Compact triangular office layout with broad curves

S t e f a n Oct 18, 2020

  1. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, especially if running train(s) on the mainline while switching cars, tearing down and building up trains in the yard is in your plans, you want to have as little interference between those two sets of activities as practical. Using the ends (or middles) of mainline sidings to access industries, yards, service tracks, roundhouse, etc. would work well to isolate those activities while also providing ease of transferring trains to/from the mainline.

    The Styrofoam ramps from Woodland Scenics are excellent for easily providing a smooth, uniform slope for the trackbed, regardless of whether the tracks are straight or curved. But there are also other ways to accomplish that, depending on your skills, and what your layout base will be (foam, cardboard/plaster-cloth with splines, cookie-cutter plywood/masonite, etc.)

    But if you have the skills to scratch-build bridges, etc., you probably don't need advice from me!

    Yes, track planning SW is irreplaceable for working out ideas without drafting tools and paper, let alone committing materials and effort to build something, to see how it will work.

    On the other hand, I spend way too much time designing my "next" HCD layout on my computer. And it sure is fun reading, discussing, and railroading vicariously on the amazing layouts (built yet or not) with their builders here.
     
  2. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    BigJake, I appreciate your input (and everybody else's who wants to chime in); it still feels a bit odd discussing model railroading, believe it or not. This has been a low level solitary activity for me for the last 50 years, except for some online exchanges on XtrkCAD (is it called XtrackCAD now?) when I was packaging it for OS X installation about 10 years ago. I never really used the software then though. But now I have more time, and it would be nice to build a real layout.

    I want to find the right balance between getting some tracks down to 'run trains', and spending sufficient effort on planning so that I arrive at a layout that I'm happy with, and that allows for adding yard and industrial siding tracks and other details over time. I have no idea whether I will enjoy switching, but I do know that at least I need some staging tracks. I have been happy with the track work (including hand laying some track and even building a turnout) and ballasting I have done in the past, but the layouts were for the most part never fully scenicked.
    Regarding scratch building, I'm feeling pretty confident about simple structures, but see that more as a long term learning project of things to add to the layout.

    Initially I want to keep this layout simple enough that it can be finished to the 'no eyesore' level - at a minimum ballasting and basic landscaping - in a reasonable amount of time, but at the same time designed in a way that allows continuing on the same benchwork (I am limited in overall space) without tearing down too much.

    Taking the earlier input into account, I came to the conclusion that putting the main line at the base plate level would limit expandability too much. So the elevated track work will have to be there from the beginning, plus room for the transitions to the base plate level. The layout is being built on the 2" polyisocyanurate base with fiber glass reinforced facing I described earlier, and I'd like to keep the weight minimal as much as possible.

    So, coming back to the elevated main line, it sounds like keeping everything else - yards, roundhouse and service tracks, industrial sidings - at the lower level, and accessing it through just a few (two?) inclines makes sense. The main line sidings still have to have sufficient lengths for 'parking'/staging ca. 5' trains (2x passenger, unit coal, unit intermodal), so the turnout placement for the inclines has to respect that, to allow yard etc. access even when a train is using the siding.
     
  3. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Eyesores are in the eye of the beholder!
     
  4. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    I elevated the main line two inches, which allows for longer yard tracks.
    office_new_20201114.jpg
    blue = main line and sidings
    light green = ramps to yard
    cyan = yard and roundhouse
    dark green = steel mill

    The inner main has to change elevation to three inches where it crosses ramp and yard tracks. This allows to keep all grades close to 2%.
     
  5. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    Has anybody had success with the XtrkCAD3Dviewer? It seems to be rudimentary working, but the mouse/touchpad controls need some work, to give better control positioning the view point and the view direction. As is it is too easy to lose the layout somewhere in space...
    Is there a description of the control interface somewhere?
     
  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Wow! That looks and works much better.

    But I never saw a layout I didn't want to tweak here and there!

    The grades on the ramps are pretty steep. 2" in 4' is ~4% which is doable, but might be hard with long trains (that's what helpers are for).

    The ramp on the left looks shorter (and therefore steeper) than that. And it doubles as the yard lead, but is shorter than any of the yard tracks. That might be workable if it dumped out onto the middle siding...

    But the ramps feed into the mainlines before they get to the middle siding. I think I would want the ramps to feed the middle siding directly without having to venture out on the mainline. If you end each middle siding section with left then right switches to the two mainlines, then the through route on the 2nd switch can feed the ramp (or another switch to the ramp or the continuing middle siding.)

    You like passenger trains, but I don't see any passenger station(s).

    You don't say what era you are modelling, but the roundhouse suggests steam or transition era. Locomotive service tracks (fuel, water, sand, ash pits?) could be on stubs from the turntable (not in the RH), but I'm not sure if that was ever prototypical (or if that matters to you).

    The mill lead goes only to the turntable. While that would allow changing a train from road engine to yard goat, it seems a little awkward. There is the branch off to the rightmost yard track (and the lower ramp).

    The turntable is going to get a workout running this layout!

    I think I might sacrifice some yard length to get the engine lead from the roundhouse into the yard throat, so it can access any yard track without saw-back moves (unless you like the extra action that requires...)
     
  7. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry, I use XtrkCAD, but have not tried the 3d viewer...
     
  8. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    I think I'm slowly getting closer to something that might make sense.
    I forgot to have a look at my California Zephyr set: it's eleven cars and almost 7' long; it will have to be split into two sections for storage in the yard, but one of the sidings is long enough.
    I reduced the yard length a bit, and switched to Kato double crossovers in order to maximize the ramp lengths.
    Five yard tracks are over 5' long, and the ramps are 3% (northwest) and 2.5% (south-east) grade. The plan has three alternative yard leads over 5' long.

    I also added a base level loop which will allow to add industrial sidings in the corners of the layout.
    The base level loop conflicts with some bridge/pier ideas for the elevated mainline: an elevated bridge and a lower parallel track do not make sense.

    Here is what the current plan looks like:
    main line and ramps:
    yard, ramps, base level loop, round house, steel mill:
    The threefold turn table access is just there to show options; I did not add sidings to the base level loop yet.
     
  9. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    If anybody has comments on the use of Kato double cross overs, I would appreciate that. I ordered and received one: rail height is 80 mil, versus 55 mil for the ME flex track I'm using, but with a bit of shimming the transitions should be ok. I'm thinking that adding gray ballast on the outside might help hiding the difference in rail weight.

    The layout is getting a bit dense in track with three loops, and I'm still at a loss about the general landscaping plan. It's not going to be a mountain layout, so much seems clear.

    Jake, as I said earlier, I'm not sure how much I'm going to enjoy switching, but I do appreciate your comments regarding yard leads and general usability of the yard. I think the double cross over in the yard should add quite a bit of flexibility.
     
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  10. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I have used the Kato double crossovers with other Kato Unitrack, and they work really well. They have a single set of leads to energize all 4 coils, throwing all 4 switches simultaneously (either crossover or parallel), but there is no mechanical interlinking, so the coils can be separated and driven independently if desired, and of course the manual control levers are independent. I believe they are #8 frogs.

    The coils are bi-directional, so only decoders designed for Kato switches will operate them, using bi-directional current. Digitrax and NCE make the only Kato compatible decoders I know of.

    I can't comment on trying to connect them to code 55 track.

    The layout has improved a lot. I think you will like the flexibility provided by the ground level loop and other improvements, which gives you options for industries and traffic patterns. Managing the overpasses may require some creativity, but is certainly doable. It may not be period (whatever that is), but take a cue from some modern highway interchanges, with long beams spanning wide, lower roads, to support roadways crossing overhead. Just remember railroads (and the trains running on them) are a LOT heavier than highways.
     
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  11. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Actually, a better highway example is when a freeways entrance and exit ramps overlap, and one crosses the other at an angle.
     
  12. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks as always for your comments, Jake.
    Not sure what to do about the period the layout is supposed to depict. If I had space, I'd need at least three railroads, or distinct zones:
    - US steam-diesel transition (and probably both industrial and mountains)
    - US 'modern' (80s or newer)
    - German late steam era
    Not going to happen.

    Bridging the yard: Chicago has some great examples of bridges dating back to the 1920s and earlier; on my most recent bike & picture taking trip I visited the PRR #458 vertical lift bridge and also the St.Charles Airline bridge near 16th Street. I think at one point (before being moved and shortened) it was the longest single span bascule bridge in Chicago (and the rest of the world), at 280 feet. Even in N scale 280 divided by 160 is still over 1.5 feet, so bridging my yard in prototypical fashion should not be a problem.

    (Apparently they moved the whole south branch of the Chicago river a few hundred yards west, and the bridge with it. The river must have been where later the Santa Fe had a yard, just north of what is now Tom Ping park. See https://www.abandonedraillines.com/2018/07/the-forgotten-railways-of-chinatown.html)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  13. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    IINM, those examples are straight bridges, but your plan includes curved tracks passing over your yard. Truly curved spans are rare (except for Kato Unitrack Viaducts!).

    Instead, the would-be-curved spans are usually segmented into multiple shorter, straight spans, supported at each end, and joined together at angles (think octagon vs circle). The straight segments need to be wide enough to accommodate the extra width of the curved track they support.

    Straight girders spanning the width of the yard could support the joints between each segment as necessary. Those would be some heavy (deep/tall) girders (and/or lots of girders side by side). Depending on the era, the girders would have been riveted together from straight and smaller steel forms, or could be one-piece I-beams (several side by side to divide up the load.) The latter would be more in keeping with mid-late 1900's engineering commensurate with some of your passenger trains (if anyone was paying attention to such things).

    As an alternative, you could flip the steel plant and the yard left-for-right (and angle the yard a bit to make use of the extension at lower left). This might alloy your mainline curves to pass over the more sparse plant trackage, and use shorter, straight bridges to pass over the yard tracks.

    As far as era is concerned for the layout, you can always build to the most modern era of your rolling stock, and just assume the older locos and rail cars are simply hold-overs, historical excursions, or even living history museum pieces. Or maybe you have a young, new owner who has bought the old, broken down railroad (structures and all), purchased brand new rolling stock, but has not gotten around to upgrading the infrastructure!

    It's your railroad, so you really don't have to justify it to anyone but yourself!
     
  14. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    Progress: I made a little sketch to see whether my curved mainline can fit into Kato double track bridges, and the good news is the track will fit, but the bad news is my 85' passenger cars end up with slightly negative clearance. It's only a fraction of a millimeter, but that still counts...
    Here is the sketch, with my notes, in case anybody asks themselves the same question:

    So I ordered some scratch building material. I started from my notes for the PRR #458 bridge, and then added a few H-beams and web truss size variants. Very exciting, and a simpler and therefore better project to start with than that vertical lift bridge...

    (I need to keep the elevated track curved, because the maximum radius of the curved mainline is restricted by the outline of my benchwork, which in turn is more or less dictated by the size of my office. If I put straight track anywhere into one of the three corners, the remaining curved track will have to have a tighter radius.)

    Speaking of clearances, I might have to remove one of the yard tracks, since they seem to be awfully close together just south of the switches. Better five tracks that can be used than six that only allow occupancy of every second one...
     
  15. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    My main problems with the layout up to this point are:
    - the prime location in the center (top left) is not used at all
    - in general the design does not take full advantage of the main line being at an elevated level
    - even in the extended version the yard is still too short for the ten car California Zephyr
    - using a single ended yard for operations involving long trains (backup moves) might quickly become tedious

    So, I redesigned around a central double ended yard. I also relocated and extended the ramps.
    The sketches below show the current state, after a bit of tweaking to move as much as possible of the yard and of the base level loop out of the shadow of the elevated main line.
    I will still need a lot of viaducts and bridges.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020 at 5:58 AM
  16. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Impressive! You cleared and/or handled a lot of space conflicts between upper and lower levels.

    I'm not really versed in double-ended yard usage, but they would usually need a drill track on both ends too. Your current plan could use the base loop itself for the lower/left drill track/yard lead, but that would foul other traffic on the base loop.

    If you only/ever plan to operate this layout by yourself, then the operating advantage of a double ended yard is reduced, and the yard space sacrificed is for less benefit (unless you are trying to model a specific prototype double-ended yard).

    Perhaps a compromise, with a couple of double ended yard tracks dedicated to arrival/departure use, and the rest single ended for maximum space efficiency would be best? The double ended A/D tracks provide for optimal use from either direction where it is most important (from trains arriving/departing in either direction.)

    If you do plan joint operations, then a full, double-ended yard can provide for efficient simultaneous yard operations.

    Also, the steel mill would benefit from a longer lead between it and the base loop, especially if you decide to use the base loop trackage as the lower/left drill track/switching lead, even if just long enough to bypass the lower/left yard end before joining the base loop. There's a lot going on in that tiny section between steel mill, ramp and the yard, that could cause bottlenecks.

    On the other hand, potential bottlenecks can provide operating interest (a puzzle to be solved!) We have the luxury of enjoying those challenges, whereas the prototype would seek to eliminate them, and maximize throughput.
     
  17. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    Jake, as always thanks for your comments.

    Benefits of double ended yard: I'm currently thinking that even if I only use it for 'storage' of what are essentially fixed consist or unit trains, being able to run trains through the yard is so much better than having to back them in every single time. I already have six of those fixed consist trains, so the yard as planned is not too large.

    Also, visibility: I think the steel mill (that I still have to build) or some other industry is fine in that difficult to reach lower left pocket, but a yard with lots of movement and potential for derails would have been problematic. Plus, what was I going to put into that space in the top left center anyway? The yard and roundhouse/service area should enable me to display most of the locomotives and cars where I can actually see them. I probably need to build a dust cover though.
    If I ever get the urge to build an urban scene, there is still more than two square feet of front-center space on the left side of the triangle, and almost as much top-center.

    Another nice thing with the current design is that I have an operable layout after just putting down the base level track; it can be built in stages.

    Regarding the steel mill: that blast furnace needs a consumer for the molten raw iron (pig iron). I need to put a steel converter plant somewhere, preferably reachable by dedicated trackage. Then, a Linz-Donawitz converter (BOF) would need a liquid oxygen plant; it just doesn't end... Looking into my options, I see that somebody makes Bessemer bulbs : https://steelmillmodelerssupply.com/product/bessemer-converter/ - pricey though, but no oxygen plant needed.

    But first I need to put some tracks down.
     

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