2'x4' Layout Build

Curn Jan 13, 2020

  1. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    Well I'm taking the plunge on a new Z scale 2x4 layout. With all the great recent offerings in the scale, I really need something to run Z trains on. I have had my fill of micro layouts, and don't have the time or room for anything too large, so a 2x4 will be just about right for me.

    Based on all my experience thus far I am setting the following criteria for the layout:
    Ability for continuous operation. (How I mostly run trains)
    Some switching potential. (Got a ZMaker switcher, might as well use it)
    Limited to no grades on the mainline. (Less operational problems)
    220mm minimum radius on mainline. (Best for Mikado, Zephy, long cars)
    No long tunnels (Ease of access for cleaning)
    Keep track 1-2 inches from edge (Less trains falling off the table)

    So this time I will be using Atlas track. Atlas turnouts are drying up fast, but It looks like I got what I needed from The Z Hobo. Based on those core criteria I came up with the following track plan. I really wanted to find a way to use the Atlas 19 degree crossing, and found a way to utilize it while creating a runaround track. Here is the track plan:
    ZPlans.jpg

    On the main loop, there are 3 turnouts all facing the same direction, so if I have a train just running continuously clockwise, it would be picking any turnout points. Room for a 2 stall engine house (RS Laser) and a few industries. The branch line will climb a hill so there will be some terrain and elevation changes. I'm open to critiques of the track plan. It is getting a little spaghetti bowl-ish.

    -Matt
     
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  2. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    I'm the last person to comment on a layout choice as I have so little experience, but I love to see two trains running continuously.
     
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  3. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    I would caution against the spaghetti bowl track arrangement. For one, you'll run out of room on a 2x4' in short order, even in Z. Track will get increasingly crammed in there, and will invite challenging wiring, electrical gremlins and reliability issues. I like how you can do continuous running, and add a branchline, but I think your branch would be cool with that bigger plant on the branch to the left and two spurs there. The switchback to the lower right might serve the factory now, but makes the track complicated and crammed. If the branch is higher in elevation, you need to start that grade at the switch nearest the engine house.

    The whole center section could be a mountain/hilly area and the current plant space could be mountainous. The track on the mainline could be cut into the side of the hill to make the railroad look like it was graded after the mountain rose on that spot (like the 1:1 trains do).
    The S-curve in the center could be a trestle or deep cut for scenic interest. What industry should go on the branch? Coal, ore, lumber/logs? Almost anything that would be extracted/harvested from a hill or mountain.The branch might need tighter curves to allow for hillsides instead of retaining walls to divide the mainline from the branchline for realism. In the model world, we make compromises based on our space; but trees and hillside might make a more realistic branchline. Just a few moments to explain how I simplified your plan to make it more realistic. *plink, plink*

    Although you want to avoid tunnels, if you build them to have removable roofs, they afford complete vertical access. I can explain more about how I did it on my N layout if you wish.

    ZPlans.jpg
     
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  4. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    Matt, I like it. Good enough switching but still a loop. I think I'll expand it to 3x5 or so (at least a little longer) for a stand-alone layout for small shows.

    The layout could also be expanded by others, connecting on the right side, extending that run-around loop (or removing that end's loop, requiring another right-hand module). That module could then have an upper level spur continued from the left module and, since elevative, could hide a 2-3 track yard. The left upper end could be mining as shown and the right could be Lumber, a good place for Searail's new (pseudo) Shay's (http://www.searails.com/shay/shaystatus.html)

    I have also been thinking about 2 new 3x4 Balloon End modules to mate with my 5' long Z-Bend Track module for small shows. The 2 Ends could be removed and bolted together, then placed 'face-to-face' with the 5' long module for easy transport :)

    BTW: which CAD did you use for the design plan?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  5. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    What type of track are you using? Are you going with the Atlas? I'm considering starting something similar with that track, that said I don't mind spaghetti and I don't mind the other. I guess that's why I like just putting track down and playing with it, cause things can look different when the actual track in physically put down.
     
  6. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Or you might choose a scenic block seperating the layout, making it feel bigger. Going to the other side is like having another whole layout. You can have a waterfall, a river, and a mountain sawmill with log pond, and really challenge your modeling prowess, while on the other side have a desert mining scene. Of course you would have to develop your backdrop painting skills, etc., not for the faint of heart. The view block skyboard really conceals the spaghetti, and can offer lots of varied photo options. Just thinking out loud here...


    ZPlans.jpg
     
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  7. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for the feedback/ideas so far. I will be taking your ideas under consideration and drawing up a new track plan. This type of crowd sourcing layout design has really helped me in the past to improve the utility of layouts I build.

    Two continuous running trains is fun, however, there are only a handful of core layout designs that allow for that. Double mainline, or two independent loops. I've built the two loops design twice in my past. This time I want have one continuous running train, and one that has to be watched and just runs around serving a branch. I doubt i could make a continuous point-to-point train work in the limited size and goals I have

    Hemi,
    I like your take on the plan and will be likely incorporating a significant portion of it into the next internation of the design.

    Jeff,
    I had thought about expanding to the right with another module. I just might add some 9.5 degree turnout sized easements to the right side of the layout so turnouts could be easily added. I'm using AnyRail to draw things up right now. As I get closer to a final design I will likely make a version in SCAM as I find its 3d rendering better.

    Joe,
    It will be Atlas track. Even if I leave the plan as shown, I could move some things around to make it look less crowded.

    Rob,
    I have never really been big on using painted backdrops. Although I may incorporate the essence of your idea. Id much rather use a large hill as a divider, and short tunnels to get from side to side. Kind of like what this guy did here :http://raybob.boche.net/projects/page930.htm .

    -Matt
     
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  8. poppy2201

    poppy2201 TrainBoard Member

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    He is one in the same.
     
  9. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Oh yeah, that guy broke into scenic dividers with mountains down the center, and managed to get a waterfall, timber bridge, and logging road on one side, then completely change to a Timesaver switching puzzle in a agriculturally themed valley on the other, thus hiding his pile of spaghetti. :D
     
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  10. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

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    Of course what you're writing here deserves care and regard.

    I would nevertheless stick to Curn's initial trackplan that gives real good switching operation possibilities.

    And in order to avoid spaghetti bowl appearance, I would simply hide side and aft part of the continuous loop. This track beeing close to layout's edge, it would be easy to drill "windows" on side relief in order to access to track for cleaning or remove any derailed equipment.

    Thus it would remain only the front track disposition that looks like a junction, as well as track climbing uphill with its small terminus depot and spur. Thus one could keep all switching possibilities of this really interresting track plan.

    ZPlans.jpg


    Dom
     
  11. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Dom,
    As much as the self-described "Tunnel Junkie" likes his namesake, Matt is wishing to avoid tunnels. I have successfully built open-top tunnels that look like tunnels and have vertical access for cleaning and cleaning up a derailment. Without tunnels, the best way forward is using a scenic divider. With a view block that Robert suggested, Matt can still have his switching plant, but it will shorten/steepen the grade to the branchline if it is to be elevated above the mainline.
     
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  12. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Matt, nice venture... If I may add something, I would suggest tilting the whole plan 2 or 3 degrees. That way the lines near the front end are no longer parallel with the table edge, which makes the layout look more freehand…

    As far as landscaping / dividers, why not go for an urban setting, with some factories or old city blocks as view blocks?

    David K Smith showed some nice layouts based on that principle. For plans, check out http://www.davidksmith.com/track-planning/hcds.htm

    (the other…) Matt
     
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  13. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    So I got my track order in and I had a chance to test how well trains go through the 19 degree crossing. Trains run through them just fine, and they are well made crossings for many of my engines, even the SW1200. My Marklin 0-6-0, 2-6-0, and 4-6-0 engines only pick up power from the 1st and 3rd axels; and those wheelbases perfectly bridge the insulated portions of the crossing, so they stall. So I will not be using the 19 degree crossings on my layout.

    Going back and re-designing things, and trying to incorporate you suggestions, I really couldn't improve things significantly from the initial track plan while meeting all those restrictions that I came up with. So I decided to drop the no mainline gradients restriction. I ended up going back to a plan that I had built before, but I had all sorts of issues with the smoothness of the elevation changes since I hand cut the grades from foam. I ended up scrapping the whole layout before I finished it.

    I went back and re-worked that track plan with Atlas track, and then improved upon the basic idea (Which was a derivative of is David Ks Grey River Plan), and put an emphases on switching.

    So here is the new tack plan. It is a twice around plan with turnouts which can isolate the two loops:
    NewZ.jpg
    By switching two of the turnouts, there can be 1 continuous loop (Green) train running, and the rest can be switching. Then switched back to have booth loops as one long continuous run.

    The switching portion has a pretty decent amount of industries serviced.
    sidings.jpg

    And this is what the terrain would be like:
    Newz2.jpg
    Newz3.jpg
    -Matt
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
  14. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

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    Even if I preferred your first attempt (but I understand the issues with Xing / Marklin locos), I find your new trackplan interresting, especially for the double use it allows. ;)
     
  15. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I think this plan would be more fun to play with. I would even be tempted to bury magnets under the track for automatic uncoupling on sidings. It could be real fun. And when you just want to watch the trains go round, you can still set you head sideways on the table, squint that eagle eye like you did as a little kid, and mentally transport yourself into the cab for a ride! :D
     
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  16. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    Those T-Track modules looked real nice, so I ordered the largest one available (24x48) from from CRM products for the layout base. It glued together pretty quick, and is lighter than anything I would build myself. Overall I'm very happy with their modules, and they are are also cheaper than anything I could make.
    IMG_3254.JPG

    Once the glue was all dried, I put a full scale print out of the track plan in the board. I plan on using the MP1 turnout machines, so I included them on the plan. Tom Knapp had a nice article on these turnout machines in the Sep/Oct 2019 N Scale Magazine, and they are short enough to fit. I plan on getting another 1/4" plywood sheet to cut the track plan out of, and then cut custom risers to do all the grades. The turnout machines will need access from below, so I will need to cut access holes in the CTM module top for them.
    IMG_3255.JPG

    Once printed full scale, I see a section that is a little wonky and will need to be re-aligned. And 1 turnout machine will need to be rotated 180° to avoid hitting the module brace underneath.
    IMG_3257.JPG

    Matt
     
  17. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    That looks great Matt. You certainly have a good plan, I can't wait to see your next installment.
     
  18. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

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    Matt, check out these pictures, I made a short impression of my step by step experiences with a MTB-models turnout machine, in this case the MP5 but the last pic show wiring for the MP1 as well.
    https://myalbum.com/album/4Tl5aLHPa2Cq

    Matt
     
  19. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    Hey that is a slick plan and I like the T track base.

    Ok I’d like to see how turnouts are wired. Cause as I understand it they aren’t powered frogs until wired? Or am I mistaken?
     
  20. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    From what I can gather looking
    Like the n scale version, the Atlas turnout frogs must be externally powered/switched or it will be un-powered.

    If I read the instructions of the MP1/MP5 turnout motors correctly, this can be done 1 of two ways. I plan on manually controlling the turnout motors using a SPDT or DPDT switch. The control only needs to be wired SPDT to control the turnout machine. So with a DPDT switch you could use the second set of contacts to power the turnout frog. The turnout machines also have internal AUX SPDT switches (MP1 has 1, and MP5 has 2), which can be used to power LED indicator lights or a turnout frog. I will have to get a few and test. Or I could use a DPDT switch to control an MP1, with the second contacts powering a LED, and use the MP1s internal switch to power the turnout frog.

    In N scale this approach worked well for full manual operation of Atlas switches, but I think Z is just too small for this.
    [​IMG]
     

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