Northeastern HO scale switching layout

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kleiner

Well-Known Member
After four long months of home renovation, my new train room is finally ready for action.

room.jpeg


I plan to kick thing off by building an HO scale switching layout. This layout is going to be roughly contemporary so I can run modern equipment. It will be set somewhere in the northeast, perhaps somewhere between New York and Philadelphia so it can be served by NS or CSX. I have a really sharp looking NS genset switcher that I could use on this layout.

This layout will be built on Kamkonnect modules. I'm currently thinking of using four 42" by 18" modules arranged in a straight line. I verified that this will comfortably fit in the space available. Why modules for a fixed layout? I have had to take down several layouts in the past when we had to do some plumbing repairs or renovation projects. By building the layout in modules, I will be able to easily move the layout if it becomes necessary. Also, being able to take it to shows may be possible as well.

To get started with the design, I bought a new license for 3rd Planit. This is my favorite design tool and I have used it in the past. But it is very complex and I am a bit rusty so I had to spend a couple of days reacquainting myself. Here is my first pass at a design.
layout_01.png

There is a double track mainline passing through the layout. The orange blobs represent industries. The idea is that a switch job will start with a train that has just arrived from a yard on the mainline. Cars will have to be pulled from industries and replaced with new cars.

Track is going to be Atlas Code 83 flex and #4 turnouts. I would have liked to use #6s but there's not enough space really. Also note that the turnouts do not span module boundaries - to make it easy to cut gaps.

I will be trying out a few alternative designs in the next few days. tomorrow, I want to explore if using 24" modules instead of 18" might give me more room for industries.
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
My plan is to try out one new layout idea every day until I find one I like. Hopefully these sketches may be of interest to others as well! I can meet the 3rd Planit files available if anyone is interested.

Whats different today:
  • Uses only Atlas #6 turnouts.
  • Uses a 19 degree crossing: this is something I have always wanted to try out but have not had the opportunity to do so
    layout_02.png
  • Has 4 industries with both leading and trailing sidings - there ought to be enough switching moves to keep me occupied for an hour at least :)
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
I had made a mistake with the size of the modules so I corrected that and had another go at a design:
layout_03.png

As in the previous designs, the orange polygons represent possible industries. The big one on the left side is likely to be some kind of a chemical industry that will take tank cars as inbound loads. The single track mainline enters and leaves the layout at an angle, to give more visual interest and to create more room for industries.

Its looking a lot better but there are still a few more ideas that I need to explore before I call it complete. I have learned over the years to not rush this phase. But I have to confess that I want to get started with building this layout so badly that its going to take some self-control to not order the stuff right away :)

Next ideas to explore:
  • Increase width of the modules to 24 inches from 18 inches
  • Try out a C shaped design with corner pieces
 

PMW

Member
Looking forward to seeing the build! I am currently building my first layout. It is a module in the sense that I constructed it in such a way that it can be moved... but not every weekend :).

My widest section that can be accessed from only one side is 28" and others are 24". Reachability is not a problem unless a structure is in the way. A step stool resolves this. My benchwork is only about 4' high,
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
Got up this morning all fired up to incorporate the diamond. I found that increasing the size of the modules to be 2' by 4' definitely increases operational possibilities. I can now comfortably incorporate 5 distinct industries in the available space. I could also add an engine servicing facility in a short siding in the second module from the left as well. Definitely looks promising - I like the look of this layout.
layout_05.png
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
I am also now rethinking my #6 turnouts. In the past, I have found that my 4 axle switchers had no problem negotiating Atlas #4 turnouts (which are actually #4.5). Using sharper turnouts may actually allow me to squeeze this into 18 inch wide modules.
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
As I suggested yesterday, I changed to using #4 turnouts. My 4 axle switchers have no problems handling these turnouts so I think I will stick with them. The advantage in using #4s is just too great in a switching layout to ignore.

Today's design is looking much better - I was able to add a kickback siding without it looking too contrived. And I was able to retain the diamond crossing. Also, fewer tracks are parallel to the sides of the layout. I'm pretty happy with this overall.
layout_06.png

I think I have pushed the linear ideas as much as I wanted. The main design-space left to explore is shapes other than linear.
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
After two days of heroic struggle (ok, so it was fun 😀), I have come up with a T-shaped design. It turned out to be very hard to get the geometry to work out since I did not want any curve with a radius of less than 24 inches. I have come to the conclusion that linear designs are the best way to satisfy my requirements.

Now, I have seen some beautiful layouts by Lance Mindheim on an L-shaped shelf in Model Railroader. But they simply don't work for me as I want a lot of complex switching action. I know its not realistic in the modern era but I know that I'd get bored quickly with a simple layout.

The main remaining thing I have to do figure out is whether I want 18 inch or 24 inch wide modules
layout_08.png
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
After thinking it over a bit, this is almost definitely going to be my final design. Everything fits nicely in 18 inch wide modules, I have the crossover and I was able to fit two sidings. This ought to be good for a few hours of fun.
The only hitch now is that I was planning to place the orders for some modules from KamKonnect - and they are located in Dallas! I have no idea how badly they have been affected by the power outages. I'll give them a call tomorrow and see if they are in any position to accept orders.
layout_09.png
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
I have ordered some modules bases for my layout that should be coming soon. In the mean time, I have been looking for lockable hinges for folding legs for the modules. I found a few on Amazon that look really interesting. I tried out the hinge on a a couple of scrap wood pieces:

IMG_3432.jpeg

This hinge can lock in two positions
IMG_3434.jpeg

These hinges seem to work really well!
 

kleiner

Well-Known Member
Finally I have something to share with you all: My first module!

IMG_3465.jpeg

I was originally planning to order modules from KamKonnect but I came up with an alternative approach that you see here. I ordered a set of drawers each, 2 ft by 4 ft from a company in North Carolina that makes custom drawers for remodeling projects. I then attached legs to this and hey presto, I have a module! Each drawer was only $63 and is very well made and quite rigid. I just need to install screw leveling legs and this should be good to go.
The legs are bolted on and can be quickly removed for storage. Once the modules are connected together, they will be very rigid as a whole. I am really pleased at how well this has come together.
 




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