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Small, portable switching layout

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  • Member since
    September 2021
  • From: Canada
  • 3 posts
Small, portable switching layout
Posted by adamsyard on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 12:43 PM

Hey folks, 

I'm returning to the hobby after a ~30 year hiatus. I've decided to build a small switching layout to noodle around with. I don't have a permanent space for the layout, so the idea is to build a small module I can tuck out of sight in my basement when not in use.

Here are some details:

  • 72" x 18" (width x depth)
  • Peko code 100 flex track
  • Peko medium radius turnouts

The layout itself will "service" 2 industries on the top 2 spurs. The lower spur is for holding empty cars, or cars that are being assembled into an outgoing train.

I'll be posting progress pictures as I go.

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 6:10 PM

Have a look at Woodland Scenics Modu-rail for ideas on how to build lightweight modules. I'm building a foam shelf layout right now. I think there's a good reason to build foam based modules that are only 3' long by 1.5' wide. I've built 6' and 4' foam modules and 3' is easier to handle. 18" wide is plenty. One of my 6' modules is 20" wide and the four footer is 24" wide.

Even if the modurail is too expensive for you I recommend you look at the hardware and hardboard connector system. It is really effective for connecting modules. The cost per unit of connectors is quite reasonable compared to collecting the bits and making some yourself. 

A 6' module seems like a good idea but it can be unwieldy to move around. On the other hand, more joints between modules can be problematic.

I do recommend DCC for small layouts. The wiring is VERY simple  compared to even the simplest DC Block system.

Check out Peco Code 83 before deciding to use Code 100. With models made in the last thirty years or so Code 83 works as well as Code 100 but looks far better.

Peco turnouts are power routing unless you buy the new Unifrog type which have factory installed jumper wires to power the whole turnout all of the time from either direction. Some older locomotives might short out over a Peco Unifrog according to some, including me. New locomotives should work fine on the Peco Unifrog. For a DCC switching layout you'll probably prefer the Unifrog although you can restore the power routing feature if you wish by simply clipping the two jumper wires between the stock and closure rails.

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,370 posts
Posted by cuyama on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 1:17 PM

Welcome to the forum. Your first several posts are moderated, but that passes quickly. PECO Code 100, despite its slightly quirky appearance to some eyes, is an excellent choice for tight spaces as the components are very compact. In about that size in HO, many have built variations on Linn Westcott’s Switchman’s Nightmare.

PECO Code 100 would allow some flexibility in the track arrangement. 72”X18” shouldn’t be too unwieldy to move. Best of luck with your layout.

Byron

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 6:14 PM

Peco Code 83 and Code 100 are both compact footprint turnouts. Roughly the same although Code 83 have straight diverging routes and are sold by frog number. Code 100 are small medium and large radius.

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,370 posts
Posted by cuyama on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 11:03 PM

PECO C83 and C100 are not the same in actual use. Code 100 fits more into a given space because of the curved diverging leg. This is widely known. I've designed dozens of layouts for others with each system, so my statement is based on experience, not semantics.

  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: A Comfy Cave, New Zealand
  • 4,891 posts
Posted by "JaBear" on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 11:50 PM
Welcome to the Forum.
 
Peco Code 100 flex track and turnouts are my go-to, and I’m tempted to suggest that in your limited space you might consider their small radius turnouts. Of course, that depends on the wheel base of your locomotives and rolling stock.
 
I presume that you are aware of the downloadable turnout templates?
 
 
I’m also a fan of the Peco Electrofrog turnouts, but I’m probably behind the times as I’ve had nothing to do with the “new” Unifrog turnouts.
 
Looking forward to your progress photos, Have Fun,
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

  • Member since
    September 2021
  • From: Canada
  • 3 posts
Posted by adamsyard on Sunday, September 12, 2021 11:52 AM

Thanks for the encouragement and advice so far. I was hoping to post up some progress shots this weekend, but I miscut some of my timber so the frame wasn't squared up so things might be a bit delayed there. 

I did however want to share the track plan for the first module I'm building, and the tentative plan for the extension module.

 

Dickson Spur layout design

The main module was originally going to be the only module so it's been designed to work on its own. Each industry spur can seat 2 50ft cars, and each of the team tracks can seat 3 50ft cars. The incoming line (that touches the edge of the module) can easily seat a 4-axle diesel and a single car. The plan is to have 2 angled industries at each of the industry spurs, with 2 loading doors each. The team tracks will likely stay fairly simple in terms of decoration; maybe they just become offloading areas for palettes or something.

Dickson Spur Extension layout design

The idea for the extension came from all the reading I'd done around casettes for staging smaller shelf layouts. I loved the idea of having a second piece you could optionally add to the first to get a little more from the layout. I landed on the above after wanting a run around area of a decent size, as well as a long off spot area to keep a bunch of cars lined up. In my mind, I have a pretty wide variety of scenarios to play with. I'm really excited.

Scenery wise, I want to keep this really basic. No roadbed, minimal ballast and a desert look and feel with 2 buildings at most. Since these do need to be tucked away (upright), the less there is on the layouts the better, while still keeping a simple way to tell myself "this car needs to be spotted at Industry 1, Bay 2" for instance.

  • Member since
    September 2021
  • From: Canada
  • 3 posts
Posted by adamsyard on Friday, September 24, 2021 3:11 PM

Update from me: I've decided to alter my plans a little. After putting my first frame together, I decided the 6ft length was a little cumbersome to get in and out of my basement, so I'm going to make 2 x 4ft modules instead.

I've gone back to AnyRail and come out with the following layout. I'm really happy with it. I still get 2 industries, and either an unloading area or just an off spot depending on my mood. I've also got a decent sized run around in - even though I don't technically need it for this layout as all the points face the same way, it'll be fun to play with.

Dickson Yard

I'm getting some new lumber this weekend (ripping up a 4ft x 8ft 1/2 plywood sheet will give me enough pieces to build 3 modules so I have a freebie if I mess one up).

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