Category Archives: Layout plans

Alberta & Columbia v.5 “Trying too hard”

Another partial layover night shift in Grande Prairie (at least aided by some Gibson’s Finest today), so here goes with another blog post! After a big photo post last time, let’s take a look at another layout design for the space I’m planning in the basement. This is version 5 of the A & C, last days off I was working on either version 10 or 11 (all that tells you is that I’m way behind on the blogging!)

Since this design was drawn, the space outline of what I’m going to have available has changed. However, if you’re looking for an L-shaped plan, here it is. I titled this one “Trying too hard” because of the reduction in the minimum radius for the plan. I’ve been using a 28 – 30″ minimum for all my designs to this point, but for this one I decided to step it down to 24″ to see what I could fit into the space. I left the turnout standards (#5 in the yard and industries, #6 on the main) alone. I used 24″ years ago in my parent’s crawl space, and successfully ran SD40-2s and a U33C, but they didn’t look great. I’m planning a maximum of a 2-10-2 (though I have to admit that brass Selkirks, either a T1a or T1b are tempting), with the bulk of the power being no larger than a 2-8-2 or 4-6-2, so if I would speed restrict the Santa Fes and let the Mikados and Pacifics run free, the 24″ minimum would be acceptable.

Following the completion of this design, I decided there was no point in dropping the minumum radius down, as the appearance and operation concerns just weren’t worth it. Part of the problem is how tight it makes the aisles, and that’s just not worth it in my opinion. I’m not real wide at the point (even then, I’m over 200 lb), but I can’t say for sure that I won’t be later in life! Even a 24″ aisle that I’ve been using as a minimum to this point is tight, and this plan drops that down to 18″ in a couple spots. Let’s take a closer look at the plan, and go through it a piece at a time.a-and-c-v5-lower

One major difference with this plan is the relocation of the main yard into the corner at the lower right. This eliminates the possibility of a town in the lower left, and to be honest, I’m not sure at this time how to scenic or operate the loop at that end. I am planning to use Sergent couplers, so the curve through the yard won’t be an issue, however, if you want to use Kadees, that can be an issue. Heading out of the yard the benchwork drops down to a bare minimum of around 8″, and the mainline (beyond the yard lead), starts down a short descent. After crossing under the line from the peninsula, it begins a long, steady ascent (see the profile later in this post). The biggest advantage of the smaller radius, is the addition of the peninsula to lengthen the mainline, at the expense of benchwork width on each side, and aisle width as well.v5-profile

As shown on the profile, once over the lower line at the base of the peninsula,  the line drops off briefly before starting the ascent into the helix. The steepest part of the line (deliberately placed in advance of the helix, to avoid stalls therein) is before that little drop, and the helix is steady 2.32%. It’s a tight 24″ radius spiral, as noted on the plan a smaller climb per turn reduces the grade, but leaves less space for hands when it comes time to fix derailments.a-and-c-v5-upper

Once we make it to the upper level (above the four-turn helix), be wrap around the outside of the helix, and arrive at a siding at the top of the hill. From there line drops to a wye which is the junction with a branch atop the peninsula (another advantage of the smaller radius is fitting branchlines in easily). That line climbs sharply past one mine, then terminates at a pair of mines (and runaround track), one of which is served by a switchback. I envision the branch being served by one or two three-truck Shays, as the CPR did in the Rossland / Phoenix (BC) / Motherlode areas. They could either run down the main (slowly) to the smelter at Anaconda, or trade off their traffic to mainline trains at the junction.

The tail end of the line is a smelter town based on Anaconda (in the Grand Forks area of BC). It had a small yard, allowing mainline trains to make simple lifts and setoffs, while a local switcher works the variety of spurs, including the slag dump across the mainline. With a larger space, to allow a larger minimum radius, this plan could have lots of potential. Unfortunately, as drawn, I’d consider the aisles to be too small, and the curves overly restrictive of what equipment can be run. It did show me that it wasn’t worth reducing the curves in the space I have, so I’m using the 30″ minimum when I do finally get to construction.

As usual, should you choose to build this plan, drop me a line and I’ll offer whatever help I can. Thanks for looking!

Alberta & Columbia v4

This time around we’re going to jump ahead to version 4 of a track plan for the future space in my basement. I have a post on multiple bits and pieces, some of which were drawn between versions three and four, but that will come at a later date.

I titled this plan “Keeping It Simple” It’s a response to a challenge issued by Lance Mindheim back in January. I found it through Trevor Marshall’s blog on his Port Rowan layout. His argument is that layouts sometimes fail due to being overly complex. As such, the suggestion was made to take your typical space, and set a hard limit of 15 switches, as the number of switches is a good measure of the overall complexity of a layout. I kind of cheated by including a multi-train sector plate, but the balance of the layout uses a total of 14 switches.a-and-c-v4

A couple of notes should be made about the plan here. Starting at the bottom at Whisky Gap, I started drawing at the left side, and realized that I needed an aisle to be able to reach into the wye area. To make that happen, the whole town must be shifted to the right, as is noted on the plan. In keeping the layout simpler, I was able to use larger curves for most, and larger switches, particularly on the mainline. The mainline switches are primarily number 7s, with number 6s used on the spurs. Where I fit one of these branch lines into my other plans (schematically), it requires a minimum of a 22″ radius with number 5 switches, here, I’m able to use a 30″ minimum.

The next town is very simple as well, the only complication here is a curved turnout into the elevator track. As generous as the plan is, this space saver was needed to get an elevator track long enough for 3 cars at each elevator. I still wanted to maintain a longer open country run between the two towns, and this forces the town in the middle of the line up into the corner of the room. The rest of the line is more open running to the terminus on the sector plate.

That sector plate, as drawn, obviously won’t work. I need to remove at least one track from it, narrow it, and curve the ends so they will line up properly. I’d have to design a mechanism to both pivot the table at the end (where marked), and slide back into position to send trains out onto the line. That enables it to be used not just to stage trains, but also as a train turntable.

Overall, it’s a very simple plan. Perhaps, that would be a good thing which would allow the layout to be significantly completed. If you decide to build this plan, let me know and send some pictures!

Alberta & Columbia v3

It’s been a productive hitch so far both on the work front, and on the blogging side of things. Let’s look at the third design I came up with for the planned layout space in my basement this time. I’ll try to get another photo post up in a few days, depending on my workload up here in Red Deer.

As with last time, this is a multi-level plan (you could call it 2.5 decks). I’ll post the drawings, then get to a discussion of the plan below.


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Six degrees of separation

…or is that inches?

Perceptions are very important in model railroad design. Unless you are designing or building a switching layout, most layouts are intended to depict a railroad that goes somewhere. In all but the most generous of spaces, that means we need some way of getting extra length of line into a given space. Double decking has become a typical means of doing so, but there are times where parallel lines on the same level of railroad are needed.

The key question then, in our struggle to show a line “going somewhere” is how to visually separate those lines. A six inch horizontal separation, as in from the mainline to the second yard track in the shot below, is very little in visual terms.20140128_112017

When we get into the vertical dimension, as in the next shot, 6 inches is a significant difference. I’m not sure why, but the vertical is an excellent way to separate parallel lines, which are schematically separate.20140128_113631

Another factor is to figure out what draws the eye into a scene. In my opinion, this is an area where model railroads have a distinct advantage over a static diorama. The motion of our trains is something that captures our eyes and attention. Considering the shot above, a static picture allows the eye to see the whole scene, and notice both lines through the scene (which are about 3 or 4 train lengths apart on the layout. When viewing the scene in person, the motion of a train catches the eye, and we tend to focus on the train, and the line it is on. My experience in looking at this spot tells me that I don’t even notice the other line, even though the bottoms of the bridges are very close to the lower line, especially when there is a train passing through.

Because of this, I’m not concerned with designing a double deck layout. If a 6 inch vertical separation is visually adequate, I’m not concerned about a second level of railroad being a distraction when viewing the layout. How much is enough separation? I’m not entirely sure, I’m going to have to do some mockups before too long to see how deep a deck works (at this point I’m assuming 24″ wide shelves stacked over each other will work) and how far apart they need to be. I should also test closer spaced tracks, with a small, inch and a half or two inch vertical separation. That would allow a physically close, yet schematically distinct, industrial district (for example) I could also use this sort of idea around the smelter, or mining areas of my plans.

Alberta & Columbia v.2

Let’s take a look at the second design I came up with for the planned space in my basement this time. While the first plan was a single level, due to the nature of the space and my desire for a respectable mainline run, it suffered from a duckunder to reach the main operating space. With this design I went to a double deck plan, with walk-in access. I’m presently at version 7, but nearly every plan has been some variation on this basic layout.a-and-c-v2-lower

Continue reading Alberta & Columbia v.2