Sputtering start to a new layout

Stephane Savard May 24, 2018

  1. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    Lesson learned.. plan the track, then build the benchwork!

    I'm well past correcting that particular mistake, so here I am trying to forge onward... only I seem to be a bit lost at the moment.

    It started innocently enough. Back in the last week of February, a gift of a little n-scale train set. I knew next to nothing of trains, but I enjoy reading. I started with google and soon went through some books from the local library and even bought one, Track Planning for Realistic Operations. Now I have two locomotives and two additional Unitrack variation sets to play with. I'm really enjoying learning about railways and such!

    I have a decent area in the basement I can build in, and so I downloaded XTrackCad and simply started playing around with the software. I had an idea of how to fill the space and a rough idea of what I wanted, but doing any heavy lifting will be impossible starting early June extending to the rest of summer - and so I dove right into building my first benchwork. The design seemed like a really nifty idea at the time!

    IMG_20180523_203547445.jpg

    The table is basically two 'three by six' foot rectangles joined together at 45 degrees, and that's where the problems started. Playing with Unitrack in the XTrkCad software, I have a difficult time getting sidings to go around curves and fitting everything I'd like into this area (getting an idea from my head into rigid sectional track is a challenge).

    This is what I have so far....

    layout.png

    In this design, I've extended the table another six inches deep, something I am currently in the process of doing to the real table downstairs. This is reserved for a hidden staging area, i.e. the rest of the rail network, somewhere beyond the confines of my table. Since a good part of the table is not against the wall, I just plan to landscape mountains/hills over this area, leaving it open out back and accessible.

    I know I want some kind of yard, which I've modeled here, and I do want continuous running as well as operations. I'm not trying to recreate any real location, but in a vague way, I have two CN locomotives, so this is a CN railroad, in Canada, and slanted towards some kind of mining layout.

    But now I'm stuck. I have a rough oval, a yard, and the hidden staging. I even extended my yard lead into a reversing track. But where do I go from here? How do I fit some industries in here? How do I fit some grades (I can't seem to find the place for even a mild grade)!

    Am I on the right track or have I painted myself into a wall?
     
    txronharris likes this.
  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    4,543
    1,747
    73
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    58,122
    3,173
    599
    I have some troubles with a stub ended yard. Being able to run through or switch from either end is more desired.
     
  4. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    When reading up on the 10 commandments of yard design, I did come across this... Just Say NO To The Timesaver -- And Here's Why, rather scared me away from any timesaver puzzles on my layout!

    I went through many iterations for a yard, almost always in the location I currently have it drawn. However I never did manage to find a way to fit any run-through tracks of usable length before hitting the 45 degree bend in the table and still being able to fit a curve on the right side of the table. Though maybe I'm trying to make the yard too large?

    By the way, in my searching for unitrack geometry, I came across two websites that I found very useful. Both are Japanese, but Google Translate appears to do a semi-passable job of making it almost understandable.

    First is the Japan Kato site itself: http://www.katomodels.com/unitrackplan/. They all seem to feature passenger stations and stub-end yards. However, browsing through for ideas of how to connect something to something else can be useful.

    Second link is http://jw-cad.fukurail.gozaru.jp/pattern/KATO_index.html. It shows in great detail several ways of changing track spacing (33/66/49.5mm), especially helpful when working with Kato #6 Turnouts.
     
  5. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Supporter

    483
    422
    15
    Looks like the open area at the left of your drawing might be a good place to put a mine. Maybe you could turn the spur at top center into a mining branch running upgrade and crossing over the reversing track at center. Just my 2 cents worth.
     
  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    2,895
    3,702
    61
    I've unfortunately never had enough space to create a run-through yard, so make do with a stub-end yard with an escape track and a reverse loop. With this, the one yard serves as a terminal on both ends of the railroad.

    If you are somehow able to extend the length of the siding below your yard tracks, you'd have a spot to work longer freight trains.

    You are aware that you have a reverse loop in your design in the center of the layout? Every train leaving or working the yard will be upon it.
     
  7. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    474
    334
    9
    I am looking at your layout drawing so far and it seems pretty good. If you are keeping that yard, you will need a yard lead, unless you are using the reversing loop/yard approach track as a lead as well. You also want your yard to be equivalent to your industries. Right now you have one siding, but with the intention of adding more, you should be fine. Right now, I am seeing a loop with two nodes. One has the yard in the middle and the other is open right now. I would recommend one large industry instead of smaller ones smashed in the corners of the layout. Judging by how your train room is set up, the left half is a little bit more open to viewing. It might be cool to put a few centerpiece buildings there, like your mining idea or an oil refinery.
     
  8. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Supporter

    483
    422
    15
    That would lend itself well to an out-and-back operating style.
     
  9. Kitbash

    Kitbash TrainBoard Supporter

    1,415
    321
    32
    You'll get a bazillion opinions. Your track plan is clean and offers quite a bit of opportunity for some good scenery, etc., plus running of trains. The bottom line is what do you want to do w/ the layout? Or, is there a prototype you like. If so, look at some of their real track plans/industries and you may be able to replicate a "snippet" of something.

    My personal preference is a mix of running long trains and switching. But what matters is how do you want to run (or operate) your trains? I can envision both some gorgeous scenery OR some more industries on your layout. Your track plan is good. "Tweak" it to do what you want from your time spent running it.

    You've made a great start!
     
    ppuinn and MP333 like this.
  10. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    1,976
    70
    29
    Hi. There are many things that could improve your schematic. But It's more important right now to ask if you are aware that a track reverse loop causes a polarity conflict. In your case it's the switch points (the moving rails) at exactly the 6' vertical line in the graph, and will require one of several ways to handle this or locos will short out the layout when they hit it. Far as track scheme, unless you consider the leads to staging an imaginary interchange, you need a track which represents a connection from your RR to a neighboring RR. I Personally think it should be a visible scene, and not in staging because an interchange is a great place to see lots of daily activity at, more so than a yard..In fact, an empty yard means the RR is doing a lot of business, whereas a full yard depicts inactivity if full all the time. IE.Don't make the mistake of thinking stuffing your yard with all your cars that will fit is a rational idea. if it were me, I'd remove at least 3 yard tracks and employ those switches (turnouts) to create a few more industry spurs elsewhere and add more businesses to serve; a coal mine over here, a coal dealer over there; a lumber yard over there, a meat packer there..and have a few cars in the yard awaiting assignments..Finally, search "facing point" and "trailing point" spurs (too complicated to go into here). Apologies if you already know about all this. M
     
  11. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    Thank you everyone for the great suggestions and critiques! It's exactly what I needed, options! It's having me thinking in different lines of thought, and a lot more about the layout and where I want to go with this.

    First, about that reversing track. Yes, I did plan it actually and will operate it with one of those special auto-reversing gadgets (AR-1, PSX-AR? I'll figure it out when the time comes). But in fact, I may be missing a second reverse loop. Something I read in the track planning book, that it's best to plan for two reversing loops instead of the one, else the only way to reverse a second time would be to backup through the one loop.

    The way I had envisioned it is that yes, the trains would come out the imagery RR hidden to the top and run to the arrival/departure track for the yard (which I thought would be that one and only siding as of now). A switcher can then stick the cars into the yard tracks, using the reversing section as the yard lead (it was not originally a reversing track). At this point, I suppose a new train can be assembled, moving out to and back from the industries (the main one being a largish mine in the left section), bringing back empties or product to the yard. Finally, another train is assembled and moves out the hidden staging. Thinking more about that mine, one thing that I'm considering is iron ore, I've lived 10 years up in Sept-Iles (Quebec, Canada), I should take a google map look at those tracks.

    For train lengths, I sort of planned for each track of the hidden staging to hold about 15-16 4" cars (coupler to coupler), and the yard could contain 25 or so cars maximum, taking into account that the locomotive can't on a curve to couple a car (based on testing on my layout). I'm sure I've read somewhere, possibly the track planning book, that a yard more than half filled was overfilled.

    Yes, I did plan to add more sidings and spurs around the track, even though it's something I've been struggling with.

    So far I've done everything with Unitrack. I don't own much of it, what you see in the picture is all of it I currently own... five #6 turnouts and a bunch of straight and curved pieces. But I've been really interested in the whole flex track idea. Enough that yesterday I passed by a store and pictured up two #4 and one #6 Atlas code 80 turnouts, one length of 30" code 80 flex track and a bit of cork roadbed... just to play with. I figure at worse, I use it on an industry track and never look at Atlas tracks again, and stick with Unitrack. But, I'm growing fond of it and the idea to lay some nice curves, and keep the unitrack turnouts for the farthest reaches of the table.

    I'm going to back to the XTrkCad software and see how I could improve things, and get those darned sidings and industry in!
     
  12. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    1,976
    70
    29
    I'd like to add that, near all yard tracks do not have shouldered ballast under them. They are mostly flat down on the ground. It's a nice contrast when the main is shouldered and the yard and other secondary and tertiary track is not.. It looks more pro. That said, I'd use either the Atlas flex or Atlas sectional track for this, and rest Unitrk. The low track can still have ballast, but just flat..And if you do use flex, you'll need Xuron Rail Nippers to cut it, unless you already have a Dremel. Next. I fail to see why a 2nd reverse loop is needed. On a layout this size it would be quite redundant. And again, I would have the interchange visible and the staging just that, staging. It adds a lot of color/activity to the main scene. There's no reason you must stick to a preset plan. Finally. If your graph squares are 12" by 12" It puts your rear most track (the beginning of the curves on right) hard to reach if there's a stall or derail there; leave alone having to reach directly across the yard to do so. Maybe you could have a small access hatch/hole behind the engine house for this (Or am I misjudging this distance ?). M
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  13. txronharris

    txronharris TrainBoard Member

    1,010
    326
    30
    Stephane,

    I think you've got a good start. On small layouts, sometimes keeping the staging partially visible can be a design element and also alleviate any access issues. I would suggest various hills/trees to simulate trains in the distance even though its your staging. Think of it as railfanning on your layout.

    I think you could start a grade on the left side and have the tracks rise a few inches so you can incorporate hills/trestles/etc, then have it go downgrade on the right and be flat by the time it reaches the right corner.

    By using foam on top of what you have, you could add industries on different levels which would also add to operations and visual interest.

    Questions for you are what industries do you want to model? That kind of helps figure out the scenery and trackwork questions you have. Also, if you're looking more to just run or if you're wanting specific operations is also a question to ask so a traffic flow can be established.

    There are LOTS of guys here that are VERY well versed in planning, so a little more info and I bet you'll have several ideas you can work with.

    Ron

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
     
    ppuinn likes this.
  14. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    5,330
    224
    69
    Get brave and buy a rail nipper, then add some customized track pieces. NO reason you can't modify some curves to get what you want.
     
    ppuinn likes this.
  15. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    474
    334
    9
    I would agree with that. A short piece of flex track is a lifesaver when the two ends of your sectional track don’t line up perfectly.
     
  16. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    Thank you for the additional replies!

    I've recently undergone some surgery, so I've not had the chance to play with the design software, but I should be getting back at it soon.

    I was able to finish the table extension just before the surgery, and did get to learn how to use flextrack and automatically build easements in the xtrkcad software. My next track plan will definitely be a combination Kato/atlas track!

    In the meantime, while i sit on the couch recuperating, I've been reading two new books I bought.. "How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery" and "Basic Structure Modeling for Model Railroaders". Also came across the online magazine called model railroad hobbyists.
     
  17. txronharris

    txronharris TrainBoard Member

    1,010
    326
    30
    I remember a design article from some time ago in Model Railroader called "Flat Falls Flat" which championed different track heights for sidings (like the prototype) and small variations in building and scenery to trick the eye to think there are big variations even when the mainline track is almost always level or close to it (again, like the prototype).

    Just food for thought as you recpuperate.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
     
  18. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    Since being away from my computer I've been doing a lot of research from my cell phone. The big "centerpiece" industry I want to place in the left side of the table is a mine - specifically, a Zinc/Copper/Silver type. We have quite a few of these in Canada. Even better, I did come across a 3d computer model of a planned mine in Rouyn-Noranda to help me model this type of mine.

    3D mockup #1
    3D mockup #2 (showing a slightly different arrangement for tracks)
    Youtube video of the mockup

    It's too big for my layout, but I can compress it down by eliminating some tanks and buildings and keeping the essentials. I know these mines produce Zinc-concentrate and copper-concentrate, but I'm completely unable to figure out how this is transported in the modern world, and hoping someone here might know how to get this answer. Google has been of very little help here, and satellite imagery not so much. All of the Zinc mines in Canada happen to be in northern areas of low imagery quality, where I can barely see the tracks. I tried looking at Zinc mines in Tennessee, but those look very different than the Canadian mines. The Zinc refinery in Clarksville, TN has amazing google earth imagery, but all I see are one hopper and maybe two dozen tank cars (probably for the sulpheric acid needed for refining)? Finally, the CEZInc. Refinery here near Montreal, Canada has decent imagery, and looks to have some sort of hopper or boxcar. Difficult to see when viewed strictly from above, and for all I know, those cars are for shipping the products out of the complex, and not the zinc-concentrate arriving to the refinery.

    Finally, by just searching "railway zinc concentrate" in google I lucked out and came across an HO model Hopper from Overland models, where the box label states "GN/BN Zinc Concentrate Hopper Car". However, not sure what era this car comes from.
     
  19. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    1,215
    415
    23
    Hi, Stephane.

    Zinc ore concentrate, like many things, was originally hauled in boxcars, but special covered hoppers were later developed for it. These tended to be short. Heavy (dense) loads tend to be hauled in short cars, because if they made the cars longer they'd just have to put more wheels under them.

    I don't think you'll be happy with the capacity of your yard. As John Armstrong noted in Track Planning for Realistic Operation, we all start out thinking we can cram the whole world onto a postage stamp. We've all been there. Your reversing loop track makes a good switching lead (room to pull cars out of the yard without tying up traffic on the main line). But you could lay a track beside the main on the left end for that, and make your reversing loop do double duty as the ladder track for your yard. Just make that straight stretch of that reversing track out of left hand switches.

    If you did that, all your yard tracks would be more than twice as long. And since they have more room, and extend farther to the left, you could install a set of crossovers (double slip switches, though expensive, work best) which would serve as a second ladder angling down from the top center of the yard to the bottom right corner. The tracks could still have stub ends for more storage on the right end. This would give you all the advantages of a stub yard and all the advantages of a double-ended through yard. Just don't park cars on the crossovers.

    I'd suggest you stop and think about how you're going to get trains into and out of the yard. Trains going clockwise can pull into the yard either at the back of the layout, by pulling onto the inside track, or by going through the reversing loop track. Trains can get out of the yard going counterclockwise the same ways. But a train going counterclockwise has only one way into the yard, right on the front of the layout near the right hand corner. This is also the only way to get a train out going clockwise. That works, but involves pushing cars backward some distance. You could actually turn the left end of the reversing track into a wye, which would be a nice feature. It makes turning locomotives easy as pie, and makes getting in and out of the yard going either direction a breeze.

    You have a nice shape layout and a nice amount of space there, so don't fret about trying to adapt to the space you laid out. Remember, once upon a time all trains were bigger than N scale, and we all had to work like beavers to make them fit the available space back then! Us old folks would hate for you younger generation types to miss out on the challenges we faced, and get spoiled rotten!
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
    Stephane Savard likes this.
  20. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    60
    42
    3
    Well, so I've been working on the layout plan once again. Not sure I'm really getting anywhere though. I've slowed down, bogged down in my track, once again!

    I was originally using Kato Unitrack, but I wanted to see what I could do with Altas flextrack, and that got some getting used to in the Xtrackcad software, a whole new learning curve! I am getting much better at getting this software to laying down what I want.

    layout_v2.png

    It's obviously not finished, but here are a few notes regarding my decisions on this layout...

    I've decided to keep my staging hidden from view. All I really want from this section is (a) allow me to do continuous running around the track by using the outside track. (b) Occasionally park a train onto one of the two inner staging tracks, and take a second train onto the layout (i.e. trains coming and going from the rest of the network). Since I cannot see staging from the back of the layout, I figure to use an Azatrax Hexdetex module or something similar to see when my trains clear the turnouts. Although I do plan to have the back of the layout fully open.

    The table's back is against the wall, and yes, the layout is three and a half feet deep. However, the table (with foam) is only 39" tall. I can also easily slide the table away from the wall (teflon feet on the table), so I'm not too worried about this.

    I found out that modern mines are huge. Just using the link to the future zinc mine I posted earlier, I figured that based on the image of the tractor-trailer, I would need the main processing plant to be 54" long! So here in the layout plan, I tried recreating a much much condensed Zinc mine. It would feature the processing plant, headframe, administrative building, loading docks for the concentrate and a few leaching tanks. It still feels absolutely huge for the table! Hows that for a "centerpiece", heh!

    Not pictured yet is that I want a chemical refinery (probably based on the Walther's kit) in the area north of the yard, possibly with two more minor industrial buildings served by the same spur (plastics and/or other chemical manufacturers maybe). I'm basing this mostly on what I've seen close to the actual Zinc concentrator close to Montreal.

    Now, the yard, still stub-ended (I can't seem fit an open ended yard here), hasn't changed much, other than a change in angle and now featuring a dedicated yard lead. I figure it's really more of a local interchange and holding area for the mine and chemical refinery's rolling stock, with a few services for the engines or cars.

    Unfortunately, I'm not really quite happy with this right now, and I'm not entirely sure what it is that's bugging me. It's quite possibly that I can't figure out how to add some elements that I really wanted, namely a river and the edge of a small town scene. As someone noted above, I'm finding that I can have "...some gorgeous scenery OR some more industries...", but having both is getting difficult!

    The way I've set it up, I also can't seem to find any place to put any grades. It's very important that the arrival/departure track leaving the yard counter-clockwise stays level, else I won't be able to leave any rolling stock there without them rolling downhill. That leaves me with no way I can see of having one track crossing above another ( i.e. over the yard lead/reverse section)

    Anyhow, that's my progress so far. And I know my problem.. I keep seeing gorgeous layout plans that fit in 11' x 10' areas (i.e. the Carlyle Division from Model Railroader plans) and trying to fit elements I see there into my table, but it just won't work. In the meantime, I'm going to continue trying to carve out this plan inch by inch!
     

Share This Page