My Layout Idea

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Carlos Perea

New Member
Shortly after re-joining MRF, I came up with an idea for a layout that I'd like to create.

Currently, I'm working as a production assistant with my dad's company, and if I save my paychecks, I'll be able to afford a modest four feet by eight feet layout in about two or three years or so. This is quite convinient for me since it's also when my dad says he'll have emptied out a spare room that's he's currently using for storing old film and computer equipment. In theory, I could actually have a layout room all to myself! :D

Going back to the layout, note how I said "modest". This means a mostly or entirely flat layout, with a few structures and some trees (in addition to the rolling stock and tracks), and that'll be all. Before I even considered this, I already found a place to locate my layout. And what do you know, it fits this criteria! If you have any software like Google Earth, go to the southeastern tip of Florida, and locate U.S. Highway 1 (a.k.a. South Dixie Highway). I have chosen the area just south of where Card Sound Road splits off from the main highway. This is an empty area, semi-swampy area, barren except for the tall pine-like trees, patches of which remain in metropolitan areas of Miami-Dade County as a reminder of what the entire county used to look like, and the main road. I have already created a scenario for this layout, and it goes something like this:

Passenger train travel has soared to record heights. Amtrak carried over one hundred million travellers in 2007, and is struggling to find equipment that can suit the demand. "Heritage fleet" coaches, sleepers, and diners have had their retirements postponed as the railroad attempts to take full advantage of this unprecedented growth. Amtrak recently conducted a feasability study into serving parts of extreme southern Miami-Dade County, which has been undergoing a population boom as of late. Why stop there, though? Service to Key West beyond the current thruway Greyhound bus was also looked at, and determined to be at the very least marginally profitable, and at the most... the best-performing service in the system. Despite this growth, however, Amtrak is in no condition to extend a rail line down to Key West. Fortunately for them and their passengers, a major cement factory has opened a facility just south of Florida City, and it is one of those that is heavily dependent on rail. CSX Transportation is planning on extending its line that runs between SW 183rd and 184th Avenues, and then suddenly stops near West Mowry Drive. Redland residents have clamored against the project, but Miami-Dade County, who wanted to tear up the semi-abandoned Opa Locka West Airport for a similar concrete facility, is fully supportive of CSX's plans. The line is soon extended southward to the southernmost tip of the primary landmass that makes up Florida, much to the pleasure of the cement company. Amtrak takes advantage of this, and their tracakge right agreement with CSX is soon extended to cover this latest addition to their Miami subdivision. A carbon copy of their Miami station soon goes up near SW 424th Street, and is dubbed their Homestead station, despite being more than ten miles away from Homestead, proper. Oddly enough, the same is true of their Miami station. Amtrak has been doing well, but does not want to gamble with their newfound success, and decides to not extend Silver Meteor or Silver Star service to their Homestead station. Instead, their train 89/90 (Palmetto), which features reserved coach and business class accomodations, but without the Viewliner roomettes or bedrooms offered by the other Silver Service trains, is extended southward from Savannah, Georgia, now passing through Orlando, Tampa, and Miami before culminating at the new Florida City yard. Amtrak still has Key West in their dreams, and looks into rebuilding the Florida East Coast line into the Keys that was abandoned after experiencing catastrophic damage from the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, but doesn't want to re-build it on its own. CSX is quite content with the line ending just short of the Keys, so for now, Amtrak will just have to settle for the present situation. At least they can still offer a thruway service to Key West, courtesy of Miami-Dade Transit's Dade-Monroe Express route.

Looking back, I guess I got a little into it, LOL. Anyway, since I plan to build this two to three years from now (and hopefully, Walthers will have Amtrak rolling stock in the "Phase IVb" livery by then), that explains some things not quite making sense, such as the passenger count figure toward the beginning. It does require a some suspension of disbelief, however, since I doubt that any of this could happen in such a short timespan, particularly when one considers how long it takes to get anything done in Miami.

Keeping the restricted size of my layout in mind, I've decided to have the Palmetto serve the station on my layout, since it's usually a P42, the occasional Material Handling Car, a baggage car, a business class car, a lounge or dinette, and three coaches. This means I can hopefully park the train at the station without having the cars continue on off of the platform and onto the curve. Now, if that storage room really does get cleared out, I'll have a lot more space to work with, and if the necessary components become avaliable in N scale (unlikely), I'll most likely use it since it takes up less room, so I can put more in the same amount of room. As far as the freight operations go, I have no idea what kind of locomotives or freight cars would normally be associated with a cement plant, or if it varies by region. A quick look of pictures of CSX locomotives in Florida seems to indicate that the Dash 8 is their most used locomotive, but I still don't know what freight cars it would go with. There's always the chance that something more fitting to the industry may come out in the next couple of years, though, which I want to consider.

I have a rough idea of what structures I'd like to have, though. They're all by Walthers, and they're the Blue Star Ready Mix Concrete Batch Plant, Glacier Gravel Company, Amtrak Station, and Medusa Cement. I don't know if they're appropiate for what I'm looking to model, but they seem to be right for it. Some of these are discontinued, but a similar product could be on the way or they'll eventually turn up on eBay. I also don't know how I should arrange the track plan to fit all of this, so I'm looking for some help in that department, as well. I downloaded XTrkCad, and made an oval of track that occupies the outskirts of the space I have to work with. I don't know what to do with anything else, and don't want to risk what's outlined in this thread. :p

With that being said, what do you all think of my preliminary ideas? How can I improve on them? I'm open to all criticism!
 

mtrpls

Ignorance is Patriotic
Build the layout along all four walls of the spare room, instead of the cliche 4x8. You will end up with substantially more mainline run, a far larger layout, and you will leave the center of the room clear and open.
 

Steve B

Firefighter
Walthers do another cement facillity "Valley Cement" i think it's called and it's around the $50 mark, you get the whole complex, from raw material storage shed, rock crushers, kiln ans silo's, there's some overhead conveyors as well, but it's quite big at approx 20" x 40" so would it fit ???
 

SpitFireV12RR

New Member
If you ever need help with your prototype, I live in Orlando, so I'd be more than willing to tell/take pics of the vegetation and the FEC(Florida East Coast, which you're modeling a part of). I'm modeling West Virgina though, because it has the "fall effect"(Trees changing color).

Thanks,
Spit
 
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Carlos Perea

New Member
Steve B, I wasn't really sure on the differences between the two sets, but looking closer at Valley Cement, it does look a lot like some of the plants we have here down in South Florida. The final track layout and structure selection/placement depends on whether or not my dad's actually going to empty out the storage room. On his side of the family, we (myself included) have a nasty habit of saying we'll do things... then never completing it.

Thanks for the offer, SpitFireV12RR, although it'd probably be easier for me to get the photos of the actual area on my own. It's only about an hour and a half's drive from here, and I'll be passing through there in a few months during a weekend getaway to Key West (can you believe that I've lived in Miami all my life yet haven't gone there?). I'd appreciate the help with information about FEC and other railways' rolling stock. All I can ever see in Miami trainwise is the weekly or so train that FEC sends up to Titan America in Medley with a bunch of aggregate hoppers and some sort of tank cars, a unit train every now and then if I happen to be on U.S. 1 at the right time, and Tri-Rail commuter trains from Interstate 95.
 

Carlos Perea

New Member
I've measured the dimensions of the storage room, and they turned out to be 128 x 148 inches (18,944 square inches). Due to the design of the room, though, there are only 15,104 square inches of usable space.

I've read through some of the beginner threads (thanks, SpaceMouse, they've been really helpful! :) ), but I'm still not quite sure about how I should lay out the tracks to suit the industries I'd like to place on the layout. So far, using XTrkCad version 3.14, I've made the "mainline" that'll run around the entire table. The light lines are the boundaries of the room, and the dark ones are the borders of the table. What do you all think?

 
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RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Carlos, if I see your diagram correctly you have your layout drawn to the walls. You always need to consider your reach distance to everything on the layout. With 4 foot wide pennisulas you won't be able to reach the outer side to make repairs, re-rail cars, or to do any kind of scenery repairs once the foreground scenery is in place. Sometimes you can build access hatches in the 4 foot wide areas to assist in this problem, but this doesn't always take care of it. You may be able to handle a 3 foot wide like you have drawn, if you don't have anything high in the foreground.

Also, you need to allow as much room as possible for your aisles.
;) :)
 

Carlos Perea

New Member
How exactly does an access hatch work?

I realize that eighteen inches for the aisle is a bit of a squeeze, but as it is, the layout barely fits the 24" radius curves.
 

SpitFireV12RR

New Member
Our acess hatch in the layout in the garage was sort of ghetto(I trust you know what that means, living in Miami LOL). We cut out a little section of the plywood(just big enough for myself and dad to squeeze through) and then we hinged it, using 2 door hinges on the bottom. To keep the other side from falling down, we used a lock like you would find in a bathroom or in some paranoid person's bedroom. Depending on how big you are, 18" might be fine. I myself and 12 years old, 5'9, and my body happens to be about 15-16 inches in length.

Hope I helped,
Spit
 

HaggisKennedy

Coal Shoveler
In general, a better idea would be to limit your reach to no more than 24", 18-20" is better. You can still have your return blobs on the end, but with a narrower shelf section, you will have more sides to reach that inevitable derailment.

You probably want 24" aisles, that's just better all around. Many folks try to scrimp here, and most of us strenuously try to talk them out of it!

If you like wider shelves, you can always bulge them out here and there, which will give you some curve areas and not a straight run. You can also think about the return track being at an angle to the one against the wall. Doesn't have to be much to break up the monotony.

Kennedy
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
I agree with Kennedy that a 24" reach is just about max for most adults; 30-36" is really pushing it and I would only put permanent scenery on the farside - no track. Remember, you have to reach over things that are in the foreground decreasing your ability to work on the far side. By moving (folding) your inner track loops towards the outer loops you will decrease your reach.

The aisle width is a lot more important than you may think. If you have a friend over and only have 18", how will you guys be able to get by one another? Also, the wider aisles really are a plus for working. I visited a layout that the aisles were so narrow, one of us had to get under the layout to get by. To give you an idea, I had a cell phone on my hip and had to remove it just to turn around:eek: .

Remember Carlos, that bigger is not always better. By making your layout lengths and widths more manageable, you will be a lot more comfortable while working and operating your layout. This usually means a better quality of workmanship and certainly a lot more fun.;) :)
 
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Carlos Perea

New Member
With some of your suggestions in mind, I modified the layout sligthly. The inner tracks now run at an angle to the outer ones, and I've removed parts of the table for easier turning around and reaching to other sides of the layout. All aisles are now two feet in width. Concerning the access hatch, I thought it might be something like that, but it seemed "too simple" to be right. :p

 
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grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Hi Carlos. I'm going to offer you some suggestions, but I don't want you to think that I dislike the theme you've selected. If you keep a modern theme, I'd suggest going to N scale for your space. Modern equipment is large and needs space. N scale is a way to fit what you want into the space you have even though I personally prefer HO scale.

If you could see yourself changing themes, I'd suggest an HO logging road or possibly something based on an iron ore theme. Ore trains made up of 37' cars will look good on sharper curves, especially if you used 4 axle geeps or small steam locos for power.

I've learned my lesson on sharp HO curves. We did what we had to to on our RR to fit what we wanted in, but they do cause problems. Keep in mind, excepting staging, we were working with a 12x14' space.

Also, don't limit yourself to a flat layout unless that's just what you really like. Even if you built the whole thing on 2" foamboard with no track grades, the foam can be cut out to form creeks, fills, etc very easily.

Planning is everything. Continue to do so and think things thru from every angle. Ask questions here as they come up. Many folks here have a few layouts under their belts, and at the very least, can probably tell you what not to do! ;) Keep reading and learning. The Kalmbach books are a great source of info as well as various magazine articles on layout building.

Best wishes on your layout. I'm looking forward to you sharing the experience with us.
 

Carlos Perea

New Member
I wanted to do the layout in N scale, but the truth is that there just isn't as much variety avaliable. For instance, I can't find any Amfleet cars in N scale, and structures that fit what I'll be needing are virtually nonexistant. About the flat terrain, that's mostly because the real-life area is flat, LOL. I am planning on adding a canal or two that are present there. I know that space is at a premium, which is why I chose the Palmetto as the passenger train to serve the layout, and the cars that normally service cement plants are shorter than the average freight car.
 

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Well, have you considered the possibility of a duck under or drop swing section (my vote) at the room's entry? Either would allow many more options for the track plan. A drop swing section would be easy to do with a hinge and latch type arraingement. Along each wall could represent a separate town or industrial scene. In your mind they could be some distance from each other along the mainline. I'm not trying to confuse things, just throw some options out for you to consider.
 

Carlos Perea

New Member
I don't think I can do a drop swing section because the wall along the bottom of the room (from the diagram above's vantage point) is actually one of those sliding closet doors that opens outward. I'd have to build an eight feet long section of drop-swing track to be able to access the closet. A duck-under, if I'm understanding this right, is like a raised portion of track that I'd have to "duck under". The problem with that is that since everything's flat at the real-world location, I wouldn't really have a way to incorporate a long hill or something similar into the layout.
 

SpitFireV12RR

New Member
What about something along the lines of this:

fsdfsdfs.jpg


It uses the same parameters, just it gives you the ability to make broader curves, have a better view of everything, and have a minimum of a 3' walk space, where you would have enough extra space for a control panel or something... There those are 24" radius curves, to compare with yours. You could add MUCH broader curves, and even add a second mainline. Another thing is that you don't have to reach over more than 3 feet.

If you want, I could help design your plan...I like doing that sort of stuff.

Thanks,
Spit
 

Carlos Perea

New Member
SpitFireV12RR said:
What about something along the lines of this:

fsdfsdfs.jpg


It uses the same parameters, just it gives you the ability to make broader curves, have a better view of everything, and have a minimum of a 3' walk space, where you would have enough extra space for a control panel or something... There those are 24" radius curves, to compare with yours. You could add MUCH broader curves, and even add a second mainline. Another thing is that you don't have to reach over more than 3 feet.

If you want, I could help design your plan...I like doing that sort of stuff.

Thanks,
Spit
Thanks for the offer! I'd really appreciate it. :)

According to your diagram, I'd have to crawl underneath the table to access the operating space, right? And am I correct in inferring that the space between the thick line and the end of the diagram over on the right-hand side is an allowance for the closet and door?
 




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