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Conceptualizing operations and the end reverse loop on a folded dogbone

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Conceptualizing operations and the end reverse loop on a folded dogbone
Posted by Cymrych79 on Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:10 PM

Hi all,

I'm in the process of redesigning my spare bedroom (about 11' x 8'9") N scale layout. The existing layout runs fairly well, but I was just getting back into the hobby after a 2 decade break when I started it and there are a bunch of things that I didn't design for from day-one that have been hodge-podged in after the fact. For example, I didn't plan for any staging or operations at first, and I had to add on a narrow, stub-ended peninsula 2" below the main deck level which can only be reached by hidden, long, descenting ramps that each wrap 45% of the way around the room, one going clockwise and one going counterclockwise. The idea was, a train leaves staging on the peninsula, goes up one hidden ramp and joins the main, makes one lap on the main visible level (which passes over a duck-under across the door, also not ideal) doing work where needed, then leaves the main, descending the other hidden ramp back to staging. Like I said, it works and I can feed trains going northbound and southbound onto my single-track main, and technically it's a twice-around-the-walls layout ... but it isn't ideal. My trains spend half their time on hidden track that also is all but impossible to reach as I build scenery above them, and my staging is very limited on length. And just to make things more convoluted, I added an inclining branch line which ascends around three of the walls to a mine area 2" above the main deck, which I used to help hide the overlapped trackwork where the ramps from staging join the main. So even my 1-scale mile mainline isn't fully visible.

In short, although it didn't seem like an issue when I was doing trackwork, now that I'm getting into scenery I'm discovering the issues caused by my afterthought changes to improve operational potential, plus I'm having a heck of a time making landscapes that look realistic. 

So, with experience being a great teacher, I've decided to investigate a total redesign. The key goals were: 1) Operations focused bridge line with off-scene staging; 2) More visible mainline run; 3) Minimize hidden trackage. And after designing it in AnyRail and testing it in Trainplayer, I think I've mostly come up with something that works and looks more like I had originally envisioned 4 years ago when I restarted this hobby. (I take it photos have to be linked from a file-sharing site to post? I can try to get post my trackplan if anyone is interested.)

It's basically a 2-deck layout, un-scenicked or minimally scenicked staging yard on the lower deck connected by a helix to the main deck. Main scenicked line runs up a peninsula and back, then around three of the walls to the door. At the moment, I have it set up as a folded dogbone to simulate a double mainline, with one end loop past the staging yard on the lower level and the other on the scenicked main deck at the end of the wall near the door ... more on that door end in a moment, that's my main area of concern and what brought me here today.

Anyhow, it checks off most of my goals. Visible mainline run is 1.4 scale miles one way, and the main deck can have completely realistic landscaping from fascia to backdrop. Some good scenery opportunities too, with the peninsula being a narrow river valley scene with a few on-line industries, wrapping around to an industrial switching area (based largely on MR's Tar Branch) with a three-track interchange to feed a local switch job along my long wall, pass through a town then past a major coal breaker as likely the chief large industry on the layout. My staging is significantly increased in volume with 6 storages tracks each about 11' long (so, individual 35ish-car trains or two 15ish-car trains each). And the folded dogbone allows continuous running, which I've found is great for just displaying the layout to visitors who aren't interested in helping me operate a session, or just to have trains running in the background while working on other things.

However, I have one major conceptual issue for operations and I don't know how to work around it: That end-of-dogbone reverse loop on the main scenicked deck. As it sits now in planning, a train leaves staging, runs northbound along the length of the scenicked area ... but then it has to loop around and run southbound immediately to return to staging. With the size of my room I just don't have a way to build much staging on that end of the main, at least not without eliminating the return loop and thus continuous running. Even if I decided to sacrifice the continuous run and try it, I don't think I could build enough staging space to be worth it (ie: roughly equivalent to what's available in the other operational direction from the main staging yard) without seriously chopping into my scenicked mainline length, which is a key design criteria I'm trying to maximize. 

One option I'm strongly considering is another helix instead of a dogbone return loop on the main deck, although I was really hoping to keep the costs down by recycling the majority of what I already have installed in the room (and one helix is pain enough). Plus, because of where'd I have to put it, a second helix would technically shorten the mainline run about 6 feet (maybe; still working on this part), but I'd be able to retain that section as a scenicked short branch line or long industrial sput. But, a second helix would allow me to have two truly independent mainlines with a staging yard that can feed traffic in both directions for a single, one-way transit of the main scenicked level. I'd be able to run two trains continuously without having to monitor their progress to boot. Due to where I presently have the reversing loop on the lower deck past the staging yard, I have the space for a 2nd helix, so at least that isn't a concern (although it will cause a very slight choke in the nominal 24" aisle space there (I operate alone 99.9% of the time, and it certainly has to be better than the several 17" choke points I currently have!))

So, I know its hard to assess a situation without the plan to look at, but what do you guys think? Am I forced to look at a second helix in order to maintain realistic operational runs across my scenicked main level? Pluses are two truly independent mainlines and trains making only a single, one-directional run over the main scenicked deck. Negatives are the costs of a second helix, doubing the time trains spend on hidden trackage, and slightly shorter mainline run on scenicked deck.

Or conversely, what do you guys with folded dogbones do to disquise the same train making a second run down the mainline in the opposite operational direction? Do you treat that second transit as basically just "moving scenery" by considering it as a whole new train that just need to book it over the layout back to staging (by calling it a fast through freight, for instance)?

Sorry for the lengthy descriptions!

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, February 15, 2020 1:00 PM

To help better visualize things, here is my current layout more or less (slightly modified for TrainPlayer by having the inclining branchline drawn outside the layout whereas in reality it runs along the right, bottom and left walls and terminates on the top wall). The dimensions of the mainlayout are 11' up/down by about 8'10" left/right in the colored in area, with the bedroom door on the right wall in the upper corner.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1e6V_V_jZR8bvRhLZtNpyPgnVpAw62brD/view?usp=sharing

Operationally, trains originate in staging on the peninsula with both through cars and cars destined for industries on-layout, climbs the run up either left or right walls under scenery, then emerges onto the main deck under the breaker on the top wall. Trains make a single circuit on the main, exchanging some cars at the small classification yard on the right wall, then continuing on around the layout and dropping down into staging. Local switcher in the classification yard then assemble locals to make the short run from around the south wall to the west wall and back to staging. Coal unit trains run empties from staging up the branch to the breaker, unit loads back to staging. Basically runs sequentially, a clockwise train from staging followed by a counterclockwise train from staging, then a local from the on-layout class yard. Coal trains run at random.

As I said, it works an operates well enough for me as a single operators. Because of rails going up and down on the left and right shelves, I'm pinched in that I only have space for a single mainline, and building a scene is awkward to say the least. You'll notice I haven't plotted much scenery, as aside from obvious industries, I'm having to wing it as I go because I'm having issues visualizing what might work (and it's been like this for about a year and a half now). There's a ton of impossible to reach track in the staging yard leads for roughly 8 feet or so, and more not-easily-reached mainline track under the breaker along the north wall. The duck-under bridge was designed to be removable, but I have more complex trackwork on there than anticipated and can't bring myself to risk cutting the rails to try removing it. And finally, the aisle width around the end of the peninsula is between 16 and 19", which is workable but snug.

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, February 15, 2020 1:11 PM

My first iteration redesign. Double deck with staging under the west and south walls, helix in northwest corner (as above, drawn for TrainPlayer off-layout). Trains continue climbing up along the north wall, emerging on the right side of the peninsula. Plan is to run on the right side of the double main, with select crossovers (not yet on the plan) to reach sidings on the other side of the main. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o4EKTY9hubGMMBKG0bFq-NL9BGo0ec4n/view?usp=sharing

With this single helix, the on-layout runaround causes the operational oddities I mentioned in the first post that I can't quite wrap my head around. Due to the run around on the lower deck to the right of the staging, I decided to keep all the staging on one side. So, a train coming down the helix on the outside track runs all the way past the staging yard, loops around in the lower right, then enters the staging yard.

Aisles are 24" all around the peninsula, my on-layout visible mainline is 50% longer than my current layout, a double-main offers more prototypical operations, and the scenes can be complete from fascia to backdrop. All in all, I liked this except for the reversed run of trains in order to reach staging after making their proper mainline run.

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Saturday, February 15, 2020 1:27 PM

And finally, my latest iteration redesign. Double-deck with staging on lower deck, but connected by helixes in the northwest and southeast corners to the main deck above. Staging yard redesigned since the two helixes make it a true double mainline with each mainline independent of the other except at crossovers (which, as above, haven't been installed yet except for where needed to access the breaker in the southeast corner via a trailing point).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ylqPcvg2KXlGtH4hiz0KajZ0ZZaN1hQa/view?usp=sharing

Operationally, trains traveling on each main will handle all trailing points so I need some crossovers still of course. There's a 3-track, roughly 30-car classification yard on the main level in the upper left which will feed a local switcher to switch out most of the industries on the west wall (this area is based strongly on MR's Tar Branch, which I really enjoy as an industrial switching layout. So much so that I have a 6' by 1' layout in my living room based on it.)

As before, the mainline on-display run is about 45 ft, roughly 50% more than I currently have. There's much less inaccessible trackage, although trains will obviously spend quite a bit of time on the helixes. The staging yard tracks are double what I currently have. The two helixes allow me to have true double-main operations, which for me is a huge step up and much more prototypical for my modeling interests. The main drawbacks are the costs for 2 helixes, and a slight narrowing of the aisles around the end of the peninsula, down to about 23" in 2 spots (but this can be adjusted somewhat based on where exactly I put the edge of the penisula or right side shelf, and I might be able to recover the aisles back to 24" or better all the way around.)

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, February 15, 2020 2:47 PM

I have one question, probably in your long post somewhere, I just couldn't read it all and stay focused, but, on your drawings, everything that isn't green, like all of huge staging areas, how do you get to all that?  I mean physically get to it, reach it, etc.?  Confused

Mike.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, February 15, 2020 7:09 PM

I noticed on your last version you have an aisle that is just under 16".   As a new member of the obesity epidemic, that's cutting it close for me.  Best I can tell my hips are 15"

I'm not a layout design guy so I don't have anything else to contribute, but it would be more convenient to have you links open in new tabs.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:40 PM

BigDaddy
I noticed on your last version you have an aisle that is just under 16"....

Perhaps you didn't notice, but the arrow ends about mid-aisle.  Visually, the aisle there looks to be about the same 24" as the one in the aisle to the left.

BigDaddy
...it would be more convenient to have you links open in new tabs.

Simply right-click on the link, then, in the pop-up, select "Open in new tab".

Wayne

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, February 17, 2020 1:16 PM

Thanks all, sorry for the delay. Work has been a madhouse.

Yes, I forgot to move that arrow back into place; the aisle there is about 23", not 15".

I cannot see who asked about it, but you are correct, the green scenicked areas are the upper deck, and the staging is drawn to the sides purely for importing into TrainPlayer for digital testing. In reality, there is a helix in the upper left corner and possibly the lower right.

Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure I'll have to revamp the design a bit to only include that upper left helix. Due to my space concerns, I originally had it as double-tracked circular helix with 12.5 and 13.75" radii, which works out to about 2.6% grade for the inner track before compensating for added drag. That's more than a little steep for trains of any length (although the raw radius is more than adequate for my locos and rolling stock). So I've turned that one into an oval, which allows me to get the grade down to about 1.6% which should be fine.

However, I can't do that in the lower right corner. It just cuts into the aisle way to much when I try, and I either end up having to 86 the peninsula, or create this elaborate dogbone shaped helix with complex curves to get the length-per-loop down to an acceptible grade.... which is way more complicated than I want to make this, frankly, plus I really like the way the peninsula works in the room.

So, I'm back to the original plan I asked about in the first post, with a loop back on the right wall of the scenicked main level and having to run trains twice along the layout. I'm investigating ways to hide a couple staging tracks at that end, so at the very least I can run a train from staging to the end, hide it for a while, and bring back a different train that was hidden there.

I don't know, still batting some ideas around. Will get back to you all after I come up with something tenable.

-Jason 

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Monday, February 17, 2020 1:42 PM

To clarify, Mike, those staging tracks are on a shelf about 1 ft wide which matches the left and bottom wall shelves of the main deck above it. Definitely at least an oval-shaped helix in the upper left to connect to the main deck (mainline from helix emerges onto the right side of the peninsula). Was hoping to have a helix in the lower right corner but I think I have to scrap that idea. I'm still mocking up some shelves to get an idea of vertical separation, but as I'm not planning at the moment to scenic the yard, I'll probably keep it fairly close, say, maybe 8-10 inches rail head to bottom of maindeck.

On the main scenicked deck, I'm looking into having the mainline at the upper end of the right wall pass onto a drop bridge with a turn around loop. The room's door is there, so I only have so much space to play with, but it might let me reconfigure the mainlines enough that I can sneak a few hidden sidings along the right hand wall to serve as staging. 

As I said, it's a work in progress. But I think I'm fairly pleased from the peninsula counterclockwise to the small town on the bottom wall. Just need to figure out the return loop at the end of the mainline and how to disquise the heck out of it for operations purposes.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, February 17, 2020 2:52 PM

OK, I get it.  Yes  The green areas are over the others.  I was confused at your first drawings, as to where all of this was going.

Mike.

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:02 AM

Quick update: I'm an idiot. I completely overlooked a resource I have at my disposal which I never even thought about, let alone considered as train layout space. There's a 47" wide by 29" deep closet in the eastern wall near the southeast corner! Double-sliding doors, easy to remove, so that whole space is available to nest an oval helix (sticking out of the closet a bit to align with the main layout). 

Here a link for the lower deck staging and the helices. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CkUeZPkE8LUU6LxzutYlJn1HcmW4bmHV/view?usp=sharing

The red rails represent northbound traffic (clockwise on this deck), orange southbound (counterclockwise). The staging yard is effectively two independant yards with one through track and three double ended storage tracks ranging from 105 to 130 inches in usable length. Helices have radii of 12.5 and 13.75" on the curves, and with the straight sections added have a grade of 1.9% for the inner loop of the southeast helix and about 1.65% for the northwest helix.

For completeness, here's the main scenicked upper level. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1V1p-gSY4jhmdqPh99nN2vd70argWS_DP/view?usp=sharing

Not much different here than what you've already seen, except I've added some crossovers on the mainline.

-Jason

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:18 AM

I like it, nice use of a closet! Yes  I also like your stretched out-oval shaped helixes.

Mike.

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:21 AM

I'm still messing with a basic operations plan, but for the moment the baseline is 2 or 3 trains out of staging each session, each 20-25 cars long. Roughly half the cars will be traversing the layout from staging to staging, and half the cars will be cyled to the eight mainline industries or to the industry area interchange for delivery by a switcher-run local turn to the 5 industries there. That 50-50 split of through cars to industry-bound cars will likely change as I test, as I clearly have much more storage/staging room than on-layout industry space. I'll be using a CC&WB for now since I have all that stuff. 

I suspect that I'll end up with 1-2 trains heading each direction that will need to drop cars at industries, and and additional trains will be 100% through traffic. Through freights are fine; it's just "moving scenery" that I'll have to work around when running the local or another mainline train switching industries en route.

Eventually, I'll get signaling and perhaps some Arduiono autonomous control for some of the mainline traffic. But as that's at least a year in the future, who knows for sure.

-Jason

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:28 AM

mbinsewi

I like it, nice use of a closet! Yes  I also like your stretched out-oval shaped helixes.

Mike.

Didn't have a choice on the oval helixes. That 12.5" radius inner track in the helix was dictated by the space I have, but in a circular helix it'd have a grade of 2.7%. I didn't work out the math, but I figure the resistance from the turn likely induces the equivalent of an extra 1% or so of grade, so that inner loop would have been like climbing a nearly 4% grade. That would never work without a fleet of helpers, which I really didn't want to have to deal with. Really would kill the continuous running appeal having to attach helpers twice each lap!

 

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Posted by Cymrych79 on Thursday, February 20, 2020 11:11 AM

Some sundry questions.

I have a few loops worth of helix components coming to test whether my selected radii and grades are just a pipe-dream (I'm trying Trascksidescenery.com's new Gatorboard helix system), and I'm contemplating what track to use. I'll be recycling most of my current layout's track into the yard, which is Peco code 55 and their medium turnouts. For the main upper deck, I'm probably going to switch to Microengineering code 55 for the looks, and likely handlay some or maybe all of the turnouts there. For the helixes connecting main deck and staging deck, I was thinking of using Atlas sectional track for the turns in the helix to maintain uniformity as much as possible, with Atlas flex for the straight sections. For a hidden helix, would you guys bump up to c80 for the added ruggedness?

My plan for powering the layout for the moment is adding a booster to handle the lower deck and helixes and the Digitrax Evo base system powering the main deck. Bus wires for the lower level will terminate at the helix, with two or three sets of feeders per loop dropping vertically down to tie to the end of the bus. With a centrally placed booster, I'd be looking at less than 15 ft-long buses going left and right to the helixes, but of course each bus will end up supplying power to something like 65 linear feet of track if you stretched out the helixes. Would you break the lower deck into power districts, one for each helix and a third for the staging yard?

Upperdeck will be straight forward, with 2 buses running from the centrally located command station to left and right, extending no more than about 15-20 ft each. No reversing loops to contend with, so wiring feeders will be a straight forward affair as well. I *may* isolate the mainline on the main deck into it's own power district, and all the industy tracks onto another, but at the moment that seems fairly superfluous. It's not that big of a main deck for tracking down offending trains causing a short, and as a lone wolf operator that train will 9 times out of 10 be the run I am currently running.

I'm not well versed on boosters or power districts and this will be the first time I've felt I probably need those. I'm also in uncharted territory powering that much linear footage of track in the lower level and helixes. Anyone see any major conceptual errors on my part?

Thanks

-Jason

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