Ratios, Realty, and Running - Longer Trains and Bigger Buildings

Grey One Feb 20, 2014

  1. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    There is no Right or Wrong Here

    I feel / sense I may have inadvertently stepped on some toes.
    There is no wrong approach. I did not intend to imply that those that choose not to follow / employ visually acceptable ratios were wrong / bad modelers / etc. This is YOUR hobby. Enjoy it in any manner YOU see fit.
    What spurred this thread was a series of experiences and thoughts:
    • Seeing the 'N-Trak' and other modules NOT flow together as a regular model railroad would. Yes, I get why they can't but it still set me to thinking about layouts in general.
    • The thread on fitting grain elevators on a small layout
    • The threads on which cars I would keep
    • The realization that I need to cut back my layout's foot print by about 70 square feet and how would I scenic it
    • Long ago I started a thread on train length and proportions.
    My apologies to anyone who felt they were being criticized directly or otherwise.

    Note: Mods, if you feel like it please add this to the original post but no biggie either way.
    Edit: Even 'visually acceptable' seems wrong here. I'm open to other phrases.
  2. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

    I'll put out a counterpoint to the position that if the viewable area comprises N cars, then N+1 is an acceptable train length. This may be true when setting up a static display, or when taking a photograph, or even when "running trains". Heck, if taking a photo, you may not even need locomotives on your "train".

    But I posit that there are *some* circumstances where N+1 is *not* enough.

    Picture yourself at a grade crossing as a long intermodal, grain or coal train rolls by... or even a long mixed freight. Your view is blocked to 5 maybe 6 cars due to buildings or trees or what have you either side of the street.

    Part of what makes that experience what it is, is the seeming *forever* that it takes for the long train to pass. Several minutes of car after car after car after car after car after car after car after car after car after car after car after... you get the idea.

    If we want to model this experience, then we do not want to have the tail of the train show up in the scene as soon as the locos exit. You need to model some portion of the *time* aspect of the looooooooooong train moving through the scene.

    Do we need necessarily have 2 scale mile long double-stacks or 120-car coal drags? No. Selective compression in both time and length can still apply, so perhaps the answer is N+10 or N*2 or some other number significantly larger than N+1 but still small enough to avoid tail-chasing or other issues.

    And of course, this is just one experience we may wish to model. Other experiences may require completely different train/scenery/eye dynamics.
  3. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

    The ratio of track and trains to scenery is one of the principal reasons that I freelance a shortline. I wanted to be able to logically run short trains that didn't overpower a layout of my size. For reference, it's 19 x 6 feet linear in the shape of a "C", with a 4 x 8 attached to form basically a backwards "G". All of the track I expect to have is in place on the current layout. I'm not sure I'll ever expand it.

    That I would decide to lay only a single track and two spurs in a total of nearly 30 square feet of this layout usually draws strange looks - but I have always wanted a "real" small town through which to run this train. And so that's what I've done. The bulk of the operation is on the "original" part of the layout and the track running through town is a branch that doubles back around a scenic divide to a more traditional terminal area, 1 x 6 feet, that's mostly industry.

    Typically, the longest train run during an operating session is about eight cars. That's enough to keep the operators busy for what we've determined is a reasonable attention span. I model 1963 so there's nothing longer than a 52 foot gondola during operating sessions. (Well, until I work my passenger service RDC into the mix, anyway.)
  4. sd90ns

    sd90ns TrainBoard Member

    I didn’t mean for my post to be a dig at anybody or at anything they choose to do or not do on THEIR layout. It is after all THEIR layout and thus theirs to do with as they wish.

    I would very much like to have more room that would allow me to spread my towns/industries out more and separate them with all that great scenery that I can’t for the life of me model to any great degree.

    What makes my layout less than believable is that you are not likely to find so many businesses and industries and with such a diversity of same, crammed into what is a relatively small geographically modeled region.

    Indeed my layout takes the concept of “Selective compression” to a level that threatens to spontaneously collapse into a Black Hole, or at the very least Neutronium.

    Because of the above I don’t run long trains as they then appear to be in two places at once rather than moving from one scene to another. I use a lot of small bits of strategically located scenery as view blocks separating the various “towns/regions” from each other so as to make it appear that “Petrolia” is a long ways away from “Red Bluff” even though it is only separated by a 12” long bridge and a lot of trees.

    Photos taken at a wide angle makes it look like the layout is actually one great big city. In fact if I had to do it again I think that is exactly what I would do. Make the entire layout one single, big, city/harbor scene with the isles representing the bay the railroad is wrapped around.
  5. glakedylan

    glakedylan TrainBoard Member

    I am currently attempting to deal with the dilemma of too little space and too frequent moving. I had a layout on a HCD and a couple HCD's. Been there; done that. Which is fine and cool for anybody who wishes to model in that way. My particular need is to be able to run long passenger consists and long coal consists, employing A-B-B-A and/or large steam. That does not work well on a HCD.
    Thus, my thoughts at this time is a HCD that is the focus of where the trains come through from and to. There would be staging--probably remaining without scenery--the focus being on highly detailed scene on the HCD. The staging will need to be in or connecting to loops, and since the main RR will be the Pennsy, a 4 track main w/ interchange for the other eastern RR's incorporated.
    I am thinking in terms of a "peek-a-boo" plan where there is enough track and length to feature a passenger station and urban scene on that central HCD. The looped staging will provide for both switching and continuous running. Perhaps one of the staging areas will include a locomotive service area or that might need to be a separate connection. Anyway, this is how I will disguise my long consists using a HCD.

    Gary L Lake Dillensnyder
  6. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    This thread has brought forth a lot of thought in the old grey cells about layout design. By necessity, unless one has a big 80 X 100 ft. warehouse on their property we have to compress our scenes and still often come up short of what we want. I think a lot of us are afflicted by that rare disease of cramasmuchitis. That is simply putting too much on a layout no matter what size and sometimes too much track. I have certainly been guilty of this both when back in HO and with previous layouts in N. So when setting down last year to design what would be the last layout I ran up against a lot of blind ends and stonewalls in my attempts to have designed a smaller layout and one that would give me some switching and also run through. Plus I wanted to incorporate some staging as well to be able to introduce new trains during an operating session. Now my modeling locale calls for mountains and rivers and a logging, mining, and quarrying branch plus a harbor or port scene. I placed a realistic space restriction on the layout size going on the assumption that what I would have to work with is a small spare bedroom, and I needed to have a workbench and storage in the room. Another factor is reach thus limiting the layout to 30 inch reach or less and the effects of ages and the ravages of time on my ability to climb over under and around a layout. Thus minimal wiring and manual turnouts as much as possible. Since height also affects reach my first compromise needed to be in how high I placed the upper level containing the logging branch. The old body just doesn't do well leaning over and reaching. To get the tall mountains and volcanic peaks the use of scenic backdrops comes in since about 80% of the layout is around the wall. The upper level is fully closed in and just a foam build up on the lower level. I don't like the appearance of separate upper level open shelving. Fine for some but not for me.

    I've always liked separate scenes that are divided by terrain and scenery and my modeling locale gives me a lot of close tunnels so I can get that effect and have used that concept previously. The train runs through the scene only to duck into a tunnel and emerge again in another scene. As I earlier stated I kept running into a big design wall.

    It is only when I dared to start thinking outside the box that I started to break through the wall. First was the concept of using hollow core doors with 30 inch width mounted on old used kitchen counter base units. Ready built strong bases the right depth, and the cabinets give the support and storage. Once the shape of the layout was reached the next was to decide the town location and the smaller village location on the upper level. For those I went through all my many structures and kits and placed into storage all that would be too large. I was left with a bunch of smaller houses and single story small businesses that would fit realistically into a small town on the lower level and the very small village of about seven structures on the upper level. My next major concession was to combine the small town with the river port facility and again keep the structures small. Notice I said nothing about track planning my other think out of the box approach. Design the small town and village and terrain features then bring the track through it. That has ended up for me to be a better design and more realistic operations. I ended up with a small town and port scene in about 16 inches of space by about 4 feet long. The sawmill is located outside of town and reached by a short curved spur. Most of my town and port structures occupy less than 2 square inches of space with the biggest structure being the lighthouse and Coast Guard station.

    In all what I stayed away from was large structures even for the port area and I am going to be happier with it. The upper level only has three industries and the small village while the town and port has six rail served business and about six other structures including the small station. Still have some complicated switching while I have almost 60 feet of mainline run to bring a occasional mainline through freight through the town and an eight car passenger that doesn't stop there.
    The town and village are served by small three car passenger and gas electrics. The only engine service area is on the upper level in the log camp for the small logging locos. Even the engine house there is now a two stall small house that barely can take a 2-8-0 and the small Atlas turntable takes up little space. I have gone smaller in my layout features and it seems to work better. Less is more in my case. Now I just have to recover from the stroke to build it. And if I have to up my scale a few slight mods will make the same plan work with a village instead of a town, and a smaller port and the mainline becomes a branch line.

    Essentially as I have become older I found that less is better sometimes.
  7. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    I'm in the same boat as John, at least where the locale is concerned. Unfortunately my fleet is literally half passenger cars and half freight cars. I think passenger locos are outnumbered now, it was the other way around at one point.

    While scenery will dominate the scenes, it has no appeal to me other than Placing the time, area, and activity in the background of the "star of the show" if you will the train. My favorite pictures in Ed Austins SP&S Diesels book is the one of SP&S trains that the locos will be on the left or right side of the picture and for the next couple inches to the other side of the photo is dominated by the train.
  8. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

    I'm glad you brought this up, Grey One. As it stands right now, I plan to model all of the downtown Chicago buildings to scale, which would certainly dominate the scene... but it's Chicago! I do plan on making some mockups once all of the track and electrics are happy, but some of the buildings will be 4' tall. Maybe I could make a 3d model in the meantime on the computer and do a virtual walkaround.
  9. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    Even with the huge possibilities allowed with the NTRAK modules that I built, I had to do a lot of compression. I first laid out the proposed track plan.
    From that I developed foot prints for the buildings and then had to build them proportionally to the compressed foot print or they would look goofier than all get out. I built card board and wooden mockups of the various structures adjusting their dimensions until things looked "right" when compared to prototype photos.
    Things like water towers had to be shortened so they did not overwhelm the backdrops.
    Finally I found an acceptable compromise and finished out the scene.
  10. Backshop

    Backshop TrainBoard Member

    Yikes! I think that display would dominate your HOUSE. I'm trying to visualize how big a train is compared to a skyscraper ... just wondering how the trains would be noticeable scurrying around the bases of these monstrous structures.
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    What size would the Sears Tower, (or whatever they call it now?), be in N scale? Yikes.
  12. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    One of my day dreams is to create and build a three foot+ tall hyper modern bullet train terminal / complex at one end of the layout sufficiently away from the rest of it as to not visually interfere. I'd probably compress it by 1/2 or maybe make the lower floors 1:160ish and the upper floors shorter.
  13. DrMb

    DrMb TrainBoard Member

    It could be worse. You could be trying to model the Toronto railway lands with the 1,815.4 foot tall CN tower right in the middle of it.
  14. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Eh, downtown Chicago is no big thing. Go to the Museum of Science and Industry. They did the loop including the tower formerly known as sears in HO. It doesn't dominate the trains the way you might expect.
  15. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

    About 9 feet tall, and about 1.5 feet square at the base...
  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Wow. That would make a layout seem small.

    Still chuckle every time I read your signature....
  17. Gizmo2011

    Gizmo2011 TrainBoard Member

    Modelling the CN tower in Toronto would be about 11 1/2 feet tall.
  18. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Would also require a BIG hole in the ceiling. Imagine the wife tripping over that spire, protruding through the kitchen floor. [​IMG]
  19. PGE-N°2

    PGE-N°2 TrainBoard Member

    That's just where you move your model layout into the great room, with it's high cathedral ceiling and floor to ceiling windows for a prototype sky backdrop.
  20. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

    Are there any trains near the Burj Khalifa?

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