"Talk me out of it!"

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IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
That's one of my favorite lines from the original Wizard Of Oz movie, uttered by the Cowardly Lion when he was preparing to lead the Scarecrow and the Tin-Man on a suicidal charge into the Wicked Witch's castle to rescue Dorothy.

I was having similar draconian thoughts about my layout this afternoon. It's never going to be a candidate for GMR - even worse, I can't even invite friends over to operate on it because of all the clutter. I'd originally planned, as a summer project, to declutter the garage and put in some extra lights. Didn't happen; I got sidetracked into "decoderizing" and weathering all my locos instead. Now summer's over and my trainroom is still a junkyard.:mad:

For awhile I figured I'd go ahead and install that separate staging yard that I've been planning to add. I installed some of the cross beams this afternoon for the new benchwork; but then I kept banging my head from having to duck below them all the time and realized, "This will NEVER work...!" At this point I started having ideas that I should simply rip everything out and start over, and build a layout with no duckunders. [ I believe I tried that already - wouldn't fit because of the large minimum radii required. ]

And, that is what I need to be talked out of doing!

Why? A couple of reasons: (1) It took me 5 years from the time I moved into this house to the time I was able to run trains on the current layout - I don't want all that effort to go to waste; (2) Money is scarce, I can't order large amounts of new track or other materials. And this is a long-term condition since I'm paying for all my kids' educations; (3) at least now, I have a place to run trains - if I tear it apart I'll lose that, and most likely, lose overall interest in the hobby as well.

I figure it'll be about another 10 years before I'll have the money and/or time to do another layout, this one will have to do for the time being. Funny thing is, when I originally planned it, I was really excited about it - it wasn't until I got involved in these forums and started reading books about the "correct" way to build a layout that I started noticing all its defects.

Could it possibly be a whopping case of the End-Of-Summer Blues? Perhaps the best thing for me to do is take two Advil and call you in the morning. Pardon my rant...
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
I would do two things.

1) Draw out your current plan and see if it might not be fixed with a little creativity. If you can't see something, we might because we don't have a preconceived notion about it. Maybe you just need a lift-out or a gate that can be open when you are working on it.

2) Get your rusty trusty XtrkCAD out and see what kind of a design you can come up with if you do go new. I know from talking with you that you have a few regrets with what you have done. If you can make a significant improvement, it might be worth doing over.

2 1/2) On the other hand I ripped up my layout without financing for the new one in place and I've temporarily run out of money.
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
I would do two things...
... ... ...

...2 1/2) On the other hand I ripped up my layout without financing for the new one in place and I've temporarily run out of money.
Chip,
I'll try to find the XtrCAD version of my track plan and post it here tomorrow. For now, I'll put in this GIF image. (The blue-colored staging yard track hasn't been installed yet.)

ironbelt_w_planned_staging_sm.jpg


In the meantime I'll clarify some of my concerns.

On your point '2.5', that's exactly the situation I'm trying to avoid. I almost completely abandoned the hobby in the summer of 2004, because at the time it seemed as if I'd never be able to climate-control the garage - an unexpected minor cash infusion made it possible for me to do that. I can't always count on money falling into my lap like that though.

If I could do around-the-walls I'd have done so, but the presence of a stand-up freezer on the left wall, shelving along the 'top' wall and a doorway on the bottom wall, preclude that option. The two yellow-highlited sections connecting the ends of the 'E' are liftouts - which I normally just duck under, but they can be removed if necessary.

The main thing preventing me from using twin 'balloon' tracks [to form a folded dogbone] is my need for 36" minimum radii - that's what my 89ft autoracks and paiggyback flats require. That is why having liftouts across the 'E' was a necessary compromise.
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Just a couple of observations.

From an operational standpoint, you would not loose anything by removing the lift outs permanently, putting them in for running for guests or whenever.

Now I don't know what goes on in the top section of your E, but it looks to me like everything cool happens in the lower two sections. Since I don't know your operating purpose, I can't say for sure, but that upper yard looks more like "operational staging" than a yard. You have a talent for industrial complexes. Why not extend that talent to the upper peninnsula as well.

The staging you are putting is more than you have, but not enough to support that yard and the industries. You have a busy industry and you need enough staging to bring in raw materials and export products. In the picture you have more room than you have staging track on. The industry alone demands mucho staging.

You have a lot to work with. You can make this work for you.
 
I would agree with Chip..I have an identical dilemma with my layout involving a duckunder as an entry point. I must say, that the only time I actually USE the darned thing is when I'm doing one of my operation sessions, which is seldom. Also you don't need to have them in when you're, say, doing SCENERY, which is a sensible next step after laying track...isn't it?

I aim for GMR quality, and I believe you should at least try heck, I think I've seen at least one GMR that didn't have everything done when Lou Sassi came to photograph. I suggest you REALLY focus on making your scenery stunning, and the Rust belt leaves a lot of room for interpretation, scenically. Rolling hills, heavy industry, and small towns, it just screams: "MODEL ME REALISTICALLY!!!"

Try your hardest, keep your excellent plan, and you'll maybe even make GMR, and since this hobby is fun, just be happy that even though cash is tight, not EVERYTHING in MRR'ing takes MONEY. Of course, at $25+ a decoder, it BETTER not all take money! ;) Just remember that scenery can make or break a layout. Another thing is that scneney is changable.

I'm in a similar position that you're in, but be happy, you could certianly be off worse. ;)
 
P.S. If you're doing $100+ sound locomotives, ONLY DO YOUR FAVORITES. Also something to remember, you cannot hear the sound in your layout's centerfold in GMR. :)
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Ken, that is a very well designed layout to even think about tearing out. Like the others, I believe you need to think this out and see just where you can modify or adjust to improve what you are looking for. If you recall, that is exactly what I have done over the past 6 months to improve my operations. I don't know how many times I just stood in front of the layout trying to figure something out. I had several others give their opinions and then one day it hit me and away I went.
Chip has a very good point that outsiders can see things that you can not. Sort of the "...forest from the trees" thing.;) :)
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
Gentlemen, thank you for the feedback!

[ Gosh I wish my trackplan image was a whiteboard so I could mark it up with circles, arrows, etc. to better illustrate my points. ]

Just a couple of observations.
From an operational standpoint, you would not loose anything by removing the lift outs permanently, putting them in for running for guests or whenever.
Chip, the liftouts are necessary because that track along the bottom is my "rural" mainline, where I like to do railfan-type operating - having a long freight pass the whole way thru that little town in the lower right. But maybe I could do like Miles suggested, and keep the liftouts off while doing scenery/maintenance work.

Now I don't know what goes on in the top section of your E, but it looks to me like everything cool happens in the lower two sections. Since I don't know your operating purpose, I can't say for sure, but that upper yard looks more like "operational staging" than a yard. You have a talent for industrial complexes. Why not extend that talent to the upper peninnsula as well.

The staging you are putting is more than you have, but not enough to support that yard and the industries. You have a busy industry and you need enough staging to bring in raw materials and export products. In the picture you have more room than you have staging track on. The industry alone demands mucho staging.
Actually the top yard WAS originally supposed to be all staging, but I saw an opportunity (as well as a need) to convert it to "arrival/departure" trackage for my mill trains.

. . .

[I have to run now, I'll finish replying to the rest of you after I've taken my son to school...]
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
There were actually two reason for having the lift-outs in place. One was to complete a loop so that you could rail-fan. The second is so you can take a train from staging to your "yard" without backing up. But for delivering to your industries, it is not needed. But I like putting a train in motion and letting her go, especially if I am sitting at my workbench. I look up from time to time, but I always hear if a wheel comes off.

Here are some questions for you.

What do you like about the layout and what do you dislike?

If your layout is a small piece of a larger railroad, how does it operate now?

How will that change after you add staging?

After you add staging, what will still be missing?

When you run, where do you spend most of your time on the layout?

What are your favorite things to do? What can be done to increase that type of thing?
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Boy, I'm talking up a storm on this one.

I think the biggest problem you have with the layout is the backdrop on the right. With it, you have to run around from one side of the layout to the other constantly. If you take it out, you could operate the the busy sections from one pit or the other.
 
Good luck CSX - I feel your pain. I had a similar issue with a duck-under on my new setup, luckily I was still in the planning stages. XTrakCad was invaluble in figuring out a way to do it without the duck-under - now it's kinda a folded dog bone style (got the inspiration from here actually). Can't wait to get it built! :)

Actually this forum was a godsend too as I got to see how you guys are doing this stuff. Just when I thought the duck-under was the only way to do it...

Mark
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
Miles/Rex, I hear ya! I believe a workable, non-destructive solution is close at hand - especially with our Resident Consultant working the case [can't name any names, no advertising allowed :D]

Chip, those are all good questions. I can't answer every one of them right now because I'm supposed to be 'working.' And I won't have access to a 'putor after I leave the office today, because my laptop is scheduled to be repaired this afternoon and I can't take it home with me. But I have thought up an alternative plan for staging, I'll post that as soon as I can mark-up the existing track plan.

... When you run, where do you spend most of your time on the layout? ...
It depends...

For mainline operating ('railfanning' or local), I'm on the periphery (I have a MRC CM-20 system that allows tethered walkaround operation in DC mode, I'll have Digitrax radio once I've finished equipping all my locos for DCC).

For hot-end mill switching and yard work, I'm in the northern [top] pit.

For switching the coal mine and and the rotary dumper tracks, I occupy the southern [bottom] pit.

... I think the biggest problem you have with the layout is the backdrop on the right. With it, you have to run around from one side of the layout to the other constantly...
Uh....Chip, I didn't know I had a backdrop on the right-hand [east] side? ;) If you mean the vertical spine of the 'E', I'll explain that tonite or tomorrow when I have more time.


Good luck CSX - I feel your pain. I had a similar issue with a duck-under on my new setup, luckily I was still in the planning stages. XTrakCad was invaluble in figuring out a way to do it without the duck-under - now it's kinda a folded dog bone style ...
Mark, good to hear about your dogbone solution. That never was an option for me since my large center [steel mill] peninsula was carried-over from my old layout.
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
Gents,

I believe I have devised a solution to my layout dilemma. Not a perfect one by any stretch, but still a major improvement.

First have a glance at the track plan image below. The tracks themselves are not any different; however, the two top-most tracks, which were to be made into a visible pass-by mainline, will remain as staging tracks for pass-thru traffic (e.g. auto racks and intermodals). The planned new staging yard will be stub-ended and accommodate freights headed for, and originating from, the steel mill. [I had originally planned to make the new staging yard double-ended with a second viaduct on the east (right-hand) end, to handle staging for ALL traffic.] All of the layout surfaces with a CYAN background will be visually hidden or otherwise separated from scenicked operating areas; blue tracks will have trains parked on them, while normal-colored tracks in staging regions will be kept clear to accommodate trains being shifted into a/d yard or the mine spur.

ironbelt_w_staging_rev2_labeled.gif



Q&A:

What do you like about the layout and what do you dislike?
LIKES:
(1) Has full operating hot-end steel mill with harbor facilities;
(2) Plenty of end-point in-and-out traffic [coal & scrap IN, steel coils OUT];
(3) contains 15 linear feet of 'rural' mainline, another 15ft of 'suburban' mainline;
(4) source mine for coking coal generates mine-to-mill traffic;
(5) several small trackside industries for local switching;
(6) accommodates 89-foot flats and auto racks which I've always loved!

DISLIKES:
(1) Track sections have to be either lifted out or ducked-under to get into the central 'pit' areas;
(2) insufficient staging, 2 tracks is NOT enough;
(3) benchwork is too 'geometric'-looking, like some type of amateur design from a book; too many perpendicular lines. Should be more organic/trapezoidal, like the ones shown in MR;
(4) maually-poered turnouts, no tortoises; no working signals

If your layout is a small piece of a larger railroad, how does it operate now?
Trains are staged on the top existing [northern-most] two tracks; eastbounds appear in upper-left (NW) corner, pass thru two scenicked mainline stretches and up past the ore dock/furnaces, back to the staging track or into mill receiving yard. West bounds of course follow the exact opposite path


How will that change after you add staging?
Mill-bound 'general' freight trains will have someplace to go to other than the two tracks* adjacent to the A/D yard. [* A shallow view-separator (a retaining wall perhaps?) still needs to be erected to hide the pass-thru staging tracks]

After you add staging, what will still be missing?
Items 3 and 4 in the 'dislikes' list above will be unaffected. Mainline operators will either have to retrace their steps to walk back to the beginning of their run, or duck beneath the new viaduct that will connect the pt2pt staging yard with the layout.

What are your favorite things to do?
Receive trains into the mill yard and disperse the cars to their various in-plant spurs; and vice-versa.

What can be done to increase that type of thing?
Having a new dedicated yard for pt2pt runs will make it much easier, since I won't have to manually fiddle with the cars on what will now be the 'pass-thru' staging track.
 
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IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
That's the view blocker between the the town of "Chandler" [toward the right] and the steel mill. (It used to be cyan-colored in the original image)
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Then I stand by my original observation. That view block forces you to walk around the layout to move from staging to switching your industries. You cannot bring a train out and get it to the switching area because you cannot see it.

However, I know you like photos of your rural towns.

But if you took down that block, you spend more time in the pit.

Now I'm going to suggest something that will require a little work, but I think it will make things workout a lot better.

Swap your pass through siding and Chandler. Let your new "pass through siding" become an interchange track and bring your main from staging so that the interchange does not interfere with the flow of traffic from staging to your mainline loop.

You can store trains on the interchange track and be legit. And they can be set-outs for the industry or be sent back to staging which adds diversity to the operations. You still get the scenic rail-fanning, it just doesn't make you have to walk around when you are in an ops mood or have ops guests. (I volunteer by the way.)
 
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IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
... That view block forces you to walk around the layout to move from staging to switching your industries. You cannot bring a train out and get it to the switching area because you cannot see it.
...
... if you took down that block, you spend more time in the pit.
OK Chip, you're saying I should remove the Chandler view block for better visibility. That may be possible...but I can still keep the other one I have on the bottom peninsula, right?

I'll discuss the rest of your idea later, when I'm "off the clock" ;)
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
OK Chip, you're saying I should remove the Chandler view block for better visibility. That may be possible...but I can still keep the other one I have on the bottom peninsula, right?

I'll discuss the rest of your idea later, when I'm "off the clock" ;)
Correct. You can keep the other view block.

I'm also suggesting you move Chandler with its viewblock to the area where you have "pass through staging" and making the current Chandler area, an interchange/track yard. Then instead of having staging come into the old Chandler or the new interchange yard, it bypasses it and connects with your main.
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Am I looking at this right in thinking you can walk around all 4 sides? What I'm not understanding is, what is wrong with walking around the layout? (Many wish that they could.) If you have other operators, then you would want them spread out in their operations. If you are by yourself, then you can only handle one train switching anyway. With the view blockers you have an illusion of the area being separated by distance from the mill and other sections.

Since the root of your concerns seems to be the liftouts, why not install swinging gates that are locked in place with sliding bolt locks (like on screen doors.) I have that in my new room and it works great. OR: Do as CanuckMark did and mushroom the ends of the upper and lower penisula to create a dogbone. You may have to adjust some trackage, but you could eliminate the duckunders.

Again, assuming that you can walk 4 sides, it looks like you have NEW duckunder at staging. Is it possible to have the staging butted up against the yard with a view blocker between.
Just Thunking :eek: !
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
Am I looking at this right in thinking you can walk around all 4 sides? What I'm not understanding is, what is wrong with walking around the layout? (Many wish that they could.) If you have other operators, then you would want them spread out in their operations. If you are by yourself, then you can only handle one train switching anyway. With the view blockers you have an illusion of the area being separated by distance from the mill and other sections.

Since the root of your concerns seems to be the liftouts, why not install swinging gates that are locked in place with sliding bolt locks (like on screen doors.) I have that in my new room and it works great. OR: Do as CanuckMark did and mushroom the ends of the upper and lower penisula to create a dogbone. You may have to adjust some trackage, but you could eliminate the duckunders.

Again, assuming that you can walk 4 sides, it looks like you have NEW duckunder at staging. Is it possible to have the staging butted up against the yard with a view blocker between.
Just Thunking :eek: !
Rex,

The issue for me is not the view blocks or that walking around the layout is bad. It;s just that the one viewblock keeps him from being able to manuever a train from staging to the industrial area without going in and out of his pit simply because he can't see to make his switching moves. If he moves the town and viewblock, he can still walk around and reduce the ducking. And if he does make that change, he can also add to his operational capacity. Sure, its work, but it is a lot less work than tearing it out and forking over the cash and time to start again.
 




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