General HO Question

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macjet

Member
I am a newbie to this website but I've been lurking for awhile. I've searched this forum and nmra.org.

Please forgive me if I missed the answers to these questions. I really did search!

1) Space is a premium in our house. Brand new and already too small. I've decided on a garage located, fold-up, 40"x96" layout. I've read on NMRA about 15", 18", and 22" radius track. 40" will give me a nice 18" radius with sufficient easement. What type of equipment will run on this curve? Will I be limited to four axle diesels or will six axle handle this? I don't plan any excessive length rolling stock. Box, covered hoppers, flats, etc. I don't plan any unit trains, but what would be the max length?

2) This renaissance into model railroading was brought about by my son. I managed to dig up my old stuff from my parents house. What a memory trip. Anyways, I've got three old Athearn locomotives. Two GP9's (SP) and one U28B (BN). These are from the late 80's. The sticker price on the U28 was $22 if that tells you anything. Are these units convertible to DCC? Will they run on a DCC layout if they aren't? I still have a new in the box MRC power pack that was bought for my last layout as a kid that was never used. So, I've got power in the short term. State of the art. For the '80's at least.

3) Rolling stock. I've got 8-10 Athearn cars. All from the time period above. Metal axles with plastic wheels. Do these need to be upgraded? What about couplers. Back in the day, Kadee was all the rage. I recognize the need to upgrade from the out of the box coupling. What is the latest?

Thanks for any and all replies.
 

jbaakko

Diesel Detail Freak
1. I'd suggest going 22" at the lowest end, there's a number of products out now that don't like anything less then 24" but 22 is a norm for HO. Broadway limited diesels are supposed to handle 18" even on the 3 axle units but I've found that my BLI AC6000 derails a wheel on 22".

I myself am going no lower then 26", and 28" on visible track work, more for looks and some reliability issues.

2. Yes they are convertible to DCC, I'll let someone post a link to various Athearn resources. If I remember correctly, Tony Train Exchange has a page on it.

3. Kadee is still the "rage", well knuckles more the standard now. Kadee has an awesome scale coupler now, #58, and Accurail has scale couplers in scale draft gear boxes. Sergent Engineering has prototype couplers, that look amazing, work beautifully, but cannot be remotely uncoupled. I use the latter, Sergent couplers.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
First of all welcome. Each of your questions are loaded questions. I'll try to take them one at a time. I might actually have to break them up and do some real work.

1) 40 x 96 is not a lot of space for a loop style HO layout. It is out of the question if the layout is pushed against the wall. You won't be able to reach beyond about 30" without doing damage.

The 18" is measured to the center of the track and if you center that turn on the layout it will bring you within an inch of the edge of the layout. IF you value your engines and rolling stock, that is simply too close. Even if they don't derail, the chances of knocking them off with your body or drooping clothing is not good.

Even with 18" you are looking at small engines and small rolling stock. I do okay with 18" radius turns, but I model 1885 and my engines are minuscule compared to large steam and road diesels--but I don't go to 15 inch and most of my turns are 22 and above.

So I think you need to think outside your box. My guess is that you are thinking HO because you have some older engines. While you can probably get them running, I think that you will find that the minute you buy an new engine and experience how smooth they run and how much better the detail is, you'll wonder why you put the time and interest in reviving the old. You can probably get a Console TV working, but it won't be the same as a HD flat screen.

With your space you can have a fantastic N scale layout. Think of what it would be like to have a 7 foot x 16 foot HO layout and that's what we are talking in your space for N scale. And don't think sectional. flex is easier, more versatile and less maintains. Here is an N scale layout I drew for 42' x 84"

door05.gif


Another option if you have to go with HO scale would be to eliminate the loop entirely and model an industrial area where you do a lot of switching. If you eliminate my sliding staging section, the an example might look like this.

indiana03.gif
.
 
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macjet

Member
1. I'd suggest going 22" at the lowest end, there's a number of products out now that don't like anything less then 24" but 22 is a norm for HO. Broadway limited diesels are supposed to handle 18" even on the 3 axle units but I've found that my BLI AC6000 derails a wheel on 22".

I myself am going no lower then 26", and 28" on visible track work, more for looks and some reliability issues.
I've got one other option that I can see. I could use the corner of the garage. The only problem is the water heater. I tossed around the idea of two 4'x4' sections with a 2' X 6' "bridge" between them. I'm just concerned with future maintenance on the water heater.
 

jbaakko

Diesel Detail Freak
Maybe avoiding the traditional loop is in order? How about a 2' x N' switching layout? I understand it can seem boring at first, but trust me, a simple loop seems boring shortly afterwards. Maybe even a dog bone with 22" loops at either end.

I'm not sure on the actual usable space you have so.
 

macjet

Member
1) 40 x 96 is not a lot of space for a loop style HO layout. It is out of the question if the layout is pushed against the wall. You won't be able to reach beyond about 30" without doing damage.

The 18" is measured to the center of the track and if you center that turn on the layout it will bring you within an inch of the edge of the layout. IF you value your engines and rolling stock, that is simply too close. Even if they don't derail, the chances of knocking them off with your body or drooping clothing is not good.
I hadn't even considered them falling to the floor.:eek:

I feel the loop must remain if my little one is going to get any amusement out of it. Point to point freight, yard work, etc might bore him. This entire project will be for his benefit so I must try to make it work for him.

I do like your track plans! Those really would fit into my garage nicely.

I am really starting to see the problem I'm in. This layout is going to have to be against the wall. And you are right. I taped out 48" and even my gorilla arms can't make that reach.

So now I'm thinking 4'x4' or even 4'x5' anchors with a 24" x 6-7' bridge between the two. I don't anticipate much maintenance with the water heater but you never know. Is a semi-permanent bridge possible?
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
I want to again caution you against making decisions based upon current conditions--in this case, the fact that you already have HO stuff. There are good reasons for choosing HO, but having old stuff is not a good one.

I say this because my first layout has just been destroyed. I had just purchased $200 worth of turnouts and realized before I started building that I had made a mistake. But I thought I made my bed and I would make them work. After almost two years of fighting with them and redoing the layout several times, I finally got to the point that I admitted my mistake and tore apart my layout. I spent almost $2000 to save that $200 mistake. Granted, I salvaged a lot. But I won't get back those two years other than the experience I gained.

On that note, start your planning by reading my beginner's guide clickable from my signature.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
One more thing. I got into this hobby in order to get my family involved. My daughter jumped in, but got bored quickly. My son followed suit about two months later. I was stuck trying to convert a layout I designed for them (Hogwart's) into a layout that would keep me going. My son shows signs of getting back into it someday, but until then I am building the layout for me.

Keep your son in mind, but build it for yourself. He will learn more by seeing you become interested. He will learn from what you do to solve problems and how you do research. If he sees you doing switching, he will want to learn switching.
 

macjet

Member
One more thing. I got into this hobby in order to get my family involved. My daughter jumped in, but got bored quickly. My son followed suit about two months later. I was stuck trying to convert a layout I designed for them (Hogwart's) into a layout that would keep me going. My son shows signs of getting back into it someday, but until then I am building the layout for me.

Keep your son in mind, but build it for yourself. He will learn more by seeing you become interested. He will learn from what you do to solve problems and how you do research. If he sees you doing switching, he will want to learn switching.
Good points. Thanks.

I just got back from the garage with the tape measure. :confused:

It looks like point to point it is. There just isn't room to fit 4'x'4 for a loop. So, subject to change, what it looks like is a split L. Two 2' x 6' sections and I am envisioning a 12-18" bridge (width) between the two. Some sort of removable section. I'm off to the local store later and I'll see what could possible fill this role.

I'm still leaning towards a fold-up layout. Six inches off the wall with retractable legs. Am I asking for trouble with this train (pun intended) of thought? I don't plan on building at a break neck pace. I'm only home half the time anyways and what free time I have is limited.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
While I just said all those things, a loop will be more important to your son. I take it you've ruled out N scale? You can put a nice loop in 30 inches and have room for a lot of switching if you go N.

Your son will need to learn respect for the trains either way. He can learn N just as easily as HO.
 

macjet

Member
I am leaning towards HO. But I will take a look at N. I remember it being too "blocky" back in the day. But, as I'm learning, things sure have changed.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
IF that is what you are basing your decision on, then you are in for a treat. N-scale can do almost anything HO can with the possible exception of sound--and the limitation is speaker size. I forsee that changing.

At any rate, the detail is exceptional and almost everything is DCC or easily converted. I'm sticking with HO because I like to handpaint figures and create stories on my layout. But I would not hesitate to go N if my interests were only slightly different. Check out Dave Volmer's HO Peeny Layout



 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
I am leaning towards HO. But I will take a look at N. I remember it being too "blocky" back in the day. But, as I'm learning, things sure have changed.
If you want to see how much N has improved since 20 years ago, have a look at the following links:

http://kc.pennsyrr.com/layouts/dvollmer/January2007/index.html
http://www.wmrywesternlines.net/gallery/

If I didn't already have such a huge investment in HO, I'd have gone with N scale myself.

[LATER EDIT:] Chip - ya beat me to it!
 
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Selector

Well-Known Member
Very thoughtful suggestions to this point. Macjet, welcome.

Building some longevity is a pet peeve of mine. It is almost impossible to do for firs-timers, but the struggle is always worth it. I mean that if you make too many serious mistakes right away, it dampens enthusiasm, makes one self-conscious, leads to loss of self-confidence, but we shouldn't forget Mouse's warning about the expenditures...all the wasted ones.

You would take a huge developmental step if you were to figure out how to make your layout mobile or modular so that it could be moved in two to four chunks. If you were to build around your water heater, but make the two modules meet somewhere near it, held together with hook and locking latches for alignment of the rails, getting to the heater would be as easy as getting below the layout, unlatching, disconnecting a couple of wires, and then sliding one or both modules away on their casters.

I am happy that you feel comfortable enough to place your questions here. I hope you get the information you need.

And Chip, I think that is one of the sweetest Freudians I have every seen. Read your last.
 

macjet

Member
There is no doubt that the modular part would require some planning. That doesn't have me worried. I've got an engineering background with lots of wood working experience.

What is starting to get bothersome is the scale that this "thing" is taking on. I was trying to build a somewhat simple layout that my little one could watch motorized trains go round and round on. What I've got now is two 2' x 6' sections in a L formation connected by an 18" x 4' bridge. Each 2x6 section is then capped with a 3' x 3' table to hold a loop.

I'm seriously beginning to question whether this project will ever get off the ground. Working on the road I'm only home half the time. I will see very little use of this layout. If it won't hold his interest then it won't be worth the time or the expense.

An alternative would be to just build one 2' x 6' section and see how that goes and if it promises to keep his enthusiasm. If it works we'll keep going and if it doesn't them I've got more stuff to add to the ebay pile.

I've don't have a problem spending months planning and years building. My loose timetable doesn't even anticipate the benchwork being done by fall with track not being laid until 2008.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Rather than trying to get your son excited at first, start working on it, let him get curious, then once you've gotten all the bugs worked out of the track, bring him down and let him run trains.

The last part is how I blew it with my son. Once I put up the track and got the trains running, but before I worked out the bugs, I brought him down to run. He got so frustrated with derailments, that he rarely came back.
 




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