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3.5 x 5 HO layout...Track plans?

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3.5 x 5 HO layout...Track plans?
Posted by custom1106 on Thursday, September 9, 2021 11:36 PM

I recently pulled out my HO scale stuff that had been packed away for a few years and the wife expressed a decent amount of interest in building a layout together. The problem is we have a small house and not alot of room for a layout. We do have a space for a 3.5 x 5 layout, we actually have a base / benchwork all set up in this size. I have a decent amount of turnouts, flex, 15 radius and 18 radius nickle track to work with. All of our (she still has her childhood HO stuff) equipment is 4 axle diesels and 40 ft rolling stock so the tight turns are not a problem. The issue we're having is coming up with a track plan that can keep our interest. There's not alot out there in this odd size and switching to N scale is not gonna happen this time around. Of course the wife also insists on continuous run as well. Any ideas / input or places on the web to get some inspiration for this project? 

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Posted by Steven Otte on Friday, September 10, 2021 8:41 AM

Is that 3.5 x 5 layout table in a space where you can move around all four sides? If so, consider turning it inside out and building a shelf layout around the walls instead, with the open area in the middle. That will increase the length of your main line and give you more space for spurs, structures, and scenery. 

--
Steven Otte, Model Railroader associate editor
sotte@kalmbach.com

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, September 10, 2021 9:36 AM

Building around the edges of your available space and operating from the middle has many advantages over the table top design.  If you can actually hang or fasten the layout to the walls then you can even utilize the spaces above and below the railroad.

5 wide is enough for a table top design but 3.5' wide really isn't. I predict you'd actually be happier with 5' long and 18"-24" wide end to end switching layout if you only have 3.5' width for a table.  

Two 5'x 5' tables can be connected with benchwork less than a foot wide and gives a continuous loop layout. Even 4'x4' end tables are enough for 22" radius curves.

Try drawing simple schematic layouts on the available footprint and see what pops up. 1/4" graph paper is handy to allow easy sketching to scale.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, September 10, 2021 11:12 AM

Hi there. It's nice to see two spouses collaborate on a project together. My wife has no interest in mine! Anyway, if you can find a copy of the original Kalmbach book entitled 101 plans (by the late L. Westcott), there are quite a few plans for restricted spaces. Atlas also has plans on its Website. Of course, you can design your own very easily.  Are you thinking of a city scene? Industry? Passenger? Here are a few typical designs:

- One loop, with a city in the middle, one passenger station, one or two sidings for small warehouses/industry. Or no industries, but a short piece of track in the middle for a streetcar.

- One loop, with a scenic divider: a mountain accross in the middle, or a piece of self-standing flat screen  with pictures on both sides, and two entries where trains go "through" the screen.

-One loop, with one or two heavier industries in the middle, with two longer sidings in the middle for switching.

I don't think you can do a double-mainline with that space, unless you go with 15'' radius in the middle. I'm not sure I would recommend that, both for looks and operation.

Good luck, and keep us in the loop Smile.

Simon

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Posted by custom1106 on Friday, September 10, 2021 11:31 AM

Thanks for the replies so far. The space we have available is restricted to a corner of a room up against the wall, can't really go any bigger than 3.5 x 5. No more "along the wall" space is available. We have a decent amount of factory / warehouse buildings so we're going for the industrial park type theme. 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, September 10, 2021 12:28 PM

Another way to sneak a little extra space for curves is to hang arc shaped extensions off the table edges to match the curve where it might otherwise fall off the table top.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, September 10, 2021 1:01 PM

An "industrial park" is a thought, but I'd tend towards urban industrial, where the tracks have to conform to city streets:

 

 

Besides that easily obtainable cutey, I'd stick to VERY small steam engines and VERY small diesels.

I do believe I'd go with something like a 15" minimum radius, and perhaps sharper when feeding a building.  Of course, I'd make sure my rolling stock would fit the tight curve.  I wonder how sharp the track switches were in these locations.  I remember some trackage like this in San Francisco, in The Olden Days, south of Market (kinda near where Millennium Towers is falling over).  Very cool!

Rolling stock:  40' long.  Or less.  Cars used to come in at 36', and etc.

I'd try VERY hard to fit in a loop, because sometimes it's fun just to watch them go.

I'd seriously consider some kind of "clip-on" track extensions, that would extend the trackage a bit, only to be installed on special occasions (actually running trains without guests).  No scenery on those, just a bit of "backing up" track--easy to store.  Maybe even a micro-yard.

One thing I've seen in street trackage is a track swinging to the right before crossing over itself to make a left turn.  Probably have to be hand laid, of course.  Something to look forward to??? 

This could really be fun!

 

Ed

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, September 10, 2021 1:01 PM

custom1106

Thanks for the replies so far. The space we have available is restricted to a corner of a room up against the wall, can't really go any bigger than 3.5 x 5. No more "along the wall" space is available. We have a decent amount of factory / warehouse buildings so we're going for the industrial park type theme. 

 

With that in mind, I would suggest a rather simple plan, with two sidings (one on each side), where industries can share the same siding. A few roads are also needed for realism. A third short siding could be used to "store" one or two locomotives. It's always tempting to put in a lot of turnouts and track, but this would only make it more difficult for both operations and scenery work...

Also, reach is an important factor. Unless you have casters, make sure you can easily reach the turnouts. They will create problems (says Murphy).

That's my two cents anyway.

Simon

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Posted by cowman on Friday, September 10, 2021 6:30 PM

Welcome to thhe foruma.

I have a 4x6 HO layout, pearing it down will make it tight, but I think it is doable.

I can't post a trackplan (not very computer savvy), so I will describe  it.  It started out as a DC layout, but I have  upgraded to DCC, but the blocks are still there if I want them.. 

My plan was to have a layout where the trains would go somewhere to the viewer on one side, so I put in a scenic divider high enough to hide the other side.  (I operate from one end so I can see both sides.)  As a train came from one end through the thick trees it can continue off the other end through a deep rock cut.  Once it disappears the viewer would expect it to come  out through the trees again.  With my block system I could shut that train down and start the one other one on the siding in the opposite direction so a train comes from the direction1 where one just went.  For operations there is a 2 stub ended siding off the passing siding.  I didn't try to put a siding on the second side.  The scenic divider is not centered nor square to the edges.  Obviously they are short trains.

I started with a basic loop of track, with one corner angled to make a place for the power pack and controls.  I used 18"r sectional track.   If you  use some 15"r and flex you can probably fit it on your base. You can also gain space putting the  controls underneath, easy to do if you are DCC.

I have one side "finished" (viewers side), but the other side is pink foam and won't be finished as I'm fixing the room up for an around the walls layout.  

For things to hide the disappearance you can use buildings or bridges to do the effect.

If you have any questions let me know.  Sorry I don't know how to send a sketch for you.   

Have fun,

Richard

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Posted by custom1106 on Friday, September 10, 2021 9:32 PM

Thanks again for the replies. Good info and thoughts! I played around in Atlas right Track for a few minutes and came up with this. There is continous running but no runaround track...

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Posted by cowman on Monday, September 13, 2021 6:47 PM

Can't see your picture.  Maybe someone else can make it viewable.

Since there  is a passing siding on each side of the plan I tried to explain, those could be called run-a-rounds.

Keep at it, you sohould find something that will suit both of you.

Have fun,

Richard

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Posted by custom1106 on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 12:01 AM

Well let's give it another try. Any suggestions / critiques are welcome. All curves are 15 radius. Table is still 3.5 x 5 feet. Made in Atlas Right Track...

 

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 11:06 AM

One thing I'd suggest is not using regular Atlas snaptrack; if you're going to use Atlas use their "True-Track" which is track with roadbed. Otherwise, go with Kato Unitrack. Both are available with code 83 track, and as "click track" will make it easier to test out different track plan ideas as you don't have to get into gluing down cork roadbed and ballasting etc.

https://shop.atlasrr.com/c-1051-ho-true-track.aspx

https://www.katousa.com/HO/Unitrack/g-single.html

I'd also advise not doing too much too fast. In your space you can make an oval with 18"R curves and 18" straightaways (two 9" straights) leaving a 3" clearance all around the edges. Maybe just get that going first, then place your buildings around and see where you might want to add a spur track or a scenic element (like a pond or river or hill).

 

Stix
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Posted by custom1106 on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 12:29 PM

I start out in Right track with the sectional track then move to flex on the actual layout...flex in Right Track is tricky for me.  We do have a box of Bachmann ez track to mess with for planning allthough Kato makes nice stuff, I also have a small collection of N scale Unitrack I pull out for the holidays. 

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Posted by speedybee on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 4:50 PM

I like small HO plans! I notice a couple potential issues with yours:

1. There are a few S curves where a 15" radius track goes into a turnout in the opposite direction. This could cause problems even with small engines and cars. 15" curves are ok, but try to avoid S curves

2. You mentioned this layout is going to be in a corner. No matter how this plan is oriented, there'll be a turnout that's really hard to reach because it's way in the corner. Ideally all turnouts should be reachable because they can be problem areas.

 

I drew up a possible alternative:

  

It is essentially a main loop, with an interior passing track that doubles as a run around and lead for the industry tracks. I'm assuming the corner of the room is top left, but the plan can be rotated or mirrored however it needs to be. The tunnel at the top left helps hide the fact that trains run around in a circle. All turnouts are within a 30" reach from the room. The main loop is minimum 18" radius, and eased into that by 22" sections, which would be friendly to larger stuff like an RDC which could, coincidentally, park in the siding in the bottom left in front of a small passenger station. The interior passing track is 15" but as you've said, your freights are fine with that

 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 5:47 PM

Now that's a clever use of the restricted space.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by NVSRR on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 7:04 PM

You could always venture into the realm of traction. The odell county traction layout comes to mind  and I think it was about the same size as what you have to work with.  country scene and city scene with freight. 

 

Shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by custom1106 on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 12:30 AM

Nice revision Speedy, I like the passing track setup. I was worried about the S curves myself...Geeked

 

NVSRR

You could always venture into the realm of traction. The odell county traction layout comes to mind  and I think it was about the same size as what you have to work with.  country scene and city scene with freight. 

 

I looked up that layout in the archives (November '88), pretty cool setup for the space they had!

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 9:08 AM

The siding at the bottom of the diagram can be made longer by reversing the turnout direction. RH instead of LH facing the other way.

If you use the LH turnout with the diverging route forming part of the curve that siding can be even longer. Atlas snapswitches have curved diverging routes with a choice of 18" and 22" radius diverging routes. They also make a double curve turnout with a 22" diverging route (inside curve) radius. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 9:57 AM

An advantage of "click track" in a situation like this is you can lay track on a flattop surface and do some 'real world' tests to see what will really take this curve or that crossover. Better to do that than glue down cork roadbed, lay flextrack, etc. and then find out it doesn't work. With 'click track' you just take it apart and try something else.

BTW HO Kato Unitrack has 19-1/4" and 16-7/8" radius curved track, slightly less tight curves than conventional 18"R and 15"R track.....

Stix
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Posted by custom1106 on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 8:07 PM

wjstix

An advantage of "click track" in a situation like this is you can lay track on a flattop surface and do some 'real world' tests to see what will really take this curve or that crossover. Better to do that than glue down cork roadbed, lay flextrack, etc. and then find out it doesn't work. With 'click track' you just take it apart and try something else.

BTW HO Kato Unitrack has 19-1/4" and 16-7/8" radius curved track, slightly less tight curves than conventional 18"R and 15"R track.....

 

 

The wife actually really likes the Kato track we have for N scale. We're still shuffling around the EZ track on the table playing with plans. Not sure if I'd make a permanent layout out of the roadbed style track but it makes the planning stages easier. 

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 8:42 PM

custom1106

 

 

This is a very good track plan for that small space.  Well done.  The way that it could be operated and scenicked like a warehouse district, and with continuous running, is very innovative, IMO.

Although not ideal, I would live with the S curves.  Your loco and cars should be short.  Just operate slowly, with couplers that are consistent from car to car and perform well.

Since you'd be using sectional track. You could always simply lay out the track loosely and operate it like that to be sure the S curves are no problem.

A thought: If you placed a short straight track at 9 oclock and 3 oclock, that would shove the S curve turnouts closer to the edges, thereby shortening the angled track and shoving the turnouts closer to their mates to align (for example, the North side turnout up and to the left. )  Making that shove would force a short straight track to be placed in such a way that it lessens the S curve effect.

You may force the yard tracks on the South side closer to the edge. 

This is based on spacial-recognition-by-eyeball, not CAD planning software, LOL.

 

- Douglas

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Posted by custom1106 on Thursday, September 16, 2021 12:18 PM

Doughless

 

 
custom1106

 

 

 

 

This is a very good track plan for that small space.  Well done.  The way that it could be operated and scenicked like a warehouse district, and with continuous running, is very innovative, IMO.

 

 

We keep going back to this plan after looking / fiddling with others. This current plan has the most amount of "action" in this small of a footprint but the S curves are the only bad part. Adding the small straight pieces as suggested may be the key to this working halfway decently.

The other layout that may be second to this currently is a 18 radius oval outside of a 15 radius oval with a few spurs inside. Simliar to Speedys suggestion with a full loop instead of just a passing setup. 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, September 16, 2021 1:47 PM

You may be happier with one outside loop with no S curves, and most of the siding action inside the main loop. Note you also get 22" radius easements in that outer loop. These will m an important difference to how the trains running on the outside loop look.  Even quite short easements make a big difference. 

You can then run trains around the outside and use the inside loop and sidings for interest while the main train gets to where it's going.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, September 17, 2021 12:15 PM

I try to avoid a mainline that needs to take a turn on a turnout. Turnouts are the main cause of derailments.  With that space, I would follow the KISS principle, especially given that you want space for buildings (and perhaps streets). I would aim for two sidings inside the loop (and consider reach if you are placing the layout against a wall), and one additional siding outside the loop to store an additional loco.

Anyway, that's my My 2 Cents worth.

Simon

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, September 17, 2021 12:52 PM

For a simpler trackplan with no S curves, OP could use Atlas 542 or 543 snap switches in place of curves.  They are 22 inch radius on the inside but you could mix in 18 inch and 15 inch radius track to make sort of a parabolic curve that would also fit in the 3.5 foot depth.

Or place the switches on the straight at an angle for the inside spurs.

- Douglas

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