Compact HO Layout

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Breor47

Brakeman
I realized that I needed to stay small in order to stay on budget, so I minimized the layout best I could. It's now 4 feet wide and 9 feet long.

- I can run two trains at once.
- It has a reversing track. Only works from one direction but I can throw the train in reverse if needed. For a 4-by-9 layout, I think it's the best I can do.
- Has one industry.
- Has a turntable & roundhouse.
- Has a small town, intended to look trailer-parky, with station.
- Has lake and river (forcing curved bridges...)
- Probably well outside of my modeling capabilities
- Small hills and mountains throughout.
- No elevation changes on the track (gave up that idea).
- Atlas C83 track

To give you an idea of how the town should feel, here's one of the buildings I'm considering.

Comments and suggestions would be very appreciated. I decided to use Atlas track because it had the widest selection... also planning on using Atlas turnouts. Due to this being a small layout, I did go to #4 turnouts. Is this going to cause a problem?

Screenshot of Layout Idea.PNG
If you click on this photo, it should zoom in.

Thanks for looking.
Ron
 

A2TwrOpr

Member
This is a nice layout but may be a little cramped. What era are you planning on having as your theme? If you're looking to do a steam era then keep the round house area. If it's going to be deisel then you may want to consider eliminating that and using a 2 stall engine house and maybe have a two track yard. I would also strongly consider getting rid of the double cross over. Those are usually a problem with derailments. The number 4 turn outs should work just fine though. You could turn the trailer park into a town and maybe have a couple trailers by the pond area. I would get rid of the reverse loop as well. You're off to a good start but I feel your track plan could use some refinements. This is all based on my experiences and I am not trying to tell you what you should do. Just a little advice
 

fcwilt

Active Member
Have to taken a look at a classic book of layouts called "101 Track Plans"?

As to your plan so far, a single reverse loop is not a bad thing but it means to reverse the train once again you have to back through the loop.
 

Breor47

Brakeman
This is all based on my experiences and I am not trying to tell you what you should do. Just a little advice
And I appreciate it! Always helpful to get the opinions of other modelers before setting something in motion. I was looking to do 1970s/80s on this layout, so it would be predominantly diesel. That being said, I do have some steam locomotives that I'm sure will see the rails too. :) The turntable has a 9-inch diameter, so only the shorter/medium length steam locomotives could use it. I'll give the engine house a try on XtrakCad and see if that will work out better.

As for the double cross-over, thanks for the warning on that. Because the layout is (again) compact, it might wind up being tricky replacing it with something more expansive, but my number one priority is to have smooth running.

Glad to hear the #4 turnouts will likely be OK.

Have to taken a look at a classic book of layouts called "101 Track Plans"? As to your plan so far, a single reverse loop is not a bad thing but it means to reverse the train once again you have to back through the loop.
Hi there. I haven't seen that book yet, will look it up now. Thanks for the pointer. This layout was adapted from one I found and liked online.

You both commented on the reversing loop. I don't think I'm going to be able to comfortably fit a counterpart into this 4-by-9 space, so it's either what I've got or nothing. I do like the idea of having it, and when it comes to operation I'm a pretty casual modeler, so I think I'll stick with what I've got for now. Anyway, point taken, and if it becomes annoying after I've got the layout finished (presuming I get there), you can say that you told me so :)
 

Breor47

Brakeman
I switched out the roundhouse for an engine shed. Keep in the mind that all of the buildings are just estimations; when I order real ones, they may be bigger or smaller, so things could look a little different.
I guess I like having an engine shed more. :)

Updated Snipping.PNG

Not sure what I intend to do about the double crossover though... I've read from some modelers that theirs worked fine, and some have warned against including one. In my own personal experience, they've been moderately successful. I guess a large part of it is making sure that the crossover is installed on completely level ground.
 
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wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Ron,

Great looking layout, nicely planned and laid out. Will be good to see it come together. Just wondering why you gave up on the elevation changes?
 

Breor47

Brakeman
Just wondering why you gave up on the elevation changes?
Well, in the last few layouts I designed, I was really looking forward to having some grades on my track. However, I found out that the dimensions I am working with (even when I was planning to go bigger) aren't very conducive to that. I'd rather not lay turnouts on a 3% grade, considering I'm aiming for minimal derailments. :)

As long as I have mountains and valleys (and other interesting things) on the layout, not having a grade shouldn't detract from how much I'll enjoy it. That's my hope at least.

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear the layout's looking fine.
-Ron
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Granted you wouldn't have enough distance to create a huge grade/rise but you could put in a 2% up and down. I sort of envisaged something like that going up and through the tunnel then returning to 'ground level' near the middle front of the layout.

If you were take out the double crossover, you could have the outer line slightly higher than the inner line for probably 75% of the track and still be able to have connecting points, I think. Or even have the top half of the outer line elevated and returning to ground level for the front half and visa versa with the inner line.

I don't know, I just trying to picture it and think it would work without effecting anything.
 
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Breor47

Brakeman
I sort of envisaged something like that going up and through the tunnel then returning to 'ground level' near the middle front of the layout.
Hmm, I like your idea about the slight elevation around the tunnel area. I can picture that as well, and it might be a little more realistic. This would make the bridge situation easier as well; I'd have slightly higher tracks so I wouldn't have to slope the river as steeply.

Since I've never done inclines on a layout before, I'm not really that experienced. Does having a grade change the measurements of the track (thus throwing the track plans wonky)? I ask because a slanted track would arguably cover less horizontal distance than a flat one, probably a very small difference. Wouldn't want to destroy my easy-to-assemble curves to get the perfect grade.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Ron,

To be honest I don't know the answer; however and logically, if you have rises and want to cover the same lateral distance then yes the track will need to be lengthened. What will most likely happen though, if you run up through the tunnel area or around a curve, that curves radius "Might be" reduced by a millimeter or two and nothing to worry about.

With that being said, and if you only go up 1/2" max then I doubt that is going to make much difference to the plan. I do notice that you are using Sectional Track though, you 'may' want to buy a piece of flex track as well, just in case.
 

Breor47

Brakeman
What will most likely happen though, if you run up through the tunnel area or around a curve, that curves radius "Might be" reduced by a millimeter or two and nothing to worry about.
Okay, that pretty much confirms what I thought. Was just wondering if it would have an affect on a larger layout. Luckily, I can't imagine it will change that much in the distance of 5-6 feet. I should probably pick up some flex track anyway. I'm also looking to do some shelving alongside the layout (for the storage of locos) that looks like real trackage. This would be a way to display my collection without the turntable.

Here's an updated version. It's the closest I've gotten to replacing the double crossover. It would require a grade crossing over a switch... not sure how or even if that would work. Maybe it'd be easy... dunno. Anyway, thoughts would be appreciated.

Updated Snipping 2.PNG
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
From all accounts, doing a grade crossing isn't hard so long as your not going over the points or frog. From the look of your diagram, it wont be hard to make the crossing.
 

fcwilt

Active Member
Regards the crossover at the upper left. Notice as you leave the inner loop the train leaving the curve is "turning" to the right, then to the left as it enters the crossover, then back to the right as it leaves the crossover.

If you flip the crossover, so the leftmost turnout is on the outer loop then as the train leaves the outer loop it is "turning" to the right but continues that as it enters the crossover, then to the left as it leaves the crossover.

If this does not have a negative impact on operations it will provide smoother tracking through the crossover.

Of course you would have to flip the lower crossover as well.
 
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Breor47

Brakeman
If you flip the crossover, so the leftmost turnout is on the outer loop then as the train leaves the outer loop it is "turning" to the right but continues that as it enters the crossover, then to the left as it leaves the crossover.
Gotcha... this was a good idea. Was also able to fit in the lower crossover without intersecting the road.

Roostone RR Switched Crossovers Image.PNG
 

fcwilt

Active Member
Gotcha... this was a good idea. Was also able to fit in the lower crossover without intersecting the road.

View attachment 47294
Now that is a very good looking compact plan with a nice mix of operation possibilities and scenery.

Using Atlas C83 will make construction quick and easy.

I don't know what your experience level is but if it were my layout I would use Peco Code 83 Streamline. It would require you to build with flex-track but the visual results would, IMO, be much better.

If you look at the ends of the C83 pieces you will see that Atlas has created a space for the rail joiners by having these funky little ties joined to the adjacent tie. Also, naturally enough, you will have lots of track joints due to the sectional nature of the product.

Peco Code 83 is a much better representation of the prototype, the turnouts look very good and provide top notch performance.

The two issues are:

1. You have to install flex-track which is not difficult if you have a couple of the right tools and take your time.
2. The smallest turnout is a #5 so you would have to re-draw the plan to see if things would still fit.


Whatever you decide to do before you ballast the track read up on how to do it. There are numerous articles and videos that do it right.

Nothing can ruin the appearance of a nice layout like this more then sloppy ballast.

If you have any locations near where you live, go and look at the real thing. Main line ballast is usually kept very well maintained, nice and tidy. Sidings and such perhaps not so much.


But any "imperfections" you find in the real world are going to be 1/87 of that on your layout.

You may have seen models of structures where the builder has simulated roofing shingles of some sort. If the structure is intended to depict an older building showing some wear and tear, the builder will lift up a few shingles suggesting damage due to wind. Too often, however, they must of been thinking of a hurricane because the edge of the shingle is bent up 5"-6" scale inches.


Anyway you plan looks good as it stands. Take your time during construction and you could have a real gem of a model railroad.
 
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A2TwrOpr

Member
Okay, that pretty much confirms what I thought. Was just wondering if it would have an affect on a larger layout. Luckily, I can't imagine it will change that much in the distance of 5-6 feet. I should probably pick up some flex track anyway. I'm also looking to do some shelving alongside the layout (for the storage of locos) that looks like real trackage. This would be a way to display my collection without the turntable.

Here's an updated version. It's the closest I've gotten to replacing the double crossover. It would require a grade crossing over a switch... not sure how or even if that would work. Maybe it'd be easy... dunno. Anyway, thoughts would be appreciated.

View attachment 47293
I'm really liking this new track plan! You could always move the cross over on the bottom of the plan to the right. That way it sits in between the grade crossings.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
I like the secone one better also. A roundhouse and turntable would be a bit much for such a compact layout. Good plan.
 

Breor47

Brakeman
Anyway you plan looks good as it stands. Take your time during construction and you could have a real gem of a model railroad.
Thanks for all of your tips. My general experience with layout construction is pretty low (in comparison to most folks on this forum, at least). I figured that I would probably go with Atlas track due to the wide selection and the supposedly straightforward assembly. Flex track sounds like it would open up more opportunities for me, but would probably be more of a hassle. In addition, from what I understand, Peco is a more expensive option. I'm sure we are all familiar with having a budget :(

As for the tips on the ballasting and shingles, I'll be sure to keep that in mind. I plan to well-research every step before I do something I might regret. But I'm sure I'll make some mistakes along the way... all part of the fun.

Glad to hear the layout is approved by you all... table will be the first thing to build.
Building updates will probably be pretty slow, and I don't suppose they will come for a while. But, when I do start, I'll be sure to share with the forum.
-Ron
 
If there was one grade crossing it would be easier all around. I would remove the road near the crossover.

Then the town would have one road in, imagination could say there was another. Or have a dirt road towards the dock area.

You have two nice spurs for industries near the engine house. The dump or junk yard could be at the end of one spur; dumps are usually at the edge of towns. It could be served by gondolas, box cars, or flats

The former dump area in town could have another interesting building.
 
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