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New Member
Hello, my name is Richard and I'm a train addict. First step is admitting it, right? My wife is supportive to a point with the amount of train stuff being collected and even sat in a corner at one of the train shows while I shopped around, although she is not interested in the hobby herself.

I am learning how to build modules for our HO scale club in Ashland VA and will begin creating my own home layout soon. Have to clear out a bunch of junk first. That's the rule, or so I've been told! In the past few months, have gobbled up two Broadway Limited locomotives (one steam, one diesel), about 70 various cars (prefer pre-1960s), and like the C&O railway but also a few others of regional interest. Have some Atlas code 83 flex track, Shinohara turnouts, Woodland Scenics foam elevation kits, 20# of bulk plaster cloth, 5# of Woodland Scenics lightweight hydrocal powder, variable temp RoMech foam cutter, and a desire to literally make mountains with a home layout. I want to try a layout that's not just flat and goes around in a circle (had that as a kid).

Attached is a design that caught my eye and trying to keep the radius of curves to 24" or greater to one day run a "Big Boy" steam locomotive. Realism for a particular scene is not my goal, having a fun and interesting design is my goal. Also very intrigued about building a few wooden trestles as I'm told that is a highlight of many layouts.


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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Hey Richard,
Welcome to the forum.
I had heard of a modular club south of Fredericksburg but was never able to find any details about it.
I'm right up the road from you in King George. Lots of railroad in my basement.
I started building this in January 2012. The link here is the thread that I started in order to track the progress.
I do occasional op sessions with other model railroaders in the area. If ya want to join a session, let me know and I'll put ya on the invite list. Next op session is 14 March.


New Member
I'm researching the possibility of putting in a 2%, 22" radius helix under the mountain (displayed on diagram at top left) with a long incline at something close to 2% that runs along the back and hidden, starting at the corner at top right with a turnout that selects running along the wall or down an incline that leads to a helix. The purpose would be staging areas since only one train would be running on the visible layout at a time, could have others waiting.

Haven't quite figured out how to get the trains to turn around just yet so they won't have to back down the incline. Might just have to have a loop at the other end of the staging yard (return loop at end of through yard seems less complicated that a looped yard) instead of a stub-end yard.


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New Member
Ken, that layout and work is amazing! I'll definitely have to check it out someday.

Still learning a lot and want to plan out the layout so I don't change stuff based on correcting mistakes, best to identify them before work begins!

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
I want to try a layout that's not just flat and goes around in a circle (had that as a kid).
I will advise a little bit of introspection here. A circle is a small loop. Loops can get bigger, get squeezed, fold over on themselves, cross over themselves at grade or at elevation, but they are all still loops.

There are many ways to make a loop more interesting. In the proposed plan there is a yard where one can build a train and send it out onto the loop for laps. But in the end, the same train comes back to the same yard. There are only 2 or 3? industries on this plan. I don't think that is a correct proportion to the size of the yard. If there are sufficient industries then the train will leave the yard, work the cars at the industries, and actually return to the yard with a completely different set of cars. ie. a different train.

Another way to change up a loop is to add alternate routes. That is the train could leave the yard and be routed through the tunnel district or the river district.

A third way is to add passing sidings so that multiple trains can be running on the main simultaneously. Trains can overtake, meet, and maybe saw by each other. This plan could do a little of that by using one of the yard tracks as a siding. Here the sidings would be so close together one train would be sitting most of the time waiting for its meet.

Another way is as you already suggested, having staging where one can make up a train in the yard and it goes to stating to be replaced by a different train to be broken down at the yard. The trains in staging can be made up by hand differently each time to keep the action on the layout varied.

So my request for introspection is to ask what train activities do you enjoy performing (the fun and interesting part)? Then adapt the layout to that set of enjoyments. Nothing says a layout can't have elements of all of these interest adding features, and nay should have as space permits.

Attached is a design that caught my eye and trying to keep the radius of curves to 24" or greater to one day run a "Big Boy" steam locomotive. Realism for a particular scene is not my goal, having a fun and interesting design is my goal.
On that, you might want to go a bit higher and try for 30" min. Big Boys look really strange when wrapped around a tight curve. I know they make the models double articulated just so they can go tight, but do you want it to look like a Big Boy? No problem if you don't mind such a thing, it hasn't bothered the Lionel crowd for decades, but thought I would point it out.


New Member
Thanks for the great suggestions!

Maybe 30" radius in visible areas and smaller in hidden/helix areas? Each time I think about the design, it keeps getting bigger in scale! I would like to be able to run 2 locomotives at the same time, and was initially thinking of 1 visible, 1 going around the helix into the staging yard and loop back up.

Electrically, I'm at the point where I'm looking into how these PM42s work to divide into districts and the AR units do the auto reversing.

Best to do all of the planning before starting to build as it's much more difficult to revise after construction has begun. The layout will be modularized since it will be going into a 3rd floor large room, and those stairs have 90-degree landings instead of just straight up. Have to plan, plan, plan... but eventually start building.

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