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Layout size - big vs complex - attempting to capture the immensity of the prototype

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Layout size - big vs complex - attempting to capture the immensity of the prototype
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, July 22, 2018 7:45 PM

It seems in the discussions on this forum there is sometimes an "us vs them" reaction about larger layouts. Just read any thread about curve radius, turnout size, train length, signaling/CTC, etc, and you will find several people suggesting that only 1 in 100 model layouts "fills a basement" (or barn), and the rest must do what they need to do - maybe so.

There are people in the "less is more" camp, people in the "Moores Law" camp (some is good, more is better, too much is still not enough), and everywhere in between.

Now, I understand that not everyone has the time, room, resources, motivation or even the interest to build a large layout.

I've seen many a modest sized layout that displayed exceptional model work. Size is not the measure of the quality of a model railroad, nor should it be.

I have been the subject of more than a sharp comment or two, partly because I have been blessed with a large space in which to build model trains and I advocate for large curves, longer trains, etc.

But I think it is important to take a minute and explain my approach to that large space.

My goal with a large space is not to make the layout more complex, or model more places, or squeeze in more features.

My goal is to better capture the immensity of the prototype.

Sure my distances are still compressed, my curves are still sharper than real mainline curves.

But that is how I use the extra space - not adding a second freight yard, but by making the only freight yard bigger, more relistic, more able to handle train lengths that are more realistic.

So while my layout may be "large", it is by no means complex for its size.

Example - if one builds a layout with an 8 track double ended yard that is 12' long, he will need 16 turnouts. If the next guy builds his 8 track yard 20' long he still only needs 16 turnouts, and about 64' more track.

The first yard will handle 18 car trains, the second will handle 36 car trains - which is more realistic? The second is no more "complex" than the first.......

Curves - curves can eat up a lot of space, but 36" to 40" radius curves look WAY more realistic than 28" to 32" radius curves.

I can't speak to the "average" size of the "average" layout. But here in the Mid Atlantic, where even modest homes often come with a nearly "free" 1200 to 1800 sq ft space called a basement, many unfinished, I have seen a lot of layouts that "fill" at least most of that space.

I cannot speak to the situation in other areas of the country.......

My current layout space for the last 20 years has been a bonus room above my detached garage/workshop, about 1,000 sq ft on the second floor, heated and cooled.

But now the wife and I have decided it is time to sell our large 1901 Queen Anne Victorian home and enjoy a simpler, less expensive life style as we are both now in our 60's.

Our goals for the new home included:

less house with one floor living (the Queen Anne is 4,000 sq ft on 2-1/2 floors, not counting the basement)

more land if possible (the big Queen Anne is on one acre)

suitable space for my tools/tractor/truck

suitable space to build trains

The new house is a 2,200 sq ft brick rancher, with an 1,600 sq ft unfinished basement for the trains.

2.5 acres so I can build a shop/garage for the tools/tractor and truck.

no pool, no fish pond, no fancy landscaping, no siding to paint, no big porches to maintain - while all that was fun for a while, it is time for an easier life - and more time for trains!

So I am looking forward to a somewhat larger train space, although I do have to share some of it with the boiler, water heater, well tank, etc. 

But my layout concept will not change, it will still be about capturing the immensity of the prototype with broad curves, long trains, lots of hidden staging, scenery with "depth", etc - not just seeing how much "more" I can squeeze in.

So I would suggest that there is a big difference between "large" and "complex". Maybe a large layout can be complex, but so can a small one. 

But a large layout need not by definition be exponentially more complex, grossly more expenive, or more difficult to accomplish.

My work on relocating the useable parts of my current layout, and building new sections will likely not show much progress until next year some time. 

Who knows, I may just decide to document it on here as others have.

Your thoughts on layout size and design are welcome.

Sheldon 

 

 

    

PED
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Posted by PED on Sunday, July 22, 2018 8:15 PM

You are working within your limits of space, time, budget, experience level and spouse support. So is everyone else.

You are blessed with an abundance of benefits. Unfortunately, not everyone has the level of abundance they might like to have so they work with what they have. I would guess that your first layout would fit in a small corner of your current layout and was limited in many ways. Many people asking questions today are on the front end of the learning curve as you were at one time and they rely on people like you to help them move up the ladder until they can create their own empire.

Your generous help to them is always appreciated.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, July 22, 2018 9:03 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Your thoughts on layout size and design are welcome.

Hi Sheldon:

I don't recall seeing any diagrams of your new layout space, but it sounds to me like you are in a pretty good place both house wise and layout wise. Yes, it will take time to set up your new layout. That is a given in the hobby. I'm sure that you will move things forward as expediently as is possible.

If you have posted pictures of your new layout space, please post a link to them.

Do keep us informed. You are a knowledgeable model railroader. I'm sure people will learn a lot from your progress.

Cheers!!

Dave

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Posted by maxman on Sunday, July 22, 2018 9:19 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
It seems in the discussions on this forum there is sometimes an "us vs them" reaction about larger layouts. Just read any thread about curve radius, turnout size, train length, signaling/CTC, etc, and you will find several people suggesting that only 1 in 100 model layouts "fills a basement" (or barn), and the rest must do what they need to do - maybe so.

Since you wrote "barn", I'll jump to the conclusion you are talking about me.  If that is truly the case, I said "probably 1 in 50".  In any case I don't have an us versus them attitude.  My comments were only related to DC versus DCC, and my opinion that many home layouts are not large enough to require functional signalling (CTC) and the wiring complexities required to install it.

And I am not going to debate the difference between large and complex.  Both a large layout and a small layout can have a simple or bowl of spaghetti track plan depending on the owner's preference.

Regarding broad curves, large number turnouts, and so forth, yes that is all achievable even in a small space.  Unfortunately most (all?) the layout plans I've seen in MR and elsewhere with that criteria become so simplistic that they don't do anything for me.

I suspect that the majority do believe that bigger would be better, only because there are more options for a bigger space.  But with all due respect to Mr. Moore  I am stuck with what I have.  Home Depot does not sell a space stretcher.  So to have the ability to run a shortened train around the walls requires the use of sub-optimal radii and lower number turnouts.

So my takeaway from your comments is that if I can't meet the stated ideal layout criteria I shouldn't bother at all.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, July 22, 2018 9:38 PM

maxman

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
It seems in the discussions on this forum there is sometimes an "us vs them" reaction about larger layouts. Just read any thread about curve radius, turnout size, train length, signaling/CTC, etc, and you will find several people suggesting that only 1 in 100 model layouts "fills a basement" (or barn), and the rest must do what they need to do - maybe so.

 

Since you wrote "barn", I'll jump to the conclusion you are talking about me.  If that is truly the case, I said "probably 1 in 50".  In any case I don't have an us versus them attitude.  My comments were only related to DC versus DCC, and my opinion that many home layouts are not large enough to require functional signalling (CTC) and the wiring complexities required to install it.

And I am not going to debate the difference between large and complex.  Both a large layout and a small layout can have a simple or bowl of spaghetti track plan depending on the owner's preference.

Regarding broad curves, large number turnouts, and so forth, yes that is all achievable even in a small space.  Unfortunately most (all?) the layout plans I've seen in MR and elsewhere with that criteria become so simplistic that they don't do anything for me.

I suspect that the majority do believe that bigger would be better, only because there are more options for a bigger space.  But with all due respect to Mr. Moore  I am stuck with what I have.  Home Depot does not sell a space stretcher.  So to have the ability to run a shortened train around the walls requires the use of sub-optimal radii and lower number turnouts.

So my takeaway from your comments is that if I can't meet the stated ideal layout criteria I shouldn't bother at all.

 

You are by no means the first, or only, person to take me to task about layout size, CTC, or radius/turnout size.

I would never suggest that YOU should not bother to build a layout if you only have limited space. That is MY stated goal, others will set their own goals.

I have seen many amazing small layouts.

I do know that if I had a more limited space, I would select a theme that would suit the space based on my own criteria.

Examples:

I would not run 80' passenger cars on 28" radius curves (I run mostly 72' passenger cars on my 36" curves for their more "gracious" appearance and close coupled working diaphragms).

I would not have "mainline" power pulling 12 car trains.

With limited space I would likely choose to build some sort of ISL (industrial switching layout), most likely a water front. Or model a late 19th century/early 20th century branch line, etc - something where sharp cuves and small spaces are expected.

But that's me.

But my first love is the busy 1950's double track mainline.

And I have been blessed with the space, resources and skills, and hopefully in the near future more of the necessary time.

Sheldon  

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, July 22, 2018 9:40 PM

hon30critter

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Your thoughts on layout size and design are welcome.

 

Hi Sheldon:

I don't recall seeing any diagrams of your new layout space, but it sounds to me like you are in a pretty good place both house wise and layout wise. Yes, it will take time to set up your new layout. That is a given in the hobby. I'm sure that you will move things forward as expediently as is possible.

If you have posted pictures of your new layout space, please post a link to them.

Do keep us informed. You are a knowledgeable model railroader. I'm sure people will learn a lot from your progress.

Cheers!!

Dave

 

Thanks Dave, no pictures yet, but I will put some up when I can.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, July 22, 2018 10:09 PM

Well, this past year I moved into a single story that is 2300 sq ft.  The basement is the same size.  It sits on 2 acres, over half is woods.  I was already retired, but we needed to move to get my wife on one 1 floor instead of 2. 

While I could use the whole basement, I decided I could do what I wanted in 17' x 40' - 680 sq ft.   I have worked out a plan that is point to point with about 175' main line.  Since the Maryland & Pennsylvania RR was noted for sharp curves, I am planning a 27" minimum radius.  This isn't a problem because the Ma&Pa had small locomotives and short passenger cars.

This layout is smaller than what I planned in the prior house, but I'm in my 70's now and I find that even retired I seem to have a lot of non model railroading activities in my life.  So I figure I have a pretty good chance to finish this one (or at least get close).

Everytime I work on the trackplan I generally reduce the complexity.  Originally, I thought I would need 75-100 turnouts, but now I'm looking at about 50-60.  Construction should start this fall.  My plan is to build the mainline first and then fill in the yards, spurs, etc.  This way I won't get bogged down in the details before I have a long run for the trains. 

My goal is to capture the charm of a short line railroad.  And I think I can do that - anyway I mean to make the attempt.  Obviously, Sheldon and I have very different goals here.  But that's part of the appeal of this hobby - so many different ways to go.

They say you need money, time, and space for this hobby.  I have had all of these at one time or another, but somehow I have never managed to have all of these at the same time.  But I still enjoy the hobby within whatever my limitations are at the time.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, July 22, 2018 10:21 PM

Paul,

17 x 40 surely should do the Ma & Pa justice, no question, even in S scale.

As a resident of Harford County, I know the Ma & Pa history pretty well. In fact the home we are leaving is in Forest Hill, and the tracks ran right behind our house.

Best wishes for the new layout,

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by Graham Line on Sunday, July 22, 2018 11:18 PM

I've seen some 'small' layouts built in big spaces with tight curves and jammed-together track and structures, and 'big' layouts built in small spaces with flowing, spacious scenes.

Before you get to building, though, it's a good idea to herd all the furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, laundry machines, sinks etc. into their own corner of the basement.

Have fun with the new project.

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Sunday, July 22, 2018 11:53 PM

The other day I bought a cap to protect my balding skull from the bad effects an overexposure to the sun can have. Somewhere on the sticker it read "One size fits all". While this may be true for caps, this isn´t true for model railroaders. They come in all shapes and sizes, from different walks of life and each one pursues his very own happiness  with the hobby of model railroading in his very own way.

From that point of view, there is never a question of "something versus another thing", be it the type of control, the choice of prototype or era, the size of a layout, the scale,or  the type of operation.

To each his own, according to his needs, wants and means!

Having said this, Sheldon, I understand your question as a mental exercise for yourself, for which you are gathering opinions before you decide which way you´ll be heading with your new layout.

I never had the space nor the means to build a layout which would fill a spare bedroom, let alone an entire basement. Even if I´d have had the opportunity for such a venue, I´d doubt that I´d have engaged in it. I just can´t picture myself building a layout that may take a decade or more to bring it up to a state in which I would begin to enjoy it. But that´s just me.

I assume you are retired or will retire soon. While this adds quite a bit of time you can spend model railroading, don´t forget to key in the fact that family, home and garden will require a lot of that extra time. I have seen many a marriage fail shortly after "hubby" retired and spent most of the time with activities not involving the family. For this reason as well as the time we have left on this planet once we surpassed the magic "60", I´d definitively vote for "big and simple" and not for "big and complex"!

 

 

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, July 23, 2018 4:51 AM

Ulrich,

I'm not retired yet, but the wife is. And her health issues are one of a list of reasons for the move.

There really is no question in my mind, this was the goal of the previous layout, it will be the goal of the next one.

"garden"? if you mean vegetables, we buy them.......if you mean flowers, the new has has way less "gardening" but a little more grass mowing then the big Queen Anne.......I have a machine, a big enough machine.

Complex - yes I started down that road once about 23 years ago and stopped before it go too far along.......

Family is always first.

I think the main reason for my post was simply to share my thinking, and promote a better understanding on here of different approaches to the hobby.

I know my approach is in many ways not "typical". 

Take care,

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Monday, July 23, 2018 4:58 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
promote a better understanding on here of different approaches to the hobby.

Which I am thankful for, as my own approach is very different from what usually is shown or discussed here. My illness has forced me to give up on model railroading as it is commonly understood here. The only way to stay in the hobby was to go back to my roots - a Marklin HO scale tinplate train set.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, July 23, 2018 5:06 AM

I get what Sheldon is saying. I just might not have started the thread with the "us vs. them" line which is sure to provoke defensive reactions.

I have what would be termed a large layout in an unfinished (but temperature and moisture controlled) basement. Being retired, I have the time and finances to support my interest in the hobby.

I agree with Sheldon that size does not necessarily equate to complexity. I chose size because I have a passion for large downtown passenger stations in the 1950s, and it takes a lot of space to model such operations.

While I am forced to rely on selective compression even with my large space, it takes a lot of room to model an area like Dearborn Station in Chicago with its six major railroads using the station, plus its 12 large freight houses, coach yard and engine servicng facilities, and freight yard.

My last layout was too complex, what with control panels, double ended yards, Tortoise controlled turnouts, etc. I am in the process of bulding a new layout on the same basic footprint, but with a lot less complexity than the old layout. For example, the coach yard and freight yard will now be stub end. My turnouts will no longer be Tortoise controlled Atlas turnouts but rather spring controlled points on Peco turnouts requiring nothing more than my index finger to activate.

Larger layouts don't have to be complex and they don't need to follow a 'more is better than less' approach when it comes to structures and yards and number of locos and rolling stock. Larger layouts simply need to take advantage of the larger space to more closely simulate the prototype.

Could I be happy with a smaller layout? Dunno, and I don't intend to find out.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, July 23, 2018 5:58 AM

Sheldon,I would rather have a small compact ISL that I can build and enjoy in a short time since I know first hand how fragile life is after knocking on death's door twice..

Regardless of size a modeler should never plan a layout while singing here a track,there a track,everywhere a track, track-rymes with Old MacDonald farm..

I'm a firm believer that a train should pass through a scene once and CTC single track main line with passing sidings is the best way to achieve that goal.

Larry

SSRy

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Posted by bearman on Monday, July 23, 2018 6:07 AM

I have a small 55 sf layout, a walk in U folded dog bone.  It is my third and last layout, and I will be tweaking it for the rest of my life.  Based on lessons learned from my first two layouts, the first was an 8 X 4 and the second was a complete disaster and never finished, I designed it with several factors in mind.

From the very beginning I did not want to fill up my railroad room with the layout.  Secondly, I did not want to spend time, time, time, and more time cleaning track.  My layout is freelanced but designed to offer some prototypical operation with six industrial spurs, a modest yard and two sidings.  Although I usually operate as a lone wolf, the layout is set up to provide for three operators, two running trains and one switching the yard. 

Another concession I made due to space was that I would only be able to run short trains, no more than 6 maybe 7 cars plus a locomotive and caboose, with maximum 40' rolling stock.

I have several other interests to keep me busy...golf, travel, photography, spectator sports, all of which consume a portion of my entertainment dollar.

If someone wants to have a big layout, I say more power to them if that is their interest in the hobby.  I enjoy playing with my trains as I am sure that there are any number of owners with mega layouts enjoy having lots of people over on a regular basis to operate their layouts.  

 

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by rrinker on Monday, July 23, 2018 8:08 AM

 I've been casually looking myself, even though I haven't even been here 5 years yet. The house is plenty big, I really don;t need a larger house, but as a riased ranch I loose over 20 feet for the garage, which is huge - it's listed as a 2 car garage but WITH stuff I am still able to get 2 cars and my truck all inside it. I love the pool, I'm in it all the time - except I am usualy the ONLY one to go in it on a regular basis. The maintenance isn't too bad, and I don;t spend a fortune on chemicals each year, but doing the work and then being the only one to enhoy it is already starting to get a bit old. Then there's the land - I have plenty of space for my (small) dogs, but the front in particualr is on the face of a steep hill and I am not able to cut the grass so I end up paying someone to do it. Yet riding around on the tractor cutting the grass is something I actually find enjoyable and relaxing. So I've been casually looking to see what comes up - I definitely want one floor (bad knees) and of course a basement - but I don;t really need a bigger house, just a bigger basement., A ranch the same size as my current house (1800 sq feer) with a full basemend, because the garage is to the side, would be fine. Flat land, don;t really need more than an acre, as long as it is realtively flat, and it doesn;t have to have a pool. Preferably an unfinished basement - to make this one usable I nmeed to rip everything out and redo what the previous owners did to get it in shape to be a suitable train room.

 Just that bit extra - more logically laid out, would give me plenty fo space to build what I want without going overboard. I'd be able to keep it all on one deck, greatly simplifying things, and elminating the need for a helix.

                                            --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, July 23, 2018 10:36 AM

My own feeling is that size of space for a layout, and even size of layout, is only one factor, and not a controlling factor, in creating the impressions of realism that we all seek.  I have been to huge layouts that were so crammed with track that the first impression one gets is not unlike that of the old Lionel display layouts - it somehow can seem, well, tiny!  Related to that, sometimes selective compression -- not so much of this or that structure but rather of entire scenes: impossibly short city blocks, utility poles far too close together, narrow roads and sidewalks, too many vehicles and too many pedestrians, that sort of thing -- gets taken too far and that also creates an impression of lack of realism.

This may sound odd, but psychologically, I find that cramped aisles themselves make a layout seem cramped and thus unrealistic to me.  Related to that, track plans that place distant parts of the layout in close physical proximity -- end of peninsula "blobs" near each other for example -- also detract from realism when you can see too much distant real estate all in one glimpse. 

And at the risk of annoying many modelers including some famous "taste makers" in the hobby who worship double deck layouts due to the length of run they provide, to me I see no virtue in studiously avoiding insincere track plans that have the track going through the same scene twice or thrice, yet have double decks with track supposedly miles and miles away, but just a few inches apart, up above or down below.  One is condemned and the other praised by these taste makers.  My eyes and thus my brain are NOT fooled by this.  

Not all might agree with me but I think a layout that takes selective compression with a light touch, and which at least attempts to capture some sense of the vastness of space around the railroad, can look and feel "large" almost regardless of size.  Perhaps not an oval but an L shaped switching layout that follows these precepts can seem very large indeed if done right.

Having said that, a genuinely huge layout, Monroe Stewart's Hooch Junction, uses N scale to its best advantage and he has been pretty lavish with the space available.  

I have the space for a nice sized layout and the mainline run between staging yards is nearly 90 feet, so about 1 1/2 scale miles.  I am modeling my old home town from end to end, so I am modeling about 4 miles in that 90 feet.  Some scenes are actually selectively expanded because I do not want certain scenes to be on curves; others are compressed to fit within the tangents available.  Through trains will actually go from end to end rather quickly (this was on the C&NW's Route of the 400s so passenger train speeds were high, and freights moved fast to keep out of their way).  

I am hopeful when it is all done and operating that a sense of spaciousness will be conveyed but if I had to do it all over again, maybe I'd go with N scale on exactly the same footprint.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Monday, July 23, 2018 11:33 AM

dknelson

I am hopeful when it is all done and operating that a sense of spaciousness will be conveyed but if I had to do it all over again, maybe I'd go with N scale on exactly the same footprint.

Dave Nelson

Yes. Exactly. I've been saying this for years. Well . . . except for the do over part.

When I look at at track plan in MRR (HO scale, of course) I can easily imagine it in N scale. Exact same layout, exact same footprint. But more space. Just loosen the belt a little.

And, I also agree with Dave's comment about aisle width and clutter.

Robert 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, July 23, 2018 3:21 PM

Here is some of the detailed criteria for the new layout:

No double decks, I agree with Dave Nelson. I tried it and did not like it.

No running thru the scene twice.

No hidden track that is hard to access, no staging "under" the layout, with small clearances to work on track or reach rolling stock.

In fact, my staging yards will be behind back drops, mostly wide open to the top, and many will have "operator only" access aisles.

Gracious curves where ever possible, 36" radius will be the MINIMIUM for the mainline, most will be in the 42" range.

Deep scenes to allow plenty of modeling of what is around the tracks - without crowding things. Typically scenes will be 30"-36" deep, some deeper.

Wide viewer/operator aisles, 48" is the minium goal.

More later,

Sheldon

    

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, July 23, 2018 4:46 PM

I pretty much agree with what Dave and Sheldon just wrote.  It's nice to hear that there are others who have problems with multi-level plans.

One exception is that I have 48" minimum mainline radius.  Right now, I've got some Long Runners on a curve, and the "bridging" trailers STILL don't look right--too clunky.

David Rose had a nice trackplan here on the forum, where exposed curves looked maybe half as sharp as concealed.  Maybe even softer.  I think it was Armstrong who opined that some very broad curves out in the open looked very nice.

 

Ed

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Monday, July 23, 2018 5:19 PM

Layout of LION is BIG ... 14 scale miles of track

appears complicated ... runs 10 traains all at one time

 

But reality shows us two loops (express trains north and express trains south) and pne point to point (all local trains)

 

REALITY IS the entire layout is operated with only five GRS levers ... two for the crossover at 242nd Street and 3 for the home signals (one in and two out)

 

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, July 23, 2018 6:11 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

I've seen many a modest sized layout that displayed exceptional model work. Size is not the measure of the quality of a model railroad, nor should it be.

I have been the subject of more than a sharp comment or two, partly because I have been blessed with a large space in which to build model trains and I advocate for large curves, longer trains, etc.

My goal with a large space is not to make the layout more complex, or model more places, or squeeze in more features.

So while my layout may be "large", it is by no means complex for its size.

 

Curves - curves can eat up a lot of space, but 36" to 40" radius curves look WAY more realistic than 28" to 32" radius curves.

But my layout concept will not change, it will still be about capturing the immensity of the prototype with broad curves, long trains, lots of hidden staging, scenery with "depth", etc - not just seeing how much "more" I can squeeze in.

So I would suggest that there is a big difference between "large" and "complex". Maybe a large layout can be complex, but so can a small one. 

But a large layout need not by definition be exponentially more complex, grossly more expenive, or more difficult to accomplish.

Who knows, I may just decide to document it on here as others have.

Your thoughts on layout size and design are welcome.

Sheldon 

 

I've cut down your quote to address some of the things I wanted to.

First of all, congratulations with your downsizing/simplification decision.  Hard work, good decisions, a bit of good luck and contributions from others, can build a nice foundation for retirement.  Best wishes to you and your wife in the future, especially with health going forward.

And please document your progress with your layout.  Your posts are always interesting, and I would expect any layout build progress update would be an enjoyable read.

I have been in the hobby for about 40 years (not including a 10 year hiatus in my 20s), and I have decidied I am done with "cramming" things into a layout.  Broad curves and large rail served buildings will be the norm.  Broad curves generally means less total mainline linear footage.  Larger buildings tend to mean fewer of them.  Less mainline, fewer buildings, but more realism. 

In this sense, Less IS more.

My new layout will be a U shaped switching layout with a bit of mainline run from the interchange yard to the switching district.  Simple concept and plan.  The space will be a 25 by 14 foot leg for the mainline and district, with another 8 by 15 leg for the interchange yard/ town scene.

A somewhat large space for a switching layout.  I could do more in that space.  But realism takes preference over an alternative dogbone shaped continuous run plan. The return loops would be too tight, at probably 30 inch radius.

Since its a switching layout, 10 car trains are the maximum.  More like 6 to 8 cars being normal.  Frankly, I think long trains tend to dominate the locomotives, so I personally prefer these "shorter" trains as it helps the locomotive be the star.

8 car trains on a big 50 to 60 inch radius curve on the two cormers of the U will look nice.  I could fit 24 inch radius curves, get more mainline run, but I would lose much more realism for that extra run.  Where the curve isn't visible, in under layout staging, I'll use about 28 inch radius to get longer straight yard tracks.

Yes, LESS track, LESS buildings, means MORE realism, IMO.  Maybe its easy for me to say, since I have enough space to do what I want, but my experience says that even with a small space, the same principals of realism must apply. 

Small space means to me that a layout should have even less mainline run and even fewer buildings.  If faced with a 4 x 8 space, I'd probably just model a paper mill.  One industry but a few variety of cars.  My preference of course.

With more track and more buildings, I could probably double my operating time.  But I should get a good hour of running trains on the new layout.  That's enough for me, as building and detailing is a big part of the hobby too.

- Douglas

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, July 23, 2018 6:47 PM

I don't think I've ever seen a thread where one person, much less two criticized double decker layouts.  I feel strangely vindicated, for "not getting it"

Like Brakie, I have felt the cold breath of the grim reaper on my back.  I don't watch much news anymore, but a 46 yo Secret Service died from a stroke last week.  Every day is a blessing.  I have also seen my mother in law trapped in her own home, because she wasn't healthy enough to walk down stairs, in a split level home.  My own mom became fall prone, so her 2 story house no longer worked.

Currently I am spoiled by having a small lot surrounded by conservation area on two sides.  It gives me lots of mosquitos, wetlands, and the neighbor behind me plays some really obnoxious rap music with words that I can't use, but not often.

Small lot that it is, I still have a ton of branches and some end of life Virginia pine trees falling in my yard, constantly.  But I don't want to live on a lot, where I can open a window and spit inside my neighbors house if his window is open.  Those small lots are very popular these days.

Back to the layout.  I enjoy building the landscape, the buildings and laying the track.  The super detailing, the people, the pallets, barrels, dogs and fire hydrants, all look good, but are not what I look forward to doing.  Probably the layout will end lacking in these details.

Realism: my favorite memories are going from Baltimore to NYC on the PRR in the 50's and visiting family friends, somewhere on the upper west side of NYC.  When we visited, the put me behind a telescope, overlooking a railroad yard (anyone know which one?) while the grown ups visited. 

So my inclination is urban railroading and switching.  I am working with only 2 modules right now, anticipating a move, to a more suitable home.  I am still undecided whether to have point to point, or continous run.  I expect it wil be a continous run. 

Will it look like the NYC yard...no, will it look like, what I guess was a 4 track mainline on the PRR...no.  It will be good enough as I didn't get the rivet counter gene. 

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, July 23, 2018 7:23 PM

7j43k

I pretty much agree with what Dave and Sheldon just wrote.  It's nice to hear that there are others who have problems with multi-level plans.

One exception is that I have 48" minimum mainline radius.  Right now, I've got some Long Runners on a curve, and the "bridging" trailers STILL don't look right--too clunky.

David Rose had a nice trackplan here on the forum, where exposed curves looked maybe half as sharp as concealed.  Maybe even softer.  I think it was Armstrong who opined that some very broad curves out in the open looked very nice.

 

Ed

 

Ed, Your choice of a more modern era would have me pushing to 48" curves as well.

But in 1953, 75' was pretty much the limit on freight cars.

As for passenger cars, I have some 80' cars, but most of my passenger fleet is "freelanced and selectively compressed", a choice I made decades ago, and a choice that I am not going to change.

I have no interest in replacing nearly 200 passenger cars...........

So most of my passengers cars are similar in length to my "fresh from the factory" 75' piggyback flats.

36" to 42" radius makes them all look rather graceful.

I will have some curves well above my "range", the old layout had several curves in the 60" radius range.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, July 23, 2018 7:53 PM

Larry brought up the topic of a single track mainline. Despite the fact that most rail lines in the US are/were single track, there are very important reasons to build a layout of this type with a double track mainline.

First, selective compression is less obvious, similar to some points Dave Nelson made.

Real single track mainlines go for miles between sidings. Even if I hit the projected 8 or more scale miles of mainline, that just makes the sidings and the single track between them too short.

Like Dave said - too much selective compression, too obvious, kills realism.

Long trains - my goal is 35 cars as a typical train, with 50 or even 100 car trains possible.

So while I'm here, next topic - point to point vs continuous. No contest - continuous with thru staging. Operated as point to point for operating sessions.

No "yard work" at the end of the line provides a better balance of switching to mainline running. There will be one visible, sceniced yard, mid way in the scenic/visible portion of the mainline. Some trains leave staging, and end at the yard, others are run thrus or just power changes.

Complete trains return to staging for the next session.

Which brings me to another of my modeling rules, a very important one.

Model each major feature only once - there will be only one:

Freight yard

Large passenger terminal

Engine terminal/turntable/roundhouse

Wye

Swing bridge

Flyover junction

Piggyback yard

The two exceptions will be industrial areas, and commuter/rural passenger stations.

Lets talk about industries. Virtually none of my industries will be switched from the mainline. 95% or more will be in "industrial areas", like having an ISL or two tucked into a big display layout. They will be accessed by belt lines directly from the freight yard.

Just like most major east coast cities, the switching of industries will not interfere with mainline trains.

There will be between two and three of these industrial areas. They will be close to to the layout edge and will have manual/ground throw turnouts, as will the main freight yard.

More later,

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, July 23, 2018 7:57 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

Ed, Your choice of a more modern era would have me pushing to 48" curves as well.

But in 1953, 75' was pretty much the limit on freight cars.

Sheldon

 

 

I believe that's so.  My impression is that the first freight car significantly longer than that was the 85' Southern hogshead boxes built in 1961.

Pennsy's Queen Mary flat was quite a bit longer, but the "body length" was still only about 73'.

 

Ed

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, July 23, 2018 8:03 PM

7j43k

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

Ed, Your choice of a more modern era would have me pushing to 48" curves as well.

But in 1953, 75' was pretty much the limit on freight cars.

Sheldon

 

 

 

 

I believe that's so.  My impression is that the first freight car significantly longer than that was the 85' Southern hogshead boxes built in 1961.

Pennsy's Queen Mary flat was quite a bit longer, but the "body length" was still only about 73'.

 

Ed

 

Ed, despite 60 years of 80' passenger cars, the railroads were very leary of those first 75' piggyback flats in '53/'54.

But obviously once they worked, it was game on for longer cars.

Happily, we are blissfully trapped in the fall of 1954 here on the ATLANTIC CENTRAL, with those flat cars and two new SD9's being the newest stuff on the line.

Who says people model the trains of their youth - I was not even born until 1957.....

Sheldon

    

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 12:49 AM

I built a large layout, found it started to own me. Moved and now have a much smaller space and will build a smaller layout but even more detailed than before.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 10:33 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Larry brought up the topic of a single track mainline. Despite the fact that most rail lines in the US are/were single track, there are very important reasons to build a layout of this type with a double track mainline.

Sheldon,To my bias mind a point to point layout gives you the feeling of running a real train going from point A to point B.

Like the prototype you yard your train and go home or to the RRYMCA until your next run.

A double track main line looks and operates just fine but,the zing isn't there.

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 10:58 AM

BRAKIE

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Larry brought up the topic of a single track mainline. Despite the fact that most rail lines in the US are/were single track, there are very important reasons to build a layout of this type with a double track mainline.

 

Sheldon,To my bias mind a point to point layout gives you the feeling of running a real train going from point A to point B.

Like the prototype you yard your train and go home or to the RRYMCA until your next run.

A double track main line looks and operates just fine but,the zing isn't there.

 

Larry, I have explained before, I operate point to point.

Train leaves staging yard, it "appears" on scene.

It travels half of the somewhat long mainline, about 3-4 scale miles.

It arrives at the yard, where any number of prototype actions may occure. Maybe it terminates there. Maybe it just gets a power change. Maybe it sets out a block of cars and picks up a different outbound block.

If it is then leaving, it proceeds out of the yard and travels over the remainig 3-4 miles of mainline.

It goes off stage and terminates in the staging yard.

Double track or single track, that is point to point operation.

The world, and the rail network, are bigger than our layouts, staging provides that extra imagination of connections beyond what is modeled.

My freight yard is 20' long, even I don't have room for one at each end....

More later on staging and my "wye" junction.

Sheldon

    

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