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Layout Critique

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  • Member since
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  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
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Posted by cuyama on Thursday, February 6, 2020 6:56 PM

jacobsen9026
I currently have a temporary layout with atlas sectional track with 18" radius turns which all of my rolling stock have been able to handle (and that's with no easments, and that includes the 85' amtrack coaches)

Most folks find that there is a significant difference between what can be pulled around a tight curve versus what can be shoved as part of a string of cars through a tight yard ladder while switching.

jacobsen9026
The mental image of a 5 ft dogbone end-loop just messes with my percieved fung-shui of the layout

Space, appearance, and reliability -- successful layouts are always a compromise. But compromising too much on reliability can create nagging problems that sap the enjoyment of any layout.

Good luck.

 

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Posted by jacobsen9026 on Thursday, February 6, 2020 9:08 PM

cuyama
 

Most folks find that there is a significant difference between what can be pulled around a tight curve versus what can be shoved as part of a string of cars through a tight yard ladder while switching.

 

See, I'm not even thinking about those kinds of movements without a yard setup already made. I see the bigger picture now, thanks.

 
cuyama
 

Space, appearance, and reliability -- successful layouts are always a compromise. But compromising too much on reliability can create nagging problems that sap the enjoyment of any layout.

Good luck.

This is why I don't want to start laying track until I have some "okays" from the community, you guys have way more experience and wisdom than I have. I definately want a reliable setup, and you all are a great way to get me on the track to a great layout.

 

 

I'm gonna work on a new layout design over the next couple of weeks and post what I come up with for another round of critique.

 

I just wonder, if there are any other issues with my design methodology in terms of siding and turnout design, do I have a good flow for various activities within the layout, is it too directional,etc? Since I'm not likely to change that in the new design having gotten no feedback on those aspects.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 7, 2020 7:10 AM

jacobsen9026

Unfortunately I've already built 9 2'x4' tables,

Understood this is the first time and I've seen folks get the cart before the horse and build benchwork and the be stuck figuring out how to make a track design fit the benchwork.  Of course now you can see why that is a problem and backwards from the way you design layouts.

Every layout I designed, I approached it this way.

1) Make a scale drawing of the room, with any doors, impediments such as HVAC/Water Heater, closets, stairs and doors. (use graph paper or software)

2) Then with the room or space all drawn out, and with the aid of a grid so you can estimate distances and dimensions, you can visualize where curves, turnbacks, yards, walkways etc. will fit.  That takes a bit of visualization skills or imagination to get the impression of what will fit in the space.  Then test out configurations that look to be workable.

3) Draw-in the elements that are hardest to fit, curves, turnbacks etc. and connect them with the tangents.  Figure where a yard may go, industries to switch, sidings etc.  If you have space, you may want to design in staging or storage.

4) Then you draw in the basic track configuration, leaving space for walk-ways, etc.

5) With the basic track plan in place, then you can draw in bench-work in sections that are easy to handle and build in a building block style.  Here is a paper drawing (below) on graph paper (old school) showing the room boundaries etc, and basic track plan and bench-work sections going in (in red).  

I am building this at present.

jacobsen9026
he walls oval. 

This is obviously my first layout. And I'd rather not have to rip up glued track down the road should my desires change.

There is another way, dare I say old school.  Use Atlas track nails to secure the track down.  They are easy to pull out with needlen nose pliers if you need to change anything.  I've done this on 3 layouts so far and it's made things sooooo much easier when I had water problems in one basement, I could remove the track and the section to deal with the water and the put it all back.  Nothing to "rip-up".  Easy to remove and put back.  I know every body like lemings glues track down these days but maybe I'm a rebel, but I also have good reasons to do things this way, based on past experience.

If I go around the walls I may not have as much space as I'd like due to the corner of the room area I have chosen to build in (only two actual walls about 12-15 feet in length each.

You may not have to put benchwork against all walls.  Think about what makes sense.  But as a rule, island style layouts get you less layout than around the walls, or partially around the walls.  My layout above is against two major walls but no on another side - as I preferred to leave a walkway straight from the stairs to the utility room and back end of the basement. (rather than use the entire width of the space and be forced to have a lift out bridge.)

Keep in mind around the walls, or partial, can be built in sections just as easily as a giant table, in 2x4 pieces (like you are doing) and dismantled later without a sledge hammer.  Screw or bolt everything together and it can be unscrewed later.

 

I'm guessing track alignment on a lift-out bridge is the hardest part of the expanded oval design. Any tips on how best to achieve a perfect fit?

I haven't done a lift out but many here have and there are lots who can offer advise or how-to's.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by cuyama on Friday, February 7, 2020 11:23 AM

jacobsen9026
I'm gonna work on a new layout design over the next couple of weeks and post what I come up with for another round of critique.

Almost none of the newcomers who post layout plans here take this advice, but I’ll offer it again anyway. Personally, I think you’d be better served by spending that time exploring some layout design principles by reading John Armstrong’s Track Planning for Realistic Operation rather than spinning another CAD revision. 

I (again, just personally) find it hard to offer advice and suggestions when I don’t know your desired concept, theme, era, modeled locale, signature industries, desired traffic and train types, etc. This is worth thinking-through so that you have a “touchstone” that you (and others offering advice) may refer to.

If your purpose is “I want to pack as much track into my basement as possible”, that’s one thing (not necessarily a good thing, to my mind, but it’s your layout, not mine!). If your purpose and theme is instead something like “I want to see trains of the 1950s running through realistic 3-D Colorado Rockies scenery”, it would lead to a very different design – and correspondingly different suggestions.

The best practices of layout design aren’t brain surgery, but unfortunately they also aren’t so self-evident that they can be achieved simply by firing up a CAD program.

If you are eager to just build something, that’s not at all bad – but it suggests a different approach. You could take some of your tables and build a donut-style oval in only a portion of your space. This would give you hands-on experience with track-laying, your planned scenery techniques, wiring, etc., etc. My friend Dave Clemens coined the term “Chainsaw Layout” (many others use it today) to describe these initial efforts that aren’t expected to be part of the ultimate design (except salvaging track and benchwork components).

While you are gaining experience in hands-on techniques, you would also be learning more about what you like and don’t like – knowledge that will help you refine your concept, theme, et al for the ultimate design.

One reason for making it donut-style is to allow broader radii but still keep everything within reach from the exterior, if desired. Or you can plan to duck under. Here’s a 6X8 HO donut example (yours could be a little larger for broader radii, if desired). 

The choice is yours, of course. But you’ll be putting a lot of time and money into the ultimate layout. Personally, I’d want to start such a major investment with a very clear idea of the desired end result. Your desired end result is not clear (to me) from what you’ve posted here so far, so I (just for one) am not able to make specific cogent suggestions.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 7, 2020 12:08 PM

cuyama
Almost none of the newcomers who post layout plans here take this advice, but I’ll offer it again anyway. Personally, I think you’d be better served by spending that time exploring some layout design principles by reading John Armstrong’s Track Planning for Realistic Operation rather than spinning another CAD revision.

In my opinion, and I am on the same page as Cuyama, get and digest John Armstong's Track Planning for Realistic Operation.  I bought it back in the 80's and read it over and over and it's well worn and I still have it. But most of what was in that book helped me to learn how to design my own layouts with confidence and with some basic concepts and skills.  Get and read it.

Cuyama has other good "food for consideration" too worth taking in.

You could take some of your tables and build a donut-style oval in only a portion of your space. This would give you hands-on experience with track-laying, your planned scenery techniques, wiring, etc., etc.

Very good advise.  Built something like that would give you decent radii and lets you run trains and get real hands on practice a many aspects of layout building.  Truet me, it really makes a difference to have hands on!

While you are gaining experience in hands-on techniques, you would also be learning more about what you like and don’t like – knowledge that will help you refine your concept, theme, et al for the ultimate design. One reason for making it donut-style is to allow broader radii but still keep everything within reach from the exterior, if desired. Or you can plan to duck under. Here’s a 6X8 HO donut example (yours could be a little larger for broader radii, if desired). 

Excellent advise.  Heed him, or not, at your peril.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by garya on Friday, February 7, 2020 2:26 PM

carl425

 

Based on how he spells his name (jacobsen), I'd guess he comes from a place that uses the metric system. That makes the squares 1 meter.

 

Ever been to Minnesota?

Gary

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 7, 2020 4:08 PM

garya
 
carl425 

Based on how he spells his name (jacobsen), I'd guess he comes from a place that uses the metric system. That makes the squares 1 meter. 

Ever been to Minnesota?

Going over all the states I've been to in the use totalling 45.  Must be Minnesota is one of the 5 I haven't been to!

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by garya on Friday, February 7, 2020 6:47 PM

cuyama

If you are eager to just build something, that’s not at all bad – but it suggests a different approach. You could take some of your tables and build a donut-style oval in only a portion of your space. This would give you hands-on experience with track-laying, your planned scenery techniques, wiring, etc., etc. My friend Dave Clemens coined the term “Chainsaw Layout” (many others use it today) to describe these initial efforts that aren’t expected to be part of the ultimate design (except salvaging track and benchwork components).

While you are gaining experience in hands-on techniques, you would also be learning more about what you like and don’t like – knowledge that will help you refine your concept, theme, et al for the ultimate design.

One reason for making it donut-style is to allow broader radii but still keep everything within reach from the exterior, if desired. Or you can plan to duck under. Here’s a 6X8 HO donut example (yours could be a little larger for broader radii, if desired). 

I would recommend this approach.  It's hard to know what operations you like, and what kind of layout you want to build, when you've never built a layout or operated one.  I usually recommend people build a small layout based on a trackplan like one of Cuyama's or one from Model Railroader, then run it for a while, try some scenery, and decide what they like.  

Gary

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Posted by garya on Friday, February 7, 2020 6:48 PM

riogrande5761

 

Going over all the states I've been to in the use totalling 45.  Must be Minnesota is one of the 5 I haven't been to!

 

Wasn't directed at you

Gary

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Saturday, February 8, 2020 4:15 PM

Who knew?

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by garya on Saturday, February 8, 2020 5:08 PM

riogrande5761

Who knew?

 

Not you, apparently.

Seeing as I quoted carl425, I thought it was pretty clear. RIF.

Gary

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Posted by CNSF on Thursday, February 13, 2020 12:51 PM

I agree with those posters who've stressed the importance of knowing what you want the layout to do/be (and don't want, or can live without), before building or even designing.  Mr. Jacobsen has done a fair bit of this.

- "a dissassemble-able sectional layout":  2'x4' sections are a reasonable size for this.  If it helps for the design, however, they don't all have to be identical. Anything up to 2'x6', or maybe a 3'x3' square is probably still manageable.  I set out with the same goal for my layout.  As I was building, however, I found that disassembly of a finished, functional, fully scenicked layout is far more complicated than simply allowing for track connections at each seam.  You have to consider disassembly when you're running the wires, and you have to be content with visible seams running through the scenery (you can hide some of them with bushes, yes, but not across a road, cliff face, or water feature).  In the end, I gave up on that dream.  I honestly think it's only practical for an around-the-walls style design where the modules mostly join end-to-end only.  The original 'large-table' style design had some modules connecting with others on all four sides.  I'm not sure how practical that will prove to be, especially with finished scenery and lots of track joints occurring on curves and/or at sharp angles.

-"continuous run capability for kids/background noise/relaxation":  this is really important, especially taken together with the later statement "not sure how prototypical I want to go".  There is a tendency in the hobby to disparage the so-called 'spaghetti-bowl' design approach, but if what you want is a very animated, high-action, entertaining layout with a whimsical, magical feel and a hands-off operating approach that allows you to just sit back and watch, it can't be beat.  But it absolutely does not yield a highly prototypical effect, and reach-in access is a significant issue that has to be carefully considered during the design stage.  I always like to say that comparing a prototypical, point-to-point, operations oriented design to spaghetti-bowl is like comparing a Bond-style action flick to a romance comedy or a zombie horror flick.  It depends on your tastes, and of course, each genre can be executed either well or poorly.  If you decide that spaghetti-bowl is the genre you want, I would recommend building in some grade separation to provide action on multiple levels, with trains popping in and out of tunnels, crossing bridges, etc.  Take full advantage of that pile of spaghetti!

- "I'm almost half as much into this for the scenery as I am for the rail modeling": Also a very important consideration!  What type of scenery?  Urban?  Rural?  Flat or mountainous terrain?  The initial plans left very little room for scenery, unless you're planning to build mountains over portions of the track.  If you could tell us more about what type of scenery you're envisioning, I'm sure we could offer lots of helpful pointers. 

- 85' coaches on 18" radius curves:  It is absolutely true that long equipment tracks much better through curves and turnouts when being pulled, as opposed to being pushed.  There are other considerations as well.  Handling a simple curve is one thing, but negotiating the S-curve of a track A-to-track B crossover (you had several of those in your initial designs) is another - especially when the crossover is closely adjacent to a curve.  And then there's overhang clearance.  In positioning adjacent scenery, tracks, etc. you have to allow enough clearance so that the protruding ends of cars don't hit things as they pass.  Parallel curves, tunnel portals, and bridge structures are common trouble spots.  And, finally, if you have grades, remember that longer cars require more gradual changes in grade.

- DC versus DCC:  I would strongly recommend against building a dual-mode layout.  If you want DCC, go all in and design the layout for DCC only.  Wiring and operational control are so much simpler, and remember that you can always operate one non-DCC equipped loco at a time on address 0.  As for converting the older locos to DCC, I've done it, it's really not that hard, and there's lots of how-to resources.  From the sound of it, your technical skills should be more than adequate.  

I hope this helps; have fun and keep us posted!

 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:40 PM

There's also another modular aproach to layout design called TOMA.  You'll have to Google TOMA layout design.

I can't give a link in here because.....well..just search for it, you'll find it.

Mike.

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