My newest attempt at a 4x8 HO layout

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GEXR

New Member
First of all, thanks for all the advice regarding my first attempt that, in retrospect, missed the mark completely. I feel that I have learned much since then.

This layout features a large yard and yard lead that are completely off the mainline. I exchanged the roundhouse for a 2-stall engine house. I figured all I needed would be a road locomotive and a switcher, so two stalls seemed sufficient.
I included the potential for passenger service with a rural station and siding to the north and a station to serve the town at south. Having two sidings, the one to the north could be used to park the passenger train when needed.

I included somewhat of a reversing loop that doubles as a branch line for servicing the industries. It doesn't really serve as a good reversing loop though because all curved sections are 18" except those of the branch line and the size of locomotive that can use it will be limited.

The breaks in the road indicate where the paved region of the town turns to gravel in the rural areas. The farmland is situated beside the stock lot and flour mill to facilitate the easy shipment of local commodities for refinement. I hope to pair the lumberyard with a small milling operation to make it more self-sufficient. I would model a dirt road crossing the tracks to the north west corner leading into a forest, hopefully giving the illusion of a large woodlot beyond the layout to the northwest.
I picture the north side of the layout against the wall. Hopefully that will allow enough access to the siding to the north.

I hope to model the layout in and around the year 1950. At 21, it pains me to think that I missed the wonders of dieselization and I would, therefore, love to reproduce it myself. I would run a small steamer as a switcher, a GP9 as the road loco and an F unit (A and B?) as the passenger engine. I might also switch up the passenger train with a streamlined steamer... who knows?!

Any criticism/advice would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance.

-James
 
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UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Looks pretty good to me. You should add a crossover track at the midpoint of your yard so your switcher doesn't get trapped behind a block of cars. Just for scenic value, you might want consider a highway underpass where the road leaves town on the left side of the layout.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Jim,

if he uses the lead as a A/D track and the main as a runaround. There is no need to ever trap his switcher.

James,

The plan looks a lot better. I think you have a good little layout going.

One thing that would improve the plan in my opinion would be to put a divider or view block along the bottom of the street "Downtown," so that you cannot see the loop aspect while you are working either side. In other words, you cannot see one scene will you are working the other.

The crossover creates a reverse loop so special wiring is needed.

If you really wanted to increase your operational variety, an interchange would help. You could extend both sides of the top of the loop to signify a connection. The track where you have the passenger station would be where you exchanged cars.

Finally, you have this drawn for Atlas sectional track and turnouts. The more joints you have the more issues you will have with conductivity and derailing. The sections could easily be replaced with flex. If the turnouts have side mounted switch machines you can replace them. What really makes the most sense, especially on a 4 x 8 are hand throws. Caboose Industries makes good inexpensive ones.

If you try to use powered switch machines this is what will happen. You will be able to follow your engine around to switch both sides of the layout, and you will need to to uncouple the cars. But now the control panel is on the opposite side of the layout from where you are working. Switching with runaround moves will drive you nuts running back and forth.

All of the bigger layouts I run on use manual throws.
 

GEXR

New Member
I do like the idea of manual throws. I don't really like the look of the electric switching machines. Can I just take the machines off the turnouts and replace them with the manuals?
I also may use flex track for some of the straight portions, however, would it not be easier to use the curve sections for the two bends on the east and west sides? I worry about attempting to mimic a perfect 18" radius with the flex.
I considered using a backdrop through the middle of the layout, however, I think the branch through the middle evokes a sense of division between urban and rural areas. But.., maybe not!
Also, could you please explain what you mean by the interchange? I have heard a lot about this feature yet I am not quite sure what it looks like or what it is used for.

Thanks
 
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SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
An interchange is where two railroads intersect--say the UP and The BNSF. Since they don't run on each other's tracks, they have to drop off cars for the other to deliver. Where they drop the cars is called the exchange track. On your layout, the loop could be one railroad and the straight along the top edge could be the other. (Remember I suggest that the top track extend from the left edge to the right edge.) The exchange track would be the place where you now have the passenger station.

Right now, on your layout, you can build trains for local delivery and receive cars from those industries. In other words, you really have one train that goes in and out to local delivery.

If you have an interchange with another railroad, you have a connection with the outside world. You not only have your local, but you pick up cars coming in from all over the country and ship out all over the country. It literally triples your action. Add fold up staging on either end and you double or triple it again.

By fold up staging, I mean you literally have a piece of ply a track or two wide that hinges on you layout and runs to the floor. most of the time you leave it up, but if you need the room for any reason it folds down out of the way.

The veiw block prevents you from seeing the nose or tail of your train is in the other town while working the track in front of you. It keeps the scene focused. When you run a train around your track, you see it arrive and depart. It takes away the toy train look.

Now to make a perfect 18" turn you just need a cheap yardstick, a pencil and a drill. Drill a hole the diameter of a nail in the one inch mark and drill a whole to fit your pencil in the 19" mark. Use this as a compass. The cork roadbed splits in two so just line the one of the pieces of the roadbed with pencil line and push the other up tight. The line down the roadbed now forms the center of the track. The flex track has nail holes in the center of the ties and you line these up with the center of the road bed. You don't want to nail it down however, use adhesive caulk to glue it down.

You should do this even if you decide to stick with sectional. But if you go that far, why not go flex.
 
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UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Chip, I just hate using the main as a runaround but you're right, with this small yard, it would work OK.

GEXR, I'm 100% with Chip on using ground throws. I only have one powered switch on my layout and it's in a difficult to reach spot way in the back of the layout. All the others are manual using Caboose Industries ground throws. I'm currently replacing them with CI high level switch stands, which do the same job but look more realistic. I know when I've hand thrown a switch which way the train is going. With switch machines, all I know is I heard a noise and I hope I know which way the train is going. :)
 

Rico

BN Modeller
I think this is a great layout!
With a small layout I would use the sectional track and solder the connections. It's just easier to maintain the radius and no worries about gauge. I wish there was sectional when I did the helix! I'm doing a small N scale layout with sectional for that reason.
I totally agree with the ground throws, interchange, and underpass.
Raising the main street and some buildings would give a small view block and get away from the old "plywood pacific".
 

GEXR

New Member
layout with interchange

Here is the layout with the interchange. The position of the pair of turnouts was based on a few hypothetical operational situations. How does it look in terms of function? Is it a true-to-life way to construct an interchange? I could also put an interchange in under the yard. It would end up resembling an additional yard track at the bottom.
I also reworked a some sections with the flex-track.

By the way, thanks again for the thorough responses to my questions. I am learning a lot from this forum!
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
I like your design, I might borrow some ideas from it when I build my new layout. I personaly would go with Peco power routing turnouts, I have used them exclusivly for several years, they are nice as they are power routing so you can trap or park units on yard tracks, then kill the power to them. Very nice in a non DCC layout. Of coarse with DCC this isnt important. The points are also sprung loaded so there is no need for ground throws, just flip the throw bar with your fingernail and the points snap over to the route you need. I think I would eliminate the complete crossover, to simplify wiring, but keep the two as a long industrail siding, I would take the downtown area and start building the elevation upwards to a highway overpass at the left side, then the track to the industries behind the downtown area is more hidden behind the elevated city area, makes for a nice scenery break on anotherwise flat layout. along the back side of the downtown buildings could be a steep grassed slope with trees down to the siding, or one could use retaining walls. I would go with a pair of F3 or F7 A units instead of a B unit, then you dont have to turn them to go the other way. Most lines dieselized their passenger trains early, diesels were cheaper and made the loss of income on passenger service a bit easier on thier bottom lines. From my research, most lines lost money on their passenger service. Cheers Mike
 
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SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Here is the layout with the interchange. The position of the pair of turnouts was based on a few hypothetical operational situations. How does it look in terms of function? Is it a true-to-life way to construct an interchange? I could also put an interchange in under the yard.
One interchange is fine.

You will get better functionality out of the layout is you just connect that passenger track to the end of the loop. The exchange track would become the outside track. I would have a crossover for use as a possible runaround.

Have you thought about having a fold down staging or a cassette that connects to the interchange track?
 

lmackattack

old school
looks good to me james. great start for a layout. I would highly reccomend DCC for even small layouts like this. The amount of time, money and aggercation with DC blocks on such a small layout is hardly worth it. I think I got my MRC advanced squared DCC system and 1 Digitrax decoder for under $225 this was a few years ago and costs might be lower now? With 18" radius most 4 axels diesels and small/med steam will work with out issues. I can get my 4-8-2 mountain around 18" but it gets tight. my 2-8-2's are better for 18"

Peco turnouts are alot better than the atlas. I am kicking myself for not using them on my layout. I have replaced one bad atlas snap switch with a peco and its a night and day diffrence. I aslo use ground throws as it make life simple and adds another function that you can control. Most small railways used them anyways so besides there over sized look they are a great option.

I would also suggest metal wheels on your freight cars. With 18" curves the metal wheels will slide around the curves better and are less likely to climb a rail and derail. I recently went thry my 50 cars and replaced all the plastic wheels with metal. it made a huge diffrence both in reliability and how may cars an engine can pull on the club layout.

Trent
 

GEXR

New Member
Mike - I like your idea for the steep slope o the retaining wall. I picture a small alley behind the downtown buildings to facilitate car access for employees into the rear entrances, so I think I retaining wall would be needed. I work for a shoring contractor so I am sure I could have some fun making that wall! Would it be too much to put a shallow incline on the track heading toward the industries at the west end?

Chip - I would prefer to leave the passenger track in line with the dominate loop of the layout as you suggested, however, I do not think I can make it fit on the 4' wide sheet of ply. If I decided to force it, I would have to compromise the 18" radii of the two curves. I could, however, scab on an extra 4-6" onto the width of the 4x8 sheet, but that might limit my reach toward the back of the layout (north side).
As for the fold down addition, would I include it purely to extend the length of the interchange track? i.e. A 6"x24" piece of ply with a length of straight track on it? Or am I way off?

Trent - I would like to use more reliable turnouts considering how I have so very many turnouts on the layout, however, I have a very large collection of inherited brass snap-track and some flex. I have over 30 quality used turnouts that I would like to use. I would sell them if there was a market for brass but I don't think it'd be work it. If I upgrade the switches, I would rather abandon the brass code 100 I have in favour of code 83 with the brown ties. Should I try to unload my brass code 100 collection or just use it for this, my first layout? I would also love to go DCC, however, there are two reasons why I might stick with DC. Firstly, I have inherited two large collections of older locos that obviously are not DCC compatible and I also would like to learn how to wire a traditional DC layout for the learning experience.

Regards,
James
 
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lmackattack

old school
you could try to sell the brass but I dont know how many people still use brass? I also dont want to discourage you from using you old stock as it will save you lots of$$$ but just from my experince the Peco brand is alot better than the atlas snap. Now I am still using about 8 atlas switches but most of them I have had to modify to keep the steam engines from derailing and had to add jumper wires to keep power thru the switch. Another thing I like with the peco is that you dont really need a ground throw to operate the switch. the peco switch has a spring in it that keeps tension both in the open and closed position. this way a scale switch stand can be placed next to it and look more like the proto types.

Trent
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
You could do that easily, its nice to add some elevation here and there to break up the flatness of the small layout. If you dump the brass track, let me know, I dont mind using it for yards and sidings. If you run the layout often enough, brass is fine, our huge club layout has lots of brass on it. All hand laid on truescale roadbed. Mike
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Chip - I would prefer to leave the passenger track in line with the dominate loop of the layout as you suggested, however, I do not think I can make it fit on the 4' wide sheet of ply. If I decided to force it, I would have to compromise the 18" radii of the two curves. I could, however, scab on an extra 4-6" onto the width of the 4x8 sheet, but that might limit my reach toward the back of the layout (north side).
There are no major changes to what you have. The turnout in the upper left stays where it is. Picture running a straight line now to your return loop. That now is your main line. You could add a crossover back to the new interchange, but you don't have to.


As for the fold down addition, would I include it purely to extend the length of the interchange track? i.e. A 6"x24" piece of ply with a length of straight track on it? Or am I way off?
You are right. The fold down extends the interchange track and hangs clear to the floor. You could have two tracks to run two trains additional trains. Just like that you have tripled your operational capacity and given your yard the work you need to keep it busy.

See my article What is staging and why do I need it.

This is N scale, but you get the idea.

 




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