper deck plan...

Thanks for reading through my train of thoughts on this project.

-Jason

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, May 23, 2020 6:28 PM

Here's a modified upper deck with reorganized Hazleton Yard.

Upper deck, alternative Hazleton yard

 

I can extend the true double-train mainline all the way past the yard to the breaker balloon track, so I went with a single A/D track for Hazelton Yard. Five classification tracks with about 250" total storage, about the same as in the first plan I posted. This method would allow more modeling of the industries on the south wall, and clearly separate the yard from breaker visually, but at the cost of a half-length yard lead (in yellow, now at the north end of the yard). So yard operations wouldn't be quite as efficient, but there are zero impacts from occassional "traffic" trains, so it might be a net neutral impact. I could always add a turnout connecting the yard lead to the northbound main at the west end of the helix, allowing temporary extensions of the switcher onto the main during operations.

Again, the industries tracks are nowhere near settled, and depend somewhat on what industries I choose to model. But it's a basic idea of an alternative Hazleton yard. I don't know, let me know what you think.

-Jason

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 7,682 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, May 24, 2020 1:13 AM

Jason, I cannot see any of your trackplan pictures that you posted.

Your unhappiness with your N scale railroad seems very much in-line with the unhappiness I had with the last N scale layout I was building before switching to HO scale.

I was also unhappy with my most recent HO scale layout, also built in a spare bedroom.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 11,323 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, May 24, 2020 1:27 AM
  • Member since
    May 2010
  • 7,063 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, May 24, 2020 6:49 AM

That works Dave.  Yes

Although, I can open his images.

Mike.

  • Member since
    January 2014
  • 1,127 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Sunday, May 24, 2020 7:55 AM

Hey Jason-

I was able to see the images since this thread was opened. The images still don't show up alongside the text, but the links have always worked.

I am reading the narrative. And looking at the plans.

Have you mentioned the deck heights? The aisles are narrow. Lone Wolf, I  understand. Skinny Lone Wolf? Tall Lone Wolf? Tall, skinny Lone Wolf? Reach-in distances are a consideration, as are sight lines and vistas. Can you reach in, see in, and bend down and reach in and see in all three levels?

Have you mentioned the grid spacing? It appears to be 6 inches. MRR layout plans use a 24-inch grid because that illustrates the personal space a person needs to operate and maneuver around. Nothing to do with Covid social distancing; just standard human kinemetrics. Can you copy-and-paste any to-scale human figures in various postures and attitudes around the layout? Particularly one of your particular caliber?

No criticism, just observations. At this point.

Good luck.

Robert 

 

LINK to SNSR Blog


  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, May 25, 2020 3:07 PM

Thanks all. Yeah, I can't get the thumbnail to show either, but the links seemed to work when I tested them after submitting the post so I let them slide. I know there's a more preferred image hosting site this forum recommends, I just haven't sat down to create an account there yet.

Robert: Sorry, I was going to mention it was a 6" grid but forgot during the course of posting. Those aisles are indeed skinny; about 25" at the tightest. Not ideal, but I can work with that without much pain and suffering. It's better than the current layout, which has three pinch points at about 14".

The primary decks are only 12" deep (west and south walls), with tracks set at roughly shoulder level or a smidge higher for the upper deck, and the tracks of the middle deck roughly 15-16 inches below that at about navel level (roughly 1ft separation between bottom of the upper deck and tracks of the middle deck). Lowest deck will probably be another 10-12" below the middle deck (still to be determined based on under-layout storage needs and the overall thickness of the middle deck determined by the vertical deep of scenery below track level). So the range of track elevations are something like 62", 46" and 32-36", give or take. Reaching in anywhere on upper and middle decks from a relaxed standing position for me is not an issue. Lower deck only really requires reach-in servicing between operating session, and I have a rolling stool to sit on for those chores.

The main upper and middle decks work ergonomically for me (6'1", slender to average build) with great sight lines of the middle deck for all but the back of the southwest and southeast corners of the room, and the northwest corner to the left of the helix, but there's nothing to do deep in those corners anyway. The view still isn't bad in the southwest and southeast, I just don't see as much of the backdrop. The northwest corner scenery as I have it drawn is highly flexible, and that scenic wall leading to the helix hasn't really been set in stone yet, so I doubt the reach-in distance will end up being as deep as it is drawn.

Average view for me from a mid-aisle position shows roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of the approximately 12" tall backdrop of the middle deck without slouching. Everywhere on the top deck is very easily reachable except for the deepest part of the northwest corner, but again, basically not much that needs reaching in there for anyway. If I do, I can stand on a stepstool (for simple derails, for example) or if I need to do any serious work I can come up through the helix, the top of which (Ashmore yard) I've designed to pop out to more easily access the helix for periodic cleaning. Everywhere else is within about 18-20" reach from the aisle, and mostly only 12". At any rate, I intentionally kept the vast majority of trackage in general, and all but one switch, where they are reachable from the aisles without aid. And that one switch isn't even really needed so I'm 50/50 on whether I keep it in the plan.

There are also contingencies if as I build I decide 25" aisles are too skinny. I'm starting with the north helix, as that's the one that sets the elevations of the upper and middle decks. The southern helix is actually quite a bit smaller than the peninsula is sits on, and the peninsula can be both shortened (east-west measurement) as well as made somewhat narrower north-south. I'm sure I could get 27" aisles with only a very minor trackwork change. But I'll address that once I get around to that side of the room in, ohhh, a year or so?

I'll see about adding a human-scale visual to the plan, as well as reposting them to the normal photo hosting site preferred on the forum.

-Jason

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, May 25, 2020 3:46 PM

SeeYou190

Your unhappiness with your N scale railroad seems very much in-line with the unhappiness I had with the last N scale layout I was building before switching to HO scale.

I was also unhappy with my most recent HO scale layout, also built in a spare bedroom.

-Kevin

 

 

Hi Kevin,

I started in model railroading in HO when I was a kid. I'd have preferred to stay with that scale, to be honest, just for the detailing available in the modeling. But I started my adult collection in N scale to get the type of railroading I was looking for in the space that was/is available to me. By and large, it wasn't N scale itself that caused my frustrations with my current layout, but almost entirely my own design choices back before I learned better. In short, I started the current layout with one idea in mind, which was basically to just get trains rolling. I then discovered how much operations really appealed to me, and I made the modifications to incorporate that into my layout. Then I reappraised my layout with this new perspective, and asked "What the heck was I thinking?"

The layout works and trains physically run well, but because of the modifications based on changed priorities, it accomplishes neither the original goal (display running, I suppose) nor the afterthought operations goals particularly well. Fortunately, I think this new design largely addresses the issues I have with my current layout, although of course there are still significant compromises that had to be made, due purely to the space limitations.

Unfortunately, my space limitations aren't likely to change any time soon. At least, not until the in-laws invite us to move in ... then I'll have a nice 30 ft by 15 ft finished (and empty) basement space all to myself, with another 10 x 15 ft space negotiable for expansion. So for now, I'm sticking in N scale. I figure I'm only 41, I have a good 20-30 years before my eyesight really starts failing (based on family history of a slew of degenerative vision issues, none of which have shown any signs yet of appearing (knock on wood)).

So are you onto a redesign yourself for your spare bedroom HO scale railroad?

-Jason 

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, May 25, 2020 4:41 PM

Let's try these pictures, reconfigured on a 24-in grid with 1:1 scale human for perspective.

The added figures shows in gross terms the aisle spacing well, I think, but obviously I don't hold my arms out like Frankenstein's monster to run my trains so take them with a grain of salt. The figure I placed with arms extending over the middle deck (top image) shows the approximate reach well.

Middle deck

Upper deck (alternate yard arrangement)

Upper deck, alternative branch terminal yard

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, May 25, 2020 4:46 PM

That seemed to work, so let's complete the set to satisfy some personal OCD.

Upper deck, original yard configuration

Hazleton Upper deck_original yard

Lower/staging deck

Hazleton branch lower staging

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 9,203 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, May 25, 2020 4:54 PM

I like the track plan, I could never deal with aisles that narrow, especially with multi decks.

Multi decks might actually be better in N scale, I built a multi deck layout in a HO and was not happy with it.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    March 2018
  • 70 posts
Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, May 25, 2020 5:10 PM

Thanks Sheldon.

Narrow aisles certainly aren't my ideal either. This is the smallest I will take them in this plan, and I very well might widen the aisles a little to 27 or 28 inches by modifiying the dimensions of the peninsula coming off the east wall. Unfortunately, that would be about the best I could do, short of scraping the southern helix between the lower and middle deck, and balloon track on the upper.

But, needs must and all that. It's a compromise I'm willing to make and can work with.

-Jason

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!