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New Member
Hello all, and Greetings!

Im new to this forum but I have already seen a tremendous store of knowledge here. I would love people's feedback on the attached draft layout.

I have just finished my first layout last year (N scale Scenic Ridge by Woodland Scenics / Atlas) and am now trying my hand at an HO layout. This is also my first go at an original layout with my own theme. It is set on two 4x8 boards.

Theme - I would like to do a dusk scene, with low lighting, lots of smoke, with coal mine operations going on at the end of the day. I would like to do a "peek-in" to the mountain to see the mine workers doing their stuff as the trains pass through. This is the "fantasy" part of the layout, but I dont care, it looks really cool. I want a lot of smoke and freight next to a sleepy blue-collar town. I envision smoke coming out of the power station.


I am seeing this work done in two Phases. I have coded the phases by color:

Phase One (Red): Mining and Power Station. I have a Camelback 0-6-0 which will fill the coal cars at the mine at left, and then will take the mainline a short distance (or as many times around as I want ;) ) to the Power Station. You can see the turnouts that lead to these functions. In between these functions I am thinking of a scenery divider of sorts, really a small hill upon which lighted hillside homes look over the operations. I've built Mount Willem already.

There is a staging area which may be Phase 1 1/2.

Phase Two (Blue): Town and Carnival. The next phase will implement a 22" radius curve around the entire kit and kaboodle that will be a second mainline for an MTH Light Mikado bringing coal to the town and a passenger train. It will make stops at the town and the carnival. I have already a custom ferris wheel (really cool) and I was thinking of adding the Coaster Dynamics Comet rollercoaster and a couple of other carnival attractions.

Already purchased / Obtained:
Bachmann EZ track for Phase One - astute observers will note I have merely made a few minor modifications to the "Worlds Greatest Hobby" Track Pack.
MTH Light Mikado
Mantua 0-6-0 Yard Goat
Ferris Wheel (really cool. its a custom, one of a kind fabrication handed down from my dad.)

Thanks in advance!!!
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Original Layout

Looks pretty good to me.
Have you given any thought to a cross over, (cross from one side of the oval to the other) this will allow you to change direction of your train. It does, however lead to some creative wiring?
Always remember, you will never have a completed set up, changes will need to be made in the coming years.
I have been asked many times "Have you finished your train set up yet" ????
"Never, it will always be a work in progress"
Have fun.


New Member
Thanks Mac. Im going to do this DCC, I should have mentioned. So that crossover should be no problem, good idea.

I know about it never being "done." As a teacher once told me, "there are no finished projects -- only deadlines." I have set a deadline of 1/1/2012 on this one ;)


I like it, especially with a crossover added somewhere. I'm a big fan of dual-ovals going in opposite directions so trains can pass by each other where the tracks run side by side and over/under. I'm in the process of redesigning my N-scale layout (on paper only so far) and expanding it to 10 x 6, this gives me some definite ideas. Also, pretty cool that you have a custom ferris wheel handed down from your dad.


N Scale with Stone Tools
Looks like a good start, but I think you'll get bored with the phase 1 operations. Even with the view block, the trek between the mine and the power station is really short. The passing track in the tunnel doesn't seem to do much.

I'd mess with this a bit so that the train had to follow a longer route (maybe go onto the main line) to deliver between the mine and the station. Maybe move the town to the middle, and put the power station where the town is now? Your plan is mostly mainline running, which is fun, but which can get old fast.

Or maybe hook up a cross over in the Willem tunnel, whereby the phase 2 hooks into the phase 1, making the small loop there part of the main line?

I'm not trying to tear it apart, just throwing some ideas out there. :)

The dusk operations sound really cool, especially with everything smoky and lit up. Can't wait to see what you do with it.


New Member
Exactly the kind of feedback i was hoping for, thanks RWC. Not torn apart at all, keep those comments coming! All great observations, I was wondering if it was maybe too "mainline-y". You're correct that has the potential to get old fast. I should mention that the N scale layout I completed last year (Scenic Ridge) was wonderful for learning scenery and laying track but the layout provided by Atlas and WS has really little "function", its all just mainline. So I am perhaps slightly hesitant to go too far into complicated switching because Im trying to take baby steps into that -- im having trouble enough wiring the goldang switches on phase one!! Side note: Can anyone tell me why, if the switches are all wired up and working correctly, why they would suddenly not work the next morning when I sit down at the layout and try to use them? :confused: Or is that one of life's unanswerable questions? :)

I like the idea of moving the power plant to Phase II as the one I am looking at costs $350!! Need some time to save up.

Im afraid to put a turnout/crossover inside the mountain though. Even though I will have ample access it just seems dicey. Another crossover somewhere is a good idea, or even per Mac's suggestion above going from one side of the oval to the other.
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Active Member
Why the two 4x8s side by side? What is the area you have available? Do you have access to all sides?

You might want to think about a dogbone type layout, or even an around the walls with operating in the middle.

Don't be stuck with limitations on 4x8 sheets of plywood. There's lots of options for creating an interesting layout.


Well-Known Member
Its obviously a display layout, that is a layout designed to run trains through scenes and is not intended to operate in any semblance of a prototypical manner. As long as you interests are building scenes and scenery and intend that a train passing through is part of the scenery, you have nailed it.

If you are wanting to operate it like a "real" railroad, switching trains, delivering goods, etc, you won't be able to do that with this plan.

The only suggestion I would have is to try and put one or two double ended staging tracks that are a full length train long in a hidden/view blocked area so you can swap out which train is orbiting the layout at any given time.


BN Modeller
I think it looks pretty good but I'd add a couple things to it.
Try moving the crosssover apart to create a passing siding, maybe on each end and coming from the inside loop to the outer loop. That would also allow switching to be done while trains bypass the area. Make any sense?
I'll try and draw it out...
Another thing would be to try and add a slight curve in the two straight tracks along the bottom somehow, just for scenic purposes. Maybe to cross a stream by the town.
Love to see that Ferris wheel!
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Well-Known Member
Have you worked out your curve radii, and will your rolling stock be happy with them?

Why have that red curved oval at all? Or, why the crescent that curves past the power plant midway along the length of the layout? You seem to have made nested ovals, but why?

If this space, with its current dimensions, is really all you have to work with, could you change to N scale? It would open up things hugely for you.

I agree that you should define your railroad's purpose. Give it a notional revenue operation or three, and build those into the plan. If you haven't already, get ahold of Track Planning for Realistic Operation by the late John Armstrong. It is one of the two or three great bibles in the hobby, and it takes some thinking about. Hobby shops or Kalmbach Publishing will have it.

Ovals on model railroads are great ways to watch trains, but watching trains on ovals gets old quickly. It would be better if the track system were more purposeful. If you can do switching as well as mainline passenger running, for example, you would have built longevity and interest into your layout.

Just some thoughts.


New Member
Thanks everyone, this is all fantastic feedback. I really appreciate it.

I think I need a little time to digest this all ... but I do have the following responses so far:

1) I'd like a "display layout" primarily, but with a little bit of operations. As stated previously I am still getting used to all the switching and uncoupling etc.
2) I'm going to get that book by Armstrong and read before I purchase anything else.
3) The double loop feels a little redundant and Im not sure if I like that.
4) Crossover to reverse train is definitely going to be added.
5) Selector, I love N scale and did a layout last year in that scale. It guess it would make sense to build off of that.... but I need to have a steam train that smokes ... at least this year. Am hoping realistic steam effects in N scale happen in my lifetime. Im kind of stuck on that, unfortunately... also, the custom ferris wheel is HO scale and the coaster dynmaics rolercoaster stuff is also HO. So Im going to try HO out and see how it goes.
6) Space constraints. Two 4x8s fit nicely in my basement arranged as shown. I have 3'-0" clearance all sides... I have a wheeled swicel chair which I coast around on. The two rectangles give me a nice rigid structure which i need as part of the creative process so I dont go completely nuts with wierd curves etc.
7) Agree crossover is in wrong place.
8) I am going to try doing a 22" mainline for passenger on the outside and a more point-to-point industry on the inside.

I'll retool and get back to you all! Thanks again!
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Are you going to be content with running (rolling) around the end of the layout when moving cars between the mine and powerplant?

Seems like letting a train roll, going to the other side, letting a train roll, going to the other side, repeating indefinitely, would get tiresome. But then I'm a linear, shelf guy, and only you can determine what works best for you.

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