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Need track plan help in N scale please

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  • Member since
    November 2012
  • From: Kokomo, Indiana
  • 1,384 posts
Need track plan help in N scale please
Posted by emdmike on Saturday, May 1, 2021 9:05 PM

Track planning is one area I total stink at and what free track planning software out there just confuses my autistic mind to the point of a meltdown(not a good thing).  I am using Kato Unitrak only, analog control.  I run nothing but passenger trains.  My layout is 4x8 but narrowed in the middle to 31" deep to allow access to wall shelves that hold my G scale equipment.  The outer "bulges at each end will handle the starter set curves with one of the slightly over 4" straights. I would love to use the double track stuff that Kato offers but I have not looked to see if they have a tight enough radius in it.  I thought about doing a shelf extension over my work bench, maybe 3 to 4 tracks wide with platforms and buidings above to simulate a view into an underground station like in Chicago where I can back in my consists into blocked sidings.   That is my wish list to start out the layout.  The scenery on the main layout can be generic area west of Chicago that both the UP and CB&Q/BN/BNSF/Metra(racetrack) mainlines traverse.  Not looking to simulate any specific area, my skills are not that good.  Just have my underground feel station to look into, then my sort of folded dog bone double track loop to watch them run.   Thanks for any help.   Mike the Aspie 

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,597 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, May 2, 2021 10:06 AM

Paper is still cheap. Curves can be drawn using a set of geometry compasses. Or you could buy one of those plastic curve templates but those are harder to use. 

Get some 1/4" graph paper. 4'x8' will fit on 8.5" x11" graph paper easily at two squares to the scale foot (1/2" : 1'). Use the crossing points of the squares to pin the compasses and draw your radius. I mark the radius centres with pencil marking the cross selected.

Inner and outer tracks are easy to draw using the same pivot points. Using two squares to the foot gives you 3" for one half a square. In N scale I think your double track centres will be on less than 1.5" centres. 

Draw in all your curves before you try to connect with tangent tracks. Move the centres of your radius of each curve around until the arcs can be connected either with straights or in your case reverse curves required by your indented shape.

Armstrong describes this track planning method in his book Track Planning for Realistic Operation chapter 9. I know very little about prototype operations but Armstrong's book is just as useful for simply planning a layout that works, regardless of your interest in running a "real" model railroad. I highly recommend you get yourself a copy and read the parts that are of interest to planning and constructing. You don't need to read the whole book. Heck, I find the drawings and tables of measurements are enough for most purposes.  

I too have difficulty translating drawings to actual spaces and vice versa but I persevere with paper because it is so much faster, easier to try out all the  alternatives and far cheaper than planning as you build.

Plan on paper. Adjust as necessary when you build. Works for me. 

N scale in 4'x8' gives you lots of scope. If you have the room Armstrong shows you how to cut and re-assemble a 4x8 sheet of plywood into a 4x10 boat shape getting you extra room at each end for your return curves. Page 87. It's so simple but seems magical. Basically, you cut the sheet and reassemble it avoiding those four wasted corners. When you cut out the indent(s) you need consider tacking those waste pieces onto strategic locations to get you more room for curves. 

Alyth Yard


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