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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

Long time lurker, firs time poster here. A quick background on me and then I'll jump right into it.

I'm a Civil Technologist with a Bachelor's in Computer Science, I enjoy hobbies that have me tinkering with things, aquariums, RC helicopters, computer programming etc.

I'm looking to build an L shaped N scale layout to fit in a small room in my basement. I'd also like to somewhat automate the layout, DCC and block detection will be a must.

I also decided to buck up and just go with Peco Code 55 despite the cost, the switch variety and code 80 track buried deeper really sold it.

As far as era/location, I live in Terrace BC on the Prince George/Prince Rupert CN main line and would like to model it in a fictional setting in the moden era.

The traffic I'm looking to model is:
-Long Coal/Intermodal/Grain Trains (thru traffic)
-Short Lumber/Tanker/Chip/Scrap Trains (locally shipped/received traffic)

I'm not so interested in passenger trains, we have very few of them around here.

The scenery should encompass mountains, rivers, and industries such as saw mills, bulk plants, and scrap yards. No need for loading/unloading facilities for coal, containers, or grain.

The main itself is single with long passing sidings.


I need adequate staging for 3 long trains (72"). I figure this is enough to give the illusion of a long train if broken up by mountains and tunnels. These trains do not generally stop in the community but make up the bulk of the traffic on the main.

Additionally I'd like to be able to have a small yard capable of sorting smaller (48") trains and then somewhere for them to go.

So I've been browsing track layouts for weeks and came across the White River and Northern IV by by David K. Smith.

http://davidksmith.com/modeling/wrn4-1.htm

I really like the track plan, it squeezes a lot into a small area.

It uses a a main loop with staging as well as a secondary line with balloons on each end with a few cross overs between as the base. This really allows you to keep traffic moving, which is what I want.

Then it adds a small yard and some small sidings to keep it interesting.

This is what I ended up with.

Green Sport venue Games


It has a 2.3% ruling grade with 2-1/4" clearance between level 2 and 3, and about 4" between level 1 and 2. The tightest corner is a 16.5" radius (eased) with the majority of the layout being 18" or better.

I will have to make use of remote tortoise mounts for many of the switches or go with a lower profile switch machine.

Here's the bottom layer, basically staging and long runs back to the main display level.
Line Circle

Obviously access to the hidden runs will be a priority when designing the benchwork.


This is the main display level, minus the yard.
Line

I'm actually really happy with this, but if you see a hole please don't hesitate to poke. I will have to adjust any spurs to the scenery, but there should be lots of space.

It took me a few iterations to get the A/D track in there without it looking like it was shoehorned. That double slip crossover was the big win.


And the top level, just a balloon track after a hill climb.
Line Diagram

Again, a spur that I can adjust.

And finally the yard.
White Text Line Diagram Design

I'm not toally happy with this, I think it jammed too many lines into it for the number of industries I'm serving, I'm thinking about cutting it in half and using the remaining space in the loop for either structures or a mountain scene.


And here's why i split those up.
Line Circle


And here's it without the terrain.
Amusement park Nonbuilding structure Urban design Amusement ride Animation


And before you comment on the table size, I'm fairly tall (and young) and I will be able reach all the track, i checked. Oh, and I can pull it away from the wall. The room is actually about 9-1/2" x 11".

So how much of a nightmare will this be to build? I'm hoping it keeps me busy for at least a few years.
 

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Others with more expertise than I will comment on your track plan but "I'm hoping it keeps me busy for at least a few years." may be the biggest understatement in model railroading I've ever heard. Good luck and welcome to the hobby.:)
 

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Thelic

A very ambitious track plan but it would afford some
enjoyable continuous running as well as some
switching. As to switching, you have a nice yard
but you need a number of single industrial spurs
to augment it.

You are aware that you have at least 2 reverse loop
situations which would require isolated sections
and a reverse loop controller for each. The one
loop would require special wiring to automatically
throw the points of the controlling turnout to avoid derails.

Track detection is available. There are various
devices that do that. One is current sensing which
alerts when loco motor or cars with special conducting
paint across the axles enter it's isolated block. Others
use infra red or photoelectric.

There is another beginning modeller here on the Forum who also
wishes to use advanced digital technology to
control his layout. You may want to work with him
for your mutual advantage.

But I would encourage you to stay with your DCC
controller and trains until you get it all functioning
smoothly. Then begin to add your more specialized
gear.

Don
 

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Well, your plan and your concept are both sound. That layout will be a lot of fun to build and will give you lots of fun when completed.

That said, if this is your first venture into the hobby, that's a mighty big mouthful to bite off all at once with an incredibly steep learning curve.

My personal opinion is that you would be better served by building something smaller first while you figure out the techniques and tricks that such a layout will require. You say you hope it will keep you busy for a few years -- it is my considered opinion that it will overwhelm you.

My recommendation would be to identify a couple of pieces of that larger whole that you could build and operate as stand-alone sections (or make it modular), so you can try your hand without the massive investment of time and money that your plan will entail. If you make modules, you can incorporate these into the larger whole at a later date if they turn out well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thanks for the feedback guys!

I made some changes and am working on version 11!

Don,

I am aware of the twin reverse loops, and the complex switching I have used. It actually got more complex in my more recent version, but I think it handles the angles better and looks more natural. I was hoping the layout would be an exercise in automation. I've been looking into the Digitrax products available. I'd like to eventually have a computer terminal run the layout.

I was really impressed with Mark VerMurlen's build. http://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=53721

I'm looking for ways to add more industrial spurs to the track, I've read though as bunch more builds and it seems this is almost always advised.



CT,

I had a few 4' x 8' HO layouts as a kid, the last was actually a cookie cutter with multiple levels, however it never made it past track work.

I'm a fairly decent carpenter with access to a full wood shop, so the woodwork doesn't scare me. I've designed and produced a few nice pieces of furniture. A 180 gallon oak fish tank stand was the last project. The programming and electrical is something I'll always enjoy.

That said, I think I'll have a hard time incorporating it into a larger whole, and personally I think I'd rather have a stand alone layout. If and when the time comes maybe I can persuade the chief financial officer for a train room.


On to the changes!

Line Diagram


So the biggest change I've made was stretching one side to 9.5'. This let me spread things out, reduce areas of stacked track, eliminate the 3rd layer, and allow easy access to ALL switch machines. It also helped reduce the ruling grade to 2%.

I reworked the lower double crossover with a double slip. Its a little more complicated but the angles don't look forced (removes an S bend).

The A/D track has been lengthened to 80", I can now fit full sized trains. This should help make up for the loss of the 3rd staging track.

Added a roadway that seems to make sense.

I spit the layout in a way that *only* requires 7 tracks be joined. The previous layout had no where to spit it that made any sense.

I'm considering adding a spur in the yard area for a bulk plant.

The front spur will likely be used for a saw mill while the leftmost could be a pulp & paper mill. I'm going try to squeeze a scrap yard in somewhere. Maybe just in the main yard area.
 

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I like the simplification that you've made in your latest design. I think you'll be better served with the lesser amount of hidden track than in your first design. As you've also realized, making sure you have clearance under your turnouts for the Tortoise motors will make your build much easier.

Have you considered how you'll access the 3 storage tracks? If you're not opposed to making them visible, I'd suggest taking the track loop that's currently over the other and putting it under so that you can expose the storage tracks and further reduce your hidden track footage. I know that some people want to hide their staged trains, but its not uncommon to see idle trains on tracks in the real world.

Regarding adding more industrial spurs, I would suggest that you design something into the interior of your left hand loops. You've created a really nice yard in the lower right to make use of that interior loop space. I think you could do something similar within the left hand loops. You could look at some point to point shelf layout designs and see if you can steal a portion of one of those designs to put into that space. Think of an industrial complex type area with multiple buildings with multiple track spurs servicing them.

Unless you really are wanting to model a lot of roadway, I'd eliminate the continuous road from one end to the other of your layout. You can have access roads come into your yard and industrial areas from off the layout.

I'm looking forward to seeing your layout come to life. I hope you'll post periodic status updates on it as you build it.

Finally, thanks for the nice comment on my layout.

Mark
 

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Mark

I fully understand your desire to work on an
automated control system for your layout.

I did that some years back using multi contact Potter Brumfield
relays. It worked,
But then I realized. The system satisfied the
creative juices to accomplish the system, but it
results in taking YOU out of the picture. You
are but a spectator.

Your track design offers interesting operational
challenges that would give you hours of enjoyable
train running with YOU pushing the buttons and
maintaining control. The ideal would be to have
the automated circuits switchable so that you can
manually control the layout if you wish.

As to the 'reverse loops'. Use the DCC reverse
loop controllers with a detector circuit that can
throw the turnout points so your trains can continuously
run through them without the need for a manual
point throw.

I would also suggest a Diode Matrix to control the
points in your yard. You have one panel button in
each yard track. Push it and all points in your path
throw for a clear track. It's done with cheap diodes.
Does require twin coil turnout motors in the yard
tracks.

Don
 

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Others with more expertise than I will comment on your track plan but "I'm hoping it keeps me busy for at least a few years." may be the biggest understatement in model railroading I've ever heard. Good luck and welcome to the hobby.:)
my dad bought me a train set when i was like, 5 or 6 years old, hoping it "Might keep him busy for a week or two'

now im 27 lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ah, but Don that's the beauty of automation. If done correctly it's a magnificent thing to behold.

It's like my aquarium. With the way I've set it up I do almost zero water changes. Food goes in, is processed by the fish, the waste is taken up by the plants and then I just remove a handful of floating plants twice a week. 95% of the workload is adding fertilizer, food, and trace elements back to the water. Its this perfect balance.

What I really desire is for the computer to be able to control 1 or 2 trains, simulating other engineers, while I control one myself. Or if you desire you could act as the dispatch and have the trains control themselves, automatic braking on sidings etc.

Point is once your automated you really can do anything, including full manual control.


I'm decently happy with the last posted layout, I'm still tweaking it for better access and fixing mistakes. For example I have a double slip on the bottom right, where it clearly should just be a single.

I think I'll broaden the staging curves in the top right, this should give better access from behind/below. I'll also pull the upper reverse loop switch (yellow) down a touch to increase the horizontal space between the staging and it to about 6". That combined with about 2" of vertical separation should be plenty for me to reach in and clear a derailment, and certainly enough to wipe tracks clean.

The left loops will end up with about 3" of vertical separation so I'm thinking that should be sufficient for access from below.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Amazing how much better things look with terrain contours.

I'm really hoping to avoid the flat look.

I reversed the yard ladder direction, this should give me more usable space, I changed the engine storage tracks and added a spur for a bulk plant.

Sport venue Green Urban design Race track Landscape

Sport venue Pole Urban design Nonbuilding structure

Sport venue Urban design Stadium Landscape Amusement park


I'm trying to decide the best way to build this. I'm most familiar with cookie cutter, but I think using splines made from 3/16" x 3/4"pine strips topped with cork would be a better product.

I'm still torn on whether to go with 2 or 3 staging tracks, I may have to make that call once I get there just to see how tight the access feels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, some testing equipment is on the way. 2 each of Kato GE ES44AC GEVOs and Gunderson Maxi-I 5-Unit Double-Stack Cars. I'll be checking what my maximum grades and clearances are. I'll probably end up with 3 or 4 of the Maxi-I units eventually, but I'll check what a single engine can pull and add half that again for a 2 engine consist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Getting Closer...

- Squeezed an extra spur into the bottom right.

- Reversed the yard, as mentioned previously.

- Reversed the bridge/tunnel on left, looks a lot more natural, and gives a greater bridge selection as it doesn't have to clear span the river and the tracks. It also improves alignment on the reverse loop sections.

-Revisited the idea of under layout staging, this time with 1-1/2 rotation helices (yea i googled it) to give ~8" separation and moved the staging yard to within 8" of the front of the table. It still can accommodate a 72" train. Gives better clearance for access to hidden tracks, removes all hidden switches, and gives easy access to the staging tracks. Technically its actually less hidden track because the yard is now visible.

At a scale 55 mph (6inch / sec) it takes a train a little over 2 minutes between leaving the layout and reemerging from staging.

-Pushed the branch line back into the corner, longer track helps with the grades and clearance no longer required for rear staging. Way more room for scenery between yard and branch.

Line Line art

Line Circle

Did some math on the train lengths I plan to run.

Train 1: Double Header Intermodal - 2x Kato GE ES44AC, 2x Kato Gunderson Maxi-I, 1x Gunderson Maxi-IV. Length ~72".

Train 2: Double Header Coal - 2x Kato GE ES44AC, 15-16x Bethgon Coalporter. Whatever is < 72".

Still looking into other possible trains.

I think that both of those *should* be able to handle 3% grades without issue. Twin Kato engines, metal wheels, large radius turns...
 

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I really like your latest layout design. I think your upper level plan has a lot of interest. I've not ever built a helix of any type, so I can't help you there. It does seem like a good idea to use a small helix to be able to get you extra clearance space for working on trains in your staging area.

I do think building this is going to be challenging. I'm not quite sure how best to tackle the track support structure. I'm inclined to build one flat base L-girder and joist structure that supports everything above it. Your bottom storage tracks can then be laid on plywood directly sitting on the joists. But then everything else has to be raised above that on sub-roadbed supported by risers. I'd probably build all the sub-roadbed out of plywood. Maybe others might have other recommendations.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I think I actually cracked the bench issue.

Some new "Givens" have been added to the list by the household's CFO.

- Benchwork must allow for a 29" tall work surface to be stored underneath in the form of a standard height desk. Desktop will likely be 24" x 54"

- Height of terrain not to exceed 48" above floor to avoid blocking windows and exceeding the height of the basement ledge. Trees and other structures above are Ok.


I'm going to build the whole thing from 3/4" birch plywood.


The design strategy will be open grid with a combination of spline and plywood subroadbed. This should give me great access to switch machines and hidden track. L girder would have been easier but I just don't have the vertical space to get both the lower level staging and scenery in with the constraints.

Extreme care will need be taken to avoid stringers intersecting point motors.

I'll build stringers from plywood on end, cutting the profile of the layout with each one. This will be the most tedious part by far. This will eliminate a ton of excess wood under the layout though, hopefully making for a neat and tidy design.

Subroadbed will be 3/4" x 1/4" pine splines. The hope being that this will provide natural easements and run very quiet as it doesn't have a large resonating surface. Homesote would be better, but I don't have the space for 3" tall splines.

The yard subroadbed will be a plywood sheet.


The goal of the layout it to have something that runs extremely well. Large radius curves, high switch #'s, easements, proper clearances, electrofrogs, reliable engines, metal wheel sets, etc.


So I have a couple weeks worth of Sketchup before I cut anything. In the meantime 2 car sets and 2 engines are in the mail, along with a Kato starter trackplan. This should allow me some testing and measurements for clearances.
 

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Sounds like a good plan to me. When you start building it, please update us with your progress. Most of us put our build threads under the "My Layout" section. I'd encourage you to do the same since your design is now nearly complete. I'm looking forward to seeing this built.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Oh, I'm still a long ways from building. Forever tweaking. Way easier to do it on paper/software than plywood!

Newest version will eliminate the mainline bend below the branch/reverse loop bridge. This was originally to cross the bridge and mainline, no longer necessary.

A side effect is I will get way more interesting road placement by pushing it under the bridge and up a slope along the creek to the inner loop.



A question, and I know its loaded....

I'm thinking of shrinking the upper reverse loop to gain more visible mainline along the front. A potential way to do this is shrink the hidden portion down to maybe a 14" radius, that gives me 4 more inches width along the front. The other option is to shrink the entire loop, down to 16" radius. What are your thoughts? I think I'll be way happier with the longer mainline run.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Version 22!

Line Diagram


At Mark's suggestion I decided to remove the highway. I think it takes up a lot of space and really handcuffs you since level crossing more than 2-3 tracks isn't very prototypical, meaning it forces the yard location. It also spoils any sense of distance between things.

As such I flipped the yard back, gained a longer run around, more storage and it just looks more natural.

I pulled the S-bend out of the left side and adjusted the table to fit. I think it flows a lot better.

The upper reverse loop has been tightened (still 16.5" radius), this allows the twin mainlines to have a bit more of a run before entering the tunnel. This keeps trains from entering/leaving the yard immediately from or into a tunnel, not very prototypical. It's also going to open up more space for a water feature to help create the illusion of distance.

The minimum radius has shrunk to 16.2" but its a corner only visible from the inside, I think it should look Ok. I hope the Maxi -IV's will look acceptable on 16". Apparently they are designed to go around Kato's 9.75” radius curves!

One further option I'm looking at is pulling the yard back further by changing the first of the ladder turnouts to a curved turnout. That should net about 4" additional length on each of the yard spurs.

I'm still reworking the staging for the new table shape.
 

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I like what you've done with the 2 reverse loops. Giving them more separation from one another looks better. I can't help you with opinions on the N scale curve radius changes since I'm and HO scale guy.

I actually prefer your previous yard to this latest one. I liked the looks of the twin run-arounds that came back towards the inside of the layout. I could see storing cabooses on one of those 2 tracks. I also think getting the yard away from the mainline a bit helped the visual interest too and gives you more scenic/structure options. Just my opinion.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Oh, see I really like the new yard. Playing with the simulator in Scarm I found it much more functional. In particular having the runaround incorporated into the A/D track. I do see that this may cause a problem if the A/D track is occupied. I'll have to add a second run around option in the next version.

Not going to be running any cabooses on the layout, FREDs only. So caboose storage is not really required.

The prototype yard in town has no extra space between the mainline or A/D tracks or even the rest of the double ended yard.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@54.5126941,-128.5844149,1469a,35y,0.36t/data=!3m1!1e3

It does however have those offset twin run arounds that they mainly use for servicing and storing engines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Looking at the layout it has the two complex intersections. I've been looking at alternative options to the single and double slips I have selected.

Line


The only way I've figured how to remove the double slip on the reverse loop intersection is through the use of a 3 way turnout. Not sure if this is a better option, it adds a S-bend to what would be a heavily used route.

The other intersection uses a single slip, and could be replaced with a cross and two additional curved switches.This doesn't effect traffic or throw anything out of alignment, it may be the better option.

What are your thoughts?
 
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