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Estimating the layout space you truly need, rather than want?

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Estimating the layout space you truly need, rather than want?
Posted by Engi1487 on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 10:19 PM

In the hobby of model railroading ones spare living space determines what size of layout that they can design, work with and build. However even those with large enough spaces, dont have to design large layouts as they can be hard to maintain with so much space and track to paintain that comes with a larger layout.

However how could one, estimate or plan a layout that fits their needs, as well as what space they would need and could work with, even if they dont have the space they truly want to accomplish it, or are just not sure?

For example, my space avaible is 14' x 17' but there is a starwell and door next to it, and a wall that needs to be taken out. It will be renoed in the future so making a layout isnt the top priotiy.

 My goal in the long run is to have a layout with radious curves around 40' and 42' curves as I really like the realistic look trains have on realistic curves, with their front couplers being perfectly center on the track, rather they swaying outward and long freight curves that dont look like they are swaying over the track sides or extending outwards too much. 

 I understand that this might be a difficult approch to estimating what space you truly need rather then want, as your livng space determines that, and when house searching for a sutable spare space that can be difficult as well, as for ever model railroader spare space is a highight.

 

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Posted by Outsailing86 on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 11:17 PM

For this, I would say the John Armstrong Sketching with Squares is what you are looking for. 

14*12=168"

for the two quarter circles, subtract 2*42" = 84" curve

168"-84"=84" 

84"-(2*6") = 72" (6" edge of layout to curve) 

so you would have 72" (6') of tangent between curves in your around the walls layout

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 11:31 PM

Size means nothing.

I have had five layouts in two scales. I did not enjoy largest one the most or the smallest the least.

-Kevin

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Posted by angelob6660 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 9:46 AM

I wanted to run prototypical Amtrak Superliner trains. They said 15" was fine in N Scale. I bought a circle of track and realize they were wrong, you still had overhang. By reading more it states that I would need like 22-24" or more radius curve and bigger turnouts for the passenger diagrams.

I have the space or desire to expand the curve radius pass 18". 15" will do fine with Superliners, Auto Racks, and 89' flatcars. 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 10:38 AM

Wait.   you say with 15" Superliners were wrong on those curves.   Yet later you say - 15" will do fine with Superliners, Auto Racks, and 89' flatcars. ?

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 11:12 AM

angelob6660
I wanted to run prototypical Amtrak Superliner trains. They said 15" was fine in N Scale. I bought a circle of track and realize they were wrong, you still had overhang. By reading more it states that I would need like 22-24" or more radius curve and bigger turnouts for the passenger diagrams.

My dream house N scale layout had 30" minimum radius and one 180 degree turn was 72" radius.

My next HO layout will have much tighter curves than this! Space available rules the curves.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by angelob6660 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:15 PM

riogrande5761

Wait.   you say with 15" Superliners were wrong on those curves.   Yet later you say - 15" will do fine with Superliners, Auto Racks, and 89' flatcars. ?

 
It's the matter of overhang. In the beginning of railroad planning I wanted no overhang. The main reason was passenger operations.
 
So as time went by I realized/ noticed I don't really need broader curves passed the 17" radius. As long as I don't need to expand the couplers on the locomotive to the freight cars I'll be fine. 
 
Second somehow I don't noticed the overhang on 89' flatcars with trailers and I do notice it on auto racks. Not as much on Superliners.

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Posted by angelob6660 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:24 PM

SeeYou190

 

 
angelob6660
I wanted to run prototypical Amtrak Superliner trains. They said 15" was fine in N Scale. I bought a circle of track and realize they were wrong, you still had overhang. By reading more it states that I would need like 22-24" or more radius curve and bigger turnouts for the passenger diagrams.

 

My dream house N scale layout had 30" minimum radius and one 180 degree turn was 72" radius.

My next HO layout will have much tighter curves than this! Space available rules the curves.

-Kevin

 
That dream layout never did happen or did it? I can't really remember. Those would be impressive. Your train room would be like 20x 30 some feet.

Modeling the G.N.O. Railway, The Diamond Route.

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Posted by jmbraddock on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:30 PM

Another consideration in how much space you need, and it is often overlooked until too late, is how much space can you maintain?

Do you have the stamina, will power, time and finances to build the layout you want, regardless of the size of the space available.

How often do we hear of layouts that never got finished because it turned out to be more than the owner could handle?

 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:37 PM

I started out with about 1200 square feet, but other family considerations quickly whittled that down to about 560sq. ft., in an unusually shaped room with 10 corners...

My original track plan, simply a sketch, was tossed and I moved the already started benchwork into the new room.
I continued building benchwork and open grid tabletops until it circled the room, then cut 2 or 3 sheets of 3/4" plywood into arcs of varying radii, from 30" up to 48".
Next, I joined those pieces together, and chose the largest arcs that would fit into each corner, leaving room for scenery and unknown structures, where possible.

After that, all that was left to do was simply connect the curves with straight-ish track. 
In my opinion, the layout is much better and more interesting than the one sketched out for the entire basement.

Wayne

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 2:23 PM

angelob6660
  It's the matter of overhang. In the beginning of railroad planning I wanted no overhang. The main reason was passenger operations.   So as time went by I realized/ noticed I don't really need broader curves passed the 17" radius. As long as I don't need to expand the couplers on the locomotive to the freight cars I'll be fine.    Second somehow I don't noticed the overhang on 89' flatcars with trailers and I do notice it on auto racks. Not as much on Superliners.

I was curious because I will have enough Kato models to build a prototypical Amtrak California Zephyr in N scale: 2 F40PH's, 2 baggage cars, 1 ex-El Capitan transition coach and 11 Superliner cars.

 

jmbraddock

Another consideration in how much space you need, and it is often overlooked until too late, is how much space can you maintain?

Do you have the stamina, will power, time and finances to build the layout you want, regardless of the size of the space available.

How often do we hear of layouts that never got finished because it turned out to be more than the owner could handle? 

Or enough time.  I keep hitting the wall trying to build my 15x33 HO layout because my wife always has a long list of house projects whicn never ends.  I've gotten about 8 or 9 months of some partial weekends out of the past 18 months.

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Posted by Onewolf on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 2:55 PM

Engi1487


 I understand that this might be a difficult approch to estimating what space you truly need rather then want, as your livng space determines that, and when house searching for a sutable spare space that can be difficult as well, as for ever model railroader spare space is a highight.

 

That's why God invented unfinished basements.  Stick out tongue

 

In model train layout design there is only "want". There is no "need". I think I heard Yoda say that.

 

If you want 40+" radius curves and a long mainline run, then you are going to WANT a large space.  My current layout (being disassembled as we speak) is in a 28x32 ft space but I had to go to 3 levels to get the broad curves (40"+) and long mainline run (500+ ft) that I WANTED.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

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Posted by snjroy on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 3:11 PM

First question: Are you planning in staying in that location in the long term? Building something to fill that space would take years for a typical model railroader. If not, consider a smalling portable layout.

Assuming you are staying there for a long time, I would approach it incrementaly, like Wayne suggests, but perhaps starting with a small dog bone shape, with a plan to expand. DO the large plan to see how it can be expanded, but consider building the dog bone first to get you going. The dog bone does not need to stay in its integrity in the final plan - part of it can be dismantled at some point in the expansion. Planning is the secret and the loop will keep you motivated. I for one needed to see trains running fairly quickly as fixing old locos is my favorite part of the hobby.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth.

Simon

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 4:26 PM

Smon' suggestions should be listened to.

I was building a large layout.  A few times along the way, I paused briefly to look at how much I'd done and how long it took.  I found that long-term I spent about a month to do one square foot of layout.  That's everything, from benchwork to buildings, building kits, laying track, wiring, the whole kit and kaboodle.  Time was everything, too, grocery shopping, raising a daughter, going to work, skiing, bicycling and all.

This, for me, was more of a retrospective analysis, because I thought I'd have my first 5x12 foot layout section pretty complete and presentable in 7 or 8 months, when in reality it took 5 years.

Other than having to sell the house and move away, this kind of worked fine for me.  I never got to the point of being tired of the layout or the hobby.  I always had more to do.

But, carefully consider how much time you will have to spend, and how much you want to spend on layout building.  I built my layout in sections which I pretty much finished before starting another section.  Each section carried with it a satisfaction of completion.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 8:57 PM

Regardless of how much space and money you think you have to dedicate to your railroad I suggest you start small and start with an operable subsection of whatever dream layout you think you can build. 

Nothing is as discouraging as working away and ending up with nothing that can run a train until it's all finished. 

Building a model railroad is a LOT of work. Far more work than it seems it should be.

Building a model railroad is also much harder than it seems it should be. 

Building a good model railroad is a lot more expensive than it seems it should be.

Start with big ambition but modest plans is my advice. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by mobilman44 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 5:11 AM

What layout builder never wanted more space?  I'm not saying that no one is happy with what space they have.  I am saying that each of us - secretly or not - has imagined what they would do with more room.

Who hasn't lusted for a long staging area, or turntable facilities, or that long main, or an "off the main" logging or mining sub, etc., etc.?

 

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 6:52 AM

Onewolf
hat's why God invented unfinished basements.

Thank God I don't live in California anymore, as much as I miss it.

In model train layout design there is only "want". There is no "need". I think I heard Yoda say that. 

 

So true!  I used to work for a government agency and one of the government employee's had this tag in every email sent:

"There is no try, only do!" - Yoda  Big Smile

If you want 40+" radius curves and a long mainline run, then you are going to WANT a large space.  My current layout (being disassembled as we speak) is in a 28x32 ft space but I had to go to 3 levels to get the broad curves (40"+) and long mainline run (500+ ft) that I WANTED.

I wanted 40+" curves too, but in the high cost of living area the best my wife could find me was the basment which we finished ourselves in the photo's above - an odd shaped space about 15x33 (excluding the far room by the walk-up doors).  But I also wanted a "decent" mainline run so I had to settle for 32" minimum curves, although they only come down to 32" in 2 spots and a bit larger elsewhere, mostly in the 34 to 46 inch radius range.

This is mostly a single level but a large staging yard under the main yard and a branch-line below the mainline (partial 2-deck?).  I wanted to keep it "managable" due to my lack of hobby time as the house is a fixerupper and my wife has ongoing plans.

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, May 6, 2021 7:17 AM

Talk can walk but you walked that talk.  Impressive!  That looks great Rio.  You should be proud of your achievements thus farYes

 

 

 

TF

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, May 6, 2021 7:19 AM

Great stuff everyone!  Starting small is the right way to go and then building up.  I did that on my 1st layout and the 2nd one is much easier to handle.  There's no way I could avoid feeling intimidated with the size of the 2nd had I not followed this approach.

Building the layout to accoodate your needs is paramount.  The time, money, energy spent on it is worth the joy of seeing young kids marvel at the work.  Seeing another's jaw drop when you show them your work makes the effort worthwhile.  

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, May 6, 2021 7:33 AM

Estimating the layout space you truly need, rather than want?

That's the title to this thread, but I don't know what it means.

Estimate the layout space you truly need? My basement measures 60' x 34'. That's what I need.

A 100' x 100' outbuilding. That's what I want.

A model railroader is incapable of estimating the layout space that he truly needs. How would you calculate that?

A large layout? Be careful what you wish for. I started out in 2004 with a 4'x 8' layout - - a simple oval. I needed more. So, it quickly became a 12' x 8' layout with two pop up holes in the middle. I needed more.

Fast forward to today. My space is 42' x 25'. It has taken me 3 years to demolish the old and build the new. It is too big. I cannot manage it. I have way more locomotives and rolling stock than I can operate as a lone wolf. I am constantly selling off like new equipment because I cannot use it. 

I find myself currently planning my next layout which will be a downsized 24' x 12'. There will be few turnouts and lots of hidden staging. The 130' turntable and 9-stall roundhouse will be eliminated. The 10-track downtown passenger station will be a thing of the past. No freight yards or coach yards. Gone will be the engine servicing facility. No spurs, no sidings.

My objective will be to sit on a chair, beer in hand, and watch trains run. My current layout is designed for operations, but I lack the desire or motivation to conduct operations.

A large layout? Be careful what you wish for. 

Rich

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, May 6, 2021 8:09 AM

At some point the viewer cannot take in the whole layout nor really experience the movement of one train around the whole layout. Even with a wireless walk around throttle you only experience either the train or part of the layout depending on what you focus on.  

In real life we experience trains in the same two ways. Sadly, where I live,  the experience of riding "with" the train is only available on my local transit LRT (which absurdly I still enjoy riding occasionally, cheapest train ride available ). I can visit the largest train set in my City, a pair of 0-4-0 switchers running an oval hauling very old coaches (but it has a big Wye AND a turntable and roundhouse!!). I can ride on those two trains but I need an entry pass to the whole Heritage Park which is a little pricey  if I just want a train ticket. Mind you the annual "railway days" experience is worth the admission price if you're a railroader. 

Otherwise, prototype trains are experienced as a bystander watching the train movements from a stationary position. I suppose out West here you could become a train chaser viewing a moving train while driving but that gets old pretty quickly. The main highways follow the main railroads pretty closely for obvious reasons. 

You do not actually need a large layout to experience the same things from your model railroad. 10'x20' is more than enough. In N scale about half that will do.

For my money, for the amount of work a well built and well designed layout involves you should aim for the SMALLEST layout that gives you the experience you are looking for. 

For train watching 10x20 is enough.  For operations, viewing train movements as if a trackside or aerial observer then 10'x2' is enough.

Otherwise, you need to go really big if you want to "go on a train ride" through realistically distanced scenery and N scale starts to look very attractive. 

If you want both aspects in one then I say 10'x20' works. We're at 23'x9' now. We have more room but no really good reason to build any bigger. We use DC wired in throttles at the moment so closely viewing the train along the entire run is a challenge even at these modest dimensions. Maybe when we convert to wireless DCC walkaround we may feel differently but somehow I don't think so. It's very easy to run a model train far too fast anyway. Slow train movements are more realistic looking and argue for a smaller layout as a better option.

Besides, the best model railroad is the one that is complete enough to run trains.....

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, May 6, 2021 8:54 AM

Engi1487
 My goal in the long run is to have a layout with radious curves around 40' and 42' curves as I really like the realistic look trains have on realistic curves, with their front couplers being perfectly center on the track, rather they swaying outward and long freight curves that dont look like they are swaying over the track sides or extending outwards too much.

i think the above desire is unrealistic in a 14x17' space

while estimating what you need (or want) may be interesting, i think recognizing what you can do with what you have is essential

i think it will be less frustring to recognize what you can do with the space you have and limit the size of locomotives, passenger cars and trains that fit the space.

Outsailing86
John Armstrong Sketching with Squares is what you are looking for. 

bears repeating

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, May 6, 2021 9:11 AM

richhotrain

Estimating the layout space you truly need, rather than want?

That's the title to this thread, but I don't know what it means.

Yeah, I don't know what it means either.

Having participated in this forum for a while now, and based on what everyone seems to want, the answer is you need more space than you think. A lot more.

Just my opinion, of course.

Robert

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:03 AM

Lastspikemike
For train watching 10x20 is enough.  

Obviously that varies from person to person.  I had built a 10x18' around the walls layout and operatoin wise it wasn't very satisfying such a short run.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4WZYD6uNaI&ab_channel=riogrande5761

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:22 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
The answer is you need more space than you think.

That is very true. I managed to fit in everything that I need for my next layout, but if I had 4 times the space, everything would fit a whole lot better.

riogrande5761
I had built a 10x18' around the walls layout and operatoin wise it wasn't very satisfying such a short run.

Just train watching takes much more space or it will become boring for most people.

The best train watching layout I have seen belonged to a man named Paul in Iona Lakes, Florida. It was 20 by 30, N scale, and only had two visible turnouts. The scenery was stunning. The neighborhood section was amazing.

Paul basically built a series of highly detailed dioramas that his collection of trains ran through.

That worked for him, it would never work for me.

Even in such a large space and N scale he said it got kind of tiresome just watching trains.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by angelob6660 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:30 AM

riogrande5761

 

 
angelob6660
  It's the matter of overhang. In the beginning of railroad planning I wanted no overhang. The main reason was passenger operations.   So as time went by I realized/ noticed I don't really need broader curves passed the 17" radius. As long as I don't need to expand the couplers on the locomotive to the freight cars I'll be fine.    Second somehow I don't noticed the overhang on 89' flatcars with trailers and I do notice it on auto racks. Not as much on Superliners.

 

I was curious because I will have enough Kato models to build a prototypical Amtrak California Zephyr in N scale: 2 F40PH's, 2 baggage cars, 1 ex-El Capitan transition coach and 11 Superliner cars.

San Francisco Zephyr is the correct name for the Amtrak California Zephyr. It was renamed in 1984 after DRG&W give up on passenger service. 

Modeling the G.N.O. Railway, The Diamond Route.

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:39 AM

It could be just me, but I doubt it since I have read so much on this forum from guys who just enjoy running trains. This would seem to be especially true for a lone wolf. I can see where operations might be fun in a club setting or on a home layout with multiple operators.

But, for me, as a lone wolf, I would feel silly conducting "operations", using way bills, train orders, switch lists. That to me is "playing with trains". I surely don't mean that as a criticism of those who do; it just is not for me.

Rich

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:41 AM

richhotrain
But, for me, as a lone wolf, I would feel silly conducting "operations", using way bills, train orders, switch lists. That to me is "playing with trains".

I feel the exact same way.

I have participated in operations on some amazing layout, but at home, all I want to do is run trains and shuffle freight cars around while my music plays.

Someday soon...

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:45 AM

SeeYou190
 
richhotrain
But, for me, as a lone wolf, I would feel silly conducting "operations", using way bills, train orders, switch lists. That to me is "playing with trains". 

I feel the exact same way.

I have participated in operations on some amazing layout, but at home, all I want to do is run trains and shuffle freight cars around while my music plays.

Someday soon...

-Kevin 

YesYesYes

Someday soon?  When does the countdown start, Kevin?

Looking forward to your progress reports.

Rich

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:51 AM

SeeYou190
ROBERT PETRICK
The answer is you need more space than you think.

That is very true. I managed to fit in everything that I need for my next layout, but if I had 4 times the space, everything would fit a whole lot better.

Yeah. I'm just saying that for the vast majority of people the 'space' is fixed, and it requires a hard look at the reality of the situation. Then adjust the 'wants' to fit.

It would be nice to have a gymnasium or airplane hangar out back. But that might require a crew of ten to build and maintain the thing, and an AmEx Black with no upper limit . . .

It all boils down to . . . go with what you got.

Robert

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