First Layout planning - advice/critique please

Taymar Jun 1, 2019

  1. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Hi all, I've been working on planning my first real layout, and would appreciate some feedback from more experienced folks before I start cutting track.

    My 'givens' were:
    - 8' x 3' maximum size
    - ability to continuously run two trains at once, at least one of them is fairly long for the available space (10 passenger cars)
    - 2% grade max, graded line separate from the main lines so I'm able to also run the couple of locos I have which can't pull up grades.
    - ability to turn full trains around from either track, and swap tracks (not just swap ends with the engine)

    I've drawn out the core layout here, omitting things like industry, staging and passing sidings for clarity.

    Some of the blue and black track will be hidden from view, accessible via hatches in removable scenery.

    The upper deck (not shown), is accessed via the blue graded line, will feature another reversing loop, plus hidden staging, and some dead-end switching lines to industry.

    Pretty much all my curves in this plan are as tight as I can manage without derailing issues (I've tested). I may be able to get a slight 'wave' in the lower two lines, but space is tight while preserving the minimum radius of the reversing loop.

    I'm very new at this, and looking at what I've ended up with, I've got two questions:

    1. Is the way I've handled the reversing loop overly complex and inefficient?
    2. Any general feedback, thoughts, or suggestions please?

    Thanks a ton for any advice on this.



    (red = northbound line, green = southbound line, brown = north/south turnouts, blue = graded line to upper deck, black = reversing loop inner track, arrows = 'normal' direction of travel)

    [​IMG]
     
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,337
    3,988
    600
    What scale?

    A train of ten passenger cars may tend to eventually make the layout seem smaller.

    No spurs or switching? Ability to break up trains going around and around, with some freight work would add to keeping it all interesting.

    Tracks paralleling edges of the layout can be a bit less interesting as time passes.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  3. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Thank you very much - it's N scale.

    I think I understand the concepts of spurs and switching, but would you mind elaborating on what freight work could include please?

    thanks a ton for the help!


     
  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,337
    3,988
    600
    Not all freight trains simply move between major shipping points or yards. There are locals which move from either A to B, or even A, to B and return to A. They can operate anywhere from perhaps once (or even less) weekly, to daily, and switch the customers (industries) along their route. Drop a full tank (or more) at the propane dealer and take away any empties. Drop a hopper of potash at the fertilizer plant and take away any empties. Etc, etc. Sometimes a through train does this same work, instead of a local. It just depends upon requirements of the situation.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  5. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Ah, thank you! So presumably the dropping off of individual cars is what's meant by breaking up the train? Makes sense - I can see how that'd be far more interesting to watch - especially if I can eventually get some of that working autonomously with JMRI.

    After a bit more testing, I'm running into minimum radius issues with my innermost loop (13" radius). The loco and passenger cars can make it separately, but combined I'm getting derailments.

    Think I need to rethink the reversing section, which'll hopefully give me more room to make things a bit more interesting.




     
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,337
    3,988
    600
    Breaking up a train usually happens at a yard. Where the cars which arrive are sorted and then reassembled into consists for trains heading (locally or further away) elsewhere.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  7. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Thank you - this is great info. When dealing with local freight (like the propane and potash example), is there a smallest number of cars that'd be somewhat prototypical? For example, would you ever see a local train taking just two or three cars to be dropped off individually?

    This is giving me a lot of food for thought, thanks again!


     
  8. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,337
    3,988
    600
    Certainly. Local train service can be just a couple of cars, or a significant number. It depends upon the amount of industry desiring rail service, the frequency necessary to their business. Some get one car, every few weeks. Some get a half dozen (or more!) daily. There are many differing customers and their needs just as varied.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  9. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    338
    344
    16
    Taymar, you might consider using blue 1/2 inch insulation foam and pink 1 inch foam so you can model below track level scenery. It will equal about 19 feet in elevation, enough to model a small stream. I use caulking as glue and spread it with a credit card size of plastic. After you install track stack up more foam to make hills and mountains. When carving the foam use a keyhole saw or something similar. The blue 1/2 inch foam will act as a warning track so you can keep from going too deep. I borrowed the term from baseball. On my layout I use 3/4 inch Birch plywood as the base on top of a L-Girders support structure and then stack up foam.

    Joe

    IMG_20181227_124417.jpg
     
    Taymar likes this.
  10. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    584
    388
    14
    I would ask, and you should ask yourself, what you want this to represent. If you want a two track loop to run trains and look at your passenger cars, you are on the right track. If you are interested in switching cars and the actual delivery operations of the railroad, there are a lot of places to go and learn how railroads work.

    How prototypical do you want it to be? Do you buy trains that appeal to you and look cool, or do you want to do research and replicate a real railroad or time period? Those choices will determine how your layout looks too. Google Earth is a good tool to see how train yards or industries are laid out.

    I know that you are asking about the reverse loop, and I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it. I have a few different alternate designs, but yours is functional, if that is what you need. The one thing you want to watch out for is making sure your 10 car passenger train fits in it. You don’t want the locomotive to be coming out of the loop and the last car or two are still on the switch. You will either crash or be stuck in the loop. Make sure the break in the track or whatever electronic system you will have can fit the entire train too. I have never done a reverse loop, so I am not an expert on the wiring, but I’m assuming the whole train has to fit in the isolated section, especially if your cars have lighting.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  11. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Thanks again all.

    BoxcabE50 - perfect, plenty here to think through - thank you.

    Joe - I am indeed using the two layers of foamboard (albeit the same color) from advice I got here previously! It may even have been you who suggested it. Thanks so much - I'll surely be carving out some terrain once I figure out the track plan.

    Mr. Trainiac - great questions. I'd definitely be interested in seeing some alternative designs if they're easy to share please. To answer your points:

    1. My ultimate goal for this layout would be to have some nice variance in features, and computer control as much of it as possible. Definitely want more excitement than only watching a passenger train run around an oval (which I recognize is pretty much what my first plan showed).

    2. I'm aiming for somewhat prototypical, but . I'm loosely basing it around 1930's-1950's American steam, though have some outlier locomotives which predate this. Most of my locos & rolling stock are wearing road names from the north-eastern states. I have structures and rolling stock for a coal mine which I'd like to incorporate. The deviations from this era and/or region include a 2-truck shay, an FEF-3 with 6 passenger cars, and a GS-4 Daylight/10 passenger car train.

    The two passenger car trains both seem to have a 'correct order' of cars from front to back, ending in observation cars. That's the driver behind wanting the reversing loop (I don't believe I have room for a wye that'd accommodate this length of train on my layout). You make a great point, I will need to measure the length of the train and ensure it'll fit within the loop.

    I don't have room or desire for passenger stations, so am 100% fine with those trains being 'through' trains. Being able to change their direction would add a little interest I think (perhaps it passes 'northbound', goes off and hides in the reverse loop for a while then is seen passing 'southbound' later).

    On reflection, it's sort of feeling like the less exciting but 'functional' stuff is taking up the majority of the space. There's not a more space effective way to turn a full train around is there?

    thanks again all, track planning has definitely been the most difficult and least enjoyable part for me so far, so any and all advice is much appreciated. Greatly looking forward to getting this part locked in and starting work on trackwork and scenery.
     
    BoxcabE50 likes this.
  12. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    7,569
    562
    97
    Gosh you turned on the responses here. Me thinks we like helping you.

    Okay, nothing wrong with what you've proposed and you can learn much from it. You'll enjoy it for a long time before it wears you out.

    May I suggest a folded over dog bone. You can run two trains at a time or more. You can experience train meets which is awesome to rail-fan. Never mind photograph. And the best part it's not a obvious roundy, round. If you get my drift.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  13. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    584
    388
    14
    I am trying to work on your reversing loop, but I am not getting very far. I can get one train to turn around, but since the outside track is going the opposite direction, it somehow needs to get turned the same way as the inside track to use the same reverse loop, which I think you have already tried to solve with your wye/loop combo. I was thinking about making the reverse loop part of the inside track and reduce your footprint a little bit. Instead of having the red, green, and black tracks all parallel, you might be able to make the black and green the same thing. This might be one step to reducing the amount of track, but my problem with it right now is that once a train is turned, it can’t turn back unless it is backed up. Obviously a lot of work needs to be done to this to make it turn both tracks in both directions, but it may be a simpler start. image.jpg
     
  14. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    338
    344
    16
    Taymar, some people have jokingly said I have stock in the insulation foam business because I tell the suggestion so much. I see many layouts that have not used any below track level scenery. It makes the layout totally different when you add foam.

    Joe
     
    Taymar and BarstowRick like this.
  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,337
    3,988
    600
    Ask questions, as you have been doing. This will greatly reduce the potential for frustrations, wasted time and money later. Which gets you to enjoyment much faster!
     
    BarstowRick and Taymar like this.
  16. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Thanks a ton guys, I'm humbled by the amount of help and greatly appreciative.

    Rick - thanks very much for the suggestion - I've had a quick look at the folded dog bone plans and definitely seems worth investigating. My biggest challenge will be the grade I think - I didn't have great results with all my locos when testing a 2% grade, but that's before any experimentation with extra weights, helper engines, or traction additives. Completely agree it's a lot more interesting than the oval. Will do some more grade testing and see how I get on.

    Mr. Trainiac - thank you! combining the inner two tracks would certainly solve my min radius issue. I know what you mean re: the second directional track. Every time I thought I'd solved it, that was always the piece I'd missed. The sketch gives me a lot to noodle over with the two tracks combined, thanks again!

    Joe - I can believe it. I knew I wanted to have a couple of bridges/river crossings, but the extra depth of that 2nd foam layer is going to open up a lot more options. It'll also prove very helpful for creating terrain around the coal mine.

    BoxcabE50 - Thank you, I certainly appreciate all the advice! This community has been phenomenally helpful in making the switch to N scale, DCC components, track brand, and many associated questions which followed.
     
    BarstowRick and Joe Lovett like this.
  17. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    1,515
    616
    31
    Technically a dog bone is usually a single track oval. The area where it's squeezed together in the middle turns into double track.

    That's nice because it adds interest by breaking up the oval shape, makes your main line longer, and it allows you to have industries with sidings outside the oval. But if you do it with double track, you'll find that squeezed center section is quadruple track!

    In your OP your reversing loop setup takes up almost all the available space. The nicest thing about a dog bone is, do a couple of crossovers in that squeezed together center section and you've made yourself reversing loops without using up any space at all! You still have to handle reversing direction (DCC)/polarity (DC), but your end loops become your reversing loops.

    If you do a folded dog bone you generally go up or down and cross over on a bridge. That looks more interesting, but eliminates the possibility of using crossovers to reverse direction.
     
    Taymar and BarstowRick like this.
  18. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    I've been making some progress with the track planning, but have run into a new hurdle.

    I've got a Peco code 55 N scale electrofrog double slip switch, and my steam locos with pilot trucks are not coping with the frog gaps. Every freight and passenger car I've tested has no issue, nor do my smaller steam locos (even my 0-4-0 and 0-6-0).

    Top image shows the slip I have, second one shows the desired path I'm testing, and 3rd shows the two areas where the pilot trucks 'fall' into the frog gaps.

    My 4-X-X locos usually make it through with a lot of crashing and banging, but the pilot truck derails on anything with a 2-X-X wheel arrangement. The wheels appear to be in gauge.

    I've read suggestions to shim the bottom of the frog gaps with styrene so the wheels ride through on the flanges (not sure how well this'll work since I have many different size flanges). However, I don't know if that will be an option for the middle gap as it'll foul the point blades.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be great please; if I can get this one piece of track working reliably it will solve a lot of my space issues.


    [​IMG]
     
  19. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    584
    388
    14
    So none of the other 3 routes have problems? Try turning that piece around to see if it is the physical frog or the way the locomotive enters the switch, regardless of the orientation. There could be some defect on those two frogs. If you turn it and it derails on the other side (the original side before you turned it), then you know it is due to the actual track piece itselfand those two frogs in particular. Otherwise, what does the surrounding track look like? Does the locomotive enter the slip through a straight track? Are there any S-curves around? I’m just thinking about the locomotive derailing on curves. I do HO, so I don’t have this particular track. I can only give you basic troubleshooting tips.

    You might also want to try to glue weights to the leading trucks on your locomotives. They may be too light and just ricochet around in those frog gaps. You could also put a spring between the top of the truck and the bottom of the frame to have some downward pressure on the wheels to keep them on the rails. Some HO and O steam have that.
     
    Taymar likes this.
  20. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    98
    12
    4
    Thank you - sorry, I should have mentioned that. All 4 routes do indeed have the same issue. In my original setup, the loco entered through an S-curve. I've since tested with straight track and have the same result.

    Thanks for the tip on the weights! A couple of my locos seem to have a spring which pushes the pilot truck down; I wonder if the springiness is making the issue worse. Will try adding a little weight to the Mikado and see how that goes.

    I guess worst case, I can just swap this piece out with back to back wye turnouts. So far I've found that my peco turnouts don't cause issues, only the slip and the crossings seem to be problematic.

    Thanks for the tips!
     

Share This Page