Single main vs Double main ?

mtntrainman Jan 8, 2019

  1. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    So my layou...THERR... is a double main. Has been that way since 2012. Both tracks are next to each other all the way around. I have seen some nice videos from members where the train is on a single main...snaking thru canyons...forests etc.. It looks intrigueing amd pretty serene. I have often thought of ripping up my #2 main and making the layout a single main. It poses some problems. They are NOT insurmountable though.

    I can leave parts of the second main and make some passing sidings :) I am thinking seriously about taking out my elevation changes and the climbs up and down from them. Will put evereything down on the flat.None of my yard would be any different. The towns and outlaying bussiness would be pretty much untouched either. Will be some work and I have already done a new trackplan. It looks like it will all work :)

    My question:

    If you guys had druthers...would you do a single main or a double? I know space dictates a lot of of what can be done for some of you and thats understandable. Just wondering what ya all think of me redoing a dble down to a single.

    All suggestions greatly appreciated...TIA :)
  2. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    This is 3/4 of the layout as it stands...


    The major change would be on the left. The raised area from behind the yard on the right...around back...and the 'over under' on the left side would be down to street level. that means some rearranging of the trackwork.

    Here is the new trackplan for the left side...not to scale. :)

    pastoolio likes this.
  3. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    George, it really depends on the “landscape” the rails are traversing, the region of the country being modelled, and the era. One of the things I love the most about running on the FreeMoN layouts are the long curving sections of single main going through different scenery. But, there are also plenty of locations, especially today, where there are two, or even three, mains.

    I think THERR has enough room for you to have a section of single track. It will add variety, and create more interesting running (for example, no setting of two trains, running unattended, in opposite directions). If you do, think about a bit more of a scenic break, too, if you want photo ops.
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    thanks Rick

    The left side...more of a country setting may look better with a single main IMO. There would be a single line coming off the turnaround behind the turntable on the right (out of the picture) that would go around back of the yard area and behind the 'homestead' in the back to get there :)
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  5. u18b

    u18b TrainBoard Supporter

    I think it also matters what you like and how you like to run trains.

    Even though one track is generally more prototypical, it can be very satisfying for some folks to put two trains on different tracks, often going opposite directions at realistic speeds- and just let them run-- occasionally passing each other.

    I guess the difference is "operations sessions" vs "just let 'em run". It's a personal preference.
  6. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Ron...its more of a 'let em run' layout...unless I'm doin switching in 'Lucky Penny Yard'
  7. Josta

    Josta TrainBoard Supporter

    HO scaler here; I agree with RickB especially if your interest in model railroading is operations as opposed to sitting back and watching the trains run in loops. My analog DC point-to-point Gulf & Pacific Railroad layout is a single main, with several passing sidings which makes operations much more interesting, plus a single main makes the layout appear larger. It also can make trains take longer to transverse the layout with passing trains. Here is a older picture of me with the scenery still under construction, with the mainlines to the far left and far right so you get the idea of the main line winding its way through the terrain with passing sidings such as the one off my left shoulder.

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  8. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    My layout is a flipped over dog bone and looks in many places like double track but is single.

    Now I wish I had double tracked everything. I too often fire up a freight and passenger train, get the speeds matched as best i can and the unthinkable happens, a derailment or speed mismatch and bingo a pileup under a mountain.

    I operate alone so there aren't a second pair of eyes watching the trains.
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  9. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    I have a combination of double and single. The back is all double main and the front is double main with cross overs near the station. One section the inner track at the port end of the layout goes to a single main to make a continuous run track while the outer track has front and rear entry to the port area. I can dispatch trains in either direction out of the port. With the crossover I can have a train sitting on the outer track at the station area and run a train around it or vice versa. You have about 5 or 6 times the mainline track that I have and have more room to play.

    I would consider the passing siding option of having several passing sidings of adequate length. Maybe single track with passing sidings on one side and double track on the other with crossovers here and there, best of both worlds.
  10. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    I've got a double-track main mostly because my prototype does (and bidirectional!), but to get it in and out of the reverse loops and staging tracks everything necks into one single-track junction, so operationally it's a compromise. And with that one single-track portion of a folded loop, you have plenty of reason to put in signals and keep people from just falling asleep. Red means red unless you want to run against traffic or a locked switch.

    You'll still want some passing sidings somewhere or you're stuck with totally plugging the entire layout with one long train. That's one thing I like about double track is that I'm not really limiting train length except for the length of staging tracks and the reversing loop. The single-track layouts I've run on were usually criminally limited to short passing sidings and short trains. I run trains just as long as I possibly can, and would go longer if I could, so by the time you make passing sidings long enough, surprise, you're back to a double-track appearance anyway, even on a big layout.

    I've got three main tracks through the Winslow yard, just like the prototype.
    mtntrainman likes this.
  11. Ristooch

    Ristooch TrainBoard Member

    Directional double main. Loops around a portion of the basement. I like to turn them on and watch them roll occasionally using inside main as switching lead since most industries lie inside the inside main. I have an intermodal siding off the outside main which can make things interesting. I still have a few cornfield meets.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
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  12. nd-rails

    nd-rails TrainBoard Member

    FWIW, the long main Unitrack double-tracked layout I was lucky to help scenic and operate sometimes saw multiple train actions. But it was best when just running a couple of long trains. The multiple Unitrack crossovers (4 if I recall) weren't used extensively either, so even the owner saw the 'double track' effect as moot later on in its life.
    mtntrainman likes this.
  13. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    I guess it depends on the model. If I'm modelling the NYC across Northern Ohio, it would actually be a 4 track main! The Nickel Plate just to the south made do with single track.
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  14. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

    The original Oakville Sub had a section of single track; I thought it would make for interesting operations. It did. Drove me nuts. So when I designed the New Oakville Sub for a basement 500 miles south of the original, it was double track all the way. I'm not driven nuts anymore. And I have FUN running trains.
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  15. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter


    What part drove you nuts?
    I presume it had to do with operations...but which part ?
  16. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

    Hi George, I agree with what most folks have posted, it depends on the railroad and location. The Pennsylvania Railroad had a 4 track mainline from Harrisburg to the East end of Conway yard that remained in service until Conrail. The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Started with a 4 track mainline between Pittsburgh and Youngstown and over the years it was reduced to a double track mainline. The Pittsburgh & West Virginia had a single track mainline with passing sidings. The Western Maryland Connellsville extension was a single track mainline with passing siding and the B&O railroad had a double track mainline from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. You have five different railroads in the Pittsburgh area that had different ideas on mainlines, depending on traffic levels and territory covered. When it comes to operations on a model railroad, single track mainlines with passing sidings using signals or Timetable and train orders are fun. If you're looking to just sit back and watch the trains click off the miles, then double track main lines are the way to go. I think the question you need to answer, are you looking at having prototype operating sessions or do you just want to sit back and watch the trains click off the miles?
  17. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter


    its a freelance railroad. Other then switching in the yard...i like to just sit and watch em run. I occasionally run 2 trains on the same track adjusting throttles as they go. running 4 trains...gotta have lots of coffee to do that !!! LOL.

    My thought...I can park trains on a siding even if they arent going anywhere. Just for looks so to speak. Running 2 trains on a single line seems like it would be easier to folllow.

    Just tossing this out there to get peoples opinions. So far I am liking what i read on both fronts.
  18. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    It’s all preferences. No definitive right or wrong. I am a single track mainline guy. To me double track is boring as all get out. Trains flow to easily. Thats’s just not my cup of tea. I intentionally picked single track main to model. It required more thought to move trains, more switching, and to me: more fun. I also made my layout point to point to avoid the endless loops.
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  19. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    The area I plan to model is mostly single line, though areas with many passing sidings often make it look like a double main line. I have some ideas on a visually hidden but accessible return loop, so will look like a point to point, but operate hands off like a loop, important for long passenger trains where you can’t jsut switch themotive power via god-hand to the other end of the string and go again.
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  20. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

    George, I'm pretty much of a loner - no one to play with! So if I wanted to run opposing traffic,it was almost impossible to do thanks to that stretch of single track. Just extremely frustrating.
    On the new Sub I've run as many as six trains simultaneously with no problems. Of course when you do that it's pretty much like the one armed paperhanger with hives, but still doable.
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