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Feedback on track plan?

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  • Member since
    January 2022
  • 6 posts
Feedback on track plan?
Posted by The Other Kevin on Sunday, July 31, 2022 11:03 PM

 Hi all, first post here, thanks in advance for your help!

I've been working on my first layout, in N scale. I have it to a point where I think I'm happy with it but I just wanted to get some other eyes on it to help me spot any potential problems I'm not thinking of. Being my first layout, I'd rather learn the hard lessons from some of you more experienced folk!

It's going to be 2 or 3 levels when finished, I'll make that determination as I go, depending on if I can make a curved crossover where the two upper level tracks intersect in the SE corner. Either way, the inner loop is the elevated one. The outer loop will elevate above the inner loop at the back (where it's all straight track) and be at ground level at the yard entrace in the SW corner. The layout goes off to the right in a minimalist loop for the outer line and a branch entrance to the inner line. I attached a pic of the initial layout plan for reference. It's difficult to describe the topography but ask if you need clarification. I can see it in my head :) Some of the spur tracks are not at their final length, this is just a dry run. But you get the idea. 

Anyway, for "theme" I'm going for transition era, tiny utility town/shanty town nestled into rocky cliffs, rickety infrastructure, quaint and quirky, heavy decay, railroad and yard evolved over time making due with what they had, with lots of layers and visual interest. For example, for a section of the shortline, the line will be running on a precarious trestle build into a cliff wall. I've built in some intentional challenges like the tight curve coming off a wye into the SW corner of the yard, the RIP track needing the loco track clear to move something, some meandering tracks navigating the yard where they made use of turnouts that were already laid the last time they had to add on to the yard.

Some things I'm unsure of yet:

Clearance for scenery - in some places there are parellel tracks with a cliff-like elevation change between them. I'm uncertain if I've left enough room for the cliffs to drop off naturally. An example is the south side of the classigication tracks where the shortline curves in close (the shortline is elevated)

Derailments or other problems in the yard due to s-curves or ?? I plan on a low yard speed limit, but I'm not sure if there's anything in here that would just be a no-go as it sits now. Like, "yeah you're gonna push the cars right off the track through that" - that sort of thing.

Anything else I'm missing?

Once I've sat with this awhile and know it's final, I think my next step is to tape off all the track with 3/4 painter tape and spray the entire board white. Then remove the track leaving behind an outline of the trackplan to start building topography around. Hey, I'm mkaing this up as I go along! :)

Thank all, I appreciate any feedback you have! The second pic is the initial plan, or what it started out as

 

 

  • Member since
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Posted by snjroy on Monday, August 1, 2022 9:36 AM

Hi there.  I would definitely aim for a simpler plan. Unless you have kids in your home that like to see trains go round and round, you will realize that the "spaghetti" bowl will lack realism. It's also expensive, difficult to build and will involve lots of maintenance. A simpler plan with slow running engines will put the trains and the scenery at the forefront. 

Anyway, that's my two-cents worth.

Simon

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, August 1, 2022 10:05 AM

snjroy

I would definitely aim for a simpler plan.  

"Simpler" is the operative word here. There is a lot going on in that space. It could become an operational nightmare.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, August 1, 2022 10:17 AM

The Other Kevin
I think my next step is to tape off all the track with 3/4 painter tape and spray the entire board white.

I am only going to offer one piece of advice from experience.

NEVER undercoat anything in white. It seems no matter how hard you try, some of the white always shows through, and it looks terrible.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    October 2020
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Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, August 1, 2022 11:13 AM

I am not one to give advice on any track plan.  I do not know how good (or poor) a person is in building a layout.

 

What I will say is,   

If you think a curve is too tight -  it is.

If you think a derailment  could happen at point A  -  it will  (and point B).   Derailments happen in the most difficult places.

Nature is not black or white.  See what you see and not what you thought you saw.

No matter how many operators can run a layout,  ensure it can be run by one operator  comfortably.  In most cases there is only one operator present.

Don't be too serious.  It is a hobby.   Keep it 'fun'  and it will reward you tenfold.

 

That's my My 2 Cents

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    February 2008
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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, August 1, 2022 5:19 PM

Yes, the layout needs to get simplified.  You'll thank yourself later for doing that.  I would make the left side a single-ended yard.  That provides a lot of operational interest and fun.  Next, I would make the middle part have only two tracks for a double mainline.  The purple track that's a run-around I would make that a siding for some industry. 

Makes sense?

Have fun!

  • Member since
    January 2022
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Posted by The Other Kevin on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 12:08 AM

Never thought about the white, thanks for that! Seems like a no-brainer thing but it never occured to me! Black it is, I can use white marker to mark things up.

Great feedback, thank you all! It deserves a thoughtful response. So what I'm hearing is I should simplify, right? :)

FYI, single guy, no kids, I'll be the only operator.

Well, I had a simpler yard, and a completely alternate yard design as well that I never really got to trying out. I had to change the original plan because Atlas code 55 LH #3 and #5 turnouts no longer exist, apparently. :) maybe I go back and try out the other design.

Let me offer some arguments and questions, for discussion, help me understand

I'm the kid in the home that wants to seee trains go round and round! :) Isn't that the fun part? All joking aside, let me give you some reference as to the intent of the layout, because I think iit's a unique scenario. Y'all are gonna think I'm nuts :)

This is a living room layout tucked along the wall around an inoperative fireplace with a TV above (the square cutouts in the middle are the fireplace surround). It sits on the wall opposite the lounging couch. The loop to the east is the corner of the living room and it loops around an existing lamp (which might turn into a hanging lamp as I get that far). The whole layout is at about eye level when you're lounging on the couch. (approx 20-24" off the floor). Everything east of the large, wide section where all three lines come together just before the fireplace - the entire layout east of that becomes like a shelf, about 4 inches tall and floating. It's meant to be mininmal where it turns into a shelf, nothing really more than ballast and grass. The front of it will be furniture-quality finished and countoured. The main part of it sits on a media cabinet. This was inspired from reminisching about watching Mr. Roger's trolley as a little kid! Y'all gotta remember that!

The intent was to literally have two trains running - one around the large outer loop and the other around the smaller inner double loop while I'm chililng watching TV in the evening. Just to enjoy seeing and hearing them go 'round.

Since I also get into operations a little, I wanted a yard to play in where I could build trains and get them in and out without fouling either main, hence the long lead on the east end of the yard. Also need parking for a train or so (I have three passenger trains, at least one needs a spot to sit at times). In front of the fireplace seemed like the best place to add some idle space. 

So aside from the yard, how would I simplify without sacrificing one of the mains? I mean, I could take the smaller main down to a single loop. I played with that in the layout software but it seemed boring. I could remove the long east lead but I like the idea of having lots of space to pull out of the yard and a place to park a train. It also doubles as a way to get a train from one main to the other, although I could probably find another way. The crossovers and extra sidings in the middle could go away, I wasn't really attached to them anyway, and turnout availability...well, ok. Or they could be turned into spurs as suggested.

The yard: The yard entrance on the west end was an afterthought, as was the RIP track. The RIP track could go away. I could straighten out the loco track and bring it more parallel to the classification tracks. At first I had it all laid out straight like in the plan but in looking at it, It looked too mainstream and modern. I was missing the "disheveled, disrepair, tiny railroad built over time, making due" asthetic that I'm going for. Think colorado mountain narrow guage messy trackwork sitting right in the dirt working around land contours on no budget sort of look. The vision with the west entrance was that maybe it was half abandoned and used as a spur track, maybe even with a big gate at the end where it comes out from under the upper track before it meets the wye. Maybe like - "it could be used in a pinch" sort of thing. That branch was originally another classification track.

So, argument made, change my mind :) What are the specific pitfalls or a complex layout? I mean, I get the spaghetti bowl idea, I've seen it and it's cringeworthy but those always seem to be on one level. I plan on plenty of intermediate levels and tunnels and layers and visual interest and things to break up the spaghetti bowl. Be honest, is this cringeworthy? (I can take it!)

Putting the work in - wiring, scenery, laying track, hasn't really been a consideration, I just figured I gotta do what it takes. But maybe I'm underestimating the amount of work? I'd like to have this ready to run in a 2-3 months, relatively complete within maybe 6 months and finished, finished within about a year. Is that unrealistic?

Maintenance was mentioned - besides track cleaning and dust, what sort of maintenance is there? (first layout so I don't know)

Operations - in what ways does it get complex? 

Expensive - I'm not made of money but I'm not hurting - I have "adequate" disposable income. All the track and a majority of the turnouts are already purchased. I'm wincing at the cost of turnout machines though - nearly as much as the turnouts themselves! For trestles, buildings, light poles, etc sundries, I'll be 3D printing nearly all of that. That'll save a ton of money. What are other unforseen costs?

Thanks, you've all given me some things to think about!

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 15,940 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 10:31 AM

It sounds like your layout goals are similar to mine.

My next layout will feature two continuous loops representing a double-track mainline through town. The outside loop will not connect to the rest of the layout at all. It is display running only.

All the rest of the track is for play value only. Just so I can pretend to be a locomotive engineer and move trains around.

My layout goals have changed a lot since I have aged. Hosting, and even attending, operating sessions went from my #1 priority to "take-it-or-leave-it" status. Play and photography are my interests now.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 2,258 posts
Posted by snjroy on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 10:11 AM

Maintenance includes cleaning track, vaccuming the layout and fixing things like soldering loose wires in sections that lose power for some reason. The more track, curves and levels you have, the more maintenance it will involve. However, if you run two diesels together in consists, that will reduce the need for track cleaning.

If you like loops "without a purpose", then that's fine. Personally, I prefer a single or double main that goes through mountains and bridges, with limited cross-overs. I also like to do some switching for industries, which appear to be limited on your layout. Double mains build in more action for sure.

But if you like to see two trains go round and round while watching TV, that's perfectly OK!

Simon

  • Member since
    November 2002
  • From: Colorado
  • 4,014 posts
Posted by fwright on Thursday, August 4, 2022 10:08 AM

The Other Kevin
So, argument made, change my mind :) What are the specific pitfalls or a complex layout? I mean, I get the spaghetti bowl idea, I've seen it and it's cringeworthy but those always seem to be on one level. I plan on plenty of intermediate levels and tunnels and layers and visual interest and things to break up the spaghetti bowl. Be honest, is this cringeworthy? (I can take it!)

Putting the work in - wiring, scenery, laying track, hasn't really been a consideration, I just figured I gotta do what it takes. But maybe I'm underestimating the amount of work? I'd like to have this ready to run in a 2-3 months, relatively complete within maybe 6 months and finished, finished within about a year. Is that unrealistic?

Maintenance was mentioned - besides track cleaning and dust, what sort of maintenance is there? (first layout so I don't know)

Operations - in what ways does it get complex? 

For trestles, buildings, light poles, etc sundries, I'll be 3D printing nearly all of that. That'll save a ton of money. What are other unforseen costs?

I'll bite.  I think the dream is a lot bigger than your time available.  I could be very wrong.  But I have seen too many never-finished layouts - both simple and complex - that had a final date with the chainsaw and the dumpster.

The personal parts feeding into that are your layout construction skills and the time you have available.  Can you consistently lay track that doesn't cause derailments on the 1st try?  Can you consistently solder wire connections that don't need to be redone?  Will you only have quality locomotives and rolling stock that need no adjustments to trucks or couplers to run derailment-free?

For me, I didn't have those skills when I first started.  And my budget has always required me to "make do".  So I spend a lot of my hobby time reworking locomotives (remotoring, regearing, installing DCC); building new old stock kits (including locomotives); resoldering and regluing stuff; realigning track that didn't work so well; fixing trucks, underbody details, and couplers on cars.  And that doesn't include the scenery I didn't like the first 5 times I put it in.

Linn Westcott (former editor of MR) once suggested in the '60s that a home layout should have less than 20 turnouts.  While track and tracking reliability has improved since then, I notice other noted designers have urged restraint in how much track as one of the keys to getting a "finished" layout.  Doing the work to eliminate derailments is not trivial - but is important to your dream of watching trains run.

I recommend assessing yourself 3-6 months in.  Even if things are going badly, don't give up.  Instead, tear through the track plan and question every turnout.  What purpose does this turnout serve towards my stated primary goal of watching 2 trains run through nice scenery.  Keep simplifying until you have a manageable future.

just my suggestions, don't be afraid to follow your heart

Fred W

....modeling foggy coastal Oregon in HO and HOn3, where it's always 1900....

  • Member since
    January 2022
  • 6 posts
Posted by The Other Kevin on Friday, August 5, 2022 9:39 AM

Hi all,

Sorry I haven't replied it's been a busy week!

so I'm taking your advice and looking for ways to simplify. I put some locos, rolling stock and building on there just to get a sense of scale and start figuring out where things are going to go and realized that my sense of scale was off. I've never worked in N before, always HO.

The yard has been cut down to three classification tracks and a loco track, shortened and compacted. Most of the turnouts in the middle section have been eliminated leaving two double ended sidings to park idle trains. The long lead remains but has been simplified to one turnout where it joins the main. It's also my only way to turn something around so I figured out how that needs to work to accomplish that.

I spent a chunk of time last night trying to lay out and figure out the topography. I'm still working on it as I begin to realize that I may have some impossible topography going on. Funny what's in your head doesn't always translate to the real world!

The elevated inner loops are starting to look like they'll be cut down to one loop depending on how the topography starts to build out. I'm a hands-on visual guy, gotta see it and work it as I go.

To address a couple specific points: soldering, I'm a pro been doing it my whole 30+ year career, least of my worries! :)

Track laying is a different story but I have confidence. (Perhaps I'll be knocked down a peg by reality once I get into it!) I do plan on soldering all rail joints though. (Except of course wherever I need insulation!)

Time, I think you may be right. This is an evening and weekend project and there's only so much I can do around work and other commitments. I'd rather be running trains on a simpler work-in-progress in 3 months than still working on complex benchwork and track!

I counted 11 turnouts (in the main section) before I simplified the yard and I know I eliminated at least two. I'm thinking of also eliminating the wye at the SW corner of the yard but in my mind there's a specific scene inspired by that arrangement. I'll have to see how it works out (or doesn't!) as I begin working on the topography.

industry, yes there's not much room left for that. I'm considering that as I simplify Cause I would like to have at least a couple places to park freight cars to service some industry.

Yeah my rolling stock will probably need some work. I was planning to go through and body mount all the couplers and get all the trucks standardized with metal wheels, get everything properly weighted, coupler heights in spec etc.

I'll update with a new picture as I get along here.

Thank you all for your help! More to come!

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