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Vertical layout????

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Vertical layout????
Posted by tatans on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:18 AM
Has anyone encountered a model layout that uses vertical rather than horizontal space?? my concept is to develop a logging layout in a mountainous setting, without a large horizontal footprint. I realize you are restricted by slope (2%) ?? and would require lots of trestles and bridges and possibly switchbacks, I was thinking of 3 or 4 levels, this may be a pipe dream but has anyone out there built or seen such a setup?? is it possible?? I would guess a U shaped layout would almost be a necessity. Any help will be appreciated.
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Posted by cacole on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:24 AM

Before proceeding, it might be advisable to test your theory with some actual trains that you would be running.

Geared engines with logging cars and other rolling stock could be tested on inclines of various degrees to see how much they can negotiate without wheel slip.  A 6-foot section of so of flex track mounted on a board that can be elevated at one end should suffice.

Remember, too, that curves will add to the drag on the engine.

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Posted by Midnight Railroader on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:25 AM
Paging Malcolm Furlow. Will Mr. Furlow please pick up the white courtesy telephone?
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Posted by ondrek on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 12:11 PM

a few months ago I came up with a 2'x4' layout design for logging, the total height of the layout was about a foot.

I was able to do this with some trickery.


the layout design has 2 scales to it.  HO and N

the HO was on the lower part and using switchbacks I was able to get the train to climb 5" vertical with no issue at all.  the remaining part was done with the N scale.  

So, what you would have to do is find an engine that you can have identical in HO and N and use it to trick the person watching.  you have the HO train start out at the bottom, work its way up some and then dissapear behind some trees.  then a few minutes latter have the N scale engine appear from the same side of the layout, but much higher up of course, and continue to the top of the hill.  then load up the logs, reverse the action.


Now, that was just the 2 scales.  if you want the layout really high, you can use HOn30 at the bottom, HO mid way and N at the top...heck keep going, use Z scale at the top.

Whoah, imagine someone using G, O, S, HO, N, and then Z scale for something like this?  it could be a floor to celling layout in very little space.

 When I was designing this layout, I was messing around with how steep an engine could pull two cars, and it was pretty steep, with no real problems.  using switchbacks will allow you to escape the possible tight curves that could make things more difficult for the engine.  If you keep the sting of cars to a minimum, you could have much more than 2% climb.  much more.

I never did actually build the layout, just did the design and planning stages, i stopped just before buying a N scale shay or something close.


Good luck, remember if you can invision it, its possible.


Oh, I also saw a micro layout that used a 3d sector plate, so it would acutally rise and fall on the plate not only change tracks...

you can find it selecting "Sector plate" from the list on this page

 have fun

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  • From: San Jose, California
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Posted by nfmisso on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:15 PM


A concept similar to what you are describing was described in MR 20 years ago or so.  That design had partially hidden return loops on each side, and seperate "schenes" as the track climbed.

With a logging railroad, switchbacks work well, so the space required is much less.

One possible framework would be triangular pieces of ½" plywood spaced 12" to 16" apart.  The triangles could be 12" on the floor, 96" (or less if your ceiling is lower) - you'd get 8 pieces per sheet.  One the back, if the layout is "flat", you can use 12" x 96" pieces of plywood, top and bottom to hold the triangles in place, the 2" wide piece from triangle to triangle just under the supports for the track which would be horizontal, and attached to a triangle. 

Slopping the layout back a little bit makes scenery easier, and provides stability - and a place for heavy ballast if required.

This format also gives you John Allen style floor to ceiling scenery.

Nigel N&W in HO scale, 1950 - 1955 (..and some a bit newer too) Now in San Jose, California
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Posted by devils on Thursday, March 22, 2007 12:36 AM
Small smart and practical track plans by Iain rice from Kalmbach has an idea like that too, sounds like an excellent idea for a limited space.
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Posted by pcarrell on Thursday, March 22, 2007 8:32 AM

A Climax type A or a Dunkirk would have a verticle boiler.  Check this link:

Also, switchback were indeed one way to gain height, but it may not be best for what you want to do.  See, you need a long skinny space to do a switchback.  Thats because the tail of each switchback is pretty much 0% grade and it has to be long enough to hold the whole train.  This means that the only place you really gain height is in the middle portion of the layout.  The longer that middle run is, the more height you can gain.  Thats why it's good to have a very long space when doing this.

Besides logging, other types of industries used this type of track arrangement.  Mines and quarries come to mind.  Matter of fact, you really don't see a lot of large scaled quarries modeled.  The large limestone, granite, or marble quarry would be very cool.  And one you almost never see is a shale quarry.  They used very unique cars that were purpose built.  That would really set a layout apart from the crowd!

Oh well, food for thought..............

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Posted by msowsun on Thursday, March 22, 2007 9:37 AM

Here is a 3 lap "vertical" layout from "101 Track Plans" by Lynn Wescott.


Here is a modified version from this website:

When I first saw the Lake District Ry plan #15, I dismissed it as a fluke. Then I realized it was more of a fraud, since there is no runaround, save running over the entire three laps of the loop in order to get to the other end of a train and then running in reverse in order to switch cars to the siding at Kadatz, which is a facing turnout to the normal flow of the train, which is counter-clockwise.

So I decided to revise the design around a modified 24" diameter loop using 24"-18" curved turnouts to get the effect of the 15-deg crossing of the original. Then the 18" diameter inner loop ends where transformed into one inner loop that ran clockwise down to the right and under the right side of the upper loop and the other inner loop that ran counterclockwise down to the left and under the left side of the upper loop. Both of these are joined together at the bottom "o" level.

Since I had already violated the maximum radius by using the 24"-18" curved turnouts, I was not going to be restricted to the original layout's overall size of 4'6" x 5'. Therefore, I was able to add more track and turnouts and ended up with a much more versatile layout that features two-loco operation: a car float switcher and a road switcher. Also a ten 40' car capacity car float, holding tracks, service and service supply tracks, double-tracked sidings on the upper level and a small yard. Lots more operation in just a little more space.

The car float switcher unloads and loads the float while the road switcher makes the run up to the upper level industries, swapping 9-car trains of cars on each trip. The 10th car can go to the service supply. The passenger loco backs up and couples onto the passenger cars, while the float switcher moves back off of the main and into the "pocket" track at the left end of the front of the layout.

Now the first freight train exits the tunnel and "arrives" while the second freight train exits the high line tunnel and starts switching the industries. The cars from the first freight train are now loaded onto the float and it departs. A "new" carfloat arrives and the cars are unloaded and spotted in the yard.

Meanwhile, the second freight has finished the industry switching and has hidden in the low line tunnel. When the float switcher is finished, it will park in the "pocket" and the second freight train can arrive and the action repeats itself.

This is what makes this layout special!

Most people would not use the layout in this way, and would miss out on a lot of the action that is possible. Therefore we have to tell them.

The float switcher must also switch cars at the dock track at the right front and the service track at the left next to the "pocket" track. Sometimes, the trains just chase each other, with the passenger train passing the freight on the front of the layout. Also, reverse direction operation can be done.

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Posted by tatans on Friday, March 23, 2007 1:42 PM
Thanks for some great ideas, it would seem a 3 lap vertical area then a run-off over to a long wall series of switchbacks and back to the upper portion of the 3 lap area, this can be very interesting, thanks again for the input.
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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Friday, March 23, 2007 1:46 PM
The Georgetown Loop railroad in Colorado did it 1:1 so I see no reason you can't do it on a layout.

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Posted by Metro Red Line on Friday, March 23, 2007 2:19 PM
Who here has modeled a funicular? :)

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