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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all. I'm new to the forum and I haven't done model-railroading since I was a young kid. I decided I wanted to get back into it, now that I'm older I could possibly do some really nice/refined modeling that I couldn't as a kid.

As a kid I had a basic HO scale DC oval and did some nice things considering my age. But for this go I've decided to construct a 4'x8' N Scale DCC model railroad layout to try and cram more diversity into a layout. I wanted to share my plans and progress and get some feedback from you all.

The theme:
The railroad theme will be indicative of Connecticut rails since that's where I'm from. I've always been a huge fan of the Amtrak FP40 loco and Amfleet cars in Phase III paint scheme, so I am going to start with that set. Later, as I build up the railroad layout, I will expand to include freight using Providence & Worcester RR locos and rolling stock. The layout is small for what I want to accomplish, but I am persistent as hell to go for it anyway...

Layout Wish List:
-Double-track mainline
-A 3rd mainline so I can have 3 trains running at once
-A good size yard
-2 industry types w/ independent branch lines, or 1 industry theme w/ 2 branch lines where one is a start point and the other is a travel-to end point (good for operations)
-Enough terrain to somewhat obscure one scene from the next, but no poster photos divider across the middle of the layout
-A variety in grade elevations both for aesthetic purposes, but pretty much a requirement to run 3 mainlines as well
-Complete 180 degree direction reversing both ways for locos, preferably via looping and not via a wye

Pictures:
Here is the 1st photo, my overhead view of the track layout. I built the layout w/ SCARM and used sectional track pieces for layout accuracy, but the final construction will compose of Flex Track for all curves and odd-fitting scenarios. Some 6" straight track will be used near switches.

overhead.jpg

In the photo above, I have highlighted all the lines, my circuit plans for each line, and my track feeder points. My plan is to have each mainline on a circuit breaker (think lighted passenger cars), and the 2 branch lines on "light bulb" breakers.

Mainline 1 and 2 will be on 0 (zero) elevation most of the run but w/ 2% inclines on the Southwest area of the table where some major switch interchanging occurs. There will be a polarity reversing loop off Mainline 1 that runs almost entirely through a tunnel under the yard on the elevated height above. I will need to cut out openings in the bottom of the table along the contour of most of the reversing loop in case a problem occurs, I can access these areas. Branch line 1 is also on the same zero elevation as the Mainlines.

On the upper elevation is where the rest of the action happens. A large rail yard with a 2 bay engine shop, a through-track in the yard for pass-through trains, Branch line 2, Mainline 3, and a ton of complex switches to make it all happen. Mainline 3 will also mostly be polarity reversing tracks since it meets up with the rail yard circuit at both the East and West ends, and the rail yard through line really acts as a 2nd looping route to get a train to reverse direction as well. I obviously can't have the rail yard circuit a polarity reversing situation, so the only alternative was to have Mainline 3 constantly polarity reversing so as not to interrupt any rail yard operations that might be happening.

You can see all my planned track feeder points as of now. I'm trying to find a balance between critical solder points, but not getting all OCD on my plans and unnecessarily over-doing it.

Below are some other pics from the 3D render feature in SCARM:

Length of the table. Far end is a mountain scene that descends into a foothill valley
length.jpg

Opposite angle on the layout length:
width.jpg

View from the back of the mountains. The cut-out with a gray box is a quarry scene with double-track gravel mill siding
mountains.jpg

And finally a view of the small river valley overpass where Mainline 1 and 2 make an appearance coming out of the Southwest tunnel portal:
river-bridge.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Brian. The benchwork is already complete - I have a table built with a piece of 1/4" plywood down with a 1" foam base on top of it. Since my funds are limited I need to slow-play this project over several years I think to spread out the costs of the project. I am going to start by first building Mainline 1 and the reversing tunnel loop running a train on that for a while, then over time I will expand and build up Mainline 2 and Branch line 1 together. After that I will start focusing on the upper level so I can get the rail yard and Branch line 2 done, and then finally Mainline 3.

I already have the track, roadbed, tunnel portals, and risers purchased for Mainline 1. I have all the wire I'll ever need for bus and feeders so I'm also set there. I need to get my plans printed out on a plotter so I can lay down a 1:1 scale printout over my table and use that as a template to start marking track positions.

I'll probably do all my bus and feeder wiring once all the track is down.
 

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Hi, Overkast, and welcome. I also model Eastern CT, but the late 1950's on a fictional version of the Connecticut Valley Railroad... you may know it as the Essex Steam Train. A lot of us take a long time to finish things, a function of both life and funds. It's a very good idea to get at least some part of your layout up and running as soon as feasible, that way you can run SOME trains.

I hope your project is not overly ambitious for a newbie, although it seems like you have a good handle on things. Unfortunately, I can't see the photos (probably the work computer's settings), but it sounds like a good plan in theory. You may encounter some issues with terrain, as ours tends to be rolling and doesn't lend itself to dramatic elevation changes, and you may find yourself using grades that are tough for your equipment to manage due to the small size of your layout. I'll look again this evening and see if I can't make some more concrete recommendations.

I'm also curious as to why you've already ruled out a scenic divider, as this might help make scenery more realistic (although, when I can see the pix, that may make it obvious).

Are you heading up to the Amherst Model Railway Show this weekend? It's an amazing experience, and a Nutmegger like you won't let a little snow bother you, will you?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hey CTValleyRR, sorry for the delayed reply but I've been a bit busy between work and a packed weekend. Nice to meet a fellow CT resident here! Yes I am very familiar w/ the Essex Steam train (Valley RR). I didn't get up to the train show b/c I had a packed weekend schedule already, I hope it was a good time?

To answer your question about grades, I have mostly 2% grades, one 1% grade, and one 3% grade (on the connnector line from Mainline 2 to Rail Yard circuit). I plan to use the Woodland Scenics inclines for everything, but the 1% incline will be a bit of a challenge since WS doesn't make 1% inclines.

I mostly out-ruled a scenic divider because of my track layout designs. At one point I attempted drafting one going diagonally across the layout along the North side of my Rail Yard, but with the Branch Line 2 angle cutting through it and the curves on both the West and East sides of the layout, it would require too many cut-outs (and thus more tunnel scenes) to make it worthwhile.
 

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You've done a great planning job. That layout will give lots of
operation fun.

My only suggestion is to see where you can fit in some more
industrial spurs. At some point you're going to want to do
switching operations. The more industries that you 'serve'
the more fun your switching will be.

My contrats on your 'polarity' matching. I really had to
do some head scratching on that bottom isolated
section but you are correct, it is a 'polarity' situation.

Since you have three 'reverse loops' the Digitrax PM42
would seem to make most sense to control them. It can
control 4 separate 'isolated' sections.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Don, thanks very much for the compliments and good advice about the Digitrax PM42. I will definitely look into that now.

I know what your're saying about trying to get more industry and switching into the layout and having more fun w/ operations that way. My only concern is that I have so much already crammed in there w/ 3 mainlines, a giant yard (+ engine shop), and 2 branch lines... and trying to balance all that diversity with some mountains to try and isolate the scenes.

My best options to add another 1 or 2 industries would be to get rid of the 2 bay engine shop off the rail yard and drop an industry there, and figure out a way to cram another industry next to Branch Line 2 (which I was planning on making a big gravel mill that takes up a bunch of space w/ a quarry mountain). I would have to move both the quarry mountain and the gravel mill to clear out more space for another industry over there. This would take some savvy thinking!
 

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Amherst show was great, as usual, but very under attended due to the weather. I spent Saturday and part of Sunday hosting at the Essex Steam Train booth, then spent the rest of Sunday looking around. Believe me, I know all about overprogrammed weekends.

I think you've got a good plan there. I wouldn't worry about the 1% grades. They're gradual enough that perfection is not so critical. Use a long, stiff ruler and it should come out ok.
 

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I see what you mean about a space shortage when
I go back and look at the 3 dimensional views. Them
thar hills gobble up a lot of room.

You might run a spur off the 'outer' loco shop lead,
and perhaps have 2 different 'industries' on it. Keep
in mind a rail freight user need not be a big factory.
It could be a scrap yard, a small electrical supply house,
a Lumber yard, or a Less than Carload (LCL) freight house.
(they don't have these any longer but back in the era
before the 60s there was a lot of box car activity at these.)
You could have 2 or even 3 businesses on a single spur.
That also adds to the switching fun since you have to juggle
the car positions.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #11
All good calls Don! I took your post to heart yesterday, and decided to hunker down and make some layout changes in SCARM after your post. You're right in that doing more spur action will prove more fun to the overall layout operations, so I got back to work to see what I could do.

I'm still making some progress but I'm about 80% done with my layout plan changes and will post pics when I'm done. But funny you should mention running a spur line off the outer engine shop lead, because I did something VERY similar to that! I actually decided to eliminate the engine shop altogether -- I felt like it was going to take up too much space for just 2 engines and it wasn't worth it. Rather, I will have my locos sitting on the smallest yard rails out in the open instead. This allows me more space overall in that tight area, and I used that space to run a spur line into that open space area to the East of where the engine shop was.

I also managed to create a 2nd spur line off the gravel mill spur line (Branch Line 2) where I can add another 1 or 2 industries as well... and in the process I was also able to simplify some of my other track configurations and eliminate a bunch of odd elevations that would require some pretty complex modeling techniques to get right. I even changed my Tunnel Reverse Loop to become a more simple straight-line tunnel that just crosses the table and reconnects to Mainline 1 on the North side.

I'm excited about the changes - thanks for the inspiration!!:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Lots of updates to report since my last post on this thread. I have spent the last 2 weeks going from layout revisions per Don's inspiration, to laying out and finishing the track for the entire Mainline 1 loop. I still have to do the reverse polarity tunnel line that branches off Mainline 1 - I plan to nail that down this week.

Here is a before and after loop to show the layout changes I made after Don's post:
before-after.gif


To help you understand some of the changes above, I color-coded all my inclines based on their grade percentage. In the "Before" pic, I had one 1% grade (in green), a lot of complex 2% grades (in yellow), and one critical 3% grade (in orange) that helps trains go from the low level Mainlines 1 & 2 to the upper level Mainline 3 / Rail Yard / industry sidings. In the "After" picture, I completely overhauled the inclines to reduce complexity (and minimize risk factors for operations) by doing only one simple 2% grade on the North side of Mainline 3 and still keeping the critical 3% grade for the level 1 to level 2 transition.

Here's a new scene from the East perspective showing the length of the layout.
length_2-8-15.jpg


I'm planning to have a small river in the canyon on the left because I needed a reason to validate why a canyon was there in the first place. Making the Yard and Mainline 3 on an upper level required this canyon, so now I needed a way to validate the canyon from a terrain / construction perspective. A river was the perfect answer! The 3% grade incline will have a challenging bridge to cross the river at the midway point of the incline too.

I also mentioned in my last post that I was going to consider eliminating the 2 bay engine shop because it took up too much room considering I needed more space to create additional sidings. Well, I came up with a better solution to keep it and still have the space! I found a Walthers 3 track "car shop" that is made for train car maintenance, but I decided I would use it for both loco and rail cars. Now I have the best of both worlds
rail_yard_2-8-15.jpg


And finally, here is a shot from the North perspective, showing the back side of the quarry mountain where Mainline 3 runs along it on an elevated height, and Mainline 1 & 2 are below. You can also see the tunnel portal that goes underneath the layout where the polarity reversal track comes off Mainline 1.
NE_corner_2-8-15.jpg


So with that, here are some pictures of my benchwork and track laying progress!

North side - Mainline 1
472007A5-0608-4A78-BC93-70317252838F.jpg


Close up of switches on North side of Mainline 1
B456D0B0-4E11-4EDE-B1EF-F38F55FF12E3.jpg


My benchwork and paper templates laying out the South side Mainline 1 flex track double-curves
524FEC32-3A9A-4831-8978-ADB0AA50108B.jpg


Close up of my paper templates for South side Mainline 1 flex track double-curves
65E915FB-F0CE-4133-AE06-18BC5CFF8B8F.jpg


South side Mainline 1 flex track laid, and drying with weights on top of it
AFB884B1-3AF0-43DE-8C9D-641523E34E3C.jpg


I have actually made more progress than this but I need to take more photos still. I'll post again when I have them.
 

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If I'm not too late coming in with another suggestion. Could you do one
more spur next to the track you'll use for loco storage? If so, you could
add a sand tower and it's associated use of a hopper full of sand, and also
a diesel fueling station (hardly more than a vertical pipe with a hose or
pipe extension, with it's associate tank on a frame. You would spot an
oil taker there next to the hopper. I have a lot of switching activity with
mine.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Some new progress to report. I've had a huge week; going from completing my first "oval" track lay, to soldering most feeders, adding the decoder to the loco, installing the NCE Power Cab, and finally running the loco for the first time tonight!

Complex turnout wiring
C62E3696-0132-4E71-BCC9-E4B021F4A7E5.jpg


About to test the Power Cab
7828D103-3410-43B0-AE42-B27522A48319.jpg


Running the Amtrak Phase III EMD F40PH
5AFD8505-F899-48EE-AF5E-CF6CAB1B34DE.jpg


Down the straightaway
9374F352-961C-42CD-88A5-FE83A28F43A1.jpg


Rounding the bend
84B74B69-0F6A-46AF-9A3C-A4D840A21985.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Well it's been over 1 year since my last post here, but I hadn't worked on the train set all Spring, Summer, and most of Fall in 2015. So I got back into it late Fall in 2015 and I've really been happy with my progress the n last few months. Getting a little more efficient all the time, which seems to make even tedious tasks like soldering not so bad once you get good at it. The layout has gone through 18 different iterations in SCARM as well, as for one reason or another I found some real potential headache scenarios in my designs that I knew would be too difficult to pull off in real modeling. So I'm finally executing my version 18 plan at full throttle and think I'm going to be happy with the result. I am pleased to say as of last week, I completed laying, soldering, and the electrical hookup for all the track on the lower level, which accounts for about 60% of the total layout! Amtrak #396 has made her maiden test voyage on all the track to confirm electrical is working without short circuits on every section :)

uploadfromtaptalk1458599500558.jpg
uploadfromtaptalk1458599521536.jpg

I will post many more pics and updates soon!

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Oh and sorry about all the pics in my previous posts disappearing. I was pulling them from photobucket and I recently re-organized my photobucket library, so it must have broke all the links :( I'll try to do a chronological re-cap in the next post and build it up to he point where I'm at now...
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Below is a pic showing some of my track layout progressions. In the early stages (v3) I had planned for a reverse loop that was completely under a tunnel beneath the upper level section in the middle of the layout. I realized eventually that was a really bad idea, in case something ever happened to a train or the track under there, I would have no good way of accessing that area without ripping the upper level apart. Even if I created a large hole or cutout on the bottom of the table along the track for access, I wouldn't be able to do any repairs due to a low 2" ceiling for the upper level foam above.

Another bad idea I eventually scrapped was having a rail yard in the middle of the layout. First off, after doing a couple of feeder solderings to some turnouts, I realized what a PITA it was soldering turnouts (5 wires per turnout, plus 2 jumpers for the closure rails!). It was hard enough doing this on the edges of my layout where most of my turnouts were planned, I could only imagine what a nightmare it would be doing a whole yard's worth of turnout soldering in the middle of my table! Not to mention, something just didn't look right with an elevated rail yard in the middle of the layout anyway, no matter what i couldn't get it to look realistic. So, I scrapped the idea and went for a smaller rail yard on the lower level where I had the most space to work with, between Mainline 2 and the 3% grade track on the southern edge.

Track_layout_progressions.jpg

So as you can see in v18, I still achieved most of my original wish list... I have a layout that can run 3 trains at once (3 Mainlines) and I still have an adequate rail yard to hold freight cars for operations.

layout_Mar_2016_1.jpg
layout_Mar_2016_2.jpg
layout_Mar_2016_3.jpg
layout_Mar_2016_4.jpg
 
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