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I plan on doing that . what bothers me the most about ho is that you can buy a ho engine but you may not be able to run it on your track because of radius restrictions . its kind of not fun . I have 3 ho engines that are 9 inches long . does that mean 18 in radius not big enough ?
I think you've missed the big picture. HO is a scale -- that is, a proportion to the size of the real thing. NRMA standards are there to ensure interoperability of equipment from different manufacturers, but it's unrealistic to suggest that everything in 1/87.1 scale (HO) HAS to work on a given layout. Especially in a hobby where there is total freedom to design a track plan to whatever specifications you like. This isn't a toy system where everything sold for the system works with it; it's a scale and a collection of standards to assist a hobbyist.

HO track is produced in standard curves down to 15". Using flex track, you can get down to about 9". Our scale equipment is produced with much more swing in the trucks and couplers, and longer distances between cars, to be able to handle these "abrupt" curves. On real railroads, "tight" turns are much broader -- they'd probably scale down to about 33" or so. A lot of hobby products are engineered to be able to use 18" curves because that's what train sets usually come with, but many these days are opting for greater realism and requiring larger radii. Also, grades work the same way. A 1% grade is huge for a real train; we hobbyists routinely use 2-3 times that. On our models, grade itself isn't a factor as much as the transition onto and off of them, where equipment can dig in its nose or become uncoupled or derailed.

The only way to be ABSOLUTELY certain whether your equipment will run is to lay some track and test it. Some locos that say 18" minimum don't do very well with it, and some that recommend broader curves can be coaxed through 18" ones. While a good thumb rule says your curves should be a minimum of 2.5 times the radius of your longest equipment; like all thumb rules, it's meant as a general guide and not a substitute for empirical evidence.

If I had to guess, I would say that if your locos have 2 axle trucks, they will work; 3 axle ones probably not. Since the truck doesn't bend, the cord across the curve can't exceed the distance between the contact patches of the front and back wheels, or they will bind against the rails and cause problems. That's the REAL limit, followed closely by whether there is enough distance between cars to enable them to round the curves without bumping.

If your locos (and trains) are close to making it, but can't quite, there are some tricks that you can use to improve their ability -- all at the price of realism (and only you can say how much of a problem that is).
 

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Hey guys need some help with my track plan. My old layout was Kato Unitrack and had minimum 22" radius. Im needing some assistance with planning my layout this time as I plan on using flex track and doing minimum 24" radius with the only full 18" and 15" radius in switching areas and car storage. Can anyone give me some tips to be able to maintain 2.5" track centers and be able to use double crossovers and 4 mainlines on a u shaped layout.
 

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Hey guys need some help with my track plan. My old layout was Kato Unitrack and had minimum 22" radius. Im needing some assistance with planning my layout this time as I plan on using flex track and doing minimum 24" radius with the only full 18" and 15" radius in switching areas and car storage. Can anyone give me some tips to be able to maintain 2.5" track centers and be able to use double crossovers and 4 mainlines on a u shaped layout.
Well, we've certainly lost the OP's vision of maintaining a thread of track plans without feedback or discussion. And yes, I know I'm not helping the problem by responding. Perhaps one of the mods would move the extraneous stuff to another thread or two.

To your question, I have several observations.

First of all, are you planning on a point to point layout? Because if you try to turn 4 parallel tracks 180 degrees, maintaining 2-1/2" centers, it's going to be a bare minimum of 65" wide (and that's with track right at the edge of the layout) where those big curves are at the ends of your "U". Even with access on 3 sides, that's a tough reach. So you would need access panels, or better still close the loop and go around the room.

Second, I would not use double crossovers. If nothing else, they will limit your space between tracks to the separation designed into the turnout. If space is no object (and it doesn't sound like it is, if you're planning something that big), a series of turnouts butted together works better, looks more prototypical, and is easier to wire.

As far as maintaining spacing, build yourself a jig, or buy one. A piece of wood or styrene with two slots to fit over the inside rails on adjacent tracks will do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
Thanks for the contribution folks, let's keep it rolling. I know more people have track plans. Post em up, even if they don't quite work. Your plan may be somebody else's inspiration.

I guess it's time to put my top of the page header.

Just a reminder though, this thread is for track plans. For pictures and plans of layouts that have been actually built go here: http://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=66578

Again, PLEASE REFRAIN FROM COMMENTING IN THIS THREAD and instead send pm's if you have questions or comments. Also, after you upload pictures of your plans, please click the paperclip and choose insert all so that your pictures appear in thread like mine do. Following these guidelines will make viewing easier for everybody and reduce clutter.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
While I'm in here I have another plan that I cooked up today, this is one that I actually hope to build someday so look forward to me developing it some more.

This plan is an odd size coming in at 30"x52" cause it is designed to fit in a very specific area. As usual this is all Peco code 55 flex and small radius turnouts. Minimum radius is 11.25" with 9.75" on the spurs. There is no grade.

First N Scale Layout.jpg
 

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Cramped Quarters Ideas

Here is a layout I worked on with a forum member. He had some very ambitious plans and ideas, but when all was said and done, he was trying to shoehorn a layout in around two sides of his living room, with a wall mounted TV and shelving protruding into the layout space.

The member also had the benchwork already built before design began. Although he was able to get some minor expansion, this further limited the number of potential designs. The amount of space available is deceptive -- the area on the right is only 4x6, and the long wall, while expansive, has too many obstructions to really be used.

The final plan is dead flat (with the TV in the center, grades in this area were out, and that made them impractical). The initial desire was for large Peco turnouts and 22" radius curves, but because of space limitations, we had to use Atlas turnouts with their 18" curve segment on the diverging leg and 18" minimum radius (while the 22" FIT on the right side, they take up too much of the available 6 foot dimension to make a loop -- 44" of 62", not counting track width and a safety margin at the layouts edge). The ability to turn trains with a wye ended up being a primary design consideration.

Note that I post all this stuff, not to criticize the member (who was actually a very good sport about the limitations his area imposed), but to try to help beginners get some sense of the amount of real estate required for even simple geometry, without using overly tight curves and steep grades.

Here is the "finished" track plan.

Option #2, Atlas Flex, Atlas Turnout, One Level.jpg

Here was my first idea, before I understood the true space limitations. It has quite a bit more to do, but with the chief drawback that there is no way to turn trains, especially on the right lobe -- trains have to be backed a lot. This might be overcome with some fiddling, or the use of Atlas Snap Switches with the curved diverging leg, but there really isn't room to add another turnout (unless you can expand the right side further in the up and down dimension, which wasn't an option for the member).

Option #1 - Bilevel, Atlas Flex, Peco.jpg
 

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Tommy Boy, Revisited

In another project for a forum member, here is a re-imagining of the so-called "Tommy Boy" layout above. It actually reflects more of the original plan for that layout, before I got frustrated with the limitations imposed by the steep grades required. This layout actually provides a fair bit of switching interest in a layout only slightly bigger than a 4x8 (finished plan is 4x10).

Note that although there is a 14% grade shown, this is actually mitigated in practice by continuing that grade into the upper loop. It met the members requirements for over / under operations, room for more than one (short) train, and lots of bridges. It uses Code 83 flex track and Atlas turnouts, minimum radius 18".

Tommy Boy 4x10, ver 1.0.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #28
First off, thanks to the admins for the sticky! :appl: Here's to hoping somebody finds something inspiring in these pages. Once again, if anybody has any plans to post, please do. Your collection may inspire the next beginner.

Now on to the newest creation. After seeing CTValley's last post I suddenly became inspired by that layout. So much so that I decided to do a loosely based N-scale Door adaption I even finished this one to completion since I am getting better at SCARM. What I came up with is a fairly expansive N-scale layout with a good balance between mountain scenery and operations.

This one is designed for a 32"x80" door and as usual uses PECO code 55 flex track. Minimum radius is 11.25" and the entire layout uses small radius switches. Max grade on the mainlines is 2.5% and 3% on the track leading up to the logging spur that cuts diagonally across the layout. This layout is designed for medium length trains in the transition era and uses narrow dirt roads in all but the town in the upper left corner. The layout is also modeling two very small towns connected by a railroad that mostly focuses upon lumber although a team track and an interchange has been included in the upper left hand corner to introduce a little variety. Also Z scale trees are used to the rear of the layout for forced perspective.

I'm currently working on an extended version using a 33"x96" table so stay tuned for that.

Tommy Boy.jpg

Tommy Boy 3D-1.jpg

Tommy Boy 3D-2.jpg

Tommy Boy 3D-3.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #29 (Edited)
So I got sidetracked and came up with a new one. I have a fairly large area coming open to me so I designed a 7'x13' L shaped table layout in HO. This one uses Peco code 83 flex with #5 turnouts in the yard, #6 on spurs and #8 on mainline runs. The maximum grade is 2% and the minimum radius is 22" This layout was designed with a transition era lumber operation in mind.

Cabin Fever .jpg

Cabin Fever 3D .jpg

Cabin Fever 3D2 .jpg

Cabin Fever 3D3 .jpg
 

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Thank you to all who have contributed to this posting. There are many track plans here that inspire. My only regret though, I'm an American Flyer modeler and only have the old Flyer sectional track. There are so little choices available to create some of these more realistic plans. We have two radius curves to use and only one type of turnout. Unless some big money is spent on new track from Gargraves or MTH S Gauge, we Flyer guys are stuck trying to build realism into our layouts.
 

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Lots of Switching in the Corner

Here is a layout for beginners who love operations and switching, designed to fit into a corner, taking up not much more space than a 4x8 layout with a 2' aisle all around.

The layout is HO, 22" radius minimum, #6 standard turnouts, #6.5 curved turnouts. No grades or elevation changes. It is really designed for a couple of long modern locos to do switching operations with short trains. There is plenty of staging located behind 2 view blocks at each end, allowing lots of trains to arrive and depart. There is a mix of industries representing an industrial area in a midwestern town. Obviously, the exact industries could be changed to suit the builder. This particular version requires two buildings to be kitbashed, so that half of the building is on the layout, and the rest represented by a picture on the viewblock.

Over the next couple of days, I intend to revisit this using 18" radius track and #4 turnouts, for use by smaller, 4 wheel locos -- RS-1 and 2, GP19, H16-44, SW1200/1500... Should be able to cram a few more spurs and more industries in.

Corner Point to Point.jpg
 

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So I got sidetracked and came up with a new one. I have a fairly large area coming open to me so I designed a 7'x13' L shaped table layout in HO. This one uses Peco code 83 flex with #5 turnouts in the yard, #6 on spurs and #8 on mainline runs. The maximum grade is 2% and the minimum radius is 22" This layout was designed with a transition era lumber operation in mind.

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What program did you use for your designs? It looks very intuitive. I have Scarm, and it is decent but I don't think it has the 3D modelling. I'm slowly muddling through it and have designed this thus far:
 

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I can't speak for Matt. I use Anyrail, which is very good and very intuitive (at least for me). SCARM does have a 3D view -- I've seen people post it -- but I have no idea how one does it.
 

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I can't speak for Matt. I use Anyrail, which is very good and very intuitive (at least for me). SCARM does have a 3D view -- I've seen people post it -- but I have no idea how one does it.
I found the 3D view, but it won't render as I am using it on Linux through wine and don't know what driver it would need to display. Scarm is also kinda difficult to use.
 

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Thank you to all who have contributed to this posting. There are many track plans here that inspire. My only regret though, I'm an American Flyer modeler and only have the old Flyer sectional track. There are so little choices available to create some of these more realistic plans. We have two radius curves to use and only one type of turnout. Unless some big money is spent on new track from Gargraves or MTH S Gauge, we Flyer guys are stuck trying to build realism into our layouts.
I think you are limiting yourself.

Here is a portion of a layout I have played with using only AF track. It is a condensed model of St. Louis Union Station. I only have 6 passenger tracks, while the real STL Union Station had 44 lines though a series of interlaced wyes. The lack of a wye made it more difficult, but I think I captured the flavor of the station using only one piece of non-AF track, a single 30 degree crossover from American Models. This thing is huge. I just wish I could implement this. Maybe I will find a way to simplify it to make it work in the limited space I have available.
 

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Here is another beginner level track plan, packing a lot of action into a 7x11 space. It uses Atlas code 83 sectional track, but any brand of track with the appropriate pieces would work (this probably rules out most roadbed track).

The primary limitation is that there is no way to turn trains, although this could be fixed simply by connecting two of the sidings through the center.

Note that this layout has a long reach to the center, and so requires either access on all 4 sides or something like a topside creeper to work in the middle.

Enjoy!
Ninnjinn.jpg
 

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Here is one that I did using only AF track. It is a 5 x 9 table with 2 reverse loops. Grades are 3.5%. I like bridges so I get to do a very long one. I also show the AF accessories that I have. I like passenger operations so included a simple Union Station layout. I should probably show a train shed too.
 

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Here is one that I probably going to build. Nothing but AF track was used in the design. It has a nice passenger station as well as switching operations. It has some neat signaling opportunities and the ability to run multiple trains, with the passing loops and grade. The grade is 3.5% - a bit on the high side, but the length of trains running shouldn't be much of an issue. Again, I show the AF accessories that I have. I would appreciate any comments. I like the elevated passenger station - it gives me a chance for some nice industrial settings.
 

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Track Layouts

These are pretty amazing but I must say I feel a little sheepish about designing a track layout. I am horrible sketch artist, I know I want a variety of landscapes (hills, mountains, rivers, waterfalls), 2-3 levels of track, bridges, and a few tunnels.

There are plenty of pre-made layouts out there, which is great and would be easy to steal one of those and design my layout based off of it, but I have a thing about wanting a unique layout.

I'm kind of a trial and error guy, I like the freedom of experimenting before I commit. Does anyone else just lay railroad down on the fly? :confused:
 

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Well, first off, you wouldn't be stealing... published plans are meant to be used by others. The real purpose, though, isn't really to hand out track plans, but to try to show people what can and can't be done, as well as to provide inspiration. I would definitely encourage you to design your own, some folks, though, have no idea where to start or how to proceed. If that's not you, then by all means, be creative! Unique is always better, in my opinion. Show us what you come up with (start your own thread and talk about your thoughts).

The first thing you're going to need to figure out is how much space you have available. 2-3 levels and lots of scenery is going to be a space eating monster, even in one of the smaller scales. In particular, grades are as much a problem for our tiny pikes as they are for the full sized ones. True, we can get away with somewhat steeper grades than they can, but still anything more than 3% is asking for trouble, and even that is pushing it. Even at 3%, you need 33-1/3" of linear run to change 1" of elevation, and that much again to come back down on the far side (and this doesn't allow for the required easement -- gradual transitions onto and off of the grade). Grades severely limit train size, with curves on the grade limiting it still further. Of course, if your levels are unconnected, that's a lot easier to manage, but that limits you to a "railfanning" type of layout where you pretty much just watch the trains run rather than doing anything with them. While that's fine if that's what you want, it gets boring quickly for others.

As far as just winging it, I have to be honest. Most of the folks I know who tried that gave up in frustration when they couldn't get anything to work right. It's much more effective to work from a plan, even just a rough one, because then you know it will run and you know it will fit. Consider that computer assisted designs are free (perhaps after investing in some software), and scale drawings cost only pennies (again, perhaps after some initial investment in quality drafting equipment). Track is expensive, and using it to plan your layout, unless you already have a bunch of it lying around, will run up a huge bill, and perhaps result in a lot of wasted track for parts you don't end up using. The commercial layout design software that I use (AnyRail), costs about as much as two good quality turnouts.

But anyway, welcome to the hobby! We're looking forward to seeing what great ideas you come up with on your own layout!
 
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