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Atlas Layout Packages

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Atlas Layout Packages
Posted by MomSonTrains on Monday, September 26, 2022 10:43 PM

Hello,

I am looking for input on Atlas layout packages. I have an 11 year old son that is wanting to build a track, with some help from mom and dad. We thought a layout package would be best. Here is a link to what he has picked out;
https://shop.atlasrr.com/p-44223-ho-23-folded-dog-bone-with-branch.aspx

I am looking for the pro's and con's of ordering this set.

*My son has little interest in actually designing his own layout right now. He really want the fun of building and then running several trains, all day.

*We purchased a click together Walthers set a few months back and he quickly outgrew the basic oval and wants way more in a track then those can offer. 

* If reccomending a different set/layout package, there are a few requierments he has. Shunting yard and a turn table. Eventually he wants to add a dumping station (think old tyco).

Thank you for any and all advice! 

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 11:13 AM

Here are my thoughts.  Yes a simple oval gets boring fast, but adding just a few sidings for industries, or a layout plan that features more running room and variety can re-ignite the interest with much less expenditure and complexity than this particular Atlas layout box.  Plus the track is not as "pre-fab" that came with that initial train set so there will be a learning curve just learning how to lay this kind of track, and wire it up, so the trains really run smoothly.  That takes practice and skill even for us veterans.  

Frankly the track plan shown on the link is jam-packed with tracks in a way that looks exciting and impressive BUT it is going to call for way more wiring than most beginners feel comfortable with, and indeed the materials list shows that it is to be wired to run multiple trains in blocks.  While that may sound wonderful that usually suggests something beyond what one person is going to do with the layout.  And things like turntables, which this layout includes, can wait for future developments.  This is a very early stage to have a turntable.

The thing about model train layouts is that the more you run them the more you learn about what you really want, and then you make those changes and improvements in steps.  This particular Atas box cuts through all that and zooms forward awfully far.  And the end result is not what the layout owner necessarily wants but what the Atlas company wants to sell.   

Let me give one practical example.  Few beginner layouts have much in the way of scenery (not just hills and streams, but roads and neighborhoods and structures along the tracks).  But scenery is fun and makes the trains so much more realistic.  It can be the next step after getting comfortable with laying track.  But this track plan is so jammed with track (surprise surprise it is designed by the company that sells the track!) that there is really no space for meaningful scenery.  

I do not mean to trash Atlas - they've made good and dependable train track for decades.  But in my opinion this layout would be a mistake for someone in your son's shoes.  There are so many things he could do to make his layout more interesting without jumping into the deep end of the pool so to speak.  I'd investigate what the options are for more turnouts and variety of layout shape rather than a simple oval first.  Kalmbach sells layout plan books, and so does Atlas for that matter.  I'd think less in terms of one huge box and more in terms of what can be done now to re-ignite interest

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by hornblower on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 12:41 PM

Dave made several very good points.  However, young model railroaders need to build experience to get to know what they want. While the Atlas track pack does indeed provide lots of track, that should prove a good thing as your son will have enough track to change things around as his ideas take shape and evolve.  

Also note that the Atlas track packs are intended to be powered by Direct Current (DC) and will require several track blocks to be wired up in order to run multiple trains.  All of this complicated wiring can be avoided by powering the layout with Digital Command Control (DCC) from the outset.  Your son will have no problem figuring out DCC and these systems offer so much more operating realism that will help hook your son for life.  Yes, the dive into DCC can be a little expensive, but when you compare it to the equipment needed for multiple train DC operation, it isn't all that much more.  A full featured DCC system capable of running several trains can be found for as little as around $50 for a used Bachmann system to around $250 for a full featured starter set from others.  You can also find used intermediate systems that modelers have replaced with newer systems with more bells and whistles.  

For comparison, Direct Current (DC) operation requires a separate power pack for each train you want to run.  DC operation also requires you to divide the layout into power blocks with toggle or rotary switches to connect track blocks to each power pack.  By the time you purchase all of the required gear to run even three trains simultaneously, you are approaching the cost of entry level DCC systems.  I suspect your son would quickly get bored with the toggle switch two-step anyway.  DCC allows you to run the trains instead of the track and is a far more satisfying means of operation.

Good Luck!

Hornblower

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Posted by MomSonTrains on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 1:48 PM

dknelson

Plus the track is not as "pre-fab" that came with that initial train set so there will be a learning curve just learning how to lay this kind of track, and wire it up, so the trains really run smoothly.  That takes practice and skill even for us veterans.  

Few beginner layouts have much in the way of scenery (not just hills and streams, but roads and neighborhoods and structures along the tracks).  But scenery is fun and makes the trains so much more realistic.  It can be the next step after getting comfortable with laying track.  But this track plan is so jammed with track (surprise surprise it is designed by the company that sells the track!) that there is really no space for meaningful scenery.  

 

Thank you Dave for your advice here. Just when I think we hasve things figured out, I read more forums and replies. I already had concern about how much wiring we would have to learn to do. I am not sure this is a great first step if the wiring portion is that difficult, even for the experience folk. 

We have started talking about the scenery aspect of things and he doesnt have much interst. I think he has a hard time seeing the big picture of what can be created (which is what also led him to a layout kit.) 

 It sounds like we need to go back to the drawing board before we make a purchase.

 

Thank you

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Posted by MomSonTrains on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 1:58 PM

hornblower

Also note that the Atlas track packs are intended to be powered by Direct Current (DC) and will require several track blocks to be wired up in order to run multiple trains.  All of this complicated wiring can be avoided by powering the layout with Digital Command Control (DCC) from the outset.  Your son will have no problem figuring out DCC and these systems offer so much more operating realism that will help hook your son for life.  Yes, the dive into DCC can be a little expensive, but when you compare it to the equipment needed for multiple train DC operation, it isn't all that much more.  A full featured DCC system capable of running several trains can be found for as little as around $50 for a used Bachmann system to around $250 for a full featured starter set from others.  You can also find used intermediate systems that modelers have replaced with newer systems with more bells and whistles. 

 

Hornblower, 

We are commited to using DCC. As that is what our local train club uses and my kid has watched "in action" the most. I forgot to mention that part! Thank you for bringing this point up though. Because it got me realizing that purchasing a kit that comes with DC items isnt a good idea. We are off to our local train store to help us figure more out. 

I need a lot of hand holding through this proccess, I appreciate all your points. 

 

Thank you.

 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 2:05 PM

Hello All,

That's a lot of track in a small space- -colloquially known as a "spaghetti bowl."

In the center-left of the plan two (2) sets of tracks pass over another two sets at an angle, along with the crossover tracks in the center of the plan.

In looking at the Kit Details List I don't see any angled crossing pieces which means the necessity of bridges or adding these track sections to the build.

Adding bridges also means you have to incorporate inclines and declines (grades). These are expressed in percentages. A 2% grade is about average.

On my pike (layout) I have a curved 3% grade that is approximately 7-1/2'. That's considered pretty steep for most trains to negotiate.

The track plan doesn't mention the necessity of a double-track bridge but it does mention the crossing in the center, "...one over the other in the center of the layout..."

At just north of $1,500.00, that's a lot of money and there is no power source- -DC or DCC.

My concern with the physical space of 5-1/2'x8' is the reach into the center trackage. Even for an adult that might be a bit of a stretch.

The build time of a layout of this complexity could be weeks or possibly longer, depending on the time allotted. Especially with the addition of bridges.

Have you considered bench work; the physical structure that the layout will sit on?

This will take additional time, money, basic construction skills, and the use of power tools.

For a pike of this complexity just plunking the track down on a ping pong table is not a viable option. You will need under-pike access for wiring and troubleshooting purposes.

There is no mention of the wire necessary to power this project with DC. With a pike of this complexity, some basic electronic skills will be needed too.

A downloadable PDF is available for DCC powering utilizing the Atlas supplied controller and selectors.

Honestly, with DCC the wiring can be simplified and the controllers and selectors eliminated. With "packages" you sometimes get items you don't need or add unnecessary complexity and cost.

To run more than one (1) train under DC power you will need to create power blocks; that's what the controller and selector panels are for. These do not provide any power to the layout.

Each block will need to be wired separately (that's what the plastic rail joiners are for) and power switched through the selectors. This includes the turntable as a separate power district.

It has been said that a single person running multiple trains with a DC block system is like playing the piano with mittens- -Yes, it can be done, but is frustrating.

Before converting to DCC my 4'x8' layout had over 16 control blocks and two (2) DC power packs (cabs). This did not include the turnout (switch) control, wiring, and power source.

Simply running two (2) trains was about flipping switches. An 11-year-old might lose patients quickly doing this.

MomSonTrains
He really want(s) the fun of building and then running several trains, all day.

If the goal is to run several trains simultaneously you should invest in an expandable DCC system. (DC users add comments here...)

There are many manufacturers of DCC systems available in North America. The most popular are Digitrax, NCE, and MRC. 

Other DCC systems are available but not as common.

I would recommend a 5'x9' space, but limit the track in the center to what can be easily reached by your son from the perimeter.

A simplified or core layout can be built relatively quickly, to get up and running.

Then, as time passes you can expand the basic plan to add more features.

MomSonTrains
Eventually he wants to add a dumping station (think old tyco).

Adding this feature will require another elevated section, or cutting down into the bench work, and pushing the cars over the specialized unloading track section.

My entire 4'x8' pike (layout) is dedicated to the sole function of unloading and loading live loads with the Tyco 34-foot operating hoppers; which have been out of production since the 1970s.

An option that is available today is a rotary dumper- -but that's another thread!

Unfortunately, this might not be the solution you are seeking to get trains up and running quickly.

Keep the questions coming and as always...

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 2:35 PM

That layout was built by a sadist. Way too much track and way too complex for an 11-year old to operate.

Several years back, a 5x9 track plan was posted to this forum, as shown below. It has a turntable and a small classification yard. There is room on that layout to build future industries like a dumping station. It is not a kit, but it is something that Mom and Dad can build with Atlas sectional track. I would encourage the parents to build it so that they too can learn the ins and outs of layout building for when things go wrong. 

Just a suggestion.

Rich

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Posted by PennsyLou on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 3:01 PM


If a small yard and turntable are requirements, the layout posted above by Rich is a good one.  From the Atlas website, Plan HO-25 is similar, and I think HO-20 also meets the requirements and could be fun - running trains out-and-back with unlimited loops before returning, a passing siding, room for future industries and scenery.

Agree 100% with remarks regarding DCC - not only easy wiring and running trains, but sound, bells, whistles etc. to control, if your son enjoys being the train engineer.  There are even Apps to run the trains from a cell phone.

Fellow modelers, what say you - if ordering an Atlas set, Code 83 or Code 100?  I don't see a huge argument for the Code 100 - is is that much more robust?  The Code 83 is MUCH more realistic and the cost difference is trivial (For the HO-25 package, Code 83 is just $2 more).

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 3:06 PM

I'm concerned for an 11-year old using regular Atlas "snap track". It needs to be fastened down (and eventually ballasted), and if the joints aren't soldered could lead to electrical problems.

I'd rather see a layout built with Atlas True-track, their version of "click track" where the roadbed/ballast is attached already. It's easier to use, easier to change or add to, and looks OK too.

https://shop.atlasrr.com/c-1051-ho-true-track.aspx

Bachmann and Kato make similar products. A nice thing about True-track is you can separate the track pieces from the roadbed section, so you can take them apart to weather them separately later for example.

p.s. I would use the code 83 version rather than code 100. Looks better, works just as well.

Stix
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Posted by MomSonTrains on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 4:41 PM

richhotrain

Several years back, a 5x9 track plan was posted to this forum, as shown below. It has a turntable and a small classification yard. There is room on that layout to build future industries like a dumping station. It is not a kit, but it is something that Mom and Dad can build with Atlas sectional track. I would encourage the parents to build it so that they too can learn the ins and outs of layout building for when things go wrong. 

 

This layout looks much more realistic for him and with room for growth if needed. Us parents will for sure build with him! Thank you for you input. 

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Posted by MomSonTrains on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 5:06 PM

First, 

jjdamnit
That's a lot of track in a small space- -colloquially known as a "spaghetti bowl."

This is exactly how it feels looking at this kit but we really felt lost in what to go with. Having zero experience and then creating our own layout as well, we are a little scared haha. Thank you for all of you listed points. 

For the build of the structure; We had planned to use plywood covered with a grass mat. The structure will be accessible from all sides. We are handy enough that a center circle or drop downs can be cut for easier access and expansions later. The room space that we have to work with is 10 x 12 feet. So we havent really worried about sizing. We will add corner feet and use saw horses to help support the middles area. 

We are also going to use DCC, I should have mentioned that in the original post but I forgot that part. But we are happy to take any specific DCC reccomendations that people may have. We are prepared to spend around $1500 usd for a layout. We want quality, lasting items rather then rush and quantity. 

My son also knows that the build time for this is months. We have planned that the needed items are ordered by the first week in October (because he is antsy to get started) but that the first running train likely wont come until the start of 2023. So we are prepared to work together on the build for awhile before playing all day. 

Electrical matters; this will be something that we have to learn from the start. I have zero experience with this. I am happy to learn all the steps but we also dont want to get in deeper then we can realistically handle. 

I dont have the expectaion that we will have this track forever but we do want the option to expand or atleast reuse some of the pieces in future designs which is why we have stopped looking at all EZ track, quick snap things. Because we could easily spend a heafty amount of money on these and in the long run they wouldnt be able to be apart of a larger expanded track. (At least that is what I have read, again we are new and could be wrong here).

Thank you!

 

 

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 5:52 PM

If you have the whole 10x12 room, I would skip the table-style plan and go straight to the around-the-walls layout. So many times a day I wish I had been able to do that. More realistic/prototypical, easier to reach/see everything. Just my USD$0.02.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 6:01 PM

MomSonTrains

For the build of the structure; We had planned to use plywood covered with a grass mat. The structure will be accessible from all sides. We are handy enough that a center circle or drop downs can be cut for easier access and expansions later. The room space that we have to work with is 10 x 12 feet. So we havent really worried about sizing. We will add corner feet and use saw horses to help support the middles area. 

Instead of grass mat, consider Woodland Scenics Ground cover. You can spread Elmer's Glue with your finger and then sprinkle ground cover on top of the glue. The ground cover comes in various shades of green and other colors as well. To make the ground cover more permanent, mix water with Elmer's glue and cover the ground cover with the mix. Let it dry overnight and it will stay put and look great.

To make a sturdy 5'x9' table, use 1/2 inch plywood on a 2x4 frame with two 2x4s supports toward the middle of the table. Use 2x4s for legs with corner braces. Here is an example.

MomSonTrains

My son also knows that the build time for this is months. We have planned that the needed items are ordered by the first week in October (because he is antsy to get started) but that the first running train likely wont come until the start of 2023. So we are prepared to work together on the build for awhile before playing all day. 

Nah, don't wait until New Year's Day to run trains. Build the table this weekend. Start laying enough track to are least run trains in a circle. The rest can be built while trains are running. Deadline to run trains: Halloween.

MomSonTrains

Electrical matters; this will be something that we have to learn from the start. I have zero experience with this. I am happy to learn all the steps but we also dont want to get in deeper then we can realistically handle. 

You wll get all of the help that you need right here on this forum.

One last thing. With a 5 x 9 layout, you only have to reach in 30 inches from each side. Try not to use duckunders, lift outs or hinged entries to the center of the layout. They are a pain.

As for track, if you get Atlas Sectional track, it will be easy to put down on the plywood. Get what is known as a "pin vise" with some drill bits and some Atlas Track Nails. Drill pilot holes with the pin vice almost as deep as the nail is long and then tap the nail down to secure the track firmly onto the plywood. 

Rich

 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 7:00 PM

Hello All,

richhotrain
That layout was built by a sadist.

I concur!

Your comment made me laugh so hard- -"She Who Must Be Obeyed"- -had to read the entire thread!!!

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 7:33 PM

Hello All,

MomSonTrains
My son also knows that the build time for this is months

Mabey not...

When I got back into this great hobby I went to a local train show and bought what my budget allowed- -$50.00- -in 2014.

That got me a used promotional set from NAPPA auto parts, with a Direct Current (DC) dual output Power Pack (Cab) and the Tyco Crane set and track- -with two turnouts!

I set that up on a piece of plywood that slid under the bed in the computer/railroad/spare bedroom.

Noting much than a 4'x6' oval with sidings in HO. 

With this new adventure, start small with large expectations!

MomSonTrains
Electrical matters; this will be something that we have to learn from the start. I have zero experience with this. I am happy to learn all the steps but we also dont want to get in deeper then we can realistically handle.

There have been lines of text dedicated to electronics.

Many contributors have a vast and expansive knowledge of this mysterious force- -electricity.

For model railroading I suggest the following books to add to your railroad-based library:

The Atlas book is a great primer on how model pikes (layouts) operate.

The Digitrax book explains and explores the advantages, installation, implementation, and application of Digital Comand Control (DCC).

Despite being published in 1999, the "back-bone" (digital frame) has been standardized by the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) standards and recommended practices.

The NMRA is also a great resource for beginners.

Keep the questions coming.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, September 30, 2022 4:34 PM

Hello All,

MomSonTrains
For the build of the structure; We had planned to use plywood covered with a grass mat... We will add corner feet and use saw horses to help support the middles area.

While this might seem to be the easiest solution for bench work; the structure that supports the pike (layout), I see many pitfalls, especially if you plan on using remotely triggered turnouts (switches) from a central control panel.

MomSonTrains
He really want(s) the fun of building and then running several trains, all day.

If this is the goal- -reliable track work is paramount.

Wiring a pike for reliability- -whether running DC or DCC- -is not as simple as connecting two (2) wires from a power source to a single track connection (terminal).

Modern track- -with Nickle-Silver rails- -is a better conductor of electrons than its predecessors.

Yet, it is far from ideal for transmitting a DCC signal, especially through sectional track with its myriad of metal rail joiners. (The plastic rail joiners are used to isolate and insulate separate DC or DCC power districts.)

The most recommended way to reliably power the rails of a DCC pike is referred to as a "Power Bus."

Simply put...

A "Power Bus" is a set of wires from the power and signal station (command station/booster) that run roughly parallel under the track and often through the bench work.

Copper wire is a much more reliable transmission of the power/signal than the track alone.

Bus wires are a larger gauge (size) than the wires from the bus to the track.

These wires from the bus to the track are referred to as "track feeders."

Track feeders are ideally located every other track section. This is an advantage of using 3-foot sections of flex track, as track feeders are only needed for every 6-feet of track.

For optimum reliability, the metal rail joiners should be soldered at every connection, for both sectional and flex track.

The track feeders are in turn soldered to the field side (outside) of the rails at given intervals.

Another caveat of adhering the track directly to the grass matting, without a roadbed, is the fibers from the matting can get stuck in the wheels of the locomotives.

The wheels are an integral part of the power transmission from the rails to the motor(s).

Even a small amount of fibers can disrupt this electrical path and lead to erratic and unreliable operation. 

Fibers like hair; both animal or human, or synthetic; matting, and some scenic materials, can cause this phenomenon.

As has been suggested,

richhotrain
Instead of grass mat, consider Woodland Scenics Ground cover. You can spread Elmer's Glue with your finger and then sprinkle ground cover on top of the glue.

Some modelers simply paint the entire sub-roadbed; plywood, foam, or Homasote®- -more on that later- -a neutral color. Then add splashes of color to replicate terra firma.

Using a sub-roadbed between the plywood and the track- -with or without a roadbed, is a common practice.

The most commonly used materials for sub-roadbeds are sheets of insulating foam; used in the construction industry to insulate basements or Homasote®.

Homasote® is a compressed paper product produced in sheets of various thicknesses.

A drawback of this material is it is extremely porous and requires sealing on both sides. In areas of high humidity, without temperature/humidity controlled environments, this material will swell and contract reeking havoc on trackage.

Insulating foam; referred to in the building trades as "Pink" or "Blue" foam, is not as susceptible to temperature/humidity changes.

The biggest drawback is it is less dense and requires a different method of adhering track/roadbed. Track nails don't "bite" into this as well as Homasote®.

With solid bench work, a myriad of track plans can be built on the same structure.

Overlooking this crucial aspect of building a pike- -and personally having to rebuild the foundation for better operational reliability- -is well worth the patience, education, time, and effort.

Please understand, I'm not trying to dismiss your short-term plans, but for long-term reliability, this is the time to invest in best practices, rather than- -as many on these forums have discovered- -myself included- -having to re-build rather than building it right the first time. 

Keep the questions coming, and...

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by DonRicardo on Friday, September 30, 2022 10:59 PM

Matt is correct in suggesting an around the room layout. It is easy to build using wall mounted uprights and brackets, but reaching distance is the key here, so watch the depth of the shelving.

Another plus is backdrops, harder to do on a table top road, but great against the wall on a shelf pike, not to mention the ability to add storage under the shelving...I buy used bureaus at thrift shops, paint them if needed, add outlets right on the bureaus which does simplify powering the layout.

Use flex track where you can, it eliminates potential electric snags section track can cause.

There is an old saying, the KISS method...Keep It Simple, Stupid! This is excellent advice for a novice. Start out simple and become more complex as you learn. Nothing wrong with an oval that has a few passing sidings at first with add on potential.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Sunday, October 2, 2022 12:47 PM

Hello All,

Here are a few previous threads that might help you in your decision-making...

pros and cons of not using trackbed?

Laying track: Glue, nails, or both??

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by NVSRR on Monday, October 3, 2022 8:44 AM

Nobody said anything about the one thing being missed.    The locomotives.     the son saw dcc in action at the club which means he saw multiples and such.  That requires dcc equipped engines As well.  The son might be thinking far larger than that  track pack can support.   So he might be disappointed from day one.    The one "richhotrains" posted  is much more of a realistic siz for him.     back to locos.     The dcc equipped ones are far more expensive than dc.     Dc can not run on dcc.   So an inexpensive one he wants might not be doable if it is a dcc layout.     And the differences between dc only, dcc ready, dcc equipped and sound equipped besides price.  

most of us have built our fleet over time and some by converting dc to dcc.    Not sure he is really ready to do that convertoin     What locos he has now has to be considered.  If they all are dc only, they would have to be converted to dcc to run on a dcc layout.   Not as simple as just changing the controller.    An important factor you don't want to over look.

 

shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, October 3, 2022 12:53 PM

Hello All,

NVSRR
Nobody said anything about the one thing being missed. The locomotives.

Good point!

They are aware that DC and DCC are not interchangeable.

MomSonTrains
We are commited (SIC) to using DCC. As that is what our local train club uses and my kid has watched "in action" the most. I forgot to mention that part! Thank you for bringing this point up though. Because it got me realizing that purchasing a kit that comes with DC items isn(')t a good idea. We are off to our local train store to help us figure more out. (Underlined for emphasis)

I don't know what LHS they are consulting, but hopefully locomotive(s) will come up in their discussions.

MomSonTrains
We purchased a click together Walthers set a few months back and he quickly outgrew the basic oval and wants way more in a track then those can offer.

It sounds like they quickly realized the limitations of a DC pike and rather than expanding the DC system are switching to DCC sooner than later.

Without knowing, I presume they haven't invested in too many DC locomotives given the small oval described.

Thanks for the great input!

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 11:14 AM

The more I consider the original question, and the surrounding givens/druthers, the more I am convinced that the Atlas layouts and the track packages are far from the best answer.

Son was fascinated by long trains, big power, and display running he saw at a local club.  A Walters trainset was quickly outgrown (I'm thinking boring is what was meant by outgrown).  An obvious question - unanswerable at this point - is:  will display running be enough to satisfy even on a more complex layout?  Will son prefer building, switching, dispatching to display running? 

If display running is indeed the preference, what size locomotive and cars - because minimum radius depends on that. Almost all Atlas plans feature 18" minimum radius (a few have 22" radius on the main), which is unacceptable for reliable display running of large 6 axle diesels or steam, full length passenger cars, and long modern freight cars.

I really like Lance Mindheim's starter shelf layouts (https://lancemindheim.com/2012/09/a-one-turnout-layout/ and https://lancemindheim.com/2012/12/no-skills-no-problem/) as the best way to get started in the hobby.  But they will not satisfy for display running.  If a more complex start is needed to have a continuous run for modern equipment, I suggest the Heart of Georgia (https://hogrr.blogspot.com/).  I think the Heart of Georgia would be much more satisfying and keep somebody in the hobby a lot longer than any Atlas plan.  I say that as a 4x8 and 4x6 layout fan - but I understand the limitations of that format.

Fred W

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Posted by Colorado Ray on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 4:19 PM

richhotrain

That layout was built by a sadist. Way too much track and way too complex for an 11-year old to operate.

Several years back, a 5x9 track plan was posted to this forum, as shown below. It has a turntable and a small classification yard. There is room on that layout to build future industries like a dumping station. It is not a kit, but it is something that Mom and Dad can build with Atlas sectional track. I would encourage the parents to build it so that they too can learn the ins and outs of layout building for when things go wrong. 

Just a suggestion.

Rich

 

 

Plus 1 for Rich's proposed track plan.  I'm, concerned that many of the other responses with suggestions for around the wall and switching layouts miss the point that this is a starter layout for a pre-teen.  We don't want to discourage or scare away the Mom.

5' x 9' is the standard size for a regulation ping pong table.  I'd suggest that the family buy a ping-pong table sans net and develop something along the lines of Rich's plan.  It's got the turntable, enough industries and a small yard, plus display running. 

Put 1" foam on the table to allow for the turntable pit and you wouldn't need to harm the original table.  Worst case is that the young man loses interest in trains, and you'll still have a ping pong table.

 

Ray

 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 6:12 PM

Atlas sells track.  All there plans are too turnout heavy.  I vote for any of the simpler plans recommended.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by DonRicardo on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 5:05 PM

I built this layout in n-scale many years ago. In n scale it called for 36"x72". That was too compressed for my personal taste so I built it 48"x96", and simplfied it, eliminating several switches and moving passing sidings around, eliminating some of the dead end spurs. It was basically a passenger oriented layout, with some freight. There were 7 passenger cars with five running and two on storage tracks, which were switched out.

!

There were 12 freight cars with 5 on storage tracks for switching out. It was a simpler layout, but one advantage to looking at layout plans is your ability to change them from the original...simpler is better and less complicated, especially for a young newbie!

I ran two GP40s, an Alco RS3 and a GE 236, using DCC. Engine house, repair shop added, as well as a passenger terminal, and small town. The main freight was milk, obstensibly heading to NYC.

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, October 10, 2022 7:09 AM

Looks like we lost Mom. Sad

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by snjroy on Monday, October 10, 2022 10:45 AM

Hi there,

I admire your efforts to help your son have fun with trains. But model trains is not just about running trains, it's about building things and developings skills and creativity.  If my sons would have been interested in trains (they were not!), I would have done like Rich says: build them a 4X8 table, and buy them an oval of track, two or three switches, and a few extra pieces of track. Let the kid take care of the rest, with a little help from Mom or Dad. Starting with a train set is a good idea, but probably a moot point from what I understand. 

Simon

 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, October 10, 2022 1:46 PM

Hello All,

Colorado Ray
Put 1" foam on the table to allow for the turntable pit and you wouldn't need to harm the original table. Worst case is that the young man loses interest in trains, and you'll still have a ping pong table.(Underlined for emphasis.)

What about the track feeder wires?

I can see attaching the bus wires to the underside of the ping-pong table without harming the playing surface.

Running the bus wires sandwiched between the table and the foam is not a good solution.

Without drilling through the table for the feeders another option would be to run the bus wires on top of the foam.

Or--as I did- -use 1/2-inch Split Poly Loom; found at auto parts stores for wiring harnesses, and carve out channels to run the bus wires through.

This way you can scenic over the bus wires and not permanently bury them.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 3:38 PM

Hello All,

richhotrain
Looks like we lost Mom.

Hard to tell...

Her first post was when her son was 10-years old...

Where should my kid (and investment) go from here?

He's now 11-years old.

She might return when he's 12-years old.

Or...

He's completely lost interest- -for now.

She puts the current equipment in storage.

He regains interest in later years.

This equipment becomes his starter set and reignites his passion for a future pike.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by IC_Tom on Friday, October 21, 2022 9:20 AM

I agree that Rich's plan is probably best to start, assuming you want turntable, yard, etc.

I'm not surprised that "Mom" gave up. Wink

What this thread reveals is something that is missing in the hobby.  I just got back into the hobby a couple of years ago and have spent all that time studying DCC and trying to come up with a track plan (along with purchasing a lot of DCC locos in the meantime).

The problem is that Atlas, their track, and their layout books are all woefully out of date for DCC and modern track plans.  I built the Apex and Hypotenuse back in the 70's.  While Atlas's products and track plans also encouraged their switch systems (electric, not turnouts), it was fairly easy to convert to a classic toggle-switch block control and push-button turnouts.  Mounted on a track plan schematic, it makes the control panel much more intuitive than Atlas's examples.

When I got back into the hobby, I knew enough to know that I wanted to pursue DCC.  However, as soon as I found out about multi-level track plans, I was hooked.  The problem is that there is absolutely nothing that compares to the scale and coverage of Atlas track plans that are really optimized for DCC and multi-level layouts.  Benchwork, track-laying, electrical design, and track design - all of these are rolled up into any of several Atlas track plan books that are available nowhere for DCC.  Yeah, you can "convert" any Atlas track plan to DCC, but is it even remotely optimized for DCC running and hand-held throttles?  NO.

That's a problem.  Someone needs to redo the entire Atlas line of layout books and references.  Kalmbach used to have pretty good very early track plan and guide books - the kind written by Lynn Westcott, but those are woefully inadequate for DCC, too.

Kato comes close with their products, but their track plans in HO are very small and very limited.  They also don't offer full reference books.

The rest of us are left with "Mom's" conundrum or a heck of a lot of work to try and catch up (what I've been going on 3 years, now).

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Saturday, October 22, 2022 4:52 PM

richhotrain
That layout was built by a sadist. Way too much track and way too complex for an 11-year old to operate.

Lol, completely agree.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/196857529@N03/

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