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New Member
Ok, so I've got the bright idea of making a modular layout. Since I don't have the room for a permanent layout, and I want something that's easy to move and store.

What I'm going to do is cut a 4x8 sheet in such a way that it makes two "L"s, with the long parts connected..

I've been dinkin' around in XtrkCad with different ideas. based on some of my "wants":

-mountain railroading
-long main line running
-good track to scenery ratio
-minimal grades
-non-sharp curves..

I've left everything out but the mainline run in the images, because I want to get ideas on that first.. then I'll move on to sidings, industry, towns.. etc..

here's the overall view (click images for larger views.

The lower-most level:

And the upper:

I'm hoping that I can use the layout for display at some shows, or for the local neighbor kids etc.. so I'm not terribly adamant about having mucho switching, train schedules, or realistic operations. I guess you could call this a "railfanning" layout.

The curves are 12" min, but mostly 14" and 16", and I've kept the grades in the two helixes at 2%

I actually am thinking of a few well placed switches that would allow and upper train running while a lower train runs.

I've been googling plans and reading every "layout discussion" forum I can find for ideas and I'm not expert on design.. Plus, I'm sick of staring that this shape! ;)

I've already had a suggestion that the helixes are a problem area.. I'd been wondering about those helixes myself.

The thing I want to avoid is a single lap around the layout. I'm trying to squeeze two laps in, and have an interesting multi layer effect as well.

One thing I left out in the upper plan was the scenic dividers.. I was picturing a single board along the length, then actually having the two big "squares" broken into two, or three, viewing areas each. I like the idea of having scenes, so the entire layout doesn't look exactly the same.

Here's another revision I'd done, with the dividers in so you get an idea. In this one, the right helix goes up counter-clockwise, then grades back down just after crossing over the lower level in the upper left area. This plan doesn't allow the running or two trains though..

Then there's the very first draft.. pretty basic. I can't really explain why I don't like this one.. I just don't :)

So here I am.. what do you guys think?




Just a guy
They become less and less complex as you go down the post.

I think the bottom one, sceniced well, will offer you the quickest turn around time and could look quite good. Problem is, it's a "one trick pony". one train, round and round. Not much else going on there. Thats OK for a display layout, but it won't do a lot more, even when sidings are added.

The middle one may have a problem. The loop is awful tight for clearence on the underpass. The grade might make it a no-go. Making it an on grade crossing doesn't solve the problem either as you'd have to severely limit train length.

The top one offers the most promise, but it's also the toughest to build. Working out the helix issue shouldn't be too bad, but you will have to be VERY precise about it. It will also have to be VERY sturdy to withstand being moved a lot.

If it were me, I'd probably try to work on the bottom one to add the sepearte lines feature to it like you talked about on the first layout. That way you could do the one train on the top and one on the bottom, or open it all up for one huge mainline with grades. It would be easier to build and probably more stable too. I think that way you could have your cake and eat it too!

Just my thoughts..............
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New Member
I left the switching and sidings out at this point until I decide on the main run. But yes, I do want some switching. I did want the option to have two trains running, with no "user" interaction.. but I may have to let that go.

I need to find a happy medium between the first and last.. thus the plea for help ;) I kind of like the top version, but it would be good if I could eliminate one helix.. anyone have a good idea how to accomplish that?
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Just a guy
The helix on the right would probably be the easiest to eliminate as it has the longest runs going to and from it. With a 2% grade running straight off of the other helix you should be OK.


New Member
Ok, here's my newest rev.. I got tired of XtrkCAD-ing the little stuff, so I grabbed the pencil and markers :)

I'm still figuring out what to do with the lower-left. I'd like to have a small yard there, and maybe a business or two.

I'm thinking the general theme will either be mountains.. or there bluffs of south-eastern MN. What kind of industry is up in the mountains, besides coal??

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