New layout planning - Preliminary Stages

gregorycarlson Nov 27, 2016

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  1. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    My Givens & Druthers

    The layout will be in N Scale:
    • Size - 13' x 8' with a height of ~45"-52"
    • Minimum curves @ 18" visible, 15" hidden
    • Preference is to keep most of the layout ~18" deep & wide aisles
    • The back wall (solid brown section) is shelving/storage @ 16" deep (for all of my hobby supplies/tools) but a yard or trackage could be incorporated into that area
    • Construction - probably L girder (open to other construction options)
    Era: 1930s - 1950s (transition era, heavy on steam)
    Railroad: Denver & Rio Grand Western (85% of my engines/rolling stock), Union Pacific, Milwaukee Road...
    Location: Midwest (including Mountains & Prairies)
    Scenes: Bridge/Trestle over river, Coal mining, timber/lumber and other industry, rural town

    The goal is to have operations/switching and some passenger traffic (I have D&RGW passenger engine/cars) as well as opportunity to just watch the trains go around. My initial layout is meant to provide a room divider to hide all of my hobby/tools on the shelving (and also provide additional desk space under the layout). The track was put in only to get an idea of the space needed for benchwork, so it's just there to give a general idea of how to fill (if I were to choose to go this route) the space.

    I've only worked with small, table layouts (nothing I plan to incorporate into this layout) up to this point and I'm not really sure how to best use this space (and not cram it full of trackage/scenery) and ensure I don't turn it into a daunting/overwhelming project.
     

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  2. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Gregory (or do you prefer Greg?) -

    Have you searched Google for track plans? This search for u shaped model railroad track plans returns dozens of plans. If nothing else they might give you some ideas. Also consider that some L-shaped track plans can be altered or extended to become U-shaped. And HO plans can often be adapted.

    As for construction techniques, N-scale lends itself to lightweight methods involving extruded foam. For instance, you can use the cookie-cutter method for sub-roadbed with 3/4" or 1" foam in place of plywood. On my small N-scale layout, even the risers are foam.

    Anyway, good luck and keep us posted on progress.

    - Jeff
     
  3. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    My layout started out as a L-shape point to point and slowly morph into a horseshoe dog bone. When I started the layout I had no idea that it would become what it is. I got an idea from a story in MR and started with the L. I added more and more features to the track plan and some how it went from the L to what I have now. Who knows what is next. o_O:confused:

    Gary
     
  4. Another ATSF Admirer

    Another ATSF Admirer TrainBoard Member

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    One thought is, l-girder especially allows for change in time. With 8'x13', you have room for four (or so) "scenes" - a yard, a town, a big industry, some nice countryside. But you don't have to plan it all out right now, and you don't have to get it right, right now.
    Consider picking one "scene" you want (maybe not the most involved one first time, but something to stretch your skills just a little), and design that in detail; while leaving the rest of the layout as bare track (and a safety net to stop unplanned flights) to allow running trains.
    Later, when you've had some fun building the first scene, you can start looking at the second, and because it's not much there, there's not much to rip up :)

    I also like that you have about the same space as I have, and a very different plan :)

    Have you thought about slopes? I can get nearly 5" on my 8x13 with a 2% main and flat yards. But an 8' side means you're unlikely to get any one siding longer than 3' without effort (like going around corners); and I do wonder about if one engine will pull a 3' train up a 3% grade :D

    Have you thought about a helix? A lot of effort and very precision work to get it reliable, but a helix bottom right could fit and would let you move staging above/below the main deck and scenic the current "staging" area.

    Just a thought...
     
  5. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    I am interested in opinions & advice around how to best use the space. Since it's an open area and not a 13' x 8' room I feel like I've got some flexibility. The layout was really just a possible option and it's not really working for me (beside being able to put a desk back there, out of the way under the layout).

    I've played around with the helix idea, but I'm coming to reconsider my "mountain" layout. Maybe something less elevation challenged would be more fun. I live in the Milwaukee area and the thought of recreating some scenes of what things looked like back in the 30's & 40's is enticing (and much more flat).

    In any case, I'm looking at U shaped layouts, E shaped layouts, L shaped layouts, shelf layouts... G shaped. I'll find some inspiration...

    Thanks for the replies Jeff, Gary and Triple A

    -Gregory
     
  6. Another ATSF Admirer

    Another ATSF Admirer TrainBoard Member

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    If you're still thinking about shapes, I like "U" and "G" because you can have a fairly narrow deck, wide aisles, and still widen the deck and have 'blobs' for a turnaround circle. Then with cunning, you can stagger the side lengths so both blobs aren't opposite each other, pinching the aisle (so more G than U).
    I also thought about an "S" for my space (3 sides accessible) as really putting the blobs far apart, being "different", and giving a fairly long run in the middle (basically the hypotenuse of a 8x13 triangle, about 15'3"); but in the end I needed more under-layout space than that offered.

    I don't remember the 30's myself, but I understand it predates highways so the US had some good passenger rail back then :)
     
  7. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

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    It's interesting that you have so much D&RGW equipment; typically for a mountain themed layout. You can always just get more cars and engines and change that theme a bit, or sell some of it off/trade it. It sounds like midwestern scenery more. I know I do. There is just something about a flat landscape dotted by old grain elevators that really grabs me.
     
  8. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    I continue to explore whether I will continue to stay with a more mountain inspired layout or something based in Milwaukee and more flat...

    That said, I will am looking for thoughts on how to best use the space I have allocated. Triple A, would be interested in seeing your layout (you mentioned that it's different than what I had posted) and I'm still looking for ideas.

    Attached another layout I put together with in more of a G shape... it's a mountain layout, was able to get 12" of elevation, just not really sure if that is enough of a difference.

    While I work on this one, I'm also researching C&NW and Jone's Island/Port of Milwaukee and how I might make a layout of that... not finding a lot via Google of layouts inspired by this area (still in the 30s-40s). If anyone knows of where I can find any info, that would be great.

    Anyways, that's all I've got right now.
     

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  9. Another ATSF Admirer

    Another ATSF Admirer TrainBoard Member

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  10. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    Something a little different... might be easier to have access all around. Not sure if it's especially elevation friendly, but I'll continue to fiddle around with it and see if I can figure something out. Thoughts?
     

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  11. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    How about a 4th iteration...

    I'm now considering a helix and/or a duck under/bridge with a G shape layout. The helix may be more than I would like to deal with (and takes of quite a bit of space), but it does help with getting elevation and that I like. I think there is likely a better location than where I currently have it placed but I'm thinking on it, looking at layouts with a helix incorporated, etc.

    As for the duck under/bridge/lift (or whatever it's called) I'm finding that to be an interesting consideration as it could option up some design options. There are quite a few different ways to do it, so it's more research.

    What kind of experiences have you had with either a helix or bridge? Is it worth inclusion into a layout? Are there things I should take into consideration?

    Looking forward to hearing what others have to say. Have a great day!

    -Gregory
     

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  12. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    How about this tweak? I might not even need any duck under/bridge/lift OR helix... I've got 12" of elevation and a pretty wide aisle.

    The overall access feels better to me, rather than having big loops/blobs tucked into corners. I really don't want to have to make access holes to squeeze in. Not having any experience with this type of layout has me challenged... I've never had a layout that I couldn't reach everything easily and I don't really want to lose that if I don't have to.

    Looking forward to hearing from those of you with experience on these types of layouts, so I can stay away from the cons and exploit the pros.

    -Gregory
     

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  13. Another ATSF Admirer

    Another ATSF Admirer TrainBoard Member

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    Hello,

    First lesson with a duck-under is pad the underside! the skull you dent less may be your own :D
    Also consider a wheelie chair or stool for those of us less flexible.
    Second lesson for any removable or movable section is, have some way to cut the power to the bridge and the approach tracks whenever it is open or missing. The four foot express to floorsville is never fun nor kind on your rolling stock :(
    Overscale safety barriers on the bridge section are also handy for stopping sideways derails learning to fly.


    I like the second plan, you don't have any important track more than an arm's reach of the aisle, and there are options to have pretty things visible from the room. It looks like a folded dog-bone; and shouldn't present too many problems with wiring; although the loops will probably become reverse loops. DC or DCC?

    If the blue line across the turn-around blobs is a painted backdrop, and the front of the layout has curtains or similar to hide the benchwork below the layout, this plan should also be fairly effective at "hiding" the shelf area on the back wall from the rest of the room ;)

    I took the liberty of drawing on your track plan, as it might help conversation to be able to refer to landmarks:
    [​IMG]

    Top-left corner is "A", visible from the room, would make for a good little town with some industries to switch. Equally the low track could be the main-line, and the high-track could have a mining or logging scene on a branch line.
    Actually, I have the same conversation about "C" and "D" - room for little towns and industries, or wilderness type industries like mining and logging. The low track can disappear into a tunnel (with a removable side to rerail stray cars) which would let a scene on the top track come out to the edge of the layout.
    Location "B", where the two tracks cross at an exaggerated angle calls out for an impressive viaduct / bridge / trestle, which will also be visible from the room and could be used to 'wow' visitors. :D

    If you want a large yard that touches the main line at both F and G, be aware that the yard wants to be flat, which means you can't easily have an incline along that whole wall; which then limits your total distance for climbing. (or you climb in two directions, so high track at "G" falls to touch "F", and a second track that doesn't touch "F" falls to touch "G". Could be fun to get it all right and looking good.)

    Another option is to have two separate scenes - towns or industries or similar, one at F, one at G. If you can get access to fix derailments, you can also use tunnels and view blocks to hide trains and make the routes less obvious and less "toy like".

    ...

    Many words to say that I seem to like small scenes that are "contained" or themed and spread along the mainline. Not all of which have to be built or even planned all at once - L-girder is good for making changes as you go.
    And I think you have quite some options for using the space.
     
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  14. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the input triple A, judicious use of padding will be of the first order if/when I decide to put in a duck under/bridge.

    The innermost track between "F" and "G" is flat at +2", I figure I could have arrival & departure tracks into a yard (probably 4 tracks). There would need to be some minor adjustments to bring sidings, etc into the layout.

    I continue to waffle on whether to go with a flat layout (perhaps something from the Milwaukee area) vs going with a more mountain based layout and D&RGW. I have started to consider something more "steampunk" based but until I get something I like to fill the space and fit what I'm looking/hoping for.

    I think I'm closer, with the latest version than some of the previous. I'm also looking more closely at around the room shelf layouts, which I think will cover just about every possibility. I found some interesting options at http://shelflayouts.com/model-railroad-layout-design/sample-model-railroad-design like the simple starter layout and Lance's advocation to getting the longest linear runs possible. Much food for thought. Oh, and I'm all in with DCC.

    Thanks again triple A!
     
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  15. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    After further research of shelf layouts (around the room) I'm getting more partial to this layout type... That said, here's my latest layout design.

    Careful consideration of what I really want lead to a few changes, among those are the following:

    1. More rail fanning that I probably initially thought (and scenery), but not without some operations.
    2. Most operations will be solo, I don't expect to find a group anytime soon to run through complicated operations that I don't much understand.
    3. I'm not THAT against having a lift off bridge (or something of that type) for the purpose of having the ability to run trains.
    4. Having a level of simplicity that won't take a huge effort to make real (simple to build).
    5. Room to grow. The bump out into the middle of the room could be a later add.
    If anything, this might just be my first foray into filling the space I have without putting together some overly complex plan that I might not ever finish. I can learn from this, figure out what I really like and go from there.

    Anyways... what do you think? I'm interested in hearing what your experience had taught you, what mistakes would you prefer to not make again, what were the things that you really liked, enjoyed and made designing, building, sceniking, finishing a layout worthwhile. Cannot wait to hear from you.

    -Gregory
     

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  16. Another ATSF Admirer

    Another ATSF Admirer TrainBoard Member

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    Nice.
    The yard lead could be longer, the A/D track could be longer; but I can see why - with the space available you have to compromise somewhere. (There's a reason I'm on revision 7 of my yard...)
    With the industry spurs facing this way, the mainline looks to run Clockwise to me.

    Things I would not do again: Full strength Liquid Nails for holding down track. It holds down, it never comes up. Spacing support timbers closer together than my favorite screwdriver. Or drill. Trying to do everything perfectly all at once. Having a sharp curve in flextrack running into a point; it kinked every time.

    "The devil is in the details, and it is all details."
    Looks like it is coming along nicely (y)
     
  17. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    Triple A, thanks for the thoughts/input. I agree the yard lead could be longer, will be looking and yard designs to try to make that adjustment but the A/D track is about 8'-9'... I think that should be long enough.

    I always use latex caulk for holding down track, haven't had any issues with it. I'm considering going away from a traditional L girder and either using thicker foam on shelf supports or creating modular pieces (with as many standard sizes as possible) and that may give me flexibility to make adjustments or complete scrapping of sections. I'm about to the "I'm gonna learn as a do it stage" now that I'm feeling comfortable with the layout.

    As for the bridge, I think I'm just going to go with a lift out to start and see how that goes.

    Thanks all, Happy Holidays!
    -Gregory
     
  18. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    gregorycarlso, I would like to see you do a Milwaukee layout. I lived there from '72 when I got out of the Army until '90 when I move to Eagle, southwest Waukesha county. There I started drawing up plans for the tracks between East Troy and Milwaukee, trolleys and fright. Unfortunately I got driven out to Appleton area and lost my career.
    I'm trying to start again. There's plenty of trackage around here.
     
  19. gregorycarlson

    gregorycarlson TrainBoard Member

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    I am coming to think I'll be modeling a fantasy version of the Milwaukee area (with a steampunk influence) is the direction I will be taking. I work at Rockwell Automation (the Allen Bradley building with the Clock Tower) that overlooks the lake and trackage running along the area just north of what was once Jones Island (now the sewage treatment plant) and I think about what it used to be...

    I lived in Mukwonago a few years ago and rode the East Troy Electric railroad a few times when my kids were early teens. I did do a little investigating back then at modeling things in the area but became enamored with mountain layouts.

    Anyways, I'm now looking into Milwaukee and the surrounding areas to figure out how to incorporate into the space. If anyone has recommendations for online or book/magazine resources related to early 20th century railroads in southeastern Wisconsin, let me know.

    Happy Holidays!
    Gregory
     
  20. kingpeta

    kingpeta TrainBoard Member

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    Hi gregorycarlson,

    I was reading your thread and thought I would chime in with some of my thoughts. I am modeling the Milwaukee Road but in a later era, about 1960-1980 (what I grew up with as a kid). I found a historical site online at MHRA.com. (Milwaukee Road Historical Association). A brief look there looks like they have plenty of photos & data that would cover the steam era you're interested in.

    I'm on my second layout, shown below. The last one was a hollow core door style because that's all I had room for in my apartment. I learned a lot building it as to what I liked & disliked about plans & construction. In the end it was way too much track for the space given, and I became unhappy with it pretty quick. I wanted a more open feel and room for scenery & scenes. I'm now in a house with a nice basement area. My layout is smaller than what you plan, about 10' X 10', but I'm still getting a lot of satisfaction with this layout. To me it just feels more realistic. It's mostly flat with a slight grade at the curve in the upper left. I sort of broke the layout into 3 scenes or towns. The yard area is industrial looking, and I imagine it might be Horicon or other small town west of Milwaukee. I have a little junk yard on the far lower left spur, a yard Cafe, and a grain elevator towards the upper left curve. From there it goes into a rural/farm area, maybe Hartford.There I have some residential houses, a flour mill, implement dealer, oil distributor and a Libby's Meat Packing plant with icing platform. Around the upper right curve leads into a gravel crushing plant. In my mind I imagine it's somewhere "up north", maybe Oshkosh or Appleton. The vertical track on the right is a hidden staging track that I'm really glad I implemented. I can build an entire train and leave it parked there. I also wanted several decent length runaround tracks and I have those. I like the separate arrival, departure and mainline tracks through the yard. It has been very flexible to operate. I also like the long runaround at the gravel plant, because I can leave a string of empty hoppers there and have other hoppers being loaded at the plant, then switch them out and return the loaded ones to the yard for wherever they're headed.
    As far as construction, I kept it pretty simple. I have a simple frame with cross bracing, 1/2" plywood on top of that, then 1" foam on top of that. Actually, the reversing loop on the right was added at a later date and I didn't use plywood there. Just slapped foam on top of the framework sort of as a test. It's plenty rigid and works, but I don't think I'd do it again because the sound is amplified. Almost like a drum. I think the plywood underlay helps greatly in sound deadening. But it's sure easy to poke wires & scenery through! The foam is secured with liquid nails and all my roadbed (Woodland Scenics foam) and track was laid using latex caulk. There have been a couple times I needed to rip up a turnout or section of track, and using the caulk made that very easy.
    Originally it was wired DC only with all the associated block wiring & toggle switches. That became a wiring mess pretty quick but at the time it's what I could afford. I switched to DCC a few months ago and boy I'm glad I did. Tore out all the old wiring and rewired it to current DCC standards. It's been so much nicer to run TRAINS instead of the LAYOUT.
    I think if you do some research online about the Milwaukee Road, look at maps of their routes then, and think about what kind of industries you want, you'll come up with a satisfying plan. I tried to keep in mind future expansion with mine and it has paid off. The mainline curve in the lower left can someday tie into the reversing loop so I can run continuous trains while switching somewhere else on the layout. I'm just a bit leery right now of how to build a duck under, lift out or hinged section there. But I'm thinking about it!
    I drove right past the old Allen Bradley tower just last night! What about a lakefront themed are where you could include some of the structures & features of that area?
    Have fun and remember it's YOUR layout and you can do whatever makes you happy.
    Oh, one other thing. I tried to not have the tracks running parallel to the table edges. Just one more thing I learned along the way.



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