Central Midland Atlas HO-29 layout questions

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New Member
Just found and joined this forum. I am getting ready to build the Central Midland layout and I ran across a post from member "ekeefe" from March 2008 about some questions he had with same layout and revisions he made. I hope your still on the forum and see this! Couple of things, did you have to change the grid dimensions to accommodate substituting 22" for 18" radius and 24" for 22" radius curves? The other concern I have is do you run into any issues if you used under table switch machines? Particularly under the yard, wondering if there would be any issue with clearance for underneath track. I realize this layout was designed before these switch machines were around. Also any problems with the grid support being beneath a turnout? I really like your modifications and I intend to do same. Thanks for any help!!


Wayne B
I had a Central Midland layout however I built it "stock". I used all Atlas code 83 track. I equipped mine with Tortoise switch machines and had no issues what so ever. Even with the double crossovers and the "WYE". I would not recommend Atlas switch machines for under table applications.There are several others that built the "Central Midland". You can use the search function specifying "Central Midland". Should be a lot of information from several people including pictures. Hope this helps.


Section Hand
The grid dimensions remain the same since they are dividing the top of the bench work into units and reference points to aid in laying out your track work. The bench work likely needs to be larger to accommodate the larger 22 and 24 inch radius curves.

I agree with Wayne and avoid using the Atlas switch machines. The Tortoise machines are far superior in strength to move and hold the switch points in place.

Also, like Wayne indicated, there is a more recent Thread on the Central Midland posted within the last several months.

BTW, welcome to the Forum.




Active Member
I had the Central Midland also. I loved the design and it has inspired me to build my new layout. I know from that layout that I now use Peco switches and broader turns. If you are planning to try to use larger rolling stock or locos then this layout is way to tight. I loved my layout but I love larger rolling stock and locos better. That is why when I moved I dismantled the layout. I modified mine because I had room. I had numerous threads on the layout just like others have. Everyone here is willing to help .

Below is one of my original threads

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Well-Known Member
I also had a Central Midland layout that I posted a lot of photos about the mods I made over here:

A lot of my postings begin on page 2 under the name 'railandsail' at the time.

As I've said all of my numerous photos have disappeared??

My layout plan was a 'flipped version' of the plan, and I built a whole round house scene into one of those loops at the end of the laout. If you want to see some of those mods (photos), let me know and I'll repost them.

I utilized flex track and 'smoothed out some of those tight curves to run longer locos, cars. But not every curve can be made idea for longer items.

I would NOT use any automatic turnout controls for most of the 'yard turnouts above the curved track underneath. Just not enough clearance (by the way I was able to run a Rivarossi Big Boy and a Broadway Ltd Y6b on my layout). To control those turnouts in the yard I figured I could just use my hand (cloe enough by arm), or run a 'surface rod' under the track (but still on top of the subroadbed board.) over to the edge of the yard,...manual control by a small small push-pull of the rod.


Well-Known Member
This is what I mean by a 'flipped version' of the plan.


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Well-Known Member
I then took that one 'loop area' that was originally scheduled for a few warehouse sidings, or whatever, and turned it into a steam-yard round-table scene where I could show off my steam locos.
And provided a double track bridge over to it from the freight yard. I wanted a double track here so one could access the roundtable even while another loco was getting a coal load before leaving the steam storage area, and/or you could have one loco entering while the other was leaving.

I also managed to sneak in a loop of track (and some industry services) under that turntable scene. That was tricky, but fun to work out.


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Well-Known Member
If I would have had the room, and not been in a rental house, I might have considered expanding the overall foot print of this layout plan so larger radius turns could have been accommodated. Overall there was a lot of activity possible with this relatively small layout. John Armstrong was a good designer.


Well-Known Member
Freight Yard

HO Scale Train Layout, Central Midland (modified)
Freight Yard Zone
The original freight yard now has 8 tracks rather than 6, and significantly more services:
a) A planned duel track diesel engine house where the photos now show the cluster of diesel engines.
b) Possibly install a small Walthers diesel locomotive transfer table
c) A diesel engine fueling & sanding facility to be located between the tracks coming into the yard from the big ‘wye’ and those tracks going over the bridge to the steam area.
d) A primary water tank along with a water loading bridge to service all locos leaving the railyard and steam service areas.
e) Several control towers, including a primary one at the double wye, a primary one at the yard entrance, and several smaller elevated ones inside the yard. There are also floodlight towers thru-out the yard, and one or two in the steam service area.
f) There is a propane tank stowage facility off to the side of the yard, with several siding-tracks to ‘display’ a variety of tank cars. There is also a butane tank and loading fixture as well. The propane area shares a ‘parking lot’ with a farm/fertilizer building.
g) At the far end of the yard there is a container loading/stacking facility with cranes and multiple stacks of containers. There are corner mirrors standing at the edges of this scene that act to reflectively ‘double the size’ of this container yard, and also make the freight yard appear twice as long as it is.
h) The yard tracks turn 90 degrees at this container facility and enters a 6 track wide staging area. If a one or two of these staging tracks are left empty, then very long trains can be backed in from the mainlines and turned to run in the opposite direction via the ‘double-track wye’ formed at the entrance to the freight yard.

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Well-Known Member
At a minimum I would change the mainline curves from 18 and 22" to 22 and 24," particularly if I was running bigger equipment. I'd also make it probably at least 15' long, instead of the 12', which you won't notice as the larger curves will eat up that space. I'd make it a few feet wider too, and maybe also double track the whole thing.

If I wanted to do more, I'd consider adding a hidden storage yard in the rear, underneath, tie the far end of yard into something, and maybe add some false front industries along the side with the wye, to add some industries, in keeping with the Atlas illustrations shown in the description, to give that side a 'big city feel.'


Well-Known Member
This is the area were I had the most problems with curves in the track, that double track curve, particularly the inner curve just being a bit too tight.

There was a particular loco I would use to try and find derailment prone areas. It is a six axle diesel loco with small flanges on its wheels. This loco could find difficult spots as it tended to pivot on two of the three axles on any one truck, and thus derail the 3rd axel's wheels

Area I had problems with radius of curves.jpg


Well-Known Member
... and maybe add some false front industries along the side with the wye, to add some industries, in keeping with the Atlas illustrations shown in the description, to give that side a 'big city feel.'

...this is what i had in mind...
City Scene Backdrop
This could be the most exciting scene of all. My plan was to make this a city scene of Baltimore, an industrial city, home of the nations first railroad, and home of the famous B&O. There would be two distinctive images I thought I would include; 1) the infamous ‘Bromo Selzer’ tower*, and 2) the Mt Royal train station**. The train station in particular, as I had no room on the layout for a model station. I imagine it could be painted onto the backdrop, and include a dbl track portion that would appear to join the actual mainlines over in the back corner of the layout.

There are lighting techniques, layering techniques with poster board materials, and thin single-sided plastic structures that could make this city scene come alive, even in its very ‘flat presentation’. I have some sample illustrations.

Coal was, and is very much a part of Baltimore’s history along with steel and railroads. I had thought it could be possible to paint a coal fired power plant or steel mill onto a portion of this city scene down on the lower left hand side near the roundhouse area. Maybe add a large pile of coal alone with a string of coal cars waiting to be unloaded. If the layout were spaced out a bit from this wall/backdrop, it might be possible to insert one or two ‘fake’ sidings with coal cars and/or B&O passenger cars in waiting.
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Well-Known Member
On the other wall (back wall)

Rolling Farm Backdrop
I’m sure you’ve seen the smooth rolling ridges that mark the transition at the base of mountains to the flatter lands. Then imagine a series of rolling ridgelines stretched horizontally across this backdrop to transition from the mountain scene on the right, to the outskirts of the city scene on the perpendicular backdrop at the left. Our stream/river will meander out thru the shallower portions of these ridges, and there will be cattle grazing on these grasslands. A very distinctive cattle billboard sign will announce to the train passengers that this is a major ranch (I have a great photo already). Maybe a rural hwy as well, and another farm with silos in the distance….all painted-on of course.

The symbolism here is the trek from the east coast city of Baltimore to the western mountains, either the Appalachians or Sierras. This model-rr can run many different RR marques, from the east coast to the west coast.


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New Member
Thanks to all who responded to my questions on The Central Midland. I think I will add a few feet to the grid dimensions to ensure enough space for the larger radius curves. I have seen a lot of talk about using Peco turnouts vs Atlas, anyone care to chime in on this? Would there be any issues using Peco turnouts with Atlas Code 83 track?


Well-Known Member
Obviously I like bridges on my layout. Did you count the number I have here?.....6 bridges

....and only two of them are the same....modified Atlas Curved-Cord bridges.

Several of my bridges were not really bridges in the truest sense,.... they didn't have their bottom structures.

Both of these were the double-track bridges that I kit-bashed from single-track Atlas/Roco Curved Cord Bridge kits. I simply took two single track bridge kits and 'doubled' the upper connecting beam structure to effectively provide for a dbl track spacing between the curved cord beam structures.

I left the bottoms out (to be used on other projects*), and just relied on the roadbed to provide support for the track of the bridge. I glued four 'locating pins' onto the corners of the curved cord sides, and these plugged into 4 holes drilled into the roadbed. This kept the 'bridge' properly located, and its side frames properly spaced apart such as to not interfere with the passing trains.

One of these dbl track bridges was set up as a safety device,....that one against the backside of the layout right at the point of the crossover switching between the 2 mainlines. I had in the past experienced several of my nice steam engines derailing and crashing off the layout onto the concrete floor...NOT a pleasant experience!! I decided I was going to put up this bridge structure to prevent any derailed loco from experiencing that fall off the side. Strange as it might seem, after I put this 'guard-rail bridge' into place. I hardly ever experienced any other derailments ??

That 'fake bridge' precipitated the idea of a stream/river running under it and out into the 'country backdrop'. It also meant I have to have another bridge for that single inner track,....thus the 'deckbridge' to allow for variety.

The other 'fake bridge' came about as a result of my adding the Walther's double track truss bridge for the dual tracks leading into the turntable zone. Since I had that bridge actually spanning the lower tracks, its only naturally the my yard entrance tracks would also be spanning those mainlines below. The 'fake double chord bridge' was the easiest way to do this without tearing out the subroadbed and replacing it with an actual real bridge. Besides with all the ballast, and cinders, etc in this yard area, no one would ever tell there was no bottom on that bridge. I also had to pay particular attention to the exact location of those bridge side frames so as to not interfere with the swinging passenger cars and articulated Big Boy loco that would come thru that trackage.


Whiskey Merchant
The larger the radius the better. I tried to keep mine as broad as possible, I do have a fair amount of room, but there are times when you have to compromise. In one spot I had to drop to a 32" radius with the rest all well over 40". Trains just look so much better on them, especially passenger cars.


Well-Known Member
Thanks to all who responded to my questions on The Central Midland. I think I will add a few feet to the grid dimensions to ensure enough space for the larger radius curves. I have seen a lot of talk about using Peco turnouts vs Atlas, anyone care to chime in on this? Would there be any issues using Peco turnouts with Atlas Code 83 track?
Peco turnouts are quality, but Atlas ones can be found for good discounts off of estate layouts etc.

When I was first experimenting with my layout I decided to utilize used turnouts that I might later replace with higher quality as I determined final configuration of track plan. But Peco and Atlas turnouts are a bit different in size, so if you can afford the little bit extra, go for the Peco,...and especially if you are going to use the smaller code rail.


New Member
Hi, I'm in the middle of building the Central Midland. Right now, I have the benchwork done, roadbed laid and just finished all the track. Trains will run (with occasional derailments... arg...) using a single DC power pack and one connection. No scenery, but I have scattered some buildings that I acquired around.

I'll figure out how to post some pictures. Here are some recommendations that I'd make from where I am in the construction:

1) The book is from a while ago, so plywood and 1x6x8 were the building materials of the time. I used wood throughout the construction. If I was to built it again, I'd use foam board for the yard and the large flat area where the diesel maintenance area is located. I almost did, but I had a bunch of plywood laying around and figured what's the difference. Well, first time some of the plywood warped pretty badly, I had to get some recut some more.

2) The layout is switch-heavy. Depending on your perspective, not everyone is needed. If you priced out all the track (using Atlas sectional track, it's around $1,900. http://www.atlasrr.com/Code100web/pages/10029.htm For example, the switches on the back mainline aren't really necessary, although the do add some variety. Also, I cut one of the yard tracks in order to have some room for a bit more buildings/scenery.

3) The diagram uses sectional track, but I used flex-track. I highly recommend it for two reasons, first, it's easier than assembling all those sectional pieces. Second, while I was religious in laying out the pieces of wood, you aren't going to be perfect and the flex allows for some variation in following the wood. However, you'll most likely have to solder the flex pieces together, which was tough for me with the constant curves on the mainline. Second, it provides for less connections - each connection is a place where the cars can derail.

4) Although I'm using DC right now, eventually I'll use DCC, so that will simplify the wiring a lot. I'm still trying to figure out where I need insulators in the track and where I don't. The diagram has them everywhere, but that's to support a block system.

5) The layout doesn't provide a lot of flat area for a town scenes. I need to think about where I'm going to put what, it's doesn't flow naturally. Also, the idea for the scenery seems to be a wire mesh that you lay scenery on. I plan on using foam board and arranging it to cover the scenery. I haven't figured out how to do that yet!

6) I made the mistake of shrinking the layout's width by 20 inches, to fit into a specific area in my basement. I thought it would no problem, but the underground loop on the right turned into nightmare. It's about a 20" radius, but only because I changed where it comes out of the tunnel on the right hand side. I'll find get a picture of that too. I don't have any problems with the loops being tight, the engines I have seem to work fine. My problem is that some of my soldering wasn't the best, so cars derail on specific spots. I'm fixing them, filing stuff down, etc but it's a pain. I'm glad I didn't use sectional track, because I'd have about 3 times as many connections to worry about. It's like a huge puzzle when you use sectional track. Also, even with section track, it didn't always fit like the digram. In some places (notably the cross over with switches on the entry to the yard), not everything fits perfectly.

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